Thursday, July 16, 2009

More on War in A Tribal Society

As the war in Afghanistan suddenly begins to resemble Iraq with dozens of IED's killing more soldiers last week than anytime in the past seven years, attention to how to win or as many believe, find an exit strategy, looms like the crags of the Hindu Kush. In a continuing effort to highlight and stimulate thought I have linked a couple of posts that both address the tribal aspect of fighting a war among a group of people who have embraced conflict, revenge and reconciliation in a cycle that has endured since the first two families settled in those rugged valleys and began to feud over the scarce resources and personal honor that is the grist of all tribal societies.

Mark of Zenpundit was invited to write a guest post on Steven Pressfield's blog It's The Tribes Stupid!

Mark begins:

Steven Pressfield invited me to do a guest post here at “Tribes” and give my assessment of the vigorous debate that greeted the entry of “It’s the Tribes, Stupid: War & Reality in Afghanistan” into the blogosphere. Or, at least the corner of the blogosphere that is concerned with COIN, military affairs, foreign policy, terrorism, Afghanistan and Iraq. The following opinion is my own and does not necessarily reflect that of Mr. Pressfield.
This “Tribes” blog attracted an unusual amount of attention for a new blog primarily for three reasons:

For those three reasons and a lot more: The Learning Curve

In a post that calls attention to an article in Foreign Affairs, Thomas Barnett points out that history provides lessons of our own success in "flipping former enemies."

Good stuff, but hardly unique to Afghanistan. Check out your history of wars in general. Lotsa countries/factions/tribes play on both sides before a conflict ends. Native American tribes did it like crazy for decades as European Americans spread westward.
But then again, regional or country experts always want to explain to readers how their situation is so different from anything else we've ever encountered--so "peculiar" in its logic, like wanting to be on the winning side at the end.

Hmmmm, the winning side . . . I like the sound of that.

Read more:
The Taliban--historically--would rather switch than fight

Adding my own thoughts to this growing discussion, I find that historical reflection helps to place the issues in prospective. Armies have relied on the writing of Sun Tzu and the The Art of War for centuries in Chinese history. Western Armies and governments studied Greek, Roman tactics and after the bloody Thirty Years' War were guided by Hugo Grotius's, De jure belli ac pacis libri tres, On The Law of War and Peace. This served to set the principles of conducting war that lasted until World War I. Militarises from around the globe, still study (On War by Carl von Clausewitz among the treaties by hundreds of tacticians and strategists down to this very day.

So as we approach this war which is a throw back to times when men fought for pride and honor in lieu of a national hegemonic strategy to secure a safer world. It is important to study all the factors that come to play and reach far beyond the state on state conflicts that have dominated the past two centuries.

Outside support and a religious cohesiveness and access to modern communications are three of the major factors that make this war in Afghanistan unlike the British experience in the 19th century. In 19th century United States, Native Americans could never organize themselves to be able to coordinate their attacks or unite their fellow tribes in a concerted level of resistance. Outside assistance after the wars of the 18th century, were restricted to traders, who provided modern firearms but limited ammunition.

Therefore it is entirely logical to review all aspects of this war and the experiences of those who have tried and either failed or succeeded in the challenge of conducting war amid a tribal culture. The discussions launched on the blogs offer opportunities for all concerned to voice their opinion and more importantly read and collect ideas that will help feel our way along until the right path is found.

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