Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Matter of Definition

What Makes a Civil War, and Who Declares It So? -- New York Times (Baghdad, Nov. 25)

Is Iraq in a civil war? This is a good question. There is no answer to this question yet, because it is still a hot issue being debated among politicians, policy analysts, leaders, scholars, historians, writers, news reporters, and many others. Some said Iraq war should have been called a civil war a long time ago, but other disagreed.

This is an interesting article, isn’t it? Let’s see how these people define civil war:

Online Merriam-Webster – a war between opposing groups within a country

Iraq is mired in civil war:


Scholarly definition – (1) the warring groups must be from the same country and fighting for control of the political center, control over a separatist state or to force a major change in policy.
(2) at least 1,000 people must have been killed in total, with at least 100 from each side. (At least 50,000 reportedly killed since March 2003 in Iraq.)
(3) civil war is always a sovereign government
(4) many insurgencies and ethnic or sectarian wars are also civil wars. (Iraq civil war has elements of both an insurgencies and a sectarian war.)

Civil war does not apply in Iraq war:

Bush administration – this is no obvious political vision on the part of the Sunni-led insurgent groups
John Keegan, the British writer of war histories - the feuding groups must be vying for national authority, have leaders who publicly announce what they are fighting for and clash in set-piece battles while wearing uniforms, among other things

At last, why should we care how it is defined, if we all agree that the violence is unacceptable? Mr. Laitin, the Stanford professor answers: There is a scientific community that studies civil wars, and understands their dynamics and how they, in general, end. This research is valuable to our nation’s security.

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