Monday, November 27, 2006

Iraq is not a civil war...

It is, however, on the verge of failed-state status.

An instructive, and brutal, analogy is the Lebanese Civil War. In that conflict, demographic shifts undermined the Christian controled government. Militias were formed during a (longer relative to Iraq) period of Sectarian polarization. A catalytic event, an assassination attempt, lead to a violent confrontation between and among those militias. It was a sectarian and intra-sectarian conflict.

All of these characteristics are evident in Iraq with the exception that Iraq has no strong central government to war against. The government is more or less a series of buildings in the Green Zone. It's power only reliably extends when it is carried on the trucks and tanks of the United States military. Two recent stories, one in the Christian Science Monitor and one in the International Herald Tribune, detail the continuing difficulties of establishing an effective Iraqi security establishment. On 60 Minutes last night, General John Abizaid said that it was crucial for the Iraqi government to back the Iraqi Army.

That would be a positive, but only in an increasingly meaningless symbolic sense. What exactly would be gained from a weak "central" government supporting an ineffective military? If we see such a public proclamation from either Maliki or Talabani, we could interpret it as the final political gesture of an extinct government.

Zeyad anticipates a new phase in the horrific war in Iraq. Though it is likely to be soon declared a "civil war", it in fact can never be such. There never was an Iraqi government, thus nothing to rebel against. Had the United States managed to establish a legitimate government between the fall of Saddam and the troubles of today, then there would be the potential for civil war. A component of the government, the Sunnis for an example, could split and form their own militia.

The administration will hide behind definitions to protect their reputation concerning Iraq. They will correctly assert that it is not a civil war. But, it is a failed state and it is their fault. The closest Iraq came to a civil war was actually on election day, the day that was exclaimed to be a sign of great success. In fact, those elections were on Sectarian lines. Sunnis voted against the constitution, or they voted for political goals that the Shiite and the Kurds would not accept. The Shiite and the Kurds went with their own agendas.

That was one of the few days that Iraqis agreed to a concept of governance, and their factions wanted something very different. This is a crucial point: elections were a tool for the different factions. They were not a priori democracy. These elections were a posteriori tribalism, sectarianism, civil strife -- there are a lot of descriptions fitting circumstances.

Violence and demographic shifts, in part caused by ethnic cleansing, have radicalized the parties involved. At this point, it is more likely than not that some sort of terrible Sectarian (and Intra-Sectarian) War will rage in Iraq. Like Lebanon's civil war, it will draw in regional powers, more so than it already has.

The current situation in Lebanon looks troubling as well.

My blogging friend, Mike, more or less agrees with the failed state position.


Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

- CE,

Did I tell you you were a genius?

Loved the first 2 paragraphs of your latest comment at TMEM: I’ve therefore added them to the post itself!

Re: civil war in Iraq (which one could argue has started in the 7th century AD), Bush's latest denials (post NBC use of the C word) are particularly pathetic...

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To quote some CNN reporter (I don't watch that stuff, I saw this one accidentally)

The "academic" reason for tiptoeing around "civil war" terminology, is that correct terminology will aid in devising the correct strategy!

Makes me wonder how theoretically we are fighting wars (not to mention how virtually, when we train ourselves in simulation cabins)... unaware that we make real enemies, who do not fight us back academically or economically, rather emotionally;and with the whole of their flesh, not with bytes of datum.

10:59 AM  

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