At the Monkey Cage, Erica Chenoweth is making the call.
The headline of Anthony Shadid’s article in Sunday’s New York Times reads “Fear of Civil War Mounts in Syria as Crisis Deepens.” The Arab League’s Secretary General, Nabil el-Araby, is quoted as saying “I fear a civil war, and the events that we see and hear about now could lead to a civil war.” Others concur, while stopping short of saying that Syria is currently in a state of civil war.
But by most standards, the conflict in Syria has been a civil war for quite awhile (see, for instance, Nicholas Sambanis ‘thorough analysis of civil war’s competing definitions). Although there is some controversy surrounding the definition, scholars typically consider a conflict a civil war when:
- two or more armed groups are fighting within state borders over some incompatibility (change of leadership/government, territory, or major policy issue);
- one of the combatant groups is the government;
- at least 1,000 people have died due to combat; and
- at least 100 people have died on either side of the conflict.