Thursday, June 11, 2009

Zen and Fabius or East Meets West on Tribalism

Zenpundit has a great post up expanding on a post by Fabius Maximus. These are two of the most talented bloggers on the web today and the post linked below is ample proof.

In a post entitled Pressfield’s Reified Tribalism, Zen, writes.

Late last night, I was pinged by Fabius Maximus who had just written a post about historical novelist Stephen Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire, The Virtues of War and The Afghan Campaign. I do not read enough fiction, so while I had heard of Pressfield because his books are very popular among milbloggers, I did not know anything about the man specifically. I was intrigued by FM’s post, here is an excerpt which will serve to introduce the subject at hand:

Advice about our long war - “It’s the tribes, stupid”

Zen goes on to provide analysis of Pressfield's view.

Pressfield has been thinking about his concept for some time, having penned an op-ed piece for Dr. Chet Richards at DNI back in 2006 entitled It’s the Tribes, Stupid which I encourage you to read. Today, there is an impressively slick vblogging, presentation by Pressfield on a site of the same name “It’s the Tribes, Stupid”. Pay close attention: this is what a bloggging series looks like with a budget and Hollywood production values. Agree or disagree with Mr. Pressfield’s argument ( and I shall do both) he is demonstrating “how” to use the online medium professionally in order to propagate a meme ( he just needs help maximizing the virality, but the components are “good to go” for anyone who cares to pick up the torch). It is first rate work, take a look for yourself at Pressfield’s intro piece:

Zen's full post is well worth the read and invites a lot of discussion. It closely follows a post by Zen highlighting The Kilcullen Doctrine. Both posts are on a converging trajectory that link much of the combat we are experiencing in today's "Long War" is a result of the reaction of tribal societies to an outside invader. As I read these posts and am currently reading The Accidental Guerrilla, I can not help but draw some relationship to the conflicts between the Europeans and Native American tribal societies that lasted for from 1607 to 1890. The difference on surface is that in North America the tribal societies were defeated and replaced with European settlers. They were never able to create a unified strategy, or have the material assistance from a third party to sustain their resistance. In our early 20th century effort at nation building we tried with mixed success to make the Philippines into a mini eastern version of the United States. In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines by Stanley Karnow. We fought a long guerrilla that cost over 4000 American dead as well as over 200,000 Filipinos. Today, the outlying islands still fester with the tribal resistance to the central rule from Manila.

In Afghanistan we are trying to change a tribal society that has chosen to live their lives in that manner, into a society that we think they need via our integrated social view of modernity. The ideology provided by Islam seems to act as a conduit that keeps the tribes together to focus their wrath against the Western forces that they see encroaching on their way of life. Since our goal is to try not only nation building but some level of societal integration that includes women's rights and western style values, the path seems to be one that must be walked with care of picking one's way through a minefield. Our current military leadership seems to be getting this message and understand the need to find what the French in 17th century North America called the "Pays d'en haut". or The Middle Ground: Indians, by Richard White.

Anyway I have rambled a bit to throw out a few thoughts about this complicated subject. I urge anyone reading to take the time to visit the links and join the discussion.

UPDATE FROM THE DEN OF ZEN: Slapout’s Recommended SSI PDF on Tribalism

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