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Susan Collier Lamont 70 may want to actively discourage young men and women from joining the U.S. armed forces by counter-recruiting at local high schools, but I am proud of my sons, both of whom are recent college graduates (Tufts & Lafayette) and members of the U.S. Army infantry stationed at Ft. Benning, Georgia (In Harms Way, Mail Room, November/December). I am proud that they recognize that the life of privilege we enjoy is worth defending.

It is a shameful irony that such bastions of security, opportunity, and individual freedom as the Brown community fail to acknowledge that such privilege is not free and not guaranteed. It is not a birthright. It came at an enormous price paid for by many of our fathers and ancestors. I believe it is a mistake not to recognize that this privilege is in serious jeopardy and must be defended now, as much as ever before.
That Brown does not promote ROTC, encourage military recruiting on campus, or present the option of military service as a career of immeasurable importance, value, and reward is wrong. Who do we expect to bear the burden of the defense of our privilege and freedom? The poor? Members of racial and ethnic minorities? Because of our disdain for all things military, people who in their wildest dreams could never imagine a place like Brown must fight for our warmth, security, opportunity, and freedom.

Mark G. Rovzar 73
Cranston, R.I.

To preserve, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution is the reason I enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1968. When we in the United States express our opinions, our views, our hopes for peace and justice in the world at large, let us not forget to thank a veteran.

Fifty thousand years of modern human history have taught us that to live on earth is to live in harms way. The line between barbarism and civilization is very fine indeed.

I was neither exploited nor cheated in my job assignments when I served in the U.S. Army. I was simply providing for the common defense.

D. J. Maksymowicz 67
Washington, Mich.





Comments (1)
03/14/07
 
Timely comments. I just submitted the following to the BDH: 
 
Having had some good response from student readers last time I addressed this subject, I thought I would write again with some new information. My effort is to get students to understand ROTC (and the military) in the context of their objections to this war, all wars, and the military in general. To review, I was at Brown during the Vietnam years, an art major and in Navy ROTC. Yes, that was a weird combination, but I couldnt be happier in hindsight with those choices. 
 
So, SDS is still proud that Brown banned ROTC from campus 30 years ago (current BDH letter). And the positive result? Not much, as far as I can tell. In my earlier piece, I explained that the organization of the military is such that the quality of our officers has a direct impact on the danger our troops face (both in combat and in general). I also pointed out that if we continue to produce officers without a liberal education and points of view, we should not expect change at the top (the Joint Chiefs of Staff). I would hope that the intellectual level at Brown is such that students realize that we will always have a military, and that its deployment will depend largely on the advice from its senior officers. Therefore, it is only wise that we try to have people at that level who give the political administration the kind of advice we would all hope for (like, Dont go there). 
 
"Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results"  
 
Last month (Feb. 22nd), the Wall Street Journal (I know, hissss, boooo) ran a story on the profile of officer recruiting in the US (mainly in the Northeast). It noted that the South generates about 40% of all Army officers, and that the number of officers coming out of urban ROTC programs has dropped precipitously (as well as the number of programs in the Northeast). The article also goes on to describe the result of ROTCs retreat from elite colleges (that would be Brown) as a lowering of the intellectual and professional base of the military, and a lack of ethnic and cultural balance. Can anyone possibly see this as a good thing? 
 
Not to be repetitive (or insulting), but if the leaders of the hundreds of thousands of enlisted people in the military are going to be coming from less liberal, more traditionally pro-military areas, what can we expect from our future military? Can we agree that no action of any kind for any length of time is going to erase our military and wars? In that case, your common sense should tell you that it is in all of our best interests to make sure the best people are in leadership positions. What we are doing now, by virtue of making it difficult to have convenient, on-campus ROTC programs, is abdicating this important function to others. Not to mention sticking our heads in the sand. 
 
After my last BDH article on this subject, I got a nice letter from a recent Brown graduate in Iraq. He seemed to me to be a typically well-informed, broad-minded Brown graduate. His observation was that this countrys biggest failure there was the lack of cultural and historical awareness and the leadership abilities of regular Army officers. I would attribute Abu Ghraib and other scandals to this; perhaps even the whole approach to what we are doing there. Some of these young officers will stay in the Army and become generals. So how is that going to change? Not by media pressure or protests, and certainly not by chasing ROTC further into the hinterland. It is going to change by getting the right officers in at the source. In the case of the Army, thats primarily ROTC. 
 
I dont know what courses are taught at Brown today regarding leadership, but it is a very important subject, as you will learn no matter what you do after Brown. It is without a doubt THE most important aspect of the military, going way beyond the take that hill leadership, so often mischaracterized. History shows us that nothing really will change the military other than leadership. Even the election of your favorite president is not going to change it much, as it is an embedded bureaucracy like any other in the federal system. The ONLY way to get it right is to lead it right. Perhaps no other organization (except maybe the CIA) has more influence on political foreign policy decisions (by the way, the CIA gets the most resistance to its theories from the military). For schools like Brown to blindly resist ROTC is a very short-sighted, non-productive stance which clearly has no effect other than to contribute to the gradual downgrading of the officer corps. Many schools are beginning to figure this out, and a reversal may be underway. Is Brown going to lead or follow? Browns faculty and administration, which love to crow about intellectual diversity, and President Simmons, who likes to say, No subject is so controversial it cannot have open discussion at Brown refuse to address the subject. In effect, students are being spoon-fed a narrow point of view that amounts to nothing more than a sophomoric protest and pandering to emotional responses. You should want to understand this subject more, and provide ROTC on campus. At least it will give you someone to debate the issues with. Are we afraid of that? 
 
My 2 years in Navy ROTC at Brown were testy, but I learned many things that have served me well ever since. Leadership was among them. They also taught me a lot about the views of others in a turbulent time, since I was regularly engaged by both sides of the Vietnam issue. It is all too easy to cloister yourselves in the shelter of Brown and revel in self-supporting, marginally-informed discussions with those who already agree with you. Perhaps there are brave students willing to challenge Browns assertion that it is prepared to give any subject due consideration, and that it strives for balance. What could possibly be more worthy of debate than the structure of our military leadership at this important juncture in history, and how to better it? I urge you to stand up, be counted, and demand the administration stop ducking it. 
 
Brian Barbata 
1968
 
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