Saturday, March 25, 2006

How to measure "civil war"

Buried in this ABC News article is this paragraph from yesterday:

South of the capital, 40 people were killed or wounded in a big gunbattle near Mahmoudiya, police said. Police said gunmen of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia were fighting insurgent forces, which are primarily Sunni Muslim.

Now, I'm no genius, but it seems that if a "militia" of one religious sect is engaging in a "big gunbattle" with rebels from another religious sect that sounds like a "civil war" is happening. So, I checked my favorite online source, Wikipedia, to see how "civil war" is defined:

A civil war is a war in which parties within the same country or empire struggle for national control of state power. As in any war, the conflict may be over other matters such as religion, ethnicity, or distribution of wealth. Some civil wars are also categorized as revolutions when major societal restructuring is a possible outcome of the conflict. An insurgency, whether successful or not, is likely to be classified as a civil war by some historians if, and only if, organized armies fight conventional battles. Other historians state the criteria for a civil war is that there must be prolonged violence between organized factions or defined regions of a country (conventionally fought or not). In simple terms, a Civil War is a war in which a country fights another part of itself.

By my reckoning, the fracas in Iraq is walking pretty malardasquely.

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