MEET MAC McCALLISTERWilliam S. McCallister is a retired military officer. While on active duty, Mr. McCallister served in various infantry and special operations assignments specializing in civil-military, psychological and information operations. He has worked extensively in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Subscribe to "Agora."
From "It's the Tribes, Stupid" to "Agora."
Almost a year after the June 2009 launch of "It's the Tribes, Stupid," the focus of the blog was expanded and the name was changed to Agora (the Greek word for marketplace and, in ancient Athens, the central gathering place for talking and brawling over the day's events). Agora is meant to signify a communal meeting site—a forum for the exchange of political, cultural and military ideas.
Everything that was on "It's the Tribes, Stupid" in the past is now available on Agora&emdash;with the exception of "Writing Wednesdays" and "The Creative Process." These two series are now featured as stand-alone elements on Steven Pressfield Online. To access them, click on "Series" in the menu bar above.
Our agora-master is William "Mac" McCallister. He's a warrior and a scholar and a passionate advocate for unconventional solutions across the full spectrum of political-cultural-military problems. A retired military officer, Mac has done extensive work in Afghanistan and Iraq, Korea, Eastern Europe and everywhere in between. He is a published author in military affairs and tribal warfare and has guest-lectured at Johns Hopkins University and presented numerous papers at academic and government-sponsored conferences such as the Watson Institute, Brown University; Department of the Navy Science and Technology and DARPA; and the Central Intelligence Agency. He has been a guest on outlets such as National Public Radio (NPR) and been featured in the Wall Street Journal.
Mac is also tremendously generous about sharing what he's learned, which is why I first asked him to consider contributing to Tribes&emdash;and now to take the reins on Agora. Check out his bio and his other writings.
You'll see posts from guests from time to time, too.
June 8, 2009, I posted the first two of five video op-ed pieces on the subject of tribalism in Afghanistan, U.S. troop involvement, and the nature of the enemy. I didn't do it for any financial gain—didn't have a book being released or a tour. I just wanted this information to get out there, the way one might write an op-ed piece and submit it to a newspaper, except via video instead.
The thesis of the videos is that the enemy in Afghanistan (and Pakistan and Iraq) is being mischaracterized as "militant Islamist," "jihadist," "terrorist," etc., when the single quality that most defines our foes is tribalism and the tribal mind-set.
Since the videos' release, some have argued that this focus on tribalism isn't valid, because there aren't tribes throughout. However, if you look at our own country, there isn't one type of grouping of people throughout it either. Every region is different. The same holds true in Afghanistan. And if we don't understand the tribes and their mind-sets, how will we work with them?
This series launched at the end of September 2009, with an excerpt from Major Jim Gant's paper of the same name. In the following weeks, more excerpts were pulled and discussed, with Jim's "One Tribe At A Time" released in full about four weeks later. The discussion of Jim's paper spread from there, and went viral among the policy and military communities in particular.
This is a multi-part conversation with Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai of Paktia province, Afghanistan.