Friday, August 03, 2007

On the one hand, but not on the other

"To the north in Mosul, the operational tempo against al Qaeda's network has been relentless. U.S. and Iraqi security forces have conducted numerous raids in the northern city over the past few months, killing or capturing multiple high value targets. The latest raid, by the Iraqi Army, resulted in the death of Safi, al Qaeda's emir of Mosul," according to Bill Roggio.

I think even critics might acknowledge that the US may actually be winning (or at least not losing) the security battle in certain places in Iraq. The real question has now shifted to finding a political strategy and program of implementation that can move governance process forward. In this connection, it's important to recall that current military successes did not spring out full-grown "from the forehead of the goddess Athena", but that its roots lie deep in the Iraqi Army training program of past years and the accumulated experience of officers and noncoms in their second or third tours.

The really worrisome thing about expecting any parallel "political and diplomatic surge" to emerge is that there are no obvious analogous roots that one can hope will sprout. In the long view perhaps the greatest "mistake" of the Iraq campaign may turn out to be the inability to generate non-military political assets which can operate at the grassroots level. The inability to bring to bear "all the sources of national power" to the situation. But I think the problem is broader than that. The West hasn't articulated the language and political framework to deal with the post-Cold War world of failing states and networked insurgencies. We're still stuck with traditional diplomatic and institutional paradigms, which, will still useful, don't have all the capabilities we need -- such as in Iraq.

Nothing follows.

8 Comments:

Blogger deepinjuncountry said...

I think it's Athena who sprung fully armored from the forehead of Zeus.

Aside from that, maybe there's something to this masculine/feminine principle vis a vis Iraq. If combat equals the masculine and diplomacy and polity equals the feminine it's no wonder the Iraqis can't get it together—just look at their culture. One thing Western Civ did have was the medieval Marion cultus, which in turn birthed "Romance" and the psychological integration of the feminine principle into the culture. The Muslims have no parallel movement—the feminine lacks any idealization. If the feminine has any public face in Islam, it's the female suicide bomber, an armored pagan Athena.

I'm aware you're referring to the timeline with regard to the whole process but myths always kick up associations for me.

8/03/2007 09:31:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Thank you for correcting my spotty knowledge of the classics, acquired largely from copies of Bullfinch's Mythology with missing pages.

8/03/2007 09:35:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

If I'm reading things correctly the USA is headed for a 1987 style stock market crash because the fed can't lower interest rates to pump up liquidity because the dollar is falling and oil prices are rising in the face of rising demand and falling supply.

Part of any Iraqi plan should include getting their production up another three million barrels a day.

Oil prices for the next couple years imho are going to be very volitile.

But the extra oil revenues in the iraqui coffers should go a long way towards patching things over if they can just find away to give everyone a stake in the profits.

8/03/2007 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

deep --

I think the fundamental difference goes deeper. Arabs certainly do have a sense of the feminine, it's just that they have a far different (and older) method of handling the fundamental issue of human organization: the polygamy issue, or more broadly the competition over women.

In Mammals the degree of polygamy is indicated by sex-size differences, by that standard we humans are slightly polygamous since men are on average about 15-20% bigger than women. Polygamy seems to be a an old pattern among peoples.

But what made the post-Roman, Christian West DIFFERENT and probably accounts for it's success is the ability to suppress the probably natural instinct for polygamy and institute monogamy. Which has done two things very important:

1. Making vast levies time and time again from Salamis to Iraq far easier since men will fight and die for the opportunity to have a family of their own, or for their sons to have one.

2. Making the energy and inventiveness of the beta males vastly more efficient, and self-organizing, since the free market depends mostly on the beta male working for himself to better himself, not as a serf or slave. The free market then is just the indicator of this social arrangement, rather than something standing on it's own.

I would not call war/diplomacy a masculine/feminine dichotomy, rather the means of harnessing both being indicative of how efficiently a society marshals it's resources.

Very likely the problem with the failure of diplomacy and the lack of resources marshaled to prod, poke, and move the Iraqis to some political settlement speaks to OUR failure as much as theirs.

Iraqis can't get it together because in their polygamous, big-man world, no one co-operates. They merely intimidate and take. Our people can't change that because no one wants to in the State Dept. They themselves admire that system and don't want to change it, because we at home in the West are drifting back into a Big Man polygamous system.

Just look at how the elites view soldiers and marines, how out of touch they are with popular tastes, and how hostile they are to people's interests.

Does anyone think Hillary or Obama or Edwards or Biden enjoys NASCAR and watches it for pleasure? Or Baseball, Football, or Basketball? Listens to Country Music or Metal or Rap?

These cultural tastes are not important because they are clues as to what people value. And mostly the elites value big men. So no of course not we're not doing anything besides the military. Because fundamentally the military challenges the big man system (they win through teamwork) and the elites hold to it.

On the fundamental question of polygamy, basically the elites and Osama are on the same side, in a strange way.

8/04/2007 01:35:00 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

very interesting remarks from Whiskey 199 which, as a medievalist, i agree with. it's about honor-shame and zero-sum -- i get honor (whiten my face) by shaming you (blackening yours). we medievalists refer to the beta males sociologically as commoners and the alpha males as aristocrats, but your putting it in an evolutionary framework -- moving away from male primate behavior -- is very impt. as Weston La Barre put it (The Ghost Dance) -- "the relationship between father and son is the most dangerous in the animal world." (by which he also meant human world.)

as for Wretchard's post, this political failure underlines not only the failure of western thinking to get out of 20th (even 19th) cn paradigms about states and intl relations and the nature of civil society (eg Richard Norton) -- it also underlines the massive failure of Europeans to get involved in making Iraq a successful (relatively) modern state. Cheering on a Bush failure that will be catastrophic for Europeans -- European Jihadis will take the US loss in Iraq as a huge victory and invitation to take the violence to a new level and find sharpened interest among the European Islamists -- European elites have done nothing to help and everything they could to hurt efforts to stabilize that country.

8/05/2007 02:13:00 AM  
Blogger deepinjuncountry said...

There is no great "unified theory" to explain human behavior or social structure—we're all blindfolded, touching different parts of the elephant. Dostoevsky thought we are all bugs, but not merely—he also recognized that we, as humans, are much much more. The reduction of viewpoints to a single mode of thinking only serves to describe a small part of said elephant. It's not "about" any one dynamic, whether psychological, economic, anthropological, even, and maybe especially, biologic. We are not ants. There is, at least to some extent. a "chain of being" with humans at the top.

All that said, I really do appreciate Whiskey and Richard's viewpoints. Hell I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, where shaming was a bloody art form, and Alpha and Beta males sustained low level conflict on a day-to-day basis.

For me, It's the masculine/feminine, active/passive dynamics that are the most intriguing. I can't quite figure out how it works in western culture and my own life, let alone the Levant. Women must have power in Arab culture—it's impossible not to. How does it manifest itself?

8/05/2007 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Holy Roman Umpire said...

Great analyses, as usual on this blog. But this time, maybe a little too great. Let's start at the beginning: the fundamental civil right, without which the rest do not exist, is the physical security of the citizenry. We are only now just beginning to establish this fundamental pre-condition for a stable and civil society. It is no surprise to me that Iraqi politics are stuck. You can't fault ordinary people and politicians for not wanting to be on the losing side of a war, especially when the consequences include the murder of oneself and family. And the winner of this war is not yet clear, though I think the tide is turning in our favor. Once the security situation is reasonably stable, then I think the Iraqis will be able to start trusting each other without undue risk and the politics will follow. A functional politics will be the result of winning the security battle and the sure sign that it has been won. As for the StratFor analysis: it seems too clever by half; something that the old European powers would attempt. But what do I know? I just work for a living.

8/05/2007 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2007/08/re-on-one-hand-but-not-on-other.html

8/05/2007 11:46:00 PM  

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