August 20, 2010

Defining the Conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq (Update)

Here's a fun project for the readership. This should keep you busy through the weekend. I was reading a book chapter by Stathis Kalyvas (.pdf) and came across his definition of civil war, which will be familiar to those of you who have read this book:

Civil war can be defined as armed combat taking place within the boundaries of a recognized sovereign entity between parties subject to a common authority at the outset of the hostilities.

This got me thinking about Afghanistan and whether or not we can define the conflict in Afghanistan as a civil war. Words like "authority" and "sovereign" seem to me to be in need of exploration (assuming we agree with the definition offered by Kalyvas). Even "outset" is tricky. That in turn got me thinking about Iraq as well. How would we describe the conflict there? Maybe we would say "conflict" is the wrong word and that "political violence" is more appropriate. I don't know myself, but I am interested in the thoughts of the readership.

Update: So I asked a serious social sciency question related to current wars for the readership to mull over the weekend, and I get ... a bunch of inane crap about the mosque they want to build in the old Burlington Coat Factory in Manhattan. Thanks, gang.