Look before you leap
Parade magazine’s Lyric Wallwork Winik writes in his “Intelligence Report”:
From abroad – What the U.S. Missed In Iraq
A fact of life in Iraq has gotten little press here: Nearly half of all Iraqis marry their first or secondcousins. The preferred union is for a daughter to wed the son of her father’s brother. In fact, Saddam Hussein married his first cousin, Sajida. “That’s why the shrewdest forecasts about what would happen in Iraq came not from the foreign-policy experts but from sociologists,” says journalist John Tierney, who reported on this phenomenon. Back in 2003, those sociologists warned that Iraq would never be like post-war Japan or Germany, because Iraqis were loyal to their clans and tribes – not to the Iraqi nation. Even today, much of the violence runs along clan lines. The army and police have an uphill battle to prove they can protect Iraqi communities better than the local militias. What does this mean for America’s war effort? Perhaps Congress will belatedly want to ask the President and the generals where tribes and tribal loyalties fit into their plans for building a stable Iraqi nation. (Parade Magazine, 29 April, 2007)
Yes, academic knowledge of countries we plan to attack is important. Crucial, even. A little something to remember as hotheads dismiss tweedy “elites” who have spent their lives studying other cultures.