Category Archives: Africa

Review of “A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962,” by Alistair Horne

A Savage War of Peace is one of the best books I ever read.

It is the story of three separate wars, all of which concerned the future of the city of Algiers, which is now in Algeria, and used to be in France.

The First War: The Fourth Republic Against the FLN, 1954-1958

The first war is the three-way fight for the future of Algeria between the FLN, the Pied Noir population, and the Fourth Republic. This war, occupying the first half of the book, in many ways resembles the American experience in Iraq.

The FLN was a terrorist organization that was anti-Western, anti-Communist, anti-Liberal, and anti-Semitic, and initially counted in its supporters many Muslim opponents of French rule and a small but dangerous coiterie of deluded western fellow travelers.

The Pied Noir, generally white (but not ethnically French) settlers, composed a minority of the overall Algerian population but the vast majority of its “European” residents. Analogous to the (relatively) educated and (relatively) affluent Sunni community in Iraq, it was situated half-way between the French metropole and the Algerian bled. As beneficiaries of the welfare state, the Pied Noir were politically affiliated with Petain’s collaborationist government and hostile to liberal democracy.

The Fourth Republic, the democratic French state, inherited from its pre-war predecessors a dicey situation in Algeria. The millet system, inherited from the Ottoman Empire upon France’s conquest of Algeria in 1830, let the initial Muslim community live under Sharia Law while the European community lived under French law, voted in French elections, and so on. The increasing power of the French state, however, made this situation decidedly unequalal. The Fourth Republic’s mission was to essentially reestablish the status quo before the rise of the French state, to allow the Pied Noir to be full citizens of the Republic while also allowing the Algerians to effectively government themselves.

Each of these three factions had specific challenges. The FLN, paranoid, fratricidalal, uneducated, and given to a degree of sexualized hyperviolence that would make al Qaeda in Iraq blush. The Pied Noir, demographically the weakest faction, were (barely) an over-class in Algeria while suffering the lowest living standards of any group of French citizens. The Fourth Republic, established after Petain’s collaborationist military dictatorship, attempted to avoid a return to tyranny by creating a weak executive.

The first four years of the war would be extremely familiar to all Americans, because of the analogous first four years of the Iraq War (2003-2007). The FLN began a campaign of murderous terrorism while (in the early days) enjoying the tolerance of the local population. Counter-insurgency operations included torture, which worked in some cases and not in others, but alienated those French intellectuals who believe that war is a gentleman’s pursuit. The Pied Noir often exasperated their military protectors through their fear of what any political change might entail. The organized combatants — the FLN and the Fourth Republic — both experienced stress as the the FLN’s military capacity was destroyed in proportion to the Fourth Republic’s political standing.

In the United States, a stable constitutional liberal republic, what happened next was the following: our party system allowed millions to funnel their frustration in a candidate of “hope” and “change” who, of course, changed nothing. Simultaneously, in Iraq, the Sunni minority accepted the lost of their political hegemony while securing for itself security and self-government. The military policy of the American government was continued, and the war is perhaps as “won” as any counter-insurgency operation can be. With body-count now sufficiently low, the issue simply fades away as other issues of the day (the economy, jobs, cultureal issues) dominates politics in both the United States and Iraq.

France, unlike the United States, was not stable. Remember that the German occupation was made possible only the collaboration of Marshall Petain, the war hero who had previously saved France from German in World War I.France had the weakest resistance of all “occupied” countries, and was the most energetic in its economic collaboration with Germany. This led to two disastrous consequences for France

  1. The natural modernization of the political culture of Algeria was profoundly harmed. The War experience both artificially accelerated expectations among Muslims for their political ascendancy while also teaching the Pied Noir that their political stresses were the result of democracy, which might not always be the French form of government
  2. The “Vichy” and “Free” French regimes were both led by military men, which led to a belief that neither civilian leaders nor higher officers should be entrusted with the war effort. It was up to each officer to decide what is “right.

While the FLN collapsed on schedule, France would not be so lucky.

In France, unlike America, democracy itself collapsed.

The Fourth Republic’s plans of abolishing Sharia and integrating the Muslim population into Algeria ran into violent opposition from the Pied Noir, who feared the loss of their ability to control Algeria at some future date to be more frightful than the barely standing FLN enemy. The military, angered by actions by the Fourth Republic that in retrospect only trivially effected the war effort (granting independence to Morocco and Tunisia, etc.) had taken to disobeying orders. And in the background, refusing to condemn violence as a method of seizing power within France, stood the man who would end democracy in the country: Charles DeGaulle.

The military, egged on the Pied Noir, began seizing government offices and replacing Governors with its own appointment. As the machine of the coup churned, DeGaulle made it clear his support was contingent on the end of the Republic and the granting, to him, of dictatoral powers. The French experiment in democracy ended in 1958, with the military and Pied Noir factions successfully ending the Fourth Republic which had slowed down the efficiency of their victory over the FLN, and the enthronement of DeGaulle. DeGaulle prompted gave the French Assembly a “Vacation” as he ruled by decree for months on end.

The Second War: DeGaulle Against the Pied Noir, 1958-1962

There is no mystery about DeGaulle’s personality, aims, or ruling style. Anyone familiar with Chiang Kaishek or Mao Zedong instantly recognizes the type. DeGaulle’s method of management was “working towards the chairman,” in which he vaguely states operational objectives and allowed underlings to carrry them out. DeGaulle identified himself with the nation though not with any specific ideology, and so viewed personal enemies as enemies of the state. Also like Chiang and Mao DeGaulle was a profoundly cold man, whether concerned with the fate of individuals or groups.

As DeGaulle identified himself with France, his two greatest strategic interests were (a) preventing Germany from emerging as a competitor as (b) liquidating any remaining supporters of Marshall Petain. The first led him to support close economic integration with Germany. The instrument of that campaign (barely mentioned in A Savage War of Peace) are the institutions that would eventually form the European Union. The second led him on a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Pied Noir population. The instrument of that campaign were the scattered and defeated remnants of the FLN, who so many had died in vain to defeat.

Just as Chiang and Mao coolly maneuvered others into liquidating their enemies, DeGaulle began setting the stage for the resurrection of the FLN and the ethnic cleansing of the Pied Noir. DeGaulle’s efforts occurred in several stages

1. Ceasing offensive operations against FLN remnants
2. Turning in leaders of the Algerian Awakening to the FLN
3. De Facto Recognizing the FLN as the sole legitimate representative of the Algerian people
4. Imposing a “unilateral truce” on French forces
5. Directing French negotiators not to hold out for guarantees of the safety of the Pied Noir
6. Instructing the French army not to intervene even when Pied Noir are murdered before their eyes
7. Disarming Pied Noir and Pied Noir allies to facilitate FLN massacres

During this DeGaulle responded to protest by having tanks bombard civilian buildings at close range, ban opposition political groups, ban demonstrations, use torture against French citizens, and all other techniques which today we would associate with Gadafi’s Libya.

The Third War: The OAS Against French Algeria, 1960-1962

Of course, the people who had overthrown the Fourth Republic and installed ad DeGaulle were shocked and outraged by his policies (but not, it is important to remember, his abolition of democracy). After peaceful protests, boycotts, and even military coups did not work, elements of the French military and the Pied Noir population formed the OAS (Secret Army Organization), which had both a primary and a fall-back goal

The primary goal was to attempt to prevent the DeGaulle/FLN victory by establishing itself as a terrorist organization along FLN lines, and establish itself as a “third force” in the reality of any peace process. The hope here was to force the hand of the French government.

Once the primary goal was seen to fail, terrorism as such was abandoned as tactic. Dictatorships such as DeGaulle’s France (or Franco’s Spain, or Chiang’s Taiwan) are of course immune to terrorism as a tactic. Therefore, the OAS moved onto splitting DeGaulle and the FLN by manipulating events to attempt to force a FLN-OAS united front.

The FLN, composed largely of violent and uneducated hicks, did not have the manpower to actually run a government. They were not more adept to governing a modern Algeria than, say, the Taliban could effectively govern Alabama. Some of the FLN (particularly leaders of other factions which had been absorbed early by the FLN) were aware of this, and exacerbating this situation could possibly lead to a cold detente. The OAS thus began systematically executing all non-Pied Noir government functionaries. In one outrage (intended both to highlight their destruction of the machinery of government while also emphasizing their basically pragmatic purpose), they executed 2 white postmen, 2 Muslim postmen, and 1 Jewish postman in one night.

DeGaulle responded by strengthening the position of the least educated factions of the FLN, to close this last attempt to the Pied Noir to save themselves. Eventually, in 1962, DeGaulle won the war, as the Pied Noir were scattered and the last internal threat to his rule.

The ethnic cleansing of an entire people would buy DeGaulle seven more years in power. A trade that Mao, Chiang, or Gadafi would have accepted as eagerly as did DeGaulle.

In Retrospect

A Savage War of Peace is a history of tragedies and ironies.

DeGaulle. DeGaulle ended democracy in France, and brutally suppressed those who fought for their rights and livelihoods. Vain, arrogant, and machiavellian, he successfully oversaw the ethnic cleansing of a community he viewed as antagonistic to his political future. But his self-confidence was stronger than his paranoid, so like Chiang (but not Mao) he laid the groundwork for the return of democracy. Just as Chiang’s “White Terror” eventually gave way to free & fair elections in Taiwan, DeGaulle allowed himself to be defeated by the vote (and old age) in 1969. At the same time, DeGaulle’s fear of a German revival lead him to energetically push forward the multilateralal institutions that now form the European Union.

The Communists. The dog that never barked was the Communists. Concerned with the poor Pied Noir early in the war, the French Communist Party ended up having the most reasonable policies of all factions during the war against the FLN. Later, after DeGaulle’s coup, the Communists continued to be a force of order as they accurately saw DeGaulle simultaneously alienated the United States while constraining Germany. In French, as in Chinese, history, pro-Moscow communists tend to be sympathetic characters.

General Salan. The most interesting human in the entire book is General Raoul Salan, Légion d’honneur (Knight, Officer,Commander, Grand Officer, Grand Cross), Médaille militaire, Croix de guerre, Croix de guerre, Croix de guerre des Théatres d’Opérations Exterieures, Croix de la Valeur Militaire, Médaille Interalliée de la Victoire, Médaille Commémorative de la Grande Guerre, Distinguished Service Cross (US), Commander of the Order of British Empire (CBE) (UK), and the only person to lead operations in all three phases of the war.

  • Salan was an early leader of the French military in its counter-insurgency against the FLN, and was nearly assassinated by a bazooka by enraged Pied Noirs.
  • In the second war, Salan organized resistance to DeGaulle’s authoritarian government and attempted to organize a second military coup.
  • In the third war, Salan was a leader in the OAS and ordered the general mobilization of the Pied Noir population, and the extermination of the Muslim intellectuals.

Given the history of French military leaders, one imagines if he had ever gained executive power he would have been as bad as Petain or DeGaulle. As it was, however, he strikes the reader as a romantic figure, fighting for a lost cause against impossible odds.

Context. If most Americans are aware of the Algerian War at all, they know it from The Battle of Algiers. But that movie, showing a terrorist campaign by the FLN and its defeat, only accurately captures the first of the three wars described in A Savage War of Peace. DeGaulle’s coup and the OAS campaign are the most important phases of the “war,” but all occur after the end of the film.

A Savage War of Peace is a disturbing book, and a must read for anyone who cares about history, democracy, or the Arab world.

The Eaten and the Enslaved

Who will survive? And what will be left of them?

Associated Press:

Pygmy activists from Congo have demanded the United Nations set up a tribunal to try government and rebel fighters accused of slaughtering and eating Pygmies who are caught in the country’s civil war.

Army, rebel and tribal fighters – some believing the Pygmies are less than human or that eating the flesh would give them magic power – have been pursuing the Pygmies in the dense jungles, killing them and eating their flesh, the activists said at a news conference yesterday.

There have been reports of markets for Pygmy flesh, the representatives alleged.

“In living memory, we have seen cruelty, massacres, genocide, but we have never seen human beings hunted and eaten literally as though they were game animals, as has recently happened,” said Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of the Mbuti Pygmies in Congo.


The other part of the argument is that all observed pygmy populations have a short life expectancy. Indeed, this, according to Dr Migliano’s hypothesis, is the crucial evolutionary pressure. Of the six groups of pygmies for whom data exist, two have a life expectancy of 24 years and the other four about 16 years.


Deep in the jungles of northern Congo, it’s still easy to find slave owners. Davila Djemba, the teenage niece of the country’s minister of forestry, is eager to show off some of the 100 Pygmies her family owns.

She laughs and chatters as she makes her way along a footpath toward her family’s estate in this growing logging village. She’s eager to play hostess, since she doesn’t get many foreign visitors.

Djemba walks past typical scenes of African peasant life. But the bucolic setting masks an ugly truth, one that surfaces as Djemba considers how to entertain her guest that night. As she nears her family’s home, surrounded by half a dozen Pygmy huts, Djemba gets an idea. “We can make them sing and dance for you, if you want,” she offers.

(Hat-tip to Half-Sigma.)

From Iraq to Sudan

Enterprise Resilience Management Blog, written by Stephen DeAnglis and edited by Bradd Hayes, links to a recent article in The Economist thatlooks forward to New Sudan. Both The Economist and the ERMB articles are worth reading, but I want to use this opportunity to extend my comparison of Palestine to Iraq.

Another Trifurcation?

Within a decade of 9/11, the world may see the division of the Palestinian territories into Fatah and Hamas states, the division of Iraq into Shia, Kurdish, and Sunni Arab regions, and the division of Sudan into “New Sudan” in the south, Darfur in the west, and a rump Khartoum government in the north.

This is exactly what is needed. 9/11 was a sympton of a malfunctioning Sunni Arab civilization combined with the Sunni Arab’s world to divert feedback from itself onto others. Our responses to 9/11 have served to redirect that feedback back to the source, destabilizing a Sunni Arab system already out of kilter instead of accepting a “stability” which generates violence for us.

That’s a good thing.

Update: Tom adds his thoughts.

A New Middle East, Part IV: Islam is the Answer

The day is won. Israel has succeeded in its generational struggle with Arab National-Secularism.

Yet now the medium-term interests of the United States and the Jewish State diverge. The United States, the world’s leader, desires a “rule-set reset” across the Middle East, replacing the divded and confused Arab regimes with something sustainable. Yet such division and confusion is precisely in Israel’s interests, because weak and disoriented enemies cannot threaten her. In particularly, the map of Israel’s near-abroad that America must strive for will naturally spook our allies in Jerusalem.

A Levant Worth Creating: Blue = Globalized States, Yellow = Traditional States, Purple = Muslim Brotherhood States

American actions not in Israel’s preferred direction occurred soon after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and can be seen by comparing the recommendations of the seminal 1996 paper, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm

King Hussein may have ideas for Israel in bringing its Lebanon problem under control. The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf, Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet’s family, the direct descendants of which — and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows — is King Hussein.

with what actually happened

  • Attempted implementation of an indigenous, secular, Shia government
  • Actual implementation of an indigenous, religious, Shia government

Israel desired a restored Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq to calm the Middle East, as soon as possible. The United States desired a Shia Iraq to explode the Middle East, as soon as possible.

Such a disagreement extends beyond the failing state of Iraq to Israel’s immediate neighborhood. With the internal remnants of Arab National-Secularism, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Fatah patronage machine, in shambles, Israel’s best medium-term future was a globalized Lebanon and weak (and easily blackmailed) Egyptian and Syrian regimes. Yet America’s goal is continuing the 3/20 Revolution wish must include replacing the Arab National-Secularist governments of Egypt and Syria with the Muslim Brothers. The Global War on Terrorism requires replacing dysfunctional worldly rule with Islamic Law.

Sharia’s modernizing track record in the Middle East is positive, National-Secularism’s is negative. Don’t believe it? Compare the religiosity of Egyptians and Iranians. Compare the strength of Egypt and Iranians.

In a recent post, Tom Barnett wrote:

And yes, forcing us all to live together in connectedness (known today by the moniker of globalization) will force a tremendous amount of change on both those who welcome it (by all indications, the bulk of the populations throughout the Gap) and those who revile it (a small minority who will fight these changes to the very end, and yes, for them, the conflict will be “genocidal” in that they will not survive it).

In that conflict process, which I believe is both inevitable and good, it will be harder before it gets easier, but putting off the hard part only ensures greater conflict and death totals down the line, because if integration isn’t achieved, colonial mercantlist-style economic transaction patterns will predominate, as will local authoritarianism and failed states, and the death totals associated with those pathways will (as they do today) dwarf the death totals of integrating conflicts (and if you don’t believe that, then you are woefully ignorant of what’s happening every day in Africa right now).

The challenge before us is not one of deciding “yes” or “no” to this historical process. That train left the station a generation ago when the East decided to join the global economy.

The only question that remains is how we rise to this challenge. How we get smarter about how we wage both war and peace.

To pretend that the choice lies between war and peace is self-delusional, just like pretending we must choose between globalization-the-integration-process and globalization-the-disintegrating/reformatting-process. Life is simply not that binary.

Israel, being only a state, is too weak to influence systems and instead must play for time, merely surviving into her surroundings are magically improved. But America is a system-level power, and America has the power to change the nature of Israel’s surroundings.

It is by bringing 3/20 to Cairo and Damascus that we can truly prevent another 9/11. Redirect the violent feedback of the National-Secularists to the National-Secularists. Bring the rage of crooked Arab economies to crooked Arab states. Shrink the Gap by destroying-in-detail the National-Secularism that helped expand it.

A New Middle East, a tdaxp series
A New Middle East 1: Our Vanquished Enemies
A New Middle East 2: Iran
A New Middle East 3: Israel
A New Middle East 4: Islam is the Answer

Redefining the Gap 1, Prologue

Note: This is a selection from Redefining the Gap, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06


Attempts to find empirical proof for Barnett’s Core-Gap hypothesis have increases since I first attempted operationalizing the gap. Coming Anarchy has looked at Euro-Canadian troop deployments and FP‘s failed state index, ZenPundit ponders metrics, Curtis looks at ways to skin the Gap, and Sean Meade, Tom Barnett’s blogger-in-chief, is paying attention.

Now I am prepared to release my own results:

We are at War with Africa and Islam

Actually, that may have been a bit alarmist. This is a little less so:

We are at War for Africa and Islam

Using methods that will be discussed in future posts, I compared Tom Barnett’s Core-Gap dichotomy, and Old-Core-New-Core-Gap trichotomy, with other measures of ares both settled and frontier. Specifically, I looked at every state’s Brutality of Life, Isolation of Life, Nastiness of Life, Poverty of Life, Shortness of Life

The two best divisions were Barnett’s three-way Old Core-New Core-Gap division, and a simplistic definition of the Gap to include only African and Muslim nations. The Old-New-Gap view of the world meshed well with Poverty and Solitude. For everything else, Afro-Islam is a better definition of the “Gap.”

Intrigued? Stay tuned — or comment!

Redefining the Gap, a tdaxp series:
Redefining the Gap 1. Prologue
Redefining the Gap 2. Summary
Redefining the Gap 3. Introduction to Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 4. First Geopolitical Theories
Redefining the Gap 5. The North and the South
Redefining the Gap 6. Critical Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 7. The Pentagon’s New Map
Redefining the Gap 8. The Research Design
Redefining the Gap 9. Methods and Operationalizations
Redefining the Gap 10. Limitations and Conclusion
Redefining the Gap 11. Results
Redefining the Gap 12. Bibliography
Redefining the Gap 13. Appendix: Computer Code
Redefining the Gap 14. Appendix: National Codes

Battle of Algiers’ Stages of 4GW

From a anti-French FLN recruiter to a new member, in The Battle of Algiers:

First, we need to get organized
and secure our hideouts
then we can take action.

The organization’s getting stronger,
but there are still too many drunks, whores, and junkies.
People who talk too much.
People ready to sell us out.

We must win them over or eliminate them.
We must clean house first — organize the country.
Only then we can take on our real enemy.
You understand, Ali?

The first paragraph

  • Get Organized
  • Secure Hideouts
  • Take Action

Is close to Mao’s 3 Stages of 4GW

Organize, Contest, Conquer, then Win

However, FLN has is an innovator. FLN is different from the 4GW opponents America encountered. Specifically, the anti-French National Liberation front was much more Lenninist. Traditional guerilla warriors try to postpone killing countrymen — Mao, Ho, Ortega and others “cleansed” their movements last. While none of these victors shied away from killing their countrymen, they did not have the focus on purity that FLN had.

Given this difference, it is a surprise FLN won at all. The civil war FLN fought against MNA reminds one more of the Chinese Nationalist than their insurgent opponents. It appears that FLN was an even weaker opponent than the Vietnamese Communists. FLN probably would not have won if it were not for Charles DeGaulle, a man with a history of panicky foreign policy.

The lessons?

  • Though Fourth Generation Wars are similar, every opponent is different
  • Internal Weakness can lead to a lost 4GW, even against a weak opponent

Update: John Robb compares the Battle of Algiers to 7 / 7.

A Catastrophic Failure

The attacks of September 11th,” by Dan, tdaxp, 24 March 2005,

US ‘will risk’ Middle East reforms,” Aljazeera, 13 April 2005, (from Liberals Against Terrorism).

Me, last month:

The attacks of September 11th showed that the United States is very “close” to the Middle East — in some ways closer than Europe. As far as America is concerned the middle east has “blown up” — we experienced a catastrophic failure of our Greater Middle East foreign policy. (The U.S. pre-9/11 policy was heavily influenced by Atlanticism and European-style Realism, but I disgress.)

American Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Doha, J Scott Carpenter, yesterday:

He said the US policy was not to interfere in every detail of the democratic process, but only help the pro-reform forces in the region. Referring to the Arab Human Development Report, he spoke about three possible scenarios – the worst being maintaining the status quo and the best being people reforming themselves.

Now if only we encourage the Muslim Brothers to run

“At the task force meetings of this forum, many raised the question whether America is prepared to accept the consequences of democracy in the region.

“The answer is yes,” he said, indicating the possibility of Islamist forces coming to power in Arab countries through democratic elections.

“We didn’t interfere in the election results in Iraq. The person who has now been elected president is an Islamist,” Scott said in reply to a query from the audience about the US stance towards groups such as Hamas and Hizb Allah.

Woot. Apparently tdaxp is conducting a shadow foreign policy. This blog is going great!