Dana Milbank explores this provocative question in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
The op-ed focuses on political science methods for considering how civil wars start: “Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, serves on a CIA advisory panel called the Political Instability Task Force that monitors countries around the world and predicts which of them are most at risk of deteriorating into violence. By law, the task force can’t assess what’s happening within the United States, but Walter, a longtime friend who has spent her career studying conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Rwanda, Angola, Nicaragua and elsewhere, applied the predictive techniques herself to this country.”
After assessing the risk factors for the outbreak of civil warfare in the United States, Walter concludes that “we are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.”
Milbank discusses Walter’s findings: “She lays out the argument in detail in her must-read book, How Civil Wars Start, out in January. ‘No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war,’ she writes. But, ‘if you were an analyst in a foreign country looking at events in America — the same way you’d look at events in Ukraine or the Ivory Coast or Venezuela — you would go down a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make civil war likely. And what you would find is that the United States, a democracy founded more than two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory.'”
Dana Milbank’s op-ed is published on the Washington Post website.
Honors students at Northern Illinois who took my Honors Seminar, HIST 399 Communal Strife: Civil Wars in World History, will be interested in this op-ed and Barbara F. Walter’s forthcoming book.