Noticed this tidbit in the transcript of a press conference from back on November 29th:
Q: General Pace, Colin Powell said today that he believed the conflict in Iraq was a civil war, that it met that standard. Do you agree or disagree with him, and why?
GEN. PACE: Well, I haven’t had the benefit of reading or hearing exactly what General Powell might have said. I will tell you this. Number one, the Iraq government does not call it a civil war. Two, the Iraq government is functioning. Three, the Iraq security forces are responsive to the Iraqi government. Four, the level of violence that’s being inflicted by al Qaeda and the like is specifically designed to create a civil war. It is specifically designed to create an ungovernable condition so the terrorists can then set up shop and rule those people the way they want to.
So it’s much more important that we focus on how to defeat the enemy that is trying to create the civil war than it is we spend a lot of time dancing on the head of a pin as far as what particular words we should use to describe the environment which is currently unacceptable.
And moment later:
Q: General, do you take issue with politicians and even news organizations using the term “civil war” in relation to —
GEN. PACE: I don’t take issue with anybody calling anything they want whatever they want to call it. I simply say that, from my standpoint, when I’m asked if it’s a civil war, that I looked at the factors that I talked about, and primarily I look to the Iraqi people and their government. And the Iraqi people are still looking to their government. Their government is still functioning. Their security forces are still responsive to their government. So from the macro viewpoint, the parts of a civil war as I understand it are not definable in today’s environment. But that’s really energy not well spent…Spend our energy on getting to where we should be, not on arguing about what we should call the environment we’re in. Understand the environment, but let’s deal with it. Let’s not try to give it a name.
I’m on record saying that I believe that the environment is one of “civil war”. No battles of Antietam or Gettysburg to be seen, for sure, but a civil war nonetheless.
I believe that “giving it a name” will help matters, not hurt them. It’s just important to make sure that calling the Iraqi civil war a “civil war” doesn’t mean what many would hope it means. A lot of folks seem to be saying “If Iraq slips into civil war, we must get our troops out immediately because it will be an Iraqi internal matter. America doesn’t get involved in other peoples’ civil wars.” And it’s usually followed-up with something along the lines of “Oh, I sure hope the Iraqi civil war comes soon so we can get out of there.”
This is pretty ignorant.
The survival of the Iraqi government is in America’s best interest. Our best-case scenario of a stable, peaceful, and free Iraq will take at least a generation to accomplish. In the meantime, we fight the enemy.
Pretending that the violence in Iraq isn’t a guerrilla civil war because the war critics have latched onto the term “civil war” isn’t helping. Our troops are not “peacekeeping” in Iraq. They are fighting a war. A war that we must win. How can we understand and deal with the environment if we won’t call a spade a spade?