American Samizdat

Thursday, March 22, 2007. *

Colonel Daniel M. Smith, USA (Ret.) is Senior Fellow, Military and Peaceful Prevention Policy with the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Dan graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1966. Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry, Colonel Smith's initial assignment was as an infantry and heavy weapons platoon leader with the 3rd Armor Division in Germany. Following language training, he then served as an intelligence advisor in Vietnam before returning to the U.S. to do graduate work at Cornell University and teach philosophy and English at West Point . . .

Colonel Smith is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the Army War College. He was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Vietnam Service Medal(4).

Colonel Smith joined the Friends Committee on National Legislation in September 2002 as Senior Fellow on Military Affairs. Dan has a blog, The Quakers' Colonel, where you can read his writing. You can also find selected pieces on FCNL's web site. We are honored that Dan consented to this interview.

P!: In your bio, accessible through "Quakers Colonel" you describe a long and rich military career. Although there are some notable retired
military and intelligence veterans who are very vocal about their objections to our current foreign policies and military ventures, you impress me as being unique. Could you expand on your evolution from a young soldier to a veteran officer now adding your voice to that protest?

Dan: Before I entered West Point, I was an undergraduate at Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska in 1961-62. My putative major was Political Science - in a department that was just emerging from the History Department. The POLYSCi department head and only professor at the time was an extremely intelligent, very liberal person who probably served as an unconscious "intellectual" role model.

Skip ahead 10 years. I had graduated from West Point, been to Vietnam, and was at Cornell University in New York 1971-72 earning a Masters degree in English as the prelude to returning to West Point to teach. West Point had no Philosophy Department although the powers that be had determined (subsequent to my graduation from the Academy in 1966) that a philosophy survey course need to be taught. That course was assigned to the Department of English. At the start of my last semester at Cornell, the Colonel who was the English Department head at West Point called to inform me that I would be teaching not the writing or literature standard courses but the philosophy course. That last semester at Cornell I wrote my thesis, finished with three academic courses, and read everything I could about the philosophers and their systems that would covered in the course I was to teach -- a course which covered
not only secular philosophies but also the main religious traditions (East and West), the philosophy of science, and aesthetics. During the second year I taught, we added Freud and Jung to the formal curriculum with their disciples mentioned in passing. Also in the second and third years, I was tasked to revise and teach an elective on 19th century American thought (probably because my thesis was on American Puritanism
which underlay much of the religious revivalism and intellectual ferment in 19th century New England).

In the three years I taught, I continued to read as much as I could, branching out into the various "sub-strains" and "non-orthodox" and "heretical" interpretations. This brought me into contact with the writings of the notable 20th century Trappist monk and mystic, Thomas Merton, and later with the equally notable mythologist, Joseph Campbell.

All in all, a strange career pattern for a soldier.

. . .

[Read more at P! . . .]

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