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Sentimental Soldier



To the Editors of The Crimson:

I was just beginning to wonder why there had been such a lull in the usual progression of politically primitive and crazy Crimson pronouncements. But my prejudices were reconfirmed by the editorial board majority's railing against cross-registration for ROTC at MIT. How nostalgic. It takes me back to my senior year when the ROTC issue brought the student revolution to Harvard. It is interesting, though, that the current Crimson position is even more myopic than that of its predecessors in 1969, and is inconsistent on either moral or empirical grounds.

On the first count, The Crimson correctly noted that the military are the instruments of US foreign policy, They have little to do with the formulation of policy. In fact, despite prevalent assumptions, the influence of military advisors in decisions on military intervention since 1945 has been remarkably low, except in those cases in which military advisors opposed use of force (if you're skeptical, read my forthcoming book).

If the point was that we should preclude students from participation in making or executing policies which The Crimson disapproves of, then the whole Kennedy School should be closed. If the goal is to preclude Harvard from complicity in the evils of capitalism or neo-imperialism, then we should board up the Business School. If the premise of The Crimson position is that no one should be in the military, that the US should disarm unilaterally, then that premise should be admitted frankly, for all to see. And you'd better be ready to accept charges of betrayal from erstwhile Crimson darlings such as the People's Republic of China, which has been pressing the US to maintain a strong military presence abroad.

On the second count, it strikes me as both ludicrous and disgusting that a student would not be allowed to cross-register for ROTC, while students are currently allowed to receive academic course credit for part-time jobs or avocations--i.e., the "Independent Work" option.

Finally, I must confess a sentimental attachment to ROTC. It saved me from the draft in '69, kept me from going to Vietnam as an infantryman, and may conceivably have saved my life. Had I not been able to get into ROTC in graduate school, I would have been, of necessity, a more direct and odious agent of US imperialism than I became. It's convenient that seniors in '76 don't face that choice, but I hope you'll forgive a little Crimson-like subjectivity in my criticism. Richard K. Betts   Lecturer in Government

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