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Why no civil war in Iraq?
The short answer is: Because only one generation has passed since the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, and a popular civil war is impossible so soon after a crisis war.
Here's the long answer:
Ever since the Iraqi war ended in April 2003, one expert after another has warned of a possible civil war in Iraq. These concerns have flared up about four or five times during the year, usually after some especially big car bomb explodes, or after some Muslim cleric demands something from the Coalition forces.
These concerns about an Iraqi civil war reached a hysterical pitch last week because of a military rebellion in largely Sunni Muslim Fallujah and because Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moktada al-Sadr has called for his personal militia to resist the Coalition forces.
Some politicians are predicting that Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim forces will either rise up against each other for a massive civil war, or will unite for a massive uprising against the Coalition, the way that Iraqis rose up against the British in the 1920s.
These predictions are impossible. Iraq today is in a generational "awakening" period, while Iraq in the 1920s was in a generational "crisis" period. What happened in the 1920s cannot happen today.
What's a generational awakening period? The easiest way to understand it is to look America's last awakening period, the 1960s.
Brookings Institution does a full reversal on Iraq war: As Americans withdraw from cities, Brookings admits there's no civil war.... (1-Jul-2009)
Stock markets in Iraq and Iran are surging.: Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says "it is the end of capitalism."... (17-Oct-2008)
On "60 Minutes," Bob Woodward makes ridiculous claims about Iraq.: He says the surge succeeded because of some magic new military technique.... (7-Sep-2008)
Iraq's Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr turns from arms to "culture": This follows several Sunni "Tribal Awakenings" to expel al-Qaeda.... (10-Aug-2008)
Obama continues to damage his candidacy with his Iraq policy.: Obama is hurting himself by bobbing and weaving on the success of the "surge."... (27-Jul-2008)
The new Iraqi "civil war" fizzles out, as expected: Radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for a cease-fire on Sunday,... (1-Apr-08)
The Iraq war may be related to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.: On the first anniversary of the successful "surge" strategy,... (17-Feb-08)
Casualties are down sharply in Iraq.: This issue has been a spectacular validation of Generational Dynamics theory.... (31-Oct-07)
As Turkey prepares to invade northern Iraq, it's isolating itself internationally: A new "Young Turks revolution" is reestablishing strong Turkish nationalism.... (29-Oct-07)
Washington Post says that al-Qaeda in Iraq is "crippled": Meanwhile, Iraqi citizens' political opposition to America is growing.... (16-Oct-07)
Antiwar Democrats are freaking out over Bush's Vietnam - Iraq war comparison.: The same people who have been comparing Iraq to Vietnam for years... (24-Aug-07)
Iraq: Suicide bombers interrupt celebrations in Baghdad over soccer win: Iraq's stunning 4-3 soccer victory over South Korea in the Asia Cup semi-final... (26-Jul-07)
The al-Askariya Shrine in Samarra, Iraq, is bombed again: Last year's bombing triggered months of vicious sectarian violence in Baghdad,... (14-Jun-07)
Congress votes to fund Iraq war without deadlines: The result shows conflicting anxieties during America's Crisis era.... (24-May-07)
Senator Joe Biden wants to move troops from Iraq to Darfur civil war: Saying on Meet the Press that we should remove troops from Iraqi "civil war,"... (29-Apr-07)
NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman shows ignorance and evasiveness about al-Qaeda in Iraq: In an interview that appeared on CNN on Sunday,... (24-Apr-07)
BBC kills an Iraqi war story because it's "too positive": But a drama showing British troops brutalizing civilians is perfectly fine.... (11-Apr-07)
Tens of thousands of Shi'ites protest against American "occupiers": In what appeared to be a grand, party-like atmosphere,... (10-Apr-07)
Iraq's Moqtada al-Sadr tells followers to attack Americans, not each other: This could be good news.... (9-Apr-07)Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq : This is exactly the kind of thing that generational theory predicts. (1-Apr-2007)
New optimistic poll of Iraqi people barely mentioned on Sunday TV news shows: And Bob Shieffer on CBS's "Face the Nation" asked really dumb questions of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.... (19-Mar-07)
Robert Gates on "civil war" in Iraq.: Following the release of the Iraq National Intelligence Estimate on Friday,... (2-Feb-07)
News as theatre: NBC announces it will call Iraq war a "civil war": On Monday morning on the "Today Show,"... (29-Nov-06)
President Bush's reference to Vietnam War "Tet Offensive" has journalists in a tizzy: Airhead journalists have completely missed the point, and the real danger.... (20-Oct-06)
Learning-disabled journalists and politicians continue to predict Iraq civil war: Occasionally journalists take a break from their heavy-breathing over Congressional pages,... (8-Oct-06)
General John Abizaid says there'll be no troop cutbacks in Iraq: This is hardly a surprise to me, though not for the reasons most people give.... (19-Sep-06)
Debate over civil war in Iraq rages over semantics: An actual crisis civil war in Iraq is impossible, but it's now embroiled in the November elections,... (23-Aug-06)Washington becomes hysterical again over an Iraqi 'civil war' : A civil war in Iraq is impossible, as I've said many times, because only one generation has passed since the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s. Here's some additional historical information. (7-Aug-2006)
Israel's war against Hizbollah and Lebanon forces Muslims to choose sides : The war is part of a larger Shi'ite-Sunni struggle, and a stopgap ceasefire will create a worsening environment leading to a much more chaotic situation within a few months (25-Jul-2006)
Speculations about a stock market panic and crash : Will there be a stock market panic next week, next month, or next year, and will it lead to a crash? We speculate on some possibilities. (31-May-2006)
Journalists have a 'civil war in Iraq' orgy over the weekend: It's hard to remember when news shows had so much sheer non-stop nonsense... (21-Mar-06)
I just heard on CNN International: "The threat of civil war in Iraq is over.": Surprise! Surprise! The press corps was 100% wrong, and I was right.... (28-Feb-06)
Fear of Iraqi civil war nears hysteria: But there is NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER of a civil war.... (24-Feb-06)
Bombing of 1200 year old Shi'ite mosque inflames Iraq to the verge of massive civil war rhetoric: Shi'ites conducted over 90 revenge attacks on Sunni shrines on Wednesday,... (23-Feb-06)
Vitriolic Iraq war politics erupts in Washington: But the basics of the Iraq war haven't changed a bit.... (21-Nov-05)
After President Bush's speech: What next for Iraq?: With growing insurgency violence and flagging public support, what's America's "end strategy" in Iraq?... (1-Jul-05)
Iraqi Sunni and Shi'ite clerics call for restraint: Analysts, pundits and journalists are still predicting civil war, and they're still getting it wrong.... (23-May-05)
The chaotic Iraq election is only two days away: The election is on Sunday, January 30, and no one has a clue what's going to happen.... (28-Jan-05)
Brent Scowcroft predicts an "incipient civil war" for Iraq: Pundits are returning to wishful thinking as the January 30 election approaches... (09-Jan-05)Can we withdraw from Iraq in 2005?: Suddenly the Washington buzz is that whoever wins - Bush or Kerry - will begin to withdraw American troops from Iraq. We look at two historical examples to predict scenarios. (16-Oct-2004)
Fallujans are getting angry with insurgents: Just a few hours after my posting that al-Zarqawi's most formidable enemy may be the 40-50 year old mothers of Fallujah,... (13-Oct-04)
Al-Sadr's Shi'ite militia fighters turn in their weapons: The war in Iraq took a significant turn this week when the Shi'ite militias agreed to disarm,... (13-Oct-04)
The press is talking about another "uprising" in Iraq. Yawn.: Nothing shows more how clueless the press is about what's going on in Iraq than this constant talk about civil war and uprisings.... (7-Aug-04)Iraq Today vs 1960s America (Revised): They have much in common: Bombings, assassinations, student demonstrations, violent riots, calls for insurrection and civil war and harsh rhetoric. That's much more than a coincidence. (8-May-2004)
What Iraqi Civil War?: Early in 2003, I predicted that there would be no popular uprising against the Americans, and that there would be no civil war. After the overthrow of Saddam, I said that an Iraqi civil war was impossible. Despite the constant near-hysteria of the politicians, journalists and high-priced analysts, I've been right so far. Here's why. (09-Apr-04)
Anti-Shi'ite Terror Attacks in Iraq, Pakistan: So far, Sunni and Shi'ite leaders in Iraq aren't taking the bait. (2-Mar-04)
Terrorist suicide bombings in Iraq may backfire against terrorists: During an awakening period, terrorist acts cause masses of people to shrink from more violence. (19-Aug-03)
Let's take a moment to compare Iran today to America in the 1960s, because the equivalence is precise.
Iraq today is one generation past its last crisis war, the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
America in the 1960s was one generation past its last crisis war, World War II. You have to understand 1960s America if you want to understand Iraq today.
If you're reading this and you're under 65-70 years old, then you probably have no idea how horrible WW II was for most Americans. Rumors of German bombers on the east coast and Japanese bombers on the west coast abounded, and terrorized Americans formed watch groups to watch for incoming bombers. Body bags with American soldiers were coming in by the boatloads from Europe and the Pacific. Everyone was affected by the war, had lost friends and family in the war, and feared for the American way of life and even the nation's survival. If you were traumatized by 9/11, then imagine the 9/11 attacks ten times a day for a couple of years and you'll begin to understand World War II.
When WW II ended, those who survived vowed that nothing like that must ever be allowed to happen again. Society reorganized itself to fight the new menace, the Communists, who would have to be stopped before they were allowed to start World War III.
By the 1960s, kids born after WW II came of age, and that's when the American awakening began. There was a well-known "generation gap," as college kids rebelled against the austere rules imposed by those who had survived WW II.
Look what happened in America in the 60s and early 70s: President Kennedy was assassinated; Martin Luther King was assassinated; Robert Kennedy was assassinated; there was a series of "hot summers," with racial rebellions in many cities, the most well known being the Watts riots in L.A. in 1965; there were huge riots and demonstrations in Washington D.C., and in other large cities; many of these riots degenerated into violence.
In all, three different presidencies ended in ruin in one way or another: President Kennedy's by assassination, President Johnson by being forced not to run again; and President Nixon by forced resignation.
But there was NO CIVIL WAR.
This is EXACTLY what's happening in Iraq today.
The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s was a horrific crisis war, where even poison gas was used to kill people. Those who survived that war want no part of another one.
That's the context in which you have to understand the riots and demonstrations by Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moktada al-Sadr's private militia. Al-Sadr himself is 30 years old, and his followers are in their teens and 20s. These are kids with little or no personal memory of the 1980s war. They don't really care that much one way or the other about the American-led Coalition; they're just kids, and they're rebelling against their own parents more than anything else. In most cases, they have no strong convictions except to have fun.
That's why I've been saying for over a year that a popular civil war is impossible. There's no one who wants a war like that. The older generation will do anything to prevent such a war, and the younger generation really doesn't give a f--k. There's no fuel for a civil war.
I've looked at dozens, perhaps hundreds, of crisis wars throughout history, and there's never been a popular civil war just one generation past a crisis war. It's impossible.
The most that is possible is that some Iraqi cleric could call for a civil war.
Actually, that's in effect what al-Sadr did last week, resulting in his militia taking over two towns, in defiance of the Coalition forces.
But it wasn't much of a civil war. According to a New York Times article,
Pinned to their robes were photographs of Mr. Sadr, a 31-year-old bushy-bearded cleric, and of his father, assassinated by agents of Saddam Hussein in 1999.
Another paragraph in the same story referred to the militiamen's rhetoric:
Anyone who lived through 60s or 70s America knows what "seething rhetoric" is. We had demonstrators calling Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon "fascists," and we had Black Panthers calling for a black rebellion in America. But it was never more than rhetoric.
So, in answer to the question of whether an Iraqi civil war today is possible, the response is that you're seeing as much of a civil war as is likely, and it doesn't amount to much.
Unfortunately, few people seem to be able to understand what an awakening period is, and what its effect is.
Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for example, has been sponsoring terrorist acts in Iraq in order to ignite a civil war, but his efforts have been complete failures.
The Coalition forces have made mistakes too. Shutting down newspapers during an awakening period just infuriates the kids, but that's what the Coalition has been doing. Coalition officers should be educated in how to handle kids during an awakening, and the best place to start is to examine the mistakes made by Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the 60s and 70s.
What about the terrorist attacks, and the fighting in Fallujah?
Let's make it clear: Generational Dynamics predicts attitudes and behaviors of large masses of people, based on generational changes; it cannot predict the actions of small groups of people.
The terrorist acts and the fighting in Fallujah and other cities are going to continue for years, just as rioting, demonstrations and looting continued in America throughout the 60s and 70s. The major difference is that the Iraqis have more weapons at their disposal, but there will not be more than low-level violence.
That's not to say that low-level violence isn't important. Iraqis will be wounded and killed, and so will Coalition soldiers. And even low-level violence can be terrifying. In fact, it may get bad enough to drive the Coalition out of Iraq in disgrace -- just as the rioters and demonstrators forced President Nixon's resignation in 1974.
But it's not an all-out civil war, and won't be.
The real adult in Iraq is the country's leading cleric, Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. 73-year-old Sistani lived through the 1980s war, and almost nothing could cause him to favor another disaster like that one.
It's impossible to read about al-Sistani without getting the feeling that he's a strong force for moderation in Iraq, and that he will be a friend, at least indirectly. He has a web site (http://www.sistani.org) which portrays a highly spiritual life devoted to helping people and promoting Islam. He answers questions on marriage and life from users, and he even has a section on "[Islamic] Jurisprudence Made Easy"!
According to news stories, the rebellions staged by al-Sadr's militia have been funded and encouraged by Iranian mullahs, in order to ignite an uprising or a civil war. If this is true, then one can imagine that the Iranians went to Sistani first and failed to convince him to support that level of violence.
Iran. Iran is also in a generational awakening period. Since 1999, there have been large pro-American college student demonstrations. Some analysts, apparently including some in the Bush administration, are advocating a policy of encouraging the students to overthrow the Iranian mullahs. Such a policy would almost certainly fail: There is no more chance of a civil war in Iran than there is in Iraq.
Palestine. The Palestine region is different. That region is in a generational crisis period, replaying the events of the hostilities of Jews versus Arabs that began in 1936 and led to the massive regional crisis war in 1948, following the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Just as we can predict that a civil war in Iraq is impossible in the next few years, we can predict that another major regional war between Israelis and Arabs is unavoidable in the next few years.