April 7, 2008

"I and My Brother against My Cousin"

Anthropologist Stanley Kurtz has a long, useful article in The Weekly Standard about Middle Eastern tribalism, "I and My Brother against My Cousin." He argues that we've overstated the importance of Islam in our recent troubles and understated the importance of tribal behaviors, rooted in nomadism, that are older than the Koran. (Indeed, Islam can be seen as both assuming but also criticizing the low-level feuding that was endemic to that difficult-to-police part of the world.) Fans of "The Man Who Would Be King" and "Lawrence of Arabia" won't be terribly surprised, but will still find the essay provides a solid framework for understanding.

I agree with Kurtz's article on just about everything other than the scale of the threat posed to the U.S. by Middle Eastern tribal tendencies. My view is that the danger, while not negligible (obviously), tends to be self-limiting due to the fractiousness exemplified in the title of the article. These guys aren't the Russians with 10,000 nuclear warheads mounted on ICBMs. It's not like Al-Qaeda is going to build its own fleet of jetliners to fly into our skyscrapers. They're only a danger to us to the extent that we let them be a danger to us. To stop the Russians, we had to build a fleet of Poseidon subs. What we needed to stop Mohamed Atta and Co., in contrast, was a memo to Customs agents telling them to not let terroristy-looking guys through the gates at JFK.

Late last summer, with no decent new movies out, I wrote a retrospective review for The American Conservative of "Lawrence of Arabia" that discussed how we get a glimpse in the second half of the movie of the end of the ancient struggle between the regular armies of settled nations and the irregular warriors of tribal nations:
Among its numerous virtues, "Lawrence" provides insight into America's quandary in Iraq by offering a vivid primer on what William S. Lind calls "asymmetrical" war.

In "Lawrence," regular warfare, with its drilling and decisive battles, is exemplified by the stolid Turkish infantry, while irregular warfare, with its interminable raids and retreats, is embodied in the mercurial Arab camel cavalry.

In the famous screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, the British high command wants Lawrence to trick the Bedouin Arabs into enlisting as cannon fodder in the grinding British attack on the Ottomans at Gaza. Lawrence insubordinately devises a more culturally appropriate strategy for the nomads: "'The desert is an ocean in which no oar is dipped' and on this ocean the Bedu go where they please and strike where they please." They will harass the Turkish railway to Medina with hit-and-run attacks, avoiding the pitched battles, for which the tribesmen, no fools, wouldn't even show up.

In 1917, in the first two-thirds of the movie, Lawrence's insight works wonderfully. In the 1918 conclusion, however, although the British and Arabs win, the failures of irregularity become clearer. The victorious but still fractious clans can't competently manage the hospitals and waterworks of Damascus. Even before then, there are hints that irregular desert warfare is doomed by the new age of mechanized mobility. When the Turks can get their hands on enough German armored cars and airplanes, they negate the traditional Bedouin advantage in mobility and elusiveness.

Subsequently, it turned out that cultures that were good at regular warfare, like the Israelis and Americans, were also better at building and maintaining the tanks and planes that gave regular militaries the mobility of irregular warriors.


But history never ends; losers adapt. As Lawrence tells Omar Sharif's Sherif Ali, "Nothing is written." Now, after two easy victories in open country over Iraq's derisible regular army, America has bogged down in Iraq's urban jungles fighting countless irregular units that disappear into the alleys as Lawrence's mounted warriors vanished into the dunes.

In other words, while irregular warriors from the Middle East long harassed Christendom due to their often superior mobility (such as that provided by the camel), the mechanization of military mobility in the 20th Century meant that the cultures that fostered cooperation and discipline were much better at building and maintaining the tanks and planes that have determined victory since WWI. Now, though, tactics have evolved, and we're bogged down in places like Basra ... but only because we're in places like Basra.

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

42 comments:

dearieme said...

9/11 resulted in, what, fewer than 3000 deaths? Pro rata to population, that's smaller than the numbers of deaths in Britain and Ireland at the hands of the IRA, as funded largely by Americans and supported by American politicians. It's hard not to conclude that the American response to 9/11 was hysterical - perhaps the climax of the remorseless feminisation and infantilisation of your country. The terrorists had been daring and lucky to an extent that will probably be impossible to repeat as long as a few elementary precautions are taken.

Dereliction of duty by the draft-dodger Clinton, followed by the rash and ignorant stupidity of the draft-dodgers Bush and Cheney, has led you into a horribly costly folly while also compromising your civil liberties. It's all desperately sad and worrying.

Eric said...

I realize you wrote the piece some time ago, but as it stands we're hardly "bogged down" in Basra. The Iraqi army did the vast majority of the heavy lifting, and it looks like they killed about 500 of Sadr's people. The Mahdi army had the kind of "victory" that Saddam had in Kuwait - you can survive it in a much diminished capacity.

This thing is pretty much over. The number of attacks on US troops goes down every month, as well as the number of successful attacks. Foreign fighters have been driven from the country, and the local militias have been mostly co-opted or destroyed.

The real question now is what role do we play in the future - leave now that the government can stand on it's own, or spend a decade or two making sure power transitions are orderly?

headache said...

Seems like eventually even the neocons are wising up to the importance of race and tribalism. Maybe in 50 years we wll have come full circle. By then, however, most of the once prosperous West will be in a sorry state.

Anonymous said...

Other than the fact that the Arabic armies that conquered the Middle East weren't irregulars, and that only a tiny % of Arabs are bedouins these days, great point.

TGGP said...

Another good article on the difference between islam and honor codes is this classic on Pushtunwali.

simon n said...

We don't need to be in Basra, but mass immigration raises the prospect of a thousand Basras throughout the West. So I'm in two minds about the scale of the irregular-tribal threat - it's no threat to our armies in open terrain, but it's a big threat to our urban populations.

testing99 said...

Steve, you're far too sanguine about the threat. Yes Islamic nations can't build aircraft carriers, or the fleet of trans-pacific bombers that the USSR had.

But Pakistan has more than 100 nukes. It's ICBMS can currently reach about 1500 miles, there is no reason to think that they won't get to intercontinental distances eventually. The USSR did in the 1960's. That's forty years ago Steve.

Iran has ICBMs (but no nukes currently) that can reach Southern Europe, including Italy, now. In less than a decade they can probably extend that range to Paris and Berlin and London.

Technology proliferation as a "commodity" often by Western or Westernized nations (Sweden is a major arms exporter along with China) "equalizes" the situation.

It's akin Steve to Samuel Colt. He made even physically weak Doc Holliday dangerous. Because Holliday didn't really care if he was killed, was fast, and tended to escalate any argument right into a deadly gunfight, people were afraid of him.

We are not going to get out of conflict. Basra is irrelevant. Osama's latest threats mentioned the Pope and Danish Cartoons. Pakistan riots over not Iraq but some obscure internet film by an obscure Dutch politico criticizing Islam.

Tribal dynamics as Salzman points out will lead to internal conflicts being resolved by attacking the West in general and the US specifically. We can't stop Iran (and Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, and likely many other Islamic nations from getting nukes). We lack the political will to do so now when it's possible because it would be ugly and expensive.

So we will lose cities, that's certain. You can bet on it (likely through nukes "borrowed" through tribal connections and sent via container, the poor man's ICBM). It's tribal intimidation just like the palm trunks episode Salzman mentions.

But you and Lawrence miss the bigger point. Tribes raid and go through intimidation and constant attrition warfare. As Keeley in "War Before Civilization" points out, attrition rates in tribal places average around 4-5% a year murder (and there are no non-combatants).

Westerners have stable societies where (excepting political underclasses that choose it) that sort of violence is not tolerated. When external threats become undeniable, and are no longer able to be excused, temporized, bargained with, and so on, Westerners do what they really hate doing: "total war" in other words massive resource mobilization to "make it a desert and call it peace."

We don't like War and killing because it's very expensive (total mobilization) and we kill in massive amounts when we do it. We will likely lose a few cities (probably NYC and DC), and wipe out half the Muslim world. An avoidable tragedy (if we just demonstrated "tribal" aggression right back) but because we are Western and don't like spending the money we will end up doing it.

poor richard said...

I imagine that the US engaged Iraq to test out our latest weaponry. Modern armies cannot take cities, period. It just isn't feasible and never has been. Destroy cities, sure. Cut them off from the world, sure.

The Middle East is really Europe's problem. The "Eurabia" scenario might be an overstatement, but something in that direction. Notice the anti-Semitism running through resurgent Euro nationalism and Islamism.

I cannot fathom the neo-con hawkishness in the Mideast, as if that is helping Israel or the US. But it works in terms of fomenting Euro anti-Semitism against the US in support (tacit so far) of the Arabs.

It is inevitable that the US and EU will carve out two separated spheres of influence. That is what this military/economic/ideological maneuvering is all about right now. No matter how it presents itself.

From a geopolitical standpoint, the East Coast is a lousy focus for the top US cities. It leads to a disconnected bicoastal national consciousness that is poorly integrated with the heartland. Natural tends to correct imbalances like that.

We need to get back to the Monroe Doctrine.

anony-mouse said...

"... but only because we're in places like Basra."

Unfortunately Basra is moving to large parts of Europe. Well no problem then we can just stay out of Europe.

That was tried twice before, in times much slower and more difficult to get around.

Anonymous said...

Tribalism plays a major role in the Arab culture. Its not Islam.

www.stuffwhitepeopleliketshirts.com

American Goy said...

"Seems like eventually even the neocons are wising up to the importance of race and tribalism."

They ARE.

Look at immigration trends to Israel.

Any non-Jews admitted?

Palestinian Arabs returning to their ancestral (tribal identity again!) homes from 1948 and older?

Europeans of non-Jewish variety admitted to Israel?

NO.

Only Jews - so how are the neocons not wising up to tribal politics again?

tommy said...

He argues that we've overstated the importance of Islam in our recent troubles and understated the importance of tribal behaviors

There would be a way to test this concept: invade Indonesia!

gcochran said...

to eric: "Figures compiled by the American military showed that attacks on military targets in Baghdad more than doubled in March, one of many indications that violence across Iraq has begun to rise again after months of gains in the wake of an American troop increase."

And of course a big fraction of the so-called Iraqi Army _defected_ in Basra - what better proof of their ability to stand on their own feet?

Eric, you are a pinhead, fool, liar and traitor.

Peter said...

9/11 resulted in, what, fewer than 3000 deaths? Pro rata to population, that's smaller than the numbers of deaths in Britain and Ireland at the hands of the IRA, as funded largely by Americans and supported by American politicians. It's hard not to conclude that the American response to 9/11 was hysterical - perhaps the climax of the remorseless feminisation and infantilisation of your country. The terrorists had been daring and lucky to an extent that will probably be impossible to repeat as long as a few elementary precautions are taken.

And if the passengers on the hijacked airliners had fought back, instead of meekly accepting death, those 3,000 people wouldn't have died. The hijackers were poorly armed, greatly outnumbered,* and for the most part were a collection of skinny little twerps. Unfortunately, middle class and upper middle class white men, who comprised most of the passengers, have no concept of "fighting back." Slamming one's fist into another person's face? We don't do things like that; only other, "lesser" people do - rednecks, ghetto dwellers, drunken fratboys. Unfortunately, sometimes you HAVE to fight ... or die.

* = the hijackers were outnumbered 8-to-1 and 7-to-1 on the two WTC planes, and that is counting only fight-capable passengers, which I have somewhat arbitrarily defined as males between 16 and 55.

Oh, and before anyone says that the passengers had no reason to believe their lives were in danger, that they'd be released after some negotiations, we know from radio and cell phone calls that the hijackers killed people on both planes. That should've been a pretty clear tipoff that these weren't "regular" hijackers.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dr. Cochran. Continuing this costly Iraq nonsense is insane. Independent of all the interestingly anarchic tribal stuff (who can blame the hicks for despising their own pasted-on scumbag leaders?), dominant taboos in the Middle East make us look like pederasts, in addition to all the half-factually-based conspiracy/anti-semitic crap. It's like if a bunch of naked people wanted to modernize you. "We always suspected there was something a little off about you freaks." Of course you would. You're decent people from where you come from.

All the surplus economic and technological stuff that makes Americans so ridiculously happy and well-adjusted, might be dependent on our genetic standard deviation IQ superiority. Meaning global economic integration for proles entails virtual slavery, outside of them fleecing us for oil revenues and such. Don't pretend this isn't totally messed-up but also true enough. I don't know an American who isn't pathetic, wishing they had a tribe, clan, or even family that worked like they intuit it should, whether or not that leads to fun violence and dramatic suffering a few times a year.

That's messed up, but I'm happy to argue it, as maybe people will realize Steve Sailer et. all are not effectively a naked guy. We're through the looking glass, here, people.

Big Bill said...

I love that post about Pustunwali: If one loses face/dignity then "no one would congratulate him on the birth of child. No one would marry his daughter. No one would attend his funeral. His disgrace will endure for generations. He and his family must move away."

That attitude in essence is what keep MDM's dominant. The same could be said with equal validity about black hat Jews. You, your children, and your children's children will be expelled from the community if you transgress.

Even when they know the rules of honor are insane they still follow them, like the injunction that a Jewish man must give his wife a divorce "willingly" (and in Israel the religious courts will throw you in prison in solitary confinement until you "willingly" give your wife a divorce).

The bottom line it is a wonderful exercise in social power that keeps the tribe united whether the tribe is Jewish or Pushtun, or Kurdish.

Black folks wonder why Koreans and Jews are mopping up on them in business? This is the reason. No family/clan/tribal loyalty. The last person black folks trust is some other black person.

testing99 said...

No anon, we cannot back down in Iraq. Didn't you read the article? Tribalists take that as weakness and attack more.

What Steve and most miss is that globalization puts tribes right up next to America. He asks why all the attention to Pakistan and not Mexico? Because Pakistan is tribal, therefore unstable, and therefore finds "peace" only with an external enemy: the US. AND they HAVE NUKES. Mexico is the same, but they don't have NUKES.

Most of the commenters just don't get it: tribalism means CONSTANT tribal warfare. Attrition rates of 3-4% (see Wade's "Before the Dawn" or Keeley's "War Before Civilization.") Globalization puts us virtually right next door. Satellite TV, DVDs, the internet, means it's always something: ice cream swirls, Piglet from Winnie the Pooh, an old opera by Mozart, cartoons, speeches by the Pope, who knows. Muslims LOOK FOR OFFENSE because it gives power to those who stir things up (Mullahs and would-be-tribal leaders) and Westerners ALWAYS back down.

Leaving Iraq only invites more aggression, particularly the nuclear kind. Read the article. That's how tribal societies work.

Steve is flat out wrong too in thinking we can stop conflict with tribal societies just be keeping Attas out. The 9/11 plot was a redo of 1993, where KSM's nephew Ramzi Yusef wanted to kill 50,000 people by toppling one tower onto another and came close. We could have lost 14,000 on 9/11 if not for heroism of firefighters and guys like Rescorla.

Dearime exemplifies the delusion the important things with tribes is ALWAYS PUSH BACK. HARDER. Read the article. That's how they work. If anything our response to a mass-murder plot, with the support and connivance of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran to various degrees was not strong enough. We did not kill enough people. We did not show ourselves as strong.

We are seen as the weak tribe. The pushover peasants in the article. The people lacking the will and fortitude. While imaginative raiders are the "strong men." Who in polygamous societies get rewarded with otherwise unobtainable reproductive opportunities.

"The terrorists had been daring and lucky to an extent that will probably be impossible to repeat as long as a few elementary precautions are taken."

Wishful thinking and ignores AQ's actual behavior for fantasy. KSM did not repeat Yusef's mistakes. The next attack will use a "nuclear carbomb" in some shipping container. Millions dead. Or something equally imaginative. Underestimating your enemy is stupid.

In short Steve gets the following wrong:

1. Globalization through communications means we are "virtually" next door to places like Pakistan, which are deeply tribal and fractured.
2. Guys get power by attacking us, rising in honor and glory and all that, which explains the insanity of the 1993 attack (if it had succeeded, substitute Clinton for GWB 8 years early).
3. Ignoring the problem only makes us look weak, and invites more attacks.
4. Western society does not like long fights in tribal attrition of 3-4% because we have better ways of getting laid than "honor" etc.
5. Steve and most of the commenters make the mistake of underestimating the enemy which though tribal is hardly stupid. He's motivated by the strongest drive of all to figure out new ways to kill more Americans.

gcochran said...

testing99: You might do well to think about possible reactions to your constant bullshit. Do you feel lucky?

Eric said...

Modern armies cannot take cities, period. It just isn't feasible and never has been. Destroy cities, sure. Cut them off from the world, sure.

What was it the US military did in 2003 in Baghdad? Do you have some very restrictive definition of "take"? We certainly didn't destroy the place.

Eric, you are a pinhead, fool, liar and traitor.

I lost all respect for your opinion long ago, Cochran, and you haven't disappointed me with this comment.

I know, based on your comments at Pournelle's site, everyone (except you, presumably) is stupid. The president is stupid, the military is stupid, the "neocons" (whatever that means) are stupid. Islamists present no threat to America (are they stupid too?). We couldn't possibly succeed in Iraq. I'm curious, do you get sand in your nose when you bury your head like that?

Hmmmm, there's a little sleight of hand there in your quote. Attacks rise in Baghdad, that means attacks have risen all over Iraq... unless it doesn't. Would it have killed you to supply a URL, or are you in the habit of throwing up unattributed quotes?

Regarding "defections": The Iraqi Army had, according to the NYT (a link, see how I did that?), 1000 to 1500 Iraqi soldiers "deserted or underperformed". Not defections, which is different. Desertions. Of a total force of 30,000. So characterizing that as "a big fraction of the so-called Iraqi Army _defected_ in Basra" is being kind of disingenuous, don't you think? Or maybe you don't need to understand fractions to be a physicist these days?

Of course, this is the NYT, so you have to read to the end:

But most of the deserters were not officers. The American military official said, “From what we understand, the bulk of these were from fairly fresh troops who had only just gotten out of basic training and were probably pushed into the fight too soon.”

Gee, an army that's what, five years old doesn't perform flawlessly in its first major operation? The sky is falling! Why, "a large fraction" of the army switched sides (defected) and started to fight for that bad guys! Oh wait, that's not it at all.

And I find your use of the word "traitor" curious. We're in a war that's ultimately a test of wills, and you've been telling everyone we can't win, we should just give up. And then you call me traitor. Lincoln, in his test of wills, would have had you arrested along the way to eventual victory. But hey, good thing it's not 1861, eh?

gcochran said...

My predictions concerning Iraq have largely come true over the past five years. I would guess that yours have not, and obviously those of the Administration have not.

Look at the record.

Eric said...

Your predictions have been accurate at the 60,000 foot level. We have a large war, things do not go smoothly. Quel surpise.

You would guess wrong about my predictions. It's war. I expect any large endeavor that involves human antagonists will be a giant cluster f@#$. If I have been surprised it as been at the relative lack of US casualties.

As for the administration, the gap between what they really believe and what they say for public consumption is not knowable by people on the outside. I do not believe they really expected to be met with flowers. Nor do I believe they expected the whole thing to be over in three weeks. I believe they expected the need for more troops, but didn't want to admit it up front.

Like Pournelle, I believe the outcome of the war was never in doubt, provided we are willing to stick with it. The Iraqi army is now strong enough to keep a lid on everything while our army goes around dealing with trouble spots. That is the end of the insurgency.

Of course it would be better if the IA could have taken out the Mehdi Army independently. It's not the state of things as they stand, but as I pointed out earlier, the problems in Basra were more on the order of teething pains than catastrophe. We do not yet know exactly what happened, but it's telling Sadr is looking for a face-saving way to survive.

JP (along with most others, I presume) thinks the price of the war is too high. I do not. I believe creating a secular, democratic state in Iraq will put off the inevitable dawn of nuclear terrorism for a decade or two. For me, that is worth the cost.

And yes, I realize you don't see the Islamists as a nuclear threat. On that we will have to disagree.

poor richard said...

Pakistan is not at OUR front door (that is, the United States'). "Pakistan" sure the heck IS at Britain's front door. Or rather, milling around in the foyer looking dodgy.

For war hawks, I really want to know what we hope to accomplish with these clowns in the ME. At least my "taking our toys for a test drive" theory makes some kind of sense.

We need to find us some new dinosaur bones. Petroleum that is. Our natural American sphere of influence does not include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, or any other godforsaken hell pit in the ME. Venezuela, now that is a different story, amigos.

But I guess we have to wait for the nuclear rain to fall on the ME before we pull out and batten down the hatches on our island fortress.

Anonymous said...

testing99,

I will give your paranoid rant the complete benefit of the doubt, and the only thing that can keep Islamic tribalism in check is white ethnic and Christian tribalism, because nobody is going to fight and die in the way you need them to for globalist secular democracy. Rather, as the state loses its ability to maintain order, people will shift their loyalties to pre-state institutions. So goodbye US hegemon and UN and NATO and League of Democracies and hello Faith and Tribe. And good riddance.

Of course, that leaves democratically elected politicians, the AEI, and PNAC quite out in the cold, doesn't it?

--Doug.

jaakkeli said...

Notice the anti-Semitism running through resurgent Euro nationalism and Islamism.

There isn't much anti-Semitism in European nationalism these days, outside a few ex-communist countries (and there it's not resurgent because of immigration). The impression comes from the ideologically coloured reporting increase in anti-Semitic incidents from a certain immigrant group (that is, the anti-Semitism gets reported, but they often "forget" to mention it if the bad guys aren't blonde and preferrably Germanic) and the hysteria that comes with the one vaguely anti-Semitic remark from one guy out of thousand if he's working for a right-wing organization.

There's also an obvious anti-Semitism trend in native Europeans but it's not happening in the new nationalists (who are mostly anti-Islam and pro-Israel to the extent of often idolizing Israel), it's a spillover from decades of "solidarity" with Arabs among the socialists, previously partly sponsored by the Soviet Union. As long as you're a socialist and your rally has some swarthy Muslims there to provide cover, you scream as many nasty anti-Semitic slogans you want and the press reports it as a "peace march".

Ali said...

Those 3-4% attrition rates in Before The Dawn were for primitive hunter-gatherer tribes. A different beast from semi-industrialised, Muslim societies.

Professor Cochran: I read your interview at 2blowhards. You accurately say Saddam had little prospect of getting a nuclear program going. The worry about Iraqi WMDs was more about biological and chemical weapons though.

poor richard said...

Jaakkeli, I was thinking of imagery like this:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=fuVJz0_hG5Q&feature=related

Lots of material equating the US with Jews. Same old same old.

Sure, this is far right material that mainstream Europeans would distance themselves from. But Eurofolk have problems expressing (or even experiencing) their feelings clearly, as Dr. Freud pointed out.

Lots more amateur stuff out there, apparently coming from young people.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=bZk27Lk9IzE

Also some major media discussion of the topic.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZfywhiRbVaY&feature=related

This kind of US/EU split is inevitable from a geopolitical point of view. The climate has come to a point where Americans have to apologize for who they are with Europeans. For now the European hostility to the US is expressed more by passive aggressive innuendo, by inaction rather than by inaction.

By the way, this is nothing new. Europeans have been mocking and tittering at American lack of sophistication since the days of our Founders. Ben Franklin played into that sentiment by parading around in Paris in furs (which was unheard of and considered savage at the day, like dressing up like Fred Flintstone).

Nothing new in any of this. "Americans are vulgar. Americans are shallow. Americans lack class. Americans are greedy. Americans are stupid. Americans are loud. Americans are fat." Not too different from what was said in de Tocqueville's day. Americans fail to realize that the "Noble Savage" more than anything else is a European image of us. All that utopian scribbling from Rousseau and Locke and Moore was from the sense of freedom in America.

Europe and America are now two civilizations. We might be allied from time to time, but never the twain shall meet. Probably even less in the future.

SFG said...

From a geopolitical standpoint, the East Coast is a lousy focus for the top US cities. It leads to a disconnected bicoastal national consciousness that is poorly integrated with the heartland. Natural tends to correct imbalances like that.
Naaah. Big cities always look down on the hinterlands. The French feel the same way about the Parisians (who are largely responsible for the negative stereotypes of French people, from what I hear). I'm not sure if a country has to have big cities, but every great nation seems to have them, so the answer is probably yes, though I'm not sure why.

And if the passengers on the hijacked airliners had fought back, instead of meekly accepting death, those 3,000 people wouldn't have died. The hijackers were poorly armed, greatly outnumbered,* and for the most part were a collection of skinny little twerps. Unfortunately, middle class and upper middle class white men, who comprised most of the passengers, have no concept of "fighting back."
As I recall, didn't the shoe bomber get beat up by the passengers? They used to tell you to avoid trouble with hijackers because they'd usually leave you alive, but now all bets are off.

I wonder if the Islamists are really nuts enough to nuke New York. We killed a few hundred thousand Iraqis over 3000 dead Americans in 9/11. Killing 11 million Americans means we'd have to get our ton of flesh...which means what, 1 billion Muslims dead? We'd have to wipe the whole Muslim world out. I'm sure there are plenty of illiterate peasants who are waiting for their 72 virgins, but do you think Bin Laden believes that stuff?

tg said...

I wonder what kind thinking goes on in the heads of people who consider Arab tribalism a serious threat to our survival.

I suppose it's not that much different from thinking Saddam's Iraq posed a serious military threat to western civilization.

Mr. Kurtz, unfortunately, happens to fall into this category.

Martin said...

"Anonymous said...

testing99,

I will give your paranoid rant the complete benefit of the doubt, and the only thing that can keep Islamic tribalism in check is white ethnic and Christian tribalism, because nobody is going to fight and die in the way you need them to for globalist secular democracy. Rather, as the state loses its ability to maintain order, people will shift their loyalties to pre-state institutions. So goodbye US hegemon and UN and NATO and League of Democracies and hello Faith and Tribe. And good riddance.

--Doug."

Well said, Doug. Who wants to risk life and limb for some warmed-over Wilsonian geopolitics that's divorced from all reality. Better to fight for hearth, home, kin and kind than for an ideal. There is no evil known that men will not do in the serice of an ideal.

tommy said...

9/11 resulted in, what, fewer than 3000 deaths? Pro rata to population, that's smaller than the numbers of deaths in Britain and Ireland at the hands of the IRA,

Over several decades.

as funded largely by Americans and supported by American politicians.

Active supporters of the IRA in Boston are hardly a representative sample of the American population. How many politicians outside of New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois have provided any sort of support, even mere moral support, to the IRA?

It's hard not to conclude that the American response to 9/11 was hysterical - perhaps the climax of the remorseless feminisation and infantilisation of your country.

Just like Pearl Harbor: all that effeminate hysteria over a few thousand dead Americans in Hawaii, not even an actual U.S. state at the time! Sheesh!

If tribalism rather than Islam is the problem, can anyone think of a non-Muslim tribal society that would likely present the American military with comparable difficulties to Iraq?

My own guess would be that waging a counterinsurgency in Indonesia would be at least as difficult as it would be in many tribal non-Muslim nations in sub-Saharan Africa, even adjusted for population differences. While I think democracy-building is impossible in Iraq due to the endogamous tribalism Kurtz mentions, I suspect he underestimates the role of Islam in fueling insurgency. Islam makes it impossible for a significant number of insurgents to come to any terms with the "Crusader" forces of the United States or those who might dare to compromise with such infidels, regardless of how the United States might attempt to appease tribal bigwigs.

Of course, Islam and endogamy work together to make things difficult. Islam does nothing to discourage cousin marriage and, I'm tempted to believe, the young jihadists keep the cauldron boiling by ensuring local big men cannot always maintain order within their own clans. The Islamic whippersnappers, motivated by something broader than the interests of extended families, have allies that cut across tribal and national lines. As a result, old Iraqi sheiks have got to fear the retribution of Young Turks should they sell out.

georgesdelatour said...

Are there any social forces tending to reduce the significance of tribal and clan structures over time? Female literacy? Smaller families? Hasn't this happened with, say, Italian Americans?

jaakkeli said...

"poor richard", Americans get upset about some pretty mild stuff. Yeah, it's a given truth that Americans are "unsophisticated". So what? Do you want to know what's considered the given truths on some fellow Europeans over here? I doubt I'd get the post through if I started elaborating on that. Trust me, you should be happy that you're merely "unsophisticated".

As for anti-Semites on the net, if you're looking for nuttiness, you can find any levels you want anywhere you want. At stormfront.org the Americans equate the US with Jews with even more passion. (The ZOG and all that stuff.)

poor richard said...

"Naaah. Big cities always look down on the hinterlands. The French feel the same way about the Parisians (who are largely responsible for the negative stereotypes of French people, from what I hear). I'm not sure if a country has to have big cities, but every great nation seems to have them, so the answer is probably yes, though I'm not sure why."

sfg, I am with you that big cities are a good thing. But they should be in the center. For the USA, that means somewhere in the Midwest.

Benefits: harder to invade, harder to hit, and a more (literally) centered orientation to the country.

Part of the reason domestic industry has been neglected is that the US "headspace" is way off centered and focused on NYC and DC and away from the American heartland.

Don't underestimate the importance of things like the placement of your capital. Great leaders have always made locating a proper capital a top priority, and for good reasons.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Stanley Kurtz: The aggrieved lineage in this party, the Kamil Hanzai (who'd seen their women and older men dishonorably roughed up in an earlier clash), were accompanied by men of six closely related lineages, who'd united to fight a comparable kin-based coalition backing the offending lineage.

Stanley Kurtz: In the tribal template, however, low-level endemic feuding in conditions of controlled anarchy is the norm.

Stanley Kurtz: Turkmen raiders used to intimidate villagers with the following threat: "I do not have a mill with willow trees. I have a horse and a whip. I will kill you and go."

Stanley Kurtz: As for democracy, Salzman tells of an elder who tried to settle a feud by inviting warring clans to a diwan (tribunal of justice) for deliberation. The meeting quickly devolved into charges, counter-charges, then slaps and a full-fledged battle, with the presiding elder jumping in and flailing away at the victorious faction as it delivered a thorough drubbing to its foes.

It seems to me that someone needs to consider the [admittedly ugly] possibility that these people engage in street warfare for the same reason that you or I would go fishing, bowling, or kite-flying: Violence [& murder] is a recreational sport for them.

But, then again, the entire phenomenon of evil is not easily amenable to analysis by Darwinism.

Anonymous said...

"(and in Israel the religious courts will throw you in prison in solitary confinement until you "willingly" give your wife a divorce)."
how are you interpreting that law? I was in Israel during the 90s, and met a couple American Jewish women who couldn't go home because their husbands wouldn't give them a divorce. It is up to the husband there. I guess they go by the old kind of laws(I'm not Jewish so I don't know the details.) If the woman has friends in high places, then maybe they could thrown him in jail under some pretext to force him to give a divorce, but that's iffy.

Svigor said...

They used to tell you to avoid trouble with hijackers because they'd usually leave you alive, but now all bets are off.

Indeed "they" (media) did.

Svigor said...

But Eurofolk have problems expressing (or even experiencing) their feelings clearly, as Dr. Freud pointed out.

(emphasis mine)
You just jumped the shark.

Anonymous said...

There can be no question that many people in the middle east are feeling the changes that are going on around them. If the world never progressed beyond the 7th century this would not be an issue. Their tribal and family culture will be constantly be challenged from now on by technology and information.

Here is a partial list of what they have to deal with:

1. Increased longevity
2. The internet
3. Women's independence
4. economic competition
5. Cell phones
6. Solar & wind technology
7. Computers ...

The reality is that the middle east cannot isolate itself anymore than we can. Think how threatened some poor arab grunt is when he is told that the cast system in his country that guaranteed him a wife and children is being replaced by feminism. What we are seeing is not so much a backlash against the US but modernity. If it were not so tragic I would laugh.

poor richard said...

poor richard sed: "But Eurofolk have problems expressing (or even experiencing) their feelings clearly, as Dr. Freud pointed out."

svigor replied: "(emphasis mine)
You just jumped the shark."

Damn right. We Americans will keep our Freuds and our Einsteins and our Oppenheimers. You can keep your petty nationalisms and your Arabs.

Blanco said...

re:"Damn right. We Americans will keep our Freuds and our Einsteins and our Oppenheimers. You can keep your petty nationalisms and your Arabs."

We in North America shouldn't feel all that superior. Wecan tell them to "keep their Arabs", they can tell us to "keep our blacks and Latinos". One strange thing I'm increasingly noticing in the US is a smug superiority regarding the upcoming "Eurabia". OTOH, last I looked, we in N.America also have a pretty big problem with both non-white immigration (legal and illegal) as well as American blacks. So by all means, make smug jokes about "Eurabia" - but have you been to Detroit, Atlanta or Los Angeles lately? The 3rd world is here too. :-(

poor richard said...

"We in North America shouldn't feel all that superior. Wecan tell them to "keep their Arabs", they can tell us to "keep our blacks and Latinos". One strange thing I'm increasingly noticing in the US is a smug superiority regarding the upcoming "Eurabia". OTOH, last I looked, we in N.America also have a pretty big problem with both non-white immigration (legal and illegal) as well as American blacks. So by all means, make smug jokes about "Eurabia" - but have you been to Detroit, Atlanta or Los Angeles lately? The 3rd world is here too. :-("

Point being, east of the Atlantic is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet. It's about difference more than superiority. The EU and US have two different civilizations and spheres of influence.

Blacks are here because whites brought them here. Mexicans are here because the western US states sit directly astride the Aztec Empire.

Our American civilization will flourish or falter depending on how it deals with these facts. You are right that there is no reason to be smug, because this is no easy matter that can be properly addressed in a knee-jerk fashion.

poor richard said...

"But Eurofolk have problems expressing (or even experiencing) their feelings clearly, as Dr. Freud pointed out."

Svigor, allow me to elaborate this point. The importance and centrality of the colonial experience, and the American experience in particular, on European thought cannot be overstated.

Europeans have always understood America as a kind of anti-world or savage frontier. European revolutionary or counter-cultural thinkers have used America or an abstract idea of American freedom to critique European civilization.

It has now been forgotten that men like Thomas Moore, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, and so many others were inspired by American social equality, opportunity, and freedom from European social mores. It has also been forgotten what a world-changing event even the discovery of the American continents was to the European mind. It was as significant discovering a new planet alongside Earth would be today.

European and American literature then elaborated a concept of the "Noble Savage." Americans used this as an idealized Red Indian. Europeans thought of this as not just Red Indians, but also White Americans.

In Benjamin Franklin's day, it was unheard of in Paris to dress in furs (unless the fur was hidden inside the garment). Benjamin Franklin electrified Paris by embodying the European image of the "American Barbarian," in part by simply wearing furs.

The import of this has all been forgotten, as it always is by the sleepy collective mind. Western history now talks about Rousseau's "State of Nature" as if this were something he dreamed up ex nihilo. Not so. It was a direct reaction to the American experience.

Sigmund Freud's work was the heir of this counter-cultural intellectual current. The idea of overcoming the stuffy manners imposed on Europeans by their society. This formulation would not have happened but for the colonial experience and American experience.
To this day, Europeans see Americans as above all loud, brash, and lacking in manners. Europeans find this apparent freedom from restraint provocative.

Some European intellectuals responded by trying to harness this freedom and translate it into something digestible in Europe. Sigmund Freud's work is one such example. Although his theories have fallen out of favor (replaced by more medicalized thinking that makes the use of psychoactive chemicals more central), his influence on popular culture and the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry is key.