Calling on colleges to embrace military recruiters and R.O.T.C. after the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” is a worthwhile use of the presidential bully pulpit. After nearly 10 years of war during which most of the sacrifice has been borne by a tiny portion of the population, bridging the civil-military divide is more important than ever. But the real obstacle here may not be the schools themselves. The military services, especially in an era of austerity, will be inclined to “fish where the fish are.” Why staff a R.O.T.C. unit in the Ivy League when a unit that costs roughly the same to run will scoop up ten times as many new officers from a state school in the South?
Beyond calling on the schools to lift their bans, the president and the military’s leadership should make the case that recruiting is more than a simple matter of financial return on investment. There’s huge social benefit to having young people from Maine and Ohio and Georgia and California all serving together.
The All Volunteer Force works, and a return to the draft isn’t the answer. But the military should always be “us” and never “them.”