By ZOLTAN GROSSMAN Counterpunch
The so-called “Global War on Terror” is quickly growing outside the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan, into new battlegrounds in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and beyond. The Pentagon is vastly increasing missile and gunship attacks, Special Forces raids, and proxy invasions–all in the name of combating “Islamist terrorism.” Yet within all five countries, the main targets of the wars are predominantly “tribal regions,” and the old frontier language of Indian-fighting is becoming the lexicon of 21st-century counterinsurgency. The “Global War on Terror” is fast morphing into a “Global War on Tribes.”
Tribal regions are local areas where tribes are the dominant form of social organization, and tribal identities often trump state, ethnic, and even religious identities. Tribal peoples have a strongly localized orientation, tied to a particular place. Their traditional societies are based on a common culture, dialect, and kinship ties (through single or multiple clans). Although they are tribal peoples, they are not necessarily Indigenous peoples–who generally follow nature-centered spiritual and cultural systems. [sic*] Nearly all tribal communities in the Middle East and Central Asia have been Islamicized or Christianized, but they still retain their ancient social bonds.
Yet modern counterinsurgency doctrine only views tribal regions as festering cauldrons of lawlessness, and “breeding grounds” for terrorism, unless the tribes themselves are turned against the West’s enemies. The London Times (5Jan10), for example, crudely asserts that Yemen’s “mountainous terrain, poverty and lawless tribal society make it… a close match for Afghanistan as a new terrorist haven.” This threatening view of tribal regions is, of course, as old as European colonialism itself.