Colman McCarthy and ROTC on campuses

From Phineas on his site and at Sister Toldjah:

Brain-dead moral equivalence

Posted by: Phineas on December 30, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Colman McCarthy at the Washington Post:

To oppose ROTC, as I have since my college days in the 1960s, when my school enticed too many of my classmates into joining, is not to be anti-soldier. I admire those who join armies, whether America’s or the Taliban’s: for their discipline, for their loyalty to their buddies and to their principles, for their sacrifices to be away from home.

So there’s no difference between serving in the US military and the Taliban? Between being a citizen-soldier for a democratic republic under the rule of law and a hired gun of a tyrannical movement that throws acid in girls’ faces for trying to learn to read? Really? Seriously??

God, I pity anyone in this morally bankrupt moron’s classes.

via Max Boot

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson and Jonah Goldberg demolish this idiot.

Phineas’ article is fairly short, but I went to the original on . Phineas quoted part of Mr McCarthy’s second to last paragraph, but not the last:

ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace. If a school such as Harvard does sell out to the military, let it at least be honest and add a sign at its Cambridge front portal: Harvard, a Pentagon Annex.

I did not know that universities were supposed to be institutions of “intellectual purity.” Oddly enough, I thought that they were supposed to be places of intellectual challenge, not of indoctrination. Of course, the type of “intellectual purity” that springs from the mind of Mr McCarthy includes this gem:

Hitler could have been waited out. He might have been overthrown by his own government. Who knows? To have 50 million people killed : Hitler would have died within 10 years no matter what he did.

As it happened, the world did try to wait out der Führer; the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of France, none of them declared war on the Third Reich until Germany invaded Poland. The United Kingdom and the Republic of France actually traded (someone else’s) land for “peace in (their) time” rather than to go to war; it still didn’t work.

And when the Third Reich invaded the Soviet Union, seeking lebensraum, well, heck, we could have waited still. It’s not like the then-52 year old Chancellor of Germany would have lived until he was 72, and ruled 200 million people until 1961 or anything like that; it’s not like a repressive dictatorship would have any successors to der Führer and survived beyond Adolf Hitler’s death.

Mr McCarthy rightly said that “The time to stop Hitler was in 1926,” certainly true enough, but on what basis — especially one of which Mr McCarthy would have approved — could the democracies have reached into the Weimar Republic and arrested or killed a beer hall speaker and rabble rouser? Who had the first clue, in 1926, what the Nazis would become?

This, I suppose, is the intellectual purity of which Mr McCarthy speaks.

Now, I’ll admit: I’m not exactly unbiased on this subject, with two daughters in the United States Army Reserve, one of whom is in ROTC and another who is planning on it when she starts college.

Mr McCarthy, who never took an ROTC course himself, wrote:

At Notre Dame, on that 1989 visit and several following, I learned that the ROTC academics were laughably weak. They were softie courses. The many students I interviewed were candid about their reasons for signing up: free tuition and monthly stipends, plus the guarantee of a job in the military after college. With some exceptions, they were mainly from families that couldn’t afford ever-rising college tabs.

[Ahem!] Naturally, I asked SPC Pico about ROTC at Penn State. Academically, the military science courses aren’t hard for her, but she has been through regular Army Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, so what she gets in MIL courses are things in which she has already been trained. And, of course, she has the brilliant Pico mind to help!

Army ROTC isn’t quite like BCT: it’s not like they have drill sergeants controlling their lives 24/7 for ten weeks. The students are required to keep up physical training on their own, though this last semester Penn State’s ROTC had group PT on Thursdays, they had to take regular Army PT tests and do marksmanship qualifications. ROTC students who haven’t been through BCT have a few weeks training in the summer in full battle gear.¹ There are a lot bunnier bunny courses than military science.

There are, of course, no ROTC majors; ROTC students have to earn a degree in a regular university program just like anyone else seeking a bachelor’s degree. ROTC is an add-on program, one which does fill some elective requirements, but a physics major like SPC Pico still had to pass two physics and one astronomy course this past semester (which she did with 2 As and one B.)

A guarantee of a job, huh? Yeah, if you are graduated and commissioned, you have a guaranteed job. Of course, that guaranteed job might be eating dirt in Afghanistan, so it’s not like it’s a softie job or anything.

In one way, Mr McCarthy’s objections seem counterproductive, even from his perspective. Without ROTC, the only paths to becoming an officer in the United States Army or any of the other branches of the military would be through the service academies or post-graduate Officer Candidate School. Those courses separate the future officers from civilian life far more than they are separated in ROTC. Mr McCarthy would create an officer corps more separate from civilian life than we have now.

That, of course, assumes that his statement that he really does “admire those who join armies” is true. For my part, I don’t believe him for a moment: if he did, he wouldn’t be making the suggestion that he has. His proposal would make college more expensive or impossible for a lot of people — something he already admitted — and it would increase the separation between soldiers and civilians. It might even foster contempt for the civilian leadership by military officers.

One great thing about the United States is that we have an all-volunteer military. There have been times when our need for military manpower was so great that conscription was required, but we have been all-volunteer since July of 1973, a period of 37½ years. Military service in the United States is a matter of choice; it seems that Mr McCarthy would, if he could, limit such choices.

¹ – My daughter said that some of the students were complaining about having to wear full battle gear for three weeks, and that she laughed at them, “Toughen up. I had to do it for ten weeks!”


  1. This is the dumbest damn thing I’ve ever heard. ROTC is an excellent program through which millions of Americans who would have never had the opportunity to go to college are able to afford to do so. Is this schmuck opposed to the GI Bill too?

    I was friends with several ROTC students in college – they, as a whole, showed a level of dedication as students and as soldiers that any of their fellow students would have been proud of.

    Oh, and as far as the “softie” classes are concerned? Every college student takes softie classes from time to time. Liberal arts majors had to fulfill a science requirement, so a lot of them would take “physics for poets” (physics minus calculus). Hell, my major was full of softie classes, though I’ll concede others might not view them as “softie.” And if you’re gonna get on a group of people for taking a soft schedule… has he looked at the football team recently?

  2. My first thought after slogging through McCarthy’s piece was, what a coward this fool is. He has all the makings of moral superiority and do-goodism – as long as it doesn’t cost him anything. And then I read Lileks comment and thought, yep, that about sums it up:

    I heard Colman McCarthy years ago on a talk radio show. The host was presenting one of those pacifist conundrums: there’s a man in a schoolyard, shooting children. Are you not obligated to stop him by violence, if that’s the only option? McCarthy refused to admit that was the only option. Why, there was always another option.

    But what if a child dies while you work through the kumbaya procedures? He was adamant: shooting the shooter would just add to the sum total of violence in the world. Because that’s what matters most: the quantity of violence, the existence of violence, not the moral application of violence to stop evil. The facile calculation of a holy fool.

    This sort of person lives in a bubble from which they spout nonsensical crap that protects them from having to make the hard choices that life often requires. They are without spines. Thank God our military is made up of people with spines, and brave enough and willing to make those hard choices. McCarthy would clearly be out of his league.

  3. He sounds like the kind of guy who gets to spill his crap because guys like me are willing (an able) to kill and bleed so he can. Cowards talk, warriors fight. It’s been that way for all time. It’s funny that those who have never experienced the thrill and horror of battle are always the one’s who see dread in it. yet, if not for the warriors we would not be here today. We are NOT the children of the loosers, we are the survivors, the Victors.

  4. “ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school”

    That should tell you everything you need to know about the author.

  5. Time for a little Rudyard Kipling:


    “…Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
    Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
    An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
    Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
    Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
    But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

    We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
    But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
    An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
    Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
    While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
    But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
    There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
    O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind…”

  6. He sounds like the kind of guy who gets to spill his crap because guys like me are willing (an able) to kill and bleed so he can.

    Tell us again what threat the Iraqis were to America?

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