The previous installment highlighted Robert Kaplan's (It's the Tribes Stupid) bottom up approach to stabilizing Iraq, beginning with tribal loyalties. It also highlighted Adrian's excellent post (How to Attack a National Identity) that looked at combating AQI and sectarian collectivism by focusing on tribal identity.
The above were keystones in my own vision of The Surge and how, while successful tactically, it did little to accomplish the American strategy of recreating a stable Iraqi state. Given the American strategic goal in Iraq (defined by the infamous Benchmarks) of national reconciliation and political cohesion the Surge, by utilizing a hard focus on tribal fomentation against the likes of AQI, seems antithetical to the overall strategy. On one end America demands and designs national political resolve, on the other we empower tribal politics and encourage social fracture.
In essence, American tactics and political goals suffer a hefty gap and what's needed is something to bridge that gap and bring the top down political rebuild and the bottom up tribal empowerment together.
Enter Karasik and Schbley's House of Tribes:
Our proposal envisions revamping the Iraqi constitution to create a federal branch with two houses: a lower house comprised of all political parties and dealing with daily political, social and economic issues; and a higher House of Tribes, based on tribal affiliations, not provinces. This would introduce a check and balance system that would benefit all Iraqis and set the stage for pure Iraqi reunification. The governance scope of this higher body would be the same as the lower.
Tribal leaders should not be defined by geographic location but by their constituencies. Each tribe should have an equal number of representatives. In recent discussions with regional Iraqi tribal elders, Sunni and Shiite tribes sought a compact that would end violence and promote stability. They see other Gulf Arab countries, specifically the United Arab Emirates, as a model for federal development. Such an effort could enhance U.S. policy towards Iraq by diminishing the notion that Washington is taking sides.
Overall, a balance of power is missing from Iraq today, making the government weak. The Awakening Council is a first step, but not a long-term solution, because it is only a temporary entity, and is not fully inclusive. This contributes to splits and conflicts among tribes. Creating an institution for tribal leaders would provide them an incentive to participate in the political process and open the door to full integration of tribal forces into the Iraqi security and police forces. A House of Tribes could usher in a form of democracy, unique to Iraq, which heals and brings peace.