Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Grand Return

Having failed to update Educated Soldier in months, I have full intention to return today with a huge splash. That being said, this edition will be divided into three parts.

The initial section will be of most interest to readers that just casually stumble across this blog. I will be tackling what should be a pertinent issue throughout the rest of the summer; my interaction with an impressive, but insufferably liberal professor.

The second section will be brief. I simply want to comment on two websites that I feel require compliment. These are the sites that motivate me to write. These are the sites that I read daily and influence the ideas that eventually find their way to Educated Soldier (although, apparently, at sometimes sporadic intervals).

And, finally, I would like to conclude with a personal interlude. I have had an eventful summer – and, yet, the season is still just blooming. I would like to share my experiences and, more important to me personally, allow myself to utilize this medium for my favorite purpose: the expression of some inner feelings and concerns.

All three of these topics are open to your comment and criticism. Feel free to contact the Educated Soldier via email or by the comment form at the conclusion of the blog. As we begin, I want to take a momentary second to THANK YOU for reading.


Two afternoons ago, I sat in class consumed by the anticipation of writing this blog. My pattern of daydreaming, admittedly, wondered between anger (as my personal convictions were being trampled upon) and natural boyish tendencies (as I glanced at the cute girl sitting in front of me). The former issue is of more importance currently.

While considering what I was going to write pertaining to this issue, I seriously considered renaming Educated Soldier to exactly the heading of this section, “My Liberal Professor”. I foresee writing on this issue, about this professor, probably twice a week because each class period we share promises to add to what I see as his list of offenses.

Before I begin opining, however, I would like to make certain things clear so as to not lose interest amongst those that may perceive me as some youthful Right-Wing nut. While I certainly have my political tendencies, I pride myself on at least considering opposing arguments. As with many people whom have had significant experiences (i.e.: combat) forge their political ideologies, after considering such arguments, I tend to fall back to my original beliefs. But I am hardly a heathen. I really am a stellar student and pride myself on my academic success. I enjoy political dialogue and I honestly try my very best to maintain an open mind.

However, on occasion, one must call a spade, a spade.

This happens to be one of these occasions. The professor with whom I am now having weekly encounters will, for the time being, remain nameless. Those associated with the International Studies program at the University of South Florida may be able to deduce the subject of my discourse. So be it. My reason for maintaining ambiguity on his behalf is multi-purpose. First of all, I am under the impression that he is a swell guy. Seriously. Every indication that I have seen in class has caused me to draw the conclusion that, political radicalism aside, I could really look up to this professor. He is obviously extremely knowledgeable, witty, lectures with the intent to teach (as opposed to having the intent to only read from slides and earn pay), extensively experienced, worldly, and approachable. Professors I have admired in the past have shared these exact traits.

My intent is not to smear this professor. My intent is disagree with him in a forum where I feel safe doing so. One must understand that the stakes are high for me. I am approaching my Senior year. I am a Dean’s List student, in the Honors program, and maintain a 3.85 GPA. From here on out, the difference between Georgetown Law and George Mason Law is a “B” grade. For that reason, I choose not to make my stand in class or on tests. I currently value my future career options and income prospects more than my drive to civically influence a class of forty and a professor whose views I could hardly alter anyway. And, moreover, I have no right to wage a smear campaign. This professor had his Ph.D. conferred upon him by Yale and is a Fulbright scholar. I have little right, in respect to his accomplishments, to do little more than considerately disagree.

But disagree, I do.

The class in question concerns modern international conflict. The idea is that we will study post-cold war conflict, on a case by case method, in order to find patterns relative to all modern conflict. That’s the idea, at least. Yet, for some reason, each class meeting – while focusing on different conflicts – will have time dedicated to the study of the Iraq War. And, this will not be an open-minded look at the Iraq War. Instead, this will be a study from the perspective that this war was wrongly waged. Worse, the professor has made it clear that we will pay no mind to current successes but only focus on the mistakes the U.S. made entering the conflict so as to “learn from those mistakes.” It hardly matters if those “mistakes” may be, perhaps, paying dividends currently.

But, please, do not take my word for it. Consider this. There is but one required text for this class: Charles H. Ferguson’s “No End in Sight: Iraq’s Descent into Chaos”. I am doubtful that the class will be listening to any of General Petraeus’ congressional testimony to balance perspective.

Speaking of which: other things that will go unmentioned in this class: that the Iraqi government has made satisfactory progress on 15 of 18 mandated benchmarks or that Operation Lion’s Roar has effectively ridded Iraq of Al Qaeda. In fact, despite those two stories being FACT, they are hardly easy to research. Consider this: a Google search for “Operation Lion’s Roar” (which, should be the story of the day, week, month, and – perhaps – Iraq War) only returns these meager results: LINK.

I am open to my professor personally believing entering the Iraq War to be a mistake. However, to profess to students that this is fact, which he claims, is simply wrong. Perhaps the peers in which I associate (many being military related or at least Right-Wing affiliated) have led me astray, but I was under the assumption that, at the very least, the debate was still on-going. While that may be the case across mainstream America, the discourse is closed in the halls of academia. Most professors, including this one, will tell you in an empirical sort of way that the Iraq War was a mistake.

And I do have a problem with that.

The offenses grow larger. I imagine that each class period will bring additional points of contention to the surface. During the last class, I particularly questioned my professor’s stance on the Sami Al Arian situation. In a nutshell, Dr. Al Arian was a professor here at the University of South Florida whom also did extensive work on behalf of Palestinian movements. He was an influential member of an organization called WISE, which promoted Islamic ideals. None of these details were, in and of themselves, bad. However, when Al Arian became allegedly associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, he fell under suspicion of the United States Government. Dr. Al Arian currently remains in custody because of this entire situation.

Now, I am not one to judge Dr. Al Arian. I know far too little about the case to take a stance. And, in all honesty, my heart leads me to believe that perhaps Dr. Al Arian was and is the victim of simply having ties with the wrong people at the wrong time. Ultimately, his most devastating crime may have been his unfortunate ignorance. I simply cannot make a judgment; I do not have the requisite knowledge.

What bothers me is that my professor, on Thursday, made his judgment. And he did so clearly and in a very matter-of-fact sort of manner. He explained that Dr. Al Arian was wrongly incarcerated and blamed the United States government for his predicament. This was just before he went on to claim that many executive government members may be faced with war crimes trials should they travel to countries after their retirement from office, where foreign jurisdiction would allow such unilateral indictment. My professor may, in fact, be right about Dr. Al Arian. But, again, a quick Google search shows that the debate continues in mainstream America. And the fact remains that Dr. Al Arian is still in custody. That debate, however, has ceased in the autocratic classroom. To simply pass opinion to your pupils as fact reeks of a total lack of professionalism and an agenda that simply should not be espoused by university faculty.

Bringing this to a conclusion for today, I want to make it clear again, that I am doing my best to tackle knowledge being presented to me with an open mind. My professor’s intention is to open student’s eyes to the mistakes made entering the Iraq War so as to prohibit those mistakes from being made in the future. I know all too well that mistakes were, indeed, made. However, I do not look back on the beginning of the Iraq War with the same gloomy perspective as he. My personal experiences make it clear that looking back retrospectively thorough a wide lens would show a large range of examples: from things done poorly to those executed perfectly. And I also fail to understand how precluding from study current progress in Iraq will aid in our historical perspective. In any case, as my frustration surely grows, I will continue to post here. I want to ensure that the American people understand the indoctrination that occurs at the university level here in the States, while also opening the field to discussion. I look forward to your comments and hope you anticipate future discourse on the topic.


I would like to take a moment to reference a couple of websites that I find interesting. While reading these sites, I often find encouragement to write. I would hope you would take a second to check them out.

The first site is “Tampa Taxi Shots”. This blog’s maintainer is a local taxi cab driver here in Tampa and also an amateur photographer. While his conservative viewpoint initially drew me to his blog, I have found myself continuing to read because of his candid outtakes on life in Tampa Bay. He comes across as a blue collar individual, attempting to only make the most out of his life by working hard and enjoying his current lot. His entries are no nonsense and always entertaining.

The second blog is “Sticks of Fire”. I must be honest; I do not access this blog as often as I should. However, I stumbled across it this morning for probably the hundredth time in my life. The blog is so well-maintained that it led directly to me updating Educated Soldier today. By accessing Sticks of Fire, I was reminded that an effective blog is a virtual contributor to the community. Sticks of Fire offers an interesting perspective of Tampa. I would hope that, should Educated Soldier often nothing greater, it would offer an equally fresh look at Tampa Bay-related material.

As one may be able to tell, both of these sites are quite influential on the continued maintenance of Educated Soldier. They are valuable blogs and I encourage you to check them out.


It should be understood that I enter this section of writing with some level of trepidation. As I jot the title, “Personal Ramblings,” I can hear, in my head, the sound of a groan emulating from New Jersey where my Mom follows my life choices with ongoing confusion. Not that I can blame her; it is not often that I maintain constant interests and life goals. And, unfortunately, it is often that I lock myself into commitments that I may or may not find interesting before being freed from them.

But I write anyway because it clears the constant banter in my head that wrestles daily with the prospects of what I desire to do in life.

Foremost, I want to make it clear that every day I begin to regret more and more that I did not take the opportunity to spend this summer interning in Washington, D.C. I was offered every viable position a young conservative such as myself could desire. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (perhaps the single Republican, outside of Senator Fred Thompson, whose ideologies I find most appealing) offered me the opportunity to interview for an internship in his office. I had offers from the G.O.P’s rules committee, to Party Headquarters, to the staff for the Presidential campaign in which I could intern. Top conservative lobbying firms offered opportunities. Ultimately, I chose to forego these internships to instead volunteer for the Special Forces within the Army National Guard.

I do not regret this decision in and of itself. I have drilled with the Special Forces guys for the past few months and have done fairly well. I am progressing down the path to future qualification as a Special Forces soldier about as well as anyone could. This is a source of great pride and is also an endeavor that I have so badly wanted to attempt for the past five years. In all honesty, I see myself, one day, in Afghanistan with an O.D.A., doing the duties of a Special Forces soldier. And as I train daily, it is just this objective that drives me forward.

A problem only surfaces when I grow closer to the day that Special Forces qualification interrupts school. This is inevitable. And it is beginning to look like that day of interruption will begin this Fall. The Special Forces cadre has given me notice to be prepared for the first term of duty (a three week school) that will require university absence in the coming months. It hardly seems that I can simply miss three weeks of school and maintain the high level of academic success that I have come to value so greatly. This has forced me into a position to prioritize what I want to do in life.

With my current G.P.A. and any luck on the LSAT, I believe that I may be building for myself the opportunity to go to a prestigious law school. I believe that I will have a competitive application for Georgetown, the institution of my choice. My “back-up” law schools would be distinguished themselves: George Washington, American University, George Mason, Catholic University. Given how hard I have worked on my undergraduate education, it seems such a waste to not complete really extensive, really rewarding post-graduate pursuits if given the opportunity.

On top of all of this, I have qualified for fee waivers based on my lack of income. This means that study preparation for the LSAT is free; as are two LSATs (which run over $150 each). The application fees to most of the Law Schools mentioned above are also waived. I mention this because it is just another detail that makes it clear to me that the stars are aligning in such a way that, to not consider Law School, would be a huge mistake.

Becoming Special Forces qualified delays my graduation by at least a semester and probably much longer. But it is something that means a lot to me. On the other hand, it would simply be intelligent to just clear my plate as best as possible and tackle Law School aspirations full-on. An important mitigating factor is this: ultimately, I want to end up in Washington, D.C. If I do nothing more in life than bus tables, I want to at least bus tables in Washington, D.C. My infatuation with the city harks back to my regret over passing up the internship opportunities.

So I stand confused. I am in the enviable position of hardly being obligated. I can do the Special Forces thing or not do it; it’s a voluntary process. I do have an obligation to the National Guard but that is neither here nor there.

Moreover, attending Law School isn’t a plan completely out of left field. My interests in politics are both obvious and longstanding. At least theoretically, politics and the law are related topics. While others stand fearful at the demands placed on the first year Law School student, I truly feel I would thrive. I would love to throw myself into books for a few years and simply tackle knowledge with unrestricted vigor.

Anyway, these are my personal ramblings. It does not help that each time I return from a D.C. vacation, as I just did, my mind runs wild. But to spend time in that city and see my peer group doing what I could have this summer is at least somewhat disappointing. The networking I could have completed could have been so amazingly beneficial.

Moreover, should the future hold Special Forces qualification in my future, I foresee myself as a great “Green Beret”. On the other hand, should I put myself in the right situation in Washington, D.C. I genuinely see myself as an individual that could be really influential within a Right-Wing youth movement; a young "up-and-comer" if you will.

Confidence doesn’t escape me; only proper direction. I look forward to your comment. Thank you.


Diana said...

First, Bravo for updating your site. It has been awhile since you showed any interest in it. It is good to have you back and read all of your "thoughts".
Now, regarding your Professor,apparently he has cause some great thought provoking opinions from you.That is a good thing. No matter how you feel about him being right or wrong on some of the issues, he is providing a education that apparently stimulates you. I realize that when someone tells you 2 + 2 =5 and you know for a fact that that is incorrect, you must hold on the correct answer and wonder how he came up with his answer. He thinks he is right and because we live in the "Land of the Free" he is intitled, but in my humble opinion I do not think his views should be taught in a class room setting...forging young minds. Hold on to what you believe in and listen to what he believes in and take it with a "grain of salt". Keep blogging about it as it will help clear your frustration.
Lastly, never regret decisions you have made in your life. These decisions form you and your future and when you are older and much wiser and someone asks you, (if you could go back and change anything in your past what would it be?) you can honestly answer NOTHING!
I leave you with my motto
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained"

tommyduncn said...


Love your extremely clear style of writing. It seems like a lot of thought is put into each word.

Which makes your kind words about Sticks of Fire even more meaningful for me.

I appreciate reading your thoughts about the site, and am glad to know it encourages you to write. I can only hope that Sticks contributes value to the community at large.

Thanks again, and best of luck to you.