As the rest of campus warms to the idea of ROTC returning, a few loud anti-military activists are grasping for whatever arguments they can find. They now say that ROTC must wait until the military treats transgender individuals equally. We agree that banning transgender people from the military, or treating them differently from anyone else, is stupid and wrong. Preventing skilled Americans from serving our country makes no sense. Yet the right thing to do for campus, for ROTC cadets, and for transgender individuals themselves is to let ROTC return to Stanford.
Does anybody really think that banning ROTC hastened the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? To us, it’s clear that we owe its repeal to social change in the military itself and in the outside world. Anti-military activists are opposing this crucial liberalizing force by preventing bright, open-minded college students from entering the military and ostracizing those few who do. In doing so, these activists are extinguishing the hopes of proud transgender individuals who wish someday to serve their country. If they really wanted to free transgender individuals from military discrimination, they’d want as many Stanford student leaders in the military as possible. Of course, their actual goal is just to denigrate the military, since they can’t comprehend why anybody would want to serve.
Some people may think they’re upholding the principle of equal rights by boycotting the military. If this were a private corporation, they’d be exactly right. If Facebook or Goldman Sachs discriminated against transgender individuals, a campus boycott would make them pay dearly for their bigotry, in reputation and access to qualified candidates. But government is different. As a government-granted monopoly, our military isn’t subject to the competitive pressures that make boycotts effective. The military can’t go out of business. An ROTC ban just means our military gets fewer good leaders at a higher cost to taxpayers, and we all suffer.
The inanity of boycotting ROTC extends to moral grounds. We have a government of the people and by the people; it’s our duty to fix government when it errs. Congress is bigoted – think the Defense of Marriage Act – yet we praise those who go into politics in the hopes they will improve things. Certainly, nobody proposes we ban the political science department because some old political leaders hold repugnant views. But this is precisely what proponents of the ROTC ban advocate for our military.
The few vocal opponents of ROTC need to admit that they’re motivated purely by anti-military views, not by whatever false concern they feign next. Like most of campus, we think it’s time for ROTC to return.
This editorial reflects the views of The Stanford Review’s editorial board, composed of the Editor-in-Chief and the Opinion Editors.