the nyt discovers tribes!

hallelujah! from thomas friedman, no less:

“David Kirkpatrick, the Cairo bureau chief for The Times, wrote an article from Libya on Monday that posed the key question, not only about Libya but about all the new revolutions brewing in the Arab world: ‘The question has hovered over the Libyan uprising from the moment the first tank commander defected to join his cousins protesting in the streets of Benghazi: Is the battle for Libya the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition, or is it fundamentally a tribal civil war?’

“This is the question because there are two kinds of states in the Middle East: ‘real countries’ with long histories in their territory and strong national identities (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran); and those that might be called ‘tribes with flags,’ or more artificial states with boundaries drawn in sharp straight lines by pens of colonial powers that have trapped inside their borders myriad tribes and sects who not only never volunteered to live together but have never fully melded into a unified family of citizens. They are Libya, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The tribes and sects that make up these more artificial states have long been held together by the iron fist of colonial powers, kings or military dictators. They have no real ‘citizens’ in the modern sense. Democratic rotations in power are impossible because each tribe lives by the motto ‘rule or die’ — either my tribe or sect is in power or we’re dead.”

been there, said that.

here’s (some of) what kirkpatrick has to say about the tribal sitch in libya:

“The question has hovered over the Libyan uprising from the moment the first tank commander defected to join his cousins protesting in the streets of Benghazi: Is the battle for Libya the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition, or is it fundamentally a tribal civil war…?

“The behavior of the fledgling rebel government in Benghazi so far offers few clues to the rebels’ true nature. Their governing council is composed of secular-minded professionals — lawyers, academics, businesspeople — who talk about democracy, transparency, human rights and the rule of law. But their commitment to those principles is just now being tested as they confront the specter of potential Qaddafi spies in their midst, either with rough tribal justice or a more measured legal process.

“Like the Qaddafi government, the operation around the rebel council is rife with family ties. And like the chiefs of the Libyan state news media, the rebels feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda, claiming nonexistent battlefield victories, asserting they were still fighting in a key city days after it fell to Qaddafi forces, and making vastly inflated claims of his barbaric behavior.”

well, after hearing that — that the “operation around the rebel council is rife with family ties” — i’m gonna call this a civil war in libya and NOT a democratic uprising. in fact, i’m not even sure civil war is the right term. to be a civil war there needs to be a civitas, right? i’m not so sure that a group of endogamous tribes that happen to live in an artifically created state constitutes a civitas. this is more like good, old-fashioned tribal warfare like you woulda found in pre-state days.

anyway, here’s where kirkpatrick gets it wrong:

“But the legacy of such tribal rivalries in Libya may in fact be fading, thanks in part to the enormous changes that Colonel Qaddafi — a modernizer, in his idiosyncratic way — helped bring about. Coming to power just before the oil boom, he tapped Libya’s new wealth to provide schools, hospitals and other benefits for Libya’s desperately poor, semi-nomadic population.

“Gradually, Libya became overwhelmingly urban, with about 85 percent of its populations clustered around its two main urban centers — Tripoli and Benghazi.

“Though many of the people who flocked to the growing cities continued to identify closely by tribe, they now live mixed together. Many from eastern tribes now live in western Tripoli, and tens of thousands of members of the predominantly western tribes, Warfalla and Tarhuna, which form the core of Colonel Qaddafi’s support, now live in Benghazi and last weekend staged a major public demonstration there calling on their western cousins to join the revolt.”

just ’cause people are shuffled around doesn’t mean that tribal ties will be broken — NOT if they’re still marrying their kin at a rate of 46.5% — a rate similar to that found in iraq, and look how well they all get along! the chinese tried to get rid of the hakka clans in southern china during the cultural revolution by moving them around and not letting the members of various clans live with one another like they traditionally did. didn’t work. (the clan members are now living with one another again.) prolly ’cause the hakka had remained endogamous.

nope. if u wanna get rid of tribes or clans or whatever, u have to understand where tribes and clans come from. they do not just miraculously appear out of nowhere. they are the products of mating patterns. so, to get rid of tribes, u need to use hbdchick’s draconian measures of banning inbreeding. or do something to stop the inbreeding. shuffling people around might help ’cause you might make it more awkward for people to marry their kin over long distances. but better techniques would be just to ban it outright or encourage outbreeding somehow. (note: this is not a recommendation from me. just sayin’ how it could be done if someone really wanted to get rid of tribes. people can inbreed all they want afaiac.)

friedman is really lost-in-space, though, in how he views egypt and iran and tunisia:

“It is no accident that the Mideast democracy rebellions began in three of the real countries — Iran, Egypt and Tunisia — where the populations are modern, with big homogenous majorities that put nation before sect or tribe and have enough mutual trust to come together like a family: ‘everyone against dad.'”

*facepalm*

he’s gotta be kidding! ok, so maybe egypt doesn’t have tribes the way saudi arabia and libya does, but they are extremely clannish! their consanguinity rate was 29.7% in 2008. that’s a lot better than libya, but nuthin’ like anything you see in the west. so, good luck with the democracy thing there!

and iran?! he’s gotta be kidding:

these pc correct people are never gonna understand what’s going on in the world until they learn some biology. you can’t mix-and-match different ideologies (like democracy) with different peoples ’cause different peoples is different. duh! and, most crucially when we’re talking about tribes, mating patterns matter.

previously: cousin marriage conundrum addendum and libya – land o’ tribes and all tribes, all the time! and aígyptos

(note: comments do not require an email.)

5 Comments

  1. Friedman does have a point. Egypt has a slightly stronger and more rooted national identity than most Arab countries – fostered by the Albanian Muhammad Ali in the early 19th century.
    The Iranians are multi-ethnic but the historic “Persian” national identity is strong there – look how they were pissed off at the movie “300”.
    Don’t know about Tunisia. I wish people would stop referring to Northwest Africa as the “Middle East”. They’re really quite different.

    Reply

  2. @ihtg – “Egypt has a slightly stronger and more rooted national identity than most Arab countries – fostered by the Albanian Muhammad Ali in the early 19th century.”

    sure. not tribal like libya, but still clannish. that’s why they have a go at one another in ways that are unheard of in, say, wisconsin (even madison!).

    @ihtg – “The Iranians are multi-ethnic….”

    the iranians are mult-ethnic and clannish because they marry their relatives as much as possibleespecially the persians.

    i don’t know about tunisia either. (~_^)

    Reply

  3. Oh, I see you’ve already answered my question re: “we’re doomed“.

    However similar they may be to us in other ways, the Iranians are not too out-bred to keep their turf. (They have it, and they are not losing it.)

    Whereas we are very out-bred, and we didn’t prevent a Jewish cultural hegemony, and once that happened we started to lose our turf, big time.

    Reply

  4. @daybreaker – oh, lord. did i never answer your question? sorry! (*^_^*) i answered it in my head but never typed it out….

    yes, the iranians are very, VERY inbred. well, all the different groups in iran are — persians, jews, kurds, the different tribal groups (like the qashqai). interestingly, the least inbred are the armenians and assyrians — two christian groups. that’s how it is almost across the board — christians are not very inbred. my question is: which comes first? the religion or the breeding patterns? (with islam, it seems that the breeding patterns came first in the middle east….)

    anyway — yes, i think that the iranians are hanging on to their nation ’cause they have pretty high levels of inbreeding. mind you, they have a hard time getting along with one another within their country because 1) there are so many different ethnic groups, and 2) almost all of those ethnic groups are heavily inbred (and so less inclined to trust outsiders).

    Reply

  5. Are you sure of that?

    There’s a big difference between playing well with others and being a sucker. Iran could mask ethnic contention too, if “Persian flight” was a national demographic trend. It could be that if Western Whites start to hold their ground, they’ll have as much contention as Persians do.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s