Iraqi Civil War vs. American Civil War
Callimachus contends that, by applying the definition used to proclaim the current mess in Iraq a civil war, “The American Civil War lasted until 1877, and the South won.”
The CSA suffered military defeat and government collapse. Its leaders were driven from power. But a relentless insurgency and the dirty work of policing internal ethnic strife wore down the patience of the people of the North. The old U.S. army never had much of a taste or aptitude for peacekeeping. Political tides shifted in the North and eroded any remaining federal commitment to reconstruction, and the U.S. government simply declared victory and went home, leaving race-based slavery wobbly and battered, but essentially intact in everything but name. (Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens, writing after the war, described “slavery – so called -” as what “was with us, or should be, nothing but the proper subordination of the inferior African race to the superior white ….”)
His first two commenters point out, correctly, that this says nothing about whether Iraq actually is in a state of civil war, let alone we are winning our fight against the insurgency. It’s an interesting point, though, for discussion.
Comparing vastly different kinds of conficts strained analysis.
As I’ve argued previously, it is rather silly to point out that American forces have now been in Iraq longer than we were in Europe fighting WWII, because of not only the nature and scale of the conflicts but because, in the sense of having U.S. forces still stationed there, WWII hasn’t truly ended.
Certainly, that’s true in Korea, where we have technically been in a state of war (or police action or whatever you want to call it) 57 years and counting. Given that we are still taking casualties on a regular basis in Iraq, though, comparisons are silly.
If civil war breaks out in Iraq, assuming it hasn’t already, it won’t look much like the American version, with independent states with clean geographic boundaries fighting according to the accepted rules of warfare in distinctive uniforms. As such, we may not recognize it until it’s well underway.