The Battlefield: Algeria, 1988-2002

Overview

The violence that has ravaged Algeria has often defied explanation. Regularly invoked in debates about political Islam, transitions to democracy, globalization, and the right of humanitarian interference, Algeria?s tragedy has been reduced to a clash of stereotypes: Islamists vs. a secular state, terrorists vs. innocent civilians, or generals vs. a defenseless society. The prevalence of such simplistic representations has disabled public opinion inside as well as outside the ...

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Overview

The violence that has ravaged Algeria has often defied explanation. Regularly invoked in debates about political Islam, transitions to democracy, globalization, and the right of humanitarian interference, Algeria’s tragedy has been reduced to a clash of stereotypes: Islamists vs. a secular state, terrorists vs. innocent civilians, or generals vs. a defenseless society. The prevalence of such simplistic representations has disabled public opinion inside as well as outside the country and contributed to the intractability of the conflict.

This collection of essays offers a radical corrective to Western misconceptions. Rejecting the usual tautological approaches of inherent, predetermined conflict, Hugh Roberts explores the outlook and evolution of the various internal forces as they emerged – the Islamists, the Berberists, the factions within the army, and the regime in general – and he looks at external interests and actors. He explains their strategies and the maneuvers in which they have engaged. The resulting analyses illuminate the startling dynamics of the conflict and the real issues at stake, and identify the implications not only for Algeria but also for this crucial region.

Informed by a deep knowledge of Algeria and Algerian history, these accessible essays guide the reader through the extraordinary politics of the drama in all its complexity.

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Editorial Reviews

Jean Leca
“Provocative, profoundly committed and impeccably documented. [The Battlefield] enlightens the obscurity of Algerian politics and questions the conventional wisdom of intellectuals. It is not only a collection of articles but a book all of its own, worth serious reflection for years to come.”
Roger Owen
“No other European scholar has followed the twists and turns of Algerian politics with such tenacity, sympathy and understanding.”
Ronald E. Neumann
“I found The Battlefield deeply knowledgeable, clearly written and always thought provoking. Of many writers on Algerian contemporary affairs I particularly value Hugh Roberts' unremitting effort to site Algerian problems in an Algerian context, thus avoiding the stereotypes and incorrect analogies that so clutter much writing on this subject ... an excellent and deeply rewarding book for anyone who wants to try to penetrate the often obscure politics of this troubled and important country.”
From the Publisher
“Provocative, profoundly committed and impeccably documented. [The Battlefield] enlightens the obscurity of Algerian politics and questions the conventional wisdom of intellectuals. It is not only a collection of articles but a book all of its own, worth serious reflection for years to come.”—Jean Leca, Professor at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques

“No other European scholar has followed the twists and turns of Algerian politics with such tenacity, sympathy and understanding.”—Roger Owen, A. J. Meyer Professor of Middle East History at Harvard

“I found The Battlefield deeply knowledgeable, clearly written and always thought provoking. Of many writers on Algerian contemporary affairs I particularly value Hugh Roberts’ unremitting effort to site Algerian problems in an Algerian context, thus avoiding the stereotypes and incorrect analogies that so clutter much writing on this subject ... an excellent and deeply rewarding book for anyone who wants to try to penetrate the often obscure politics of this troubled and important country.”—Ronald E. Neumann, US Ambassador to Bahrain, Ambassador to Algeria 1994-1997

Foreign Affairs
A collection of 22 articles of varying length and written at different times between 1988 and 2002 (without later revision) may sound like a miscellany. Not so. This study of Algeria offers thematic unity, but it is detailed and dense. Read first the afterword, which makes it easier to follow the intricacies of Roberts' chronological coverage. Among his major points: The army rules. The rise of the Islamic Salvation Front (known by its French acronym, FIS) was greatly facilitated by the authorities in the late 1980s. FIS, if it had been allowed to take office after its overwhelming December 1991 electoral victory, would not have created an Islamic state because there was too much pluralism in Algerian politics to allow it; all forces, however, can be manipulated by the army authorities. Houari Boumedienne's rule (1965-78), for all its faults, did provide a unifying nationalist mission — one that is now lost. And the renunciation of state socialism has been a political setback, leaving in its wake a regime dominated by the military and beholden to France and the West. Roberts, a leading specialist, challenges prevailing interpretations of Algeria as based on inappropriate outside models. He offers, instead, a constructed-from-within elaboration of Algerian political dynamics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859846841
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 3/1/2003
  • Pages: 408
  • Sales rank: 1,460,199
  • Product dimensions: 6.39 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Hugh Roberts is a Senior Research Fellow of the Development Studies Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the Secretary of the Society for Algerian Studies and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of North African Studies. He lives in London and Cairo.

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Table of Contents

List of Tables
Preface
Acknowledgements
Abbreviations
Glossary
Maps
Pt. I Algeria in crisis 1
1 The embattled Arians of Algiers: radical Islamism and the dilemma of Algerian nationalism 3
2 The FLN: French conceptions, Algerian realities 34
3 Algerian Islamism and the Gulf crisis 63
4 Doctrinaire economics and political opportunism in the strategy of Algerian Islamism 82
5 The Algerian state and the challenge of democracy 105
Pt. II The descent into violence 125
6 The armed rebellion and the continuation of politics 127
7 Historical and unhistorical approaches to the problem of identity in Algeria 138
8 Algeria between Zeroual and civil war 151
9 Algeria's ruinous impasse and the honourable way out 160
Pt. III Rebuilding on sand 183
10 A controversial constitution 185
11 Algeria's contested elections 191
12 The struggle for constitutional rule in Algeria 200
Pt. IV Under Western eyes 213
13 Third World, last rites 215
14 The international gallery and the extravasation of factional conflict in Algeria 219
15 Algeria's veiled drama 250
Pt. V Change without progress 261
16 Problems of the polity 263
17 The labours of Bouteflika 271
18 Riots without end? 287
19 The Kabyle cockpit 292
Pt. VI Algeria and Europe 303
20 France and the lost honour of Algeria's army 305
21 Dancing in the dark: Europe and the Algerian drama 317
Afterword: Correcting the aim 347
Political chronology 367
Bibliography 375
Index 389
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