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CIA advisor: US is 'closer to civil war' than thought possible

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 12/20/2021 Geoff Earle, Deputy U.S. Political Editor For

A political science professor who serves on a panel that advises the CIA on when countries might slide into civil war amid factors like undemocratic tendencies has identified the U.S. as farther down that potential path than many could imagine.

'We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,' said Dr. Barbara Walter, who serves on the Political Instability Task Force, which guides intelligence analysts on countries overseas that might be on the brink of conflict.

The University of California San Diego academic, who has studied hotspots like Syria and helps run a blog on political violence, said the U.S. meets several of the telltale signs that are part of a road to insurgency.

'No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war,' she writes in her forthcoming book, How Civil Wars Start.

'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,' she writes, according to the Washington Post

She concludes that the U.S. has gone through the 'pre-insurgency' and 'incipient conflict' phases – without deciding whether the Jan. 6th Capitol riot constitutes part of the 'open insurgency' phase. 

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She also labels the U.S. as an 'anocracy' – a category between a democracy and an autocracy, after a slide based on factors in its criteria during the four years of the Trump administration – with the U.S. falling from a score of 10 to a score of 5.

That put the nation far behind its traditional peers.

'We are no longer the world’s oldest continuous democracy,” according to Walter. “That honor is now held by Switzerland, followed by New Zealand, and then Canada. We are no longer a peer to nations like Canada, Costa Rica, and Japan, which are all rated a +10 on the Polity index.” 

Three retired US generals issued a warning of their own on Friday, fearing a potential split in the military might play out in a civil war if there is a coup attempt after 2024.

Video: CIA: ‘We don’t know’ if Putin will use force in Ukraine (Reuters)

They pointed to 'signs of potential turmoil in our armed forces,' and noted that a 'disturbing number' of active-duty members of the military took part in the Capitol riot, accounting for more than 1 in 10 people charged.

Former Army Major Gen. Paul Eaton, former Brigadier Gen. Steven Anderson and former Army Major Gen. Antonio Taguba outlined their concerns in a Washington Post op-ed.

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Democracies vs. 'anocracies' where governments 'undermine faith in elections' and 'vilify opponents' 


Representative government;

Fundamental rights;

Civil liberties and checks on government;

Media integrity and effective legislature;

Competitive elections where opposition has a chance



Mix democratic and non-democratic features;

Weakening checks on government and eroding civil liberties;  

Stable with authoritarian elements; 

Rejection of oversight by legislature;

Purges of non-loyalists in bureaucracy;

Use of force against protests;

Vilification of opposition;

Characterized by human rights violations;

Undermining of faith in electoral system 

Source: Center for Systemic Peace, Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance 

'The potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines — from the top of the chain to squad level — is significant should another insurrection occur. The idea of rogue units organizing among themselves to support the “rightful” commander in chief cannot be dismissed.'

The added: ''As we approach the first anniversary of the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, we - all of us former senior military officials - are increasingly concerned about the aftermath of the 2024 presidential election and the potential for lethal chaos inside our military, which would put all Americans at severe risk,' the generals penned.

'We are chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time,' they added.

The U.S. in November appeared on the list of 'backsliding democracies' compiled by the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

According to the report, 'The United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale.'

It called Trump's repeated attacks on the validity of the 2020 election results a 'historic turning point' that ''undermined fundamental trust in the electoral process' that precipitated the riot and had 'spillover effects, including in Brazil, Mexico, Myanmar and Peru, among others.'

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who serves on the select Jan. 6th committee, in a new New Yorker profile describes Trump's role last year as initiating a 'self-coup.'  

'The scariest of the three rings is the inside of the coup. I use that word, "coup," knowing that it’s not the usual political parlance,' he said. 'A coup usually takes place against an elected President. This was a President moving against a Vice-President–it was, as the political scientists call it, a ‘self-coup,’" he said of Trump's efforts to get Mike Pence not to count votes from states where Trump was claiming fraud occurred. 

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