"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Civil War? So It’s Not Just a Matter of Semantics After All

An Army Maj. General who studied civil wars at West Point and at the Army Command and Staff College should know, and from everything I can see I agree. Iraq is not currently in a Civil War. Does it matter? You bet it does.

Let’s call them the Humpty Dumpty press (to add to the growing list of mainstream media epithets). As you will remember, the egg like fellow appeared in a famous story by Lewis Carroll and made the following comment:

“When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.”


I cannot think of a better description of the hubris of the modern mainstream media. When they say a thing you had better not question them. They determine reality, and what they say it is, is what it is, nothing more nor less. Of course we know that the goal of our esteemed press is to make President Bush look bad, so anything that will do that is what they will do. Civil War is a bad thing, Iraq is in Civil War, Bush started the war; Bush is bad. Irrefutable logic.

But let’s look at a few facts as our Army Maj. General puts them:

I don't see a civil war in Iraq. I don't see a constituency for civil war. The vast majority of the people want hope for their families, not to massacre their neighbors or divide their country. A poll conducted in June by the International Republican Institute, a nonpartisan group that promotes democracy, found 89 percent of Iraqis supporting a unity government representing all sects and ethnic communities. No wonder no "rebel army" steps forward to claim credit for vicious car bombs and cowardly executions of civilians.

I see debates among Iraqis -- often angry and sometimes divisive -- but arguments characteristic of political discourse, not political breakdown. The Council of Representatives meets here in Baghdad as the sole legitimate sovereign representative of the people, 12 million of whom braved bombs and threats last December to vote. No party has seceded or claimed independent territory. . . .

I studied civil wars at West Point and at the Army Command and Staff College. I respect the credentials and opinions of those who want to hang that label here. But I respectfully -- and strongly -- disagree. I see the Iraqi people suffering from overlapping terrorist campaigns by extremist groups combined with the mass criminality that too often accompanies the sudden toppling of a dictatorship. This poses a different military challenge than does a civil war.

That last point shows that words actually mean things. They aren’t, a la the mainstream media, only for making impressions to push their political agenda.

2 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

The postmodern view of semantics is accurate for most or many people---the word is the concept. If Iraq is an insurgency or a proxy war, we might be able to win. If it's a civil war, forget it---all we can do is get our people in the way of the bullets and bombs.

(Of course we intervened in Kosovo, which was more properly a civil war, but that was "humanitarian," and besides, You-Know-Who was C-in-C.)

Evanston said...

If a real civil war emerged, what label would be used then? I can't think of a term...
The Major General is correct, the current violence in Iraq is precipitated by small groups. Want to see a civil war? Look at Africa (Rwanda the worst) when large numbers of ordinary citizens grab a machete and go after their neighbors.
Regarding Kosovo, it was, is, and will be a civil war.