A letter from a reader about Princeton and the fight on terror
In letters in the Oct. 5 PAW, B. Beck Fisher ’55 and Bruce R. Carrick ’58 persuasively articulate the underpinning rationales for retaining ROTC on campus. I note Rocky Semmes ’79 takes exception to my June 8 PAW characterization of some well-intentioned but misguided current Princeton undergraduates and perhaps my view that Princeton ROTC is consistent with Princeton’s tradition of supporting the nation in peace and war. (Rocky’s view is that war is counterproductive and that only peaceful avenues, perhaps the United Nations, are preferable.)
Some undergraduates apparently have yet to learn that a Princeton education is designed hopefully to 1) promote independent choice selection from a wide range of undergraduate opportunities, including ROTC, and 2) foster genuine understanding and tolerance for contrary views, since that is the hallmark of a truly educated person. Rocky seems to think the issue is about my equestrian mannerisms. Not so.
Where I do differ with Rocky is his idealistic notion concerning the inadvisability of past and contemporary warfare, since it provides no genuine national security for the United States and its allies from those championing Islamic fascism who at some point may well be armed with WMDs.
In this global fight on terror, I submit that both Princeton undergraduates and alumni need to be involved, since the country needs this skilled leadership if we are to survive this national security challenge to our very way of life. Permitting ROTC to remain on campus is one way we can help in this deadly fight. If some Princeton undergraduates choose to lead our country’s sons and daughters in harm’s way, then we have taught our undergraduates well because they too appreciate “duty, honor, country.”
Rocky, I appreciate Bertram Russell, but I prefer George Orwell who said, “We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the middle of the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” Ever since graduation that has been my quiet but paramount objective and, in my view, a worthy lifetime mission.
JOHN F.H. SCHENK ’69
Mr. Tyson asks if Mr. Phillips has considered whether a soldier can make the world a better place, whether soldiering is moral, if democracy is better defended by principles than soldiers, and if American actions themselves have caused Middle East violence; and doesn’t it all remind you of Vietnam? I hope Mr. Phillips has considered these questions, as I have.
Mr. Tyson presumes soldiering to be immoral; just so, becoming a doctor must be a moral calling. However, an immoral doctor can cause great harm. The morality of a person with responsibility depends on his decisions, not his job. Every time I meet a soldier or veteran, I grow more confident our soldiers do just and moral work.
Mr. Tyson asks: How can war defend democracy better than ideals? The history of free nations shows that no republic has stood without a strong army, regardless of its principles. No manner of high ideals will change the fact of endemic war; we can only use our ideals to build peace gradually, and I believe we have.
I don’t know if modern terrorism is America’s fault – are we more to blame than Soviet influence, Hitlerian aggression, British partitions, Ottoman administration, or the Islamic conquests of the 8th century? In other words, why care? Let historians sort it out. Today, Islamists and Middle Eastern presidents have said they desire to destroy our country, kill Americans, and enslave Westerners: This means me; this means you. They have already acted on their desire. Isn’t this reason enough to resist them?
As to Vietnam: I am unable to comprehend the obsession of my parents’ generation with this war (perhaps it will become clearer as I age). Nonetheless, Mr. Tyson asks what undergraduates have learned from Vietnam. I have learned that war is a serious business requiring serious thought – and neither blind approval nor blind opposition will serve.
But I have not found the answers Mr. Tyson would seem to prefer. After much consideration, I believe the best way to prevent new Holocausts, promote lasting peace, and preserve the freedom I enjoy is to fight, tenaciously and for as long as necessary, to defeat America’s enemies.
I applaud Mr. Phillips’ decision and his courage.
STEVE FEYER '03
In response to Matthew Ferraro ’00’s comments (Letters, Oct. 19) regarding Graham Phillips: I had the pleasure of being a classmate of Graham’s, and I could not admire him more for what he is doing. Not only is he sacrificing a few years of his life, and many higher-wage occupations, by joining the military. He is also doing so by enlisting and not becoming an officer. Some may see this as foolish, but I see it as courageous and extremely praiseworthy.
I myself will be joining the armed forces this coming spring, but I will be doing so as an officer. I have the utmost respect for someone who has earned the right to be an officer but chooses to be placed with those who have their faces in the mud, doing the toughest jobs. It may be that “few things are less democratic than a tank,” but one of those few is most certainly an extremist willing to take the lives of many innocents for no other purpose than to spread fear. There was a reason Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
SEAN MC INTIRE ’05
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