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Thread: It's the Tribes (merged thread)

  1. #21
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    We tend to see the same thing in history, although with history it's more like a gathering of competing tribes - each with their own unique rituals (otherwise known as "schools" or "specialties"). I'm a military history type, so I often end up at odds with some of the social history types - mainly because most I have met are convinced you have to be a warmonger to study military history. In the end it often comes down to obscure debates about value and bashing of political scientists...
    Too true !

    For us, it tends to, usually, not break down into schools, but "lineages" (who was your supervisor, and theirs, etc.). This makes for some pretty strange tribal gatherings . I remember one CASCA (Canadian Anthropology Society) meeting where my supervisors' supervisor was introducing me as her grandson.

    Marc
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    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
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  2. #22
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default And this one definately gets an "A+"....

    Kudos for posting this link!

    I just finished reading it carefully, and I'll tell you right now that I will be using it as a text / example in any course I teach on applied Anthropology. While it misses some of the bells and whistles so beloved by those of us in the academy (mainly those 5-sylable, Greek derived words that no one understands), it really does capture the basic structures and their operations.

    The only additions I would really like to see are in two areas:
    1. What are the specific Rituals of Reconciliation?
    2. How does "historical memory" operate in these tribes?


    On the specific rituals question, this is important not only for ethnographic detail but, also, for both theoretical and pragmatic reasons. On the theoretical side, any ritual of reconcilliation is a structural repair mechanism evolved to maintain a homeostatic condition withing a cultural group (cf. Max Gluckman (The Utility of the Equilibrium Model in the Study of Social Change, American Anthropologist, 70(2), April, 1968; Custom and Conflict in Africa; Lewis Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict). Or, translating this into plain English, all conflict resolution models serve to justify and reinforce a particular political and social model, and you have to use the approriate one for the culture you are operating in. On the pragmatic side, what are you going to tell the troops (and administrators!) to do in order to try and strat one of them?

    The second question is more tricky but, actually, gets at the heart of the larger GWOT. How a culture constructs historical memory, both the mechanisms of that construction and the content, influences how current events will be interpreted. As one example, consider how the "Crusader" construction has been used agains both the forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now let's flip it around and ask "How will the Coalition forces be constructed in the future?" as a result of current actions, and how will this influence future interpretations?

    Well, enough of commenting on this paper. It is excellent, and I can't recommend it highly enough. The three authors get a fictive "A+" and a hearty "Well done, guys!".

    And now, I have to go off and sing for three hours...

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
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  3. #23
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    Marc,

    This paper addresses conflict resolution as influenced by Islam at the local level. I believe you will find the portion on Sulh and Musalaha of interest (beginning on page 11 of the pdf file).

    Islamic Mediation Techniques for Middle East Conflicts

    Of course, there are significant variations in conflict resolution/mediation rituals and traditions between ethnic groups (i.e. Arabs vs Kurds) as well as regionally (i.e. the Levant vs the Gulf), that go along with the clearer rural-urban divide.

    Roger Fisher and his work in the field of negotiation and conflict resolution was mentioned in another thread. I've found his work, and other material from the Harvard Program on Negotiation to be useful in training HUMINT'ers (with some modification for both integration with HUMINT collection methodology and application in the target culture). His book Getting to Yes, has been very influential in the field, and certainly has broad application. Prior to my retirement, I had some success in modifying and integrating aspects of Fisher and Urtel's Getting Ready to Negotiate with conventional interrogation planning and preparation methodology.

    As has been stated many times and in several threads on this board, the problem with many in both the civilian and military arenas is lack of understanding when it comes to application. They just don't "get it". In my perspective "getting it" means far more than simply understanding the realities of the current conflict and the effective application of lessons learned - it means having the breadth of understanding necessary to implement valuable insights from multidisciplinary inputs with necessary adaptations for current context. Where the aforementioned lack of understanding enters into the picture is when inputs from fields outside the military - such as conflict resolution and reconciliation methodologies - are simply taken as a blunt whole without any real attempt to integrate and modify application in accordance with local realities and elements of existing methodologies that are proven to work. "Reinventing the wheel" and "throwing out the baby with the bath water" are more than just trite sayings.
    Quote Originally Posted by marct
    ...all conflict resolution models serve to justify and reinforce a particular political and social model, and you have to use the approriate one for the culture you are operating in. On the pragmatic side, what are you going to tell the troops (and administrators!) to do in order to try and strat one of them?
    What usually happens is that the troops & administrators are given a simple block of instruction on local culture and traditions (often repeatedly), but lacking any real insight or instruction into how to effectively synchronize culture and tradition with their operational methodologies.

    I believe its a people issue - we don't have nearly enough people with the appropriate background and experience to leverage that sort of training and the scale required and those that we do have are fully engaged in doing other things.

    Well, so much for Saturday morning rambling. Time for pancakes.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 10-14-2006 at 01:53 PM.

  4. #24
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Marc,

    This paper addresses conflict resolution as influenced by Islam at the local level. I believe you will find the portion on Sulh and Musalaha of interest (beginning on page 11 of the pdf file).

    Islamic Mediation Techniques for Middle East Conflicts
    A very interesting article, and you're right, the parts on sulh an Musalaha were very interesting. Thanks for posting it. It was especially apropos, since I had just finished re-reading the first lecture in Gluckman's Custom and Conflict in Africa called "The Peace of the Feud".

    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    As has been stated many times and in several threads on this board, the problem with many in both the civilian and military arenas is lack of understanding when it comes to application. They just don't "get it". In my perspective "getting it" means far more than simply understanding the realities of the current conflict and the effective application of lessons learned - it means having the breadth of understanding necessary to implement valuable insights from multidisciplinary inputs with necessary adaptations for current context. Where the aforementioned lack of understanding enters into the picture is when inputs from fields outside the military - such as conflict resolution and reconciliation methodologies - are simply taken as a blunt whole without any real attempt to integrate and modify application in accordance with local realities and elements of existing methodologies that are proven to work. "Reinventing the wheel" and "throwing out the baby with the bath water" are more than just trite sayings.

    What usually happens is that the troops & administrators are given a simple block of instruction on local culture and traditions (often repeatedly), but lacking any real insight or instruction into how to effectively synchronize culture and tradition with their operational methodologies.
    I think that this goes back to the culture of the military. In general, it makes a lot of sense to create a "book" and then get people to "play by the book". This is esecially important in building militaries in cultures that otherwise have "individualism" as a central value, and has been a hallmark of armies since the Napoleonic era (okay, William the Silent if you will).

    The problem with this, in this type of fight, is that all the training expectations, the "patterns of expected behaviour" are rote-learning - read this manual, follow these 6 points, use the following steps in the proscribed order, etc. Do you think it is a lack of insight or a lack of institutional support for insight? (I'd bet on the latter, myself, but I could easily be wrong).

    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    I believe its a people issue - we don't have nearly enough people with the appropriate background and experience to leverage that sort of training and the scale required and those that we do have are fully engaged in doing other things.
    It could well be, I honestly don't know. Even if it is mainly a "people issue", I suspect that there are lots of institutional factors stopping it as well. For example, if a Sulh ritual is considered leagally binding as the Irani article points out (by tribal law if nothing else), then what happens if a unit that engages in one rotates out and is replaced by another unit?

    Things to think about but, for me at least, not today <wry grin>. I just finished singing three hours of Baroque and Rennaisance music and I now get to spend the rest of my weekend building a web site - Oh Joy! Oh bliss! Oh rupture!!!

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
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    I'm replying after reading only the essay, so pardon me if this was covered in any of the responses. This isn't the author's central theme but I think it's related to the general idea.

    I've long thought that a western style representative republic (it may or may not be democratic as we define the term) can only work in Afghanistan and Iraq, if it can work at all, if it's organized along tribal lines.

    Representatives could be sent to congress by tribes, not American style congressional districts. The bigger tribes have more representatives but each tribe has the same number of senators regardless of size. Also, let the tribes select their congressmen however they want. Who cares if tribal congressmen are elected or appointed by a tribal chief? Who cares if some tribes do it democratically and others do it autocratically?

    This still may not make Afghanistan and Iraq true republics, of course, but I think it's a lot more likely to work than trying to establish American style democracy.
    Last edited by Rifleman; 10-16-2006 at 03:43 AM.

  6. #26
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Rifleman,

    I s'pose that when it comes down to it, most of us have a "live and let live" attitude which, for us, gets expressed via a democratic mythos - whether that's republican or a constitutional monarchy (a la Britain and Canada). Afghanistan and Iraq have, historically, followed a somewhat different route.

    "Tribalism", and there are some pretty significant differences between that of Iraq and Afghanistan, is, on the whole fairly similar to modern democratic states, at least as far as the power held by any individual is concerned. In other words, it's pretty darn limited <wry grin>. Honestly, that's really a function of population size and density (I really hate to sound like an academic, but cf Durkheim's Division of Labour in Society, 2nd edition or, for a more American take, check out Thomas Paine's Common Sense).

    In most democratic states, with the possible exception of the US, people have turned over their right of self defense to the state. In tribals societies, the right of self defense is held by the individual and their "vengence group" - close friends and kin. In most democratic societies, security is a function of the state, whereas in most tribal societies it is a function of an implied blood fued. Both work fairly well to maintain a fairly stable society.

    Coming out of this right of self defense is a placement of political power. In most republics, it is in the control of voting blocks and state institutions (take a look at Rome during Marius and Sulla, Athens after Pericles, or the US for the past 25 years or so). It's similar in constitutional monarchies, but the monarch retains some powers which may ofset the worst ravages of the political aristocracy (pre-revolutionary Russia and Britain in the 20th century are examples). In some cases, the monarch remains the chief of the armed forces and execises a moral suasion over them (e.g, Thailand).

    In tribal societies there is always some mechanism to control the potential for conflict and guarentee safety. In Afghanistan, one of those mechanisms was the Loya Jirga, although the last one in 2003 was rather contentious.

    Iraq is another matter entirely. Iraq is not really a "nation" in the same way as western nations are or as Afghanistan is. It was created in the aftermath of WWI with the breakup of the Ottaman Empire. While the area has been a centre of civilization since at least 6000 bce, whenever it was "unified", it has been under a strong centralized monarchy, usually a "god-king" of some type (Saddam was drawing on a long lineage from Gilgamesh on down). "Democracy" just doesn't mean that much in Iraq historically. It is especially difficult to encourage democracies of any type in areas where there is no history of them.

    Well, I guess we have one now in Iraq, and it will be interesting to see what heppens with it. Personally, I expect that, barring a lot of good luck, sacrifice and some really intelligent operations, it will fall apart. Western democracies don't have a good track record with long wars, and we have a worse track record with nation building exercises.

    Hmm, midnight, too much brandy, and I think I am feeling a touch pesimistic.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  7. #27
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default Tribes of al-Anbar

    Interesting study I found by random Googling. A study of the tribes of Iraq and specifically Anbar province. Lots of very interesting historical info.

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    This is the type of product we should have about anyplace we are and any and all places we may go in the future.

  9. #29
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonSlack View Post
    This is the type of product we should have about anyplace we are and any and all places we may go in the future.
    It reminds me of some of the material from the 1960s on Vietnamese tribes. I agree, it is the sort of material that should be available.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Anyone for making like a British press gang of old and 'pressing' a few Anthropologists into service in the interests of national security and strategic planning?

  11. #31
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    I don't think the problem is a lack of knowledge. The problem is a lack of willingness to listen to and use that knowledge. See: State of Denial, Cobra II and Imperial Life in the Emerald City.

    This is not just politically in the White House, but also institutionally on the part of the military and the Department of State.
    Last edited by tequila; 02-28-2007 at 04:53 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    I don't think the problem is a lack of knowledge. The problem is a lack of willingness to listen to and use that knowledge. See: State of Denial, Cobra II and Imperial Life in the Emerald City.

    This is not just politically in the White House, but also institutionally on the part of the military and the Department of State.
    So if this type of information were available in 2003 to the extent possible (i.e. some of the information from the report is based on post 2003 actions), is your thought that it wouldn't make a difference? Also, it would seem that you are arguing as well that there can't be any bottom up influence on decisions.

    I don't disagree with the thought that senior policy makers aren't attuned to the details, and that that has hurt us, but at some point the rubber meets the road and rhetoric gives way to the practical. Had someone made this kind of information available to me in 2003-4 while I was in Iraq, I could have been much more effective in fighting the insurgency in spite of any national level policy that disregarded this type of information.

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    Here's a very brief summary of the key points of Iraqi Arab tribal structure from the Congressional Research Service:

    Iraq: Tribal Structure, Social, and Political Activities
    For centuries the social and political organization of many Iraqi Arabs has centered on the tribe. Socially, tribes were divided into related sub-tribes, which further divided into clans, and then into extended families. Seventy-five percent of Iraq’s estimated 26 million people are a member of a tribe. They are more strongly bound by these tribal ties and a strict honor code than by ethnic background or religion. This report describes the political orientation of several Iraqi Arab tribes, including the Shammar, Dulaym, and Jibur tribes. This report will be updated as warranted. For further information on Iraq and U.S. policy, see CRS Report RL31339, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security, by Kenneth Katzman.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 03-20-2007 at 10:20 PM. Reason: Updated links

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    Smile Basic Intelligence

    Back in ancient times when I was a current intel analyst on the Army Staff, CIA produced a classified basic intelligence document on nearly all the countries of the world - it had everything you ever wanted to know, and a lot you didn't. Then, sometime in the 70s or 80s they stopped producing it. Meanwhile, the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, on a DA contract, produces the Area handbook Series - Country Studies. They are good but not at all up to date. (El Salvador is current as of 1988!) DOD does produce some Country Handbooks - marked FOUO - with lots of pictures of military hardware. And that seems to be where we stand on basic intelligence, so we have to contract out for a study like this one - long after we really need it.
    In the Spring 2005, the Security and Defense Studies Review (the e-journal of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies of NDU) published a special issue devoted to the ongoing UN PKO mission in Haiti. See link:

    http://www.ndu.edu/chds/journal/indexarcspring05.htm

    The study is being published this summer by NDU Press/Potomac Press under the title, Capacity Building for Peacekeeping: The Case of Haiti, with all the chapters that were in Spanish or Portuguese (about half) now translated to English - as soon as I finish the final edits. The final article/chapter (at the link in English) by my colleague Andres Saenz and me addresses, in part the issue of this forum - the dearth of basic intelligence and recommends several fixes. But even if implemented beyond my wildest dreams, the problem remains: "You can lead the horse to water, but you can't make him drink." (It really is as true of horses as it is of people.)

  15. #35
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default It Was Available

    So if this type of information were available in 2003 to the extent possible (i.e. some of the information from the report is based on post 2003 actions), is your thought that it wouldn't make a difference? Also, it would seem that you are arguing as well that there can't be any bottom up influence on decisions.
    Shek,

    This information was available in 2003 as it was in 1990 when I was the current intel analyst on the Middle East for the Army Staff, including Desert Shield and Storm, Provide Comfort, and the aftermath in southern Iraq. Given that the Undersecretary of Defense Wolfowitz had testified before Congress that there were no ethnic divisions in Iraq as in the Balkans and that a war against Iraq would pay for itself, I don't see any chance that input from below, outside, or elsewhere inside would have changed the operative assumptions of that period.

    That is not to say that such material or thinking is irrelevant; just the opposite in fact because sooner or later reality catches up making this input critical.

    Best

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek
    So if this type of information were available in 2003 to the extent possible (i.e. some of the information from the report is based on post 2003 actions), is your thought that it wouldn't make a difference? Also, it would seem that you are arguing as well that there can't be any bottom up influence on decisions.

    I don't disagree with the thought that senior policy makers aren't attuned to the details, and that that has hurt us, but at some point the rubber meets the road and rhetoric gives way to the practical. Had someone made this kind of information available to me in 2003-4 while I was in Iraq, I could have been much more effective in fighting the insurgency in spite of any national level policy that disregarded this type of information.
    I second Tom as to the availability of this type of info on Iraq both pre-Desert Storm and pre-OIF. The pre-OIF info was even more detailed, because we had people on the ground inside Iraq reporting on many fine elements of information post-Desert Storm - especially during the OPC and UNSCOM periods in the early to mid 90s. In '03 there was a helluva lot of good, solid info of this nature readily available to those who were willing to look for it.

    As regards "bottom-up influence on decisions", if you have the time I highly recommend the book Knowing One’s Enemies – Intelligence Assessment Before the Two World Wars, published by Princeton University Press in 1986.

    The book isn't a Small Wars piece; it looks at pre-war intel for WWI and WWII. It consists of sixteen essays that review intelligence collection, analysis and decision making at the national level in various countries at critical junctures in their history (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France, Great Britain and Italy before WWI and Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, and the US before WWII).

    To the point that has been raised here, the book clearly illustrates that even when a nation is in possession of sufficient intelligence of a quality to make effective policy decisions, it can all drop in the crapper due to the inherent biases, proclivities and abilities of key policy makers. The harmful effects of internal disputes within intelligence agencies, and turf battles between competing agencies, are also laid out in careful detail. It is a must-read classic in the field of strategic intelligence.

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    Tom and Jedburgh,

    Thanks for the responses. I guess I was unclear in my prior post - I don't harbor any thoughts that such information would have changed the administration's decision making (and I am not that surprised that it wasn't factored in); I was merely stating that at the tip of the spear, such information would have made a difference if it had been readily available down to that level. That being said, I don't know if it would have gained enough traction to have created enough of a bottom-up "revolution" to have changed the grand strategy in Iraq. For example, I might have been able to have built relationships with all of the power players in my AO (I didn't realize the extent of how tribal relationships permeated all of Iraqi society, to include in the urban areas), but I would have still been limited in being able to harness those relationships bcecause of a lack in reconstruction funds to provide mutually beneficial projects.

    Also, thanks for the book recommendation - unfortunately, my Amazon wishlist has now grown over 200 books long now - the mind and wallet are willing, but the schedule is not able

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    This article speaks to several points that have been made in this thread:

    Military Review, May-June 2007: The Power Equation: Using Tribal Politics in COIN
    ....Infantry officer courses and intermediate-level professional military education schools must incorporate courses on negotiating skills into their programs of instruction. Because tribal leaders are often expert negotiators, company commanders must be well prepared to win across the meeting table as well as on the unconventional battlefield. Cultural awareness means more than just being sensitive to a community. It is a component of the intelligence preparation of the battlefield and a capability that can help us achieve our objectives.....

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I went to a Karrass Group (you know that insert in the inflight magazines?)seminar years ago. It was a little goofy, but darn good. It couldn't be all that difficult to get a trainer in and spin up a hundred or so folks at a time.

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    I thought the Schultz book was pretty good.

    The issue of tribes vs. religion is that you are dealing with both in Iraq. I guess it is a hybrid of the two.

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