Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The World Civil War & The Final Option

In the Israeli view, Fatah is engaged in a holding action in the Gaza Strip. Residents only rouse themselves and feel real enthusiasm for battle if harm is done to members of one of the clans, whose people feel obliged to react.

This is what I feel happens as Islamists take over: the civil protections offered by the state disappear, so people must rely on family to protect themselves from the injustices of the new regime. Large families become a necessity, simply for protection.

Hence the persistence of the tribal system and tribal conflict throughout the Muslim World. Discord and conflict are diminished or at least obscured when aggressions are directed outward, either by jihadis or imperialists. Eventually a kind of quasi-stable power balance is established between the central power and the surviving local tribal groups; however, the economic and social costs of the fragmentation are never overcome, as parochialism becomes necessary for survival. (Outsiders are at high risk of being robbed, killed, or kidnapped.) Controlled religion becomes the only unifying force for large endeavors, and freedom of thought dwindles.

This system was stable for eight hundred years, until the progress of the Western world left Islam far behind in military, economic, and demographic progress. The Ottoman Turks, long skeptical of their own system, decided to junk it, trading a loose religious-based empire for a smaller national, secular system that they felt benefited them more.

We can see that "Islamic rule" thus tends to displace democratic or highly centralized monarchic institutions in favor of tribal ones. It is difficult to kick the "tribal" habit, as Michael Yon describes in his latest amazing report, which includes this vignette about the recruitment of Iraqi policemen:
The Abu Nimr tribe, the dominant tribe in the area, was trying to grab too many slots. And so during one meeting with sheiks and police commanders, while perhaps a hundred potential recruits were waiting outside for screening, tribal sheiks and police chiefs were haggling over details

Rather than establishing the rule-of-law, the coalition risks establishing rule-by-law, for tribal members, as they gather more power, will seek to exercise power in an irresponsible, undemocratic fashion. Indeed, this is how Saddam grew into a monster and his Tikriti faction gained preeminence.

Iraqis can't yet deal with removing such people, and in the city of Hit the "final option" was for them to task a brave American battalion commander to do the job and arrest the local constable. If the Americans hadn't been there, assassination would have been "the final option".

This is how we must measure progress in Iraq. A must-read!

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