The Corner

Kissing Cousins in Iraq

John Tierney had a piece on Iraqi cousin marriage in Sunday’s New York Times. I raised this issue before the war, and Tierney quotes me in his article. I liked the piece a lot. It showed very graphically the problems that a traditional kinship system can pose for modern state building. What Tierney didn’t get a chance to talk about was the solution. I don’t believe Iraqi kinship poses an insurmountable barrier to democratization–although the problem will take time to overcome. The answer is to build up a middle class more beholden to education and meritocratic advancement than to kinship connections. For more on the conflict between kinship, cousin marriage, and democracy, see “Veil of Fears,” and “With Eyes Wide Open.” http://www.nationalreview.com/kurtz/kurtz022002.asp In my City Journal piece, “After the War,” and in “Democratic Imperialism: A Blueprint,” I talk about how to overcome the problem.

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