August 1, 2007

Tribalism

A Lieutenant Colonel writes from Iraq:


I just read your 2003 article, "Cousin Marriage Conundrum." You're right on the money about Iraq. I am at the end of my 1 year tour in Iraq serving as a military advisor to an Iraqi Army brigade in the northern Kurdish Region. From my observations, it is clear to me that Iraqi obsession with sect and tribe is a major obstacle to reconciliation and development. Of the two, I must say that I believe sectarianism is the greater challenge, based upon my observations during 110 days in Baghdad with my Iraqi Brigade. But even this is related to tribalism, in that sectarianism as practiced in Iraq has little to do with belief (although shia and sunni do have different beliefs) and much to do with group identity -- for the average Shia and Sunni are simply tags to identify group membership much more than flashpoints for theological debate. This sectarian group consciousness has become so heightened that Arabs I meet even in safe S_______ will only reveal their sect after great prodding, for fear of retalion (interestingly, this same phenomenon prevailed in Somalia when I was their 15 years ago -- in that extremely clannish culture, it is considered very impolite to ask someone about their clan affiliation, and even my local hire interpreter dodged telling me what his clan was -- I still do not know to this day).

On the other hand, pure tribal identity still plays a big role in Iraq. You can see this in evidence in Anbar, where attacks against Coalition and Iraqi Government forces have dropped precipitously after the tribal sheyks determined that Al Qaida was a bigger threat than the US and decided to forge an alliance with us. Another example is in the northern region, where the Iraqi units tasked with defending oil infrastructure were recruited locally, and do nothing to stop attacks on that very infrastructure, because most of the attackers are their relatives and fellow tribesmen.

There is an interesting counterpoint to the enduring nature of tribal loyalty in Iraq, however, and that is the Kurdish Region. As late as the 1960s tribal affiliation was still the dominate social identity for many Kurds - even to the point that the Iraqi regime was able to rally sizeable armed support against the Kurdish rebellion from among the Kurds themselves, by exploiting tribal rivalries and wooing tribal aghas and chiefs. Even as late as the early to mid-1970s, the great Kurdish leader, Mullah Mustafa Barzani, derived most of his power from his tribal base rather than from a political constituency (even though he was president of the Kurdish Democratic Party). Now however, a completely different situation prevails. While the tribes still exist and have some influence, they have mostly been emasculated of any real power. Furthermore, Kurds almost universally identify more with their ethnic identity than with any other source of identity, be it tribe, sect, religious affiliation (christian, Yezidi, Kakiye, etc) or State citizenship. However, all is not roses - to a certain extent, political party affiliation has supplanted tribal affiliation as a claimant to allegiance and a source of patronage, with the two main parties - the Kurdish Democratic Party led by Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani (son of Mullah Mustafa) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Needless to say, the vast power of these two parties has led to friction - even major violence as in the civil war in the mid- to late 1990s -- and corruption. That said, the Kurdish Region is far better developed politically, socially, and economically than the rest of Iraq, due in no small measure to the leadership of these two parties. So the chains of tribalism can be broken, as they have been in the Kurdish region.

It doesn't always turn out this well, however. Somalia is another interesting case in point. Here, the power of traditional tribal elders was broken by the erection of the superstructure of the modern nation-state over the country. When this government was overthrown in 1992, people still identified themselves by clan, but the traditional clan leaders had lost all influence. The result - any s***head kid with an AK-47 suddenly was the real power in town - and tended to use that power against other people from rival tribes.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

21 comments:

jody said...

i would be satisfied with the politicians and media simply admitting that perhaps iraq is not just like germany or japan after all.

but i'm not optimistic. at the minimum there is a major refusal here to admit that low IQ peasants and farmers, who have never created any industry, developed any infrastructure, or invented anything ever, are suddenly going to transform iraq into anything other than a third world dump.

Anonymous said...

"who have never created any industry, developed any infrastructure, or invented anything ever, are suddenly going to transform iraq into anything other than a third world dump."

Right, Iraqi's haven't invented anything.... How about Civilization? Mesopotamians had great cities while Europeans were running around naked and covering themselves in blue paint.

Anonymous said...

For a thorough and enlightening analysis of the Arab mindset see:

The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs

Well worth a look.

Anonymous said...

Jody --

You're confusing the issue. It's not whether Iraq will be a third world dump, it's what to do on a broader level with states run by hostile people who collaborate and/or provide safe havens for terrorists.

Derb is fond of saying "rubble doesn't make trouble," but Osama's ability to use rubble-strewn Afghanistan as a secure base to plot for 9/11 sure caused trouble. Obama thinks some special forces or whatever will sort out Waziristan. Clinton thought lobbing a few missiles at sand dunes would fix the problem. Bush thought invading Iraq would scare it's neighbors. None of that has worked out.

Iran is racing towards nukes and issued a fatwa against Harry Potter. Pakistan HAS them and totters into Zawahari's and the Taliban's control (Musharraf has survived five known assassination attempts).

Absolutely no one has come up with a solution that actually works for tribal/clan based networks (KSM, the 9/11 mastermind, Ramzi Yusef, the 1993 WTC mastermind, were uncle and nephew respectively, Yassin the one remaining 1993 bomber, sheltered by Saddam and still at large, was also a relative) that operate in third world dumps where there is no real fear of US consequences but real fear of a tribal/clan network. Since they are close and the US far away and impotent, chained by UN, EU, Human Rights, and Media considerations.

If this were 1900 it wouldn't matter, but global trade/globalization and technology put us in close contact with the third world dumps and allow them to get on a plane and be in say NYC in a day.

Anonymous said...

Anon --

Why did Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and all those other civilizations either fall or remain in static isolation and decay? Why did the West advance so much?

Hanson says it's civic militarism. Others say it's Guns, Germs and Steel. Others claim "racial superiority" though Chinese and other North Asians have higher mean IQs than Europeans.

What it likely is however is orientation away from clan/tribe/family and "affordable family formation" for the average joe, who could have his own wife and family, and be assured of paternity, which in turn led him to both fight ferociously for that family or opportunity, and most inventively. Why bother innovating if the benefits go to Pharoah's harem or such? But if you can have the hot girl in the village, well that's another story.

Mesopatamia, China, Egypt, etc. all had lots of young men with no hope of wives, they go sit out in the boonies, figure THEY should be in charge and lead a revolt that shakes society, leading to instability and static declines.

You'll note most of Mesopotamia's innovations happened early on in their civilization, before dynasties hogged all the women.

Ibrahim Nur said...

I don't consider myself a fan of Sailer as I find him to be a repugnant racist. But this talk of tribalism sure is interesting!

As a Somali immigrant I know first hand about tribalism, the way Somalis do not see themselve as a nation but rather as tribal groups. The man Sailer quotes says of Somalia:

"Somalia is another interesting case in point. Here, the power of traditional tribal elders was broken by the erection of the superstructure of the modern nation-state over the country. When this government was overthrown in 1992, people still identified themselves by clan, but the traditional clan leaders had lost all influence. "

But the larger point is that the goverment was overthrown in 1992 BECAUSE of tribal conflict--a certain tribe did not like the tribe of the president and thus rebelled and slaughtered/chased the president's people out of the country.

I cannot honestly imagine any way democracy can function in Somalia because of the impediment of tribalism. And perhaps this is the same reason why democracy in large has generally not worked out very well in most of Africa.

Dalecat said...

The Communists understood that to truly take over a society you must win over or exterminate the alpha males. Since communism was a bleak system extermination was usually in order.

We'd do far better in Iraq to study what Saddam did and do it, or better yet, appoint a New Saddam-that is if we wished to make the country work.


Some think the present state is exactly what the real powers that be (and you know who these people say they are) want. I haven't figured out if that's true or not since i don't understand how they benefit in the long run.

Muswell Hillbilly said...

Anon,

Babylonians were not Arabs. Calling them "Iraqis," as if you can in any way connect that civilization to the present day state is quite simply idiotic.

It would be sort of like giving credit to American Indians for the creation of the United States.

jody said...

"Right, Iraqi's haven't invented anything"

please name things iraqis have invented.

"You're confusing the issue."

there's no confusion here. dealing with muslim terror is extremely easy. you keep muslims out. there's nothing difficult about it.

Anonymous said...

The Iraqis or, more properly, their ancestors in Mesopotamia invented the windmill, canals, irrigation, monotheism, the first code of laws (and therefore the "state" as we know it), the alphabet, among other things. -Yes, all of these innovations I mention were made before 2000 BC or so - but they are notable for their importance.

Muswell Hillbilly said...

Anon (a different one?),

I will say this again because people haven't yet got the point, apparently:

Iraqi Arabs have as much in common with ancient Babylonians as the native Americans who were displaced by English settlers do.

They are a different population of people that swept in after the former had decayed and otherwise disappeared.

Anonymous said...

Anon above - Do we actually know to what extent the current Iraqi population is descended from those old time productive people or do they just happen to be living on the same map references? Im sure to a left/liberal/neocon/libertarian thats exactly the same thing. In the real world however...

Jody - what you said.

Blanco said...

re:"I don't consider myself a fan of Sailer as I find him to be a repugnant racist. But this talk of tribalism sure is interesting!"

Actually I don't find Sailer to be a "repugnant racist". He does believe in racial differences among different human populations (which as I'm sure you realize - a lot of people whether white, black, left, liberal, neocon etc. also believe but won't say), but IMO that in itself does not make him a "racist". In fact in quite a few articles I've been pleasantly surprised to find him pretty openminded about things like interracial relationships. Furthermore, if you're Muslim as your name suggests, you should also respect Sailer for his sympathy and understanding of why Muslims are so angry at the West. Unlike neocons, he does not automatically take the side of Israel on every issue. Personally I think if people like Sailer or Buchanan ran America, relations between the West and Islam would be a lot better.

aceflyer said...

there is a major refusal here to admit that low IQ peasants and farmers, who have never created any industry, developed any infrastructure, or invented anything ever, are suddenly going to transform iraq into anything other than a third world dump.

This is a pretty funny comment, considering that Iraq just a few years ago awas a prosperous and stable second world society. It took 15 years of concerted effort (bombing, sanctions, invasion) by the West to destroy that.

But to give "Jody" credit, at least he/she did not begin a paragraph like this:

"Hanson says ..."

LOLOLOLOL!

Blackie said...

If you can't keep drugrunners and illegal laborers out, you sure as hell can't keep the muslims out. That's a fantasy to escape the reality of the ubiquitous terror-mind of Islam.

Libertarianism is great for domestic policy but when Hitler or Osama or Ahmadinejad lead their armies against civilization, libertarian foreign policy sucks.

Anonymous said...

Muswell Hillbilly: Do you have any sources/evidence to support this claim?

By "evidence," I don't mean 19th century thinkers/historians who were convinced that if something had anything to do with "civilization," then it must have been invented by a variant of "whites." (Or, conversely, if a group looks dismal by today's standards of civilizational achievement, then their ancestors in the distant past couldn't have created a robust civilization.) For instance, I've seen at least one project (sponsored by IBM, shown on the Discovery channel) that demonstrated through DNA evidence that the present day north African populations are strongly correlated with those from the times of Carthage. For whatever that is worth.

The question is not rhetorical. Do you have any evidence other than speculation of the kind mentioned above?


JD

Anonymous said...

Anon 8/01/2007 1:56 PM, is that David Pryce-Jones this one here:

http://www.fpp.co.uk/docs/Irving/RadDi/RadDi151101.html

? Like so many of those "objective," "unbiased" "experts" who happen to know so much about Arabs?

Naturally, the "honor" system of "Ayrabs" must be quite different from the old Southern code of honor. The latter is a noble thing since it was practiced by the white race. Ayrabs, on the other hand, use it only to "save face" since they are always plotting for "power grabs" -- unlike the rest of the higher primate species called homo sapiens who do such things because they are angels.

One would think that bloody Ayrabs, with their 85 average IQ -- same as that of "African Americans" -- are better served by that honor code since at least they do not dump their women after impregnating them, choose narco-trafficing as their main source of income which they use to purchase the coolest and most extravagant cars to get more chics, and murder each other for narco-selling turf fights, etc. -- they even have their script -- but all that must be illusory. Obviously, having no code of honor is way more civilized -- as Africa richly attests to it.

The open season on "Ayrabs" doesn't seem even likely to subside, let alone end. Seems like just when Whites were about to explode with all the bottled up anger they had for "colored" people messing up their country, they've finally found a safe outlet to discharge themselves to their hearts' content. And they needn't worry about that one since it's quite obvious Jews will not organize any special "civil rights movement" to stifle that one.

David Davenport said...

Naturally, the "honor" system of "Ayrabs" must be quite different from the old Southern code of honor.

Yes, the old Southern code of honor was much better than that of the A-rubs.

Southern white men fought with each other, rather than mass murdering large numbers of innocent bystanders, including women and children.

Anonymous said...

JD: This is not Muswell Hillbilly, but a few of your comments deserve attention:

JD said: "By "evidence," I don't mean 19th century thinkers/historians who were convinced that if something had anything to do with "civilization," then it must have been invented by a variant of "whites.""

This is a silly comment on several levels. First of all, southwest and south asians and north africans, while somewhat different, do tend to cluster with europeans in genetic studies as "caucasians" and are therefore arguably "white." Addressing the real issue, recent genetic historical analyses tend to show a lot of genetic continuity for most regions over time (the European settlement of the new world being an exception). This is not to say that new populations moving in do not leave their mark, just that (near) total replacement is rare (for instance, the Anglo-Saxon and Viking contribution to Britain is quite small compared to the bulk of the population that appears to have originated in stone age Iberia and S France that moved up the Atlantic coast after the last glacial maximum). Hence, from an ancestry point of view, a large portion of the current Iraqi population is probably descended from ancient Mesopotamians, but they are likely to have a lot of other lines descent as well. Furthermore, lines of descent as identified by mtDNA and Y chromosome haplotypes do not necessarily mean that modern populations are not genetically different from their ancestors in ways that can have real consequences. It is clear from recent studies (See Wades's recent summaries in the NYT) that within historical time parameters there has been a lot of natural selection (in different genes) in different populations. Cochran and Harpending, in their paper on the development of Ashkenazi intelligence, show that with reasonable selection strengths it is mathematically plausible that quite significant changes in frequencies could occur in genes that influence intelligence (or, by analogous reasoning, personality). Whether Modern Iraqis are dumber than their ancient ancestors, who knows? Modern Iraqis seem to test a little less than 1 S.D. lower than modern Europeans on highly g-loaded psychometric tests. They are also much poorer on average, however, and also likely suffer from inbreeding depression due to their marriage customs, so I don't think we can conclude that their "genetic potential" for cognitive ability under ideal environments is necessarily less than Europeans (but hey, realized ability, not potential, is what matters in the real world anyway). Basically, the picture that is emerging from new genetic research is that the human gene pool is constantly changing from natural selection. The ancient Mesopotamians could be brighter or dumber than their ancestors (and they could have been brighter than europeans circa 3000 BC and dumber today, or not).

However, it is much more certain that culturally modern Iraqis have virtually nothing in common with Ancient Mesopotamians. The ancient Summerians did not even speak a semitic language (their language may have been related to modern Caucasian languages such as Georgian). The Akkadians and Babylonians that replaced them did speak a Semitic language related to those spoken in the Arabian peninsula, whose imposition on the region is relatively recent, resulting from the Islamic invasians from the 7th Century onwards, but they were not "Arabs" and their culture had little in common with that of the Arabian Penninsula. There have also been innumerable changes in religion and religious and cultural influences (pagan gods, Hellenistic influence and rule, persian influence and rule, Roman and later Greek Byzantine influence and rule, Christianity, Islam, that barbarous desert raider's religion par excellance that emerged from the Arabian Penninsula to pick up the spoils of the Eastern Roman and Sassanid Empires after they had been decimated by the bubonic plague in the 6th C., etc.). Basically, whatever their genetic continuity, the modern inhabitants of Iraq are culturally and in thier mentality about as similar as Modern Scandinavians are to the Vendell culture.

JD said: "For instance, I've seen at least one project (sponsored by IBM, shown on the Discovery channel) that demonstrated through DNA evidence that the present day north African populations are strongly correlated with those from the times of Carthage. For whatever that is worth."

It's not worth very much. A large degree of continuity in mtDNA and Y chromosome haplotype lines don't mean very much except to some silly African Studies major who has read Black Athena and wants to convince himself that the Hannibal Barca that whupped up on the Romans was a black man or some silly white liberal who wants to show that non-Europeans can out general Europeans to help black kids self esteem. (FWIW, Hannibal, as a member of the Carthaginian aristocracy was of Phoenician (modern Palestine) descent, perhaps with some Berber since marriages between Carthaginian and native Berber noble families were not uncommon.) Also, FWIW, North Africans are Caucasians. Check out Steven Oppenheimer's the Real Eve. Basically, they appear to be about 50% Western European that crossed into N Africa from Iberia during the last glacial maximum and moved eastwards, 3/8ths SW Asian that spread west starting around the same time and continuing into historical times. The remaining 1/8th appears to be sub-Saharan African and appears to be a result of the massive slaving conducted by N African peoples in historical times.)

Anonymous said...

Anon 8/05/2007 1:04 AM:

Thanks for your lenghty comments, but there seems to be a misunderstanding here.

First, I don't see what is "silly" in my comment (much less what is so "on several levels"), but obviously you chose to assume that I'm some kinda smart alec liberal trying to diss any and all studies on genes, races, history, etc.

I'm quite familiar with most of the things you say -- some evidential, some naturally speculatory -- but my question was quite specific:

* By "white" I didn't mean "caucasian." I meant "north European." If you're familiar with racialists like Revilo Oliver (I don't intend to belittle everything the man has written, so let's not veer off in yet another direction there), in the things he has written as late as 70s and 80s, he still speaks with a confidence that the "real" Egyptians were actually of "nordic" stock with blond hair and blue eyes.

* Nor did my comments imply that I presume present day Arabs, assuming they have any genetic commonalities with say Babylonians, necessarily display a similar (or potentially similar) intellectual level.

* It should be common knowledge to anyone familiar with population genetics now that small differences matter a lot at the populational level. In fact, if what you quote as the rate of "Western European" influence on the North African populations -- close to 50% -- it is obvious that even a genetic similarity as large as that to Europeans does not result in a civilization comparable to that of the latter. So, then, through what specific reasoning it is assumed that Iraqis -- the darned inferior bastards that they are -- have NOTHING in common with Babylonians (assuming theirs was such a great civilization)?

I noted that the question wasn't rhetorical. I asked for specific evidence -- as contrasted to speculative assertion.

Which you seem to have somewhat misinterpreted.

These days, everybody on any side of this discussion seems so hypersensitive that a slightest slighting of an argument which may seem crude (at least in some people's opinion) is met with condescension like "silly on several levels." Just what is silly in challenging the almost fairy-tale like 19th century narratives of race? It still continues intact even at the present day with fables like "March of the Titans." Only in this romantic version of racialism are the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Germanic tribes one continuous story of the glory and unsurpassed perfection of a "master" race.

There are many ways of saying "I don't like Arabs." Those who feel the urge to say it are also perfectly entitled to the opinion. I'm just one of those that believes it's better to say this explicitly rather than shouting "Iraqis have NOTHING in common with any breed that has built any civilization." It may be wiser to keep science -- which should, by necessity, be purged off of passions and the primal male urge to be part of a winning team -- relatively isolated from the current political heat.

Ever since the 19th century, Western imperialism used bits and pieces of these discussions to justify its meddling in the affairs of the Middle East. If I'm not again being "silly" here, the result hasn't been too impressive. If we applied conservative principles a bit more uniformly, we might have arrived at the conclusion that it may be wiser to stop messing things down there and leave them alone so that they sort out their affairs amongst themselves (I hope you don't assume Euro-whites have descended from heaven in perfection), and along the process evolve. The process may involve centuries of in-fighting, or they may well obliterate themselves and be eliminated from the human gene pool. Regardless, it is at least more honest than shouting "they are useless barbarians" and turning their world upside down with "shock and awe" campaigns.


JD

Anonymous said...

JD,

Rest assured that I am under no illusions that Euro-whites are "descended from heaven in perfection." I am not impressed with how they have conducted themselves in the last decades and I have no time for nordicist rubbish either. Since you seem to want candor, I will clearly say that it is not Arabs that I dislike pre se, but Islam (in fact, Middle Eastern Christian immigrants integrate quite into Western societies). In fact, I think the greatest tragedy to befall the world was the destruction of the connection between Europe and West Asia provided first by Rome, then by Christendom, by the emergence of Islam. Nor do I think that modern Iraqi muslims have nothing in common with any breed that built civilization. They clearly have a civilization. I won't say it's a bad civilization because good and bad are in the eye of the beholder, but it is one that I do not care for and do not think is conducive to a modern, liberal (in the sense of freedom), high tech, market oriented society and economy and do not think is compatible with modern western culture (which I also am not too fond of because of its decadence), or the better culture that still had a sense of honor coupled with virtue that the West used to have for that matter (as opposed to islamic honor culture decoupled from virtue where face and appearances as opposed to a cychronisity of conduct and reputation can lead to it being considered honorable to kill a daughter or sister that was raped because such rape is an affront to one's own honor).

I agree with you that we in the West should stop meddling with the Middle East and allow them to go on killing one another, oppressing their women, and stagnating economically because of their corruption and cultural conventions. However, I also think that Western nations are very foolish to allow any muslim (note: I did not say middle eastern, and only mean those that accept Sharia and Islamic honor culture) immigration. They will pay dearly for it. Also, even though I generally subscribe to non-interference and deplore Bush's ill conceived Iraq war, I recognize that the worst thing one can do when confronted with Islamic honor cultures is to show compassion or passivity. Just as we should not interfere with them, they should not interfere with us and any incursions into the West a la 9/11 should be paid back upon their co-religionists 1000 fold, given that their stated motives are associated with that religion. (this is basically what was done to Germany and Japan in WWII when we burnt their cities to the groud, punishing their civilians for there mere association with the Nazi and Imperial regimes).