It’s a busy time for civil wars. The Sri Lankan army has pushed far into Tamil territory, seeking a decisive victory. The killings in Northern Ireland show how spoilers try to gain advantage over rivals in any political process. Then there is the threat that recently pacified civil wars, such as those in Iraq and Sudan, will come back, while the global recession may push new ones forward. First, the good news. If public opinion in Northern Ireland is a guide, the violence will fail. The murders are widely perceived as criminal, while sympathy for the victims runs deep. The same isn’t true, however, of Iraq or Sudan. In the latter, vital provisions of the 2005 peace deal have still not been implemented. In the former, a stable peace seems unlikely any time soon. Most worryingly of all, there’s every indication that Pakistan’s domestic disputes may slide into all-out civil war.


Toft, Monica Duffy. "Nasty, Brutish and Long." Prospect Magazine. April 2009.