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17 October 2006 Blog Home : October 2006 : Permalink

Gaza: Reductio ad Gentem

Thanks to James at Nourishing Obscurity I've been reading a fascinating account of Gaza and its descent into tribalism and anarchy. It is all very reminiscent of Somalia, Afghanistan and Waziristan. Now one could possibly draw some terribly racist conclusions here - think R Kipling style "the natives are little children" - but what I find interesting is to wonder why "the west" has somehow managed to avoid such tribalism - or at least minimized it.

 suspect that piecemeal urbanization via industrialization is a large factor behind this - in an urban society that has formed through people moving to the cities in search of (better) jobs families will tend to get split up and groups and tribes tend to intermingle so that one tribal identity gets lost. Of course it doesn't always disappear - think N Ireland - and some tribes - e.g. Jews - seem to resist assimilation in some societies (not saying its the Jews fault just saying they tend to keep to themselves for both internal and external reasons). But for the most part people tend to identify with larger items than their close genetic relatives - hence we see nationalism and religious affiliation being more important than being related to someone. And the logical outcome of this is a sort of transnationalism where we see ourselves as part of the human race rather than part of a bit of it. I don't think many humans are real transnationalists - even the ones that claim the title mostly seem to me to be more loyal to a secular religion of statist interference than the world as a whole - but most of the west is able to function without taking into account the tribe. The "West" by the way would also include the "far East" as well by this measure since China, Korea, Japan and, for the most part, Indochina are also non-tribal societies.

This is emphatically not the case in other societies. Arab society puts great store by the tribe and most of Africa does likewise. Indeed I recall an article which explained that the expectation that one should look after one's less fortunate relations as one major reason for African lack of progress. It's not just the nepotism and cronyism, it is also the fact that the incentives for success are lower because if you become successful you have to feed 101 idle distant cousins. I don't know how true this is but is makes a kind of sense. In other words perhaps the best thing the west could do for the tribal areas would be to encourage selfish behaviour and mass migration.

Something else that the west could usefully do in Gaza at least is continue to not provide aid. Gaza seems to produce nothing worth trading and little food so why are its people still alive and able to spend all their days fighting each other? The mantra of "Trade not Aid" would seem to be the perfect way to provide proper incentives for the Gazans to reform themselves. As it is they have no real incentive to not remain the unproductive drones of the global economy that they are today.

The article also makes something very clear: the west produces much better fighters. For example:

In scenes reminiscent of Lebanon's multi-sided civil war, checkpoints were set up on the street to mark where one family's turf began and another's ended. At times, hundreds of gunmen on both sides took part in prolonged battles, firing from homes and sandbagged positions across the empty lot that divides east and west Beit Hanoun.

Two bystanders were killed in the crossfire, and one member of the Kafarneh family was executed in front of his wife and children. After that gruesome killing, the mukhtar, or leader, of the Kafarnehs finally sued for peace.

"It was a war, not just a fight. Sixty days of war," Mr. el-Masri said. "We fought the Kafarnehs like they were the Israelis."

Obviously the reporter skips a few details in this description but it does begin to illustrate why the enormously asymmetric body counts seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and historically pretty much wherever the British Empire fought the natives occur. The west, particularly in its the professional or mercenary armies, emphasizes aimed fire, discipline, tactics and the acceptance of limited casualties in an assault. Critically the el Masri's and the Kafarnesh fought each other in the same way that they fight against the Israelis. Neither side fought in the way that the Israelis fight against them. The Israels identify the leaders and take them out with targetted killings, they manoever to attack from the sides and so on. In Lebanon where Hezbollah did, in some places, fight the way the Israelis fight, they were relatively successful. In Gaza the tribes are totally unsuccessful. If you have "hundreds of gunmen" in prolonged battles you ought to have dozens of casualties, however casualties were near zero despite the fact that both sides have RPGs as well as assault rifles and RPGs can piece most walls.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin