by Thomas E. Ricks

Last time out, in early March, when we discussed this, the consensus number for national security experts was at about 30 percent, with some outliers at 60 percent and even 95 percent. The informed public (that is, the rest of Best Defense readers) were about 18 percent. Since then I have received several notes saying that number may be too low.

What number are you at now on the possibility of the United States going through a period of large-scale political violence? Either email me or post a comment, and I will compile results.

You say you need a definition? Ok, here is one from Correlates of War database:

“Civil War: The classification of civil war was built on three dimensions: internality, types of participants, and the degree of effective resistance. In general, a civil war was defined as any armed conflict that involved; (1) military action internal to the metropole of the state system member; (2) the active participation of the national government; (3) effective resistance by both sides; and (4) a total of at least 1,000 battle-deaths during each year of the war.”

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at