February 02, 2008

McCallister Responds

Seems Afghanistanica hit a nerve. Mac McCallister reponds to his criticism (via SWJ):

I take great pains not to advertise this model as a predictive tool in the sense that Afghanistanica’s comments seem to imply. Afghanistanica and I differ because I accept intuitively that effects resulting from all individual and group interactions are “determined not simply by preceding causes but are part of a continuous process of evolution. These complex interactions are too numerous to predict, identify and observe as they manifest themselves in their various end states along the historical timeline.”


I apologize for my primitive outlook on the human condition and readily accept that my position might be anathema to those that embrace the idea that reason and rational thinking is the only mechanism to create a social order. I therefore want to strongly reinforce the point that the model is not an attempt to predict individual or group behavior but an attempt to recognize patterns of behavior and why this pattern may exist.


On the other hand, I can’t disagree more with the insinuation that the lens “requires” one to see culture as static. It is as if I was told that a given professional football game is static because the players follow a set of simple rules. The game remains the same but the actions expressed on any given game day certainly do not.

Read the full post at SWJ. McCallister focuses mostly Afghanistanica's concern about "predicting" behavior, but that wasn't the sum total nature of the objection. For Charlie's money, the real heart of the argument lies in the opening salvo:

The majority of the Taliban and Jihadists are radically removed from the "older concepts of community and traditional codes of behavior." Of those that aren't foreign, most are products of refugee camps that have very little resemblance to traditional village life, and their behavior reflects this. And others have used "jihad" as an excuse to overthrow or marginalize the traditional leadership.

That sounds to this blogger like it would be difficult to discern any "pattern" of human behavior in this shifting cultural landscape. (This of course also dovetails with Kip's argument that there is no monolithic pashtunwali.) Now, no one would ever confuse Charlie with a Middle East or South Asian tribal expert, but would it be correct to say that the tribal dynamics in Pakistan are more fluid and in a greater state of "shock" than those found in Anbar in 2004-2007? And as a result, we're just a whole helluva lot less sure wtf is going there? Or is there a way to sufficiently tailor any tribal program to take these different levels of variation and disruption into account?

(Hope you're enjoying Space Mountain, Kip. Charlie's just going to continue with the WAGs until you get back.)