Sunday, December 10, 2006

And then the hen said, 'Who will I share Iraq with?' David Brooks, in his column today, forecasts the future of Iraq if we withdraw our troops in 2007. It's not clear to me (or Andrew Sullivan) that he thinks we should stay there, but Brooks is surprisingly lucid and probably right about what is in store for that broken country. From today's Times (TimesSelect only):

Westerners had a great deal of trouble understanding the ever-shifting conflicts among sects they didn’t understand and tribes they'd never heard of. Early in the war, Americans engaged in a moronic debate about whether Iraq was in civil war, which illustrated that American vocabularies were trapped in the nation-state paradigm, and how unprepared Americans were to understand the non-nation-state world.

Parallels were made, some apt, some inapt, to the first Thirty Years' War, which decimated Europe in the 17th century. That, too, was a spasmodic constellation of conflicts not among nation-states, but among faiths, tribes and local groupings.

This second version of that war produced a Middle East that looked medieval and postmodern at the same time. The core weakness of Middle Eastern nations was that over centuries Arab society had developed intricate social organizations based on family, tribe and faith. Loyalty to these superseded national bonds. Notions of federalism, subsidiarity and impersonal administration — the underpinnings of the nation-state — had trouble flourishing in these sands.

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