In the last two days, former Prime Minister Allawi's claim that Iraq was experiencing a Civil War was reported relatively uncritically by the local and national TV news reporters that I happened to see.
Wretchard at the Belmont Club has an analysis:
So what's the truth? The principle in determining truth should be to apply the factual indicator test. A civil war is a visible event whose indicators includes the insubordination of armed units, mass refugee flows, the rise of rival governments, etc. The test is whether those events are being observed. What famous individuals say about a situation is a shortcut for encapsulating a factual assessment; it describes reality as public figures see it but is not the reality itself. That remains a mystery until developments unfold.
One interesting indicator of how the US military sees the situation are its plans to turn over large parts of the country to Iraqi forces. Bloomberg reports:
March 17 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. hopes to hand over 75 percent of Iraq to Iraqi Security Forces by the end of the summer, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Baghdad said. ``All indications are that we will make that,'' Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said from Baghdad during a briefing televised at the Pentagon today, adding that he didn't ``want to be so precise as to put myself in a box.'' ...
This apparently innocuous statement [shortened here at VC] contains a wealth of implication. It primarily suggests confidence, but it also admits that while Iraqi forces are coming along, they are not yet decisive without the assistance of US forces. The insurgency in Anbar, though contained, has not yet been stamped out, though sometime between now and the end of summer more inroads will be made upon it if Chiarelli's statements are any guide to events.
Politically what's interesting is how the narrative has changed. Nobody is talking about the Sunni insurgency succeeding any more. Even the press hardly makes the claim of an insurgency on the brink of success. . . .
After quoting Juan Cole saying that the "guerrillas are really no more than mosquitoes to US forces," Wretchard continues:
Cole forgets to remind the reader [w]hat mosquitoes did for the French in Algeria, the Russians in Afghanistan and even pushed the Israelis out of Lebanon. The enormity of the victory against the insurgency was never a given. In some respects the US achievement was historical. Whatever else happens, this should be remembered.
Cole also rejected assertions that Iraq was in Civil War.
[Myth:] Iraq is already in a civil war, so it does not matter if the US simply withdraws precipitately, since the situation is as bad as it can get.
No, it isn't. During the course of the guerrilla war, the daily number of dead has fluctuated, between about 20 and about 60. But in a real civil war, it could easily be 10 times that. Some estimates of the number of Afghans killed during their long set of civil wars put the number at 2.5 million, along with 5 million displaced abroad and more millions displaced internally. Iraq is Malibu Beach compared to Afghanistan in its darkest hours. . . .
In my view, the shift of meme from the "insurgency" to a "civil war" is a backhanded way of admitting the military defeat of the insurgency without abandoning the characterization of Iraq [a]s an American fiasco. It was Zarqawi and his cohorts themselves who changed the terms of reference from fighting US forces to sparking a 'civil war'. With any luck, they'll lose that campaign too.
Read the whole thing.