Upon entering the Usdan University Center, one may find oneself confronted with some group of activists peddling a political message from behind a table. Recently, the College Republicans took advantage of the lunch line for this purpose, and even groups as universally repellant as communists have set up a table in Usdan, in the hopes of attracting the occasional moral degenerate.
However, one particular table appears to have become a fixture—the table hosting the petition to divest from weapons companies that supply weapons for the War in Iraq. This is not the first appearance of this issue—if memory serves, there was an entire series of Wespeaks about it last year—but if this campus has the brains to realize how thoroughly foolish this proposal is, it will hopefully be the last.
Why? Because however ingeniously the people behind this petition use the phrases “morality” and “social responsibility” to back up their anti-war bromides, I believe that the shoe is precisely on the other foot. The crux of the anti-war crowd’s argument basically boils down to the simplistic premise that “weapons kill people, and killing people is socially irresponsible, therefore investing in weapons is socially irresponsible.” This is an absurd, simplistic premise and it smacks of the false dichotomies which liberals accuse those of us on the right of using to justify our arguments. Arguing about whether or not weapons are socially responsible seems to me to be as silly as arguing about whether fire is socially responsible. The answer is clearly that it depends on the situation, and given the situation in Iraq, divestment from weapons is about as far from “socially responsible” as it could possibly get.
Since the anti-war crowd seems to think that “social responsibility” is the sole criterion by which foreign policy ought to be judged, however wrong-headedly they apply the term, it is proper for me to confine my arguments to the realm of social responsibility as well, even though the term “social responsibility” invites numerous different interpretations. In order for those on the anti-war side to argue that the use of weapons in Iraq is not socially responsible, they would have to prove that more deaths transpire in Iraq with an American presence than without it. However, this is to completely misrepresent the situation in Iraq.
The fact is that American troops, while we formerly held an aggressive function, are currently occupying Iraq for the purposes of peacekeeping. If the divestment advocates were to argue that funding military weapons used for the purpose of deposing Saddam Hussein is socially irresponsible, they might have a leg to stand on. But to suggest that peacekeeping in a violent region is socially irresponsible is patently absurd, not to mention hypocritical. We can argue about whether or not the peacekeeping mission is being conducted successfully, but that is to accept the tacit premise that if it were being done correctly, then it would be socially responsible.
However, this is not the argument that one hears from opponents of the war at Wesleyan. What we hear is that weapons are socially irresponsible, period. Using the reasoning I outlined above, however, I think we can agree that the purpose for which the weapons are being used (i.e., preventing civil war) is socially responsible, which suggests that weapons are not entirely socially irresponsible, whatever drivel the peaceniks attempt to shove down our throats.
Another argument which proponents of divestment defend states that it is hypocritical for Wesleyan to invest in weapons which are being used in the war in Iraq, being such a liberal (read: anti-war) institution. There is one major flaw with this argument, which is that it assumes that the Wesleyan administration (not the students) has a political agenda, which it does not, and should not. Wesleyan is not meant to be the liberal version of Liberty University (i.e., a place of political and religious indoctrination), whatever the FGSS department would like us to believe. Wesleyan is a university, and universities are supposed to be (at least theoretically) politically neutral. It is fundamentally arrogant to assume that just because the student body at Wesleyan largely consists of Leftists, that student body’s political leanings dictate the leanings of the institution itself. We are here to learn how to think, not to tell the school what to think.
Naturally, one could counter that the Wesleyan administration is endorsing a particular view by investing in weapons that are being used for a political end, but just because someone provides items which can be used for a political end does not mean that they support the politics behind that end. It means, simply, that they don’t discriminate against customers on the basis of political beliefs. If Wal-Mart sold a gun to an anarchist, we wouldn’t call Wal-Mart anarchist sympathizers. Now, if Wesleyan were invested in the Bush administration, there would be every reason to divest because of political neutrality, but that’s not the case, and it’s foolish to pretend that it is.
To quote a rather prominent world leader, Wesleyan students are “misunderestimating” the importance of Raytheon as an investment. They “misunderestimate” its economic importance, its relation to the Bush administration, and, yes, its “social responsibility.”