Divestment: Ignorance and Aggression Cloaked in Pacifism

Michael Tartre

The Divestment Resolutions that routinely appear before the UCSD Associated Students negatively impact UCSD on every level by its very conception. The method of misallocating political blame towards engineering companies is directly contrary to the interests of UCSD students. The spirit of these resolutions is anti-Israel in a divisive, disingenuous, and inflammatory manner. Real progress on the Israel/Palestine issue requires calm and careful understanding of people on both sides of the situation.

Setting aside for a moment the motivation behind these resolutions, the method belies ignorance unbecoming of serious scholarship. Out of disapproval for the military and political actions in Palestine, these recent resolutions blame General Electric and Northrup Grumman for engineering parts of Apache helicopters because some of those helicopters have been used in the conflict.

The ethical burden that these resolutions have tried to force upon defense engineering firms is misguided and absurd. The Apache helicopter project began in 1973, and full-scale production began in 1982. It is in use by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt, Greece, Singapore, and Japan (in addition to the United States and Israel). Apache helicopters have been involved in at least 13 major combat operations in addition to general use. Given its long and broad track record, to say that the construction of the Apache was definitively an ethical mistake is unwarranted and pretentious. To suggest that engineering companies should anticipate more than 30 years in advance instances of possibly unethical conflict is simply absurd. The artificial distinction these resolutions make by focusing on relevant support contracts ignores that continued maintenance is integral to responsible engineering—failure to keep equipment in working order would be blatantly unethical, but the resolution’s blind attitude towards such matters is indicative that engineering is not at the core of the resolution’s intentions.

The United States Federal Government ordered the construction of the helicopters, and respective parties have operated them. Even if Northrop Grumman were to fire all of its employees to hinder fulfillment of defense contracts, another company would take its place in their contracts. Instead of blaming the engineers, this issue should be brought to the political arena where a change would actually make a difference. Resorting to attacks on parties wholly absent from the decision making process is unprofessional and uneducated.

This attack on defense engineering is also directly against the interests of UCSD and its students. Six thousand UCSD students are in the Jacobs School of Engineering. San Diego is a hub for defense engineering, and defense engineering firms are among companies with the strongest ties to UCSD—Northrup Grumman, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, ViaSat, and even the US Navy are all Corporate Affiliates of the Jacobs School and all attended the engineering career fair in February. These companies provide jobs to engineering and non-engineering majors, and all help fund the Jacobs School and engineering student activities. An attempt to distance UCSD from these companies could substantially harm the careers of UCSD students.

The proposed method of action of condemning defense engineering because of political action is absurd and directly contrary to UCSD interest. Even the spirit of this resolution is contrary to real solutions because of its divisive, disingenuous, and counter-productive nature.

In addition, to morally condemn what is arguably self-defense is an aggressive stance. There are very real anti-Semitic sentiments still present in the world, and there are very real people who sincerely desire to eliminate every trace of Jews from the earth. For SJP to disregard the resultant alienation of these resolutions cause in the Jewish and Pro-Israel community is unfortunate and sad. If the Associated Students had confirmed such insensitive attacks on members of its own student population it would be unthinkable. No student at UCSD should be subject to condemnation by a body of their representatives, especially condemnation for their own existence.

To combat the appearance of being anti-Semitic, the most recent resolution talks in general terms of human rights and war except in a few sections. The underlying bigotry is exposed by this striking misdirection, since by all honest analysis this is an essentially an anti-Israel resolution masqueraded as pacifistic. If pacifism were truly the goal of these resolutions then there would be no need to marginalize supporters of Israel and introduce conflict into the debate. There is furthermore no justification to narrow any real pacifistic intentions specifically to General Electric and Northrup Grumman. The claim that General Electric and Northrup Grumman “materially support the occupation” is as fallacious as claiming that Crayola materially supports bad art. Quite simply, there is no obvious wrongdoing at hand. Proponents of these resolutions are disguising their intentions; such disingenuous rhetoric belittles pacifistic ideals and conceals the heart of the matter that we must address for real solutions.

Approval of resolutions of this form would supposedly acknowledge a consensus at UCSD that General Electric and Northrup Grumman are at fault for their involvement. It is obvious that there is no such consensus. The Israel/Palestine conflict is so divisive that the only possible consensus is to acknowledge that there is no consensus, and that at the current pace there will not be consensus for some time. To ask our Associated Students to vote symbolically on behalf of UCSD students on such a controversy is tantamount to asking it to remove itself from the true voice of the student body.

These resolutions themselves are counter-productive to any real attempt at consensus. The ignorant manner in which blame is haphazardly assigned to General Electric and Northrup Grumman is indicative of the problem responsible for this controversy. Instead of attempting to understand the situation, Students for Justice in Palestine’s wild accusations can only stir up more conflict on this already divisive issue.

I do believe that UCSD has the potential to advance progress on this issue. If we actually want peace, we should be striving for mutual understanding. I am sure that Students for Justice in Palestine, the Tritons For Israel, and all the organization involved in dealing with these resolutions desire solutions to this conflict. I doubt that such solutions currently exist, or that they would be easy to work out. But aren’t these the difficulties we should be facing? Shouldn’t universities use our pursuit for knowledge to pursue peace as well? If academia does not step up to understand and solve the problem instead of entrenching the current failing positions, how can we ever expect peaceful resolution? Patience and understanding are the only ways to achieve real solutions, and if we truly desire peace, those should be our goals.

Michael is a senior in Marshall College majoring in electrical engineering.



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