Steven Pressfield Blog
[Because of the extraordinary response to Maj. Jim Gant’s paper, One Tribe At A Time, I’ve decided to leave it up all week in the “Number One Slot.” My ongoing interview with Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai will pick again next Friday; the Chief has been in Kabul all week, meeting with U.S. and British commanders, and we haven’t had time to speak. So all’s well that ends well!]
Discussion of the problems created by tribalism in Afghanistan often provokes from our own compatriots such outraged responses as, “Hey, who are we Americans to talk? We have our share of tribes too!” There’s no arguing with that. Here at home we’ve got the Bible-thumping cracker tribe, the latte-sipping liberal tribe and dozens more, all of which have to be catered to by the political process. To me though, the most useful American parallel to Afghan tribalism goes back to 1491—before the first European sail appeared off these virgin shores. Tribal America
This past week, the New York Times ran the op-ed “The Land of 10,000 Wars” by Ganesh Sitaraman. Hard to resist the urge to post the entire op-ed here. Check it out if you haven’t read it already.
I was very interested last week to see what would happen, in terms of leadership succession among the Pakistani Taliban, after the reputed death of Baitullah Mahsud. According to scores of press reports as well as Pakistani and Taliban spokesmen, the immediate aftermath was a shootout involving two rival successors, Hakimullah Mahsud and Wali ur-Rehman, that resulted in the death of Hakimullah Mahsud. Within two days however, Hakimullah was phoning in, according to the Economic Times, declaring not only that he was still alive but that so was Baitullah–and that the world would be hearing from both very shortly. This…
Remember the Bizarro World, from Seinfeld and Superman comics? Everything is its opposite in the Bizarro World. Up is down, black is white, in is out. Students of Counterinsurgency (COIN) and Tribal Engagement tell us it’s the same in their field. Who would have thought, for example, that killing bad guys would be a no-no? Or that a good old-fashioned grease-the-palm payoff would prove as effective as “winning hearts and minds?”
In the videos (and posts) on this site, we’ve talked about the characteristics of tribes and the tribal mindset. Among these are respect for elders, hostility to outsiders, the obligation of revenge, a code of honor rather than a system of laws, hospitality, capacity to endure hardship and the suppression of women. These qualities appear to be universal, or nearly so, across all continents during all periods of history. They seem to hold true for Native Americans, Africans and Amazonians, ancient Celts and Gauls, Scottish highlanders and the savage tribes that fought Alexander, Cyrus and Xenophon.