Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Viral Absurdity

     Last Thursday, a very wise man chastised his alma mater from the high position of the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal. Scholar and critic Jacques Barzun (who at 104 is more alert than 99 out of 100 30-year-olds) took Columbia University in New York to task. Barzun graduated from Columbia in 1927, was a professor of history there for many years, and eventually became provost of the university. Now retired to San Antonio, Barzun wrote about a recent petition circulated by members of the Columbia faculty. The signatories to the petition were calling for the continuation of Columbia’s ban on the U.S. military’s Reserve Officer Training Corps. Originally banished in 1969, ROTC has been kept off campus in recent years because of the now-ended military policy against openly homosexual service members. What is the justification for keeping ROTC away? According to the petitioners on the faculty, the military remains a “discriminatory institution” because of it excludes some people from military service on the basis of “many reasons from physical disability to age.”

     This is a stunningly transparent lie. The petitioners are apparently so tone deaf they cannot hear their own mendacity. The military is discriminatory because it won’t hire blind pilots? Or septuagenarian riflemen? This argument simply cannot be the true reason for the faculty to oppose ROTC. It is too absurd an objection for even the most disconnected of ivory tower denizens. Surely the real reason is far simpler: anti-military bias. Had the petitioners based their petition on the honest grounds of loathing for all things military, they could at least claim whatever virtue clings to candor. But to ground their objections on the “discriminatory” policy of excluding the disabled and the aged from military service is to reveal an animus so sharp that it distorts basic reason. Obviously, theirs is a clumsy ploy, a puerile argument unworthy of the weakest minds. Except…

     Except that there is a slim chance some of them really are sincere. How could that be? What kind of mind could sincerely advance such absurdities? Only a mind infected by political correctness. For some on the Left, the point of all government institutions—the military included—is evidently to promote the personal fulfillment of all people, regardless of other considerations. According to this view, the government exists to guarantee the self-actualization of every citizen, no matter the cost or consequences. The purpose of the military, then, is to allow everyone who wants to put on a uniform to do so. The halt, the obese, the decrepit, the blind—they all must have their chance to serve. While most of the faculty petitioners clearly are simply anti-military, for some this philosophy may derive from uncritical generosity. Their signatures on the petition proclaim their naïve misunderstanding of the limits of state resources and the purpose of the military services.

     Today is the Ides of March, the 2,054th anniversary of the assassination of Julius Cæsar. Cæsar was a dictator who effectively destroyed the Roman Republic and prepared it for the eventual tyranny of the Roman Empire. At the same time, Cæsar was a superb general who developed his troops into the finest fighting force in the ancient world. In Cæsar’s army, recruits had to pass physical tests before they could be accepted into the legions. The Romans may not have known about post-modernist criticism, or deconstruction, or gender studies, but they clearly understood the requirements of military service. Unlike the Columbia faculty petitioners.

     The military cannot exist for the benefit of its members. It must exist for the benefit of the nation. Military personnel must subordinate their own desires and personal fulfillment to the needs of the service. Today’s soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines understand this requirement. They are prepared to give their lives in service, and they understand that if their injuries sustained in combat are disabling but not fatal, then they will be honorably discharged with generous pensions and veteran benefits. But they will—they must be—discharged. No army on Earth can possibly prevail if it spends its time and resources trying to accommodate the disabled or the aged or any other citizens who cannot meet rigorous physical standards. As obvious as it is, this point has evidently eluded some of the distinguished faculty of Columbia. Such professors are perfect case studies in the etiology of that mental virus known as political correctness. PC long ago poisoned the humanities within the academy. Now, it appears PC is testing the air in the outside world, to see if can find host minds that will carry it into the barracks and aboard the ships of our still unequalled armed forces. Mr. Barzun deserves our thanks for his attempt to vaccinate us against this absurd, but dangerous, virus of the mind.


  1. "The military cannot exist for the benefit of its members. It must exist for the benefit of the nation." This statement of yours best summarizes the situation.

    Social engineering is a ludicrous exercise to begin with, but it becomes dangerous and will cost lives when forced to occur within the ranks of our armed forces.

    I find it sadly amusing how these ivory tower types are all for diversity of everything from sexual orientation to skin pigmentation, but they are against a diversity of ideals within their own ranks, particularly if those ideals are conservative ones.

  2. Sudden laff: Liberalism as the ability to call a spade a heart.

  3. T. Paine: Yes, the ivory tower types are moral imperialists. They insist the rest of the world adopt their morality, which they label (with Orwellian virtuosity) "tolerance."

    GTC: That's another one for the "Sound Bites" page. Bravo!