cover image Algeria: The Next Fundamentalist State?

Algeria: The Next Fundamentalist State?

Graham E. Fuller, Arroyo Center, Nichols / Seloc. RAND Corporation, $15 (124pp) ISBN 978-0-8330-2387-2

Americans aren't terribly interested in Algeria. It's a former French colony and American nationals have not been the objects of violence there. But we should be. Vietnam was an uninteresting former French colony until 1954, and the U.S. has very real interests in the Middle East. Lay readers interested in contemporary Algeria have been largely out of luck, as most available books are out-of-date, unreadable or excruciatingly expensive. Fuller's report (prepared for the U.S. Navy) is none of these. In clear prose, he details the history of Algeria's colonial struggle, the emergence of the National Liberation Front (FLN) and of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). Like other Islamist organizations, the FIS has grown in power through grassroots social programs and pulpit propaganda, finally winning a plurality in the parliamentary elections of 1991. But those elections were annulled in January 1992 by a military junta that took over the government, and the FIS and more radical Islamist organizations like the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) stepped up the violence, which has left some 50,000 dead to date. Fuller does make some useful comparisons between the situation in Algeria and that in the two Islamist governments in the Middle East (Iran and Sudan) and Egypt, which is facing its own similar struggle. Strangely, there is almost no mention of Turkey's Welfare party, which would seem the best example of a party with strong religious ties coming to power through election. Fuller argues for treating the FIS (and other Islamist parties) as legitimate parts of the democratic process. They are players and, if brought into power by elections, are more likely to be willing to leave if voted out of office later. (Sept.)