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And another thing

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April 10, 2002

Being careful what you ask for Oh yeah, and one more bit from Jim Henley. Why isn’t this guy more widely recognized as one of the “blogiverse’s” stars? Okay, enough embarrassing praise, just read the damn piece.
It does matter, however some deny it, how you win your independence. Algeria prevailed over France by adopting a Fanonist strategy. Their enthusiast, Jean-Paul Sartre famously said that “to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time: there remain a dead man, and a free man; the survivor, for the first time, feels a national soil under his foot.”

Things have worked out real well for independent Algeria. It’s been suffering a vicious civil war between Islamist radicals and the aging socialist revolutionaries Sartre and Fanon so celebrated since the Algerian Army nullified the election of 1992. The Islamist parties turned, of course, to terrorism. The government to brutal counterinsurgency. But one of the things that hamstrung the government in the “hearts and minds” battle was its own genesis. Algeria was birthed in terrorism. Its founding myth necessarily reified that “dead man and free man” stuff. Its civic education stressed the rightness of terroristic violence in the nation’s struggle for “freedom.”

And their civics lessons bit them in the ass. Because while the religious radicals may have despised the Old Guard, they also took it as their model. And the Old Guard had no moral case to make over the heads of the terrorists to their people.

Palestinians who want the West Bank and Gaza for some reason other than the chance to engage in factional bloodletting unmolested should think about the Algerian example long and hard.

[12:13 AM]
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Comments on Being careful what you ask for:

Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2002, 02:40 PM:

"Palestinians who want the West Bank and Gaza for some reason other than the chance to engage in factional bloodletting unmolested" are few and far between. Many of them have been killed off by their fellow Palestinians as "collaborators" and the rest are probably well-cowed by now.aaAnd some people want Israel to live in peace with a neighbor state built like that. Uh-huh.

Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2002, 02:41 PM:

I'm woefully ignorant on the history of Israel, so maybe the bits and bobs I have gleaned over the years now mislead me, but it struck me that the well-taken lesson of Algeria might also extend back onto some of the origins and foundation myths of Israel itself, and to the extent that it does, account for one reason why the conflict between Israel and Palestine runs so profoundly poisoned.aaI could swear that a number of the great eminences grises of the Israel of my childhood had engaged in terrorism as young men, is I guess the point I'm dragging up.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2002, 04:16 PM:

I was thinking much the same thing as Ulrika was, only I was thinking about specific googleable search phrases, like "Menachem Begin" and "Irgun" and "Stern Gang" and "Deir Yassin".

Neel ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2002, 04:17 PM:

Jonathan Chait of the extremely hawkish The New Republic sees pretty much exactly the same choice that Jim Henley does. Seeaahttp://www.thenewrepublic.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020415&s=trb041502aaSomething that has helped me think through the issues is to compare the Palestinian/Israeli conflict with the Sri Lankan civil war. I'll have to write an article about that some time soon.

Jason Henderson ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2002, 05:15 PM:

Actually, this reminds me of the early US, too-- because the US can teach us lessons in how to pack and tamp that revolutionary urge. General Washington led a violent and trudging revolution against the King, and knew very well that the new regime in America would contain the same citizens who lived through the revolution. These citizens were people who had actually tested the thesis that every now and then you kill the governers; the Declaration said so. So Washington signalled decisively that revolution was over and would not rise again, crushing counter-revolutions, uprisings from disenfranchised farmers in Western Pennsylvania and other similar movements. Every one of those uprisings was made up of people who shared many of the grievances over which Washington had led the revolution against the Crown-- but the need for civic violence could not go on forever and had to be punished severely. Even today, certain tattered remains of the Revolution stick to us, mysteriously and compulsively, from our frothing popular support of gun rights and public executions to our marginalized cousins in the hills, the men of the militia movement who characterize themselves as Patriots. But those are vestigial bulbs of old passion-- we haven't had constant battle for one reason only: President Washington, who signalled the death of Revolution in America with a swift, terrible sword.

Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2002, 06:16 PM:

I am busy processing the irony of the assassination of Folke Bernadotte. Thanksato Avram for the additional searchable terms.