How Civil Wars Start: Flawed democracy and its threat to US

Barbara F Walter envisions terrorist attacks by white nationalist groups on US officials

Trump supporters who broke into the Capitol building last January: Barbara F Walter contends that civil wars are most likely to occur in countries in a 'middle ground' between democracy and autocracy known as 'anocracy'. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP

Trump supporters who broke into the Capitol building last January: Barbara F Walter contends that civil wars are most likely to occur in countries in a 'middle ground' between democracy and autocracy known as 'anocracy'. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP

Is the United States on the verge of civil war? That is the disturbing conclusion of How Civil Wars Start. Barbara F Walter, a political scientist specialising in foreign conflicts, turns her attention to her own country. Whether you agree with her diagnosis partly depends on whether you are convinced by her general theory of how civil wars begin.

The US is hardly mentioned until after the book’s halfway point. Its first half focuses on the factors Walter identifies as leading to civil war. She draws on a broad range of examples in places such as Indonesia, Iraq, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and the former states of Yugoslavia.

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