“Be wary around your enemy once, and your friend a thousand times.”

Support takes on many forms. If one were to ask if Turkey is providing assistance to the Islamic State in the form of weapons, training, and financing, I’ve seen no evidence to validate that. There is, however, much more to the point that seems to imply that yes, Turkey is supporting ISIL through inaction and as a roadblock, preventing anti-ISIL Kurdish forces in taking part in the fighting of North central Syria. Even more dangerous, there may be a few very good reasons why the Turks would want to see ISIL forces succeed, in as far as it reaches their own borders.

Ian Traynor with The Guardian recently posted an article on the growing dissent brewing in Turkey as government officials remain aloof towards towards the siege “a stones throw from their borders”.

To understand the conflict you’re going to need to understand the strategic importance of Kobane, a significant location to Kurds throughout the region. Kobane is an important point on the map because it represents the northernmost town in central Syria, literally on the border between Syria and Turkey.

Recently, the city has represented a vital choke point for fleeing refugees to Turkey. In late September, a key bridge from the Euphrates was taken which allowed ISIL forces to encircle the region. Within days, at least 50 villages were taken which sent tens of thousands of fleeing villagers on a mass exodus to Turkey. The brunt of these flowed through Kobane.

Second, as the map shows, it is a valuable Kurdish town in that it is the centermost Syrian Kurdish city. It would be, and has been an effective staging point for People’s Protection Units (Kurdish militia) forces to attack from to assault ISIL near a central region. Without it, central Syria is effectively lost to the People’s Protection Units and ISIL forces would have free reign. This also isolates the far Western cities of Efrin and Cindires for the Kurdish militias in the East far more than they were so before. Along with this, losing Kobane means that many of the logistical networks holding up Kurdish fighters in the major Syrian city of Aleppo would be lost. If Kobane falls, Kurds will have no logistical supply location between East and West Syria except when they travel through Turkey. They must go deep through Turkish lands to be able to supply and help protect their other cities, which now are surrounded by ISIL forces.

Lastly, shoring up resistance in Kobane will free up ISIL fighters as their central region will be much more solidified with one less town to fight against. You can see this illustrated clearly in the map below. The purple region in the north central part of Syria just went from, “ISIL is attacking this” to “This is no longer a problem for ISIL”. This means they have a relatively secured path from Aleppo to Mosul all the way to Fallujah in the central part of Iraq. This Sunni Triangle will now be a massive and much more secured region for the insurgency forces, if Kobane is lost. By some reports, there have been as many as 9,000 jihadist forces involved of the siege. Once these forces are no longer involved in the fighting of Kobane, they will be free to augment forces and carry out operations elsewhere.

Now the city is embattled on the edge of Syrian Turkish border. The battle has been declining for Kurdish and FSA against ISIL militants Outnumbered, by most estimates 6:1 the Kurdish defense forces are in a losing battle for the future of Kobane, even with coalition air raids. The tide only seems to be turning a major corner after weeks of desperate and heroic fighting by the defenders and countless American and coalition air strikes. This being the case, many are asking, why the Turks are literally sitting sidelined for this fight, only a mile outside the battlezone of Kobane, where they have the potential to prevent a possible massacre as well as deliver a major defeat against the ISIL insurgency.

Traynor’s Guardian article displays some disturbing truths about the precarious stance of the Turkish government.

What’s important to know is that, while Kurdish forces are gaining great notoriety for their ability to maintain Northern Iraq and Syria, they have not been well liked throughout the region and primarily in Turkey.

If you look at the region many would consider Kurdistan, the region populated mostly by those of Kurdish ancestry, you’ll see that a massive block of Turkey is actually populated predominantly by Kurds. Kurds also comprise between 10% and 25% of the population and have been subjected to official repression for decades. Over the past three decades, Kurdish nationals in Turkey have been fighting for independence and equality with the rest of their fellow Turkish citizens. One group above all others, has been leading the fight toward independence in the form of an actual insurrection against the Turkish government.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, commonly referred to by its Kurdish acronym, PKK, is a Kurdish militant organization which from 1984 to 2013 fought an armed struggle against the Turkish state for cultural and political rights and self-determination for the Kurds in Turkey. The PKK’s ideology was originally a fusion of revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism, seeking the foundation of an independent, Marxist–Leninist state in the region known as Kurdistan. The name ‘PKK’ is usually used interchangeably for the name of its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force (HPG), which was formerly called the Kurdistan National Liberty Army (ARGK). The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization internationally by several states and organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the United States, and the European Union.

For that reason, Turkish views of many Kurdish fighters are less than admirable. This is personified most by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he equated the Kurds of Kobani and their defenders with the islamic jihadist insurgents.

“It is wrong to view them differently, we need to deal with them jointly.”

Yet more concerning is that the ISIL Crisis is uncovering what appears to be signs that the fanatical jihadists aren’t being viewed with such vehement scorn as they are viewed from the West.

“A significant part of the Turkish public believes the Sunnis of Syria and the Middle East are fellow victims of injustice and that Isis represents a legitimate Sunni grievance,” the International Crisis Group said this week in a report from Ankara.

Expert on Islam, Sam Harris, recently explained why this may happen by describing some very troubling patterns that modern liberal tolerances haven’t yet come to deal with about the religion. He stated that when we try to truly study and understand muslims, we see the fundamentalist leanings are much larger a percentage of the total population than at first we wanted to believe. His view is that, while most muslims by a wide margin are not fanatical terrorists, the number of those sympathetic to the jihadist’s call may be higher than many believed. It’s important to remember that not all muslims are like those we experience in the West, those who are well educated and well socialized to American and Western values. The values that much of conservative Islam hold are not congruent with life in much of the rest of the world. For that reason, many of us have come to the belief that muslims across the world are like the muslims we know in our cities and that we know as friends. When you change locations however, you see a culture which is much different, and where values we hold are viewed as intolerable. He describes running throughout much of the Middle East a deep inner circle of Islam, one which “wakes up every day wanting to kill apostates and hoping to die if they don’t” as the jihadists. Outside of this group are the islamists. They as convinced of the idea of martyrdom, but aren’t willing to to kill themselves to see others brought down. They are willing to fight and want to see an end to democracy and the instillment of an Islamic theocracy. They’re just not going to blow up a bus to do it. Harris fears that between these two groups, you have a section that represents as much as 20% of the Islamic population. Outside of this population you will see the conservative branch of Islam. These groups completely don’t agree with the acts and atrocities of groups like ISIL, but in much larger numbers than we have led ourselves to believe, still have extremely intolerant views “towards women’s rights, toward homosexuals that are deeply troubling… and they keep women and homosexuals immiserated.”

An International Crisis Group added that private polling within Erdoğan’s religion-based Sunni Muslim AK party revealed sympathy for Isis. With his constituency seeing the Islamic State as anything other than a murderous jihadist horde, “This makes it hard for a Turkish government to directly attack Isis.” reported the International Crisis Group.

The New York Times also recently reported that as many as 1,000 Turks have joined ISIS, according to Turkish news media reports and government officials there. Recruits cite the group’s ideological appeal to disaffected youths as well as the money it pays fighters from its flush coffers. Turkish fighters recruited by ISIS say they identify more with the extreme form of Islamic governance practiced by ISIS than with the rule of the Turkish governing party, which has its roots in a more moderate form of Islam.

In response to numerous factors, Turkey has gone to great lengths to secure their Southern border. This, only after, thousands of Turkish recruits made their way through, along with perhaps thousands more international travelers. Regardless, now military forces are no longer allowing passage into Syria. This has the effect, however, of essentially blockading Kobane from the rest of their Kurdish allies.

Looking back at the map of the Middle East which focuses on levels of high Kurdish population, you’ll see that Kobane indeed rest on a very narrow “peninsula” of Kurdish population stretching from their main population center in Turkey to Syria. Also present in Syria is a very strong region of Syrian Kurds protected by the People’s Protection Units, and further to the East, the Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraqi Kurds who have a long history of support against fanatical islamists. These two groups, along with the PPK in Turkey all wish to take part in aiding the stranded fighters in Kobane. To do this, however, they must either go through the extremely occupied region of central Syria or through Turkey. The Turkish blockade of northern Syria, however, is in effect, a second siege preventing potentially thousands of willing supporters for the Kobane defense effort.

While I can see the Turkish stance as being, perhaps, logical from their point of view, the facts of the matter are that it has outraged many thousands of Kurds living in Turkey presently. Over the past few weeks, thousands have gone into the streets across to protest Kurdish inaction and what they view as preferential treatment for the fanatical islamist regime. In actions across Turkey, at least 30 people were killed and hundreds more injured as protests turned to riots.

The last week has meant much for the future of the Middle East. A small town on the Syrian border has made present yet another ethnic divide ripping the region apart. Instability has spread to showcase a future for Turkey where militant collapse in their Eastern half, the same type of collapse which saw ISIL go from a backwater terrorist faction, to the modern State of Terror. In a report by the AP, the situation has just gone from isolated protesting in the streets to an all out conflict, reminiscent of beginnings of civil wars from Libya, and now most notably, Syria.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — In a sign of further turbulence for the U.S. led-coalition against the Islamic State group, Turkish warplanes have struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in southeastern Turkey, media reports said Tuesday.

It was the first major airstrikes against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, since peace talks began two years ago to end a 30-year insurgency in Turkey. It added to tensions between the key U.S. coalition partner and PKK, a militant group listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. that is also among the fiercest opponents of the Islamic State group.

The return to violence between the two parties suggests that Turkey’s focus may not be on the Islamic State group, even as it negotiates its role with the U.S. and NATO allies fighting the extremists. Turkey has provoked frustration among allies, by saying it won’t join the fight against the Islamic State militants unless the U.S.-led coalition also targets Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The article mentions Turkey negotiating its role with the U.S. and NATO over how it will be engaged in the war against ISIL. The Turkish government agreed on Monday to let US and coalition forces use its bases, including a key installation within 100 miles of the Syrian border, for operations against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. Apparently, there was even a promise by Ankara to train several thousand Syrian moderate rebels in the fight, as well. Many hailed this as good news, seeing another major regional player now joining the battle against ISIL. I have to wonder.

Given the apathy and resentment shown by Turkish officials to the plight of foreign Kurdish fighters, even to the point of allowing jihadi fundamentalists to occupy a key region a stone’s throw away from their own border, along with their complete inability to take direct action against the terrorist organizations, along with signs that a major segment of their population may be sympathetic to the goals of the islamists, I have to wonder what motivations are behind any actions to allow American or any other Western intervention in the conflict.

To pose my own pessimistic view, one which I hope others will consider given the information I have shared, I think it is because Turkey may want an American security blanket against it’s own insurgency which looms around the corner. The rise of Kurdish prestige and victories over the last year has galvanized their spirit and the renewed call for Kurdish nationalism. As I have said before in this post, the nation with the largest single stake in the future of the Kurds is Turkey. Kurdish autonomy has spread throughout the region, giving rise to the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq and another like it in North Eastern Syria. This zeal is going to invite more Kurds to carry on the torch of autonomy and independence which has no one to hurt than Turkey. In the political environment that is the Middle East, one of ever growing chaos, reorganization and upheaval, I have to wonder if Turks true focus is ISIL at all. I truly wonder if really, the recent allowance to allow coalition forces to use Turkish military bases and train Syrian defense forces was really only an effort to ensure their assistance in the event of a future Kurdish uprising. Turkey has long been a friend of the United States amidst much less moderate neighbors. Now, however, it seems that conservative Islamic factions within Turkey have grown tired of their Western friendly policies and are now acting in accord with ISIL forces, even if indirectly. This won’t sit well with the Kurds of the region who, until only yesterday, enjoyed a brief two year lull in a 30 year feud with the nation. Now, it seems, they are hedging on the possibility of Kurdish uprising with the presence of US and NATO allies to keep Turkish lands within the sovereign control of Ankara.

The Enemy of My Enemy

There is a Arabic saying that translates “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has unanimously gained no friends across the world. No nations and no allies have come out to show support for the fanatical regime, even among fellow Islamic terrorist organizations. In the case of Turkey, however, there hasn’t really been much done to show that they actually do view them as enemies. Instead, they seem to be looking at others as potential risks within their own borders. They’ve seen a problem which has existed for decades, namely the Kurdish population within Turkey and seen its sudden rise to popularity in the world’s stage, as well as its rise to power in military and political efficacy. This can only mean bad things for the future of Turkey. For all these reasons, one has to wonder if the Turks really see ISIL as their enemy or merely as the enemy of their longstanding enemy, the Kurds. If we view it in that light, we can see how it shouldn’t surprise anyone how much help Turkey has provided, if by nothing else than timely inaction, to the Sunni jihadists. Perhaps it is simpler than this. Perhaps, in light of President Erdoğan’s statement that, “It is wrong to view them differently, we need to deal with them jointly,” exactly that is being done; allow the two enemies of Turkey to fight each other to their mutual oblivion.

To be clear, Turkey has never aided ISIL through troop support, nor is there any evidence that they have provided weapons, financing or aid of any kind, but their policy of preventing the success of Kurdish forces, primarily in the battle for Kobane, as well as their inability to prevent the same sort of assistance being given to Islamic State fighter, they have given more indirect assistance than one could have imagined possible in keeping these terrorist’s alive. For those of us watching this conflict in the future, I am reminded of yet another Arabic saying, oddly fitting this time:

“Be wary around your enemy once, and your friend a thousand times.”


Sources:


Thanks for reading!

Everything I write is completely independent research. I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post please show your support directly by checking out my support page here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Articles in Military, Sci-Fi and Life.

Quora Answers: Does President Barack Obama’s decision to stop deporting some illegal immigrants violate his oath of office?

I would say that it isn’t quite a violation of his oath. More a choice on distribution of resources, but it does set a dangerous precedent and I don’t think it is a good idea. 
What the President is advocating is that we should focus our immigration efforts away from nonviolent immigrants and focus it elsewhere. While this is sound in reasoning it is also going to put even more pressure on some of the hardest hit of the last recession and channel taxpayer funds away from their intended recipients. While I like that the President is advocating we do the right thing for these people, I disagree with it because to do so would hurt many Americans and many more Americans do not agree with this policy. I am also worried that this policy won’t actually have any power or affect any change to help those in question, but may just be a ploy to sway Latino voters. That is the short answer, here is the long one…

What is really being said here?
What the President is advocating is that a group of illegal immigrants no longer fall under the threat of deportation. This isn’t amnesty and it isn’t citizenship. It is just not being deported, according to his words. This group, according to the press conference of the President, will be limited to those who:

  • Were brought here by their parents at a young age.
  • Have been here for 5 years or more.
  • Are seeking to go to college or join the military.

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video…

I try to be fair in my posts, so you will see pros and cons. I have my opinion and I will share it, but I will also try and give alternative points of view as well.

Pros:
The immigration system will be able to focus it’s efforts on more dangerous criminal immigrants and be diverted from less dangerous threats such as students. 
One of the arguments mentioned that there was a need to fix the broken immigration system. This is true and has been for a very long time. The borders, particularly the southern border, has been a highway for criminal smuggling activity for decades. This is a main route for drugs, weapons and human trafficking into the United States and black market money out. This argument is not concerned that too many people entering are flooding labor markets, but that without the secure borders we are allowing dangerous contraband to enter the states and even more dangerous people. Here the argument makes sense because the initiative does focus efforts where they will be most useful.

More suspicious and deserving of our attention…

Than this.

Some very good talent will be kept in the United States that would have otherwise been lost through deportation.
I have a great deal of faith in many immigrants who come into this country. They possess within them a great courage and enthusiasm, enough to leave their homeland and start fresh among strangers. Immigrants and first generation Americans have the highest rates of entrepreneurship in the country and are serving as much of the foundation of our economy. Many come here just seeking work and don’t come with baggage that many of my fellow white privileged Americans seem to hold. We feel entitled and a lack humility. Many of the Chinese and Mexicans that I have known and work with in particular exemplify this mentality of hard work and humility while leading a quiet life. They add to not only the countries financial wealth, but also her cultural, moral and social wealth as well. If those who fit this description, a reasonable filter being those seeking higher education, are ignored by immigration then perhaps that is a better use of INS resources and might not be the worst thing.

Cons:
There are already programs in place to protect immigrants who seek college education and service in the military.
While I was in service in the United States Marine Corps I served with several illegal immigrants. Of course they had become naturalized citizens by this time, but I, as a home grown white American was in shock the United States would allow such people into the forces! (This statement was meant in sarcasm people, unbunch your britches.) But it was a surprise to me. Several of them described a process of expedited citizenship in exchange for service in the military. That being said, I am not an expert on this process, but I am aware that it already exists and doesn’t just offer protection, but citizenship. Along with military service comes veteran benefits including the GI Bill and loans for housing. There are also other programs in place to aid illegal immigrants in college already in place that I will mention later down. So the President’s statement seems at best misleading, at worst creating a new solution to an already fixed problem. In the case of these other Marines, many of them were my friends and I trusted them very much. As a born citizen I think that those who leave behind their homeland, pick up weapons and fight our wars beside the “true” Americans don’t just need to be awarded citizenship, there needs to be a statue somewhere in their honor. That, however is a different post. The point is, this program already exists, why is he selling a new one?

This is already the standard practice of INS.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service is already fighting one of the toughest unsung wars in US history. They are undermanned and patrol a massive area. By practice their policies already focus on the most dangerous and the most trafficked areas. They already put much more effort into apprehending those who are a danger to the citizens of the United States than they ever would to a college student. The President in his speech remarked that in recent years there has been a great increase in dangerous immigrant captures. This could not have been done checking ID’s at the local community college in Denton, Texas or any other college campus for that matter. It also can’t be done by “being a nation that expels young kids” which is a quote from the speech that seemed more intended to incite an emotional response rather than reflect what statistically is not the case with the majority of deportations.

This represents the President choosing to ignore certain mandates for certain people.
This is really the heart of the question that Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez was pointing to. By saying that laws set about can be ignored he is saying that he has the power to prosecute whomever he wishes, even treating two people differently who are guilty of the same crime. This is a funny grey area since in this case neither are citizens of the United States, but the ramifications are scary. Could the President or future Presidents one day do the same for other groups, Democrat/Republican, Black/White, Male/Female? I believe that was the direction Mr. Gonzalez was pointing to. No matter how nice it would be a President should not have the power to choose who they do and do not punish. This reasoning places the President’s moral high ground and doing the right thing ideals on a foundation built on very sandy soil. That being said, he would certainly not be the first president, Republican or Democrat (or Federalist) to do this, in all fairness.

This is in opposition to the wishes of many, many American people.
While the issue is deeply contested most Americans worry about too much immigration. They are concerned about dispersal of jobs, resources such as in the public schools and entitlement funds for a growing portion of the population that goes largely untaxed. They feel that if the investment in tax payer dollars is made in these young people there is no guarantee that they will stay around to better America for it. There is also a large argument brewing between the differences in American illegal immigration policy and the much more severe policies of other countries, one ironically being Mexico. This worries a lot of people. Whatever your particular stance on this issue is, a very large number of Americans do not support any program they feel makes it easier for illegal immigrants to take advantage of American wealth. Since so many feel this way, it leads me to say that the President’s job isn’t to decide when the American people are wrong, but to be a conduit for their wishes. He is their elected representative to the most powerful position in the United States. For that reason, I would view that it is his obligation to follow the expressed wishes of the majority and not decide on his own what is right.

This hurts the Americans who right now are already suffering greatly.
Another major concern is that this new policy will create a massive surge in college attendance. While at face value this sounds like a wonderful thing, there are issues with this. The problem with many schools today is that they have already dumbed down the curriculum to open their doors for less serious students and gain their tuition. This is creating a generation of college graduates little better off and with no fewer skills than when they entered school. To confound this with a flood of students not interested in learning, but on not getting deported would only dilute the school systems efficacy further. This brings about the question of payment. There are already numerous government grants that reward a great deal of college tuition based only on household income. Proof of citizenship is not an issue and therefore, government money is used to compensate non citizens for attending college. This too reflects a bad policy diverting funds intended for the American poor to non-Americans. Skip ahead a few years and you have a massive influx into the job market for people aged 22-28.

This group recently has been hit the hardest with the unemployment crisis ranging at times of 25% unemployment. While the average unemployment during the recession was between 9-10% the young college graduates struggled around 14%. This being due to slow growth in the economy, the lack of growth in entry level jobs and few start-ups in non-tech industries. These people are already having hard times getting their carriers off the ground and to invite more competition would be inviting failure for all parties involved. This sub-crisis has been a major contributor to many of the recent politcal action of youth like the Occupy protests.  While I disagree with much of the movements rationalities I do see their point of view in this struggle. We already have a country who’s economy can’t support it’s current college graduates, what good would more and less educated ones do? You have to ask, “As a country do we want to weaken one of our most vunerable groups of proven talent by inviting, supporting and protecting non-citizens?”

In summary…
No. I do not think that this is expressly going against the President’s oath. He is choosing to govern the resources of agencies like the INS in a more efficient way. He is also not dealing with American citizens in how he chooses to follow the laws or mandates. I do however think that is policy is a bad one because:

  1. It doesn’t actually create any new programs that don’t already exist in one way another or are not already the standard practice.
  2. It could put new pressures on schools and the labor market hurting American citizens.
  3. It is built around the story of the “hard working, good grade earning kid who has never done anything wrong” who has historically never been the real target of deportation. This is an emotional pull which diverts people from issues and dilutes them in idealism and racial debate.
  4. Is against the wishes of many, many Americans. As I mentioned before, it is the role of a president to be the representative of the people, not the one who decided when they are wrong.

My final concern is one also shared by the Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, that the President may be trying to use this as a hook to gain Latino voters a few months before the election. These of course are actual citizens, but sympathetic to many illegal immigrants today.

Update: Women in Combat Operations

This is an update to a earlier post I made a while back Women in Combat Operations in which I expressed some of my mixed feelings, both for and against the future of women serving in combat centered missions. In any case, I am glad that actions are being taken by the Pentagon and the Marines one way or another.

This Monday Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, announced that actions were going to be taken by Marine Corps command to study how women would be able to adapt to the combat environment by introducing a select number of women into the  infantry officer school at Quantico, Va., and ground combat battalions that had once been closed to women.

This new effort will, as I understand it, focus on female officers. As my post said many of the women I dealt with in military were officers. One in particular stood out for excellence among Marines, male or female. I think this is an important prospect for the military. It will be putting the women who are the most dedicated, most ambitious and hopefully the ones who will serve the greatest example to future Marines, notably the women.

Although there is great controversy over this debate, much of it in my previous article, and it will likely be a very long time before we see a completely coed military, I think this is a good move for the Marines as they wean into a future that will have to incorporate women more thoroughly.

Will This Winter be the Occupy’s Valley Forge?

There has been a lot of talk about that Occupy is dying down now that the weather is turning and it isn’t fun anymore to bang drums in the middle 20 degree weather. Campuses in numerous cities are breaking up due to this or because of local government interaction. In places like LA and Philadelphia the tent cities are being broken by police while smaller sites, such as the one near where I live in Denton Tx, were for the most part abandoned voluntarily.  And while the camps continue to fade many will be thinking “So this is the end of Occupy?”

Not that a good job wouldn’t help…

I seriously doubt it. Many are indeed abandoning the tent cities erected over the past several months that have evolved into a type of forum for an endless open air debate on the nature of the government, economics and social reform. There was also a lot of weed.  The people however will carry the discussion home, influencing those who are close to them and pushing the conversations they had to the rest of us.

It is those who stay behind though. Those hard-core believers in the… something. If they survive this winter, these individuals will be the ones who make the news some three to four months from now.

What those who stay in the tents and endure are going to do for the movement will be very important for its future evolution. They will face cold and rain, snow and ice and intense feeling of “is it worth it?” “Why are we sitting out here in the cold with the entire nation thinking our movement is a joke?” And while they sit something else may happen.

They will talk. As they talk, those that are left, will be creating a conversation that will be different than what they have been saying before. This conversation will be different because it won’t be clouded by the flood of their current population. The flood of fair weather idealists, drugged out self-righteous know-it-alls and the remnant hippies reliving the 70’s that are the current populace of the camps will likely take their leave until the nice weather returns and protesting is a fun sport again. And those that are left will be consolidating the ideas that are left. Their muddled message about the greed of the 1% may finally evolve into something that people can deal with. Those people may together be able to realize some economic truths and realities and create a message that the majority of American people can understand and get behind.

While I don’t agree with the economic views of the Occupy movement and I feel that most of what I heard from them at this point is idealistic, some of it selfish and most of it lacking realism or a long term understanding of what their ideas will end up meaning for the country. I believe however, that some of those taking part in the Occupy protests are intelligent people. I think that if these people do stick it out they may come up with some good ideas, some real ideas and something that can actually create real discussion with the American public.

I compared this period that Occupy is about to go through as their Valley Forge.  No so much in selflessness and courage, nor also the desire to seek both personal and governmental independence, but in zealousness at least. What happened at Valley Forge was that a beaten and weakened Continental Army weathered the winter of 1777-1778. At that time they were a band of confused, unequipped, demoralized and lost group of individuals lacking a clear vision and direction for the future. During that winter they received leadership from our founding military fathers. When the winter was over what came out of the fort was a strong, disciplined Continental Army guided by a shared mission and vision and led by strong leaders. The comparison pretty much ends for me there, but for many Occupiers they see this as their Valley Forge moment. In many ways they may be right, if they can come out of this better then they went in.

Whether you agree with Occupy or think they are bunch silly misguided kids on a tantrum, if they can survive this winter what will come out next spring will be a galvanized group. Their ideas my be better or they may be worse, but what is certain is that those who survive it will be leaders of the new Occupy, whether they like it or not.

Will it? That ball is Occupy’s court now.

Ethics and Chivalry-Victims of the Coast of Tuscany

Hi, I’m Tanner Brumbarger,  I own a blog called ‘Opinionz Matter. I use that blog to express my personal life stories as well as share my views on faith and politics.  Recently, I have had the pleasure  of getting to discuss some different topics with Jon via our two blogs, and have recently fashioned a formal, ‘blog alliance’ with him. I’d like to publicly thank Jon for his advice on difficult topics, as well as his service to our country. He is a fantastic individual with lots of insight and depth, a perfect role model to say the least. I hope this “guest blogging” strategy is a success!

But what I would really like to touch on with this opportunity to publish a post, is the disaster of the Costa Concordia. If you have noticed the events, you have realized that our true problem is much larger than a beached ocean liner.

One does not need to be a cable news junkie to know of the tragic events of the Costa Concordia, a luxury cruise liner which struck a reef off the cost of Tuscany. As of this writing,  30 individuals have been lost. Most people in America have focused their attention on the captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, blaming him for the accident, and rightly so.

The vessel was sailing by the island of Isola del Giglio, where a former officer of the fleet is retired. The captain of the luxury liner was planning on taking the ship a little close to shore in order to sound off the ship’s horn in salute to the retired naval officer. The rest explains itself, the ship struck a rock, tearing a 160 foot gash in the hull, causing it to list and forcing the evacuation of 4,000 souls. Many people who were onboard the vessel are coming out for the first time, speaking about their horrifying dance with disaster.

But as I watch a documentary on Fox News, regarding the catastrophe on the Tuscan coast, I am faced with many questions, just like you.  I’m sure most of my questions are similar to the questions the mainstream media is asking. Such as: “Why there weren’t mustering drills before the ship took off?” “Why were their not enough life jackets on board the ship?” “What are the Italians going to do to the captain?” Those were the first logical questions that came to my mind. However after some serious thought and some opinions presented to me by other individuals, I am left with questions, and actually some anger about the entire situation. So, here is my take on the self-inflicted tragedy of the Costa Concordia.

 I wrote an article, not quite a month ago, regarding the disaster of the Titanic. I asked my audience what they thought would happen, should some accident like the Titanic occur. Would women and children be ordered off of the sinking boat first? Or should it be anyone who could get on board? You can see the segment below:

“Despite this process, many men, regardless of their class would refuse to leave the ship. The ship had a policy of, women and children first. In spite of available room left, many men would remain on the ship to allow more women and children to board the lifeboats and reach safety. 

The question I would like to pose is: If our society was faced with disaster today, would women and children be sent to safety first? Would men remain? Would women go first? Would our society enforce the same rules that it did a hundred years ago? I know what side of the lifeboats I would be standing on, do you?”

Well world, we now know what that real answer is. A modern day Titanic like accident DID happen. Praise God the fatality rate was not as high, but women and children were not ordered off the boat first, and that’s absolutely despicable.  In fact, it’s repulsive and quite frankly, I would go so far to say it pisses me off.

The blame for this situation completely rests on the shoulders of the failed Captain Francesco Schettino.  The reason why I would put my blame on him is because like a father, the passengers on his ship are his family and therefore his full responsibility. He was responsible for them and protecting the “women and children” first code of ethics. 

God calls not only Christian men to a higher standard, but men in general to reach for a higher level of integrity than anyone else. We are called to protect and provide, to sacrifice and set an example. We are not called to jump on the life boat before the women who may not be able to swim, or ignore the crying child, if your ship is sinking and you’re a man, you should be bending down, putting a child in a lifeboat and holding a woman’s hand as she steps into the boat, even if water level is at your waist. This event only shows the erosion of true leadership in our men.

In my personal opinion and experiences, I have noticed that men in society, primarily the American society, are deteriorating away from a place of leadership.  It seems that if you want to find a good group of men in leadership, you have to go to a local church and in some circumstances, it feels like I have slim pickings. Yes, even at churches. You can identify a man of leadership much quicker than you can a man who follows. All men must follow rules, and every individual must submit to authority, that’s the way the world should work. But all men must take responsibilities for themselves and for their families.

As an individual men are called to submit to authority. Consider the phrase, ‘God Kin & Country’ as your example.

Men are called to submit to the laws of the land and their elders.  First, men should submit to their Fathers. Whether it’s a father/legal guardian or an elder in the church, we are called to obey. This does not mean you are enslaved, but a man is called to respect those who have gone before him, so that hopefully they lead the man in wisdom. I believe that when an individual reaches manhood, he gains a little leniency.

Secondly, I believe men are called back to lead their nation. That can easily begin at the community level. Men should lead in their communities, end of discussion.  All men at some point should step up and lead.

Thirdly, Men are called to be disciples. We are called to set Godly examples as leaders of our households (when we have households) and overall, leaders in our society.

If I may be so bold, I believe that men have lost their chest hair. They have lost their backbone. If you translate that into a modern day white trash phrase, it means men today have lost their ‘swag.’ We have become a society of awkward boys in the bodies of men. A true man takes responsibility and leadership even at the cost to self. This is why I talked about the Costa Concordia incident. The Captain was not a leader like a real man should, nor did he take responsibility for his ‘family’ on board his vessel, like a real man should.

As men struggle to lead, looking for an example to model, I propose that they consider a carpenter. His name was Jesus Christ, the most powerful man of all. He took responsibility for his family and took away their sins; he accepted leadership and had a huge number of followers whom he taught, encouraged and even chastised at some times. A lot like man in the position of fatherhood would do. But what was his only requests for fulfilling such? That we followed him, acted like men, made disciples and became leaders in our lives.

So, I would close with this, the reality of 2012 spoke to us a couple weeks ago, the chivalry of 1912 is dead. Tragedy did come, men did not go last and for that they should be ashamed. It showed us that our society does is not filed with courageous men anymore. We are filled with cowardly boys in men’s bodies. I praise those men who are accepting roles of leadership and I pray that only more will emerge.

The Youth of the Church; The Future of the Nation

I am writing this article to address a few trends that seem to be affecting the church, specifically those in the youth about to be adults most like Tanner. Tanner, while achieving much for his age, is young and has a future ahead of him and now is entering the phase of life where he and those like him will be making the most important decisions of their lives. I feel the church, for the most part, has directed them toward a path where they can’t succeed in the modern world and can’t fully take part in shaping and guiding it anymore. This is part of why so many are steering away from the church and why the church is steering so far from the rest of American culture, bad and good. I wrote this article to try and focus on the direction being given to these young people and perhaps direct readers of Tanner’s and my blog in how they should encourage their youth in the future.

So have you ever said to yourself something to the effect of “Politicians can’t be trusted?” Have you ever said that “All businessmen are greedy and corrupt?” Have you ever wondered why? Because they aren’t Christian anymore. For the most part, Christians have stayed away from the business and political scene for the better part of three generations. But why? Let me put it this way…

Have you ever said any of these things… around your kids?

I know it is something most of us don’t think about often, but ask yourself, what careers am I pushing my kids toward? For many of Tanner’s younger readers, ask what careers where you pushed to? I think though, we should also consider, what are you pushing from?

Many are raised with the idea that ideal Christian careers involve hard work such as construction. Carpentry seems to be popular among Christians (wonder why?) Other career paths include careers that involve some sort of service like the medical field, doctors and nurses (but not gynecologists, that is for the sinners of medicine), and education to become teachers.  Another career path widely encouraged in church circles is the military. I was a Marine and I am still a little baffled at why so many in my church were so proud of me for doing a job that on a good day killed people… But they did. My wife says it has much to do with the service and sacrifice aspect of the job, which I understand. I  still think they just haven’t really thought about it much though.

But what about big business? What is the first thing you think about me when I say I would one day like to own the next Chase bank or be the next Bill Gates? What if I said I would like to one day be a successful venture capitalist? Would you think I was greedy? What if I said I wanted to be a successful politician? That I wanted to be a Senator and work on Capitol Hill? Would you think my goals are to be corrupt, filling my pockets with kickbacks before I become a lobbyist, making millions to influence others while manipulating the democratic system? You may not think that about me in general, but if you were to meet someone on the street with these goals, you wouldn’t think very well of career business people and career politicians.

Why is that? Over the course of history some of the most important people in American history filled these roles. Politicians were once also viewed as a noble profession, public servants, stewards of the community. Businessmen once were viewed as the fiercely independent founders of the American wealth and prosperity. John Pierpont Morgan was one of the most influential business leaders in America. He built massive companies in his day. He also engineered programs and deals that helped to prevent two massive American breakdowns in the American economic system.  He was also a lifelong member of his church and one of it’s most influential leaders. His grandfather was a preacher and influenced him greatly. He could be found alone often in silent prayer for hours at his local church.

The founding fathers were also religious men as well as politicians. Benjamin Franklin is quoted to saying

“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshiped…As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, is the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see.”

Seems pretty straight forward. What about Thomas Jefferson, the supposed atheist of the founders?

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?”

So it is possible to have moral leadership, both in business and politics. Then why is it that these two fields of achievement are so shrouded in the belief that they are corrupt, Godless and without morals?

Because good Christians aren’t supposed to want to do those things.

When I was a child I remember being told that the rich are nothing but greedy and that politicians are liars. I heard that a good Christian job was physical labor, medicine, teaching or the military and that these were the only honorable things available to me. Then I joined the Marines and during that time I realized that those who affect the most change, have the greatest impact on society are not on that list, not directly, not individually. Those with the most direct and individual influence on America are those people of business and leadership, which Christianity shuns.

The problem I see is that for three generations now, young Christians have been pushed by fellow Christians away from these fields and resulted in a growing movement where Christians do not welcome them and are not welcomed by them.  And as a result of this, Christians are growing farther and farther from the socioeconomic center of America. They are losing their place as leaders in its future and are alienating themselves from its people. So while I see many posts going up about the Decline of Christianity in America and the general idea that we are becoming a Godless nation, I say to you “What did you expect? You teach your young people to join you in seclusion from the society they are part of.”

But things don’t need to be this way. In the future we need to encourage our young people to be those leaders of tomorrow. We need to encourage them with stories of great Christian businessmen and politicians, so that they can lead Americans with a Christian perspective. They can recommunicate the values of Christianity in a way society is able to understand and perhaps fix some of the problems we are seeing in society today from hatred of Christians to .

That’s why I am glad to be invited to speak on Tanner’s blog. He is an example of the future of Christianity and the future of America. In the next few years, people his age are going to be making the decisions that will put them in positions where they can have a great resounding impact on us all. I hope that you will encourage them to do something great.

Be entrepreneurs. Solve humanity’s problems with new ideas, new innovations and give people jobs. Make yourselves very wealthy and remember who blessed you with your success. Then tithe.

Be politicians. Become leaders who set a great example to all Americans of what a great person is and should be. Become directly involved in the decision-making process and therefore have greater potential to influence the aspects of society you see that can be fixed.

Don’t live a mundane life complaining about the rich, the wealthy and the powerful. Become them and set a new precedent.

***This post has been duel posted on Opinionz Matter by Tanner Brumbarger . I have been invited to guest post to Tanner’s blog and hopefully this will help drive a bit more traffic to Jon’s Deep Thoughts.

Occupy Forgets the Roots of American Wealth

This post was originally a reply to a friend and fellow blogger Tanner of The Opinionz Matter. He made a post Occupiers Ignoring The Founding Fathers.

While the above image is from the Constitution of the United States, I would like to cite a reference to another document of civic importance.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

He focused on the phrases “Pursuit of Happiness” and “Created Equal.”

He reasoned : “”My answers came relatively quickly. I think we can all agree that we should have the freedom to do what we want without lives, whether it involves us being happy or not. No government should prevent that. However, I firmly believe that this statement firmly defines the Founding Fathers’ vision for America; that people should have the right to pursue happiness, not the right to possess happiness in their lives.”

I would reword the last statement to be “not the right [ to be given ] happiness in their lives. But reading this post and others from Tanner I believe he wouldn’t mind the edit.

John Locke

I believe that one can also derive the nature of what was intended in this statement by asking the founders where they got their ideas. I think that it is interesting to consider where Jefferson got many of his views. His work is based much off the work of political theorist John Locke. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Property.” Locke uses the word property in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right (meaning no one should be able to forcibly stop you from gaining property) and it is derived from labor (In other words, you have to earn it.) In addition, he believed property precedes government and government cannot “dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily.” Karl Marx later critiqued Locke’s theory of property in his own social theory.

This is what the pursuit looks like.

This became the basis for the phrase in the American Declaration of Independence: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. You can see how happiness is derived from property in Locke’s work, however Jefferson expounded upon the idea as meaning something other than specifically property. If it were, people would assume that the government has an obligation to fill the Right to Property. Instead, Jefferson chose key phrases like “pursuit,” meaning the right to gain without governmental obstruction and “happiness” meaning that which gives value to your life, be it property, fame, relationships or writing blogs.

Learn to Earn. This is not the pursuit of happiness, it’s the pursuit of someone else’s.

Occupy believes that equality is something that is concerned with wealth and that our equality in that respect should be guaranteed. This, as Tanner brought forward, is against the wishes of the founding fathers. Equality is not concerned with wealth. We are created equal, and equality is part of our nature as humans, not the works we do and not part of something that can be given to us by a governing body. Therefore, it seems apparent that the founding fathers did not believe it was their privilege or right to take property or to give it. This is contradictory to the idea of redistribution of wealth and forcible equality of wealth without labor to create that wealth.

We are born equal, we all agree. It took us a long time to understand this. We had to overcome racism, sexism and several other -isms to try to attain the level of equality we have today. I remember growing up when my mom said she thought she would never see a black president. I think that shows how far we have come, not that we are perfect yet, but we are reaching closer now than we have ever been toward equality among everyone. But that, as I said, is when we are created. That is why each of us have only one vote, one voice, equally. Where the equality should stop is the assumption that everyone should have the same property or happiness. This is what is meant to have the right to pursue, meaning it needs to be earned, it has to be worked for and it should never be given.

-Jon