Asia Watch

Decoding the idea of a civil war

This month marks the sixth anniversary of the onset of the Syrian civil war. The conflict has left over 400,000 dead and wrenched some 10 million out of their homes

Mar 20, 2017

The attempt to regulate civil wars with legal norms has made states, especially the major powers, chary of labelling conflicts as civil wars. Photo: AFP

This month marks the sixth anniversary of the onset of the Syrian civil war. The conflict has left over 400,000 dead and wrenched some 10 million Syrians out of their homes. Almost half of the latter have moved out of the country in search of safety.

The civil war in Syria is now acknowledged to be a major international catastrophe. But it is worth recalling that only in July 2012 did the International Committee of the Red Cross confirm that Syria was in the throes of an “armed conflict not of an international character”—the legal term for civil war.

Then again, was the conflict devoid of an international dimension given the involvement of at least seven other countries? Is it really possible to end the conflict without acknowledging head on this international character?

Such conceptual confusion and ambiguity has left its mark on successive diplomatic attempts at negotiating a ceasefire in Syria.

Yet, as David Armitage argues in a brilliant and timely book, Civil Wars: A History In Ideas, this is almost par for the course.

 

Read more at :-http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/Wrq4xuXJSs2Q8rnBwBfUEP/Decoding-the-idea-of-a-civil-war.html

 

Livemint, March 20, 2017

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