33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Leçons sadly not learned,
This review is from: A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
I am somewhat of a fan of Alastair Horne's, having come to him via his trilogy of books on Franco-German conflicts, and I went looking in Amazon to see if there was anything new from him. And I came across this book, whose purchase many years ago was prompted by the desire to know more about the world of Freddie Forsyth's outstanding thriller "The day of the Jackal". Seeing it again on the Amazon website reminded me as to how relevant it is to the modern story of the US and Iraq. Of course, there are substantial differences; the US is not Iraq's colonial power and the US most certainly does not regard the place as part of the USA, the way the French did Algeria. And because of the lack of a US equivalent of "pieds noirs" (French settlers in Algeria), no matter how badly George Bush messes up, no US paratroop regiment is going to mutiny, try to assassinate him and bring the US to the brink of civil war.
However, the similarities are scary - the reliance on pure military power to win, the use of tactics (particularly in the battle of Algiers) that alienated the locals and effectively made them into allies of the FLN rebels or at least tolerant of them, and the widespread use of torture (a subject that touches raw nerves in France to this day). As with Iraq, the FLN didn't confront the French military head-on, but relied on ambush and, more particularly, on intimidating and murdering local allies of the French, policemen, local officials and the like. There were also French near-equivalents of "Mission Accomplished", even as the war was being lost where it desperately needed to be won - in the hearts and minds of Algerians themselves.
As I write this, former French soccer captain Zinédine Zidane is in Algeria, being feted as a hero. He is the son of harkis, the Algerians who fought on the French side and who had to leave Algeria or face severely curtailed life expectancies. Time has finally healed the wounds. One hopes it will be so with Iraq. One wishes that the Bush Administration had read this highly perceptive book before launching its ill-considered venture - and that it had had the honesty and wisdom to see the lessons therein.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 15, 2009, 3:49:12 PM PDT
Did you actually say a single thing about the book in this review??
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 19, 2009, 12:55:29 PM PDT
Hmm, try reading it again, Earnan, and pay attention this time :-)
Posted on Jul 30, 2014, 11:00:22 PM PDT
Zidane is not the son of an Harki. He has strongly denied this.
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