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> Iraqi Civil War, Time for a reality check
Cube Jockey
post Mar 29 2006, 06:28 PM
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There seems to be an unwillingness in our media and in our government to call a spade a spade and admit that a civil war has broken out in Iraq.

Wikipedia defines civil war as:
QUOTE
A civil war is a war in which parties within the same ethnicity, or distribution of wealth. Some civil wars are also categorized as revolutions when major societal restructuring is a possible outcome of the conflict. An insurgency, whether successful or not, is likely to be classified as a civil war by some historians if, and only if, organized armies fight conventional battles. Other historians state the criteria for a civil war is that there must be prolonged violence between organized factions or defined regions of a country (conventionally fought or not). In simple terms, a Civil War is a war in which a country fights another part of itself.


Even the former Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi had this to say to the BBC:
QUOTE
"It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is," and in an interview with Asharq al Awsat from his office in Baghdad, Allawi said, "Civil war in Iraq is a reality and the situation is very bad."


How does that compare to other civil wars in terms of violence? Well in El Salvador for instance according to the CIA Factbook about 75,000 died over the course of 12 years. That makes for about 17 deaths a day. You'll find similar counts for other "accepted" civil wars.

Questions for debate:
1. How do you define Civil War, does the wikipedia definition cover it or do you have your own? Do you feel your definition is a commonly accepted definition?

2. Based on that definition is Iraq in a civil war?
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Amlord
post Mar 29 2006, 07:08 PM
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1. How do you define Civil War, does the wikipedia definition cover it or do you have your own? Do you feel your definition is a commonly accepted definition?

That initial Wikipedia sentence is seriously flawed (grammatically, not necessarily substantively).

Here is the key sentence:
QUOTE
An insurgency, whether successful or not, is likely to be classified as a civil war by some historians if, and only if, organized armies fight conventional battles.


2. Based on that definition is Iraq in a civil war?

The Iraq war right now is an insurgency not a civil war. There has been few conventional battles in Iraq between the insurgency and the governing authority. The insurgency cannot defeat the government using the tactics it is using. Hence it is not a civil war.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insurgency
QUOTE
An insurgency is an organized rebellion that engages in deliberate actions to cause the downfall of a governmental authority, through destruction and armed actions. [1] This can include a range of behavior, but primarily focuses on armed activities of irregular forces that rise up against an established authority, a government, an administration, or a belligerent military occupation. Those carrying out an insurgency are "insurgents". Insurgents engage in regular or guerrilla combat against the armed forces of the established regime, such as conducting sabotage and harassment. Insurgents are in opposition to a civil authority or government primarily in order to overthrow or obtain a share in government, to further a separatist or revolutionary agenda, or improve their condition.


Of course, "civil war" "revolution" "insurgency" are all semantics because they all have similar meanings which blend together for different people. I guess the only thing that matters is whether or not the insurgency is gaining strength or losing it.
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barnaby2341
post Mar 29 2006, 07:17 PM
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1. How do you define Civil War, does the wikipedia definition cover it or do you have your own? Do you feel your definition is a commonly accepted definition?

I got a definition of Civil War from barnaby.com
Civil War - People from the same country killing each other.
I feel that my definition is superior to all others in its simplicity and directness.

2. Based on that definition is Iraq in a civil war?

It really doesn't matter what anyone thinks because the Bush Administration doesn't care. They don't go by "Polls." Democracy takes a backseat to "strong leadership." If Iraq was in Civil Genocide this administration would claim the media was grossly exagerrating the story.

What if it was Civil War? Would the Bush Administration withdraw or redeploy to the borders of Iraq? No. What if Dick Cheney was drunk and shot his friend in the face? Would he get prosecuted? No. What if Bush disregarded the FISA laws and started spying on citizens without reason? Would he be prosecuted? No.

Of course it's a Civil War, but it doesn't matter because the general population does not matter.
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RedCedar
post Mar 29 2006, 08:16 PM
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Based on the frenetic actions of this administration and those in congress pushing to get a coalition gov't established, I'd say if it's not a civil war now it's ramping up to be a doozy.

I'd say it's "sectarian violence" fomenting into what appears to becoming full-out civil war.

There does seem to be some hope that it can be allayed.
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Cube Jockey
post Mar 29 2006, 08:57 PM
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QUOTE(Amlord @ Mar 29 2006, 11:08 AM)
Here is the key sentence:
QUOTE
An insurgency, whether successful or not, is likely to be classified as a civil war by some historians if, and only if, organized armies fight conventional battles.

*


And it certainly is convenient that you happened to skip the next two sentences for the benefit of your argument Amlord:
QUOTE
Other historians state the criteria for a civil war is that there must be prolonged violence between organized factions or defined regions of a country (conventionally fought or not). In simple terms, a Civil War is a war in which a country fights another part of itself.


By the selective reading of the definition you made a large majority of the civil wars fought in the recent past would not actually be classified as civil wars because they were not organized armies fighting conventional battles. You might even have to go back to the American Civil War to find an example but I can't be certain. And the other key thing, which I bolded, is the wikipedia definition does not suggest which school of thought prevails in historical circles. For all we know the sentence you highlighted as "key" (which supports your opinion) is held by a small minority of purists. It would be interesting to hear thoughts from Eeyore and Vermillion on this matter.

QUOTE(Amlord)
The Iraq war right now is an insurgency not a civil war. There has been few conventional battles in Iraq between the insurgency and the governing authority. The insurgency cannot defeat the government using the tactics it is using. Hence it is not a civil war.

Sure it can Amlord. The government right now exercises and extremely weak grasp on power which over time could be rendered completely ineffective. The insurgents "win" if the country descends into complete lawlessness and the government fails, and frankly that isn't so hard to imagine. The political will to make things happen right now is essentially nullified even today.

And once again, you are defining a civil war by conventional battles, I suppose that the majority of the conflicts we've generally classified as civil wars were not in your opinion.
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Amlord
post Mar 29 2006, 09:18 PM
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If you simply want to be argumentative... unsure.gif

Let's take the "simple" definition that Wikipedia sums it up with:

QUOTE
In simple terms, a Civil War is a war in which a country fights another part of itself.


By this definition, what's going on in Iraq is not a Civil war. It is not the Kurdish portion of Iraq fighting the Sunni Triangle. It is not the Shia south walling itself off from Baghdad either.

Interestingly, Wikipedia's list of civil wars does not include Iraq. hmmm.gif

I have already conceded, however, that Iraq is an insurgency, which is simply another name (with a different connotation) for a type of civil war.

This post has been edited by Amlord: Mar 29 2006, 09:26 PM
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Cube Jockey
post Mar 29 2006, 09:44 PM
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QUOTE(Amlord @ Mar 29 2006, 01:18 PM)
By this definition, what's going on in Iraq is not a Civil war.  It is not the Kurdish portion of Iraq fighting the Sunni Triangle.  It is not the Shia south walling itself off from Baghdad either.
*


More assumptions, a civil war does not have to be defined by geography (as many in the past decades have not been) they can also be defined by ethnicity. In this case the violence we are seeing now is ethnic/religious in nature - you have shias fighting sunnis.

QUOTE
Interestingly, Wikipedia's list of civil wars does not include Iraq.

How is that an argument? I used them for the definition of a civil war because it was convenient, people know them, etc. And most importantly as a starting point for the debate, not a final authority. Just because they don't say it is a civil war does not make it the case. If that is the entirity of your argument it is extremely weak.

If you want to find a better definition then supply your own, that was one of the debate questions. Implied there is that there is some debate on what the definition even is and the wikipedia article underscores that.

This post has been edited by Cube Jockey: Mar 29 2006, 09:45 PM
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TruthMarch
post Mar 29 2006, 10:23 PM
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QUOTE
How do you define Civil War

This is a simple matter. A civil war, regarding Iraq, is an event free from external influences. And that's that. The US and Brits driving around wearing arab outfits while packing some serious explosives is reason enough to see that what is happening in Iraq is not a civil war where Iraqis are pitted against Iraqis. It's a war in which external forces are influencing events. How many other cars with Americans or Brits masquarading as Arabs do we never hear about?
http://kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2005/09/23/4096.shtml
QUOTE
Two British soldiers were dressed as Arabs and attacking the Iraqi security forces in Basra. And the British authorities have admitted they were members of the SAS. They were caught after shooting at and murdering an Iraqi police official and their car was found to be packed with explosives and a C4 detonator.

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Ted
post Mar 29 2006, 11:08 PM
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QUOTE
Cube Jockey
More assumptions, a civil war does not have to be defined by geography (as many in the past decades have not been) they can also be defined by ethnicity. In this case the violence we are seeing now is ethnic/religious in nature - you have shias fighting sunnis.



Well what you have is some Sunniís fighting some shiias some of the time over some issues or perceived attacks. Hardly a civil war.

And letís remember these folks from both groups voted overwhelmingly for a democratic government. Is each faction happy with all the others all of the time? No but this is certainly not an all out civil war.
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Cube Jockey
post Mar 29 2006, 11:50 PM
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QUOTE(Ted @ Mar 29 2006, 03:08 PM)
Well what you have is some Sunniís fighting some shiias some of the time over some issues or perceived attacks.  Hardly a civil war. 
*


Ted I posted a quote from the former prime minister of Iraq in the opening post, I think he would be in a better position to know what is going on there than you would. If you want to offer some kind of evidence to support your position then fine, but this comment isn't going to cut it.
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Paladin Elspeth
post Mar 30 2006, 05:22 AM
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1. How do you define Civil War, does the wikipedia definition cover it or do you have your own? Do you feel your definition is a commonly accepted definition?

I prefer this definition from Answers.com:
definition of civil war
QUOTE(legal encyclopedia)
Civil war exists when two or more opposing parties within a country resort to arms to settle a conflict or when a substantial portion of the population takes up arms against the legitimate government of a country. Within international law distinctions are drawn between minor conflicts like riots, where order is restored promptly, and full-scale insurrections finding opposing parties in political as well as military control over different areas. When an internal conflict reaches sufficient proportions that the interests of other countries are affected, outside states may recognize a state of insurgency. A recognition of insurgency, whether formal or de facto, indicates that the recognizing state regards the insurgents as proper contestants for legitimate power. Although the precise status of insurgents under international law is not well-defined, recognized insurgents traditionally gain the protection afforded soldiers under international rules of law pertaining to war.

I think this looks pretty acceptable as definitions go.

2. Based on that definition is Iraq in a civil war?

It has the markings of a civil war to me. There are pretty well-defined, longstanding factions willing and trying to destroy each other and each other's religious landmarks in order to gain control of the national government.

This post has been edited by Paladin Elspeth: Mar 30 2006, 09:33 AM
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schmed
post Mar 30 2006, 06:19 AM
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Paladin Elspeth found an excellent definition of civil war. Using that definition, take a look at the following eyewitness account of events recorded in a blog from Baghdad last week:

Today it was all out war in Baghdad.

Please donít ask me whether I believe Iraq is on the verge of civil war yet or not. I have never experienced a civil war before, only regular ones. All I see is that both sides are engaged in tit-for-tat lynchings and summary executions. I see governmental forces openly taking sides or stepping aside. I see an occupation force that is clueless about what is going on in the country. I see politicians that distrust each other and continue to flame the situation for their own personal interests. I see Islamic clerics delivering fiery sermons against each other, then smile and hug each other at the end of the day in staged PR stunts. I see the country breaking into pieces. The frontlines between different districts of Baghdad are already clearly demarked and ready for the battle. I was stopped in my own neighbourhood yesterday by a watch team and questioned where I live and what I was doing in that area. I see other people curiously staring in each otherís faces on the street. I see hundreds of people disappearing in the middle of the night and their corpses surfacing next day with electric drill holes in them. I see people blown up to smithereens because a brainwashed virgin seeker targeted a crowded market or cafť. I see all that and more.

Healing Iraq blog (link courtesy of Mrs. Pigpen)

Now, I'm certainly no expert. But this sure sounds like civil war to me.
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Curmudgeon
post Mar 30 2006, 09:28 AM
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Questions for debate:
1. How do you define Civil War, does the wikipedia definition cover it or do you have your own? Do you feel your definition is a commonly accepted definition?

Well, I studied "The Civil War" in American History, and of course the war with Ohio in Michigan history. I think this is the first time that I actually saw the term "civil war" defined, so I really don't have much to work from...

I always had thought of civil as a descriptive term for appropriate or polite behavior. The term "civil war" in that context was an oxymoron to me... Is that a commonly accepted definition? Obviously not!

2. Based on that definition is Iraq in a civil war?
As my computer was constantly restarting last night, I went to another computer and logged on. There was a story highlighted under news that said President Bush was blaming Saddam Hussein for the current upheaval in Iraq. A few seconds into the story, that computer turned off. When I came upstairs and tried to share the story with PE, it had been pulled out of the rotation on my home page...

From The White House Home Page, I found the following excerpt from a speech that our fearmore leader made on March 29, 2006:

QUOTE
To Prevent Iraq's Different Groups From Coming Together To Challenge His Regime, Saddam Undertook A Deliberate Strategy Of Maintaining Power By Dividing The Iraqi People. He brutally repressed different Iraqi communities and pitted them against one another. By displacing communities and dividing Iraqis, Saddam sought to establish himself as the only force that could hold the country together.

(emphasis in Bold is from the original text)

Apparently the current story from The White House is that yes, there is a Civil War in Iraq, but all of the turmoil there is a result of the policies of the deposed, on trial, former President of Iraq.

Has the President succeeded once more in his attempts to divert attention from his own role? He probably looked at a photograph on a wall somewhere today that read "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" and went to bed secure in the belief that he indeed is leading the world in the right direction. I am one of those who is watching his leadership from a great enough distance that I still carry an image in my mind of the President trying to walk through a locked door in China. He needed a better exit strategy then. He still needs an exit strategy from Iraq now. Unfortunately, what I am hearing is the saber rattling of a man who appears to be planning to exit Iraq by invading Iran. He has defined himself repeatedly as a "War President" as though that was something to take pride in. There may be fighting among various factions in Iraq, but what I hear most often is the number of Americans being killed in the war. (Current figures as I am posting, American Casualties in Iraq: 2,323 dead 17,269 wounded) The President wanted to take the war to Iraq so that we didn't have to fight Saddam Hussein in the streets of America. He has succeeded, I guess, to the extent that Saddam Hussein never managed to launch an attack in the United States that killed or wounded 20,000 Americans.

The government was toppled in Iraq, but it was toppled by an invading army, not a revolution. I don't truly believe that any war can be described as a civil activity; but most of all, I find the President's latest attempt to say that the current problems in Iraq can be blamed on Saddam Hussein to be simply disingenuous. There may be more than one faction fighting America there, but if the President's goal is to establish a democracy; he needs to reach a realization that a democracy is governed by its own citizens, not by the "leader of the free world."

QUOTE(Amlord @ Mar 29 2006, 04:18 PM)
Interestingly, Wikipedia's list of civil wars does not include Iraq.†  hmmm.gif
*
QUOTE(Wikipedia)
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

I noted that it also did not include the long running war between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, although that would seem to meet one of the definitions posted here as a "civil war" between religious factions in the same country.

This post has been edited by Curmudgeon: Mar 30 2006, 11:54 AM
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Amlord
post Mar 30 2006, 01:59 PM
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I like PE's definition from answers.com. It contains a few elements not contained in the other one.

QUOTE
Civil war exists when two or more opposing parties within a country resort to arms to settle a conflict or when a substantial portion of the population takes up arms against the legitimate government of a country. Within international law distinctions are drawn between minor conflicts like riots, where order is restored promptly, and full-scale insurrections finding opposing parties in political as well as military control over different areas. When an internal conflict reaches sufficient proportions that the interests of other countries are affected, outside states may recognize a state of insurgency. A recognition of insurgency, whether formal or de facto, indicates that the recognizing state regards the insurgents as proper contestants for legitimate power. Although the precise status of insurgents under international law is not well-defined, recognized insurgents traditionally gain the protection afforded soldiers under international rules of law pertaining to war. A state may also decide to recognize the contending group as a belligerent, a status that invokes more well-defined rights and responsibilities. Once recognized as a belligerent party, that party obtains the rights of a belligerent party in a public war, or war between opposing states. The belligerents stand on a par with the parent state in the conduct and settlement of the conflict. In addition, states recognizing the insurgents as belligerents must assume the duties of neutrality toward the conflict. See also U.S. Civil War; war.


Let's highlight a few:

QUOTE
Within international law distinctions are drawn between minor conflicts like riots, where order is restored promptly, and full-scale insurrections finding opposing parties in political as well as military control over different areas.


Are the insurgents in political or military control of any part of Iraq? They were in Falluja and Sadr City, but not anymore, at least not openly.

QUOTE
A recognition of insurgency, whether formal or de facto, indicates that the recognizing state regards the insurgents as proper contestants for legitimate power.

Does anyone recognize the insurgents as being a "proper contestant for legitimate power"? Does anyone think they have the moral or political agenda that can allow them to rule Iraq long-term?

QUOTE
Although the precise status of insurgents under international law is not well-defined, recognized insurgents traditionally gain the protection afforded soldiers under international rules of law pertaining to war.

The United States, a party to this "civil war", has not recognized that this enemy deserves the protections afforded to soldiers under international law. This is a separate debate but the insurgents do not meet the minimum standards needed to be considered an army.

QUOTE
Once recognized as a belligerent party, that party obtains the rights of a belligerent party in a public war, or war between opposing states.  The belligerents stand on a par with the parent state in the conduct and settlement of the conflict. In addition, states recognizing the insurgents as belligerents must assume the duties of neutrality toward the conflict.

Again, no one has recognized the insurgents as a party which deserves the rights inherent to a state. I don't know of anyone who thinks of the insurgents in the same terms as the legally elected government of Iraq.

To be fair, Answers.com has a broader list of civil war and its list include at least a dozen conflicts currently going on in the world, including Iraq. Answers.com also has an article which is named Iraqi Insurgency That article has a nice breakdown of the faction involved, their goals and methods employed.

I will state again that the terms "insurgency" and "civil war" are really facets of the same thing. It is the connotation that changes. An insurgency is by an illegitimate force which would be incapable of ruling and which has no claim to legitimacy. A civil war is between two more or less morally equivalent foes. I believe that what's going on in Iraq is closer to my definition of an insurgency rather than a civil war.
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DaytonRocker
post Mar 30 2006, 02:51 PM
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I find the semantics game being played here fairly interesting. And to me, it represents the problem with Iraq and why at the end of the day, we will have lost.

Everytime a significant problem arises, the apologists redefine the meaning of the problem through rose colored glasses. That's not really a problem. The problem is, the Bush administration and their apologists use that "definition" as a basis for their actions. And every single time, they've been wrong. They've been wrong about the insurgency ("dead enders", "last throes"), the occupation ("greeted as liberators"), and the elections ("will put an end to the insurgency because they will have nothing left to fight for").

So now, they will stick their heads in the sand and claim there is no civil war while they take the wrong course of action justified on their meaning.

So go ahead - claim it's not a civil war and stick your head in the sand. Because history has shown that you are completely and utterly wrong. You've' not been correct about anything in Iraq yet and this will be no different. If it were members of your family being murdered, you might think different.

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Amlord
post Mar 30 2006, 03:24 PM
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I agree this is a semantics game and I'm guilty of playing.

However there is one nugget of real interest here:

Are the insurgents (freedom fighters, rebels, whatever) a legitimate faction?

If we left today, could these insurgents when suddenly transformed into the victorious rebels govern Iraq? I submit they could not which makes their cause illegitimate.

I do know that increasingly the Iraqis do not want Americans there. I do think we need to start withdrawing from the country. However, it is very touch and go because if we leave with a weak central government in place, they will have full blown civil war as the Al-Anbar province may declare independence, the Kurds might decide they are better off on their own and the southern Shia's might decide enough is enough.

I never denied there was a war going on in Iraq. But what we are doing is probably the quickest way to relative peace (for the Middle East).
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Vladimir
post Mar 30 2006, 06:11 PM
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QUOTE(Amlord @ Mar 30 2006, 03:24 PM)
I agree this is a semantics game and I'm guilty of playing.

However there is one nugget of real interest here:

Are the insurgents (freedom fighters, rebels, whatever) a legitimate faction?

If we left today, could these insurgents when suddenly transformed into the victorious rebels govern Iraq?  I submit they could not which makes their cause illegitimate.


Well, Castro's insurgents, when suddenly transformed into victorious rebels, proved perfectly capable of governing Cuba. The situation here is different, of course, since there is sectarian warfare. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that whoever wins the ongoing civil war will prove capable of governing Iraq. Whether they are "legitimate" according to anyone's home-cooked standard, I doubt that anyone will care. They will be in possession of some of the world's richest oil reserves, and that will suit most people.

I am not quite sure what "their cause" is, since there are so many of them, but it is at least evident that it includes kicking the United States out of Iraq on a proverbial part of its anatomy. In view of the utterly illegitimate basis of the U.S. presence there, and the indisputable fact that it is their country, not ours, I certainly consider that to be a legitimate cause. But whether it is legitimate or not is of little importance, since blood and iron, not legal niceties, decide the outcome of war.


QUOTE(Amlord @ Mar 30 2006, 03:24 PM)
I do know that increasingly the Iraqis do not want Americans there.  I do think we need to start withdrawing from the country.  However, it is very touch and go because if we leave with a weak central government in place, they will have full blown civil war as the Al-Anbar province may declare independence, the Kurds might decide they are better off on their own and the southern Shia's might decide enough is enough.

I never denied there was a war going on in Iraq.  But what we are doing is probably the quickest way to relative peace (for the Middle East).
*



The British said these same things about India, Kenya and Malasia. The French said them about Vietnam and Algeria. That a substantial part of the American public is saying them now about Iraq reflects the singular immaturity and isolation of the American political consiousness. The White Man's Burden has ever been heavy! And it is a most peculiar bundle: it can never be put down without first admitting that it was thoroughly wrong to pick it up. But our nation, which has had the arrogance to hold itself above history, has nevertheless been condemned to repeat it.

The goals of the United States in the Middle East do, of course, include peace, since there is no such thing as victory without it. But the primary goal is to control Iraq's oil, an important, associated goal being to maintain a powerful military presence in Iraq. That is what Bush and Cheney are fighting for. It's a pipe dream, of course; the cause was lost long ago. But they go on fighting anyway, spending the nation's blood and treasure, because they have no idea what else to do. And the worst possible thing would be to admit that they were wrong.
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Cube Jockey
post Mar 30 2006, 06:39 PM
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QUOTE(Amlord @ Mar 30 2006, 05:59 AM)
QUOTE
Within international law distinctions are drawn between minor conflicts like riots, where order is restored promptly, and full-scale insurrections finding opposing parties in political as well as military control over different areas.


Are the insurgents in political or military control of any part of Iraq? They were in Falluja and Sadr City, but not anymore, at least not openly.
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You've got to be kidding Amlord, do you seriously and honestly think that US Soldiers and Iraqis can just openly stroll around the country and be "in control"? No one is safe anywhere there right now, so while it might not be a clean "I'm in control of this scrap of land" deal they are certainly controlling certain areas in their own way.

QUOTE(Amlord)
Does anyone recognize the insurgents as being a "proper contestant for legitimate power"? Does anyone think they have the moral or political agenda that can allow them to rule Iraq long-term?

Once again please look at other civil wars in the 20th century that are accepted as being civil wars. You might not consider all of the actors there to be "proper contestants for legitimate power" but they are still classified as civil wars.
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lederuvdapac
post Mar 30 2006, 07:35 PM
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2. Based on that definition is Iraq in a civil war?

Does it matter what we call it? Does it somehow change the dynamic of the conflict? "Civil War" is a term. Its just words and has no bearing whatsoever. I say call it what you want. Civil war, armaggedon, whatever...it is insignificant.
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bucket
post Mar 31 2006, 12:36 AM
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QUOTE
Does it matter what we call it? Does it somehow change the dynamic of the conflict? "Civil War" is a term. Its just words and has no bearing whatsoever. I say call it what you want. Civil war, armaggedon, whatever...it is insignificant


I think so because I feel language is important.

I find this debate interesting because it has obviously always been a war, but now we see this need or belief to define it as a civil war. It seems the idea of our ownership of this war, as in the you break it you own it, is trying to be changed. By claiming the war is now civil it seems to allow our divorce or removal of responsibility made easier. It is a means of transfer from a war of occupation to a war of civil conflict.

Personally I think you can view it as the expected development of a winding down or deceleration of the US and coalition troops as being the portrayal or embodiment of the opposition. So is this really failure or transition?

This post has been edited by bucket: Mar 31 2006, 12:37 AM
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