Not Looking At You Dudes, I’m Looking Past You

The phrase “dumbest thing I’ve ever heard” gets thrown around a lot, but Kenneth Harbaugh’s op-ed in the NYT, which despite being about ROTC on Ivy League campuses only manages to mention Don’t Ask Don’t Tell one time, is pretty high up there. And what an intellectually honest DADT mention it is:

Whenever I encounter animus toward the military at Yale, it is almost always born of ignorance. Students often cite the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military as a justification for the ban on R.O.T.C. They are far more sympathetic when I explain that such policies are enacted by Congress, and that the military has no choice but to comply.

Yes, because it’s not like there was a concerted effort on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prevent Clinton’s efforts to overturn the ban. A majority of active duty servicemembers don’t support DADT and the military certainly doesn’t have a culture of homophobia that the ban acts to codify. This is something that Congress did to them.

But that isn’t even what bothers me the most about this. What really irks me is that he never seems to entertain the possibility that one – just one – of his students at Yale might be gay, that one of these people he’s proselytizing to about the virtues of ROTC might be barred from participating. And assuming the class he taught was of average size (20-40 students), that’s almost certainly the case, especially in institutions like Yale or Harvard where a disproportionate number of students are gay. I wish he could appreciate how insulting this attempt to dress up the military as some kind of martyr is to those who are systematically rejected by it. I wish he would acknowledge that for a non-trivial number of students, DADT is not an ideological basis for objection to ROTC, but a personal one.

Obviously, the US military, like any other employer with discriminatory hiring practices, should be banned by universities from recruiting. That shouldn’t even be a question. But if people like Harbaugh are going to make the case for allowing bigoted employers on campus, they should at least acknowledge that gays and lesbians are part of the conversation.

1 thought on “Not Looking At You Dudes, I’m Looking Past You

  1. I think you’re being a little harsh. DADT is an important argument against ROTC on campus, but it’s not the only one and it’s not the oldest one. At Yale, ROTC disappeared long before Clinton, and the strongest objection was that the military was a terrible organization just by being the military.
    Harbaugh’s point is that this particular aspect of culture is changing. He cites the Yale Political Union debate, which I attended, as a sign of shifting perspective. This is slightly misleading, as the conservative side of the YPU is much stronger than it is at Yale at large, but even from the Left there were fairly few arguments based on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s certainly still a big deal, and Harbaugh obviously knows that there are gay students around him, but there are reasonable arguments to be made that ROTC can get at least a tentative foothold on elite campuses without being too offensive.

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