VAZQUEZ: Fighting for Yale’s future

As you walk along Beinecke Plaza, you can’t help but notice the neoclassical behemoth that we all call Commons. But few of us pay attention to the words inscribed along the top of the dining hall that we all lament no longer serves us dinner. The words Thierry, Cambrai and Somme that are inscribed along the top get lost in the snowfall of winter. These words hide more about our Yale than we all truly know.

Yale has a long tradition of military service. Today is Veterans Day, the day we honor about 25 million soldiers, fallen and alive, who have served America. Yalies have served in our military as far back as the American Revolution — a tradition that continues with our classmates considering a career in the armed forces. That group of students have persevered and continued to pursue ROTC regardless of the fact that it has meant commuting to the University of New Haven or the University of Connecticut.

On this day of remembrance, we should not only look at our storied past but also consider how we should look ahead. The past year has been a watershed in the relationship between Yale and the military. After over four decades of absence, ROTC is returning to Yale. An overwhelming percentage of the student body supported the return of ROTC, and administrators took note.

With the return of ROTC in the fall of 2012, Yale can build on its long tradition of teaching the leaders of tomorrow. In order to address the increasing complexities of our world, our military must continue to employ the most talented, strategic thinkers, and Yale must contribute to this educational process.

ROTC can work in tandem with the great programs Yale offers, like Global Affairs and Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s course on leadership, and expose those interested in going into the military to the liberal arts, much in the same way we create such an environment for tomorrow’s investment bankers, physicians and architects.

Ours should be a community of inclusion, not exclusion. It is great that Yale administrators are not planning on treating the academic accreditation of the program in a cookie-cutter manner but are instead considering a much more personalized approach. The long hiatus of Yale’s ROTC program was — at least in name — the product of the University’s failure to implement a policy that satisfied the academic concerns of the college and the program.

The ROTC program we will welcome next fall should be an integral part of Yale’s plans for the future because it represents a major field of interest from which we cannot withdraw. The four decades we spent retreating into our ivory tower were a disservice to our men in uniform — a move I am glad we are reversing. We are not above the fray, and we should not attempt to be.

The military is just as valuable a field for Yalies to go into as the markets, academia and civilian life. It should not be treated as a simple vocation, because our armed forces need people with a liberal arts education. The military provides much of the innovation that affects us on a day-to-day basis. Before Juan Trippe ’21 founded Pan Am — the airline that democratized air travel for all Americans — he was a naval aviator. The analytic skills we gain as students at Yale could be used in the military, and the discipline and diligence the military instills would teach students, too.

Yalies in the military pioneered much of what we consider integral to it today. A group of entrepreneurial Yalies pioneered military aviation during World War I. Among them, one David S. Ingalls ’20 (yes, the namesake of Ingalls Rink) went on to serve in both world wars and win the honor of being the only U.S. Navy Flying Ace of World War I. He was also the captain of the Yale hockey team. The university strives to produce tomorrow’s leaders; Yalies are incredibly talented, and they should invest that talent to serve and lead for our nation.

Ingalls was one of 29 members of the First Yale Unit, the first naval air reserve unit founded by then-Yale sophomore F. Trubee Davison ’19 in 1915. This group went on to produce an assistant secretary of war, an undersecretary of the Navy and a secretary of defense. Hopefully, another generation of Yalies can accomplish something comparable in the 21st century.

Today we honor our fallen, our heroes, our veterans, but there is also room to look towards tomorrow, towards the hopes of our generation. We should support that classmate who hopes to enlist in the military after Yale because his dreams and hopes are just as valuable as the future economist you sit next to in French class.

Christian Vazquez is a junior in Branford College. Contact him at


  • The Anti-Yale

    Humans are the only mammals who make war. As far as I know, all wars are conducted by males (unless we have had a female Secretary of Defense). I think it’s nifty that we keep this bloodthirsty, sexist ritual going.

    • Catherine08

      Pacifism is a luxury paid for by warriors.

    • terryhughes

      “As far as I know, all wars are conducted by males …”

      Like a message found in a time capsule.

      Lady Thatcher has already been mentioned. There is also Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, the first woman in the world to serve as a prime minister, and her eternal and infinitely brutal war with separatist Tamil rebels, a war later carried on by her daughter and successor, Chandrika Kumaratunga.

      And then there are the spectacular circumstances leading to the death of Indira Gandhi. In 1982 she ordered the Indian army to shoot Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the head of the Sikh religious institution the Damdami Taksal based in the northern Indian state of Punjab, who led a campaign for the implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution for greater rights to the Sikhs. What followed was a war in all but formal declaration. Punjab was closed to international media, its phone and communication lines shut. To this day the events remain controversial with a disputed number of victims. On 31 October 1984, two of Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, shot her with their service weapons in the garden of the Prime Minister’s residence at 1 Safdarjung Road, New Delhi as she was walking past a wicket gate they guarded. It’s also worth noting that she was also the only Indian Prime Minister to have declared a state of emergency in order to “rule by decree” and the only Indian Prime Minister to have been imprisoned after holding that office.

      There are now many more similar examples.

      And women do not just conduct wars from positions of political offices. For example, are there really people who do not remember Janis Leigh Karpinski , the central figure in the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq? She was demoted from Brigadier General in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal for dereliction of duty, making a material misrepresentation to investigators, and failure to obey a lawful order. She was the commander of three large US- and British-led prisons in Iraq in 2003, eight battalions, and 3,400 soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve. Of course, the great majority of women in the armed forces serve with great distinction and bravery.

      And they DO serve, as very active warriors. And in the course of doing that they DO KILL a lot of people. Perhaps it would help anyone in need of emerging from a time capsule to read this article that appeared on a few days ago in the National Journal:

      “Annie Get Your Gun: Women are no longer just ancillary parts of the armed forces. More than ever before, they’re fighting our wars.”

      As the saying goes: Wake up and smell the coffee!

      • The Anti-Yale

        I said “conducted” not “declared”.

        Lady Thatcher and Madame Bandaranaike were not Minister of Defense or War Minister or whatever Downing Street and Sri Lanka call it.

        • River_Tam

          Indira Gandhi WAS minster of defense, as was Benazir Bhutto during the start of the Kashmir insurgency.

      • lakia

        Do not feed the TROLL.

  • River_Tam

    > Humans are the only mammals who make war.

    Do you even live on this planet? Lions, chimpanzees, and wolves all wage war for territory (although yes, given that we’re the only animal with advanced tools, we are the only animals with weapons). Dolphins kill and rape for sport.

    Human society is at its essence an attempt to civilize and pacify an animal that is far better at destroying than defending.

    > As far as I know, all wars are conducted by males (unless we have had a female Secretary of Defense).

    Margaret Thatcher says hi.

    • The Anti-Yale

      Lady Thatcher DECLARED war. I said “CONDUCT” war—as in Defense Minister or General.

  • BR2013

    River_Tam you are the greatest. That is all.

    p.s. P.K. have you ever heard of Just War Theory?

  • Standards

    Yeah, I’m with River here.

    Chimpanzees send patrolling parties to try to find rival chimps on their own, where they either dismember them or stomp their testicles.

    It’s not uncommon for a chimp group to systematically kill off all of the males of a rival group, then assimilate all the women and children.

    But no, just blame it on men.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Marauding bands of baboons do not constitute war.


    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties[1][2] typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality.[1] The set of techniques used by a group to carry out war is known as warfare. An absence of war is usually called peace.

    • River_Tam

      Yes, Paul, as I stated before – since humans are the only creatures with states, weapons, and arms (or really any tools more complicated than a rock), only humans qualify as waging “war” by your definition. You might as well define war as “armed conflict between groups of humans” if you’re going to go down this route. What you’re really saying is “only humans have weapons and nations”.

      However, if you strip that definition of any anthropocentric content, it reads: “War is a state of organized and often prolonged conflict carried on between parties, typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality”. That seems fair to me.

      What lions, wolves, and chimpanzees engage in qualifies under this definition.

  • The Anti-Yale

    ” Prolonged conflict “?

    • River_Tam

      Yes. Lion prides have been known to fight over the same territory for years. Certainly longer than the Six Day War.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Lion prides are like “street gangs” not militia’s according to BBC.

    • The Anti-Yale

      militias not militia’s

  • WilloughbyChase

    P.K., are you really trying to defend your silly statement about how humans are the only group to wage war in the comments section of a column honoring our veterans? Just admit you made a factual mistake and move on. You probably spent like 30 seconds coming up with that quip, it’s ok that it was wrong. It doesn’t even affect your larger point.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Marauding is not war. War requires organization, planning, tactics, etc.

    Not trying to defend—merely clarifying.

    Happy to be corrected if wrong. Have seen no evidence to the contrary including lions (“street gangs” according to BBC)

  • Standards

    So you’ve done nothing more than create a tautology that undermine the point you started with.

    Humans aren’t the only violent, ruthless animals that kill other animals in organized and often malicious ways. Who cares if it’s called war or not.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Lions and baboons can’t make an ethical decision to be pacifists.

    • River_Tam

      Lions and baboons can’t make ethical decisions at all. So yes, you’re right. Humans are the only animals that act immorally.

      • The Anti-Yale


        PS You have been admonished below to stop feeding me !!

  • mynameisboxxy

    @theantiyale: How would you like to live in a society where the state can’t protect you, where you’re cowering in constant fear and darkness? Where other states can commit random acts of violence against you and there is nothing you or your community can do about it? Life is sad in the outer dark.

  • uncommons


    22 comments. Christmas came a month early for Paul Keene.

  • The Anti-Yale

    So we are doomed to be Cain forever.

  • The Anti-Yale


    Have you ever heard of Manifest Destiny?

    Of American “protective reaction strikes’ (aka Napalming Viet Nam villages of women and children)?

    Of “weapons of mass destruction”?

    Of “Drone warfare” (aka cowardly assassination).

    Males have been engaged in bloodthirsty rituals since Oedipus and Laius; Abraham and Isaac; and Jesus and his Celestial Father?

    I wrote about this at Yale thirty-years ago. See

    • jamesdakrn

      “I wrote about this at Yale thirty-years ago.”


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