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Echoes of History

November 29th, 2006

I’ve been reading pretty much every article that has anything to do with defining the current conflict in Iraq. The big debate, for those not obsessed with language politics, is whether Iraq is in a “civil war” or a state of “sectarian conflict.” The stakes are quite high for the Bush Administration. With public support already low, the perception that the Iraq conflict is an internal issue will feed public support for troop withdrawl and signal the final defeat of the Bush Doctrine.

As any good war of words, this one focuses on how you define them. The question of what constitutes a “civil war” is key. There are a number of good articles with lots of academic commentary out there, but here is one for your reading that is as good as any. The Administration’s line is “you have not yet had a situation . . . where you have two clearly defined and opposing groups vying not only for power but for territory.” Thus no civil war.

The comparisons with the United Stats Civil War are also frequent… some in the Administration have gone so far as to require both sides don uniforms to qualify. Not sure if urban warfare requires color coordination, but the point is interesting. See, President Lincoln refused to recognize the Civil War as a civil war. It was a rebellion. He refused to recognize the Confederacy as anything more than upstart political rebels. Of course, history disagrees with Mr. Lincoln. I suggest that regardless of how the current war of words plays out, history will disagree with Mr. Bush as well.

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