Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tribal Business in the Levant

Here is a fascinating clip from the 92nd Street Y with Steve Coll discussing his book, The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century talking with Leonard Lopate, host of WNYC's The Leonard Lopate Show. The subject is OBL but the explanation of local business and marriage arrangements is what caught my ear. In the case of OBL this was in Syria, but as we have learned during the last four or five years tribal and cultural characteristics are far more important than national considerations.

As he spoke I couldn't help thinking how the US adventure in Iraq reflects local customs regarding business and marriage arrangements. What the US has done in Iraq is not new. A wealthy and influential benefactor comes into a situation where power and influence trump everything else, including the dignity of women. In fact, the role of women is crucial to the appearance of legitimacy... if you want to overlook the difference between marriage and prostitution.

US policy in Iraq reflects the way business has been done there for generations. Diplomatically the US has a lot in common with Osama's father. Someone in the State Department or the White House understood this all along! Who knew?

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