To the Editor:
As was discussed in a recent edition of the Harvard Law Record, some at Harvard Law School are challenging the right of the United States Military to recruit students for the Judge Advocate General Corp (JAGC) on campus. Although federal law requires HLS to allow such recruiting, some at HLS still appear to oppose it. My understanding is that the matter is now in the Courts, with some at HLS opposing our government (and our military) during a time of war.
Since I spent 5 years on active duty after law school as a Navy JAG, and am still in the inactive reserves, perhaps I can offer a slightly different perspective on the situation; and can offer a viewpoint that differs from the position that some at HLS currently have taken. May I respectfully suggest that the military should be allowed to recruit at Harvard Law School, to the same extent as any other employer, and that this position should be embraced by the HLS community at large. Here is why:
For some, their opposition to military recruiting stems from their general opposition to the military in general. For these peace activists the military is simply something they oppose as a matter of basic belief. These people are mistaken, for the defense of freedom is never cost-free, and if tyranny is not opposed, it will spread unchecked like a cancer.
For some, their opposition to military recruiting stems from their belief that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy enacted by President Clinton is incorrect. They believe that by opposing military recruiting they can try to change that policy; and if they cannot change it, then at least they won’t be in a position of supporting it. These people are also mistaken. Many people, including myself, oppose that Clinton policy, but we believe that organizational change is more likely to happen from within the organization, than from without it. By increasing the number of military lawyers who oppose the Clinton policy, it is much more probable that they can lead the change from within, and reform the position of the military services. It is also interesting to note that these same persons who oppose the Clinton era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy often were active supporters of the very same President who put it into place.
For some, their opposition is left over from their anti-military activism during the 1960’s and 1970’s. They see their political activism as continuous; and they don’t hesitate to enforce their beliefs on others who don’t share their viewpoints. These people are also mistaken. They don’t want military recruiters on campus; and they don’t want an open marketplace of ideas, for fear that others may select a career path that they themselves would not. They are afraid of free choice.
For some their opposition to military recruiting is based on their fear that students are not mature enough to know what career is best for them. They are paternalistic, and they feel that by reducing the presence of the military on the campus, then students cannot make a mistake that they will later regret. These people are mistaken also. They do not respect the intelligence of the students themselves; they do not trust the judgment of the students, they do not wish the students to have options that they themselves would not select.
For some their opposition is political and self-interested. They look around at the Harvard Law School population, and they sense that their peers are against military recruiting, so they join the parade believing that it is easier to swim with the current than to swim against it. These people are mistaken. They have forfeited their right to act consistently with their beliefs, and they have given to their peers their own independence, which is hard to regain after it is lost. For those whose objection is merely political, they view everything in the world through dark sunglasses; they cannot think outside of a narrow left-right debate, and as such they lack the sophistication necessary to form opinions on individual issues; they let others think for them.
To all of the above persons, may I suggest a different position on this matter. Military recruiting on campus is a threat to nobody. Students are intelligent, and can make correct decisions for themselves. A marketplace of ideas, free and unbounded, is better than a restrictive and closed environment. Good ideas will triumph over bad ones, free will and free choice are paramount values that should be protected, especially at a University.
For those who will read the above and sense a hidden agenda, you are incorrect. To be clear, the military in my opinion remains too large, absorbs too much of our national wealth, and is often wasted on senseless foreign wars. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the Clinton era, should be replaced by a “Don’t care, whose there” policy. The sexual practices of military members is irrelevant to their ability to serve their country; the free marketplace of ideas should extend beyond the ivy covered walls of Langdell Hall, and into the confines of our submarines, trenches, and tanks. As Harvard Law School should lower its barriers restricting free speech and free action, so too should our armed forces.
Lastly, I once again make a clarion call for open debate on this matter. I challenge all concerned, to adopt their own independent viewpoints, instead of repeating the same old worn tirades of our political parties. The best and the brightest minds have congregated here on our campus; let’s not waste what divine providence has bestowed upon us fortunate souls.
Sincerely, Charles Facktor (HLS 1990)