Years ago, when I was a liberal undergraduate attending a meeting about peace, I saw a professor looking at the ROTC brochures with contempt. I do not recall the exact words, but it was clear he was upset by the ROTC and believed they should be expelled from campus.
In the 1960s and 1970s schools such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Brown banned ROTC from their campuses because, it was claimed, the Vietnam war was immoral. In recent years, some people have argued that the ROTC should be excluded from campuses for similar reasons-that it is immoral to be involved in the military and the the military does bad things.
The banning approach is an unwise idea, even if those who want to ban ROTC are right about the military doing bad things.
One way to deal with behavior regarded as bad is the easy way out-simply distance yourself from those involved with it. This is the washing of the hands approach. Those who want to ban ROTC seem to have this approach-they disagree with the military and don’t want them on campus. Presumably, their presence sullies the moral goodness of the academy.
Naturally enough, this does nothing to address the alleged problem-it merely moves it away. This is a variant on the “not in my neighborhood approach”-in this case, it is “not on my campus.”
Suppose that somehow ROTC was banned from all colleges and universities. This would mean that most people going into the military would not be educated at such places of higher learning. Instead, they would be trained at military academies and thus isolated from the campuses. This should concern those who worry about the military. One might say to them “my, you think the military is bad now. Just imagine what it would be like if almost no one in the military went through the liberal arts experience of college.”
Another way to deal with bag behavior is to take steps to change that behavior. If people think the military is behaving badly, then they should want ROTC to remain on campus. That way they could provide their views to the cadets on campus and influence their view of the world-and hence their behavior once they get out into the world.
An even better way for people to counter what they claim is bad behavior is to enter the military and politics themselves. Since they often see themselves as morally superior to those already in the military and those in power, they can bring their goodness into a more active role-instead of complaining and wanting to push the military away, they can purify it with their moral goodness. Of course, that would require that they place themselves in harm’s way for the sake of their beliefs. Perhaps that might be too much to ask. After all, that sort of thing is better left to people who want to be soldiers.