Saturday, November 25, 2006

'What is a civil war?' 'What is a civil war?'

John Keegan in Prospect Magazine tries to answer: 'What is a civil war?' and then applies his definition to the situation in Iraq right now. He makes a lot of good points, and his conclusion mirrors my own: that the current situation there is not a "Civil War". Nevertheless, I think that he makes a mistake in not considering the disparity in manpower and weaponry among the different sides. When he points out that:
Objectively, it must be concluded that the disorders in Iraq do not constitute a civil war but are nearer to a politico-military struggle for power. Such struggles in Muslim countries defy resolution because Islam is irreconcilably divided over the issue of the succession to Muhammad. It might be said that Islam is in a permanent state of civil war (at least where there is a significant minority of the opposing sect) and that authority in Muslim lands can be sustained only by repression if the state takes on a religious cast, since neither Shia nor Sunni communities can concede legitimacy to their opponents.
It must be remembered that the Sunni Arabs who either want a return to control or a new Baghdad caliphate have been reduced from 20% to approximately 15% through emmigration since our intervention. The military and police now are composed almost entirely of members of the other major factions: the Kurds and the Shiite Arabs. They have 85% of the population, and an even higher percentage of guns and those who have been trained to use them, esp. in an organized manner.

Thus, I would suggest that what we have here is much closer to an ethnic cleansing than a civil war. The Sunni Arabs are being pushed out of the shared areas of Iraq. And when that has proceeded to the point where they no longer pose a security concern for the rest of the Iraqis, I expect that the violence will die down quite a bit.

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