Friday, July 16, 2004

Tribes in Iraq

People often comment that Iraq has a "tribal culture," meaning it in a highly derogatory way in which it is unclear exactly what they mean by tribe.  RFE-RL has a more nuanced view of the situation, giving a good overview of what exactly all these tribes are all about. However, I would caution against the idea that they represent some sort of magic solution for the future of Iraq. As the article suggests, they are important primarily in rural areas. Secondly, tribal leaders can easily act as a social class with their own interests, and thus may entrench their own rule even if things look democratic on the surface. Finally, as Juan Cole points out, some tribal leaders are signing up with different sides of the conflict. What's important about all this is probably a view of the developing post-Saddam socio-political system in rural areas rather than a sign that is implicitly positive or negative in its implications.


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