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“The Battle of Algiers” at 50: From 1960s Radicalism to the Classrooms of West Point

By Madeleine Dobie (Professor of French at Columbia University) Originally published on The Los Angeles Review of Books website at https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/battle-algiers-50-1960s-radicalism-classrooms-west-point/#! THIS MONTH The Battle of Algiers turns 50. But Gillo Pontecorvo’s acclaimed movie about the Algerian people’s fight for liberation from French colonialism shows little sign of aging. Often described as a “classic” that has “stood the test of time,” the film has been acknowledged as an influence on everyone from the Black Panthers and the Red Army Faction to the military juntas of the Southern Cone. It may, however, have had the greatest impact in the United States, where it has appealed both to scholars of colonial and postcolonial history, such as myself, and to members of the military and defense community. A screening of the film at the Pentagon in August 2003 unleashed a small media storm, as journalists reacted with skepticism and scorn: was the Bush administration at such a loss in Iraq that it needed to draw lessons from a 40-year-old Italian movie? “It seems far too late for Mr. Bush to begin studying about counterinsurgency now that Iraq has cratered into civil war,” opined Maureen Dowd. “Can’t someone get the president a copy of Gone […]

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Stability in Mali: re-emergence of old French counterinsurgency models?

By Roel Vandervelde  (roel.vandervelde@port.ac.uk) Paper c0-published with the WAPSN website at http://www.westafricasecuritynetwork.org/stability-in-mali-re-emergence-of-old-french-counterinsurgency-models/ In the last four years French forces have conducted major military operations in two African states. In 2013, the French government promised to ‘clean up the area’ in Central African Republic as well as return ‘stability’ to Mali through the ‘reconquest’ of Northern Mali under operation Serval after disgruntled military men had ousted the elected Mali president and lost the North to a Tuareg rebellion.[1]  Between January and April 2013 French air and land forces acted unilaterally and decisively to roll back southbound offensives of an alliance of multifarious Tuareg clans, Islamic tribes and groups like Ansar Dine, and outsiders like Al-Qaeda, which had sprung up the year before.[2] President Hollande quickly announced French deference to the Mali authorities in February 2013, “The changeover is soon enough, now it’s the Malians who have the responsibility to assure the transition and above all the stability of their country.”[3] France deftly handed operational responsibility to the MINUSMA UN mission in July 2013. Eerily reminiscent of the flight-deck announcement of US president George W. Bush in Iraq in 2003, the following January the French President announced troop reductions, now that the […]

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