In Defense of ROTC


To the Editors of The Crimson:

I am writing in response to the article, "ROTC Holds First Drill on Campus in 20 Years" (March 21). In short I find that the article is grossly unfair in its characterization of both the ROTC program and especially the individuals involved. Not only have we (I am a member of the Naval ROTC unit) been accused of the desire/practice of killing our fellow human beings, but also of doing so blindly in a desperate struggle to pay for our education.

With the strong stand Harvard seems to be taking on other forms of discrimination (for example, against minorities, women and homosexuals), it is extremely disturbing to find myself as fair and even designated game for anyone wishing to take a crack at the establishment. If a full professor, such as (Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France Emeritus) Lawrence Wylie, is allowed to make such derogatory generalizations about a whole sector of the student body, what is to keep other members of the faculty and the student body from discriminating based on such an unfounded characterization?

To describe all ROTC as "indentured [servants]" who have "sold away four years of life to get an education," as Jaron Bourke did, both ignores the possibility that ROTC serves any purpose to those involved besides paying for tuition, and denies the individuality and even humanity of officer candidates.

Bourke's insinuation that ROTC students would not have attended Harvard had they not been involved in the ROTC program (receiving the scholarship) is generally true for me, but for a reason far different than any he mentions. If Harvard did not have a ROTC program I would have attended the Naval Academy. I am not in the program for the money, but for the opportunity to serve and defend my country.

I understand that not everyone believes that the military is the right means for such an end, and many here at Harvard see such attitudes as loyalty and patriotism as hackneyed, but I do not feel that they should have the right to discriminate against me as a student simply because my beliefs differ from theirs. Should I have to start checking out the attitude a professor has towards ROTC before taking a class? How would a professor such as Mr. Wylie react if I for some reason wore my uniform to class?

Furthermore, I feel deeply insulted to think that Professor Wylie is allowed to describe me as one who "wants to practice the art of killing [my] fellow human beings." As both a Catholic and a human being I believe life is sacred. I have never, nor do I ever intend to (if it is within my means to make such a decision) kill another human being.

Yet I also accept the fact that there are times when other nations and groups of people desire to militarily overcome and/or depress the United States. In these circumstances, there is the potential for tremendous loss of life if no effective resistance is offered. For this reason, I felt it my duty to contribute to our defensive force in order to protect the lives of my family, friends and countrymen. Again I could be criticized here as being trite, but I think sincerity and strength of conviction are much stronger than cynicism. Timothy McCormack '91