Friday, April 09, 2010

Letter to my fellow advocates for Columbia ROTC

To my fellow advocates,

Columbia ROTC advocacy positions are largely based upon abstract concepts like expanding civic virtue and shrinking the civil-military divide. Most of us are ROTC advocates because we believe in those concepts. However, I believe we must look beyond the abstract and convince decision makers and other influential people to support ROTC at Columbia with compelling interests and tangible benefits.

Columbia ROTC was once the nexus of a university-military partnership that philosophically and practically molded generations of American civil and military leaders in the unique tradition of Alexander Hamilton. The Hamilton Society, with Columbia's present-day cadets and officer candidates, invokes that heritage. In the 4 decades since the acrimonious divorce, however, both the university and the military have left the partnership behind. Columbia must be convinced that reuniting with its forgotten partner is more valuable than the status quo. Towards that end in recent years, a revival of Columbia's military tradition has begun among students, alumni, and professors. For the military since the dissolution, ROTC has devolved from producing distinctly Columbia officers to producing interchangeable officers with the same factory standard. As a result, ROTC graduates - unlike service academy graduates - are viewed equally whether they hail from a flagship institution like Columbia or small humble schools like North Idaho College and University of Maryland Baltimore College. Under the current ROTC system, the military doesn't differentiate among host schools according to quality and reputation. Instead, an ROTC program is judged by an accounting standard, whether an acceptable number of second lieutenants are produced at an acceptable price, with consideration for factors such as the host's comity with the military, racial diversity, and regional coverage. For our advocacy, the consequence of the military's current standard is that the strengths of ROTC at Columbia, as we see them, are not considered advantages by the military. Meanwhile, Columbia's high costs, estrangement, and suppressed cadet numbers are considered glaring flaws. During the same period our advocacy has been a hard slog, the military has awarded ROTC programs to small humble schools like NIC and UMBC with ease.

I conclude - suspect - that Columbia will be considered a poorly qualified candidate to host ROTC as long as we are judged by the accounting standard that awards ROTC programs to schools like NIC and UMBC. So, we have a choice: continue to struggle to convince decision makers on ROTC at Columbia under a standard that is practically anti-Columbia, or attempt to change the standard that's applied to Columbia so that Columbia's strengths are viewed again as tangible benefits, rather than marginal factors.

Granted, the DADT block is obscuring everything else, so I cannot be certain at this point that the military and Columbia cannot resolve their differences and agree on ROTC under current conditions. My fellow advocates seem to believe that negotiating known issues like academic credits, faculty status, and scholarships will be the first step, while deciding program features is a second-stage issue. I disagree. To paraphrase the Bollinger 2008 statement that handicapped the NROTC poll, the university's demurral to revisit the status quo is persuaded by the military's current disinterest (see below) in starting a program at Columbia. In effect, the status quo is synergistic. To win their commitment to a program on campus, we need to excite decision makers on both sides with a plausible vision of ROTC at Columbia. Or else, without the incentive of compelling interests and tangible benefits from the outset, the military and university likely will fall short of the first stage of talks, or their talks will begin and end with a reiteration of their current positions. If after DADT the two sides fail to reach a common ground for change, I don't know that we'll be able to convince them to try again. Why the Ivy League is Rethinking ROTC Dec 18, 2008: Moreover, even if Bollinger did let ROTC on campus, the Pentagon may not allocate funding to start training there, according to spokesperson Eileen Lainez. Students who are so inclined can continue to participate in Army ROTC and Air Force ROTC at nearby colleges.

New York Times The R.O.T.C. Dilemma Oct 26, 2009: Yet even if the Harvards and Yales decided tomorrow that they wanted R.O.T.C. back, it’s not clear that would happen anytime soon. Army R.O.T.C. has 273 host campuses, serving an additional 1,256 colleges; Navy R.O.T.C. has 72 hosts serving 86 additional colleges. Whether the military would welcome the holdouts as host campuses or keep them as satellites might have to be battled out politically one day.

Washington Times Ousted ROTC may go back to school Mar 23, 2010: The Pentagon's Ms. Lainez said the military services have not approached a large number of schools in the post-Vietnam era to open new ROTC programs. . . . "The current infrastructure is sufficient to both produce the desired number of commissionees, and … there is abundant opportunity for interested students to participate," she said.
In sum, I believe our abstract arguments aren't enough to convince the decision makers. Columbia fits poorly with the military's current standard for ROTC, and the military's disinterest impacts on Columbia's position. Therefore, establishing compelling interests and tangible benefits for ROTC at Columbia and applying a standard that favors Columbia's strengths are prerequisites for constructive negotiation between the university and military. The DADT review gives us a 1-2 year window to convince them and other influential people that our goal is worth becoming their goal, too. Whatever strategy we choose for our advocacy, a clearly conceptualized vision of ROTC at Columbia is important as a reference point to define our course and measure our progress.

Working notes on establishing compelling interests and tangible benefits for ROTC at Columbia:

Sell the opportunity, not chastise nor lecture. Maintain affirmative tone. Plausible clearly conceptualized vision of ROTC at Columbia. Address the letter jointly to both parties in order to foster notions of Columbia-military partnership and joint responsibility for the situation and solution.

1 Set value context: model and standard-bearer for Columbia officers is Alexander Hamilton with his exemplary leadership of nation in and out of uniform. Include VIP, eg POTUS and GEN Petraeus, statements about ROTC at Columbia. Image: 'Love Cherish Defend It' from inscription at base of American flag on Low Plaza. Refer to proud NROTC et al's CU military history and tradition.

2 KEY POINT to reframe value: MUST DEVELOP in-depth analysis tying the February 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review to Columbia; wed the military's most advanced vision of mission (QDR) with Columbia's highest vision of purpose (flagship institution); show Columbia's global perspective matches the military's global perspective. See the August 2010 independent QDR review panel report. Also see the joint USN/USMC/USCG A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (2007), the Army Capstone Concept (2009) and Army Operating Concept (2010). Differentiate ROTC at Columbia from generic ROTC programs. Emphasize that ROTC at Columbia is a rare and precious opportunity to create a new forward-thinking innovative program that draws upon world-class university resources and top-quality students in a global city. Analogize the potential of ROTC at Columbia with prestige programs like the Earth Institute.

3 Package existing assets: Core Curriculum is purpose-designed as a classical foundation for officer education. Broadly, Columbia's world-class university resources, large pool of diverse top-quality students, and full spectrum of university undergraduate and graduate departments and majors. New York City resources. Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies.

3-a Package existing assets, living Columbia military community: Hamilton Society, a campus cadets and officer candidates group that is a ready expandable base for a fraternal 'corps of cadets'. The largest population of student-veterans in the Ivy League. Active-duty officers in graduate programs. Columbia Alliance for ROTC, an alumni group including many veterans organized to support ROTC at Columbia.

3-b Package existing assets, supportive environment: ROTC advocacy has grown organically within Columbia from students, alumni, and professors supporting the military on campus. Increasing institutional support for military on campus, such as statements by university leaders (eg, Trustees Chair Bill Campbell), participation with Yellow Ribbon program, Columbia War Memorial, military commissioning ceremonies on campus (with pics), discrimination policy amended to include "military status" as protected category. Multiple Spectator staff editorials supporting ROTC at Columbia. DADT cited as only significant bar to university support of ROTC.

4 Highlight added value: Symbolic and public relations value of new ROTC at flagship institution Columbia in New York City. ROTC in NYC: no current ROTC program in Manhattan NYC. Close by are Barnard, a premiere women's college, and CCNY, the flagship CUNY and Colin Powell's alma mater. Nearby Central Park and Grant's Tomb offer additional resources.

Perhaps include 'why ROTC at Columbia' statements addressed jointly to CU and military, from university leaders, professors, students, and alumni (similar to the Hamilton Society testimonials that are addressed to Columbia students).

Perhaps include a brief summation of conflict issues (credits, faculty appointments, scholarships, cadet numbers) in order to place them in context. Retain affirmative tone.

Add: From a senior Civil Affairs officer on a CA blog: "I know the Army currently targets some of its ROTC scholarships specifically at schools offering degrees in nursing. It also targets some scholarships to help provide officers to Army National Guard and Army Reserve units, as well as the Active Duty force. Since over 90% of Civil Affairs is in the USAR, if United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC) designated USAR Civil Affairs as an accession branch that could bring officers in as lieutenant, this might be an option. I am thinking degrees in anthropology, civil engineering, requirements for some category three languages would be useful. I think we are still at the advocacy stage, however. Keep advocating. I think this is an important cause."

Add: Sample rewrite:

Unique heritage. The model and standard-bearer for the Columbia officer is
Alexander Hamilton and his exemplary leadership of nation in and out of
uniform. The university has a proud military history, especially with
Naval ROTC. Many alumni supporters of ROTC at Columbia are Navy veterans.

New potential. [MISSING IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS] The military's evolving global
mission, represented by the QDR, has aligned with Columbia's global
perspective and focused the potential of a Columbia officer program. ROTC
at Columbia is a precious opportunity to create a fresh innovative
forward-thinking program that draws upon world-class university resources,
a large pool of diverse top-quality students, a full spectrum of
university undergraduate and graduate departments and majors, and the
local resources of a world capital. For example, Columbia has large
excellent engineering and science programs that may interest the Air Force
and Navy, and top language, anthropology, and civil engineering programs
that may interest the Army and Marines. Notably, our famed Core Curriculum
was originally designed as a classical foundation for officer education.

Living Columbia military community. The Alexander Hamilton Society, the
campus group for cadets and officer candidates, is a ready expandable base
for a fraternal 'corps of cadets'. Columbia contains the largest
population of enlisted plus commissioned student-veterans in the Ivy
League, along with many active-duty officers in the graduate programs. The
Columbia Alliance for ROTC, of which I am a member, is an alumni group
with the express purpose of supporting ROTC at Columbia.

Supportive environment. Since 2005, DADT has been repeatedly cited by
university leaders as the only significant obstacle to the university
welcoming ROTC. The ROTC movement at Columbia has grown organically within
Columbia from students, alumni, and professors supporting the military on
campus. There is growing substantive support for the military on campus,
as expressed by university leaders such as Trustees chairman and Army
veteran Bill Campbell, multiple Columbia Spectator staff editorials
calling for ROTC at Columbia, university outreach to young veterans and
robust participation with the Yellow Ribbon program, the unveiling of the
Columbia War Memorial, commissioning ceremonies on campus, and the
discrimination policy amended to include "military status" as a protected

Added value. ROTC at Columbia would fix the absence of ROTC within
Manhattan, which has one of the nation's highest concentrations of college
students. In the immediate vicinity are Barnard, one of the premiere
women’s colleges, and City College, the flagship CUNY and Colin Powell's
alma mater. There would be symbolic and public relations value in an
ambitious new ROTC program at Columbia, New York City's flagship academic
Add: At the April 18 World Leaders Forum with Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, President Bollinger said in his introduction, "The chairman leads an organization, most crucially, that provides our nation’s necessary point of engagement in a dangerous and complicated world, though he would be the first to say that it must be only one part of a whole web of strong, diplomatic, civic and economic relationships across the globe. Our servicemen and women are called on to fight battles, but also to be the diplomats with village elders and emergency responders in nations devastated by natural disaster." Also, Mullen and Bollinger answer a direct question about ROTC at Columbia during the Q&A. See the transcript and video.

Add: From Kaboom - Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War, by Matt Gallagher, p 272 "I believed that many of the men at the top of the totem pole truly wanted the army to become a learning institution, but in my experience, the giant clog in the middle wouldn't allow for it. An institution as large as the army didn't change overnight, and the "that's the way it was for me, so that's the way it'll be for them" mentality persisted." p 278 " ... although I hadn't sought the press, I understood their power in bringing issues to the public. Nothing made large institutions change their decisions more quickly and more emphatically than public pressure." Other: p 289 "We were wrought up with ideas inexpressible and vaporous, but to be fought for. We lived many lives in those whirling campaigns, never sparing ourselves: yet when we achieved and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make in the likeness of the former world they knew. Youth could win, but had not learned to keep: and was pitiably weak against age. We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace." (quoting T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom) p 292 "I wondered if the GWOT-era leaders and soldiers raised in counterinsurgency actually could change the institution, instead of the institution swallowing them and their experience whole. It'd be too easy for people who hadn't really been there and who hadn't studied the trends of irregular warfare after World War II to write Iraq off as an anomalous brushfire. . . . The old men would return, as would the old ways. Tradition demanded it. The unconventional spirit of the young would awaken again when needed once more by their country. Honor demanded it."

Add: To learn more about the underlying philosophy for the QDR-based appeal, see from SWJ: Design and the Prospects of a US Military Renaissance by Colonel Christopher R. Paparone

Add: DADT transition possible argument for CU ROTC: "[SLDN's executive director Aubrey Sarvis] said the key component to any major culture shift is education and training. . . . "And that begins at the top, particularly in a large organization like the military with one million plus," said Sarvis. "It trickles down from the officers of the corps?all the way to the ranks.""

Add: Warrior Nation by Michael Nelson.

What can colleges do to mitigate these developments, which taken together have heightened the already great American proclivity to war that Bacevich, Beinart, and Rubenstein document in their books? Forget about trying to bring back the draft. The technologically complex modern military needs long-term volunteers, not short-term draftees, to function effectively. The all-volunteer military isn't going anywhere.

ROTC is different. Colleges that have kept their doors shut can begin by reopening them. As the Stanford historian David M. Kennedy argues, excluding ROTC for the past four decades has simply ensured that elite universities, "which pride themselves on training the next generation's leaders, will have minimal influence on the leadership of a hugely important American institution, the United States armed forces." "It's clearly best," Kennedy told the Stanford faculty, "for our democracy to have, among its military officers, citizens who have a liberal education at the best universities in the country."

But reopening the doors to ROTC, a military institution that is understandably chary of being burned again by some future campus controversy (an especially unpopular war? military harm to the environment?), won't be enough. Colleges and universities need to put out the welcome mat so that students are encouraged to consider military service as an option for at least part of their lives—en route, as some of them will turn out to be, to high public offices in which they will make decisions about war and peace in years to come. One form of welcome would be to top up ROTC scholarships so that high-tuition institutions are affordable to service-oriented young people. More generally, though, colleges should take to heart an argument made by Josiah Bunting III, the Vietnam-era army-major-turned-novelist who later became president of Hampden-Sydney College and superintendent of Virginia Military Institute.

Writing in The American Scholar in 2005, Bunting observed that the long-term benefit to society of Teach for America—the program that recruits high-flying college grads to spend two or three years teaching in difficult public schools—is that later in life, when they are in positions of influence, "they will know the costs and difficulties and sometimes dangers of such duties. So it should be with ... soldiering in behalf of the American people." That's not a programmatic plan of action, but it is an animating spirit that individual colleges and universities would do well to adopt and then apply to their own distinctive circumstances.

Add: GEN Petraeus on changing the Army.

Add: The cadet number issue is a real one, and we need to approach it in several ways:
a.. Argue that lower numbers are worth it anyway due to:
a.. Quality of students
b.. Engineering
c.. ROTC+
b.. Argue that numbers will go up with ROTC on campus (though there have been
times when there have been more Harvard ROTC students in MIT Army ROTC than MIT
students) or recognition and with ROTC+
c.. Allow service-based scholarships, including ROTC, to top up need-based aid to
create packages competitive with service academies. Anne Neal and I are working
with some reporters to begin this discussion in the context of the Yellow Ribbon
Program, and then generalize to ROTC scholarships).

Add: Harvard ROTC blueprint.

Add: The moral compass of the Army is the PL and the CO. I told every one of my PLs that they have to set that moral standard, that once you slip to the left, you can’t pull your guys back in.
—Capt. Dan Kearney, New York Times Magazine, February 24, 2008 Source.

Add: It might be worth some brainstorming at an outline level. Among the angles I'd add
that are different from the Harvard blueprint are:
a.. Engineering and the need for that in Navy and Air Force in particular
b.. NYC
c.. Long commute time to Navy program
But many of the points in the Harvard blueprint are the same for Columbia, and are
worth making if applicable.

Add: Blueprint for Columbia ROTC.


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