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ROTC returns to Harvard, the Qaddafi concerts, & more

From the Scrapbook

Mar 14, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 25 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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ROTC Returns to Harvard

ROTC returns to Harvard, the Qaddafi concerts, & more

Everyone knows that the military’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) chapters were kicked off America’s elite university campuses—Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, et al.—because of hostility to the draft and to the armed forces during the Vietnam war. The draft ended, the war ended, but the antimilitary animus endured, though the universities in question increasingly sought to disguise their ideological hostility to ROTC training behind a smokescreen of “civil rights” concerns: namely, opposition to the policy of turning away openly homosexual volunteers, otherwise known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. 

Once Congress repealed that policy during its lame-duck session in December, it might have seemed that the last plausible excuse for banning ROTC had been removed. But that would be to underestimate the creativity and cowardice of university administrators. Early last week Harvard president Drew Faust said that while talks with the military were under way, progress was slow because “issues that are being voiced now by transgender students are ones that I think the military hasn’t entirely sorted through.”

Happily—perhaps embarrassed by the transparent lameness of this new talking point—Harvard saw the light three days later and announced the imminent return of ROTC to the campus, after a four-decade hiatus. Faust and Navy secretary Ray Mabus signed an agreement on March 4 to create a Naval ROTC chapter at Harvard.

At the other elite universities, delay is still the order of the day—sorry, make that deliberation. Brown and Stanford have set up “committees” to study the issue. Columbia has a “task force,” and Yale is actually having a “discussion” between the administration and the faculty. But when even Senator John Kerry is calling on his alma mater to follow Harvard’s lead, as he did in an open letter to Yale president Richard C. Levin on March 4, it’s probably just a matter of time before the holdouts cave.

The return of ROTC to our top campuses is worth celebrating, however grudging that process turns out to be. As Cheryl Miller and Gary Schmitt wrote in these pages a few weeks ago:

“Top-tier schools should aim to have top-tier ROTC programs. In so doing, they would help ensure that the American officer corps reflects America as a whole—thereby allowing ROTC to fulfill its original purpose. No less important, returning ROTC to elite university campuses will restore a proud tradition of military service. When the first ROTC units were established at the land grant colleges, students at Harvard, Yale, and other prominent schools petitioned for their own programs so they too might have the chance to demonstrate their patriotism. And serve they did. Yale’s Memorial Hall is covered from floor to ceiling with the names of students and faculty who fought from World War I through the Vietnam war, while Harvard boasts the highest number of Medal of Honor recipients outside the service academies.

“Not everyone agrees with the decision to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But its repeal does provide an opening for repairing relations between some of the nation’s top universities and the military services—a rift that has been unhealthy for universities, their students, and the armed forces. It’s an opportunity that shouldn’t go to waste.” ♦

Frank Buckles, 1901-2011

The Scrapbook notes, with some sadness, the death of 110-year-old Frank Woodruff Buckles at his home near Charles Town, West Virginia. Buckles was the last American veteran of World War I​—​leaving, so far as anybody knows, only two veterans of the 1914-18 conflagration in the world, one in England and the other in Australia. 

Of course, the peaceful death of any 110-year-old is neither a great shock nor tragedy, and Frank Buckles died full of honors and admiration. He had been a successful farmer and businessman in his long life, and by a curious turn of fate, spent much of World War II as a civilian prisoner of war in the Philippines, where he had been working in the shipping business. His funeral was attended by the British ambassador and an honor guard from the French government.

The Scrapbook is just old enough to remember a time, not so long ago, when most gentlemen of a certain age in America were likely to be veterans of the Great War. Today, of course, someone who was 18 at the end of World War II would be 84 years old, and someone who was 18 at the time of the Korean armistice (1953) would be 76. The youngest Vietnam veterans are approaching 60. Every American war has had long-term survivors: The last known veterans of the Revolution survived until the Civil War, and the last soldier of the Civil War, a Confederate veteran, died in 1959. As recently as the 1970s a substantial number of World War I veterans were alive and well; now they’re all gone. The last thread connecting our world to the trenches of the Western Front, the war to end all wars, is broken.

Frank Buckles’s service in World War I was supremely typical: Too young to enlist, he was rejected by the Navy and Marines but lied about his age to the Army and joined at 16. He was an ambulance driver in France and, while never in combat, he saw the consequences of combat on a daily basis. His tenure in the Army was routine, representative, unheroic​—​and yet, we may see in retrospect, heroic all the same. Like soldiers since antiquity, he had joined up out of curiosity, in search of adventure, perhaps for patriotic reasons. And like millions of other Americans in uniform throughout our history, he served faithfully, conscientiously, and without any particular sense of entitlement except the instinct to do his duty. ♦

The Qaddafi Concerts

Muammar Qaddafi has ruled Libya with an iron fist for over four decades. In the 1970s, he helped finance the massacre at the Munich Olympics, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Provisional IRA. The next decade, he had at least two dozen critics of his regime around the world—including in the United States—assassinated. He talked about doing the same to President Reagan. We could fill The Scrapbook with further examples.

But popular musicians don’t keep up with the news, it seems. A number of them have just now discovered that Libya’s leader is evil—long after collecting million-dollar paychecks from him.

Nelly Furtado was the first to come clean. The now-estimable Canadian singer, responsible for such wholesome hits as “Promiscuous,” admitted over Twitter that she’d been paid $1 million “from the Qaddafi clan” to play just 45 minutes at a private show in Italy.

Beyoncé was the next to admit she’d been paid—she didn’t say how much, but rumor has the fee at up to $2 million—by the dictator. She played a Qaddafi family New Year’s Eve party in St. Barts in 2009; Lindsay Lohan, Usher, and Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z all reportedly attended. What a night that must have been! But the “Bootylicious” singer claims she gave away her fee to Haiti relief when she discovered Qaddafi’s true nature—just over a year ago.

Then Mariah Carey did the walk of shame. She was paid $1 million to sing four songs—four songs!—also on St. Barts on New Year’s Day 2009. (The Qaddafis must like that location—and, given that Carey’s last album was called Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, beautiful, naughty singers. They’d fit right into the colonel’s Amazonian Guard.) Carey, though, didn’t promise to donate the money. Instead, she plans to give the proceeds from a song on her upcoming album to a human rights organization.

Timbaland and 50 Cent have also performed at private concerts organized by the Qaddafis. They’ve kept quiet so far. But it’s not only pop stars who have accepted money looted by a tyrant. The director of the London School of Economics, Sir Howard -Davies, just resigned his position over nearly half a million dollars he accepted from Qaddafi’s son, and former LSE student, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi. (Whose dissertation, by the way,  turns out to have been plagiarized. What? Too cheap to hire a ghostwriter?)

Furtado hasn’t announced to what group she plans to donate her fee. Sending aid to the Libyan rebels trying to take back their country might not be a bad way to atone. ♦

Stealth Unionization Update

Since The Scrapbook last took note of Michigan’s weird scheme for subsidizing unions out of the none-too-full pockets of home day care providers, the lawsuit challenging this racket has bounced around the courts without substantive result. It need bounce no more.

Last week, the Michigan Department of Human Services announced that it will stop withholding “union dues” from the public reimbursements it sends to home-based day care providers who look after eligible low-income children. By then, the practice will already have funneled millions of dollars to a shell subsidiary of the United Auto Workers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in an arrangement worked out between the unions and the bygone administration of Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm.

Granholm’s successor is Rick Snyder, a Republican businessman who took 58 percent of the vote last November in his first run for office. His new head of Human Services, Maura D. Corrigan, sat on the state supreme court before taking over Michigan’s largest executive agency. Her work as a justice must have familiarized her with the suit brought by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation on behalf of three home day care providers who knew they hadn’t joined any union and objected to having their pay docked.

Another suit, brought in federal court by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, is seeking to have those back “dues” refunded. Even so, Patrick J. Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, while exultant at the “fantastic news” of his clients’ vindication, warns that a law is required to prevent similar shenanigans in the future. The day the Michigan legislature acts, watch these pages for a new item: “Stealth Unionization, The End.” ♦

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

 "For most conservatives, even the mere suggestion that the mind has its own agency, that it can take over and dominate the conscious decisions of the individual in which it lives, smacks of gross foolishness. When we make a bad choice, they believe, such as wasting our money on drugs or failing to search hard enough for a job, we should be punished. When we make a good one, by turning to God or starting a much-needed business, we should be rewarded. As it happens .  .  . ” (Alan Wolfe, New -Republic, March 24, 2011). ♦

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