January 31, 2008

More on McCallister and Pakistan

Fellow blogger Afghanistanica makes an excellent point in our comments:

"Political and military planners must therefore take into account that the overall tribal sociopolitical blueprint and those in use by present day jihadist operating in the tribal areas are based on much older concepts of community and traditional codes of behavior."

I'll have to disagree with McCallister on this point. 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.

The traditional community is no longer able to provide economic security and meaning in an society that is increasingly resource-poor in relation to the growing population. The younger, less established guys are going to look elsewhere for status, meaning and security.

Trying to predict behavior through the lens of traditional community and Pashtunwali requires one to see culture as static and unchanging. That is a recipe for failure.

PS McCallister has received (taken?) most of the credit for working the tribal issue in Anbar before the surge. In actuality, the original paper, The Iraqi Insurgency Movement, published in Nov 2003 (!), had two additional authors: SGT Chris Alexander and CPT Charles Kyle. And while McCallister subsequently did yeoman's work with the Marines in Anbar for several years, the credit should probably be shared a little. (The paper, btw, is excellent.)

(Danger Room readers: see also, Kip's thoughts on pashtunwali.)

Update: McCallister responds.