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If you haven’t yet reviewed the papers from the Midwest Political Science Conference, here’s a little gem that will tell you more about Iraqi politics than a dozen Pentagon PowerPoints. It goes by the deceptively sleepy title of “Preliminary Results From Voices Of The Mada’in: A Tribal History and Study of One of Baghdad’s Six Rural Districts,” and is by Adam Silverman, who was an advisor to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division in Iraq last year.”
Ricks’ findings from Silverman:
Shiite sheikhs, as well as Sunni ones [are] perceived the central government as a subsidiary of the Iranian government. “Even by Shia,” [Silverman writes] “the members of it are viewed as either Iranian agents or Iranians.”
The central government isn’t providing services, and so is disconnected from the tribes. “The lack of tethering … of governmental structures to the most powerful socio-cultural dynamic in Iraq, the tribal system, is worrying.” This lack threatens to undo the political gains of the last couple of years. “The concern is that unless the population layer, which is tribally oriented, is fully activated and brought into the mix, the hard work, grounded in the COIN reality of empowering the lowest levels,…will fail.”
The two groups with “broad based indigenous support in Iraq are the Sawha/SOI who are tribally oriented and the Sadrists.” I am not quite sure what to make of this conclusion, except that certainly isn’t where the U.S. government has placed its bets.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”