As the newly appointed Dean of Harvard Law School, Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan decided, in the middle of the War on Terror, to cripple the Reserve Officer Training Corps’ recruitment capability on campus by denying it crucial access to funding, operating space, and assistance from the Office of Career Services.
Kagan’s action fits into a shameful history of antiwar college administrators’ kicking ROTC off university campuses nationwide, most visibly at Ivy League schools, out of opposition to the Vietnam War in the late 60s and 70s. After the war ended, officials extended the policy out of supposed concern over the military’s ban on gays in the 80s and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the 90s.
After the Solomon Amendment barring federal funding to universities that ban military recruitment on campus was fully implemented at Harvard in 2003, Kagan signed on to a legal challenge to the amendment. The Third Circuit Court overturned the amendment in 2004, but stayed its ruling pending Supreme Court review. Kagan, impatient with the vagaries of the legal system, decided to force Harvard back onto its anti-ROTC policy, even though the law hadn’t yet been changed. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned the Third Circuit ruling in 2006, at which point Kagan reversed her actions to comply with the ruling.
Gay rights supporters defend Kagan’s actions as a necessary stopgap against government-sponsored military discrimination.
It is instructive to reconsider Kagan’s stance in the context of the role our military plays, the people and the rights it protects, and our enemies’ attitudes toward individual liberty and their treatment of gays.
Who, for example, benefits from the protections the U.S. military provides its citizens—only straight people, or gays as well?
Who protects the rights of citizens of our country, in which gays may live more or less as they please; form relationships with same-sex partners; enter (in a growing number of states) into civil unions, domestic partnerships, and marriages; adopt (in a growing number of states) and raise children; file lawsuits if they believe they have been unlawfully discriminated against; push to change laws to promote equality with heterosexuals; protest for their rights and hold rallies and parades in America’s major cities; and engage our political leaders in debate about allowing gays to serve openly in the military?
How do governments treat gays in countries that are our adversaries—in particular, those that fund, sponsor, and sympathize with the war to defeat gay-tolerant Western civilization and promote radical Islam around the world? Do these Islamic governments have the same enlightened perspective on gays as the U.S., or do they condemn gays and throw them in jail or execute them for homosexual behavior?
The left in this country has traditionally demonized or devalued the military—at worst, it is for them a barbaric, fascist, industrial complex that sparks unnecessary wars and engages in brutal imperialist conquests. At best, it is for them a largely unseen, slightly tacky presence whose benefits they take for granted, just as they take for granted our capitalist economy’s wealth, which they seek to appropriate and redistribute with no concern for the effort required to create it.
As many soldiers pointed out during the Iraq War, our military protects the right of antiwar liberals to protest the military’s actions. What a slap in the face it is to bar or hobble the military in recruiting the brightest students from the best universities across the country to help complete its mission. Imagine if military recruiters were similarly barred from other U.S. institutions and were unable to recruit enough members to fill its ranks.
As liberal, DADT-opposing Peter Beinart wrote, “The United States military is not Procter and Gamble. It is not just another employer. It is the institution whose members risk their lives to protect the country. You can disagree with the policies of the American military; you can even hate them; but you can’t alienate yourself from the institution without in a certain sense alienating yourself from the country.”
Kagan’s ROTC-bashing position is also counterproductive, in that it further isolates the military from liberal views and entrenches in the left the mindset that the military is hard-line and unreformable. And how is spitting on ROTC fair to soldiers, commanders, and potential recruits who oppose DADT or might be gay themselves?
The American Spectator’s John Tabin, who also supports repealing DADT, notes, “[I]f you want a military leadership with more liberal views on homosexuality, you should be more reluctant to entrench this cultural estrangement, not less.” The policy of banning or restricting ROTC is just another example of leftists prematurely deciding that debate on an issue is over, those who disagree with them should no longer have a voice in the conversation, and dissenters do not deserve to be persuaded out of their positions or treated with respect.
Although DADT is misguided, treating recruiters shabbily is merely one way for liberals to disguise their contempt for the military and its unapologetic defense of American values around the world. The day that DADT is repealed, leftist college administrators will be scouring the horizon for some other excuse to ban recruitment at their schools.
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