Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dude, Where's My Civil War?

I can't get this article title out of my head. Just because it is a sadly amusing, catchy title. (Indeed,I just googled it)

I was looking at the definition of civil war the other day and trying to apply it to past so-called wars of this nature. (A war between factions or regions of the same country.) I am sure that I am not an expert. But if I can find some holes, there must be something wrong.

Look at Greece after WWII. Was that a civil war, or take Liberia where the rebels were trying to remove Taylor. Was that a civil war or a bloody coup?

An online encyclopedia gives these first choices to study civil wars:
American Civil War
English Civil War
Irish Civil War
Lebanese Civil War
Russian Civil War
Spanish Civil War
Yugoslavian Civil War

I also tried to work from a big to small. That is, what would be obviously too small to be considered a civil war? Use that and try to consider other close-but-not-quite civil wars.

I mean, what does it take to really push a conflagration, or multiple gang wars, or feuding religious groups... to finally achieve the civil war status. Whatever it is, I don't think Iraq is even close to it. I am not counting numbers of involved people (and interestingly, neither is the MSM) but seems to me that the tensions between the two biggest religious groups, and the Al Queada terrorists, and even the disenfranchised old regime hangers-on, do not add up to the requirements for a civil war.

I might even go so far as to put the question, for it to be a war, who is the enemy or who is the target? When 40 or so civilians are blown up in a marketplace, they might be mostly one religious sect or the other, and this could be one qualification, i.e. a few factions dominating a region. But then the bombs in the areas with US troops, the thugs outside of town hunting down the road trains, the kidnappings of the odd, unprotected foreigner, are not really signs of a polarized affair. The enemy is not clear. And again, they are normally in a small troublesome sections of the country. Most of the country wants to get on with the future. Again, I am not counting numbers, but if you were to mistakenly believe CNN, it looks like the whole country is divided and involved, leading to a bloody overthrow. Of course this only helps :
  1. Those that want to continue the violence.
  2. Those who want to point blame at the US administration
  3. Those that want to be re-elected somewhere *(did you see that now even the former Iraqi prime minister is calling it a civil war; he should be sued for operating on someone else's advertising campaign).

"So why were we told that Iraq was irreversibly in the throes of civil war when it wasn't remotely true? I think the answers are straightforward. First, of course, some parties in the West are anxious to believe the worst about Iraq. They've staked their reputations on Iraq's failure. " Ralph Peters, New York Post

I think the net affect will be to have a loosening of the requirements for the usage of the phrase "civil war". Perhaps the next time gangs go on the rampage in California, they will call it a civil war?

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