Now we must alter those priorities. We need our best young people to enter the fields that protect us from the threat of terrorism. Those fields are the ones looked on with indifference, if not disdain, by our chattering and scribbling classes: public service and national security, including the FBI, the CIA and the military.
Change is coming. The president of Harvard said the other day that a career in the military is a "noble" calling. Stop the presses. He said this because his university's tradition of looking down its nose at the armed forces is under mild attack from alumni. Some 900 Harvard graduates, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, want the university to allow the Reserve Officers' Training Corps back on campus.
Like many elite universities, Harvard threw the ROTC off campus during the turmoil over Vietnam. Students can join the ROTC, but they have to trek over to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to train. A crazed student group advocating the violent overthrow of the government would probably command space on campus, but the ROTC is different. It just wouldn't be right to have the grass of Harvard yard defiled by the military boot. At Yale the trek is even longer and thus presumably more humiliating. To fulfill ROTC requirements, a student has to make a 150-mile round trip to the University of Connecticut.
The problem is obvious: On a great many campuses it is still 1969 and a generalized contempt for the armed forces is still fashionable.
During World War II, Americans of all classes and backgrounds, including Jack Kennedy and George Bush the First, rushed to sign up. The day after Pearl Harbor, according to the late columnist Rowland Evans, the line of Yale students waiting to enlist stretched around the block. But the elites sat out Korea and Vietnam. Columnist Jim Pinkerton reports that Princeton lost 353 men in World War II but just 24 in Vietnam. This tradition continues: Princeton's Army ROTC graduated a grand total of two people last May. The elites think of the military as a source of regimentation and armed oppression. They don't serve, and usually they don't even know anyone who does.