On Civil Wars: A Thought Experiment

From time immemorial I have had a realist view of foreign and domestic affairs, and that has usually involved examining the context and consequences of actions or looking at what conditions would have to be present for such and such desired outcome or feared outcome to take place.  And quite frequently that thinking relates to civil conflict within nations.  For a variety of reasons I have long been interested in civil wars, whether one is looking at the conflict within families, or communities or organizations or nations.  And to be sure I have participated in my fair share of such conflicts and am likely to do so in the future, seeing as such conflicts are likely to happen in the future.  And it is precisely that subject that I would like to discuss today, although I have addressed some aspects of it before [1].

Some data suggests that a majority of the American population believes that we are close to a Civil War.  My own thoughts are similar to this, as alarming as such a thought may be, based on the following grounds.  There has been a drastic decline in respect given to public institutions and a growing partisan divide that has made it difficult for people on both sides of the divide to engage in civil conversation with others.  There has been a corresponding rise in paranoid politics wherein each side of the partisan divide believes that the victory of their side is all that is preventing the absolute collapse of the republic in to some sort of totalitarian state where vital rights and freedoms will be curtailed.  There has been a large degree of low level violence, particularly on the side of the left, that is similar to that which was in Bleeding Kansas or Harper’s Ferry in the 1850’s, as well as a rise of nativism within the American political scene.  Large segments of the population believe it a moral necessity to resist by any means necessary, including violence, those who hold to different political views.  This is not to say that it is certain we will have a civil war, only that it is by no means ridiculous that many people (myself included) think we are on the way towards this very undesirable outcome.  The avoidance of such an outcome would require both sides to be able to accept some sort of fundamental political change in our country, be it a restoration of previous standards or experiments in widespread and likely destructive socialist experimentation, as well as a celebration of consensus, and that is not in the offing.  Given the conditions that exist, and the increasing hostility between two sides, it appears increasingly likely that some spark will inflame civil tensions to a level of greater violence than now exists, although it is unclear what the results of such a conflict would be.

Let us now turn our attention to Northern Syria.  Over the past day or so, as I write this, the United States has killed both the person in charge as well as the spokesman for ISIS in Northern Syria.  The repercussions of this in the immediate term were some terrible demonstrations of fear and respect of terrorists on the part of the Washington Post and Max Boot and others of that ilk as well as a kerfuffle over booing and chants at a World Series game that made a lot of people (myself included) root for the Houston Astros to win because of the nonsense.  Before this happened, though, there was a period of a few days at least where there was concern that Trump was abandoning the Kurds to a brutal fate in the face of the recovery of Assad’s rule over Syria and the abandonment of “moderate” rebels that didn’t turn out to be necessarily as moderate as promised and the attempts by Turkey to invade part of Syria in order to do violence against the Kurds and prevent them from supporting their brethren on the Turkish side of the border.  There was much hand wringing about the fate of the Kurds.

I would like to write a bit about that now.  I am certainly someone who would like to see a free and independent Kurdistan that is stable and strong, I am by no means sanguine about this happening.  For one, the Kurds are a divided mountain people who have long been ruled (and misruled) by different nations, and who have some deep political divides between different tribes and groups.  Moreover, for the Kurds to be secure and independent and free, it would be necessary to carve out the Kurdish areas from Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, all of which would be an exceptionally bloody and hostile matter, and would ensure four powerful nations in the area that would be instant enemies of the new Kurdish state, which would likely be treated like Israel and find its independence the start of a war of survival against all of its neighbors.  The new nation would have both oil and water in large quantities but would likely be landlocked and dependent on some way to the sea so that its resources can reach the outside world.  It is difficult to see how that could be done in a peaceful way at present, and so as much as one might want to see Kurdistan independent one cannot be sanguine about its prospects as a state.  And if realism is somewhat grim in this respect, it does keep us grounded, and that is of the utmost importance.

[1] See, for example:







About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, History, International Relations, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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