Citizen Soldiers

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I'd like to congratulate the Stanford Faculty Senate on their recent decision to officially allow the ROTC Program back on campus. While many arguments have been made on both sides of this issue, I am most pleased that this is a step toward bolstering the emerging leadership class in this country. With two wars and a number of small conflicts that our country is involved in and with a large percentage of our national wealth going into defense, we need the best minds in the military.

During my youth there was a pervasive sense of national service and obligation but that all died during the Vietnam War in the 1960's. The number of Stanford students that supported the return of the ROTC program indicates that maybe this sense of duty is making a comeback. We'll see how this plays out in the next few decades.

With a small but very capable military very few of us are involved or even touched by our military escapades. Most of the American populace has lost interest in the distant wars into which we have become entangled. And with the all-volunteer military, the greatest burden is borne by the lower and middle classes. With a growing gap between military and civil society, we are in danger of creating a leadership class who see war as costless and only a minor inconvenience. Twenty or thirty years from now, will the next versions of Cheney, Bush, Perle, and Wolfowitz send another generation of lower and middle class kids off to fight another unnecessary war? Having ROTC at Stanford will help ensure that some of our future leaders will be aware of the long term costs and dangers of military involvement.

In 1815 Thomas Jefferson wrote "I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power, the greater it will be." In the last 10 years we have lost a lot of our power and a good measure of our wisdom. With what recently happened at Stanford, maybe we can start to regain some of that power and a lot of our lost wisdom.

With a Perspective, this is Greg Unangst.