“Civil War is coming,” a New Jersey woman posted on social media days after participating in last year’s storming of the U.S. Capitol. Indeed, America had not experienced a disruption in the peaceful transfer of power like what happened a year ago since the Civil War. Stark divisions between Democrats and Republicans make it appear as if the country is on the brink of tearing apart, but it wouldn’t be accurate to call it a civil war, says a prominent national security expert at Northeastern.
“We need to be careful about what we mean by civil war,” says political science professor Max Abrahms. While there’s no consensus over the definition of the term, most scholars point out that a civil war requires a certain threshold of deaths on the government side and the resistance side, he adds. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died in the melee. “I do not believe that America will become violent enough to be characterized as a civil war,” Abrahms says. That doesn’t rule out the prospect of further political violence as there was on Jan. 6, 2021, he adds, “but it will be short of civil war.”