Letter to the Editor: A Response from Stanford Says No to War

While the recent op-ed from Georgetown’s Dominick Healey offers a pithy restatement of what he construes as the essence of Stanford Says No to War’s (SSNW) opposition to ROTC on campus (“We don’t want ROTC on campus because we don’t like war”), it is not quite accurate.

True, we do not like war. More pertinently, SSNW’s opposition to ROTC on campus is grounded in the fact that we don’t want University space to be militarized. Other countries manage to train their military officers without turning university campuses into military installations. Our point in discussing this on our website is that, whether you agree with us about war or not, you should consider the alternative to ROTC that the military’s own studies suggest would be cheaper and just as effective by its standards (not ours): replacing ROTC with Officer Candidate Schools located away from college campuses, where students go after graduation.

The danger of the militarization of college campuses is not an idle concern. By hosting a program that recruits and trains soldiers, the University’s leadership is providing material support to a military force. Imagine the patriotic uproar if Stanford decided to take its engagement with China a step further and allow the PRC’s army to run a few courses in leadership and military history. Indeed, by welcoming ROTC back to campus, the University has, literally, taken sides in an active armed conflict. We think the academy is most conducive to the free pursuit of knowledge and ideas when it is, to the greatest extent possible, a neutral space.

Furthermore, according to the U.S. forces’ own targeting policy, the presence of ROTC on campus effectively transforms areas of our university into “training camps” and bases of “militants.” That would – again, according to the criteria used by recent U.S. administrations (and put into practice by the armed forces and the CIA) – mean that areas of the Stanford campus could be viewed as legitimate targets for combat by the enemies of the U.S. Non-ROTC students and workers (as well as infrastructure) would be at risk of being “collateral damage” or “human shields.” Let’s not be misunderstood; we are not advocating for those targeting criteria – they are, after all, illegal under international law. We are, rather, pointing to the hypocrisy and recklessness of U.S. militarism.

The individuals who participate or have participated in ROTC are, we believe, decent and honorable people. Some of them are our friends and family members. It is the institution that we are against. Organizations like the military – whose primary purpose is to efficiently apply coercion, threats, destruction and death – are indeed incompatible with the ideals of higher education.

Eric Craig Sapp
Member, Stanford Says No to War
PhD Candidate, Modern Thought and Literature

About Letters to the Editor

  • Lucy C

    “Other countries manage to train their military officers without turning university campuses into military installations.”

    What a laughable assertion. Having an ROTC chapter on campus does not turn a university campus into a “military installation” any more than a “Japan Club” turn a university into a Japanese embassy or anymore than a Democrat/Republican club turn a university into a political headquarters.

  • WhatAJoke

    This was precisely the uncogent response that readers of yesterday’s op-ed anticipated.

  • pol_incorrect

    As I said in the comments section of the original letter, it is not surprising that this letter comes from a wannabe useless faculty member in the humanities. How boring!

  • pol_incorrect

    The saddest part of it is that I am sure that this Eric guy thinks he is making a COGENT argument. This is what happens when going to class or talking to professors becomes a “watching MSNBC” exercise :D.

  • pol_incorrect

    It’s even worse. This lunatic doesn’t see the difference between the ROTC and a similar program run by the PRC. It might be news to him but not only Stanford is on US soil, and thus has to abide by US laws, but Stanford gets approximately 1 billion dollars from the federal government every year. If Stanford was a private institution funded only by purely private funds (such as the students’ tuition) he might have a valid point “in theory”, ie that it could isolate itself from society as much as it would want. But alas, that 1 billion dollars a year means that Stanford is not isolated from the American society. This level of funding was instrumental in taking Stanford from a fine regional university to the powerhouse it has become today. In fact, I think that the federal government has been over the years very lenient with these elite institutions which on one side suck the money out of taxpayers but on the other teach anti American / anti Government propaganda. They want to teach such rubbish, no problem, but at least us (the tax payers) should not be subsidizing it.

  • Geoff

    I think this is an excellent response to Dominick’s op-ed because it raises the issue of the creeping militarism of our society and culture when we normalize militarism and valorize those in the military. We are oblivious to the harm that the military does to the lives of the citizens of the countries we invade (a million plus Iraqis killed and millions more became refugees), we are oblivious to the reality that we are less safe because of these wars and the scourge of militarism, its harm on the environment, and the harm to our own economy. Thank you for this article and your work.

  • pol_incorrect

    This is nonsense. As a student of history, I can say without a doubt that the invention of nuclear weapons ended the era of armed conflicts between major powers. Since the end of WWII there has not been such a conflict. There have been proxy wars but these wars were small in scale (compared to the type of conflicts the different European powers regularly engaged in prior to WWII) and fought with conventional weaponry. A strong military is the best defense. And in case you forgot, in the US it’s the president who leads the wars after approval by Congress. The military is just the instrument to implement said political decisions. We have troops in Afghanistan (and in Western Europe BTW) not because decisions by generals but because of presidents and congress have decided. You live in fantasy land, just as the average liberal nutcase does.

  • Jonathan

    I had ROTC in my high school and if you weren’t interested in joining the military you basically just ignored it. I didn’t feel our high school campus was “militarized”. All campus organizations are going to have their own ideological bent, and because we live in a free country we allow all organizations to put forward their own ideology, within the limits of respect and toleration for others. The only difference between ROTC and any other organization on a college campus is that ROTC has the backing of a heavily funded government institution. But if we’re going to kick out ROTC why don’t we just as well kick out The Hoover Institute, or eliminate Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s Entreprenurial Thought Leaders Seminar. My point is these well funded, politcally biased organizations provide important resources to specific groups of students and people on campus which simultaneously enriches the intellectual atmosphere of the university. ROTC’s weak presence on campus is actually a loss to Stanford’s intellectual vitality.

  • RW
  • RW

    Check out today’s response… the author is anti-war and probably liberal but you might be pleasantly surprised
    http://www.stanforddaily.com/2013/01/16/op-ed-ssnws-arguments-are-illogical-poorly-constructed/

  • pol_incorrect

    Indeed, I am pleasantly surprised. All hope might not be lost after all :D. The funny thing is that the points she makes should be no-brainers for any thinking person; certainly for the type of person whose intellectual abilities took him/her to Stanford. Great response.

  • Brian Good

    Right. We’ve got enough thinkers and we don’t need any more. What we need more of is Wall Street crooks, self-censoring journalists, and joystick drone jockeys who have the guts to kill women and children 8,000 miles away. Is that a fair characterization of your position?

  • pol_incorrect

    Of course not. As I mentioned in the other posting, you have a problem understanding written English, so I am not wasting my time explaining to you my position. Those who understand English got what I meant since my very first comment.

  • Brian Good

    It’s a fair characterization of your position.

  • Brian Good

    And what element of my characterization of your position is unfair? Do you dispute the fact that in denigrating the value of humanities professors you are demonstrating an anti-intellectual attitude that denigrates the value of thinking? Do you deny that your obvious ideological bias comes from a culture that glorifies wall street looters, punishes independent journalists, and tolerates war crimes?

  • Brian Good

    Empty claims that the counterparty is irrational are a staple assertion of lying internet propagandists.

  • Brian Good

    The bogosity of Ms. Wright’s argument begins when she dishonestly defines “militarization” as “mobilization of troops”. Stanford can not reasonably be expected to function as a mobilization point. In the context of Stanford, the mere endorsement-by-toleration of ROTC would constitute “militarization”. You might as well argue that since Dr. Condoleezza Rice is the only perjurer and torturer on the faculty, then the tolerance extended to her by marching her out on the football field to throw the coin toss makes Stanford’s complicity in her crimes an insignificant

  • cardinal

    Good for Stanford. Contribute and stimulate civil-military relations and discourse in a broader context. Enrich the officer corps with some of the best civilian-educated graduates the nation develops.