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Notre Dame ROTC vital to the nation

Letter to the Editor | Sunday, April 1, 2007

This letter is in response to Bradley Jenkins’ Letter to the Editor (“Protests aimed at solidarity,” March 29) on protesting the presence of ROTC on the Notre Dame campus. I applaud Mr. Jenkins’ activism and work to create peace in the world. Nobody wants that more than the military members that serve in harm’s way far away from their friends and family.However, I do find objection with his assertion that the ROTC program “systematically trains many of our noblest young men and women to dehumanize the other and surrender their conscience.” First of all, our students are taught Just War Theory along with the teachings of St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. They are also taught Divine Law and Natural Law and discuss how all of this fits with the teachings of the Catholic Church. They are not taught to surrender their conscience but are instead taught to search their conscience and ask if there are conflicts between their moral and religious beliefs and military operations that they might be engaged in. During that discussion they learn what courses of actions are available to them if they find themselves in an irreconcilable position.Secondly, ROTC students are also taught the Conduct of War and how honorable people treat enemy combatants. Much of the “moral armor” of the military profession is that we perform our mission not out of emotion or hatred but simply because it is our professional duty. In fact, dehumanizing your enemy would make us something less human and that is exactly what our moral code works to prevent. What is more noble than somebody that has taken an oath to defend our country and our way of life? And if we see a need to have that capability, then wouldn’t our country be well served to have Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students as part of that that noble profession? I ask that you not confuse the issues around an unpopular war and those specific to being in the military.Coincidentally, in the same issue of The Observer there was a front page article about a speaker calling students to action to stop the genocide in Darfur. While I think that there are many things that people could do to affect the situation indirectly, eventually somebody is going to have to stop the killing. The harsh reality is that it probably means somebody taking direct action to stop the bad guys. The other part of that reality is that it may involve military action and taking a life to save a life. My question to you, Mr. Jenkins, is, “Who is going to do that?”

Captain Mike NellerU.S. Navy professor of naval scienceMarch 30