Saturday, July 29, 2006

Is the Conflict in Iraq a Civil War?

Monica Toft, a professor of public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, has compiled a list of six criteria that define a civil war. Iraq meets all six of them.

Here are the criteria:

  • Is the focus of the war control over which group governs the political unit?
  • Are there at least two groups of organized combatants?
  • Is the state one of the combatants?
  • Are there at least 1,000 battle deaths per year on average?
  • Is the ratio of total deaths at least 95 percent to 5 percent? In other words, has the stronger side suffered at least 5 percent of the casualties?
  • Is the war occurring within the boundaries of an internationally recognized state or entity?

Prof. Toft:

Iraq has met all of the criteria. The main one that has been contested is "the state is one of the combatants." Until recently, the argument put forward was that most of the violence was fomented by foreign insurgents. Although there is no denying that the foreign insurgents were involved in quite a bit of the violence, they were and are not alone. Organized groups of Sunnis (former Baathists in particular) have been waging violence as have Shiites (e.g., the Badr brigade/Mahdi Army) since at least Spring 2004.

The conflict in Iraq formally became a "civil war" once a sovereign Iraq government took control in June 2004. Although precise figures are hard to come by, I don't think anyone would doubt that the death count has exceeded 1,000 per ear on average since. Furthermore, since the spring of 2006 at least, the number of deaths by sectarian groups (commonly referred to as death squads) has far outpaced that of suicide bombers (presumed to be foreign insurgents).

1 comment:

Steeph said...

Thx for digging this one up.
I used it on my blog so you can expect a bit of extra traffic :-)