In comments at Washington Note, I promised my two cents' worth re Imminent vs. Incipient. And you know what happened. I got sidetracked into trenchant commentary, but never really delivered the goods. Well, here it is:
To me, disregarding OED and other dictionary denotations, imminent connotes an event that will burst forth suddenly, e.g., imminent collapse of Russian Communism, imminent military action in Iran. Incipient, on the other hand, sounds like a process that has a creeping gradualism to it, incipient erosion of civil liberties, that sort of thing.
Getting back to Scowcroft, then, I'd say that part of his point is that civil war in Iraq is not to be viewed as a possible event that will burst forth with shock and awe, but as an evolution that has its beginnings in today's insurgency. (Hope I'm not putting words in your mouth, Brent.) If I'm close to correct, it does make a difference which word is used. I'm not sure about the relative urgencies conveyed by these terms. Perhaps the point is that it's too late to head off an incipient civil war; we should bow to the inevitable. And perhaps I'm FOS.