Michigan State News


ROTC: the opposing views


EDITOR’S NOTE: The following "point of view" was written by James Anderson, Rob Sanders, and Ronald S. Wilkinson, for the New University Conference. It advocates abolishing ROTC.

The New University Conference suggests that the purpose of a university should be twofold: first, to discern and declare the truth without subservience to outside interests, whether those of the corporation, the military, or the nation-state; also, to serve as an instrument of liberation in every aspect of humans throughout the world, not as the means of their oppression, manipulation or destruction. We believe that the university is corrupted when it departs from these purposes to align itself with institutions which do not seek these goals of truth and liberation.

NUC believes that the alliance of MSU with the ROTC program violates these basic purposes, for reasons which we outline below. We therefore call upon the University to end all cooperation with ROTC, the Department of Defense and the military machine which they serve.

The actions of the U.S. military, particularly since World War II, have been directed towards extending U.S. domination over as much of the world as possible. The United States has intervened in the internal affairs of other countries to a degree that can only be called criminal. It wages war, directly and covertly, against the aspirations and needs of much of mankind. It has frequently trampled upon the precepts of international law, and is currently waging a campaign of genocide against the people of Vietnam—only the latest instance in which the United States has opposed a revolution of the people with military force. In consequence, the goals of U.S. foreign policy are now regarded by much of the world as a treat to freedom and internal development.

The ROTC is a primary element of this apparatus of war and domination. It provides most of the junior officers for the armed forces of the U.S., and a large percentage of all officers (Army, 50 percent; Navy, 35 percent; Air Force, 30 percent; New York Times, 5 January 1969, p. 64). Most of the Army generals in Vietnam today are the products of ROTC. These facts destroy the illusion so carefully promoted by American universities that they are neutral in the U.S. war for domination, and reveal the degree to which our universities train the functionaries who carry out the policies which are openly destroying the Vietnam and covertly subverting the wishes of the people of other countries. Continuation of this program insures that trained personnel will be available to crush any popular revolutions which displease the makers of U.S foreign policy in the future.

This is not neutrality. It is complicity with death in the highest degree. Cooperation with such a program undermines the aims and ideals that this university should pursue. Our university speaks of freedom, but its alliance with the war machine brings closer the day of the garrison state and the end of freedom. The university claims to be democratic and egalitarian, while the military is founded upon a rigid hierarchy. The university must foster independence of mind, while the military must require unquestioning obedience. The university climate should be one of reason and dialogue, while the military advocates and commits violence as a solution to world problems. ROTC’s curriculum is dictated by the Pentagon, its instructors are appointed and directed by the Pentagon, its correspondence is written under the letterhead of the Pentagon, and its entire program is far removed from any control or amelioration by the university community.

The ultimate incompatibility of ROTC with the ideals of the university is that the latter acknowledges and upholds the humanity of all mankind, whatever its flag or color, while the military binds itself to one flag, and frequently one race, dehumanizing the "enemy" (whomever that may be at the time) in order to rationalize slaughter and genocide. The university declares the sanctity of human life, while the ideal of the war machine is an unfeeling tool who can take human life without compassion or even question.

Answers should be given by the NUC to two arguments recently put forth in defense of ROTC. Some have contended that exposing future officers to the humanistic climate of a university makes them more "liberal". That is precisely the problem. Liberalism is the banner under which the United States has intervened in the politics and economies of numerous countries, of which Vietnam is only the most visible. Vietnam is not only an ugly accident. Rather, it is the logical outgrowth of a liberal foreign policy. We "help" other countries to achieve the blessings we think they should have. First, we send the professors, then the troops. The ROTC officer is no more humane than his West Point counterpart because of his university experience. He only has a larger stock of rationalizations for imposing the American frame of reference upon the rest of the world.

It is also argued that abolition of ROTC would be an infringement of the rights of those who wish to obtain military training. Those who argue this position should recognize that if they are given this right at MSU, then others have an equal right to study civil disobedience or revolutionary tactics. MSU is not about to establish these courses. Once again, its neutrality is illusory. Therefore, let those who wish to become warriors exercise their "right" elsewhere.

The conclusion of the New University Conference is that to fulfill the aims that MSU should pursue, our connection with ROTC and the military machine must be served. We challenge opponents of this view to state their arguments and engage in public debate, and we demand that the terms of MSU’s contract with the Department of Defense be made public. Military training must end at MSU.


EDITOR’S NOTE: The following "point of view," in favor of continuing the ROTC program on campus, was written by W.J. E. Crissy, professor of marketing.

This relates to the New University Conference (NUC) statement on ROTC.

First as to the NUCer’s suggested twofold purpose of a university: (1) Pursuit of truth. Truth does not exist in vacuo! It is a function of the physical environment, society, culture, and, I happen to believe, of a personal God. The University should be a source of new knowledge, a stimulator of alternative views about matters which are moot but with a responsibility to serve and improve the society of which it is a part. (2) Instrument of liberation. Liberation of the mind and of the spirit is a worthy aspiration not only for the university but for each of us in faculty. Liberty, however, does not mean license. Law and due process are necessary for societal living. Recent history affords us examples of "liberation by revolution"—the "people’s court" and the "wall" in Cuba; the recent oppression in Czechoslovakia. Still within vivid memory and experience of some of us—"freedom," Nazi style, in Germany and Western Europe.

Second, as to the indictments of ROTC: (1) We have claimed neither territorial not economic aggrandizement from any of the wars we have fought. On the contrary we have helped defeated nations reestablish themselves, eg., Japan, West Germany. Interpreting Vietnam as an internal revolution with widespread popular backing is as naïve as to construe the revolution a half a century ago in Russia as the people’s choice. It might be enlightening for NUCers to talk to Cuban refugees in America or Chinese refugees in Hong Kong about the freedom of their lands.

(2) Since the founding of our country the armed forces have been civilian led and staffed. The percentages of officers drawn from ROTC cited attest to this. Many of us oppose war as a brutal way of settling differences. Those who have served in the armed forces are particularly anxious to find peaceful solutions to the world’s ills. However, if called on to serve, loyal citizens are willing to stand and be counted. Yes, we are willing to assist the oppressed if called upon to do so. Indeed many of us felt we let the Hungarians down in the uprising a decade ago as well as the Cubans who sought to overthrow the Castro dictatorship in the Bay of Pigs. Of course we are not neutral; we espouse freedom and human dignity and oppose dictatorships of the left and of the right wherever they are.

(3) The stereotyping of military as inhumane, rigid, and favoring slaughter and genocide is do ridiculous and contrary to the experience those of us have had who have served under combatant conditions that it requires no further reply.

(4) A key advantage of ROTC is that it provides a viable reserve of thousands of citizens in all walks of life in addition to providing a significant number of career officers (as noted above). The NUCers oppose a liberal foreign policy. What is their recommendation, Soviet style freedom or perhaps Maoism?

(5) Because those who desire and who qualify can take ROTC does not give others the right to study civil disobedience or revolutionary tactics; the latter are outside our value system and contrary to law. Those who practice either do so at their peril.

On a positive note I consider it in the best interests of the University and of the nation to continue ROTC! Any decision to curtail or to eliminate it would run counter to the thinking of a vast majority of the university community. Before any action is taken a full polling of faculty by secret ballot is mandatory.