Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

Committee Chair(s)

Robert Ross


Robert Ross


Anna Pechenkina


John Pascarella


This thesis is an examination of the lives of Qassem Soleimani and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk through the lens of the political philosophies of Plato and Niccolò Machiavelli. Qassem Soleimani and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were noted for their militant lives and share certain qualities of character in their pre-political careers that provide a unique opportunity for a direct comparison and the formulation of a normative claim assessing their relative successes and/or failures despite their many similarities. Through the course of this research the conclusion asserts that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was a more capable man than Soleimani to ascend to a position of political power specifically due to his prioritization of Platonic principles from an early age which guided his pre-political career. Soleimani, on the other hand, pursued a militant path more consistent with the values of a Machiavellian prince and was therefore faced with a greater degree of difficulty in attempting to transition to political life. The theories of Plato and Machiavelli each propose strategies for moving toward an ideal state of governance but apply very different methods for achieving it. While Plato values the pursuit and inclusion of reason and enlightenment for all leaders, Machiavelli assigns more importance the object of power regardless of societal consciousness. Plato’s most realistic model of a leader that is not the famed philosopher king, is the timocratic man, largely militant but not a stranger to the pursuit of reason. Machiavelli’s model is a militant expert with a mastery of cunning and possibly duplicitous management of personal affairs. Ataturk more closely resembles the timocratic man than Soleimani in his early dedication to the goal of broad societal education and altruistic notions of political reform. Soleimani’s life was more characterized by militancy and the elements of conflict and deception that arise in Machiavelli’s model of leadership. As a result, Ataturk was more prepared to face the challenges of the political sphere and Soleimani was left vulnerable and ill-equipped to tackle international disputes.