Ongoing Cornell DADT debate
The article/editorial quoted below appeared in the "The Cornell Daily Sun" recently:
Another Side of ROTC
March 7, 2008 - 12:00am
By Mike Wacker
“Against gay marriage? Then don’t get one and shut up.” By this standard, often considered the crux of gay rights, no one has the right to impose their moral views on the lives of others, prohibiting retaliation against homosexuals. To activists, this mantra and Cornell’s mantra of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds” serve as the paragon of diversity and tolerance. Yet simultaneously, some activists desire retaliation against Cornell ROTC, calling for their removal over moral objections to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which prohibits gays from openly serving in the military.
Anyone who blames the ROTC for DADT demonstrates a lack of knowledge about ROTC and the military. When I interviewed Lieutenant Colonel Brian Page of Cornell Army ROTC about his personal opinions on the subject, he drove home the point that the military did not create DADT; it is a federal law. “I don’t get to choose which laws I obey and disobey,” he said. Page also stressed that the military is an apolitical organization. If they wanted to, they could take over the government. So it’s important that they stay out of political battles. For those who remain unconvinced, consider former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace, who called homosexuality immoral. Quoting Gabriel Arana’s column blasting the ROTC, he would have responded, “them’s fightin’ words.” Luckily for Arana, General Pace cannot take him up on his challenge.
The military world differs significantly from the civilian word, justifying some actions in the former due to necessity. “This is not a social organization; it is not a corporate job for hire,” said Lt. Col. Page. One cannot disobey military orders, and soldiers don’t go on strike. I may not be a military expert, but I can safely say that soldiers protesting Army policy would deserve a court-martial and dishonorable discharge for abandoning their colleagues and potentially putting their lives at risk, not a pretty medal for their tireless work promoting social justice. The military can only concern itself with military matters. While Page explained that officers have flexibility in how they enforce DADT, they still cannot openly defy the law. If the law were to change, the military would execute that change, but they should not be the initial agent of change.
On top of this, civilians who call for the removal of the ROTC have little at stake. Page explained that for him, ignoring DADT could potentially result in a court-martial. Yet I doubt his civilian critics would ever face a similar fate. When I asked him how the military would change if every college removed ROTC, he said it would not. This caught me off guard, Page noted that the Constitution requires both an Army and a Navy. Thus, our recruits must come from somewhere, even if that means reinstituting the draft. Not only would replacing trained leaders with draftees give the average student an incentive to keep the ROTC, it would also lessen the quality of the military. And under the Solomon Amendment, kicking out the ROTC would result in a loss of federal funding, affecting groups unconnected to ROTC with no political connections at all. So I ask, does this justify a draft? Does it justify sacrificing national security? Does it justify the collateral damage the loss of federal funding would create? This is the price of blind obedience to social justice.
Such blind obedience also targets the wrong group. According to Page, the power to change DADT lies not in the military but in our elected representatives. He added that officers do not receive a commission until after graduation, at which point one can only blame the federal government for the denial of their ability to serve. As I view it, separation of powers matters not only for the legislative, judicial and executive branch, but it also matters for the civilian and military worlds. In fact, Page had a great analogy on blaming ROTC for DADT: “It’s like blaming a soldier for the Iraq War.”
Furthermore, the military science department, which is inseparable from ROTC, does not discriminate, letting anyone take its classes. In fact, the department has a historic role. “The university has had a military tactics faculty since it was founded and was part of the basis for its founding as a land grant university,” Page said. Not only does this department, which benefits civilians and military alike, not discriminate, but I spoke with a friend in ROTC who described her colleagues not as homophobes but as normal people. Thus, I find it astonishing that some gay rights activists still call for the removal of ROTC from campus. It displays a breathtaking level of closed-mindedness and intolerance towards the ROTC, while at the same time demanding open-mindedness and tolerance towards their views.
Even if it’s just personal opinion, Page and anyone in ROTC have limits on what they can say due to their involvement in the military. However, I am a civilian and have “permission to speak freely.” Cornell ROTC has just as much right to be here as homosexuals, and the values of our university have room for both groups. But if anyone has to be given the boot, it’s the anti-ROTC activists. There is no place at Cornell for their disgraceful attitude towards the military or their hypocritical intolerance.
Here's the link: http://cornellsun.com/node/28619
There has been a fair amount of back and forth in the Cornell newspaper recently regarding DADT and ROTC at Cornell. I commend the ROTC leadership there for communicating professionally and with clarity.