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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

The Times, They Are A Changin’

Nicholas Kristoff declares a truce, and the war is over! The Viet Nam War, that is. Man, last week Krugman told me that Elvis is dead, now we’re out of ‘Nam - I have some catching up to do. Where the heck is the paper?

Here we go:

"The End of an Uncivil War. Date line Cambridge, Massachusetts. The historical mutual sneering between America's soldiers and its universities is coming to an end."

Oooooh, we’re in Cambridge, I bet the University is Harvard.

"One of the scars from Vietnam was this reciprocal contempt, leading each side to despise a caricature of the other: redneck, baby-killing, misogynous storm troopers with the ethical sensitivity of Nazis; and arrogant, long-haired America-hating rebels, all wimps and probably mostly gay feminist Communists as well."

So much anger, Nicholas. But tell us, what was happening at Harvard?

"Here in Ivy Central — dazzling this time of year with new Harvard graduates and pot-bellied fogeys oozing false modesty at reunions ("I can't believe that I've been so successful in my career, earned such wealth, and successively married four such beautiful women") — the Harvard newspaper, The Crimson, editorialized in 1969 in favor of a North Vietnamese victory. And that same year the Harvard faculty expelled R.O.T.C. so that students who wanted to participate had to go down the road to train at M.I.T.
Yale, Columbia and other elite universities also expelled R.O.T.C. from campus, and 3,0000 high schools still ban military recruiters from coming to talk to their students

Let me check my watch. I have you taking two minutes to work in a mention of your Harvard background - the reunion was the giveaway. Jane was right, let’s see if I can find the link, its like Wednesday, June 5, about Harvard and O'Reilly, I'll never find it. Never mind.

So, Nicholas, academics haven’t liked the military. Is that attitude changing ?

"But all this is changing, partly because of 9/11. Now Harvard, Yale, Columbia and other elite universities are showing more respect for the military and welcome R.O.T.C. students. "

Well that’s good news. But can you give us a little more on why they didn’t like the military?

"At Harvard, many students and faculty members are hostile to military and R.O.T.C. training because the military discriminates against gays. It's a fair point, and the discrimination is worth fighting. "

Boy, Nicholas, I think you need to distinguish between reasons and excuses. Today the excuse is gays. What was it thirty years ago, or twenty years ago, or ten years ago? My predictions for tomorrow: the unequal treatment of women in combat, or the hideous effect all these bombs have on the environment. All excuses. The real reason is that the military is an authoritarian institution with soldiers that have to fight, kill and maybe die for American values that these people don’t share. We are a long way from a military reform that will address that problem. But this is your column, so let’s get back to the good news. You said that ROTC students are being welcomed. How?

"Here at Harvard, President Larry Summers has been pressing since 9/11 for the university to build bridges to the military. Last week he attended a ceremony for R.O.T.C. graduates. Harvard has also allowed students to list their R.O.T.C. activities in the student yearbook and has put information about R.O.T.C. on its financial aid Web site. A student council endorsed a measure that would ease the way for R.O.T.C. students, and The Crimson editorialized in favor of the action.
The student-run Yale Daily News has gone further and formally called for a full return of R.O.T.C. to campus. To anyone familiar with the history of Ivy League newspapers, these editorials seem incredible; next these student journalists will be calling earnestly for a restoration of parietal hours.

Soon, it appears, the Vietnam War will be over.

Wow. ROTC students get mentioned in the yearbook. But they still don’t have full ROTC facilities on campus, do they? Well, Lawrence Summers is doing some other things to make them feel welcome. You didn’t mention this, but the Boston Globe did:

"At the urging of Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers, "The Star-Spangled Banner" was sung yesterday at Harvard's commencement for the first time in recent memory.
Summers sought to add the anthem to the commencement line-up to symbolize Harvard's support for the United States, a university official said yesterday."

Great. Not only is the Viet Nam War over, but we can sing the U.S. National Anthem at Harvard. Sounds like we are just about there.

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