Thursday, May 31, 2007

Praise Be Upon... the V.A.??

Today’s intentions: to keep this brief (we’ll see).

While there are plenty of worthy issues to speak of today, I have something a bit particular to mention. It is a story from a viewpoint that is not typically heard. The positive sentiment towards this particular organization is also growing rarer. While my experience may be the exception, it is well worth noting nonetheless.

With that being said, I want to heap unrestricted praise upon the Veterans’ Administration today.

I have been having some medical problems lately, although – thankfully- they have been of little seriousness. However, as a lowly university student, I am without outside medical insurance. So I rely on the service of the James Haley Veterans’ Medical Hospital across from my University of South Florida campus to treat all my health concerns.

You probably don’t hear this positive sentiment often but their service has been absolutely top notch. In the face of scandalous reports emerging from the Walter Reed Medical Center in the past year, my experience proved to be nothing reminiscent of the horror stories that I have been fed. I have been offered co-pay free medical service for two years after my completion of military service because of my Operation Iraqi Freedom contributions. Despite the cost-free nature of my service, I was always examined thoroughly and professionally and received results and follow-ups promptly. I was assigned a case manager who has been receptive to all my phone calls and office visits without the necessitation of appointment. The staff has given me all the reason in the world to believe in their total competence; surely on par with the university’s more costly medical clinic across the street.

My Veterans’ Administration medical experience has been of the utmost comfort and completed with total ease. For an organization that often takes a public bashing, I sure had a differing experience. Hopefully my praise can navigate through the incessant scrutiny directed towards the V.A. and into public light.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Iraq Developments

First, I added my first links today. They are going to be permanently offered to the left of the main body of text as you can currently see. However, for today, I want to bring special attention to these websites:

The Fred Thompson Blog Network

America for Fred Thompson

Florida for Fred Thompson

I am sure that you can easily deduce what the subject matter is for each of these sites. Please note that I do actually frequent and enjoy these sites. Their association to my blog isn’t only for publicity value (which, of course, is a contributing factor to exchanging links) but to, more importantly, spread their wisdom and entertainment to everyone that follows here. Surely, if you enjoy what is offered at Educated Soldier, you will find these related websites equally enthralling.

Moving on…

A story was related to me a few days ago that absolutely needs to be passed on. I wish I had the entire American populace by the ears for this one, but I will have to hope that my limited audience presses this encouraging news forward.

I recently “spoke” with an old Army buddy via internet messaging. Certain details of his story will be omitted for the sake of operational security. However, I don’t feel that the missing details will curtail the moral of the story.

My buddy’s light infantry battalion (to which I was formally assigned) is back in Iraq. They are stationed at the same exact location as they were during a previous tour (which I participated in). They are now, like they were in the past, living in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.

Let me tell you what I remember about Ramadi: While I was there, there was a rumor that a prominent news source had named it the most dangerous city in the world. Journalists rarely traveled to our location. In fact, there were a couple of Coalition military camps deemed relatively safe within the city but our little piece of earth for the year was not so positively looked upon. We faced death and destruction daily. While we made progress in cleaning up our operational portion of the city, it remained a pretty stark place. One of the main lines of transportation in the city was a haven for violence. This road was so viciously and often rocked that we, as the United States Army, did everything possible to avoid it.

That was 2005.

My Army buddy messaged me to inform me about his current situation in the country. I was surprised to hear that the same unit would be sent to the same location. While it seemed like a logical maneuver because of the unit’s local experience, it seemed to me to be a decision that would surely trouble war-weary soldiers of this unit. But this isn’t the case…

My buddy reports that the city is an absolute testament to the successful completion of American goals within Iraq. No longer do Americans (at least this battalion that I have knowledge) need to patrol endlessly, as the city is policing itself. No longer are former associates being killed and injured. This year’s tour has a different dilemma presented for soldiers: boredom.

And that dangerous road mentioned above? My buddy reports that it is accessible and safe for all.

What an encouraging story. What interests me is that this story is entering the mainstream media. Reporters have spoken of local militias and organizations protecting their own civil interests in Anbar Province. However, the stories are tough to come by. They have not been ignored but they also have not been showcased as they should. What can’t success sell newspapers…Or drive hits to a website?

Let’s hope that success in Ramadi is an example of positive developments to come and not a singular exception.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

More on Mr. Thompson

Today: Fred Thompson…

Two anecdotes (neither too terribly important) but the first even less noteworthy then the second. As this is a weekend home from campus, I caught a rare glimpse of Law and Order with my parents today. The episode was taped, so I can’t date it. I can say this, however: it originally aired within the last month or so.

Here’s the point, and excuse me if I don’t recite character names as I am not a fan of the show (or fictional television, for that matter):

The conclusion of the show occurred in Fred Thompson’s office. Apparently, his character is the district attorney. He offers one of his prosecutors the possibility of being his future predecessor with this comment:

“Some day this chair may be empty.”

(Which, of course, it will be when he is too busy campaigning to continue acting in that role.) And, in a nod to real-life current events, his prosecutor responds:

“Oh no… I’m no politician.”

Of course, Fred Thompson chuckles and replies…

“No politician? That’s what everyone says.”

Or something like that; I didn’t transcribe the episode. But as much as it can be, I really think that this short piece of dialogue was reflective of Mr. Thompson’s political desires. Or maybe it was just a satirical comment by a fictional character concerning real-world events. I just hope it’s the former. I absolutely want to see Mr. Thompson run- which brings me to my second point.

Last night, I was flipping through the book, “The Reagan Diaries.” While I lived through Ronald Reagan’s presidency, my young age limits my memory of it. However, as a budding Republican weaving life through political science, government and international studies courses, I see much of his work in retrospect. And I truly look back fondly on his presidency.

While I am a huge supporter of our current President, he lacks something that Mr. Reagan never seemed to be without: a genuine smile. It sounds lame and a rather simplistic method of looking back on a Presidency, but Reagan’s seemingly constant upbeat attitude had to be reflective of the nature that he used to tackle the challenges that faced him. Reading his own words in “Diaries” only restated my assumption that Reagan was genuinely a good guy with our best interests in mind.

So I am flipping through “The Reagan Diaries” and fondly reflecting back on the Reagan administration when I realize that Fred Thompson could be that same person. I can see why, in retrospect, Ronald Reagan holds all of our respect. His true conservatism saved the world not only from the Red Scare but from a Kayne-inspired, social market epidemic that was sweeping quietly across the globe. His guidance, based on his optimism, truly revitalized the free world. I see that same positive attitude in Fred Thompson. Reagan and Thompson have more then similar pre-political thespian careers in common; they have similar spirit and beliefs.

I look to past leaders fondly. However, on the same note, I look at the possibility of Thompson as a future leader excitedly.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Abortion Issue...

Today I want to discuss a broad topic. I guess you could almost consider this a mini-manifesto or a developing platform of sorts. The idea for such a text was spawned by a conversation that I had with a more Liberal-leaning buddy of mine over the subject of abortion. I, of course, am staunchly Pro-Life.

Allow me to explain.

War and its illustrations of massive loss have left me numb towards the feeling of empathy over the deaths of people that I do not know. So, when it comes to a fetus being aborted, on a certain level, I really don’t care. This, for me, is not an issue of religion or ethics.

To me, it is a question of morals.

More specifically, abortion is just another of those social vulnerabilities that lead to American moral decay. I am against any program whose social welfare goals allow immature people to make incessant irresponsible decisions. Do I see times when abortion is inevitable? Of course; rape is an example of such a situation. However, easily accessible abortions inevitably cause people to make decisions that lead to abortions. I know the subject is more complex then the following syllogism, however- at its crux- it all boils down to this: less accessible abortion procedures equal less abortion opportunities. I truly believe that.

I am a Republican and I am a conservative. I am not on the “Religious Right.” I make mistakes and I live as a young man in a progressive world. However, even I can see certain moral fibers unraveling in this country. It is not television and rap music that is causing this disturbing dynamic. Instead, I believe it is the over-reliance that irresponsible citizens have on the social welfare state. I feel that less government intervention in most issues means that more people have to live up to their decisions: “Daddy” (government intervention) shouldn’t be the crutch to always lean on. If one is not willing to invest preliminary time into developing a wise decision, what proof is there that one would be willing to invest the required time post-decision living with their actions?

This is just something that I have been mulling over; just to give you an idea where your author is coming from. More discussion of current events coming soon…

Monday, May 21, 2007

Continuing on Islam and New Discussion of Illegal Immgration

I had a discussion concerning the topic of the historical relation of Islam and violence (as written about in yesterday’s blog, available HERE) with a scholarly friend of mine. This friend, unlike the more military orientated buddy that initiated this entire topic, had a different point of view. He is Cornell educated and a current graduate student here at my university. His academic endeavor is Religious Studies and he is a peer whose knowledge I respect highly. He is also Muslim. More importantly, he is absolutely open-minded and was willing to discuss the topic broadly with me. For privacy’s sake, I didn’t “interview” my friend. However, he brought aspects to my attention that I felt needed to be reproduced here.

First of all, he has a much deeper working knowledge of Qur’anic scripture then I do. I admitted yesterday that I was weak in this particular topic. On the other hand, I find myself to have an able handle on the history of the development of the religion. He pointed out that it is terribly easy to find flaw in the Qur’an because of the style that was used to write it.

Here is what is meant. Unlike the Old Testament or books of most other faiths, the Qur’an is not written as a narrative. No story is really being told. Instead, a recitation of God's word is occurring. Furthermore, the recitation is not occurring at once, but over time. When the words of Mohammad were converted from the oral teachings to the written ones, they were documented not in chronological order, but in order of length.

What does this mean? It seems to indicate that certain teachings made apparent to Mohammad at one point in time may not have applied later during the prophet’s life. So the new teachings, in many ways, overrule old ones. This is to say that one may find verses that sound inherently violent only to find them contradicted at a different point in the scripture. The interpretation of which of these verses are the ones to be followed, as explained by my friend, is where the division occurs between those that find the Qur’an to be condoning violence and those that take heart in its more modest teachings.

It is also important to note the history as pertains to Mohammad while receiving his teachings from Allah through the Angel Gabriel. These teachings occurred during periods in the prophet’s life where he was at different points; either gathering a religious following or at other times, trying to work as, basically, a statesman in Medina. Prophecies that were appropriate for certain times during the religion’s development were not so congruent to other periods. As such, they were, for lack of a better word, amended. While some can find this to be an example of hypocrisy, others find it to be a needed fluidity.

My friend also explained many of the reasons that people of his Muslim faith depend on to reaffirm their faith. An example of one of these reasons is the beauty of the Arabic language which was only developed as it was originally recorded in the Quar’an with the birth of the document. Exciting and interesting stuff, however, not necessarily related to the discussion at hand. Worth pointing out; however, I rather stick to the discussion of why people would or would not consider this a religion of peace. That issue is more directly related to the on-going situation in Iraq.

I absolutely enjoy these on-going discussions. I hope that you do as well. I also hope that you tackle these “debates,” as I am attempting to do, with an open mind.

My education continues… Thanks.

A quick note on a different subject.

I foresee writing much more thoroughly on this topic but I want to point out briefly that I am 100% against the newly presented immigration bill. I am a huge supporter of our President. However, I realize that he does make mistakes. His support of this bill, as I understand it, is one of those mistakes. I, like many others, see this as little more then amnesty for immigrants residing in our country illegally. I also see it as a slap in the face for those that are working hard to enter our country legally.

The illegal immigration problem is serious. To me, it is an issue of essential national security. However, the answer doesn’t seem to be one warranting further legislation but, rather, enforcement of current laws. While this issue is developing, I highly doubt my positive assessment of it will follow suit…

Sunday, May 20, 2007

On Gingrich and On Islam..

Early news first.

I woke up early enough to watch an entire episode of Meet the Press this morning. Newt Gingrich was one of the featured guests (along with Senator Dodd) for the first half of an hour and absolutely shined. I am not going to assess his discussion point by point (not today, at least) but his overall resolution was absolutely decisive. He sounded, to me, clear cut and stoic on every issue. I hesitate on his candidacy because of past ethics scandals in which he was found guilty, but his platform (if today’s discussion on Meet the Press represented a platform indeed) sounds solid.

Newt Gingrich’s platform sounds solid? What I am saying? We knew that. Now, we just have to figure out when the real heavyweights are going to announce their official presidential candidacy. Fred Thompson, Mr. Gingrich… the American Right is anxiously waiting on you!!

To this end, Gingrich did make news on Meet the Press. He announced that he will decide on whether to officially run for the land’s highest office following this year’s September 29th American Solutions workshop. Furthermore, he sounded almost giddy at the foresight of that coming day. The candidacy of Mr. Gingrich is definitely developing

Now, on to a subject that has been brewing in my head lately.

I am only going to touch on the following subject briefly because its controversial nature requires more of an educated perspective than I can currently offer. However, these thoughts have been developing recently for dual reasons. First, a recent discussion with another university student, military buddy of mine delved into the topic. And, secondly, I am taking a class (Comparative Religions: Judaism and Islam) that, in some ways, touches on the subject. I mention the following topic here because this is a blog about my views on political issues, especially those that pertain to Iraq. This pertains to Iraq.

This above-mentioned buddy and I had a conversation about whether Islam is a truly a religion of peace as seems to be the current consensus. I offered my take at the time: Islamist extremists are akin to KKK extremists of Christianity. My buddy disagreed. He countered that Islamic belief is rooted in violent history and that those that deny this history are either ignorant or the ones on the fringe themselves.

Wow. This was certainly a dangerous argument to consider.

However, for a class assignment, I had to read about the history of Islam. I did so with an open mind. Upon reading, though, I can almost see my buddy’s point. There sure was a lot of violence during the religion’s creation period. And this is not to say that other religions didn’t experience violence during their beginning eras, but not to the extent that I am reading about now. Mohammad wasn’t just a prophet but a warlord. He continued the Arabian tradition of raiding parties as sport. And certain translation of Qur'anic scripture definitely leads one to believe that violence has at least some place in the Islamic consciousness.

Now, I don’t want this to read like an Islamic hate text. First of all, this is being totally subjective. I, myself, am without religious faith and instead believe in scientific theories concerning death and development of life both. This is probably why I didn’t relate to the death of Jerry Falwell on any notable level. I am simply trying to make an assessment towards an issue that may be the most pertinent of our times. And I am not against a differencing of opinion. In fact, my opinion is yet to be formed, it is only developing. I wrote my Religion professor about this very fact that I write about here to find his subjective, non-biased view and I will be happy to report as he does. I am also open to comments here.

All I want is education and a wholly true worldview. I am not afraid to tackle the difficult issues in these pursuits.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Senator Makes Me Sick and Other Assorted Items...

Several items of note today.

First, I must mention the passing of the Reverend Jerry Falwell. While his death has been unfortunate, I am not going to dwell on the subject simply because I know relatively little about the fellow. Of course, I understand his contribution to the Right, and especially in regards to the pushing for the election of President Reagan, and I commend him for that. However, I never really identified with the more severely evangelical set of those who have now been termed “neo-conservatives.” So, with all that having been said, I am sorry for his loss, greatly appreciate his life of contribution, but ultimately his death is not an event that really alters my political perspective- so to say.

However, what has been noteworthy to me is the following. I subscribe to both the Republican and Democrat Parties’ email listservs. Today, I received my typical Democratic propaganda from a gentleman apparently named Michael Lawley. Well, it seems Mr. Lawley would like me to join Senator John Edwards push to gather 100,000 names to sign a petition pushing for Congress to continue to hinge war-funding bills on the re-deployment (withdrawal) of troops from Iraq. I think I immediately felt nauseous upon recognizing this email’s agenda.

Allow me to quote from the email: Congress took the right first step by passing their last funding bill setting a timetable for withdrawing our troops from Iraq. But following Bush's veto, the resolve in Washington has started to fade.”

This quote proves to me that I was unfortunately wrong. I was under the impression that those in Congress were coming to their senses following the President’s veto. Instead, apparently, it seems only that their resolve has dropped.

I say time and time again that it is terrible military strategy to forecast withdrawals based on certain time limits or benchmarks. What’s worse is to forecast these withdrawals and then attempt to make certain that they will become realized by holding the troops’ funds ransom. It truly boggles my mind that there are certain Congress members who genuinely feel that these sort of bully-like tactics are moral. To me, it’s an outrage. You know, the more I reflect on this email and Senator Edwards’ agenda, the more I feel that we should retaliate and partition to have him exiled or worse. The anger I have for the way the Democrats are handling this war-spending bill is raging and growing daily.

Wake up, people! There are soldiers out there that need this funding figured out. There’s a mission that needs to be completed. This is ridiculous…

Moving on…

Last night, I had a lively discussion with a friend of mine concerning the always budding situation with Iran. This friend of mine has political knowledge in abundance, attends school and is a member of the military. As one could assume, this friend and I agree on a lot.

However, I did not agree with his assessment that it is almost getting to be time for us (Americans) to be more militarily aggressive towards Iran. He suggested a couple of bombing sorties eliminating Iran’s nuclear sites. I think this is an awful idea because of the inevitable repercussions that it would invoke.

Here’s the dilemma. And, allow me to preface this by saying that Iran as a single element does not frighten me, however, it’s global tie (especially within the Middle East region) and outreaching arms do cause me plenty of concern. I foresee any American attack on Iran, no matter how targeted and small scale, to be destabilizing to the region in nearly World War 3-starting ways. Here’s what I see happening should we become aggressive in this sort of way towards Iran:

We attack. In retaliation, Hezbollah pushes from Lebanon and begins a battle with Israel that far exceeds what we saw last summer. This time, Hezbollah comes to the battle with a clear plan: eliminate Israel. The entire U.N. mandated force in the region is caught in the midst of the battle as they are, more or less, expected to be neutral. I can’t tell you what becomes of them or what would be the U.N. reaction, however I can foresee many Islamic countries supporting the Hezbollah fighters with insurgent-type tactics (to say these supporters would never publicly acknowledge their own effort in the cause). This Israel-Hezbollah war would be hot and heavy. America would be stuck having to make some contribution. Of course, any contribution on the side of Israel Meanwhile, Iraq and Iran, both figuratively and literally smolder… I think you can see where I am going with this; chaos ensues. immediately has us identified as supporters of the Jews in a war on all things Islam.

It would be interesting to hear others’ takes on the Iranian situation. Thanks. And that’s it for today.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Quick Update (School Starts)

Just a quick update today (for now, at least). And I do mean quick this time; I am off and running to the Summer’s first class.

The only topic to note, so far, is that I had my Iraq solution as proposed on this site a couple of days (linked HERE, scroll to the second post on page) examined by some soldierly type friends of mine. They were quick to point out that, while I left an independent Kurdish state as an afterthought, the country of Turkey might have some (MUCH) opposition to that. I have to bone up on my Kurdish knowledge.

Until then, I am off to class. May up date later in the day.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mothers' Day Musings

Just a quick post today – it is Mothers’ Day and all…

I want to touch briefly on three subjects that have been brought to my attention since yesterday.

First, I caught the very end of this morning’s edition of Meet the Press (MTP). MTP had Senator John McCain in the studio for the full hour. And I hate to say it, but he is losing my support. Let me be the first to say that I have harked nothing but positive sentiment for the man since I have first become interested in politics. But now he is just scaring me. Host Russert, in the small portion of the show that I caught, drilled the Senator on his flip-flopping on the issue of Ethanol. And, to my great dismay, Senator McCain played politics.

I will always be an ally of Senator McCain based on the military experience that he brings to the table. Furthermore, I felt that he could represent conservative ideals while still reaching across party divisions. Now I am starting to see that his ability to reach across the aisle may only reflect his desire to play politics to better his own political prospects. I guess that’s exactly what all candidates must do. However, I thought Senator McCain was different. And I definitely never expected him to flip-flop on an issue. This is my man of integrity and honor. Now he seems to be just another politician.

It’s unfortunate but McCain’s noble background simply disallows him the option of just being another politician. His followers (or I, at least) love him for not being just that. Now that he is looking more and more similar to his opponents in that regard, he is losing the luster that was gleaned from his background of heroics.

With Giuliani’s anti-gun stance, he is simply out of the running for my vote. And I simply can’t trust any politician from Massachusetts (see Romney), so it really looks like I am going to have to continue on my path to educate myself towards Fred Thompson’s platform and really begin to hope that he runs.

To my second issue… Last night, I watched a Special Investigative Unit report from CNN called “Month of Mayhem,” focusing on one reporter’s month-long stay in Iraq. I am trying to gather my thoughts as to what I thought about this special. First, I want to repeat the host’s sentiments that the deaths occurring in Iraq are occurring to people. These are not simply numbers. He was saying that in reference to the Iraqi deaths. While this is true, I also want to remind everyone the same about our troops. Troop activity, and unfortunately their deaths, should be story number one on every major news source whenever something should develop. Let Paris Hilton’s escapades slip to the back page. American activity in Iraq should be headline news until otherwise noted (i.e. we leave or things stabilize). While I hate anti-war sentiment from certain groups, I hate worse the option that everyday Americans may simply lose interest in the war. When the common citizen loses support is when the Democrat-controlled Congress will be able to push their agendas over our heads. We can not allow that. Stay focused, people. These are your children and your brothers fighting on your behalf over there.

And, finally, I have to link to another blog that I just checked out for the first time last night.

While I have not been able to watch all of their footage yet, I have to commend these Iraqi men on, at least, having nerve. I can tell you first hand that carrying a camera in Iraq (especially around American troops) can have dire consequences. I support their quest to get everyday life in the country out for others to see. Some of these educated young fellows even express- GET READY FOR IT- support for American presence.

However, I have to mention all this with a disclaimer. There is a reason that carrying a camera around American troops is dangerous. It’s because the one carrying the camera can be dangerous to Americans. Troops simply do not have the time to consider whether an average citizen is filming for documentary reasons or for much more damaging surveillance reasons. I enjoy that these Iraqis are telling their story. But I truly implore them to pull their cameras from taping troops. You are only adding another angle to a crazy dynamic that every troop on the ground needs to consider.

Get your word out, Gentlemen. Tell your story. But do so tactfully. Filming American troops isn’t a game. And now that this website is getting so much attention, there are many option for these Iraqi men to utilize to tape Americans if they so choose. I encourage them to use their outside contacts to get a hold of American military Public Affairs officers. The soldiers aren’t afraid to be put on tape because they know their actions are noble. They simply can’t trust every average Iraqi “Joe” to tape them.

My fear is that our troops will one day be put in an awkward situation because of these men and their cameras. One of these guys will get arrested or worse. And then, of course, American troops will be looked upon negatively once again. If such an unfortunate circumstance should occur, please remember my words today and by sympathetic to why troops have to react to such voyeurs. It’s a matter of security.

Thanks – and so much for being a short post.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Presidential Speech

I watched intently a couple of days ago while President Bush spoke to, presumably, his press corps after meeting with top leaders of this nation’s Defense Department. Watching the speech in its entirety, I was initially moved to express to myself that this was one of his more decisive speeches in a while. Of course, initially, I had no one to discuss this with but myself. And, initially, I didn’t have the transcript of the speech in front of me. Now, I have both the transcript and this fancy little blog.

So let us dissect and discuss.

I’d rather not look at the speech chronologically, but discuss points as I remember them in my head. The ones most resounding, naturally, will come up first.

President Bush: The two questions you asked, one was about General Petraeus's report to -- around September about what's taking place in Baghdad. My attitude toward Congress is, why don't you wait and see what he says? Fund the troops, and let him come back and report to the American people.

In many different methods, the President touched on this same point repeatedly during his speech. And, as a former soldier, I couldn’t help but let out a fist-pump, “Way to Go, Mister President!”

As the President stated somewhere else in his speech, he genuinely saw that past strategy in Iraq was flawed. He approached Congress with a new strategy and, after certain bickering, it was implemented. And that’s it – it’s being implemented. Call me “na├»ve” but if the President truly believes that this new troop surge is going to work, then please give it an opportunity to work. Funding bills that don’t adequately and quickly supply troops on the ground throughout this new strategy will certainly hinder its effectiveness. But if we are all truly in this together, Republican and Democrat both, then we should all have a desired end result: victory, in whatever terms we dictate victory to be. To shortchange victory from occurring would be little more then political meandering and, for lack of a more descriptive phrase, a damn shame.

My fear is that the success of this troop surge may prove anti-beneficial to certain political figures, especially those on the Left. While I know enough to realize that the funding bill currently being debated doesn’t directly translate to a loss or gain of supplies on the ground immediately, I do recognize that continued partisan argument on such a bill could lower the morale of those, on the ground, implementing this new strategy. Again, give it a chance. And, more importantly, don’t allow political agendas to surpass what, again, should be everyone’s utmost agenda point: victory!

President Bush: And what happens with increased presence, there's increased confidence, and with increased confidence becomes increased information...

While this is, indeed, logically true, it brings up something that’s always on my mind concerning the strategy being deployed in this war. While I hope that this new strategy (the troop swell) does prove effective, I have lessons learned from my own experiences that lead me to believe that the above statement is only a half truth.

Increased forces only amount to a relatively small amount of increased intelligence. However, increased unconventional forces, such as our Army’s Special Forces really bring about immediate results in intelligence gathering. Our conventional military is only so well equipped for this sort of battle. If we utilized our Special Operation Forces (and, again, in particular the Army’s Special Forces who are trained ideally for this situation), we would see net intelligence gained multiplied almost innumerably. While I am not totally privy to the operational stance of this new strategy, I sincerely hope it includes a swell of these better-equipped warriors. If not, then I am still for any new method that may work… I just think that my particular method would have a much better chance of being successful.

President Bush: One message I have heard from people from both parties is that the idea of benchmarks makes sense.

Of course, benchmarks make sense. I have the feeling that the President is only alluding to the benchmarks in much the same way I see them: while they are beneficial towards developing strategy, they are not paramount to developing a troop funding bill.

You simply can not say that if Goal XYZ is not met by a certain date that we must remove a certain amount of troops. That is little more then idiotic military strategy. Instead, you establish benchmarks as a method of measuring success. When a benchmark is reached or a deadline is met without the benchmark being reached, then you re-assess and attempt a new method of gaining the same end result. While foresight is important, you simply can’t develop plans until seeing what ground situations dictate. That is to say that you can’t have premeditated strategy that is dictated by whether certain successes are met. These benchmarks are a barometer, but not “end-all-be-all” type of steps. And they certainly aren’t measurements that can be used to prematurely develop dates for troop withdrawal.

While there is much more to this speech that I would like to look at, all good things must come to an end. Life’s other calls beckon me, so I will be back to post again as soon as possible and as soon as developments or interest warrant additional posting.

Introduction to Iraq

The following is an abridged version of what I feel is going on currently in Iraq, what has led to the current situation – focusing particularly on issues that continue to influence certain in-country parties- and what to do to most effectively walk away from the situation with something resembling a more globally-beneficial Iraq then what we started with prior to the year 2002.

All of this is being written in one sitting and is my own original work. As such, it is not being professionally written, other then to be as grammatically proper as possible, and will include no citations because all ideas, opinions, and views are being developed originally. Also, I have no worldly influence for writing this. I have no scholastic or monetary gains in mind. Rather, I am- more or less- just bored and interested in the topic.

The only authority that I have to write on this topic with any sort of knowledge-base is four years military experience, of which most was spent on the ground, in Iraq, with light infantry battalions. Other then that, I am just a lowly undergraduate student, studying Middle East politics and history while attempting to obtain a B.A. in International Studies with a Minor in Religion. Could I be totally off-base in my assessment? It’s probable, but I beg only that you hear me out. Maybe something I say could be beneficial in some form, if for no other reason then to start interesting dialogue.

And, as a disclaimer, I am a Republican and a huge supporter of our current President, despite his flaws (like, for example, not being truly CONSERVATIVE). I also support all participation in Iraq and have been supportive since day one. I participated. I shed blood, tears, plenty of sweat, lost friends and killed bad people. While I will attempt to be unbiased, I feel obligated to let my prejudice be known. Now….

First of all, I hate to shortchange thousands of years of history by condensing all of it into a few paragraphs, but I am constrained by limitations that are guided by how long my interest will stand for this writing. Prior to the beginning of this latest Iraq war, I have had concerns with the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular. The biggest dilemma that faces the region is not religiously motivated but rather geo-politically (“geo-politics” to be a major theme throughout this writing). Certain ethnic divisiveness has contributed, throughout history, into the development of the Middle East. One divide stands out particularly; the Arab and the Persian, which given Iraq’s location should immediately stand out as a precursor to the current predicament.

However, let’s just say, hypothetically, that the Middle East was developing in a bloody but natural manner throughout history. I feel that this “natural” development came to a crashing end following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Suddenly, around that point in history, you have an entire region to be split between different Western imperialistic influences. The French had their mandate, the British theirs, and, of course, the United States had its own influence. The way my history looks back is thusly: countries in the Middle East were formed and shaped based on these foreign ownerships and not on what was most obviously correct for the region. And the creation of these countries, with boundaries that many times joined people of totally separate ethnic and religious ties, has been the single most devastating system of events to occur in the region. The creation of these countries in such a haphazard manner, to me, has been the most extreme cause of strife. And now we have an ample opportunity to correct at least one of these country’s problems.

So, let’s go from there. We have countries that exist that, if not for Western influence, really should not. But, remember, we are focusing on Iraq. Here is a country that suffers from all the maladies mentioned above. Not only do its borders contain large populations of three religiously divided groups, but it also sits directly on the Persian and Arabian divide. On one side, you have Persian Iran. On the other, you have Arab Saudi Arabia. What could good be expected of such an unfortunately geographically-placed nation?

Now with these two influences leaning heavily on each side of the country of Iraq, you have a further agitator. His name was Sadaam Hussein. But let’s remember; Sadaam was a Baathist. Scholarly types seem to forget what the Baathist party stood for (and what it still currently stands for in other nations) and that is NOT religious superiority. That is far from the truth. The Baathist platform, in a nutshell, contains a goal of spreading Pan-Arabism regardless of faith. So, suggesting that Saddam had intentions of staying true to his party’s most worthy intention, you can see how this would be particularly disheartening for its neighbor to the east, Iran.

Trying to unite an Arab nation would explain exactly why Sadaam had goals of crushing his Kurdish residents in the northern regions of his country. Adding intensity to all the disputes going on in Iraq was the Islamic Revolution that occurred in Iran in the late ‘70s. Now Iran became a pro-Shia Muslim country. Hussein, on the other hand, was a devout Sunni. Iran definitively becomes Iraq’s enemy number one, because they not only represent Persia but an opposing faction of Islam.

What does all this mean? Iraq was a kettle with the fires of hell burning underneath of it, just ready to boil over. American intervention in 2003 may have agitated the kettle, but it was already spilling. What American intervention did do, however, was give any hope to the situation. If the spark that would have ignited the country had come via any of the country’s three ethnically different groups, we would have a much worse situation now. Even scarier would have been an Iran-initiated conflict that would not only have pitted Shia versus Sunni but Persian versus Arab. With Western influence, at least now there is hope of some stability that these other options simply did not suggest.

So what is going on now? This is where geo-politics comes in. The current situation in Iraq does not hinge on religion. I repeat: Iraqis, as a general overview, are not fighting over religious differences. This is not to say that the guys on the streets might not be motivated by religion, but that is because they are “low men on the totem pole.” Religion is propaganda being used by leaders with much more deeply rooted agendas.

And those agendas revolve around geo-politics. In a perfect world, the Kurds to the north would have their own autonomous region. As would the Sunnis to the west, separated from Persia by a Shia nation in the south. Perfect, right?

Not so much and here is why. The geography of these hypothetical nations precludes them from developing. Sure, the Sunnis want independence but not in the deserted western regions of Iraq. There are hardly resources there to be economically dependent on and, worse, no connection to water to transport anything they do have to offer. So their recourse seems to be to smash the Shia to the south. In my hypothesis, the Kurds and the Sunnis could co-exist, given the Sunni nation has access to the Gulf in the south. The only method for the Sunnis to get this access seems to be via destroying the southern Shia nation.

And this, in my assessment, is why we currently have a mess. Precluding the relatively peaceful northern Kurdish region in the north, a pan-Arab nation of Sunnis and Shias for all of these reasons simply will not work. There is entirely too much influence from Shia Iran to allow the Sunni nation to survive and geo-politics limit the Sunnis from desiring such to work anyway. Uniting the two simply isn’t an answer because one faction will never settle on a straight up “50/50” government, which democracy would never create anyway. So where’s the answer?

My solution is not well thought-out, a bit abstract, and more of just a development of early thought. But why not attempt a two nation system? The Kurds can have their northern region since they seem content with just that. That would constitute the first nation. A federation can occur for the remaining Sunni and Shia regions; a federation of two states. The western Sunni region would extend from its current figurative area with a small arm cutting down the eastern side (opposite Iran) of the Shia nation, giving just enough room to create some sort of access to the Basrah port area. In exchange, the Shias can have further access to the north. Oil revenue, which would be generated most predominately by the Shia south, would be distributed throughout the two-state federation. And, you know what? As hard as it is to swallow, allow the country to adopt whatever sort of government they choose. Democracy simply will not work when population numbers dictate that one faction will out-seat another. So allow them to choose a different form of government. Let the American mission in Iraq to become the spread of peace and unity in the region and less the spread of democracy. Hard for us military-types to swallow, but maybe something that needs to be realized.

Of course, any idea like this is a pipedream as it would take renewed support from the globe’s militaries to stand in support of the new federation until they can support themselves. There are entirely too many outside threats to expect this fledgling new federation to exist without early outside support.

And, if all this fails, my only other foreseeable option is much more difficult to accept. Let Iran absorb the Shia south, satisfy them and bring about Middle East stability through appeasement. But this opens a whole new can of worms.

I genuinely feel that if my two state federation idea were more thoughtfully developed by those with much more education and experience then my own, it could be a viable plan. It would take time, but any plan would. Furthermore, it would promote stability. And stability in the Middle East should be our (American) utmost desire even greater then the spread of democracy.