When Jed Babbin served in the first President Bush’s cabinet, I never heard of him. But since then, he’s made a hell of a name for himself as a political commentator. Back during the rush of the initial war in Iraq, he said one of the most brilliant, most insightful, most undiplomatic, and most damningly accurate statements I’ve ever heard — “Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. You just leave a lot of useless, noisy baggage behind!”
Well, he’s got a new column out, on the subject of Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and the Ivy Leagues. So many of them had defended their banning those programs — and military recruiters, in many cases — based on the military’s stance on gays in the services. Now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed, a lot of folks are wondering just when they’ll relent on those policies.
Well, Babbin takes his customary chainsaw to that discussion. He reminds us that it wasn’t the issue of gays in the military that ended ROTC on the elite campuses, but the Vietnam War — a time when “gay rights” was pretty much an oxymoron. They’ve been hostile to the military for a couple of generations. The gay issue was never anything more than an excuse.
But Babbin takes it a step further: why the hell should the military want to put ROTC programs on Ivy League campuses? What would be the possible benefits, and would they outweigh the price of the fights to get them there?
His conclusion? Not no, but hell, no. Oh, he’s not calling for banning Ivy League students or graduates from the military, but thinks we shouldn’t spend one red cent into specifically on trying to entice them into the services.
I’m not quite so certain. I’ve seen the damage they’ve inflicted on society as a whole, in government, academia, and industry, and I’d be leery about unleashing them on the military. Ivy League officers could end up very much like the above-mentioned accordions. On the other hand, putting them in the services — at the entry-level officer ranks — could give them a serious dose of reality that they sorely lack, and it would do them no end of good to find out that their fancy certificate puts them in exactly the same place as Lt. Joe Schmoe from a state college — and both will be promoted pretty much purely on merit. A decade or so in uniform could do them a world of good before they seek their fame and fortune elsewhere, and mitigate the harm they might cause otherwise.
Babbin is a very rare breed of conservative: the type that speaks his mind, speaks it forthrightly, and to hell with the sensitivities of those who hear him. He’s of a type with Chris Christie and John Bolton. Sarah Palin comes close, but she’s a bit too genteel to really cut loose like these guys can — and do.
We need more of these people.