The following is a condensed version of the letter that was sent to the Board of Trustees on behalf of the Wesleyan College Republicans:January 31, 2008
Members of the Board of Trustees:
This letter is written to you on behalf of the Wesleyan College Republicans.
The current issue of divestment is one that centers around the war in Iraq. Those that advocate divestment desire an end to our military endeavors overseas, while the Investment Office is employed by the university to allocate our endowment in investment techniques that are fiscally efficient and productive, while also respecting the fact that said techniques should qualify as being “socially responsible.” It is fair to say that our current positions in Raytheon and General Dynamics can be considered productive and efficient in providing us with monetary gains. A share of Raytheon traded at approximately $52 in January of 2007; that same share traded at $63.22 when the markets closed on January 28, 2008. General Dynamics has also provided appropriate returns, closing at $82.80, up from its $77 range a year ago. We trust that the Investment Office staff is qualified and competent enough to invest our funds in companies that would provide sufficient returns. Given this assumption, the only question that remains is whether or not the current investment strategy qualifies as being “socially responsible.”
Among the products produced by Raytheon and General Dynamics that meet the “socially responsible” requirement are such life-saving products as the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD). These defense systems are created to protect people, and they are capable of detecting hostile weaponry very early in their flight paths and at very high altitudes, respectively. Another “social responsibility” issue that is constantly raised by Wesleyan students, and even our own President Michael Roth, is the impact of global warming on the environment. Raytheon’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers (MODIS) are space sensors that acquire data on the atmosphere, oceans, and land surface. This invaluable data has given scientists a very useful tool in studying climate change and the effects of global warming.
The major problem that those who seek divestment have with these two companies is with the weaponry that they provide to the U.S. military. As expected, the use of said weaponry in Iraq results in deaths, both enemy and innocent. The loss of innocent lives is a very tragic aspect of warfare, but does investing in Raytheon and General Dynamics thus make us “socially irresponsible” because of the collateral damage that is inflicted during warfare? No. Regardless of one’s opinions on the appropriateness of the current war in Iraq, two points remain—firstly, that one should not confuse the actions of Raytheon and General Dynamics with the actions of our government, and secondly, that the determination of morality in waging any war is a very subjective issue. It is impossible to argue that war is categorically unable to be moral. Certainly, the survivors of the Holocaust would protest such a suggestion.
How, then, do we go about determining the morality of any war less iconic than WWII? The answer is simple: we can’t. Those advocating divestment argue that because a majority of Americans oppose the war, the war must be immoral. However, according to a CBS News poll conducted in February of 2004, only 30 percent of Americans favored gay marriage (the question posed was simply: “Do you favor gay marriage?”), yet one doesn’t hear Wesleyan students apply the same Democratic approach to truth in the case of gay rights. The reason for this inconsistency is obvious — the morality and righteousness of the war in Iraq, like gay marriage, is a political issue, not a universally moral one. Therefore, since the issue is specifically one of political preferences, for the Investment Office to endorse one political position would be a violation of our tax-exempt status as a politically neutral non-profit. Given this significantly compelling legal interest which the University has in remaining neutral on a deviation in opinion among students, it seems clear that the decision in whether to invest in Raytheon and General Dynamics should rest merely on practical fiscal concerns. This concern, of course, can be best handled by the people who were hired to consider such questions — namely, the Investment Office.
Ultimately, we must not forget that these companies did not deploy their weapons in Iraq; they simply produced and sold them legally in a free-market economy. A similar issue arose in 1995 when William Jefferson Clinton decided to bomb Bosnia. The outcry paled in comparison to the current one. This episode alone demonstrates that divestment advocates do not consider war in general to be immoral, but rather only those wars with which they politically disagree. For all the reasons outlined above, such an objection cannot be validated by the Investment Office or the Board of Trustees. We thank you for your time and consideration.
Eugene Wong, President
Mytheos Holt, Secretary