War over Kimberley and Murrayville

I have a fictional world, consisting of a federation of 17 provinces (in blue on the map extract). Currently, it is in the late 1920's. The Dzevogurski and Quidthovitse provinces are on the brink of war. Historically, the province of Ladies Beach was part of Dzevogurski but split away peacefully several years ago for admisitrative reasons. The mountain range running NW-SE formed a natural boundry.

In the region concerned, there are two major railway lines involved in trans-continental transport. The Fyonas River - Kandice Beach line runs through two districts of Dzevogurski. To Quidthovice, this is a major point of 'pain': Their tracks run through their 'rivals' territory.

Also, in the 1890's Quidthovice managed to convince the Kimberley-district government to deny the builders of the Vaenesston-Tannith Beach line access to the 'easy' pass between Kimberley and St. Marias Stone, where the Quidthovice-based railroad company had its tracks laid already. To avoid conflict, the Dzevogurski-Ladies Beach government (sitting in Vaenesston) let this slide.

Now, Quidthovice is trying to 'persuade' the two districts of Kimberley and Murrayville (in red/pink) to join their province. Their current 'parent' (the Dzevogurski province) naturally resists. This time, the Dzevogurski government will fight.

If Kimberley and Murrayville do flip, this will exclave Yadzor.

The districts of Kimberley, Murrayville, Yadzor are mainly cattle ranches, with some fruit (in the mountains) and dairy production. The population is being influeced by both sides.

The question which I'm asking is this: Can two provinces in a federation have a war between themselves, with everybody else staying neutral?

Can you still call it a 'civil war'?

I know that opinion-based questions are frowned upon in this forum, hence this is an optional question: How would this conflict be resolved?

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    $\begingroup$ Whether it is possible or not for "two provinces in a federation have a war between themselves, with everybody else staying neutral" depends on the specific federation, how strongly connected it is, how strong the central power is, etc. Two of the federal states of modern Germany being at war with the rest of Germany staying neutral is not possible. Two of the components of the Holy Roman Empire being at war with the rest of the empire staying neutral was not only possible, it was commonplace. $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 31 '19 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ It's a good question....but for your novel, not for Worldbuilding. It's not only very broad and opinion based, but it's basically your storyline. You could write a trilogy exploring this (set of) question(s). The short answer to your question is: YES. The long answer is: Go write! $\endgroup$ – Cyn says make Monica whole May 31 '19 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ VTC OT:TSB, but also Unclear. What are you asking for? A definition of "civil war?" There are plenty of real-history examples that answer both yes and no. So, while I'm sticking with "too story based" (i.e., we'll help you develop the rules of your world, but it's off-topic to help you write your story), the question is fundamentally unclear because two people, two cities, two states, two regions, two provinces, etc., can all go to war. Why is up to you and calling it a "civil war" is you choice. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 5 '19 at 3:39

It depends

I would say that if the question is purely about semantics, we do not have an internationally accepted definition of civil war. I think that the conflict between two provinces in a federation is not a civil war. Presumably, there is some sort of a federal government, and it's not taking part in it in the situation you describe. Nor is either of the two sides trying to overthrow the federal government.

It can be called 'civil war' in quotes later, if the conflict was especially long or bloody, and the description may stick. Or it may be treated as a big range war.

Most of other parts of your question depend on the strength of the federal government, the acceptable policies in your world. Will other provinces join in the war - depends on what they stand to win by participating and whether that's an acceptable part of their political culture. They may be content to solve some conflicts by proxy, supplying the combating provinces, but not risking their troops. Or they may treat it as a humanitarian catastrophe and declare strict policy of non-intervention in order to reap some political capital from it.

As for the ways to solve it - again, it severely depends on the structure of the federation and the strength of the federal government. It may be a literal intervention by federal troops that stops the silliness. Or, maybe, federal government is severely decentralized and has a huge latency - all other provinces need to summon a temporary Council in order to figure out what to do next. It also depends on the international conditions - what are the neighbors of your country like and what will they do when the shooting starts?

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A civil war is when members of the same country fight against each other for some reason. The people of these provinces presumably think of themselves as part of the same country, and they are fighting, therefore this is a civil war regardless of whether or not some provinces do not fight. There’s a long history of this too: Both Greek and Italian City-states fought each other either directly or through mercenary proxies while still thinking of themselves as part of the same country (for a given value of country).

Where I’d question it is the point of public image and definition. If the government of one province or the other calls it ‘civil unrest that needs to be quelled’ instead of ‘civil war’ then at the time of the conflict there may be confusion over the nature of the conflict, and as history is written by the winners even a brutal fight between two provinces could be massaged into ‘inter-region dispute’ with a careful PR campaign. On the other hand if one region declares itself to be independent from the country (even if the country doesn’t recognise it, like Spain and Catalan), then this stops being a civil war (depending on whose definition of the country you accept). In the world of inter-state politics definition of what is and isn’t is crucial. Did Russia invade Crimea or liberate it’s people? It did both depending on who you ask.

So yeah. Calling it a ‘partial civil war’ is fine, though some governing bodies in your world may disagree.

As for how the conflict is resolved, surely that’s up to you to decide?

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  • $\begingroup$ You might consider the US Civil War, where there was little if any actual fighting in the western states & territories. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 31 '19 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ Solving the conflict: I'm thinking of doing a territory swap: Districts of 'KI' and 'MV' for 'WD' and 'LX'. I plan to exclave 'KI' and 'MV', by creating no man's land controlled by the federal government along the 'MV'-'MF' border. I'll run a road and rail through that land accessing 'ID'. $\endgroup$ – Greg Wochlik Jun 3 '19 at 7:18

There are plenty of historical examples to confirm that such conflicts can exist. Provinces of the Ottoman Empire frequently feuded with each other. And in the US there was the third Pennamite War between Pennsylvania and Connecticut (the first two occurred before the US existed).

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Yes, it is not only possible to have neutral parties in internal conflicts, it has happened historically.

This would probably classified as a Low Intensity Conflicts due to the localized nature and limited scale of fighting. While "Low Intensity" might not seem to be "Not really a war", low intensity refers to the infrequency of fighting. Low intensity actually conflicts have very higher casualty rates, due to the use of poorly trained soldiers, guerrilla tactics, and terrorism.

Some examples of civil low intensity conflicts with neutral parties:

The Troubles - 30 year conflict between Irish nationalists and the United Kingdom over Northern Ireland. While the number of fighters was relatively small, many civilians were killed, even though most citizens of Northern Ireland remained neutral. (Give Ireland back to the Irish)

Sudanese Civil Wars - For most of these wars the Sudanese government participated in "Annual Dry Season Offensives" against the South Sudanese. The rough climate and poor transportation infrastructure of Sudan made it very difficult to hold territory during parts of the year. So almost every year since 1955 The Sudanese Army has invaded the south during the dry season, attempting to take as much land as possible. However, due to the logistical difficulty of holding the land The Sudanese Army retreats every rainy season.

Myanmar Civil War - Since around 1948, for very complex historical reasons, Myanmar has been in constant civil war. The conflict is the world's longest ongoing civil war and shows no signs of stopping. None of the many sides have made significant progress due to not being able to capture highly defensible terrain (mostly mountains and jungle) this has lead to all sides transforming into self-ruling militaristic states

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