The day after the story appeared, I received an email from a prominent Democratic lawyer offering me the same kind of assistance that the Obama administration seems to have provided the Times. In a previous Beast column, I had criticized Kagan’s action as dean, arguing that barring recruiters from Harvard Law School because the military discriminates against gays was as counterproductive as banning ROTC from Harvard during Vietnam. That comparison, my correspondent insisted, “rests on a fundamental category mistake…what happened at Harvard Law School [during Kagan’s tenure] was not anything like the anti-military policies of the ‘70s that were directed at the military because they were the military.”
Conservatives will criticise Kagan for wanting to ban ROTC recruiters from Harvard. But Kagan did what any self-respecting liberal should do, if the immediate reason was wrong.
Back in the days of the Vietnam War, real, McGovern liberalism was synonymous with an anti-war stance. Trying to parse the difference between not liking the military and not liking the Vietnam War was, in the context of the time, irrelevant. All war became immoral, as did those who waged it. It was that simple. That’s the heritage of 60’s liberalism, and until the 60’s liberals and their disciples repudiate it once and for all, they should stand by it.
Kagan did so by trying to keep the ROTC off of campus, and that’s consistent with past principle. But the immediate reason she did so was because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the military towards homosexuals. But this raises another question: why should a group of people who claim moral superiority want to be in an institution like the military? Some of us remember the time when “good people” didn’t join the military, not voluntarily at least. Some of us also remember that “good people” shacked up, which made some scratch our heads when same sex civil marriage became a cause.
Beinart’s angst over this situation is simple: it caused the military to shift to a decidedly “red state” institution. The problem with that is also simple: now that we have a left-wing régime in power, a right-wing military is a potential obstacle to control, especially when our government starts having serious financial problems. That’s one reason why Barack Obama wanted a different security force. He’s like the leader of a banana republic; he’s got to check periodically and make sure the military’s on his side (which is one reason why, IMHO, he didn’t pull the plug in Afghanistan the way he should have.)
Come to think of it, with our current debt, he is the leader of a banana republic…
FWIW, I’ll note that Kagan is an Ivy Leaguer, the necessary prerequisite in these United States for avoiding a life of provincial ignominy.