On Friday, I will attend the solemn ceremony at Northwestern University in which Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps students will take the oath to become members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. As both a faculty member and graduate of Northwestern, I try to attend each year as these outstanding young people commit themselves to a life fraught with potential danger in service to our country. They have earned and deserve our solidarity and support.
Almost 50 years ago, as a Northwestern undergraduate, I was arrested for damaging the NROTC offices during an anti-Vietnam War demonstration. At the time, many of us believed that NROTC contributed to the war effort, and therefore had to be removed from campus.
As a leftist then and now, I have no qualms about admitting to my errors, one of which was a wholesale misunderstanding of the importance of the ROTC program — Army, Navy and Marine Corps and Air Force — on college campuses.
Riley Howell, the Army ROTC cadet shot and killed while restraining an active shooter at UNC Charlotte on April 30, was posthumously awarded the ROTC Medal of Heroism earlier this month for his heroic sacrifice, the Army announced.
L-R: Peter Wang, photo via 21st Century Photography; Riley Howell, photo via AP; Brendan Bialy, photo via Twitter.
Twice in the span of one week, students with dreams of joining the U.S. military have been on the front lines against school shooters in the U.S., risking their lives and oftentimes losing them in the process.
Carl von Clausewitz is one of the most profound military thinkers of all time. His famous book On War is our bible and he is a god among military strategists. But we should stop teaching Clausewitz in the U.S. military.
Most will view this discussion as blasphemy. How dare I advocate that we stop teaching the divine inspirations of Clausewitz. Sean McFate provides a similar discussion in his new book The New Rules of War: "A hagiography exists around the man, and his book On War is enshrined in Western militaries as a bible. When I teach this text to senior officers at the war college, the room grows silent with reverence. His ideas constitute the DNA of Western strategic thought."
On War was published in 1832 and we continue to look to it for timeless principles of warfare, but why? As Ian T. Brown wrote in A New Conception of War, "We must move beyond the past."
As the cool winds of fall grace our doorsteps, the skunky smell of college football wafts throughout the nation. For schools like Army and Navy, the glory of yesteryear will never again be attained, but football remains a welcome distraction for students who looked at colleges and said, “That one. The one that’s like prison.”