Western strategists and policymakers should stop talking about a clash of civilizations and focus on the real problem: extreme tribalism. Recent events - riots in many nations protesting cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, Sunni-Shiite warring in Iraq, the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan - confirm that the West is not in a clash with Islam. Instead, Islam, which is a civilizing force, has fallen under the sway of Islamists who are a tribalizing force.Worth your time to read it all. Think about Somalia and Kosovo while reading it, Remember how long a tribe will hold a grudge? Serbs remember a defeat that happened in 1389 when they attack Kosovar Albanian muslims.
Unfortunately, the tribalism theme has difficulty gaining traction. After the end of the cold war, many American strategists preferred the optimistic "end of history" idea that democracy would triumph around the world, advanced by Francis Fukuyama in 1989. A contrary notion - reversion to tribalism - made better sense to other strategists, such as France's Jacques Attali in 1992. Indeed, the emergence of ethnic warring in the Balkans and elsewhere confirmed that when societies crumble, people revert to tribal and clan behaviors that repudiate liberal ideals.
Perhaps partly because the idea of "tribalism" sounds too anthropological for modern strategists, it has not taken hold. American thinking has shifted to revolve around a more high-minded but less accurate concept: "the clash of civilizations" articulated by Samuel Huntington in 1993.
But what troubles the world is far more a travail of tribalisms than a clash of civilizations. The major clashes are not between civilizations per se, but between antagonistic segments that are fighting across fringe border zones (like Christian Serbs vs. Muslim Kosovars), or feuding within the same civilization, such as Sunnis vs. Shiites in Iraq.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
As long as we are reading RAND commentary, this commentary is interesting: