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November 25, 2006

Archaic Tribal Warfare In Iraq Is Nothing New

Image: Iraq's tribal society (click to enlarge):


David Ronfeldt wrote a piece at First Monday in February 2005 on the attributes of tribal warfare and how Al-Qaeda and its affiliates fit the tribal paradigm. This abstract summarizes the points of his article:

Al Qaeda and its affiliates are operating much like a global tribe waging segmental warfare. This paper describes the dynamics of classic tribes: what drives them, how they organize, how they fight. Al Qaeda fits the tribal paradigm quite well. Thus, continuing to view Al Qaeda mainly as a cutting-edge, post-modern phenomenon of the information age misses a crucial point: Al Qaeda and affiliates are using the information age to reiterate ancient patterns of tribalism on a global scale. The war they are waging is more about virulent tribalism than religion. The tribal paradigm should be added to the network and other prevailing paradigms to help figure out the best policies and strategies for countering these violent actors.
Simlarly, Iran and Syria have been manipulating the tribal loyalties in Iraq just as much as the religious, and much of what we are seeing in Iraq has been going on in one fashion or another since at least the 13th century, more recently abated only by the intervention of the iron-fisted and ruthless strongman - Saddam Hussein. With him removed from the picture, the country of Iraq has simply returned to its status quo - rule by tribal warfare under religious pretenses and prejudices. Hence, we see insane tribal and religious ideology and loyalty being expressed in scenes such as this in which people are burned alive coming out of prayer services in retaliation for a mortar attack on a mosque that killed 215 people just the previous day.

This piece is not to downplay the role of religious ideology in the conflict, which is in reality, more regional than confined to Iraq. We need only to look at Iran's influence in Lebanon through Hezbollah and Syria, Syria's never-abated role in Lebanon, the Israeli-Lebanon war, Afghanistan, and much more - to see that this is the case.

Let's not forget that Al-Qaeda is Sunni Islam, and Iran is Shi'ite Islam, throw in the plethora of tribal loyalties in Iraq alone, mix in the intervention of Iran and Syria, add the continuous incitement of the various political/ideological agendas that lies at the core of radical Islam, and we have the chaos of what is Iraq today. However, what we need to realize is that the cycle of tribal warfare and of deteriorating urban life that began in the thirteenth century (much more here) with the Mongol invasions, is depicted every day on our TV screens by cable news.

So, is there a temporary fix to our contemporary tribal warfare problem? Unless and until we let Iran and Syria know that they are subject to being bombed back into the sixteenth century for aiding and abetting the warfare between the tribal and religious loyalties within Iraq, the answer is simply no. That leaves US with a big problem.

Given the lack of will to win expressed by the American public in our recent election, we are left with the reality that we have only the will to be defeated, as we surely are going to be unless we change our collective will. The road to peace in Iraq and the Middle East runs over and through Iran and Syria, and we just can't seem to get our collective wits about us to do the one thing that will save western civilization from Islamization by radical Islam, eventually. Meanwhile, tribal warfare will run rampant in Iraq, and continue to get worse. We can't win by loosing, and we certainly can't win by allowing the real enemies we face in Iraq - Iran, Syria (even the leaders of the Sunni insurgency are based there) and tribal warfare, to be given a free pass from consequences.

Another thought, looking back to 2004, and given the events since then; perhaps William Safire was right:

"The three factions controlling Iraq -- long suspicious of one another -- are now on the brink of open tribal warfare. Not the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds -- I mean the Pentagon, State Department and C.I.A."
Interesting how tribal warfare of a different sort has contributed to the tribal warfare in Iraq.

Readers will find much more on Iraq's tribal society here.

Posted by Abdul at November 25, 2006 10:11 AM

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