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

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