Iraqi PM Nouri Al-Maliki on democracy’s troubles in Iraq.
Before us lies a difficult road–the imperative of national reconciliation, the drafting of a new social contract that acknowledges the diversity of our country. It was in that spirit that those who drafted our constitution made provisions for amending it. The opponents of the constitution were a minority, but we sought for our new political life the widest possible measure of consensus. From the outset, I committed myself to the principle of reconciliation, pledged myself to its success. I was determined to review and amend many provisions and laws passed in the aftermath of the fall of the old regime, among them the law governing de-Baathification. I aimed to find the proper balance between those who opposed the decrees on de-Baathification and others who had been victims of the Baath Party. This has not been easy, but we have stuck to that difficult task.
There is an appealing–in a dark sort of way–contention that Arab tribalism will prevent the establishment of democracy in Iraq, or anywhere where Arabs form the majority of the population, but the argument rarely goes beyond stating that such efforts are doomed to failure to ask What happens if tribalism and democracy truly cannot mix?
The persistence of tribalism in any particular area seems to be a result of cousin marriage, as that institution reinforces familial ties at the expense of the wider society.
Muslim countries are usually known for warm, devoted extended family relationships, but also for weak patriotism. In the U.S., where individualism is so strong, many assume that “family values” and civic virtues such as sacrificing for the good of society always go together. But, in Islamic countries, loyalty to extended (as opposed to nuclear) families is often at war with loyalty to nation. Civic virtues, military effectiveness, and economic performance all suffer.
Tribalism was once present in the West as well, but began to fall by the wayside during the Renaissance.
Unlike the Middle East, Europe underwent what Samuel P. Huntington calls the “Romeo and Juliet revolution.” Europeans became increasingly sympathetic toward the right of a young woman to marry the man she loves. Setting the stage for this was the Catholic Church’s long war against cousin marriage, even out to fourth cousins or higher. This weakened the extended family in Europe, thus lessening the advantages of arranged marriages. It also strengthened broader institutions like the Church and the nation-state.
But why did Europe undergo the movement away from tribalism? The Renaissance was not the cause of the decline in tribalism, but rather another symptom of it. Had European tribalism not decayed, there would have been no Renaissance, with its emphasis on humanism and the individual.
If cousin marriage is the progenitor and protector of tribalism, and tribalism began decaying in the West sometime just prior to the Renaissance, then cousin marriage itself must have come under attack. Huntingdon gives some credit for this to the Catholic Church, but church doctrine had frowned on the practice since roman times with little effect. So the sudden decline in cousin marriage must have been the result of another influence.
Such as there being no cousins to marry.
Then the grievous plague penetrated the seacoasts from Southampton, and came to Bristol, and there almost the whole strength of the town died, struck as it were by sudden death. There died at Leicester in the small parish of St. Leonard more than 380, in the parish of Holy Cross more than 400; in the parish of S. Margaret of Leicester more than 700; and so in each parish a great number. “
The Black Death is estimated to have killed about 20 million people in Europe alone. For survivors of a marriageable age, the pool of potential spouses would have been small, and the chance that a cousin was among them would have been remote. In effect, the tradition of cousin marriage did not decay so much as it was killed off by demographic loss.
If tribalism and democracy cannot co-exist in the Middle East, there is no reason to expect that they can do so in the larger arena of the world. One must eventually prevail. The answer to the question of What happens if tribalism and democracy truly cannot mix? would appear to be “bloodshed,” either as the West induces a demographic loss in the tribal Middle East large enough to bring about the collapse of cousin marriage, or as the tribes reach out to colonize the West, something like what Mark Steyn describes in America Alone.
To our credit, America ‘s answer to the assertion that tribalism and democracy don’t mix has so far been the Scottish “not proven.” Our course in Iraq may be historically illiterate, but it was chosen not because we are ignorant, despite the many assertions to the contrary, but because the al