Pre-Modern Wars, and theocratic Peaces

Dehghanpishesh, B. & Kaplow, L. (2007). Baghdad’s new owners: Shiites now dominate the once mixed capital, and there is little chance of reversing the process. Newsweek. September 10, 2007. Available online: (from Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog).

Faluda, S. (2007). America’s guardian myths. The New York Times. September 7, 2007. Available online:

Two good articles on pre-modern wars, which may be called “0GW.” In the New York Times a reminder of genocide-scale violence against English settlers:

The assault on Lancaster came several months into King Philip’s War (or Metacom’s Rebellion, for those who prefer the actual name of the Wampanoag chief). That fearsome and formative confrontation between white settlers and the New England tribes remains, per capita, America’s deadliest war. In one year, one of every 10 white men of military age in Massachusetts Bay was killed, and one of every 16 in the Northeastern colonies. Two-thirds of New England towns were attacked and more than half the settlements were left in ruins. Settlers were forced to retreat nearly to the coast, and the Colonial economy was devastated.

And, in Newsweek, the violent ethnic cleansing of Baghdad:

Thousands of other Sunnis like Kamal have been cleared out of the western half of Baghdad, which they once dominated, in recent months. The surge of U.S. troops—meant in part to halt the sectarian cleansing of the Iraqi capital—has hardly stemmed the problem. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in July was slightly higher than in February, when the surge began. According to the Iraqi Red Crescent, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has more than doubled to 1.1 million since the beginning of the year, nearly 200,000 of those in Baghdad governorate alone. Rafiq Tschannen, chief of the Iraq mission for the International Organization for Migration, says that the fighting that accompanied the influx of U.S. troops actually “has increased the IDPs to some extent.”

Both the Massachusettes Bay Colony of Prince William’s War and the contemporary Baghdad Governorate are fake states, lines on that could only be enforced by violence. Like Massachusettes Bay before her, Baghdad has one choice if she wishes to become a real political region: become a cultural region, as well.

In colonial New England, the “trigger pullers” of the colonial militia was backed up by a restrictive but pro-market ruleset, the religious puritanism of the area’s new inhabitans. In the same way, contemporary Baghdad is only born by the violence of the Shia militias: a restrictive but pro-market ruleset, probably Sharia, is needed to raise her up.

3 thoughts on “Pre-Modern Wars, and theocratic Peaces”

  1. I don't buy it. Increased Puritanism was not needed to protect the New England colonies and in fact the war lead to a drastic reduction in the efforts to convert the Indians. The identity that arose was one of self-sufficiency and, possibly, Americaness. The colonists had no help from England so had to rely on themselves and their Indian allies. Without a doubt religion fortified them, but the rigors of Puritianism was not a requirement. Perhaps its legacy as an embattled religion helped, but that was separate from its social restrictions.

    The author of the NYT piece is full of it, and is trying to use Victorian revisionism as an indication of some kind of feeling of emasculation from the war. The war did have profound effects upon New England and America, but not as the author explains it. First of all, it basically ended the experiment in living with the Indians instead of separately. (The Cherokee and their baptists friends would come close, though). It established an us versus them mentality and a streak of independence in New England that had reverberations a century later something that did not require the puritanical ruleset. Iraq does not need sharia. It's new ruleset is “protect your neighborhood” and “don't let outsiders tell you what to believe.”

    To learn more “The Name of War” is good:

    Also, Metacomb likely changed his name for the war to his Name of War. It is unknown, but it may have been Wewesewamut.

  2. “Ahmed, who has a Shiite father and a Sunni mother, considers himself a secular Shiite, and, in his view, the religious militias want to force people like him out of Baghdad. “Americans are the safe house for the whole situation in Iraq,” he said. “Once they say they are going to withdraw, the whole country will become a hell.” He went on, “I imagine that no Sunnis will be in Baghdad at all. Baghdad will be only for the Shiite man with the long beard and black imama—the turban. The Americans are representing the taboos, just like ‘Lord of the Flies.’ I imagine the Shiites will be just like that if the Americans have to withdraw. Who can fight will fight, who must leave will leave.” He added, “Those who are weak, who are trying to avoid the savagery, those who are at the edge of being eaten by the Shiite specifically—that will be the end point, that will be their doomsday. The plan, as we hear it, is to make Baghdad empty of Sunnis.””

    George Packer

  3. Adrian,

    What's the point of the excerpt?


    The New York Times editorial goes off into some feminist theory, but what I wanted to focus on was the fact of genocide-scale wars in America — that is, premodern wars of 0GWs — and the combination of social solidarity and economic development that allowed us to win and thrive.

    Of course, the Virginia colony is another history, with another method. Religious law is neither necessary for sufficient. But it's a tool that be useful, either in Bostonor in Baghdad.

  4. The excerpt seems to show that Baghdad is indeed becoming a “cultural region”. Some Shia version of Sharia is likely to be the defacto law.

    “Baghdad will be only for the Shiite man with the long beard and black imama—the turban.”

  5. Dan,

    I like your analogy to the New England colonies. However, I will dispute your assumption that the Shia cultural region will be characterized by a pro-market version of Sharia. As far as I know, Sharia everywhere it has been instituted is fundamentally anti-market, even in Shia communities.

  6. Andrew,

    Could you say more? How is the Koran anti-market, and particularly how is Shia sharia thus so??

    Not only was the Koran devised among a merchant population and pays special attention to the role of contracts, Islamic charities provided a true civil society for hundreds of years (until they were abolished by the Arab national secularists).

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