or, how I joined the Grand Cabal...
I had originally planned to blog this last night, but as is so often the case my schedule would not allow it. Nevertheless, I had promised my readers a major surprise announcement at the end of the week and I do ever so like to keep my promises. This is basically a summary of who I am and how blogging landed me a position that I could never otherwise have obtained on my own - a summer 2004 internship at a major think tank in Washington.
This Wednesday, at ~5:00 in the morning (aren't Memorial Day weekend rates fun?), I will be at Kansas City International Airport preparing to leave for Washington DC, where I will take up an internship position for pretty much the duration of the summer at the American Enterprise Institue, which is described by both Wikipedia and the Christian Science Monitor as being pretty much the headquarters of all things neocon.
When not advocating perpetual war and US world domination on behalf of the Israeli Likud Party, I will likely be found engrossing myself in the collected writings of Leo Strauss. I'm also looking forward to collecting clippings re: all the plots we're supposed to be involved in, which should be a real pick-me-up when the news gets too depressing.
All kidding aside, near as I can tell it probably would have been next to impossible for me to get ahold of this position if not for blogging. Let me tell you what I mean...
For those of you who don't know me, I'm a college student blogging from Leavenworth, Kansas and an army brat to boot. My father works at the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate (CADD) at the Command General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth and churns out lengthy manuals worth of army doctrine on a fairly regular basis.
Anywho, I graduated from
Wayne Simien Leavenworth High School in the class of 2002, though I'll be damned if I can remember actually learning anything from the curriculum while I was there. Far too much today's high schooling involves little more than memorization and then recitation in the form of testing rather than actually understanding any of the material that is being taught. One particular memory for LHS that sticks out in my mind is when one of my classes was watching the film Glory and at the end when the Union soldiers are all slaughtered one of my female classmates broke out into tears and continued crying until the teacher assured her that yes, indeed, the North did win the American Civil War.
You can't make this stuff up.
It was during the beginning of my senior year at LHS that I actually ended up working for the Kansas City Star's TeenStar section, despite my utter lack of serious experience in journalism. I was in class the day that 9/11 happened and I can still remember every moment of horror from that terrible day.
For a lot of reasons, some of which I'd really prefer not to discuss, I became a news junkie immediately afterwards. I read every copy of Time Magazine, Newsweek, and US News & World Report that I could get my hands on, which I think is probably the first time that I ever actually learned who Andrew Sullivan was. My peripheral interest in politics expanded significantly, and I took as much time as I possibly could to learn about al-Qaeda and its leadership. Still, I was frustrated with the failures of the media, and a gap that I saw in the blogosphere as well.
My blog Regnum Crucis was born out of that frustration, in August 2002.
When I started up Regnum Crucis, I didn't have a clue who Instapundit was, let alone any of the other major bloggers. I hadn't even heard of NRO or the Weekly Standard or any of the other right-wing alternative media outlets, let alone their left-wing counterparts. In short, I was completely lost inside of blogosphere. If I had a blogfather, it would probably be John Reilly, whose writings probably did the most that one single person could do as far as shaping my worldview. In any case, Regnum Crucis was originally set up to be more or less a mixture between keeping track of the war and working out the kinks on my books. It didn't work out all that well for my books... and I'd do it all over again.
Warblogging is fairly commonplace these days, but I did a good enough job at it that Regnum Crucis got a fairly nice readership between its start-up in August 2002 and when I first started writing for WoC in the summer of 2003. I remember having read Winds of Change.NET since at least mid-spring, and Joe was looking for a new Winds of War writer. Having had some experience at what all of this entailed from my time over at Rantburg and figuring that I had nothing to lose, I decided to give it a shot. He put me on the team and, as most of you know, I've been doing Winds of War (WoW) ever since.
I first got the idea to apply for the AEI internship program during the middle of the uranium flap in the State of the Union around mid-September 2003 when I came to the conclusion that AEI was one of the few think tanks in the United States that was still as interested in actually winning the war in Iraq as others were in declaring it a quagmire or following the nefarious designs of the neocons. So, the naive young college student that I was, I went to my professors seeking to get their recommendations for AEI.
Boy, was I in for a surprise.
Now before I begin, allow me to say that this is not intended as a blanket indictment against college professors, liberals, or opponents of the war, all of whom are as diverse as any other subsection of people. It is, however, representative of the type of atmosphere at my particular college. These aren't just people who have mere policy differences with the administration, or believe that going into Iraq was the wrong thing to do. At least one of these professors from the social scientist department (a Caucasian male, interestingly enough) regards the United States in general and its Caucasian population in specific as being nothing more than an instrument of death and destruction that has brought nothing but oppression and pollution to the rest of the world "in the service of their Semitic war god." This man would later remark in class that "real patriots" would have long since "killed the power elite in Washington" and taken over the country.
I wish I could say that this kind of thing was unique. The other professors held to similar types of opinions, and I'll be quite honest. I think that many of them really do fit Instapundit's description of "they're not anti-war, they're just on the other side."
Indeed, some of the sentiments I encounter from the faculty are so patently stupid or knee-jerk anti-American (such as the claim that the US has killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein ever did) that one's conspiratorial side might wonder if these anti-war professors are actually a brilliant creation of the neocon cabal.
In any case, my professors flatly refused to give me any recommendations for AEI. None whatsoever.
Didn't I know that AEI was the heart of the Cabal, the secret organization that ran the US for the interests of the Israeli Likud party? Indeed, most of my attempts to secure recommendations from them generally resulted in me being handed lengthy stacks of printed documents attacking the organization. Seymour Hersh's piece on "the Cabal" was probably the most moderate, but by the time they were done I had seen everything from Chomsky to Bob Fisk to CounterPunch brought out, all in a frenzied effort to dissuade me from even attempting to get an internship at AEI.
Much later, I spoke with Scott Talkington on this subject, who informed me that this type of behavior was not kosher at the university level. This opinion was shared by the dean of the department in question, who know doubt gave the professors a talking to when I brought the subject to his attention after my conversation with Scott.
But I still had no recommendations.
Soon after this, Joe e-mailed me to ask how things were going. I explained what was going on. Joe, in an act that can only be described as the act of an absolute saint, decided to pull out all the stops in obtaining other sources for letters of recommendation for me - even going as far as to contact occasional WoC commenter Michael Ledeen to explain the situation to him. With the help of Joe, Robin Burk of USMA West Point, Scott Talkington, one of the CGSC terrorism instructors, and the associate director of the Center for Tactical CounterTerrorism (you meet interesting folks blogging), I soon had my AEI resume complete with some very nice recommendations.
Finally, around mid-April, I received a very cordial phone call from Michael Ledeen.
In all honesty, my first reaction was that was this was some kind of a prank call by several of my peers, who knew about my desire to be an intern at AEI, as well as my high respect for Ledeen and his work. As the realization sunk in that it was Ledeen I was talking to on the phone, I imagine I was acting more than a little stupidly, but he was very kind and very patient to me as he calmly explained that I had indeed been accepted into AEI's internship program for the summer of 2004.
To put it quite simply, none of this would have probably been possible without blogging. Joe did more than just mobilize referrals - he wrote a letter to AEI that highlighted my work, and included live links to a range of my articles here on Winds of Change.NET. I'm told that those articles had a real impact during the AEI selection process. Apparently, they weren't used to having work-quality examples from prospective interns, and my research into the al-Ghamdis in particular seemed to pull together a number of threads they had been wondering about.
A lot of the talk that has occurred about the impact of blogging to date has focused on blogs "replacing" the mainstream media as a regular source of information for many people. Not enough, however, has focused on the fact that blogs and the internet in general have become in many ways the ultimate democratizer of ideas. We've talked about the effect of blogs on the media, but maybe we're only seeing part of the picture. The marketplace of ideas goes beyond just the media, to include think-tanks, foundations, governments... and even academia.
Blogs have a role to play in every one of those places. A role they have not yet really tapped - but they will.
In my case, I was able to formulate ideas and thoughts regarding a wide variety of issues, then get them out to a far wider and certainly much more diverse range of people. Ideas that gained readers in significant places, and brought a Kansas army brat to a major Washington think-tank. Is blogging a replacement for our current channels of public discourse? No. Still, I do think that by we have been more than able to ensure that ideas, concepts, and positions can no longer be shouted down or excluded the way that they once were.
If you want a real free marketplace of ideas, the Internet is it.
"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
For those who are curious, I will remain on the WoC team for Winds of War, abeit in a probably more limited capacity for obvious reasons. However, if any readers are interested in taking on the position of an additional Winds of Change team member for the Winds of War, feel free to drop me an e-mail. I'm "scorpius", over at shwiggie.com.
In addition, I would like very much to thank the following individuals, without whom I would have probably never made it to this point: Zulfiqar Khan (le Québec libre) and Rene Ferrer as (I believe) my longest-running readers, Scott Wiggins for hooking me up with a free e-mail account and helping me out with HTML, Joe Katzman and rest of the Winds of Change for recruiting me for Winds of War and all the other efforts they've made on my behalf, Fred Pruitt, the Army of Steve, and all the other Rantburgers, Kevin Ciavarra, Robert Stevens, David Kian, Todd Sweet, Vahae Engeian, Alastair MacKay, Aziz Poonawalla, Richard Fernandez, James Andrewartha, Nathan Hamm, Dan Haught, Pete Stanley, Mitch, Gerald Mattis, Dan Wismar, Don Hagen, Scott Draeker, Xavier Basora, Ahad Azizzada, Nick Peters, Allan Botica, Eric Kansa, Sherry Rylander, William Roggio, Brian Mulvaney, Dennis Culkin, Michele Catalano, David Schuler, Sarmad, Paul Moloney, Eric Cooper, Frank Vance, Jeff Miller, David Dorion, Michael Thayer, David Johnson, Matt Holmes, Leon Sparx, Tom Holsinger, Richard Heddleson, Jonathan Winkler... and any other Regnum Crucis readers or correspondents whom I may have missed.
In addition, allow me to thank Praktike, Andrew Lazarus, and Abu Frank for their service in forming my worldview. In order to grow, one's positions must be challenged, and all three of you are have done an outstanding job of forcing me to reevaluate my positions based on your arguments. In many cases, I still return to my original position, but I believe that the capacity for self-criticism is one of the things that separates us (meaning, broadly speaking, Western civilization) from the enemy and would certainly much rather debate the war with any of you than with any of my professors.
Finally, there is one other person that I would like to thank: a stunningly beautiful violinist music major from Topeka who is currently attending the University of Vanderbilt in Tennessee. Without her affection, her spirit, and above all her inspiration, none of this would ever have been possible. And I would like to thank her for that, if nothing else, from the very bottom of my heart.
With that being said, I regret to announce that, with the exception of the Winds of War on Monday, this will be my last Winds of Change blog from here in Leavenworth. I'm going now, I wish you all a very fond hasta la vista.