Algeria’s Struggle Against Terrorism, by the U.S. Congress
This book is a short work of about 50 pages that provides the text of a Congressional hearing in 2005 on Algeria and it’s titular struggle against terrorism that resulted from a military coup that overturned an election in the early 1990’s won by an Islamist group that led to a civil war that killed more than a hundred thousand Algerians. The winding down of this civil war and the slow return of Algeria to more democratic norms is the context of this particular hearing, which demonstrates just how clueless many American congressmen are when it comes to matters of foreign affairs. One particularly clueless member of congress opines that Algeria failed by not seeking the involvement of responsible and moderate Islamists, inventing imaginary characters of reasonable people that can be dealt with. The fact that the whole discussion in Congress has an air of unreality given the assumptions that democratic political institutions are an end in themselves and not merely a means to an end of providing for the well-being of the people within a country, some of whom have political ideals for their country that are not worth respecting or putting into practice, suggests that there are some serious difficulties.
While most of this particular work is not very interesting, there are at least some people who are able to point out that situations like the failed election in 1992 in Algeria was a case of one person, one vote, one time, where the popular election of Islamists would have quite inevitably led to a situation where minority rights would be destroyed by a totalitarian theocratic establishment of some sort. This particular work consists of three different parts, statements by various people called to be witnesses before the Committee on International Relations in the Congress, statements prepared in advance that were entered into the proceedings, as well as appendices which include responses to the questions of members of the committee. Ultimately, as can be seen by an understanding of contemporary Algerian politics, the struggle for representative democracy is still present in Algeria and republican norms remain fragile, and the political culture of the country, and indeed much of the Arab world, remains problematic. Not much has changed in the last fifteen years. That, of course, remains a tragedy, one of many in the region, but an aspect of reality that has to be dealt with, even as our own republic remains in a state of crisis lacking in legitimacy, something that might have tempered the self-righteousness of the proceedings, one would hope.