The Civil War in Iraq

The White House does not, does not, does not want to call it a civil war. But at a certain point, the political spin doctors do not get the last word. The death tolls are through the roof. Sunni and Shiite militias are slugging it out with exploding sophistication and lethality.

President Bush said today it’s a lot of sectarian violence provoked by Al Qaeda. Does that mean it’s not a civil war?

Prominent military historians now put it this way: American troops in Iraq are now in the middle of one of the world’s bloodiest civil wars in half a century. It will likely go on for years – until one side wins. And the United States has choices to make.

This hour On Point: civil war, and Iraq.

Quotes from the Show:

“Iraq is like Somalia with oil.” James Fearon

“The average length of a civil war is a decade.” James Fearon

“The US has picked sides. It’s siding with the Iraqi government and the moderates.” Nicholas Sambanis

“The historic pattern shows that when parties fighting in a civil war receive assistance, then the war tends to last longer.” Nicholas Sambanis

“I’m not a big fan of the partition [of Iraq] idea.” James Fearon

“You see two narratives on Iraq: one that is written in Washington DC and another that is written on the ground in Iraq.” Anthony Shadid


Bobby Ghosh, Baghdad bureau chief Time magazine

James Fearon, professor of political science at Stanford. He testified in September before the U.S. House of Representatives.

Nicholas Sambanis, professor of political science at Yale. He is co-editor of two volumes of case studies on civil war

Robin Wright, diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post

Anthony Shadid, foreign corespondent for The Washington Post

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Oct 9, 2015
A manhole begins to spill over with floodwaters as high tide approaches at Dorchester Road at Sawmill Branch Canal in Summerville, S.C., Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015.  (AP)

Russia goes big in Syria. The US hits a hospital in Kunduz. Hillary flips on the TPP. An epic flood in South Carolina. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Oct 9, 2015
In this Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, photo, Devlin D'Zmura, a tending news manager at DraftKings, a daily fantasy sports company, works on his laptop at the company's offices in Boston. (AP)

Fantasy football scandal, and the wild, booming betting world of fantasy sports.

Oct 8, 2015
US singer Patti Smith performs during the Way Out West music festival in Gothenburg, Sweden, Saturday, Aug.15, 2015.  (AP)

Iconic rocker, poet of punk, and National Book Award-winning author Patti Smith joins us to talk about her new memoir, “M Train”.

Oct 8, 2015
In this Aug. 2, 2012 file photo, local newspapers show stories about the controversial strategy to bail the government out of a financial hole, at a restaurant along Seven Mile Beach on the outskirts of George Town on the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands have lost some of their allure by abruptly proposing what amounts to an income tax on expatriate workers who have helped build the territory into one of the most famous or, for some people, notorious offshore banking centers that have tax advantages for foreign investment operations. (AP)

Trillions of dollars are now stashed in protected tax havens around the world, leaving societies’ bills to those at home. We’ll dig in.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Rep. Daniel Webster: ‘I’m Gonna Sell This Message’
Tuesday, Oct 6, 2015

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his retirement and resignation from his position last month, it surprised both his Party and the Washington political establishment.

More »
Our Week In The Web: October 2, 2015
Friday, Oct 2, 2015

We say hello again to our email address (since so many of you did this week) and goodbye to the Log Lady.

More »
Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders: ‘Count Me As A Radical’
Thursday, Oct 1, 2015

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is making waves in the 2016 Presidential race, and he joined us today from the US Capitol to explain how his campaign message is connecting with voters around the country.

More »