Is Iraq a civil war?

Last fall we had a spirited debate about whether what was happening in Iraq could be described as a "civil war."  I never really bought into the civil war crowd, as what is happening in Iraq looks much more like a failed state, disintegrating, than a traditional civil war.  News reports from the region today reinforce this sense:

Thirty-four bodies were also found strewn about the capital, the latest evidence of a rising toll of sectarian killings more than three months after the beginning of the increase in American troops.

At least 167 bodies have been found in Baghdad in the first six days of June, according to an official at the Interior Ministry. The numbers remain below the average seen before the rise in American forces but are much higher than the levels recorded in March and April.

As the rising body count stoked new concerns about how well the troop expansion will tamp down execution-style killings, Iraqi and American officials got a jolt late in the day when reports emerged suggesting that Turkish forces had begun a long-threatened incursion into northern Iraq to hunt Kurdish guerrillas who stage attacks inside Turkey.

The reports, attributed to Turkish military officials, said thousands of soldiers crossed the border in pursuit of members of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or P.K.K.

Some of the Presidential candidates talk about Iraq as a civil war.  If it were so, this would lead to a certain set of strategic choices, ones that implied picking one side or the other in the conflict.  But what is happening there is much more complex than a traditional civil war, with many actors, domestic and foreign, pursuing their agenda in the vaccum created by the failure of the US to establish stability after Sadaam. 

Part of the reason Iraq has been such a disaster is that the Administration really never understood what was happening there.  Those who hope to follow Bush must not replicate his mistake, and work much harder to understand and explain the realities of the Middle East today, a region very much changed and changing because of our recent actions on the ground there.