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Does the Idea of a Segmentary System Help to Explain Political Conflict?

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The concept of segmentation does not imply structural dimensions per se. Segmentation, as it is technically understood, involves a unit-whole formed by unit-parts. Nevertheless, when it is related to an organisational system, a segmentary system assumes segmentary structural implications insofar as other certain elements are involved, such as structural relativity, genealogical segmentation or the massive-effects of a complementary opposition—the fission and fusion features of the segmentary systems.

These elements, together with other political values and principles, are in-depth considered in this paper with the aim of attempting to explain the plausible causal nexus between segmentary systems and political conflict.

A Case Study: The Nuer

In the endeavour of considering the elements that confer structural implications to a segmentary system, it might permit a substantive focus of attention the fact of centring on a segmentary tribe with a substantial background of ethnographic inferences and a very net model: the Nuer of the Southern Sudan (see Evans-Pritchard’s ethnography The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People).

As an attempted overview, the Nuer is a Nilotic—inhabitants of the river Nile—tribe that includes around 500,000 individualsand has a particular physical and linguistic similarity with their neighbours the Dinka. Nuer are segmented. In other words, the interrelation of territorial segments within their political system, and the relations of other systems to this system, is formed by groups that are part of a segmentary system—the idea of segmentation is not a causal model able to predict what will happen next but just an intelligible framework for grasping the forms of options available in such a system. Moreover, Nuer are not centralised in power terms and have a sort of an ordered anarchy with no government. This is to say, Nuer, as well as Dinka, are divided into a number of tribes with no central organisation that have an internal logic which requires a very substantial study of its structure in order to be grasped and entitled under such term of ordered anarchy—this will be seen below. Regarding Nuer political segments, the most significant one in terms of magnitude is the tribe. Tribe members have an obligation to unite in warfare against intruders/outsiders and a right for compensation. Continuing, tribes are divided into tribal segments called sections; concretely, into primary and secondary sections forming the largest groups, and further tertiary sections, which are characterised by closer ties among its members as they are composed by villages, and these villages by domestic groups counting with kinships and domestic clans. For a clearer diagrammatic representation:

FIG. 1

Segmentary Distribution of Tribal Sections of Nuer Tribes

Source: Author’s representation.

Notes to the figure:elements ‘2’ account with the same structure as those labelled ‘1’.

There exists an institution of blood-feud that, following the aforesaid Evans-Pritchard’s ethnography, contributes to maintain the equilibrium among political forces of different segments and groups with the help of a mediator, the leopard-skin chief. This blood-feud has sometimes structural implications in sparking off warfare (see Dresch’s essay ‘The Significance of the Course Events Take in Segmentary Systems’) that we will see below. Regarding kinship, Nuer are agnatic in terms of lineage—Nuer trace their descent solely through males to a common ancestor. The clan is thus the Nuer largest group of lineages—diverging branches of a common ancestor—and it is further divided into segments from the largest to the smallest one: maximal lineages, major lineages, minor lineages and minimal lineages. The importance of the blood-feud and the collective identity at each level determined by agnation are key features for understanding the political equilibrium in segmentary systems, as it is in-depth approached below. In relation to age, Nuer account with an age-set system. Age-sets are age-based groups that are non-cyclical but progressive. Individuals became a member of a set by the ritual of initiation and pass through positions of relative seniority until reaching the senior set. Such sets do not have a corporate function but they act jointly in small communities. In terms of social hierarchy, Nuer are not ranked. There are no classes or rankings as Nuer consider themselves as equal and they disregard wealth or other comparative features.

Followed by such attempted summary of the Nuer tribe, let us consider some of its segmentary elements able to imply structural implications for explaining determinant drivers of political conflict.

Each Nuer tribe has a unique territory in which they inhabit and a common sentiment for their members. The smaller the tribal segment the stronger the sentiment of unity and the more salient the intimacy of their social ties and contiguous their contact. There does exist a linkage between tribal divisions and lineages that crystallises its mode of segmentation. A tribal segment spreads around a lineage of the dominant clan of the tribe, which derives the strength of their interrelations insofar as smaller segments are closer genealogically and greater segments are more spread genealogically. Regarding their political values, there exist a sentiment and an organisation of unity against adjacent segments, larger segments and foreign tribes. This principle might seem highly important if we consider its structural dimensions in tailoring political conflict. Thus, same-order segments unite for war in case of conflict of one of their same-order tribal members. This results in a cumulative structure of higher-order segments of the same tribe to fight other segments of other tribes or tribes. For instance, under a hypothetical tribal distribution of order such as in (FIG. 2), if:

FIG. 2

Hypothetical Distribution of Tribal Segments of Nuer

Source: Author’s representation.

From this diagrammatic representation might seem to follow a plausible case of conflict among Nuer. If a section seeks asylum in a warfare among other section under the statement of lineage ties, the protecting section might go into conflict with the other part if such part is, at the same time, genealogically tied with it. For instance, in the aforesaid Evans-Pritchard’s ethnography, he describes this conflict between the Leng and the Nyarkwac. The latter were split into the Yol and the Thiang, both of them descendants of a common ancestor with the Leng. The Thiang, exhausted, sought asylum among the Leng and this fact caused a reaction by the Yol connoting on a warfare against the Leng. This event was twofold: the Leng had a moral obligation to give asylum to the Thiang because of kinship ties and the Yol had a subsequent ‘right’ of directing a war against the Leng because of neglecting their own kinship ties.

It is important to highlight the fact that political membership is relative in the Nuer political structure. Hence, members of the section , in (FIG.2), might recognise themselves as members of  if they are talking among themselves or to members of . However, they would be entitled as  if they talk with members of . This is due to the relativity principle of the political structure of Nuer. The raison d’être of this principle is that tribal sections and segments have political membership solely in relation to other groups. Thus, tribal segments are political groups in relation to other segments of the same kind and only form a tribe in relation to another Nuer tribe or adjacent foreign tribe. From this, it seems to follow that political values of Nuer are relative—to other sections—and are in an equilibrium with forces of fission and fusion. (This fission/fusion feature of segmentary systems is plausibly caused in the case of Nuer due to a possible adaptive response of Nuer to Dinka. Dinka were already in the territory and Nuer were intruders. Hence, Nuer needed to fuse as well as to segment in order to gain territories for their peoples.) Indeed, groups tend to split into opposed parts—this can be seen in seasonal turns of Nuer segments, that are of different directions as Nuer tend to be opposed among segments because of this fission/fusion principle of their political system—but also fuse as they are part of the same segmentary system and such equilibrium might cogently contribute to determine political conflict. Certainly, this tendency to fusion and split is characterised as the dynamics of segmentary political systems (see Kuper’s essay ‘The Segmentary Lineage: An Organisation of Predatory Expansion’).

The blood-feud is an institution that also operates in maintaining the equilibrium of political conflict. It provides a compensation for homicide. Blood-feuds are a tribal institution or mechanism to obtain reparation for injury. For extension, then fear of incurring blood-feud is a guarantee for the individual to keep save. Although there is no law regarding the existence of an impartial authority who judges an event and has some sort of enforcement to impose a sanction, this institution maintains the equilibrium of ‘justice’ among sections of the tribe. Nevertheless, its effectiveness is more linked with smaller sections than those of greater magnitude. The fact that a group of a tribe attempts to avenge a homicide made by a member of another tribal group can result in an intertribal war rather than in a blood-feud state. When people of different villages fight, they prefer to seek the mediator leopard-skin chief, as they are aware that the aggressiveness of fighting with spears might cause to spill loads of blood and, as they are genealogically closer to one another than larger segments, they try to keep violence within limits.

The leopard-skin chief can be seen as an alternative procedure for a settlement of blood-feuds who can help to provide the alternative of paying in cattle as a compensation for death after the killer seeks asylum in his house. However, Nuer is proud and always want a body in compensation. Although the leopard-skin chief settles the blood-feud after the cattle compensation and overt hostilities are not frequently visible, for Nuer the blood-feud never ends. Their enmity lasts forever so does the chance for the blood-feud to be reopened, which contributes to a great extent in sowing the seeds for political conflict. However, chances for hostilities drawn from blood-feuds in provoking warfare are more likely to occur among primary, secondary and tertiary sections. The rationale behind such statement lies in the closer ties that smaller groups share. For instance, if the murderer is closely related with the dead man, then the feud is quickly paid and ended as there are many kinship and affinity ties involved. In contrast, when such ties are not that close and blood-feuds occur among different larger groups, a greater chance for it to break out an intertribal war might increase. (Incidentally, honour is very important for Nuer as can be seen in disputes between two men of different villages in which the honour of the whole village is at stake which adds substantial sensitivity to sparking off warfare.) Indeed, blood-feud compensations between secondary sections are not even expected and they certainly result in a general fight. Here, again, it can be seen the fission/fusion segmentary principle in relation to the relativeness notion of groups—inasmuch they politically-unite for war because of lineage reasons in case of same-order group blood-feuds.

Other disputes different than homicide might contribute to boost political conflict. For instance, adultery, steal cattle, etc., can be easily compensated; though there is no authority that controls such mechanism. Through a conventional redress, disputes habitually settle in harmony; however, if they are not eventually settled, they might result in violence as Nuer are sensitive to conflict in case that they are insulted or wronged. Thus, structural fusion might occur in cases that does not hold a settlement, which might further connote a major political conflict, unless kinship or a high difference of age make them change their minds.

Conclusion

The Nuer structural principles are drawn from their political values: unity for war against adjacent segments of the same order, and those of larger sections, and the whole unity against foreign tribes. Unity for war is linked with lineage, as it is illustrated by the case of the Leng vs. the Nyarkwac. Also, this draws attention to the lack of political control; fact that makes more intense the chance for political conflict to occur. Relativeness in segmentation plays a critical role; Nuer tend to fuse and segment for warfare at the same time that they maintain a co-existence between their group and tribal identity. This fission/fusion element of sectional/segmental divisions of Nuer are to be grasped as the force that equilibrates the two contradictory and supplementary drivers for political conflict and dynamics of change.

The blood-feud is an institution that operates as a means of obtaining reparation for injury. Blood-feuds can be understood as potential factors to create a permanent state of hostility among lineages and whole tribal sections that might further sow the seeds for sparking off a political conflict in cases that intertribal blood avenges result in intertribal warfare.

Plausibly, such segmentary structure drawn from lineage ties crystallised through the relative identities form a mechanism that consolidates such quasi-political, large-scale systems in the absence of a higher-level tribal organisation exerting some kind of power. However, such absence of a political control might certainly contribute to disturb the equilibrium of forces that interact in the segmentary system, connoting a greater chance for political conflict to happen. In addition, the fact that Nuer have a strong sense of personal dignity and honour, are always at once prepared to fight if they are wronged or insulted and are easily aroused to violence might contribute to increase the chance for political conflict to happen as they are an ordered anarchy in a non-headed kinship state.

Enrique works in the tech industry, computer software, in the City, London. His interests lie at crossroads of human behavior and software. Enrique is an Oxford Masters graduate, Talentia scholarship.

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Russia points to evidence exposing Kiev’s intentions to use biological weapons

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Documents uncovered in the special military operation in Ukraine corroborate the evidence exposing the Kiev regime’s intentions to use biological weapons, Head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Research Center for Chemical and Biological Threats Dmitry Poklonsky said in the run-up to the Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention. “In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” he said – informs TASS.

“We have obtained reports of investigations into a collection of microorganisms that indicate the accumulation of pathogens in unsubstantiated amounts. There are documents confirming the intentions to acquire unmanned delivery vehicles that could be used for employing biological weapons. Considering the non-transparent nature of this work and the absence of any substantiated responses from the United States and Ukraine, we, of course, regard the documents obtained as proof that Article 1.4 of the Convention was violated,” the defense official said.

The documents obtained in the special military operation in Ukraine, including reports by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the US Department of Defense, corroborate that the nature of work carried out there frequently ran counter to pressing healthcare problems, he stressed.

“In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” Poklonsky pointed out.

Neither Washington nor Kiev deny the fact of the existence of biological labs in Ukraine bankrolled by the Pentagon, he pointed out.

“It was confirmed by the 2005 agreement between the US Department of Defense and the Ukrainian Health Ministry. Far more questions arise from the nature of the studies being carried out in these biological laboratories and how this work complies with the Convention’s requirements,” the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Chemical and Biological Threats said.

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Psychological Warfare (PSYOPS)- The Pandora’s Box of Security Issues

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The world, functioning in its numerous forms and dimensions, is primarily perceived and misperceived by individuals through the faculty of the human Mind. A factor that creates a significant difference vis-a-vis human beings and other species is the complex cognitive ability possessed by humans. The mind is fundamentally an expression of thoughts circulated and imbibed through various means of communication. Deconstructing it further, thoughts portray the information consumed by an individual. In other words, this complex combination of the human mind, thoughts, and information shapes and reshapes our psychology.

Psychological war, in this context, can be perceived as a strategically orchestrated arrangement of information derived from variables like history, polity, religion, culture, literature, and philosophy broadly to channel propaganda with the prime objective of influencing and manipulating the behavior of the enemy to further one own interest. The term Psychological war is believed to be coined by a British Historian and military analyst, J.F.C Fuller, in 1920. One can observe that psychological war as an instrument of strategic importance is not of recent origin. Instead, the evolution of this tactic can be traced long back in history since the emergence of the State. It is considered one of the fundamental tools of statecraft and quite often has been put into the application as an instrument of state policy. Drawing a logical parallel, it can be advocated that psychological war has a close resemblance with the ancient notion of the allegory of the cave when applied in the present context.

Relevance of Psychological War

Napoleon Bonaparte once said “There are two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the mind.”  With the gradual progress of human intelligentsia, the world is and will be shaped and reshaped through the use of technology. The hyperconnected nature of a modern globalized world broadly portrays the image of a collective human consciousness deeply engrossed in the overwhelming nature of technology that reverberates with every emerging aspect of human life. When viewed from the prism of the State as a governing body in the international forum, technology will be the emerging axis of geopolitics since no state and its citizen can exist in silos devoid of the influence of other states. This is primarily due to the free flow of data. In this context, due to the free flow of data, the power of propaganda as a significant dimension of psychological war would prove to be an effective instrument used by the State to further its national interest.

In this contextual framework, the role of conscious manufacturing of narratives under the larger ambit of the idea of psychological war must be given due consideration. In his famous book,The Ultimate Goal: A Former R&AW Chief Deconstructs  How Nations and Intelligence Agency Construct Narratives, Vikram Sood unfolds the idea of how narratives are created, propagated, sustained, and refined in domestic countries and abroad to further the national interest. He emphasizes not only the power of information but also the power of disinformation to de-track and mislead the collective consciousness of the nation. Therefore, it is of critical significance for a nation to enhance its understanding of psychological war, considering it a major security issue.

The cost and the expense of war are also major concerns for the State. In this regard, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval establishes the viewpoint that wars are gradually becoming ineffective in achieving political and military objectives and that they are also highly expensive and are gradually becoming unaffordable. He further puts forward the idea of the 4th generation warfare where the operational target of the objective would be civil society. A fair understanding of the 4th generation warfare is of critical importance due to the fact that the modus operandi to target civil society would primarily be through the perpetual use of psychological war. The cost of psychological war, when compared with other forms of war, is abysmally low and also highly effective in manipulating the behaviour of the State. The cost-effectiveness helps it be more sustainable, which can be continued for an extended period of time.

Materialisation of Psychological War

China

Psychological war is applied by many States as an instrument of state policy. China, in this regard, can be considered a prominent player that has materialized this idea. In the strategic book on statecraft, The Art Of War, Sun Tzu states that “All warfare is based on deception.” China has consciously tried to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of psychological war. The Dhoklam issue in 2017 substantiates how the Chinese government used psychological war as an instrument of state policy to further its national interest.

Pakistan

The hostile approach of Pakistan towards India is not of recent origin. Instead, it is a phenomenon that can be traced back in history during the early germination of the idea of Pakistan when the Muslin League was formed in 1906. After the materialization of this idea by a painful partition of India in 1947, Kashmir became the bone of contention right after Pakistan’s inception as a nation-state. Pakistan, over the years, has become cognizant of the conventional asymmetry between the two nations. Therefore, it has operationalized the path of psychological war in the Kashmir region with a more pinpointed approach of using Twitter as an operational instrument to create misperceptions at a low cost to achieve its objectives.

Psychological War and the Indian Perspective

Taking a momentary glance at the historical evolution of India as a civilizational State, it can be rightly stated that understanding the nature of the mind has been a perpetual theme in the philosophical construct of India. The use of psychological war is not a new phenomenon. The references to it can be prominently found in Indian mythology. In this regard, the epic story of The Mahabharatha is a prominent example.

In one of the instances, Krishna applied this idea of psychological war by disclosing a fact to Karna, which hitherto was kept secret and hidden from him. Krishna, just before the war, unfolded the fact to Karna that he is the eldest son of Kunti, his father is the Sun God, and the Pandavas his brothers. This very fact and the timing of the disclosure of this fact put Karna in a deep psychological trauma that depletes his mental strength. It was at this moment that Krishna offered Karna to join the battle from the side of Pandavas. A similar instance of psychological war used by India was found during The Bangladesh liberation war.

In the context of psychological war, Arthashstra is also a relevant text. It mentions the art of Kutayuddha. In Sanskrit, the word Kuta implies the application of deception, the creation of misperception, and misleading the enemy state; Yudh means war. Kautilya is a staunch advocate of establishing a network of espionage to initiate intelligence and counterintelligence measures as a major security initiative for a state. Therefore, it can be rightly perceived that India has a history of psychological war, which it has implemented to maintain security and stability.

Conclusion

Taking an analogical perspective, if the mechanism of psychological war is like a gun, then information is the potential bullets that are fired from it to target the enemy. The flow of Information can be considered the most important factor that makes psychological war lethal, precise, and effective. Therefore, there exists an urgent need for the establishment of an ‘Information Operations Command’ to tackle the issue of psychological war that is rapidly maturing and enhancing in its nature and methodology, fusing with the 5th generation warfare. 

Another area of critical importance in this regard is the pressing need for a ‘National Security Doctrine.’ A national security doctrine is primarily a broad vision of a nation in the domain of its security from an inclusive perspective. Strong inter-agency coordination and refined analysis of security issues are needed.

Psychological war, as a rapidly evolving tool of statecraft in the security domain, acts as a linchpin vis-a-vis the 4th and 5th generation warfare where civil society and citizens are targeted with a perfect blend of technology and information. This makes it a war that doesn’t have a start or an end date. It is fought every minute, and progress can be achieved, even though at a minuscule level, but on a daily basis. Therefore, India as a major player in international politics with two hostile neighbors on its eastern and western border, must hold into perspective the scope, significance, and emerging dynamics of psychological war to keep herself abreast with other states at the international level on the security front.

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Growing India Israel Relations: A Threat to Sovereignty of Gulf States

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netanyahu modi

India has developed remarkable ties with the Gulf nations, particularly the GCC, over the past few decades. The significant trade between GCC nations and India and Israel are the main cause.  This gradualist approach and efforts on part of India is to include Israel in a broader Middle East policy. Under the Namenda Modi administration, since 2017 Israel is “special and normal” because India has avoided the negative repercussions and no longer have fears opened relations with the Jewish state.  

However, the point of concern is that India and Israel’s growing ties must not result in a coalition against Muslims. Modi and Netanyahu have many good reasons to rejoice over their thawing ties. But the gulf countries must discredit them if they use that proximity to advance a common narrative of extreme nationalism, exclusion, and labeling Muslims as the enemy.

Since October 25th, 2022, news reports have been making the rounds in the media revealing India’s involvement in global terrorism. Eight former Indian Navy officers have recently been detained in Qatar on suspicion of espionage and terrorism supported by the Indian government. These spy-officers were arrested in August 2022 for their involvement in international terrorism, espionage, and spying while working in Qatar for a private company and providing training and other services to the Qatari Emiri Navy.

Purnendu Tiwari, a retired (Naval commander) who received the Pravasi Samman 2019 (Highest Indian Award Abroad), was the brains behind the transfer of data from a major Gulf Muslim nation to Israel and India. It has been reported in the media that these Indian officers had access to sensitive information while working with Qatar’s enemies and the Defense, Security, and other government agencies. This is not the first time; India has been involved in espionage operations that violate foreign governments’ sovereignty, though it continues to deny it. International terrorism perpetrated by India has also frequently targeted Pakistan in the past. One such instance is the Kalbushan Yadav case.

The relationship between India and Israel is frequently described as a result of a natural convergence of ideologies between their respective ruling BJP and Liked parties. The BJP’s Hindutva and right-wing Zionism are two ethno-nationalist political movements that naturally discriminate against other races and religions because they are based on the majority populations they serve. In comparison to earlier, more liberal iterations of Hindutva and Zionism, both parties have become more racist. Therefore, by all means, India’s continued close strategic, economic, and security ties with Israel are more ideological than pragmatic.

India should make an effort to protect itself ideologically from the threat of Hindutva becoming the state’s guiding principle and a vehicle for incitement both domestically and abroad. Its exclusivist and discriminatory belief that India is only the property of Hindus is dangerous, especially at a time when Muslim minorities are increasingly being lynched in the name of cow vigilantism.

Today, the Gulf is an integral part of India’s ‘extended neighborhood’, both by way of geographical proximity and as an area of expanded interests and growing Indian influence. However, as a result of escalating anti-Muslim sentiment and the Hindutva movement’s flawed ideology, the BJP, government is arguably facing its most difficult diplomatic challenge in its nine years in office. A few years ago in 2020, Muslim nations were outraged by Nupur Sharma’s (a BJP official) insulting comments made during a TV debate about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Islamic-majority nations voiced their opposition through tweets, official statements, and by summoning Indian diplomats. The BJP was compelled to take action against the party officials for posting a screenshot of offensive tweet.

Subsequently, Princess Hend al-Qassimi of the UAE then made a rare public statement in response to the rising Islamophobia among Indians, saying in a tweet, “I miss the peaceful India.” She did this after she specifically called out a tweet from an Indian resident of the UAE as being “openly racist and discriminatory,” reminding her followers that the penalty for hate speech could be a fine or even expulsion. These statements come after the Islamic world, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, urged India to act quickly to defend the rights of its Muslim minority and expressed concern about how the BJP treats Indian Muslims.

This suggests that the relationships New Delhi has worked so hard to build over the past few years drawing on the efforts of the previous administration is now seriously in jeopardy. India’s diplomatic achievement is starting to fall apart due to domestic developments that target its 200 million Muslims. The flagrant mistreatment of India’s Muslim communities now jeopardizes New Delhi’s carefully crafted Middle Eastern diplomacy, particularly with regard to the Gulf States.

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