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KPBS Midday Edition

New book looks at root causes of civil unrest

Supporters of former President Donald Trump protest as U.S. Capitol Police officers shoot tear gas during the assault on the Capitol Jan. 6.
Jose Luis Magana AP
Supporters of former President Donald Trump protest as U.S. Capitol Police officers shoot tear gas during the assault on the Capitol Jan. 6.

One year ago Thursday, insurrectionists swarmed the U.S. Capitol, shocking the nation and leaving many wondering how robust our democracy really is. A new book looks at the conditions that lead to civil war in countries throughout the world and searches for answers on how to avoid them.

Barbara Walter, the author of "How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them," joined Midday Edition on the 1-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, to talk about the book, including what characteristics the United States of today shares with countries that have had civil wars.

Walter says two major factors are common in the lead up to civil wars. The first comes from a fraying of democracy in the country. The other is "whether a country's politics devolve into racial, ethnic or religious politics," she said.

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Barbara Walter, author of the book "How Civil Wars Start and How To Stop Them"
Debora Cartwright
Barbara Walter, author of the book "How Civil Wars Start and How To Stop Them"

"The groups that tend to start civil wars are the groups that were once politically dominant, and have either lost power, or are in the process of losing power," Walters said.

Walters, who is also a UC San Diego political science professor, talked about how racism and the fear of changing racial demographics in the nation have been feeding dissent.

"People don't want war, but they will turn to violence when they lose hope in the existing system. And here in the United States, I do think the subset of the white population, that is deeply threatened by changing demographics, has come to realize that democracy no longer works for them," Walter said.

"How Civil Wars Start: : And How to Stop Them" will be released Tuesday, January 11.