Sunday, December 23, 2007

Career Army Officer to Run Against Murtha!!!

Today’s post may be a little scatterbrained. I am a bit distracted by my attempts to keep tabs on a wild Eagles game. However, I just got the heads-up on a story that surely will go unnoticed by the mainstream media but is of great value nonetheless. I think this is a news story that fellow conservatives can (and should) really get behind.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to encourage you all to spread the name of William T. Russell. Mr. Russell is running for the House seat in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. This is the seat currently held by Democrat John Murtha. Murtha, despite being a former Marine himself, has delivered more rhetoric on behalf of our enemies abroad than nearly any other individual. Regardless of the service that Representative Murtha dedicated to America while in the Corps, the damage he has done while in Congress has been far more influential. I feel I need to digress no further on the damage that has been encouraged by Murtha save stating emphatically that he must be removed from power!!

And Mr. Russell seems to be a wonderful choice to replace him.

Russell is a career Army officer having served around the world and in the Pentagon. His tours of duty include time in Iraq. He understands the military of TODAY. Moreover, Mr. Russell’s website depicts a platform deep in conservative values: adherence to Adam Smith-inspired free-market values, implementation of the fair tax, dedication to the right to bare arms, willingness to give charity rather than welfare, etc.

Most importantly, however, one should keep in mind, again, that Russell is a modern Army officer. Representative Murtha served in the military of YESTERDAY. Murtha served in a military where commanders denied ground-truths to, instead, better serve the whims of individuals in Washington. And yet, amazingly, Murtha has developed into one of those very individuals in Washington trying to influence a war that has dynamics that Murtha continues to be ignorant. I sense that Mr. Russell will be a needed voice of change.

Pennsylvania’s 12th needs an individual like Bill Russell. And America’s troops abroad need the removal of Representative Murtha. Please spread the word! I think this is a cause worth supporting!

Here is an ARTICLE concerning Mr. Russell’s upcoming bid.
William T. Russell’s website HERE

Yesterday’s Educated Soldier post about the current standards of higher education accessible HERE.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Semester's Reflection

It has been a while since I have written here at Educated Soldier focusing on the sort of subject matter that follows. I know that many people that read here, do so because my situation in life allows me to provide a fresh glimpse on American academia that many have either missed or are far removed. So, today, I would like to reflect and talk a little about higher education (from the perspective and experiences of the minority – the conservative, war veteran student). If you are more interested in reading my current views on politics (which, of course, I love to discuss) please check out my two latest updates, accessible HERE and HERE.

I would encourage you to continue reading with an open mind. While reflecting upon the courses that I completed this past semester, I am also attempting to present questions for reader consumption. I would hope that these questions would be intriguing enough to stimulate broad, intelligent, and interesting discourse. PLEASE, feel free to comment at the conclusion.


First a self-congratulatory note: I received my grades from this past semester yesterday and was happy to see that I had received the full 4.0. So, to date, I have completed around 65 credit hours and have maintained a cumulative 3.8 GPA. I am proud of my collegiate success and genuinely enjoy all that it means to be a university student.


Besides a course in Arabic that I took during my freshman year, this past semester has had the most demanding classes. The most challenging was also the class that I found the most interesting, “Development of Religious Studies.” Because of budget constraints, the class was actually a combined graduate / undergraduate course. Both levels read the same texts; the graduate students simply had more demanding work requirements.

The dilemma that developed with this class: I tackled such a large selection of material that I left knowing too little about too much. The course was designed to introduce the budding religious studies scholar to the interdisciplinary dynamic of their chosen academic field. In an attempt to meet this objective, students were directed to read material from a wide arrange of contributors; from sociologists to anthropologists, from psychologists to phenomenologists, and so on. I read excerpts from many famous scholarly thinkers including Hume, Tylor, Spencer, Frazier, Freud, Jung, Berger, Otto, etc. However, with minor exceptions, I can no longer recite with confidence any of the particulars of the individual proposed theories. Instead, I left the class with this all-encompassing thought:

Everyone has a theory concerning what religion is, how it should be studied, where and how it developed, and what affect it has on society.

Despite the “fog” that remains from the depth of the class material, there are general principles presented by the scholars that warrant discussing. For example, I have found that the origin of religion is much more complex (and even more interesting) than one would first conclude. There is the suggestion, for example, that religion grew as a tool for man to use to manipulate nature. In this theory, religion replaced the shortcomings of magic. The end-result presented in this theory is that, eventually, science will replace religion as the only adequate tool in man’s desire to control / understand nature.

There are others that suggest that religion is a phenomenon that grew from the ancient totem worship. Totem worship, in turn, grew from the father-obsessions in patriarchal communities. Still others would describe religion in a wholly different manner. I do remember this: Berger described religion as the externalization of one’s inner self. Man needs “ultimate man” (my terminology, not Berger's) to endlessly strive after. So, in god, we have ultimate happiness, complete lack of sin; all the things that “regular” man cannot be in the presence of the omnipotent god (but could be, in fact, should the omnipotent god not exist as a measurement of the ideal).

And, of course, there are those like Hume. He - although a believer in a god himself - claimed that religion developed from early man’s fears. Man had to explain why he feared death and sickness and other not-apparently justified phenomena. Religion provided the explanations.

While I found interest and criticisms with all of the presented theories, I am in no position in my still early studies to make a conclusion with any sort of conviction. The origin of religion is something that will always be in debate. Perhaps, I will never be able to present a conclusion that I will be able to stand behind whole-heartedly. Are there any out there more candid in their theories? Please, direct your comments at the appropriate place below. I am genuinely interested in the available discourse.

It was in another religion class that I “learned” the most. “Introduction to Judaism” was offered as an upper-level course and was only an introduction in the sense that a completely Judaism-ignorant student could successfully tackle the course material. The workload, however, was that of an advanced religious studies major course (which it was). While Dr. Neusner has since left USF, I would encourage you to read about him HERE or HERE to see the legacy that he has left in the religious studies department here; especially in the field of Judaism. My professor for “Introduction” was, for better or worse, the young scholar following in the footsteps of the highly (and internationally) influential Dr. Neusner.

That Judaism-ignorant student described above was I prior to this semester. While far from an expert now, upon the conclusion of the class, I feel that I could enter a conversation concerning Judaism and at least listen with some level of comprehension. I gained the most knowledge from this class because I entered knowing so little about the subject matter. What’s interesting, however, is the question that was left to linger from the class:

What is the essence of Judaism?

The class was very thorough and, through directed readings, conversations, and lectures, we traveled through the many stages of the Jewish tradition. Study focused on the Israelites, the Temple eras, Exodus/Diaspora influences, post-Temple Rabbinic Judaism, Middle-Age Philosophical Judaism, Enlightenment Judaism, the effects of the Holocaust, the influence of Israel, and the modern traditions (Reconstruction, Orthodox, Conservative, etc). Because it is such a highly developed tradition, I again refer to the question above.

What is the essence of Judaism? And how would the different actors in Judaism answer this question? I am sure that the answer presented by Rashi would be vastly different than that suggested by Maimonides, both of whom would surely disagree with Mordecai Kaplan’s response. Is it about spiritualism? Is it about dedication to duty; the mitzvoth? How about common study of the Torah? It sure seems that the essence of Judaism is held at the level of the believer. This dynamic particular to Judaism (at least of the Abrahamic religions) is, perhaps, what I found most interesting this past semester.


Finally, I would like to discuss the most contentious of classes that I completed this past semester. As an international studies major at USF, a core class in our curriculum is “International Issues and Actors.” One can imagine the material covered in class: The influence of actors such as states (nations, countries), transnational corporations, non-government organizations, government organizations (think: the U.N.), et. al and the importance of issues such as world health, global poverty, international economics, etc.

What you probably could not imagine is how strongly my professor made the case for socialism throughout the semester. At one point, in fact, we were subjected to an hour-long video that told how badly capitalism has left the condition of third-world countries. Of course, the video skipped capitalism’s many successes: such as (among so much else) encouragement of growth, production, and research.

The professor, a scholar from Sierra Leone was off-the-wall. He was, more or less, a nice guy but he spent entirely too much time speaking “tongue-in-cheek” about the apocalyptic calamities confronting the world. “Tongue-in-cheek” with quotations because he was deadly serious. However, the professor recognized the level of absurdity in his beliefs and also realized that lecturing on such theories without doing so sarcastically would surely result in the termination of his tenure.

Worse, his mid-term exam contained such nuggets of importance as these questions: During the first six months following the invasion, Operation Iraqi Freedom had cost the U.S. how much? And: What is the name of President Bush’s foreign policy initiative in regards to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Which, I swear to you, the answer was “Wishful Thinking.”

At least international studies programs in America’s south aren’t pandering to the same left-wing biases as their counterparts at institutions in the north….

THE CONCLUSION (a.k.a. The REAL Value of a College Education)

Oddly, despite my objections to the professor’s personally held convictions, I still escaped the class with the highest grade of all students. I know this because he made it a point to post the grades after each test anonymously. The highest grade each time would be presented along with the number of people that received that grade. Each time, there was only one recipient for the highest grade. Each time, it was I.

Do I tell you this to gloat? Absolutely.

While I tend to gather a wealth of useful knowledge and intellectual stimulation from my religious studies classes, my international studies classes teach me a far greater skill: How to play the game.

Should I hope to be successful upon completion of collegiate studies I am sure that my proven ability to read those persons in positions to assess me and then perform adequately to their expectations will far overshadow my ability to describe Hume’s theories on religion.

That’s sort of sad.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Questioning the Motives of Roger Simon, et al.

Roger Simon, for those of you not aware, is the chief political columnist over at Politico. Typically, I head over to their site to read the work of Jonathan Martin. He updates multiple times a day concerning the latest developments on the Republican side of the Presidential race. You can access his work HERE.

However, it was Simon that caught my attention during my latest visit to Politico. On the front page of the site was another hit piece of his directed at Senator Fred Thompson.

Today, I would like to address characters like this Mr. Simon fellow. Individuals like Simon have a single criticism that they repeatedly express concerning our candidate of choice, Senator Thompson: He’s lazy.

And, I have a simple response: If true, so what?

What’s interesting is that none of the supporters of the other Republican candidates ever challenge Senator Thompson on any authentic, important, Presidential issues. Indeed, it would be reckless for Romney or Giuliani followers to question Thompson’s plan to fix the Social Security system because, quite frankly, their chosen candidates do not have plans of their own. Another example: Even Senator McCain, whom I generally approve of, fails to challenge Thompson on principle. Would Senator McCain like to battle over illegal immigration with Thompson with the conservative base at stake? I think not.

Time does not permit comparing conservative candidates soup to nuts, so allow me to summarize: Republican Steve King (Iowa) received a 100% rating from the American Conservative Union in its latest assessments. Congressman King endorsed Fred Thompson. Moreover, Senator Thompson, himself, maintained a near 90% lifetime rating from the ACU. Thompson is, unquestionably, the conservative choice.

Yet, failing to damage candidate Thompson on any sort of policy issues, critics like Simon continue to bring up this tried-and-failed connotation of “laziness” for the former Senator. Thompson has successfully overstepped this issue by citing a prolific career that seems to prohibit laziness by its very productive nature.

Yet, I will ask this concerning the deemed “laziness”: Are we attempting to elect the nation’s next best campaigner? Or, are we trying to find the individual best suited to be the next President?

Is a perceived “weak” campaign that effective of a criticism? It is not.

This is petty politics people. I beg of anyone that reads: Please do not permit the influence of individuals like pundit Simon to cloud the candidacy running less on showmanship and more on solid policy. Please keep in mind what’s really important when electing the next President of the United States.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Am I Taking Crazy Pills!?!?!

As the build-up to the Iowa caucuses develops and poll results become more closely scrutinized, one thing is becoming all too apparent: biases and “favorites” are quickly (and sadly) trumping rationality.

As I support this argument, I implore you to understand that I am doing my best to set my own affiliations aside. That is to say that while I wear my Republican association on my sleeve, I am also willing to concede that there are Democrats who would clear the filter that I am about to present; for example, Joe Biden.

Point being: petty politics of much too little value continue to hold too much significance in the context of the harsh environment that will confront whomever becomes our next president.

Unfortunately, while that sentiment seems all too plausible to me (and others), for some* (*many) the dangers of reality simply are not important enough to surpass the “significance” of political influence.

Allow me to put forth a premise that I believe should be perceived as true universally: the single most important issue in this upcoming election will be national security. All things considered, national security is the foundation in which all other issues develop. For example, the hot button topic of the recent debates has been illegal immigration. However, illegal immigration, at its core, is essentially a national security issue. At the topic’s fringes, it is an economic and moral issue. Even so, without sound national security, the most devastating of economic or moral conditions matter naught. Nothing will demand the attention of the next President with so much regularity as the continuous protection of the citizens that he governs. National security is the issue.

For the sake of argument (and, more importantly, because I genuinely believe that I am correct), let us hold this premise to be true. If candidates are more or less equal on all other issues, national security should be the delineating factor. At the very least, let us not support candidates whom express vast weaknesses in their national security abilities. It blows my mind that six years removed from September 11th, 2001 and the American people are rallying behind Presidential candidates such as Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama.

And let me state this forthright: the opposition to Huckabee and Obama is not the product of some long-steaming bias. For example, it is not the case with either of these candidates that I would suggest that I would forego my continued career in the military because of their hypothetical Presidencies. This is to suggest that, in short, neither of these two individuals is as bad for our country as Hillary Clinton. In fact, I will even go so far as to suggest that in a different time and environment either of these men could make for a fine President. Albeit, they would both be Presidents with traits (in one case socially and the other fiscally) that I disagree. But I imagine that in a world with far less prominent threats to America, these gentlemen could successfully lead the nation.

But not now.

Seriously, I spent nothing more than a couple years in the Middle East and South Korea and have studied international/religious affairs as an undergraduate. Yet, at 24 years old (yesterday) and wet behind the ears, I truly believe that I could hold my own in a debate against Mike Huckabee on foreign affairs. Senator Obama would probably fare better. “Better” in the sense that a Senator-turned-Presidential-candidate would only satisfactorily defeat a snotty kid in a debate focusing on the quintessential issue of the upcoming Presidency.

This is ridiculous.

And please, do not lob the “homer” title at me yet. I am not suggesting unequivocally that Fred Thompson is the strongest candidate on national security. In fact, if the measurement is international policy knowledge alone, I am sure that Duncan Hunter is the most qualified candidate. Of course, Senator McCain is also extremely strong on national security. And even from the Right, I must admit that there is merit to be given the man that is Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, (D) Joe Biden. And, surely, I do feel that Senator Thompson is also fully qualified. Any of these candidates could ably navigate America through the turbulent waters ahead. There is no proof absolutely to suggest the same optimism for Obama and Huckabee.

And, as an aside, I do not believe that successfully upholding a community and, yes, a nation following the worst terrorist attacks to be launched against out country necessarily makes one a strong defender of national security. Mayor Giuliani has been successful at turning his ability to crush Mafiosos and heal a city with rhetoric into some sort of amazing foreign affairs guru-type image. This immediate association that is so apparent to others escapes me.

Nonetheless, the “momentum” of national security juniors Huckabee and Obama builds. A voting bloc so ignorant to the enormity of the national security issue at hand has me screaming from the roof tops in confusion, “Am I taking crazy pills?!?!?!


To those that follow with any regularity, I am spending the holiday season in the D.C. area and am, in fact, staying on Capitol Hill currently and until the 27th. It is nice to have a change of the season’s weather for Christmas, and it is also nice to find a politically charged climate in which to engage in lively discussion.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Educated Soldier's Take on the G.O.P. Debate

It was surely my intention to respond to the G.O.P. presidential debate that occurred last night in St. Petersburg more quickly. However, school matters delayed my response until tonight. As a benefit of this delay, however, I have been able to digest the entire broadcast, reconsider its contents a few times, and I should now be able to produce something more worthwhile than had I simply written a quick, “from the gut” response.

However, before I begin with my analysis on the debate, I would be remiss to fail to mention the most surprising, if not extraordinary, news that I have read in a while. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that stalwart anti-Iraq War Congressman John Murtha has identified the surge in Iraq to be “working.” Of course, those of us with ties to the soldiers on the ground reported these successes months ago. Credit should go out to endeavoring journalists such as Michael Totten and Michael Yon who, from their embedded positions, have been attempting to convince a skeptic American public of the on-ground truths occurring in Iraq. You can access the John Murtha article HERE.


Reflecting on the big-picture aspect of the G.O.P CNN/YouTube Debate, I must comment that this was the most entertaining, cut-throat presidential debate that I have witnessed in some time. Others seemed to have agreed. TV Newser reports that this debate has been the most watched thus far in the campaign.

While I am prepared to declare clear winners and losers walking away from the event, I want to first make a larger observation. IT’S A SHAME… It’s a shame that so much of American politics hinges on some abstract concept declared “electability.” I say this because I identified two candidates during the debate that may be the best for America. My assessment may come as a surprise as I continue to be a Fred Thompson supporter, but I value my integrity more than my biases. That being said, I genuinely think that both Mike Hucklebee and Duncan Hunter may be the “best” for America. In this sense, I prefer Hunter, all things being equal, over Hucklebee. Despite his on-screen time being limited by his lower status as a candidate, Hunter demonstrated that his knowledge of foreign affairs is far greater than any of the other candidates. In a time of growing global tensions, a man of his international expertise would be incredibly valuable as the President of the United States. And, of course, Hucklebee displayed the same charm last night that has so many excited that he could possibly unite a divided United States.

But, alas, they both lack a prerequisite quality: “electability.” I don’t know what defines this term because in most manners of affability and oratorical skill, Hucklebee proved superior last night to even Giuliani. However, this critical trait of electability that is missing, for whatever reason, from Hucklebee and Hunter has left them to ostensibly compete for the Vice President spot. In which case, I have Giuliani or Romney choosing Hucklebee as their running partner should either of them be granted the nomination and Thompson choosing Hunter should he gain such an opportunity.

Back to Giuliani: Reports that I have read so far commenting on the debate do not reflect my own observations. However, I find this to be true: Mayor Giuliani, more than any other candidate, hurt his chances last night. He started off petty with his personal attacks on Romney concerning illegal immigration. Giuliani had previously established a successful political career by maintaining self-assurance in the most difficult of situations. Nonetheless, last night I found him to be a bumbling mess. He stammered through his defense of New York City’s status as a sanctuary city. He was caught often looking down and uncomfortable. He lacked the professionalism and stately manner that we have come to associate with the Mayor. And, worst of all, he managed to alienate social conservatives in ways that he not in previous debates. His stances on gun control, immigration, and abortion caused him to travel further to the left on a night where all his opponents were fighting viciously to establish themselves as the true conservatives.

Approaching the debate, I found myself really disliking Romney as a conservative choice. However, last night I genuinely felt that he did a good job of establishing himself as steadfastly on the side of the Right. Romney’s performance for the initial hour-plus was the antithesis of Giuliani’s. He maintained calm, order, and clear confidence. I found myself buying into this image that he was selling. I was even ready to admit, sadly, that he responded well to Thompson’s attack ad. He seemed sincere in his plea that he is reformed in regards to his former Pro-Choice stance. In fact, I think he is, indeed, sincere on this topic. However, my overall assessment of Romney’s performance turns downward sharply when I reflect on how badly he handled the question concerning homosexuals in the military.

This issue of gays in the military is one very important to me. Romney’s response was problematic for two reasons: 1) His apparent stance against “Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell” is opposite of my own and 2) He seemed bullied by moderator Anderson Cooper when prodded to provide a concrete answer concerning his opinion on the manner. I think history will show that the question was a bogus one (as reports have shown) supplied by a Hillary Clinton campaign contributor which should tame the damage incurred by Romney on the issue. That question aside, of the major candidates, I have to admit that I left the program probably most impressed with Governor Romney.

Beginning the campaign, Senators Thompson and McCain were my two preferred choices. Thompson remains my choice. I feel that both of their performances last night were equal in effect. Thompson came across as very likable. Most interestingly, Thompson – the one considered to have the least legislative gumption – was the only candidate that I heard last night offering any authentic plans. He proposed authentic plans for Social Security and tax reforms. The other candidates broach the subjects but have no meat behind their rhetoric. Thompson does but, unfortunately, he receives no credit for his solid stances. It’s unfortunate. Thompson’s weakness was exposed when he occasionally and too obviously dodged questions. When asked of three agencies that he would remove from the federal government to curb spending, his answer was especially weak. Overall, however, I find myself satisfied with my choice for President.

For both McCain and Thompson, the problem was this: They performed well on a night when someone like Hucklebee performed superbly. While others favor Hucklebee’s response to the “What Would Jesus Do” question, I noted that Hucklebee’s off-the-cuff comment that he would send Hillary to Mars when questioned about potential funding increases for space-exploration particularly amusing. Had Hucklebee been less the focus of last night’s debate, I genuinely feel that both McCain and Thompson would have benefited more significantly from their quality performances.

I will even bother to mention Ron Paul for two reasons: 1) To point out that Senator McCain made a farce out of the Texas congressmen when arguing Paul’s isolationist tendencies and that 2) Paul caused me my only disappointment in my home state last night when a portion of the crowd cheered the option of a premature exit from Iraq.

I didn’t intend to complete this entire report sans a Tancredo reference. He didn’t do badly. His problem is that he seems to be a one-trick pony, relying on his heavy stance against all sorts of immigration solely. He was unsuccessful last night in presenting any indication that there exist other topics that he can use to gain footing in this election. Sadly, I think he fails even as a viable competitor in the Hucklebee / Hunter Vice President race.

So, there you have it: I’ll reluctantly give the debate victory to Mitt Romney. Hucklebee left the runner-up. I think the clear loser, despite the “experts” disagreeing, was Rudy Giuliani. McCain and Thompson motivated their bases but probably failed to extend them. Duncan Hunter failed to gain the face time that he probably deserved and suffered because of it. Congressman Paul didn’t convince any on the fence about him concerning his political sanity with his bumbling Mexico-to-Canada super highway madness. I guess, ultimately, Tancredo will look at this debate as an opportunity lost as I am sure he will be withdrawing soon.

And that’s it. Thanks for sticking with me. I hope this was informative.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Religion, Politics, Society, and Self-Identification

So I find myself at an interesting period of time. I am exiting a sabbatical from academic pursuits- the pause in my collegiate journey prompted by the Thanksgiving holiday. But, directly, I am entering an intensely rigorous scholastic period which will culminate with final exams at the end of the semester in a few short weeks. Meanwhile, so many outside interests are tugging at my focus that I feel like I am periodically going crazy and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Of those outside interests, the first I must mention is my University of South Florida Bulls football team which earned an invitation to the semi-prestigious Sun Bowl and an opportunity to play a yet to-be-determined Pac-Tem team. The game will be played in El Paso, Texas on New Years Eve and I have every intention of attending the game; figuring a method of funding such an endeavor is weighing heavily currently.

Meanwhile, I am still culling the situation with American University. They have offered me a pretty substantial financial package stoking any remaining desire to transfer there as early as this upcoming spring semester. While the likelihood of transferring so soon is null, I find myself keeping the option open because, perhaps, I am reminded of just how badly I wanted to attend AU just a few short months ago.

And then, on top of all that, I have another force tugging at me; my attempt to become Special Forces-qualified. I would argue that of all the factors building in my life currently, I have not thought about one as often or for as long as I have thought about this one. I am really obsessed with becoming an ODA team member. I could write volumes about my passion here and, in the future, via this medium, perhaps I may. However, I am simply mentioning this desire among the others to demonstrate how difficult it is currently to focus and compose something meaningful at an outlet such as this; Educated Soldier.

But this morning I will attempt to do just that.

In a religious studies course of mine that I find particular interest, it is the goal of the class to initiate the student into the varying methods of studying religion. Because of the sort of broad spectrum of subject matter, the student is exposed to a wide array of scholars. Because of this class, I have been reading Wach, Mueller, Frazer, Hume, Marx, Freud, Otto… etc. Through the works of these scholars, we are exposed to various techniques of understanding the phenomenon that is religion. It has become apparent that one can tackle religious thought through many scopes including those of history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, theology, feminist theory and through many other disciplinary techniques.

The interesting part as related to the political nature of this blog is this: As I consider myself a budding “scholar” in the field of religion, I find my academic understanding of religion to be totally at odds with my most deeply held political stances. In a nutshell, I am finding that I hold to morals traditionally associated with Christianity but find Christianity, itself, to be – in all likelihood – false. Because of this contradictory dynamic, I want to consider the social evolution of religion as discussed by Frazer and William James.

Although this sort of synopsis completely shortchanges brilliant work, for our purposes I will explain the theories of Frazer and James in brief. Frazer argues that religion has developed as a social construct. Basically, early man developed certain mechanisms to understand the world in which he lived. When he found things to be tough to comprehend, he attributed their erratic behavior to magic. The answers that magic provided would soon be replaced by religion. Religion, however, eventually gave way to science which also answers some of the same basic questions about the world. Frazer might ask of the current world: With the abundance of science and technology available, why do religions continue to exist?

William James, on the other hand, diagnosed the need for religions psychologically. He compared religion to an opiate, a sort of pain killer that numbs man’s problems. James finds himself unsure through his academic pursuits about the legitimacy of real, genuine god(s). What he does recognize, however, is that people have genuine religious experiences and these experiences are highly significant for those undergoing them. James prescribes religion as a doctor does medicine. If religion allows you a happy vibrant life, than by all means, continue your faith. On the other hand, if the demands of your religious beliefs are battering you psychologically, it is wise to cease the source of the problems.

And, of course, both of these theories are tied to the sociological view that man produces his own religion. Berger and Feuerbach both do an outstanding job of solidifying theories that, more or less, suggest that man (actually society) creates religions from the internalized qualities of humans that are projected externally in the expression of god(s). And I mention all of these theories because, basically, I find myself agreeing with them. Here exists the problem.

Surely, many of the people that follow this site with any regularity might find it hard to believe that the author fails to agree on the existence of a god. I find the following dynamic peculiar: People tend to bind their beliefs in to pre-determined packages. This is to suggest that, historically, southern Christians tend to identify themselves as Republicans. As I travel through the university experience, I have come to realize that individuals who identify themselves as atheist, agnostic, or any way “counter-culture” in this regard identify with the Left. And then there is me.

While I find it easy to place myself into one of the pre-determined packages (I am explicitly and unapologetically Republican), I struggle with the details while inside. For example, turning away from religion as the focus, I can identify at times with Marx’s call for revolution. However, at the same time, I am completely baffled by his economical philosophy. Considering religion again, Marx suggests that – regardless of which religion you pursue – by fully placing oneself into such a belief system, one is enslaving themselves needlessly to their religion’s demands. I agree and I also agree that the revolutionary assailing of religion on philosophical grounds would be a welcome occurrence. But what Conservative, especially one that concurs so whole-heartedly with the economic principles presented by Friedman and Adam Smith, can walk in a path suggested by Marx? Moreover, on what grounds can one be fully Pro-Life yet both non-religious in nature and, admittedly, not moved by the “preciousness” of life? Can one despise abortion simply because of the moral standard that such an action produces? Finally, what is this nonsense about the lack of “atheists in foxholes” as they say? At the very least, I can promise that there has been at least one agnostic leaning forward in one of those very foxholes.

My original intention in writing this morning was to discuss the sociological aspects of religion because I find this method of studying religion fascinating. I guess, in some regards, I have met that objective. I can conclude on that topic by agreeing with the scholars mentioned above, many of whom would argue that religion is at least purposeful in the sense that it legitimizes the constructs that society creates. I would suggest that one keep in mind, however, that we (human beings) create society and are, therefore, responsible for the very values that lack the legitimacy that, apparently, only religion can provide.

The overwhelming result of this morning’s post however has been an attack on the methods through which we identify ourselves as humans. The attack wasn’t totally justified because I don’t find myself obsessing angrily about this particular human tendency with any regularity. But like so many other things that man does with or without observable rationalization, if this tendency was only overcome, man would be all the better off for its omission.

Anyway, hopefully, tomorrow I will be able to produce something a little less philosophical for those of you that didn’t find interest in this. I am hoping to add a response to the Republican debate that will be occurring, basically, in my backyard of St. Petersburg, Florida. See you then.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pennsylvania Tackles the 2nd Amendment

So I feel that there are plenty of reasons to compel one to write this night (early morning):

I am currently reading an immensely intriguing book concerning a Jew’s experience in labor camp, entitled, Survival in Auschwitz; I was recently engaged on the listening-end of a very interesting lecture of what it means to be sociopathic (the discussion-worthy significance being that I found the description presented to be much like a description that I would present concerning my own psychological makeup; at least in as much as the description of the sociopath’s mentality was similar to what motivates me and what keeps that motivation often short-lived and highly sporadic); The surprising news, received today, that American University has awarded me a Dean’s Scholarship of 10,000 dollars per year despite the very fact that it is highly unlikely that I will ever attend the institution as an undergraduate; I could even discuss the satisfaction that grew when I received an email from an inexperienced soldier waiting to deploy to war – having found my work, my experiences, to be helpful in his own preparation. In fact, I can think of plenty more worthy to discuss including a detail as yet unmentioned that may be the most noteworthy:

I am currently celebrating the Thanksgiving week in the rustic and chilly Northeast. Have you never had the opportunity to celebrate late fall / early winter in this corridor of America, the great experience that you have missed. The Holiday Season captures this area like no other in America; only here does it seem full and real. In my parents’ yard, trees are in their autumn colors. Across an entirely subdued country highway lives a silenced and endless cornfield. Only in the Northeast, during this season, can overcast weather be accepted with so positive a reaction. Cars at night pass more deer and fox than vehicles of other humans. It’s an amazing place up here this time of year. Even outside of the rural area, should one enter the urban complexes, it becomes completely obvious that the Northeast assumes a new character during the Holiday Season. I can think of no place where I would choose to spend a Thanksgiving or Christmas Holiday than a location in the Northeastern United States.

However, despite the text that could be inspired by any of the factors above, I want to discuss something else. As a result of being in lower and western New Jersey currently, I have been watching the news from Pennsylvania. News from P.A. is the topic that I currently want to extend discourse.

Today (officially, yesterday), P.A.’s governor, Ed Rendell (D), traveled to Harrisburg to implore congress members through testimony to pass three separate bills concerning the sale of handguns. Each of the bills, expectedly, was restrictive in nature. The idea was to “get the guns off the streets.” While memory will prohibit me from being able to properly describe each of the bills (and my current slow internet connection is going to preclude the search for a hotlink), I can attest that none of the bills, at first glance, seemed particularly overbearing from the eyes of this NRA member. In fact, in light of Philadelphia’s exceedingly high homicide rate, I found the governor’s testimony to be genuine in its cause to protect citizens. Because of these feelings, I momentarily questioned my position concerning the second amendment and whether it should be limited. Now, I would like to explain why this moment of dubiety was a brief one indeed.

While personally considering these possible new laws (two of which were immediately rejected, the third tabled), two things became clear to me: 1) Laws prohibiting the sale of weapons only really inhibits those with lawful intentions and 2) That, although I am highly sympathetic to the problems that Philadelphia is having, I personally hold the problems as products of a city that has more dilemmas of moral decay than with the sale of handguns.

Concerning my first discovery, I present this: I find it highly likely that the persons whom committed the majority of the 300-plus murders this year in Philadelphia were of low economic class. If one is to agree with this premise, than it follows that one would also agree that such a person (the murderer) would be unlikely to purchase an expensive handgun by any sort of legal means. More likely, they obtained the weapons through means of a “black market,” or, in other terms, “off the streets.” If these premises are true, than by what means would someone conclude that adding more red-tape to the legal purchase of handguns would result in less violent crime? In fact, I would argue that by restricting well-intended people from purchasing arms themselves, the government is – in fact – causing them to become more susceptible to crime in places precisely like Philadelphia. Moreover, there exist citizens such as myself and former military personnel like me, whom would desire to purchase weapons of all sorts to use on ranges to hone skills that are critical to our chosen profession. Bills like those touted by Governor Rendell today only limit my ability to purchase a weapon and only limit another law-abiding citizen’s ability to protect him or her self.

My second conclusion derived from the contemplation concerning these bills is more controversial. However, I will proclaim highly from any mountaintop, despite the loudest of protests, that the welfare status that has gripped many of America’s most urban areas is also killing those cities. In places like Philadelphia there is a tear in the moral fabric that holds the rest of America tight. The economic condition of the people who tend to commit murders may be a common trait among the perpetrators but it is not the ultimate reason for their crimes. People are poor in many places. People don’t choose to kill each other at alarming rates in many of these other places. They do in Philadelphia because many of these people are developing values in dwellings that contain parents reliant solely on the government’s providing. Children are learning their morals in cities where it is acceptable practice to have abortions. Yet, nearly half of us outside of these scenarios want to restrict the weapons used in the crimes instead of attempting to improve the decency in the environment in which people are raising their children.

To me, it is ridiculous that bills concerning gun-laws are even still being considered these days. There is so much more on America’s plate. Yet a Governor chooses to testify on behalf of an action that will never have any working effect on the biggest crisis facing his state. What a joke. Once states figure out how to educate their children, teach them morals, and develop in these children a sense of responsibility for their decisions, we will see an America that doesn’t have slums like “Killadelphia.”

Of course, by realizing that I may be wrong, I immediately reflect on my fascination with presidential candidate Fred Thompson’s promise to reinvigorate federalism. This is something that I think is an extraordinarily important idea. It is also, however, something that will have to be discussed at a later time.

Thanks for reading…

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


What follows is the research assignment that I mentioned YESTERDAY. This assignment (RE: Kurds, Kurdish history, and the possibility of a future autonomous Kurdistan) was unexpectedly rewarding. I gained so much out of the experience that I felt compelled to share the fruits of my labor; hence, the project that you see below.

I should warn you that the text below registers just over 4,000 words and it is, for the most part, dry historical accounts. However, if you are interested in the Middle East, you may (I hope) find the bulk of the essay insightful. Plus, I am sure there are plenty of neigh-saying readers that would love to find mistakes in the facts that I present and, for that reason, may choose to read the text in its entirety. However, I realize that most will only want to glance at the “juicy” stuff. For that reason, at the very conclusion, I BOLDED all the text that think is most pertinent to Educated Soldier. This includes my own conclusions drawn from the research RE: the likelihood of the establishment of a sovereign Kurdistan and even some audacious predictions for the region (which I would love to see commented on).

Well, I hope you enjoy the following. Again, this is a research paper that I composed to meet a requirement for an International Studies class. Bibliography follows the text.

Kurds: From Nation to Possible Nation-State

The objectives of this paper are dual: to discover who the Kurds are and then to assess the possibility of these people in developing their own sovereign nation-state. In order to meet these objectives, a historical approach is going to be taken initially. This is to say that the Kurds will be described in terms of their development through time. This approach will focus on distinct periods in Kurdish history that should help the critical analyzer assess the possibility of a future independent Kurdistan. The periods to be studied follow: Early (pre-Ottoman Empire history), Ottoman Empire history (focusing on the era from the 17th through early 20th centuries), World War One, and, finally, the period from the 1970’s through the early 1990’s. While discussing the latter period, two Kurdish groups will be analyzed: the PKK and the PUK (with some, but less, emphasis on the KDP).

Following this study, the paper will then move to a more intellectual, critical tone. The discourse will focus on the matter currently at-hand: Has the history described in the paper thus far shown feasibility in the possible creation of an independent Kurdish nation-state?

To best understand how the Kurds perceive their own identities, one must first recognize the myths that are associated with the Kurdish people. While these myths are probably nearly wholly false in their factual details, they hold importance nonetheless. These myths have served (and, in some instances, continue to serve) as the social glue that binds the Kurdish people to each other.

David McDowall, in his Modern History of the Kurds tells of three significant myths that explain the origin of the Kurdish people. As the Kurds are a society that have historically dwelled in the mountains of eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, and north and western Iran, predictably two of the three myths involve the mountains.

• Kurds are said to be descendents of children that originally fled to the mountains to find safety from a child-eating monster named “Zahhak” (4).

• Another myth suggests that Kurds trace their ancestry back to children who were borne of King Solomon and any of his several slave girls. Because of their association with their slave mothers, the children, in this story as well, fled to the mountains. This time, however, they weren’t attempting to evade a monster, but – instead – an angry king (4).

The third story doesn’t account for the mountains but does cement the Kurds within the major monotheistic religions:

• The myth suggests that the Kurds are descendent from the Prophet Abraham. This story also suggests that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was a Kurd herself (4).

While these stories hold significant social value, their value as historical explanations for the recognition of a Kurdish nation is less. It is much more likely that the Kurds trace their roots to Indo-European tribes that traveled through the area that is now Iran in the 2nd millennium BCE (McDowall 8). The first recognition of a distinct Kurdish nation occurred in the 2nd century BCE when they were referred to as “Cyrtii” (McDowall 9). The first texts published in a distinct Kurdish language occurred in the 7th century CE (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 11).

On pages 9 and 13, McDowall explains that, historically, the term “Kurd” referred to a social-economic class rather than an ethnic class. He suggests that the term originally referred to an ethnically diverse band of nomads (McDowall 13). To best understand the development of the Kurdish nation – a society that has been characterized by near constant political dissidence – one must understand the religious makeup of the people; this composition is a point of volatility amongst the Kurdish people and its surrounding neighbors.

Currently, 75% of the Kurdish people are of the Sunni Muslim denomination (McDowall 11). Most of the remaining 25% are Shi’a Muslim, although there are Kurds of other religious types including Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian (McDowall 11). The Sunni composition of the majority of Kurds has caused strife with the mostly Shi’a population and government in Iran (as will be discussed later). However, even within the Sunni community, the Kurds have met opposition. The Kurds tend to follow a particular interpretation of Muslim Sharia law known as the Shafi’i school of interpretation (McDowall 11). Most non-Kurd Sunnis, however, and including those in Iraq, tend to follow the Hanafi interpretation of Sharia law. This point of contention between Sunnis has been a source of conflict. The Islamic makeup of the Kurdish people will also become an important rallying point when the discussion turns to the World Wars and the Christian / Muslim divide that most directly displayed itself for the Kurds during their struggles with the Armenians. Finally, to ensure complete understanding of the societal composition of the Kurdish people, one must also recognize that the Kurds are obedient foremost to their tribal affiliations before any other form of government – a fact that has been true throughout Kurdish development (McDowall 13).

Throughout the Kurdish region’s early history, the area was continuously battled over. In 637 CE, the Kurds created a force in order to ward off invading Arab armies (McDowall 21). Later, the Kurdish area would be forsaken by the Mongols. The largest city in the Kurdish region, Diyarbakir, was sacked by Mongol raiders in 1230, leaving all residents dead (McDowall 24). After the Mongol invasion, Diyarbakir was again sacked, this time by Jalal al Din Miranshah (McDowall 24).

However, this nearly constant struggle would eventually reach a period that could be considered Kurdistan’s most successful; an era under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

David McDowall suggests that Kurdistan was most politically independent while under the rule of the Ottoman Empire (25). This independence was mostly due to strategic location. Kurdistan was located in a geopolitically important location; between the Ottoman and Safavid empires (McDowall 25). Many of the most influential Kurdish leaders came to prominence under the Ottoman Empire including three that will be discussed in this paper: Idris Bitlisi, Badr Khan, and Shaykh Ubayd Allah.

Kurdistan’s independence while under the auspices of the Ottoman Empire was ensured early in the 16th century. A compromise was met between the leaders of the Empire and the Kurdish people allowing for the establishment of sixteen nearly sovereign Kurdish principalities (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 12). These principalities would maintain their status of near independence until the mid-19th century.

Much of Kurdistan’s freedom while under Ottoman control can be attributed to a single individual, Idris Bitlisi (McDowall 26). Bitlisi was a leader amongst Kurds because of his family’s high religious status. He also maintained strong allegiance with the Ottoman Empire by obtaining high-ranking government office. From his position of liaison, he was able to ensure that Kurdistan would receive the liberties from the Ottoman Empire that the Kurds desired.
This agreement between Kurds and the Ottoman leaders was successful for a number of years. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the first signs of unrest were expressed by the Kurdish region. During this time, the Kurds established a sort of fiefdom system based on their tribal allegiances. The fiefdoms then refused to pay taxes to the Ottoman government (McDowall 40). Meanwhile, wars being fought on Kurdish territory but not being fought by the Kurds themselves caused contention. Such wars fought on Kurdish lands included the Russo-Turkish War and the Turko-Persian War (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 25). This situation of growing dissension from the Kurds towards their Ottoman leaders set the stage for the arrival of an influential Kurdish leader, Badr Khan.

McDowall describes Khan as “the most illustrious of an illustrious dynasty” (43). Khan first established control of the Kurdish principalities. His style of rule was described as civil. His reign was characterized by freedom for all people, including those non-Muslim and non-Kurdish; this included the Christians and Assyrians whom were free to practice as they chose (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 29). In the mid 1840’s, Khan began to desire fuller freedom for his Kurdish territories and began a war against the empire that would ultimately last three years (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 29). His efforts were largely successful while in action. He was able to expand the Kurdish area and was even able to declare full independence from the Ottoman Empire temporarily (McDowall 47). However, two proceedings ultimately doomed Khan’s campaign: First, the Ottomans persuaded American and British missionaries to convince Christians to rebel against Khan (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 29). The second action that ended the Khan rebellion was the betrayal by Khan’s own nephew (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 29). These two events led to Khan’s failure and he was eventually exiled. Moreover, Khan’s bet ultimately resulted in the loss of independence for the Kurdish regions as the Ottomans reasserted control over the principalities (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 29).

Khan’s eventual downfall, however, led to the rise of the third influential Kurdish leader (as mentioned in the opening of this section). This third individual was Shaykh Ubayd Allah whom McDowall describes as being considered by many Kurds as “the first great Kurdish nationalist” (53). The Skaykh Allah was notable for two actions. First, he is credited with establishing the “Kurdish League,” the earliest group with recognized nationalistic goals among the Kurds (McDowall 58). As a Kurdish leader, he also organized a resistance force that invaded Persia in 1880 in the name of the “Kurdish nation” (McDowall 53). While his battle was largely unsuccessful in military-terms and was defeated by Iran within a year, it was significant nonetheless in establishing nationalistic passions among the Kurdish people.

While these events were occurring in Ottoman Kurdistan, the Kurdish regions in other countries were transitioning as well. In Iran, in the late 18th century, the Qajar dynasty was established (McDowall 66). The Qajars in later times would have difficulty maintaining order within their own Kurdish regions. Azarbaijan, for example, fell within the boundaries of Iran but was more fully under the control of the Ottoman Empire (McDowall 73). Moreover, as Russian influence grew prior to the buildup to World War One in the early 20th century, the Kurdish regions in Iran would be particularly susceptible to Russian manipulation.

Around 1907, Russia had established de facto control over much of Iran’s Kurdish regions (McDowall 83). In 1913, Russia fully annexed Azarbaijan (McDowall 84). The Kurds in Iran (at that point under Russian authority) weren’t exhibiting strong nationalistic desires. This was not true of their Ottoman Empire counterparts whom were beginning to fully recognize themselves as ethnically distinct people (McDowall 101).

In 1908, for example, the Mus club was established (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 36). The objectives of this organization were nationalistic in aim. This club was one of the first of its kind among Kurds. Its numbers began in the hundreds but quickly swelled to the thousands.
In 1912, the first Kurdish political party was established, the Kurdish Hope (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 36). By 1913, this organization was publishing a daily newspaper and had established a platform based on the reformation of the Kurdish alphabet, the development of nationalistic ideals, and the goal of better educating the Kurdish people (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 37).

In 1910, cooperation was shown amongst the Kurdish people of several different countries (excluding Iran). Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, and the Ottoman Empire established a petition demanding for the adoption of the Kurdish language, exemption from national taxes, and the adoption of Shafi’i interpretations of Sharia law (McDowall 98). While the petition eventually failed, it exhibited the building recognition of a desired independent Kurdish state.

Ultimately, scholars will never know if this momentum would have eventually led to the creation of such a Kurdish state. These efforts, unfortunately, were negated by the onset of World War One.

For the Kurds, World War One was categorized by manipulation by competing interests. One must understand the state of fear that was being felt by both the Russians and the Ottomans and, by extension, many others. These fears caused state entities to distrust minority classes. This was reflected in the treatment of both the Kurds and the Armenians. By 1915, for example, the Ottoman Empire was exterminating and/or deporting Armenians because of fear of their possible cooperation with the Russians (McDowall 103).

Meanwhile, as the war began to come to fruition, many of the Kurds under Ottoman control were influenced to fight on behalf of the Ottoman Empire (McDowall 104). The common interest of the Ottomans and the Kurds was their Muslim faith. This rallying point was manipulated by the Ottoman leaders and, eventually, the Kurds became associated with the actions of exterminating many Christian Armenians (McDowall 103). However, the Russians were also exerting their own control, in this case, over the Armenians. They, in turn, destroyed many Kurds (McDowall 103).

However, leaders from the Ottoman Empire unexpectedly turned on the Kurds (McDowall 104). Despite the Kurdish efforts in the war on behalf of the Empire, they were expelled to the eastern edges of what is now the mountainous region of Turkey.

And none of this is to suggest that, in some cases, the Kurds didn’t fight the Ottomans. In Iraq, for example, Shi’a Kurds battled Sunni Ottomans (McDowall 106). The Kurds played as pawns to power-players Russia and the Ottoman Empire during World War One with shifting allegiances and no lasting objectives of their own.

The results of World War One were devastating. The Kurdistan areas throughout the Middle East were left destitute. Cities which once had populations of 20,000, for example, dropped to populations less than 2000 (McDowall 108). Kurds were dying of exposure, hunger, and typhoid. It was daily routine in the mornings to collect the bodies of the dead for burial (McDowall 108). In conclusion, over 1 million Armenians were dead and over 800,000 Kurds were counted as fatalities (McDowall 109). British convoys were able to eventually gain some admiration from the Kurds by distributing much needed aid (McDowall 109).

However, the void left by the end of World War One could have been successful for the Kurds. As stated in The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire, “This period of October 1918 to June 1919 presented the Kurdish people with their best ever opportunity to set up their own national state” (38).

Another result of the war was a Middle Eastern region with no ruling authority. To deal with this situation, western victors developed the Sykes-Picot Agreement in May, 1916 (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 38). While Russia was involved in the drafting of this agreement, they eventually blew the whistle on the document, revealing the intentions of the western nations to carve a new Middle Eastern map. Government in Russia, at the time dealing with its own strife, opted out of developing imperial interests of the type in the Middle East (McDowall 115). In Russia’s place, the United States stepped in.

The United States had a plan of its own. They suggested the development of three independent states where the former Ottoman Empire existed. These states would include: a Turkish state with Istanbul as the capital, an Armenian state, and a Kurdish state with Diyarbakir as the capital (“The Kurds under the Ottoman Empire” 41).

However, several factors eliminated the Kurds’ opportunity to establish a nation-state of their own. First, leadership in England, tasked with developing the Kurdish state, could not establish influential Kurdish political leaders to maintain order in such an entity (McDowall 121). Moreover, many Kurds still held to deep-rooted fears of Christians based on their vicious fighting with the Armenians (McDowall 127). This made them suspicious of any plan backed by westerners. Finally, many Kurds – despite being betrayed by their Ottoman leaders – still held to allegiance to Turkish authorities (McDowall 127). With these dilemmas present, a sovereign Kurdistan would not be developed.

Instead, the results of this period were these: an autonomous Turkey was established and Kurds in the region would be integrated into the new nation-state and Iraq was established with a northern area zoned solely for Kurdish inhabitation under Iraqi rule (McDowall 146).

Now understanding the basic history of the Kurdish people, the discourse moves to the discussion of two (and, to a lesser extent, a third) Kurdish organizations that have been more influential in modern times and may have influence on the future prospects of an independent Kurdish nation-state. The two primary organizations of focus are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Partiya Karkari Kurdistan, or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Lesser attention will be focused on the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The PUK was established by Jalal Talabani (current Iraq president) on June 1st, 1975 (McDowall 343). While the PUK was formed by the convergence of two socialist movements, the goals of the PUK were: the establishment of autonomy for the Kurds and the development of democracy in Iraq (McDowall 343).

Throughout the PUK’s history, it sparred with the KDP. However, all Kurdish organizations had a common enemy: Iraqi president Saddam Hussein (McDowall 347). However, the Iran/Iraq conflict shuffled the relationships amongst the Kurdish groups and made odd bed-fellows of various factions.

For example, the Iranian government, in addition to its anti-Hussein goals, had an objective of destroying the PUK (McDowall 348). This caused Talabani and the PUK, in an order to survive, to explore the benefit of joining Saddam Hussein. Hussein saw the advantage of drawing Kurds into his side of the fold in a war on Iran. The PUK/Hussein relationship showed early signs of blossoming.

However, when western influences (such as those from America and Russia) promised to support Hussein in his efforts against Iran, the Iraqi President saw less reason to associate with the Kurds (McDowall 350). The intervention from America and others would result in the collapse of the Hussein/PUK partnership.

Following the dissolution of this coalition, the PUK again returned to allegiance with their Kurdish brethren groups. Eventually realizing the potential dangers emanating from Baghdad, the Kurdish organizations ceased inter-hostilities and joined together to form the Kurdish National Front (McDowall 352).

Following the initial Gulf War, the Kurdish Front was temporarily successful in maintaining order in the Kurdish zone of northern Iraq. On May 19th, 1992, democratic elections were held within the region to establish parliament. The results included a legislative body almost evenly split amongst the formerly combative KUP and KDP parties (Laizer 58).

The peace in the region would be short-lasting. In 1992 war broke out amongst many Kurdish factions including the PUK and the hitherto unmentioned PKK (Laizer 59).

The PKK was established by Abd Allah Ocalan in the 1970’s but came to prominence during the following decade (McDowall 418). The anger of the PKK was initially focused on local landlords (McDowall 419). Fighting viciously for the liberties of local people, the Kurdish peasantry quickly developed an interest in the newly formed organization.

Because of the organization’s violent and rebellious natures, it was outcast from Turkey and established headquarters in Syria in 1980 (McDowall 420). In Syria, they were obstructed by no such interference from the government. In 1983, the PKK convinced Kurdish organizations within the region to allow them to develop bases in northern Iraq (McDowall 420). It was around this period that the PKK came to international forefront. In 1984, PKK guerillas crossed back over to Turkish Kurdistan and conducted several daring attacks on Turkish military forces (McDowall 418).

In response, governments in Turkey and Iraq established citizen-soldiers to work as “village guards” to defend against the PKK for monetary compensation (McDowall 423). The PKK reacted violently. They savagely and relentlessly destroyed the village guards (McDowall 423).
Meanwhile, like the PUK, the PKK intermittently fought with the KDP (McDowall 426). The result of the turmoil would come after the initial Gulf War when the PKK was established as the most dominant Kurdish political party in Turkey (Laizer 90).

The PKK has been successful, certainly, because of its peculiar natures and abilities. First, the PKK has been successful in marrying Islam with socialism- two ideologies that seemed at their cores contradictive to each other (Lazier 90). Moreover, as shown by their violent attacks on the village guards, the PKK has not been shy in attempting unconventional tactics. For another example, in an effort to make the western world aware of atrocities being committed by Turkey on Kurds, the PKK peacefully kidnapped westerners to force them to see, firsthand, the violent nature of the Turkish government (Laizer 92). However, the objectives of these kidnappings were misinterpreted by westerners as evil acts themselves and were largely unsuccessful in establishing their intended point. However, the kidnappings are evidence of the extremes that the PKK is willing to reach in order to achieve its goals.

Now, the only aspect that remains is the critical assessment: Will the Kurds ever be successful in their transition from nation to sovereign nation-state? The only reliable answer can be derived from history.

And the history suggests an answer: No.

There are several reasons why one would make such an assumption. First, it seems that the Kurds are much too reliant on a network of tribal leaders to ever transition to a form of government independently superior in hierarchy. The only evidence in Kurdish history of being successful in such an endeavor comes from the period in which Kurdistan existed under the auspices of the Ottoman Empire. Even in this example, however, Kurdistan was still under the control of an outside authority. It seems that the Kurds are committed too strongly to local levels of leadership to allow for the successful establishment of an independent national government.

Moreover, (and while it seems chauvinistic to describe an outside ethnic group in the following manner) the Kurds seem completely susceptible to the manipulation to forces greater than their own. This could be the product of their relatively small size in comparison to the populations of Arabs, Russians, Europeans, and others. Whatever the reason, throughout Kurdish history, these people have been rather easily influenced by outside forces. The Ottomans, the Turks, Europeans, and Russians have all had turns successfully manipulating Kurds. A social disposition of such inferiority doesn’t bode well for nationalistic intentions.

There is also the problem of in-fighting amongst the Kurdish factions. It has already been shown that, almost without fail, the various Kurdish organizations (including the PKK, the KDP, and the PUK), when given responsibility, tend to delve into squabbles over the prospect of even greater responsibility. The ability for these organizations to unify seems to be only a temporary quality that quickly dissipates with time and freedom.

Finally, one can simply look at a geopolitical map (even ignorant of history) and conclude that there is hardly area for a successful independent Kurdistan in the Middle East. Iraq will not abandon its Kurdish region because of the area’s rich oil fields. Bad blood exists between the Kurds and Turkey. The same is true of the spoiled relationship between Kurds and any Christian states in the region (such as Armenia). Certainly a sovereign Kurdistan would eventually end up in battle with either or both of those states. There is also little doubt that Shi’a Iran would attempt to conquest Sunni Kurdistan on religious grounds and in search of oil prospects. Location is not on the side of a floundering Kurdistan.

In conclusion, it seems more likely that- for the near future- the closest the Kurds will come to a sovereign nation-state will be their inhabited northern region of the currently conflicted Iraq. Even this area, however, has been newsworthy recently as Turkey has struggled with and responded to the consequences in its own country of an independent Kurdish region in Iraq. I would conclude that, eventually, the Kurdish region in northern Iraq will also be, ultimately, unsuccessful. The area is too rich in resources (oil) that are severely required by a global populace. The probable global battle for oil in the region, along with enemies established by history- should prove strong enough to overshadow Kurdish nationalistic desires. I would conclude that it is much more likely that the region will experience a regional war based on several fronts (Shi’a from the East, Sunni from the South, Turkish from the West, and possibly Christian from the north) violently congregating in the area that is now Iraqi and Turkish “Kurdistan” before we see the establishment of a sovereign Kurdish nation-state.

Works Cited

Kendal, "The Kurds Under the Ottoman Empire."People Without a Country . 1980.

Laizer, Sheri. Martys, Traitors and Patriots (Kurdistan After the Gulf War) . London: Zed Books Ltd, 1996.

McDowall, David. A Modern History of the Kurds. 2nd. London: I.B. Tauris and Co. Ltd, 2000.

"Who Are the Kurds?" Washington Post. 1999. The Washington Post Company. 01 Nov 2007 .


Tonight should be interesting.

I have barricaded myself in my room (figuratively, FYI) to ensure that I complete a "research" paper that should have been initiated months ago. Alas, it is due in two days and the only step in the process of completing the paper that has been met has been the collection of books to use as references. Recognizing that composing a “research” paper is going to leave me wanting, I have decided to go ahead and begin an Educated Soldier post (which, of course, you are currently reading). The idea is that, in moments of pure agony derived from the homework assignment, I will have this medium to blow off some accumulated stress.

I promise: the trip will be entertaining.

Before I really begin either endeavor however, I would like to take a second, digress, and express how “research” papers fail to be the least bit academically stimulating. Ostensibly, if I am in college and taking a class within my major field of study then I should, by all means, be conducting study into something into which I find interest. That part is true enough.

But here is the problem with “research” papers: they are really only a test of the student’s knowledge and proper utilization of the MLA formatting parameters. To ensure that I “do well” (as in, achieve a high grade) on the paper, I am going to choose subject matter that I already know substantially. The assumptions that I am going to conclude from my “research” were surely developed prior to conducting said research. In this particular case, I am going to write about the Kurdish people and their prospects of one day obtaining an autonomous nation-state of their own. The “research” that I will conduct will actually be a practice of finding information in books that I already, more or less, know. I can then use the books as cited references to flesh out a bibliography. However, the personal end-state will, predictably, be a very small – if any – accumulation of knowledge. Instead, I will just have regurgitated facts in order to receive the best possible grade from my professor.

Am I going to challenge myself and attempt to learn something new and risk the possibility that I may present “research” that makes possibly false assumptions and earns me a low grade? Of course not. Moreover, this is due on Wednesday; the time for challenging one’s self is long past.

Critical assessment on a larger scale would surely show that this research paper, and its futility, is sort of a microcosm for the western educational system.

Tangent over.


So this project began several hours ago. I started my research into Kurdistan and the Kurdish people around 4 P.M. It is now 11:45 P.M. This is not to say that I worked throughout the entire time period, though. My roommates returned home around 10 tonight and, having made great progress into my "research", I decided to give into their pressures and take some time off for drinking. It’s been a weird day. I woke up late this morning and took care of the puppy. I then ran about four miles. Afterwards, I dedicated myself to my academic requirements. Then I made time for social pursuits. Now, I am posting here which I have found also to be a valuable task. My roommate left temporarily but will return soon, and then – surely – I will return to enjoying myself socially.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, the reason is nothing more than self-congratulatory in nature. I pride myself on my ability to be well-rounded in all aspects of life (or at least those that I consider important) and tonight was a good example of my ability to juggle various responsibilities. But now that I said that, I pose this question: Who isn’t adherent to those tasks/undertakings/subjects in which they find interest? I genuinely want to assert a personal strength of character by claiming to be able to maintain a “balance.” However, the more I consider the nuances of this claim, the more I realize that everyone tends to find balances amongst the things they enjoy. I am just peculiar because I enjoy a very diverse selection of activities. It seems to me that- if one were to sample most people- the sample would suggest that most people enjoy either physical fitness or mental fitness exclusively. In the same sense, people tend to be social creatures or intellectual creatures; however, not both. I am grateful to have been endowed with equal interests in nearly all aspects of life. Now I can only wonder:
Am I granting my personal character too much credit or is my assessment of typical human psychology on point?

And, now – jumping back to the Kurdistan “research” paper that was previously discussed – I have to reassess the entire discourse that I earlier entered. It seems that my initial assessment of the process of creating an academic “research” paper was misguided. Or, more precisely, it was wrong in this particular case. I have found that during my effort of researching Kurdistan, I have learned a lot. As could be assumed from my argument against the value of “research” papers, this was unexpected.

However, my current assessment tells me that while one of my original premises was incorrect in my original discourse (as stated at the beginning of this post); it wasn’t the one that expressed the worthlessness of MOST “research” papers. The incorrect premise was the one that suggested that I knew anything about Kurdistan; I knew much less than I had supposed. However, I don’t think that this fact exclusively denies the possibility that my premise that “research” papers are typically academically worthless is a false assumption. I still believe that, had I given the paper more time in planning, I could have chosen a topic more familiar that I could have written without gaining any knowledge and still, unfortunately, exceeded all of the professor’s graded standards. While I still believe that “research” papers are both a flaw of the western academic process and also much too overused, I must also admit that I was able to exploit the hole in this (my own) argument tonight.

Well, I hope all of this was interesting to you. I realize that I have been more personal and inflective with my posts here since my return than I had been during Educated Soldier’s most successful period, but this is only because of my busy academic schedule. I expect whole-heartedly to return to a nature of posting that includes commentary on politics, the military, and the on-going situations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Thanks for your time.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My Disappointment

As a university student, I tend to measure time in relation to a college schedule. With that being said, this current semester has to rank favorably in terms of satisfaction with all past periods of my life. That is not to say, however, that the price of enjoyment hasn’t come at the cost of certain sacrifices. One of the most disappointing pastimes to have been sacrificed from my life this past semester has been the upkeep of Educated Soldier.

And what’s worse: one of the most compelling, memorable moments of this semester was a product of this simple little website. You see, some time during the summer Educated Soldier caught the eyes of officials at the Vets for Freedom (VFF) organization. Recognizing the mutual aspirations of this website and VFF, these officials invited me to Washington D.C. in September. The purpose was to lobby members of Congress to encourage them to continue their support of the missions of our troops abroad; missions that I and others genuinely believe are growing more and more successful as time progresses. While being asked to actively participate in real-time democracy was a joy in and of itself, the byproduct of the occasion was the true thriller. Having been informed that VFF was in the nation’s capital, President Bush organized an amazing event for us; breakfast on the South Lawn of the White House.

During the meal, I had the privilege of meeting several dignified, high-level executives. These individuals included the Secretary of State, the Director of National Intelligence, the Vice President, President, and several others. The First Lady was on-hand and we were treated to a tour of the White House. The event was amazing and quite an honor. As a participant in VFF, I followed the meal with the planned lobbying campaign. This was an effort that I deemed successful. I met with local congress members from my home state, Florida, as well as the staffs from members from North Dakota; the state where I was raised. The day culminated with an outdoor Capitol Hill press conference. While the “pink shirts” were there to heckle proud American soldiers (of which I was one), their efforts were quickly negated as several members of Congress- Democrat, Republican, Independent alike – arrived to voice their support for our efforts. Again, this was an absolutely amazing occasion and quite possibly one of the most rewarding events that I have been a part of. I want to thank the Vets for Freedom organization for my invitation and, at the same time, direct you to their own recap of the event (located HERE).

Before I step away from the events associated with the Vets for Freedom event, I want to state, in simple terms, my new-found respect for two courageous members of Congress who made a personal impact on me with their contributions to both the VFF event and the service on behalf of America as a whole: Democratic Party congress members from Washington state Brian Baird and from Georgia, Jim Marshall. I am sure that at some future posting, I will digress about how these two individuals so effectively impacted my experience in D.C. but, for now, I will end by simply stating my admiration for their individual expressions of courage.

Now, cycling back to the topic at hand: My disappointment. Leaving the events in D.C., I had every reason to maintain adherence to routine upkeep of this blog. I was an active member of a national organization making a difference (VFF) and I had networked in ways that I had never done before. If there was ever a time that Educated Soldier could be utilitarian for its author, this moment was it. However, at precisely that exact same time, I became completely negligent in maintaining any sort of scheduled updates here. And, while there are plenty of adequate reasons to justify my absence from Educated Soldier, that absence is, nonetheless, a disappointment to me. With that disappointment in mind, I will make every effort to be more active in this endeavor.

Speaking of excuses, however, I feel that I can make quite the case to justify my negligence: since that event in D.C. I have:

• Began a new semester at school where I am not only a member of our Honors College but also now a double major candidate, adding religious studies to my previous international studies endeavors

• Moved into a new apartment with three of my best friends

• Invested financially and passionately into a new puppy to inhabit said apartment with us

• Been a fervent follower of USF Bulls football

• Been physically training tirelessly for my opportunity to successfully complete the Army’s Special Forces Assessment and Selection as I am now a member of the 3rd BN, 20th Special Forces Group of the Florida National Guard, working hard to become S.F-qualified

• Continued to struggle with the following decision: whether or not to transfer, in the Spring, to American University- which finally accepted my admissions request (and is in the city that I love, and offers an international service program that is one of the best in the U.S.) or to remain at U.S.F. (which really is only enduring as a viable and preferred choice because I absolutely love my circle of friends

So my negligence at Educated Soldier hasn’t been without reason. However, those reasons don’t do much to tame the disappointment that I feel now. The frustration grows when I consider the plenitude of valuable items I would love to discuss via this venue. For example, I watched the most recent G.O.P. debate and Senator Fred Thompson’s participation on Meet the Press. Both left me impressed by the Senator from Tennessee’s performances as well as encouraged much to discuss. But, then again, why discuss that when I can discuss my recent involvement with the National Guard and my attempt to earn the right to participate on an Operational Detachment-Alpha? Or, again, why not discuss the interesting classes that I am currently enrolled: one that includes a professor from Africa hell-bent on ingraining in his students the inherent evil of capitalism, especially free-market capitalism? So, since each of these topics (and surely many more) deserve their own dedicated thoughts, I have decided to elaborate on none of these issues. Instead, I will simply apologize for my lack of dedicated effort here and promise to be more diligent in the future.

But, then again, tonight is the rare night that all my roommates (and most of my fraternity brothers) are off at an event that I chose not to participate, so, with the puppy and AmberBock as my only companions, I may end up returning to Educated Soldier before the night ends.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Combative Philosophy

During my last post, I mentioned that I was considering a return to the military, possibly utilizing Reserve Officers’ Training on campus to facilitate such a future move. As this is, no doubt, a life-altering decision, it is also one that is causing me to do a lot of thinking.

For example, I really love a good war movie. But did I love war movies before I joined the military? Or do I love them now because they play on feelings that I can personally associate? More pointed: why do I yearn to return to the military? Is there something about the action that my being necessitates participation? Or is it because the military is means to a relatively financially-comfortable lifestyle?

While I am not feeling at my most philosophical currently, these are questions that have been tumbling in my mind for the past few days. For that reason, I am going to develop them here as it is on “paper” that I find the best medium for my deepest thoughts. And, via this method, the reader, too, can understand what motivates one to fight.

Additionally, I have questions that I need answered. I need to know if the thoughts that I feel, if the drive that motivates me, are isolated dynamics – all of my own – or common among soldiers. Do people outside of such highly life-threatening professions feel these same tugs at the soul?

Let’s start the analytical process with an example. I have found that I really enjoy the movie, 300. If you are unfamiliar with the film, you can substitute any of your own from this same genre. That is to say, the intended genre is that that categorizes films such as 300, Gladiator, Braveheart, et al. While this will tie into the thought-process at hand, it is worthwhile noting now that all of these movies are amongst my very favorites. But, what is the reaction that one has upon the completion of any of these movies? Is it only satisfaction in the sense that one finds that they have been well entertained for a few hours or is there more? Because, for me, there is most definitely more.

Sure, when the intensity builds and the drama is at its highest during the movie, I get motivated, often to the point of voicing such pleasure audibly. However, I feel so much more. I watch a movie like 300 that, in only the most indirect ways compares to soldiering today, and I feel a very real personal association. I get a stomach-tightening pang that yearns to be part of a Spartan culture. I am getting a similar feeling in simply describing the phenomenon currently. It’s not as if I live in some fantasy-world of a 20-something male, imagining that I am borne into a certain caste or set to do a certain thing, but yet, I walk away from such movie-going experiences and want to do more.

My thoughts get deep when stimulated by these subjects that are hardly intended to be thought-provoking. To the one that relates, they are. If, say, Leonidas dies at the Hot Gates in the movie 300 as he did in reality during the Battle of Thermopylae, I am stuck with a feeling not of sadness over the loss of the heroic character, but a deeper inquisitive feeling: What is one’s life in the long telling of the world’s combined lives? If everyone dies at some point, and surely we all do, what is the difference in the method we die or the lives that we lived? Moreover, what is that life if it is only recorded and spoke of among small groups of close relatives and friends? Surely, in this case, any single life would eventually fade from existence in the expanse of time.

And, at this point, my thought process comes nearly full circle. There is a reason why the name Leonidas echoes throughout time. It is the same reason that people still talk of Patton, Pershing, Stonewall Jackson and so many others. They made their life mean something. And, by doing meaningful things, their lives will forever be recorded throughout the halls of time. Of course, one doesn’t have to choose military endeavors to leave such profound impact, but if one finds himself strong at such a profession and has any enjoyment in pursuing it, than the option becomes very much viable.

Now the mind shifts to a different question: What is it about military life that is enjoyable? And, really, this is the quintessential question presented to a man dealing with such a drastic decision. I mean, if we remove legacy from the question and deal with only the complexities of enjoying the only life that one is provided, than there is no more profound question. So, truly, what do I enjoy about military life?

And here is where my own personal thoughts become muddied. What seems fun from a distance can conjure utterly different emotions when put into personal practice. This is to say that, while I enjoy watching movies at Grouchy Media of aggressive field problems with motivating rock music, I have found that I don’t always find participating in aggressive field problems particularly fun. However, on the same note, for every ounce of pain that I felt rucking with 100 pounds pulling down on my shoulders, I certainly felt satisfaction at levels ten times that weight once the mission was completed and once I considered myself successful.

And it is the action in the war movies that gets everyone going. The dynamic here is exactly the same as the one just described. Very few people (although, I can attest that I personally know *one* person that does) enjoy life or death battle as it is occurring. In my experience in such situations, there is hardly time to distinguish enjoyment from fear from any feeling otherwise. Yet, on numerous occasions, I have returned to a base-camp after such an adrenaline-draining event happy to be in relative safety but, yet, yearning to return to action.

If it is not distinguishable that it is the field-craft of the military that I find particularly enjoyable, than what is it? There is something to be said for the life that one lives as military personnel outside of the actual work required. Financially, I most definitely lived more comfortably while in the service than I do now while in college. Of course, this is to be expected. But the point shouldn’t be taken lightly. If I were to follow through with ROTC until commissioning, I would achieve the rank of 0-1E. This is good pay. Combined with benefits and the funding provided for housing and meals and, ostensibly, I could be living a rather luxurious style. Moreover, I know as much as anyone that the world is open to the single soldier. A pay-stub proving one’s employment by the military is worth 1000 times its weight in gold, especially if the military member is willing to purchase on credit. And with today’s high rate of deployment, it is ever so easy to amass money while stuck in locations where one is unable to waste their financial accumulations. So, certainly, comfortable lifestyle plays a part into the decision-making process.

These are things that I can tell you: I yearn for adventure, I am a work-out obsessive individual, and I fail at standard repetitive tasks. Moreover, the possibility of working "normal" nine to five hours is likely to be met with an utter lack of success. I desire stability; however, I spin towards chaos when such stability presents itself. I am thoroughly enigmatic, in the sense that I am always just a bit off center from the herding crowd. While I am in a fraternity, I am certainly the atypical frat-guy. I keep distance, yet I make good friends. However, as strongly as I bond, I quickly disconnect. I was always popular whether in high school or in platoons. But upon leaving both, I severed all ties. I thirst for independence, and often do well when given it, but – ultimately – find myself being bailed out of given negative situations by my propensity for strong networking.

I sat with a friend, Joe (described in the latter half here), and discussed our future lives many months ago under the Ramadi sun. In both of our cases, it was decided that if we were to do what it seemed we were molded to complete, we would surely be following future lives unlike that of the typical Americans. Joe was the product of adoption and never found solace in his family life. While I have a strong family, I have always found my own solace in independence. It was figured that either or both of us could drop off the face of the Earth and continue enjoyable lives despite total disconnection from all that was familiar. In my assessment, this is an ability rarely found in most Americans. If only such an attribute could be positively tested for and determined and, surely, our nation’s clandestine services would be of great benefit. This is all building to the climatic idea that I am not only destined to be single but that I would also rather be. I desire a life without restriction to any sort of home-base as represented by the customary wife and kids. I absolutely live for my ability to be sporadic. If I choose tomorrow to enlist in the Army to finally attempt and complete Special Forces training (as I continuously contemplate) than I want it be a decision that will only hurt or benefit me solely. I am much too selfish and much too little responsible to have others depending on my stability in life.

Now the challenge remains to funnel all that has been described above into some suitable category. Does all this mean that I am destined to a life of military duty? Is that what I truly yearn? Or does better opportunity await? And, more prominent currently, when do I decide? When is the day that I make the decision that shapes my entire life? Have I made it already? Did I do so when I enlisted in the military with much less thought than I am delving now? These are important questions and ones that present challenging paths to the revelation of answers.

Ultimately, this is the dynamic that most interests me: I am hardly typical by any means. My dedication to physical fitness is probably mirrored by a rather small percentage of the nation’s population. Yet, I combine pure meathead desires with an obsession to write. And, oddly, as I do so tonight, I listen to Arvo Part and, currently, Mendelssohn. A book lies before me, on my desk. It is the biography of Vincent Van Gogh which I am reading ferociously. The reading wasn’t directed; instead, I find myself fascinated with Van Gogh’s method of antagonized thought and how this thinking led to his artistic productions. All this is being completed in a fraternity house where I participate very actively and socially. These factors combine to describe an individual that is more unique than any other I know. Which, in my limited ability to reason successfully, dictates that I shall follow a career path that is also unique. I would want nothing less.

The final, most daunting question remains: Is there something more, however, than what the military offers? I want to participate in the most defining challenges of our time. I am committed to the effort that our country has chosen to participate. Are there other means for me to engage myself so? If so, will they offer the adventure, action, and satisfaction that I desire? Is the military my glass ceiling prohibiting me from more grand aspirations or the height of my desires?