— Arlo Guthrie
Six years ago when I started interviewing local Vietnam veterans about their experiences in the war and afterwards, the commanding officer of our NROTC detachment at U. Maine made a painful observation on his tape.1 When he had entered the Naval Academy, the military was still a respected profession. By the time he returned from two tours of duty off Vietnam that respect had dissipated, not because of any lack of professional conduct on the part of his shipmates or the Marine spotters and Air Force bombers they had supported in operations like LINEBACKER II,2 but because of public perception. In a time when much of what passed for intellectual discourse on college campuses took the form of stock slogans and quotations from Mao’s little red book, this change in attitude was perhaps most cogently expressed in Alice's Restaurant, the rambling pop-philosophical comic argument against the morality of military service quoted above.3 It was certainly the most memorable, judging by the fact that, decades after its release, members of my generation can still quote extended passages from the record by rote.
The Alice’s Restaurant Argument
Alice's Restaurant told the picaresque tale of a draft-aged Everyman, "the all-American boy from New York City", who goes to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with friends in the country. As a helpful gesture, he offers to take out the trash—something his hosts, being "into" the '60s counterculture, apparently have not done in a very long time—only to find the town dump closed for the holiday. Touched by this homely sentiment, but still anxious to get rid of the half ton of garbage he has loaded into his red VW bus, he then proceeds to throw the trash down a convenient ravine. After a "Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat," he is arrested by the local police for littering, and made the object of front page notoriety in the local press. Some months later, having gotten his "Greetings" in the mail, this same young man dutifully reports to Whitehall St. for his pre-induction physical. There, despite his heartfelt protestations that "I want to KILL! KILL! I want blood and guts and veins in my teeth," he is denied enlistment in the US Army because of his criminal record.
My reading of the "Alice’s Restaurant Argument," stripped of its humorous patter and catchy musical accompaniment, is as follows: (1) The media of the time carried some sensational accounts of war crimes committed against Vietnamese civilians by American soldiers. (2) The most infamous of these crimes, like the My Lai massacre, were not spontaneous mob actions, but occurred under the nominal command of the officers and non-commissioned officers in charge, whose orders the troops were bound to obey. (3) Since military service so obviously seemed to entail immoral behavior (vid Guthrie's caricature, above), the profession itself must be fundamentally immoral. Therefore, (4) anyone who would freely choose to enter such a profession must either be deluded or morally bent. Moreover, (5) if soldiering was indeed a dirty business, then the question of whether a man had ever committed crimes in civilian life bad enough to bar him from bearing arms for his country was patently absurd.4
Several, if not all, of the propositions on which that argument depends are false, and, even if true, the conclusions to which they have been made to lead would not logically follow. From its inception, the US. military has never sanctioned crimes against civilians.5 Anecdotal evidence such as I have been collecting,6 and the painful self-revelations in Vietnam era soldier memoirs,7 confirm that some men broke, as some always have,8 under the pressure of combat. But even in the Vietnam Conflict, for which there was questionable jus ad bellum, most Americans managed to serve honorably, and many with some measure of moral distinction.9 The essentials, at least, of the Rules of Land and Aerial Warfare were commonly known to all,10 from the senior officers who promulgated rules of engagement to the junior officers and enlisted men in the field. Illegal orders were given and sometimes followed,11 but my evidence is that they were also refused.12 Any account of the My Lai massacre would be incomplete, and historically dishonest, without some recognition of the moral courage of the helicopter pilot and crewmen who risked their lives to evacuate endangered civilians. As far as I have been able to ascertain, men joined the Army because their lottery numbers were coming up, because society or their fathers expected it of them, and some because they believed it was their duty,13 but I have yet to meet the Vietnam veteran who enlisted in order to indulge a predilection for anti-social behavior under cover of military service. Even if such men could be found and their personal responsibility for war crimes established, that would not prove that either military service or those who choose to serve are intrinsically immoral. As Paul Christopher14 argues (p.98), "That some soldiers violate the rules of war does not invalidate the justification for the resort to arms in the first place anymore than an elected official's misuse of his or her office would invalidate the democratic processes whereby the official was elected." Neither do the criminal actions of some invalidate the honorable service of all other American servicemen.
The Problem of Perceptions
It is difficult to fathom the appeal of such a poorly reasoned argument with so little in the way of empirical evidence to support it, yet it had great appeal to my generation of college students, from which the present crop of college professors is largely drawn. From the emotional distance of a quarter century, the "Alice's Restaurant Argument" could be looked on with the same indulgence as any other youthful folly. The problem is that the attitudes it engendered still persist on many college campuses, and have real consequences for the present generation of cadets. The same "moraler than thou" attitude that prompted students in the late 1960s to yell "baby-killer" at fellow students in uniform still isolates and stigmatizes cadets (vid. the letter to the editor quoted in footnote 4), leaving them the only social group on campus it is politically correct to discriminate against.
At my institution, cadets have reported being told by certain instructors that they are not welcome in class in uniform, last year's graduate seminar in women’s history rejected women in the military as an appropriate topic for study, and both the Faculty and Student Senates have met repeatedly during the past three years to discuss whether ROTC should be allowed on campus at all. Alfred Kern warned almost fifteen years ago that".what we are calling perceptions can be powerfully destructive".15 Because of adverse perceptions, the venerable Columbia NROTC has been removed from my alma mater; in 1995 the University of Maine, where I now teach, will lose the only AFROTC detachment in the state. At its meeting of April 20, 1994, the Committee on University Environment reminded the Faculty Senate that "there is a standing resolution dated October 28, 1992 urging University of Maine officials to dissociate the University of Maine from [all] ROTC [units] unless discriminatory policies are removed by the Fall of 1994," and ROTC’s welcome on Dartmouth’s campus is also pending President Clinton’s promised lifting of the ban on homosexuals in the military.16 I do not know if campuses in the Northeast are substantially more inhospitable than elsewhere in the country (an article in the March 21,1994 Boulder Daily Camera17, picked up on a visit to Colorado, indicates that they may not be), but in this age of almost instantaneous communication, no ROTC unit at any educational institution anywhere can feel comfortably isolated from the powerfully destructive influence of anti-military attitudes surfacing elsewhere.
Rational Arguments Against Revisiting Alice’s Restaurant
Since the problem is one of false perceptions held by otherwise well-educated people engaged in scholarly activity, are there rational arguments that could convince these people to drop their false perceptions and recognize the morality of our students' choice of profession? More precisely, is it possible to defend such a choice against the most frequently invoked moral arguments against it, i.e., those that derive from conventional religion, extreme pacifism, and cultural relativism?
Perhaps the most commonly invoked source of objections to military service on moral grounds is religion, specifically the Biblical commandment, rendered in the King James version as "Thou shalt not kill." The precise wording in Hebrew, however, is not lo taharog (do not kill), but rather lo tirtzach, which translates more exactly to prohibition of premeditated murder, for which crime the punishment under Mosaic Law was death.18 Even a cursory reading of Deuteronomy will confirm that there was no corresponding prohibition of killing in the context of war.
Nor is this distinction peculiar to the Western Judeo-Christian tradition. Islamic Law discriminates quite clearly between the civil crime of murder and jihad, or holy war. The story of Arjuna and Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita makes it clear that, from the Hindu point of view, war is a natural and organic part of history, and that what one ought to do in that case is play out one’s part in events as they unfold. It is interesting to note that the point of this well-known legend (that you cannot change the nature of history by refusing to take part in it, only pass your duty to the next in line) seems to have been selectively lost on the Woodstock Generation, quite a few of whom claimed to be devotees of Krishna. It has special significance for several of my interviewees, however, who wondered aloud about the identity of the draft dodger in whose place they may have been sent to Viet Nam.
The fact is that of the world's major religions, none categorically excludes soldiers from its sacraments because of their profession. Elizabeth Anscombe,19 among others, makes the case that early Christian objections to military service were grounded largely in objection to the performance of pagan sacrifices required of ranking Roman officers (and of all ranks by the 4th century), and not to the bearing of arms per se. Paul Christopher, however, argues persuasively (footnote 14, pp. 20-27) that the early church was in fact deeply conflicted on the question of pacifism, because of ambiguities in the New Testament on this subject which have lent themselves to various interpretations. Some of Jesus' words and actions seem to advocate what Celsus called contemptissima inertia, while others urge his followers to take strong physical action. But, as Christopher notes (p. 22), nowhere in the New Testament is soldiering expressly forbidden, or even discouraged, as a profession for followers of Christ. On the contrary, it is an article of deepest Christian faith that Jesus will return to lead Christians in the ultimate battle of Good against Evil at Armageddon. Even if taken as strictly figurative, the language in which the eschatological promise is couched clearly expresses acknowledgment of the moral necessity for soldiers fighting in a just cause.
By the Middle Ages, largely as a consequence of a perceived need to consolidate political power throughout the known world, the Church had become aggressively militant (vid. the Crusades and the establishment of military religious orders like the Knights Templar). Traces of that militancy survive today in both Roman Catholic and Protestant services, in the singing of hymns such as We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, Onward Christian Soldiers, or Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, and in such common homiletic imagery as, for instance, the "Cross and Sword" or of being soldiers in a "Crusade for the souls" of today’s youth or the citizens of some Third World country. That the more martial rather than the pacifist Christian tradition has become predominant in our Western society proves nothing, of course, about their relative morality. But good arguments can be made, following Sts. Ambrose and Augustine, for military service among the Christian devout based on the fundamental moral duties to do justice and protect the innocent, duties that pacifism not backed by force is very nearly helpless to fulfill.
Religious objections to military service still survive among certain splinter Christian sects such as the Society of Friends (Quakers), the nearly extinct Shakers, the Dunkards around one of whose meeting houses the bloody Battle of Antietam was fought, the Amish whose young men are granted special exemptions from military service as essential farm workers, and the related Mennonites, etc. All have in common that they categorically abhor and reject "all outward struggle," arguing that we should not kill anyone because there is "that of God" in everyone. Herein lies the kernel of my personal disagreement with religion-based pacifism, for no one has so far been able to explain satisfactory to me why people who can find that of God in a fanatical terrorist, responsible for the indiscriminate bombing of innocent passersby on some crowded street, cannot find that same quality in a Coastguardsman, for instance, who may spend his entire career in humanitarian service. Pacifist religions have been known to cast out some of the best among them, those who would put their lives on the line for the very moral principles their religions preach. One of the saddest episodes in American Quaker history was the wholesale disownment of those Friends, who, as the Fighting Quakers, took upon themselves the responsibility for fighting the Civil War their anti-slavery agitation had helped to foment.
Pacifism, however, does not necessarily require a religious rationale, and most pacifism is not so much grounded in any particular religion as on a secular moral objection to the taking of human life. In its most extreme forms, this objection becomes an absolute prohibition against the taking of any human life for any reason, including self-defense. The extreme absolutist position argues that it may be morally better to accept any consequences, including the destruction of one’s country and the slaughter of one’s people, than to fight back with all force necessary to prevent these evils, that one should, in effect, fiat justicia, ruat coelum.20 The problem is that for those who are overrun, the sky very well may fall if they are denied all opportunity to put up an effective defense. Here the absolutist might argue, "So what, life might be unpleasant for the people of a conquered nation, but one can live under any regime, people do." Consider, however, that had the US not entered into and won WW II, there would by now be no Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, or disabled people left alive even to suffer under Nazism. Ghandi’s advice to those people, that they should commit suicide rather than fight back,21 was monstrous. Jews did in fact commit suicide at the end of the siege of Masada; they evidently did not believe that they could live under Roman rule if that meant being forced to profess Roman religion, and their tactical situation had deteriorated to a point beyond which they could no longer resist.
What is most objectionable about extreme pacifism is its insistence that innocents make sacrifices of themselves against their will and while the possibility of defending themselves successfully may still exist, especially if other nations can be counted on to unite in a strong UN-type constabulary defense of the victim. By ruling out all means of active resistance, extreme pacifism not only serves up the original victim to the aggressor on a silver salver, but invites him to indulge his appetite for any other free peoples who remain, since no disincentives to continued aggression are provided. Having to kill another human being, even in the course of war where such killing is granted limited societal sanction, is a terrible moral burden.22 Nevertheless, because it makes no distinction between the type and degree of moral burden incurred in committing aggression and fending such aggression off, I find extreme pacifism, noble as it may sound, to be deeply, fundamentally flawed.
Appeals to conscience (including passive resistance), the only weapon in the pacifist’s armory, are notoriously ineffective; all an aggressor has to do is refuse to accept his guilt (vid. the self-defensive blustering of Serbian partisans recently interviewed for the 6 o'clock news). Even when appeals to conscience find their mark, response is often inadequate in scope, limited in duration, or prompted by the wrong reasons. Early in WW II, a delegation of Friends led by Rufus Jones secured the release of a small number of Jews from Nazi Germany. This favor granted Friends by Reinhardt "The Hangman" Heydrich (Himmler's immediate subordinate and de facto head of the SS) in gratitude for the feeding of starving German children by Quaker missions after WWI, was a one time only deal; this largesse was not extended to the six million men, women, and children later murdered by the SS under Heydrich’s command. For these reasons of human nature and history, extreme pacifism strikes me as a rather cruel and hypocritical "tough on the little-shots" policy to be advocated by gentle people.
Mary Midgley23 has skillfully dissected the current popular craze for cultural relativism. Her analysis is that cultural relativism is based on two facile and specious claims to ignorance-the first that we can never know enough about other people, especially those from other cultures, to judge their actions fairly, and the second that matters in the moral sphere are inherently unknowable. These claims foster what Midgley calls a "dogmatic scepticism" that limits the making of moral judgments to the single categorical imperative that it is wrong for liberal-minded people of good will to make any moral judgments at all.
Why would we voluntarily put ourselves into such a straitjacket, and why has the wearing of moral straitjackets become so fashionable that we would allow our children to be fitted for them in public elementary schools? Midgley believes cultural relativism is a perverted manifestation of the American passion for individual freedom, but where is there room for individual freedom of thought in a philosophy that censures all opinion? My own suspicion is that cultural relativism, like blue jeans and ugly running sneakers, has caught on because it is "easy to wear," appropriate for "all occasions," and requires very little care to maintain and almost no thought. The problem with such an indiscriminately tolerant moral position is that there is no behavior it will not tolerate.
Cultural relativism strikes me as the quintessential '60s "cop-out." It allows people to shrug off responsibility, do nothing when a more exacting moral philosophy would demand serious soul searching and the timely taking of a stand, and still see oneself (and be seen by others) as a person of high principles. After all, there may be some cultural factor we do not understand in the Turkish, or Nazi, or Rwandan, or Serbian cultures that justifies their past or present atrocities towards their own or other peoples, might there not? And since the possibility exists that we might act without fully understanding their motivations, wouldn't it be wrong for us to interfere? I think not. Human beings are not all that different in their conceptions of morality. Most cultures put some of their strongest sanctions on the crime of premeditated murder, for instance, independent of the Westernness, or Christianity, or gentleness of their individual societies. Pre-Christian Icelandic law, which tolerated some extremely violent behavior in its everyday pursuit of justice, reserved imposition of sekt or the "greater outlawry," under which every man's hand was bound to be turned against the perpetrator, for the crime of "secret murder"24 Col. Wakin has pointed out that perfectly good arguments that atrocities cannot be morally justified on the basis of cultural peculiarities can be made without resort to any literary or anthropological or genetic evidence that human populations hold many of their most fundamental behavioral standards in common, and he is quite right. Nevertheless, such evidence exists. Some of the most interesting work on this subject25 suggests that much of what we call ethical behavior may be genetically "hard wired" to some extent. I mention these studies here not to commit any naturalistic fallacies about the way humans are being the way they ought to be, but because the existence of such evidence fatally weakens the relativistic argument that some people's moral frameworks may simply be too foreign for anyone raised outside of that framework to judge.
Moreover, the very act of choosing not to act (and it is an active choice) has moral weight and consequences of its own, and these devolve upon the head of the hanger-back as surely as the consequences of action devolve upon the head of the actor. The good citizens of Germany who saw the bolted cattle cars moving east, and heard the reports of concentration camps and of smoke rising from crematoria, and said and did nothing, must bear their fair share of the guilt for their duly elected government's crime of genocide. This is the deep meaning of the legend of Arjuna and Krishna, and of Greek Tragedy as well—you cannot opt out of your responsibilities as an agent of human history. Even when all that exists is a choice between evils, refusal to choose confers not absolution, but rather full responsibility, for the consequences of that refusal.
The most powerful argument to be made against cultural relativism as an ethical system, however, is simply that it is useless; it leaves us rudderless in a sea of moral choices, and insists that it is wrong to make moral judgments. For those of us with a human conscience, or whatever name by which we call what Midgley described as that "...psychological fact about us that makes it deeply distressing to us to live shapelessly, incoherently, discontinuously, meaninglessly—to live without standards," such a weak and toothless ethic will not serve. In accordance with those standards, it may from time to time become necessary for a moral people to take up arms (the decision of the Fighting Friends is a case in point), especially in the constabulary capacity that is increasingly the role of the U.S. military upon the world stage. In such circumstances, the choice of a military career is not only a moral one, it may well be the most moral choice a young person can make, sometimes the only one.
A Modest Proposal
The arguments above are rational ones, meant to appeal to fellow academics. But as I pointed out at the beginning of this paper, the "Alice's Restaurant Argument" against the morality of military service, and its second generation manifestations, are fundamentally irrational.
As an example of "Alice’s Restaurant Revisited," three years ago, I attended with a number of my students an invited lecture, for which painfully scarce University dollars had been spent, on "Why ROTC Should be Kicked off Campus." The speaker was a Professor of Ancient Greek from California, who insisted that I and my fellow instructors "brainwashed" our cadets into "mindlessly following immoral orders." When asked on what basis she felt justified in making these assertions, she admitted that she had never sat in on any professional ROTC courses in leadership and ethics because she "had no time to waste" on such things, and besides, "they wouldn't have allowed me in." Nevertheless, she was certain that these courses were both evil in pedagogical method and intent, and substandard in teaching staff and content. It was eye-opening, to say the least, to see how facilely this woman, who had just finished excoriating us for what she believed to be our monolithic judgment against homosexuals, judged us, and how self-righteously justified she felt in calling for punitive action on the basis of her unfounded and irrational beliefs.26
Five hundred years before Christ, the Chinese General Sun Tzu advised military men to know their enemies. Ours are children (and now grandchildren) of the '60s, and as such define themselves by the sensibility of the '60s, a sensibility which George Will recently wrote "featured intellectual conceit and moral vanity." "Vanity," Will continued, "is what children of the 1960s learned in college, when professors and other adults who liked the younger generation's politics said it was a singularly moral generation. Taught that their sincerity legitimized their intentions, the children of the 1960s grew up convinced they could not do wrong [therefore] there can be no honorable disagreement with a child of the 1960s."27 Nevertheless, their hysterical mistrust, deliberate misrepresentation, and destructive machinations concerning our students and programs, immoral in themselves because of their dishonesty, are a sorry legacy of the Vietnam War we must now move to counter. If we do not, we may soon find ourselves unable to continue the training of our Reserve Officer Corps in the form which most of us think best for the student-cadets and the armed services of this nation, and most in keeping with its democratic ideals. Those who would have ROTC removed from our public and private institutions of higher education would do well to consider the observation made by Col. Michael Ruotsala, commanding officer of the University of Colorado's Air Force ROTC detachment (footnote 17), that ROTC "is not the presence of the military within the university. It is the presence of the university within the military." As such, ROTC is to be most jealously guarded precisely by those who harbor the greatest suspicion regarding the military establishment. Instead, by seizing on any whiff of discrimination, intolerance, or scandal as leverage, they seem actually to be aiming to shoot themselves in the foot by hounding all military training off campus and into expanded academies, where they will have no direct control at all.
What can be done to secure ROTC's rightful place on campus? In the face of such willful ignorance as displayed in Catherine King’s lecture and decried in George Will’s editorial, frontal assault with purely rational arguments stands about as much chance of carrying the field as Pickett’s Charge did on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. So long as the opponents of military training on college campuses are allowed to continue in the mistaken belief that they, and they alone, hold the moral high ground, we will continue to be frustrated in our efforts to communicate our views to them. What I am about to propose, therefore, is in the nature of a little sapping of this bedrock confidence in their own moral superiority, in order to open a way for rational arguments. The key to accomplishing this lies, I believe, in fully recognizing and exploiting the implications of what I have been driving at obliquely all along when I described our opponents’ view on military service as "irrational, prejudiced, hysterical, and uninformed" that we are dealing with personalities who tend to make decisions on very different criteria than we usually do. Specifically, the Meyers-Briggs Index of personality types, which is routinely administered to military personnel, classifies people as to whether they are primarily introverted or extroverted, sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. Typically, military officers test out as ES or ENTJs. What I think is particularly revealing for the purpose of this argument is that there is an over representation in the military of Ts, or thinking types, compared with the general population, whereas (I am hypothesizing on the basis of their reactions) feeling types may be equally over represented among peace activists. The difference between the two, as explained to me, is that thinking types tend to make decisions that are "predominantly objective-criteria based" while feeling types make decisions on the basis of "predominantly subjective values, that are prioritized."28 This does not mean that our opponents are incapable of reason, any more than military officers have no feelings, only that we may have been wasting our breath trying to reason with them without at the same time engaging their emotions to get them to feel at a gut level as well as know intellectually that the "baby killers" they have been railing against are as decent and human and moral as they believe themselves to be.
Towards this objective, the very first thing we can do is to stop giving our enemies emotionally loaded ammunition with which to snipe at us. Just as our troops in Vietnam learned to police up their bullet casings and C-ration cans lest they later find them in enemy hands, reloaded or turned into homemade mines, so we must clean up our individual and collective acts. Iran-Contra, Tailhook-type sexual harassment, and Academy cheating scandals, and associated attempts at cover-up make it all too easy for anti-military factions on our campuses to "demonstrate" that the American military has never recovered the moral high ground lost at My Lai or in Cambodia or over North Vietnam, that all our Vietnam experience has taught us is to lie.
That we have learned the hard ethical lessons of Vietnam is evident in the revamping of American war fighting policy to conform with national ideals, and its successful application in the Gulf War.29 As for more recent public lapses of conduct, strict sexual harassment policies have been implemented in the wake of the Tailhook and other incidents, and there is every indication that all the services are deadly serious about seeing that they are adhered to.30 The recent assignment of women to aircraft carriers has begun the process that will eventually open up a full range of opportunity for career path and advancement to women in the military.31 The success of the decade-old DEOMI may be judged by the fact that it now serves as a model for many corporate human relations programs.
In making these statements, I am not being a Pollyanna about the state of affairs in the U.S. military today. Being more closely allied to the military than most civilian faculty members ever become, I am perhaps better aware than even the most rabid of our detractors of the problems which remain to be solved. But as a 19-year veteran of an academic department in which the few women are still very much second class citizens and there are no minorities in any capacity whatever, I see the military, "warts and all," outstripping many civilian academic institutions in both progress and commitment to stated human relations and equal opportunity goals.
Detractors may say, we have taken these steps because we have been forced to by practical considerations. Sexual harassment and racial discrimination are mission saboteurs, because they undermine both unit cohesiveness and the support of the American people who control the military under the Constitution; that is the consequentialist argument for dealing with these problems. But there is another, better reason for confronting them, and that is because it is the right thing to do. The actions listed above were taken in conformance with what we teach in ROTC ethics and leadership classes as the American Professional Military Ethic.32 As such, they are moral actions grounded in the fundamental American rights-based national values, of which the Constitution stands as the primary document. Yet the military presence on campus continues to be viewed by many faculty and students as morally suspect, elitist, discriminatory, or otherwise undesirable.33 For this reason we must not only take the moral high road but be seen to be moving along it. This is not the time for turning back and watering-down honor codes to bring them into conformance with looser University policies,34 but for insistence upon unwavering compliance with military ethical standards no matter what the trend in the civilian sphere may be.
We are fortunate in that we are now at a time when many academic institutions have become aware of the lack of ethical standards with which their student body comes to them, and acknowledging the near impossibility of properly educating young people ungrounded in Western ideals, have embarked on some rather encouraging efforts to remedy the situation.35 The recent proliferation of invited lectures, workshops, and symposia has, however, yet to address the need for permanent on-campus leadership in this direction. Here is a tailor-made opportunity for ROTC to seize the initiative and lead the way, much as "the West Point Way of Leadership,"36 with its insistence on making decisions for "the harder right," has done in the American business community.
How do we do this? We can make our vital interest in this subject known, attend the conferences and workshops, and establish working relationships with our colleagues who are most serious about seeing these programs succeed. Perhaps most importantly, we can contribute our expertise and experience in the teaching of ethics at a time when most of our colleagues are still casting about for ways and means, perhaps by formally opening our ethics courses (which so far as I know have never been closed) to the university community as a whole, or offering to team teach a university course with civilian colleagues as part of a concentration in ethics. Obviously, this would add to the already heavy work load of the PMS, PNS, and PAS, who usually teach this subject. But what about establishing an Ethics Fellowship at West Point or the Air Force Academy, similar to the highly successful one in Military History offered by West Point, for the purpose of preparing junior officers serving with ROTC detachments and committed civilian professors to take over this task? I believe that the return in understanding and mutual respect between ROTC staff and University faculty could be well worth the effort to reach out to the greater university community in the capacity of dedicated educators. Among other things, this action has the potential to force our colleagues to weigh their irrational prejudices against our demonstrated expertise, and to recognize our good will as teammates working together with them toward the selfsame academic goals they think worthwhile.
Related to the suggestions made above is my conviction, on which I have already acted with some success, that we ought to invite civilian participation in other professional courses which might have broad general appeal to the university community as a whole.37 As an example, a couple of years ago I was instrumental in returning Naval Navigation to our Physics Department under the Astronomy rubric, where it traditionally used to be taught. The offer of free instructors for a popular course was well received by the Physics department, helped revitalize and retain an Astronomy program slated for the economic chopping block, and demonstrated a continuing need for our fine but underutilized Planetarium. It also had the effect of tripling the course enrollment, and consequently the work load, for myself as a Coast Guard Auxiliary Instructor and my Navy counterpart. But it had the advantage of securing science sequence credit towards graduation for our midshipmen's previously unrecognized work in this challenging subject.38 It also has the advantage of teaming uniformed cadets with their civilian counterparts in a cooperative classroom environment.
In such an environment, it eventually ceases to matter to the civilian student that the lab partners on whom he must depend for his success (or his instructors, for that matter) come to class in uniform, but only that they are committed to sharing their best efforts and their expertise. As Gen. Sir John Hackett wrote, "There are many ways of looking at a soldier. He can be regarded, rather emotionally and too simply as a hired assassin. Only those who do not know many soldiers can maintain this view with confidence."39 Daily classroom contact breaks down that false confidence by forcing civilian students to look into the human face above the green or blue military weave collar and recognize a fellow-traveler on the road to a truly liberal education. That recognition is a beginning, an open invitation to share in the rich intellectual fare that Western Civilization—a civilization that, from the Iliad, to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Airborne Symphony, to the war poetry of Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, and Wilfred Owen to the Civil War paintings of artists like Joe Umble, owes much to military thinkers and heroes—has to offer. And despite claims to the contrary in the refrain of the song,40 you can't get that kind of cuisine at Alice’s dive.
1. Kellogg interview with TDM class of 1968 USNA, permanent collection of the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History at the University of Maine. Because of the personal nature of some of their confidences, interviewees will be referred to by their initials only in this paper. Access to tapes and/or complete transcripts for scholarly purposes may be obtained through the Archives Director, Dr. Sandy Ives.
2. I was fortunate to have had in my small sampling of interviewees (~50) three men who participated in OPERATION LINEBACKER II as CIC officer on a Navy Destroyer, navigator of an Air Force B-52 bomber, and Marine Forward Air Controller (Kellogg interviews with TDM, JP, and TM, respectively). Each saw this operation from a different vantage point, and each expressed professional pride in the job he and the others had done. In addition, others (among them KH, a 1st Air Cav. helicopter pilot and military historian) expressed similar feelings about their service, at least early in the war. For a more comprehensive view of LINEBACKER II, see ADM Noel Gayler's comments in his Aug. 1983 paper on Nuclear Deterrence—its Moral and Political Implications in The Journal of Professional Military Ethics.
3. Arlo Guthrie, 1967, Alice’s Restaurant, Reprise Records #6267.
4. A colleague at the Air Force Academy commented when I visited last summer, and I agree, that this argument is rather simplistic in its logical construction. The implied question—Is my representation of the views of the opponents of military training on university campuses as irrational in their argumentation and uncritical in their proofs, itself a fair and accurate one? — has been much on my mind ever since. I cannot speak for every peace activist on every American campus; some may have constructed much more sophisticated arguments than the type which seems to predominate, and I would be very interested in seeing them. But I can offer, in partial evidence that I have not just constructed a convenient straw-man for easy refutation, two recent examples of the anti-military views held on my own campus.
Example A: This past term I was asked to participate in our Introduction to Peace Studies course, for which full academic credit is given. The readings for the session on military training included an article by the science fiction writer Kurt Vonnegut (War Preparers Anonymous in The Nation 1/7/84), in which the author, as a recovering alcoholic himself, recommends a twelve-step program on the order of Alcoholics Anonymous to cure the American military of its "addiction to violence." Another assigned reading warned young people considering going into the Service as a means of furthering their educations that the military can teach them nothing of any use or value in the civilian world.
Example B — Letter to the editor of the Maine Daily Campus 11/14/94 from Craig Sheerin, a 50 year old male graduate student with no service record, protesting a reading of the literary works of Maine veterans and our annual ROTC Veteran's Day silent vigil:
"To the Editor
Talk about injecting morphine. Talk about continuing the war by 'other means.' Wednesday's Poetry Free Zone Memorial Day bash at the Honors Center was a blast from the memory hole: shades of the stinking sixties. We were treated to a select group of combat veterans from the last six or eight wars — sensitives, poets, song writers, diarists — strutting their stuff in a stifling room to a politely clapping politically ho-hum audience. How touching. How humane. Hired guns developing social consciences. Fascism with a human face. Hey, they say Hitler loved dogs.
But wait, isn't something missing from this memorial? Isn't something expertly erased, airbrushed out along with any personal accountability? Sort of like the convenient erasing those creepy Memorial Day ROTC stiffs do on the Fogler Library steps, 'honoring' the 20 or so US POW/MIAs, and not a single word about the 600,000 or so Vietnamese POW/MIAs? Pay attention folks. These are people I'm talking about and the ratio figures out to about 30,000 to one. What's the message? Who's worth counting here?
I noticed no Vietnamese survivors reading neatly metered compositions about their hate, their fear, their disgust. I noticed no Cambodians or Iraqis plinking out folk songs about their dead loves and comrades, their trashed lives and slashed flesh. (Indians anybody? Anybody want to remember a few million dead Indians? Oh, right, that was then). All I saw was some ungracefully again white, mostly male baby killers — they did pull the triggers on babies, you know, lots of them, there were piles — moaning in hoakey verse about the sad personal consequences of their baby killing, and to hell with the dead babies themselves. Not a mention. But hey, that's the American way, ain't it, Bubba? Carpet bomb the buggers. Obliterate and obliviate. Then grouse garishly for the next half century about how all those nasty atrocities and mass murders you committed are interfering with your sleep and your self-esteem.
Well, I got news for you people, you sensitive assassins. There is no statute of limitations on murder, so spare us the crocodile tears. You were wrong then, and you are wrong now. You aren't the victims. You aren't the people you shot, you burned, you raped, you terrorized. You people are perpetrators. You chose to go there, you chose to stay there, you knew what you were doing, and you did it. You are baby killers, and you are enablers of baby killers, and you always will be."
5. One of the earliest recorded cases of such a crime in American history occurred during the unpopular War of 1812. A marine named Bevans, who was standing guard on the Independence lying in Boston Harbor, bayoneted a verbally abusive passerby in accordance with orders from a superior officer. This defense did not stand up in court, which ruled that such orders, if actually given, would in any case be illegal and void, and Bevans was convicted of murder. See Telford Taylor, Superior Orders and Reprisals in Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy, Quadrangle Books, 1970.
6. See especially Kellogg interviews with RR (re helicopter interrogation), RS (re burning of villages), and GW (thoughts of revenge).
7. Tim O’Brien’s If I Die in a Combat Zone, Philip Caputo’s Rumor of War, and Bob Mason’s Chickenhawk, among others.
8. Richard Gabriel, No More Heroes: Madness and Psychiatry in War, Hill and Wang, 1987.
9. Three notable examples were those of enlisted man Ronald Ridenhour, Airman Lonnie Franks, and Major Hal Wright, who disclosed the My Lai incident, General Lavelle's unauthorized bombings of North Vietnam, and secret bombings of Cambodia, respectively. See Roger Shinn's paper on Ethical Aspects of the Exercise of Command in the Winter 1974 issue of The Military Chaplain's Review.
10. I make this claim because such knowledge was in fact common among my interviewees, who ranged in rank from a retired Rear Admiral to buck privates. One interview began with the off-tape question of whether the tape to be made could be used twenty years after the fact as cause for initiating war crimes investigations.
11. Kellogg interview with RR and RS (re witnessing helicopter interrogation and other abuses of POWs, and orders to burn villages, respectively).
12. Kellogg interview with RS, for instance, re refusal to burn a village or RR re refusal to participate in dangerous games ordered by a drunken Lieutenant
13. Kellogg interviews with RD, RS, SB, GW, AMcL, TDM, and TM.
14. Paul Christopher, The Ethics of War and Peace, Prentice Hall, 1994, p.98
15. Alfred Kern, "Waiting for Euripides", in The Journal of Professional Military Ethics, April, 1980.
16. Discrimination against homosexuals is the reason most often given for calling for the removal of ROTC. Yet even when given the names and addresses of government officials with the Constitutional power to make changes in the military's policy towards gays, those most vocal in the U. Maine Student and Faculty Senates have preferred to direct their demands at officers of ROTC detachments, and even cadets, whom they know are powerless to do anything about their concerns. The inescapable conclusion is that getting ROTC off campus is their primary objective, and concern for homosexuals just a convenient rallying cry. Since these programs, once removed, would be no more accessible to gays after the lifting of the ban against them than they are now, it seems to me that homosexuals hoping for a career in the military would be wise to consider just where and with whom their own best interests lie.
17. Sam Valenzisi, "Liberal’ CU is Fine with ROTC", Boulder CO Daily Camera, 3/21/1994.
18. I thank Rabbi Henry Isaacs of Congregation Beth Abraham, Bangor ME, for clarification on this point.
19. Elizabeth Anscombe, War and Murder in War and Morality , ed. Richard Wasserstrom, Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1970, pp. 48-49.
20. Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, Basic Books, 1977.
21. Louis Fischer, Ghandi and Stalin, quoted in Walzer, p.332.
22. See especially interviews with MD, SB, and GW.
23. Mary Midgley, Can’t We Make Moral Judgements? St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1993.
24. See The Saga of Grettir the Strong or The Saga of Gisli.
25. Michael Ruse and E.O. Wilson, 1985, the Evolution of Ethics in New Scientist, 1985, v.108, n.1478, p.50-52 and 1986, Moral Philosophy as Applied Science in Philosophy, v.61, no. 236, p.173-192, among others.
26. Invited lecture by Dr. Catherine King before the U. Maine Marxist/Socialist Study Group, 11/91.
27. George Will, Moral Pretense Washes Over Whitewater, Bangor Daily News, 3/ 3,94.
28. I thank Dr. William Scott Anchors for a very interesting discussion of his specialty.
29. Maj. Thomas J. Begines, "The American Military and the Western Idea, in Military Review", March 1992. Paul Christopher (footnote 14) points out that the Gulf War was by no means perfectly fought from a moral point of view. Our destruction of Iraqi water treatment plants, for instance, was questionable. But on the whole, it seems to me from interviews with Gulf War vets (see interviews with infantryman SS and JA, CO of a public affairs battalion), and from news reports at the time that our prosecution of the Gulf War was characterized by a particularly high degree of jus in bello, particularly in our execution of aerial bombardments, treatment of POWs and Kurdish refugees, and in our government's ultimate decision not to pursue retreating Iraqi forces all the way to Baghdad.
30. Navy News Service, Navy Defines Sexual Harassment Policy; Evelyn Harris, Breaking the Glass Barrier; Dr. Sue Guenter-Schlesinger, Sexual Harassment: Where Are We Going? All in Reflections, Summer 1993.
31. There are no sex-based restrictions on the capacity in which women already serve in the Coast Guard. (There are even some very special opportunities for civilian females. I have served as civilian co-chief scientist on board the Coast Guard icebreaker Glacier during her 1984-85 Antarctic deployment). Neither are there any race-based restrictions on assignments. As an Academy Information Officer for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, I can vouch for the efforts of this Service to recruit future officers with an eye towards making the Coast Guard "look more like America."
32. Anthony Hartle, Moral Issues in Military Decision Making, University Press of Kansas, 1989.
33. The same article quoted above in footnote 17 reports that, while the commanding officers of all three ROTC units on the University of Colorado campus viewed the diversity of the "liberal" Boulder Colorado and University of Colorado communities to be a valued asset to their programs, these communities do not recognize or value them as a valid component of that diversity. Apparently only certain approved groups add to diversity; by some counter-mathematical sophistry, ROTC cadets and cadre, in all their ethnic, economic, and religious variety, do not figure in this peculiar equation.
34. Compare the anemic content of the University of Maine pamphlet on Academic Honesty and Dishonesty Policy, for instance, with US Military Academy and ROTC Honor Codes.
35. To its credit, U. Maine has in the past year assigned Sissela Bok's Lying as the Freshman class book, and organized a series of workshops and discussions for interested faculty and students. These have been surprisingly well attended for lunch time, after school, and weekend programs.
36. Col. Larry Donithorne, The West Point Way of Leadership, Currency/Doubleday, 1994, and other similar books by Academy educated businessmen.
37. Each year, civilian students in the Forestry and other outdoor-oriented programs at U. Maine avail themselves of the Black Bear Battalion's land navigation course. Military, Naval, and Aerospace History are some other required professional courses that might appeal to a broad university population. A course in Terrain Analysis could benefit Geology and Survey Engineering as well as Army ROTC students.
38. One of the ways faculty opponents of ROTC take out their prejudices against cadets is by restricting the amount of graduation credit allotted for professional courses (in some colleges of U. Maine no credit is given for professional courses, though students are required to pay for them). The reason given — that the rigor of the subject matter and the credentials of the instructors are not up to university standards — is patently false. I have had students complain that they found Naval Navigation considerably more demanding than their other introductory level science courses. Master's licenses and other credentials held by our instructors are professional equivalents to the academic degrees held by our civilian colleagues, and many of us hold graduate degrees as well.
39. Sir John Winthrop Hackett, Today and Tomorrow, Harold Ober Associates Inc., 1962.
40. I.e., "You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant."