Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stanley Kurtz linked yesterday to a fascinating article he wrote in 2008, about tribalism in the Muslim world. At the time it appeared I posted a kind of abridgment of it (it's a long piece). These two passages are, I think, among the most important:
[T]he template of tribal life, with its violent and shifting balance of power between fusing and fissioning lineage segments, is the dominant theme of cultural life in the Arab Middle East (and shapes even many non-Arab Muslim populations). At its cultural core, says Salzman, even where tribal structures are attenuated, Middle Eastern society is tribal society.

* * * * *

The most disturbing lesson of all is that, in the absence of fundamental cultural change, the feud between the Muslim world and the West is unlikely ever to end. Tribal feuds simmer on and off for generations, with negotiated settlements effecting only temporary respites. Among the tribes of Waziristan, the saying goes: "I took my revenge early. I waited only 100 years."
(Kurtz's article is largely an analysis of and response to Philip Carl Salzman's book Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, which Kurtz called "the most penetrating, reliable, systematic, and theoretically sophisticated effort yet made to understand the Islamist challenge the United States is facing in cultural terms.")

The article got little mention in the blogosphere; I think it was just too long for most people to read through. I found it extremely valuable, which is why I posted my chopped-up version—better that some of it be read than none—and why I'm reposting it below. Click "Read more" to see it.