How Civil Wars Start - and How to Stop Them

by Barbara F. Walter 2022

Book Review by Ray Herrmann

Civil War is most likely when nearly half the population are members of a weaker group which is being unfairly discriminated against and abused by a more powerful group to such a degree that they see no hope of resolution other than to defeat their dominator.

The U.S. is now close to a Civil War (Polity rating +5 since the Jan 6, 2021 insurrection), but could still avoid this. The things to look for are seemingly uncoordinated attacks designed to undermine our faith in our Government to keep is safe. And a flood of lies to make us confused. It's all about building up our fears and then offering a seeming solution if we choose "them".

This book has summarized decades of data on governments and social instability in order to predict when a civil war might break out. Of several datasets, the most relied on one has been compiled by the Polity Project at the Center for Systemic Peace. They have produced a 21-point scale ranging from -10 (most autocratic government) to +10 (most democratic government). These scores are the best predictor of social instability.

"Full Democracies" are those rated +6 to +10. { Rated +10 are: Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, Canada and (until recently)the United States.} "Full Autocracies" are rated -6 to -10. { Rated -10 are: North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.} Anocracies are the name for those rated in the middle (-5 to +5). In Anocracies, citizens have some democratic elements (like elections), but also have presidents with authoritarian powers. It is the Anocracies who are most likely to fall into Civil War (a relationship discovered by the CIA in 1994).

Some characteristics that lead to Civil War:

Notes & Quotes:

Some Examples of Leaders promoting Civil Wars:


How the U.S. is Moving Toward Civil War: Americans across the political spectrum are becoming more accepting of violence as a means to achieve political goals. Most insurgencies pass through similar phases of development.

Today, the U.S. is considered a factionalized anocracy that is quickly approaching the open insurgency phase. The January 6, 2021 siege on the Capital was a major announcement by groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys that they are moving toward outright violence.

Genocide: Genocide often occurs when the ruling group is made so fearful and hateful that, over time, they learn to de-humanize their perceived enemy. Genocide has recently occurred in: Europe's Nazis (Jews), Bosnia ("Bosniaks": Muslims and Croats), Rwanda (Hutus/ Tutsis), India (Muslims).
  The 10 Stages: Classification, Symbolization, Discrimination, Dehumanization, Organization, Polarization, Preparation, Persecution, Extermination and Denial. more online.

Ways to Reduce Chances of a Civil War:

I recommend reading this book to everyone, because it is so relevant to the times we are living through and a deeper understanding may help us recognize when we are being manipulated. History is full of examples where we were manipulated into empowering tyrants and even driven to commit genocide!