To win over Tribal Societies we have to relearn the concepts of shame and honor. Counterinsurgency operations inTribal Societies can be improved by following McCallister’s Engagement Model (pdf). One of the most important things about tribe is their cultural concept of honor. Knowledge about unique structure and organizations are useful but less important.

An important and often misunderstood fact is the zero-sum tradeoff between shame and honor in these cultures. To win their cooperation, forget about hearts and minds.

The West used to share this notion of shame and honor. It still does, but it has lost coherence in modern times. Take the concept of hubris. Hubris is not excessive pride.

Aristotle’s definition of hubris:

to cause shame to the victim, not in order that anything may happen to you, nor because anything has happened to you, but merely for your own gratification. Hubris is not the requital of past injuries; this is revenge. As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater.

Honor describes your relative position in society. Those guilty of hubris demean others to glorify themselves.

Take anyfight. Say you beat your opponent to the ground. The victory itself is not an offense. Hubris is when you taunt and redicules your fallen opponent to shame and humiliate him.

This is the exchange. You seek to improve your social position and reputation at the expense of another. Your honor and glory is his shame.

But tradeoffs between shame and honor do not always occur in adversarial contests. Take a great hero. His heroic deeds can be considered honorable, yet it shames the less heroic of his comrades who did not perform the same feats.

In a business, you get a promotion while your co-workers do not. It shames them because their effort is deemed inferior to yours.

A hero must be cautious never to deliberately humiliate and shame others in his society or else he is guilty of hubris.

McCallister on Shame and Honor:

A. Exchanged like currency. Honor is a limited resource.
B. Zero-sum exchange. One gains honor at another’s expense (who then has shame imposed as well)
C. Honor is not for sale (misplaced assumption of “hearts and minds”). Honor can only be exchanged for honor and/or the imposition of shame

Ham-handed Western attempts to win the “hearts and minds” of tribal members shames them. It judges them inferior and weak – people to be bought off with money, shiny new tools, and promises. Like they are retarded monkeys that we took pity on.

Tribes are isolationist and often suspicious of outsiders. To win their cooperation, we must treat them honorably as equals. Once accepted in an honorable place in society, then you get true cooperation.

The Americans have slowly been accepted as another Tribe in Iraq.

I have been studying and working with various tribes in Iraq for the last four years plus and am currently serving as the “tribal” advisor for II MEF in Anbar. Concerning recent commentary on US forces as a “tribe” – it is old news as far as I am concerned.

We are and have been a major if not the major “tribe” for the last four years. Paul Bremer, former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, was referred to by Iraqi Sheikhs seeking an audience to pledge their loyalty and seeking patronage as the “Sheikh of Sheikhs” when they came to the palace in search of a meeting. I personally participated in coordinating a meeting with 400 Sheikhs and CPA officials for a traditional “tribal meeting” in Hillah four years ago.

The US made many early misteps in handling the tribes early on. It improperly put an emphasis on forming a national government without first building up the tribal civil society. The Imperious US Congress continues to focus on a base-less national government – which shames the tribal leaders.

The United States fought the Sunni tribes for years, yet today they patrol together as allies. This is only because the US did not use excessive force, cruelty, and humilitations during the earlier phases of the war. They fought honorably and were magnanimous in their victory – so much so that they are sharing the victory with their former enemies.

The same cannot be said of Al-Qaeda. The Tribes rebelled because AQ shamed them more than the Americans ever could.

LTC Kilcullen said the final straw for the Anbar Tribal rebellion was Al-Qaeda’s treatment of women. With the Shame and Honor culture in perspective, this becomes clear. AQ abused the tribes women and forcibly took daughters for wives without family approval. This shame needed to be avenged so the families could restore their honor.

So obvious point: If you want tribesmen to respect you, don’t rape their sisters and murder their fathers. Otherwise they’ll kill you.

Al-Qaeda is guilty of hubris in Iraq and so the Iraqi Awakening is their nemesis.