Tristero, over at Digby's, beats me to a discussion of just what constitutes a civil war?
The media is headlining that Iraq is "on the verge" of a civil war. I contend that Iraq has been in a civil war for years. Tristero quotes various individuals in academia and their definitions. I found this quote in Tristero's post
[Kenneth Katzman] "Civil war is organized violence designed to change the political structure or governance within a country, or internal conflict within a state...
This week [September 16, 2005] it’s definitely become clearer that we’ve entered civil war, but whether it’s a sustained or permanent feature, we don’t know. Also, I wouldn’t say it’s full-blown, that is, where it’s neighborhood against neighborhood...just because you don’t have one side fighting back doesn’t mean you’re not in a civil war. "
I would suggest that this is the most aggressive use of the term civil war in Iraq of the bunch. But the part of it being "sustained" or a "permanent feature" particularly intrigued me.
During the beginning of the American civil war, it was the conventional wisdom that the disruption would not last long. During the first battle, the battle of the First Bull Run just outside Washington D.C., the social elite gathered with picnic baskets on the hillside
to watch the confrontation as sport. No one expected the insurgency to last, and all were surprised by what they saw. Even with the first battle, estimates continued to center on a short conflict with minimal disruption to everyday life.
Unfortunately, most of us are afflicted with history time distortion. History is taught with beginnings, middles, and ends. This solidifies in our minds that these events are distinct with bookends. Of course this is not how history works, and Iraq is a classic example.
The confrontations and tensions between Iraqis are a longstanding problem. Iraq was never meant to be a unified state. It was formed at the whim of the British who did not take into account the different ethnic and religious groups within the designated borders. Saddam dealt with the divisions with brutal military and police control. His removal, and the vacuum left due to American bungling since the end of the open war removing Hussein, created the conditions for open civil war. And as time goes by, we see the seeds of those conditions watered with the American bungling now germinating and growing into the weed of civil war.
I imagine the actual violence in Iraq will rise and fall. Again remember. During the American civil war, battles were not constant, continuous or even widespread. But the net result was still that of bloody confrontation that repeated through many years and left the country still
struggling with it's differences.
I suspect the American media will continue to report Iraqi conflict as a snapshot, when in fact it's an ongoing video of civil war that will not stop until Americans leave and Iraqis decide it's time to split the sheets or unify.