Wednesday, January 2

Beam me up, Scotty

Here's the deal, O Great Chief United States of America. We are nations when it suits us. When it doesn't suit us we are tribes, such as the 700,000 strong Bhutto tribe in that region you call Pakistan or the Kikuyu or Luo tribe in that region you call Kenya.

Here's the way it works. We want all the benefits of nationhood, but we don't want to change our tribal ways. And we want you, O Great Chief, to help us when it suits us and when it doesn't we want to blame you for all that goes wrong.

Be happy that we accord you such great respect. Until you are properly grateful for our respect, you will never make progress in that region you call the Middle East. Are you writing all this down? Because if you're not, we can always bring our allegiance to a chieftain such as Iran, China or al Qaeda.

True, those are middling chieftains today but the chief is just a figurehead. We have all the power. We are the tribe. Now bring us our blanket and bottle.

The above is my response to Yossef Bodansky's argument in Chechen Jihad that the United States faces a choice: continue alienating tribal peoples by trying to move them toward democratic government, or follow the new Russian model and leave the tribes to their own devices, so they'll agree to do things such as guard oil pipelines in remote regions and provide intelligence on al Qaeda franchises.

Thus, the 21st century version of the European Colonalist dictum, "Don't rile the natives," which helped land the Middle East and Central Asia in just the mess they -- and the rest of the world -- are in today.

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