Letter: Inviting ROTC back to Grinnell

In a few weeks, my senior friends will graduate and start doing all sorts of cool shit. They will go onto graduate school, the Peacecorps, Teach for America, Capitol Hill, Wall Street, and no doubt some corner of the globe I’ve never heard of. Curiously enough though, in a country mired in its seventh year of war almost no one will enter the military. This deficiency, as much as issues of toleration or oppression,
deserves our consideration.

What follows isn’t a recruiting pitch (I’ll leave that to commercials of Marines scaling rock faces in Class-A uniforms). Instead, it is a request that we as a campus consider inviting (N)ROTC back to Grinnell. Reestablishing a chapter would at once support diversity, public service, and the legitimate security interests of the United States.

1. Diversity. The college’s commitment to economic and intellectual diversity is a cornerstone of social justice. An (N)ROTC unit would be a major boon to that diversity. Not only would it provide scholarships to students who could not otherwise afford private tuition, but it would encourage a broader ideological and poltical range of students to consider Grinnell.

2. Public Service. By not participating in ROTC we cede the power of physical force to thugs and Business-Admin majors. I leave it to you to decide who is more dangerous. It is imperative that humanistic, critical students have influence over the power of violence lest it be abused in our name. To exercise force, I grant you, implies the assumption of guilt. But to disavow the responsibilities of power and service can lead to culpability in a still greater guilt—that of inaction in the face of evil. Ask yourself, would a Grinnellian have let Abu Ghraib happen?

3. The Security of the United States. Military operations in the 21st century will be dominated by low-level conflicts, counter-terrorism operations and humanitarian missions. In this climate, analytical and communicative skills become paramount. American military officers must today interact with civilians, speak foreign languages and incisively analyze complex threats in a manner consistent with—and indeed dependent on—the ideals of a liberal arts education.

Its time to ask (N)ROTC back to Grinnell for the benefit of the College and the nation. In any case, what else are you supposed to do with that English major?