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Every war has a main conflict, which is defined as two or more parties fighting for opposing ideas to achieve a certain goal. This study focuses on the coercive tactics used by the opposing parties ranging from threats to violent coercion. War occurs when conflicting parties have different interests and the complexities of the conflict vary. Factors such as money, security and acknowledging the state authority have a higher significance than intangible factors such as values and ideologies. According to the Heidelberg Institute of International Conflict, conflict is defined as “a clash of interests between countries with regards to their national values that a significantly affect either party who are willing to pursue their interests to the end successfully.’ An accurate analysis of international conflict must comprehend three crucial factors that include the involved parties, the incompatibilities, and the war process. Indeed, “the use of state of emergency was the most obvious link between the Algerian War and the use of coercion and repression.”
For this study, the war between Algeria and France is looked at from the interesting perspective of the ethnic security dilemma theory in domestic politics. The ethnic security dilemma theory is based on the idea that a state government holds the wildest threat to any minority group within the country. Ethnic identity is an important element in group conflict, and the government can mobilize state resources to commit a genocide (eradicating a particular group). “The ethnic security dilemma thus arises when a particular group attempts to control the state authority, and the situation rapidly escalates to war,” Shiping Tang built upon the famous BHJ (Butterfield, Herz, and Jervis) formulation. Inherently, “in international politics, anarchy is the root source of the ethnic dilemma in.” In a state characterized by anarchy, conflicting parties cannot be certain of their opponent’s intentions and hence operate in constant fear. As a result of the uncertainty and constant fear, the government may resort to accumulating power to coerce the enemy through all means. Consequently, the dynamics of the situation spiral into racism, violence and finally culminating in war.
There exist three essential factors that influence ethnic security dilemma; accumulation of power, anarchy and conflicting interests. “Other factors are negligible as they do not control the theory.” Although the definition of conflicts revolves around international states, the war between Algeria and France will be considered from the international perspective. Furthermore, the study will assess how the war occurred along ethnic lines including culture, language, and religion. In fact, “the Algerian war of liberation provided an opportunity for reinforcing coercive French power.”
In an effort to effectively comprehend the Algerian war, it is imperative to reflect on the mutual relationship between Algeria and France. Historians often suggest that the conflict was complex and cannot be adequately explained since the war occurred on three fronts: first there is the war that occurred within Algerians (between the Messalists and the FLN) then there is the war within France and lastly the decolonization of Algeria from France. The year “1956 is dubbed as the year that the Franco-Algerian War was thrust into global consciousness.” The efforts to conquer Algeria started in 1830 shortly after the French consul to Algeria was unfortunately humiliated. The conquest struggles lasted till 1947, the contingent was able to conquer the city of Algiers within a period of three weeks although they faced minor losses. However, France was entrenched in blood battle that lasted many more years before they took total control of Algeria. In the late 1950s, a radical section of the Algerian-Jewish leaders responded by taking a reconsideration to their history and background.”The French colonization profoundly affected society in Algeria. Indeed, “between 200,000 and 500,000 Harkis helped the French to fight against the Algerians NFL.” First, the French established a new administration system. Secondly, the French dismantled and totally changed the system of land ownership in Algeria. Finally, the arrival of settlers completely transformed the setting of the society in Algeria. By the end of World War I, 791 thousand French nationals (representing approximately a third of Algerian population at the time) had settled in Algeria.
Not only did the French dismantle the property ownership system in Algeria but they also broke down social security and nearly annihilated the system of traditional education. Apart from affecting the economic structure in Algeria, the French also drastically transformed the social and cultural environment of the society. Although protagonists like Napoleon the third stressed on the need for equality from the French towards Muslims, the reality was harsh. By the end of the nineteenth century, the discrimination of the Muslims was similar to the discrimination suffered by blacks in the south of the US. During their colonization in Algeria, the French enacted a policy in 1938 that instituted French as the official language and eschewed Arabic as a foreign dialect. In the year 1962, “the French state orchestrated to “reject the Muslims” from the French colonies.”France had vast protectorates and colonies, but Algeria was integral to the colonial power- Algeria was a department of France only based on a different continent. By officially declaring Algeria as an integral part of France at par with Burgundy or Normandy Island in the 1880s, “the French built hospitals, schools, and roads as well as establishing public administration in Algeria to create a lasting legacy.” The French colonist barely recognized Algerians. However, a group of educated Muslims managed to initiate a revolution to the French colonization. The Young Algerians were the first organized revolution movement that opposed the discrimination of the French rule. Indeed, “the French states in Algeria enhanced its organization role and spearheading French state improved its role as an organizer and towards encouraging racial interests.” Meanwhile, the Young Algerians insisted that the French authorities should revise the discriminatory policies that were concerned with autochthones. The ideas promulgated by these educated individuals instigated a hostile uprising to the French rule in Algeria.
The demands of the Young Algerians gained legitimate acknowledgment from the French politicians who begun drafting reforms that would broaden the civil and political rights of the marginalized groups towards the end of the war. Still, the stubborn French settlers were determined to destroy the revolution. Before World War I, the Young Algerians Movement was the only substantial revolution. Following World War II, the revolution gained momentum as the Algerian masses (including Algerians in the diaspora) organized themselves in political parties that challenged the French rule. There was a political turmoil in terms of different perspectives between the Algerian movements. Until the end of WWII, the Young Algerians argued that the country would not viably sustain itself unless under the umbrella of France. The Association of Ulamas of Algeria were more driven by the pursuit of Salafia education and political and religious freedom for the masses. On the other hand, the Nordalgerian Star (Etoile Nord-Africaine) party, fought for the total independence of Algeria and their symbol was later adopted as the official flag of the country.
The Algerian revolution radically increased following the end of WWII that left the French vulnerable. The different political movements in Algeria converged sensing an opportunity to attack the French regime. Attempts by Governor Weygand to appease the Algerian masses through inclusive policies were futile. To make matters worse, Ferhat Abbas published the Algerian manifesto citing the Atlantic Charter that guaranteed a democratic government. Moreover, the awakening was fuelled by US President Wilson’s statements concerning colonization. Wilson insisted that colonial conflict resolution should be approached with impartiality taking to account the interests of the autochthones. The first visible effects of the revolution became “visible on 8th March 1945 during the global celebration of the end of WWII.” The events that left several Muslims dead in the city of Setif were unclear but it provoked retaliation from the angry Algerians and the French, in turn, responding with brutal force. “There were more than 26,000 attacks in the year 1956.” The 8th of May marked a definitive realization of the harsh cohabitation of the French. War broke out in Algeria that lasted until 1962. Around 300,000 Algerians and 30,000 French lives were lost in the war.
As elucidated on the short history of the Algeria-France relationship, Algeria was considered integral to France, but the colonial laws were discriminatory to the Algerian community. Theoretically, Algerians could successfully acquire French citizenship on the condition that they converted to Christianity. Not only were such applications few but the French administration turned down most applicants. The fact that the colonist policies demanded that Algerians convert to Christianity and even then deny them citizenship was indeed a form of ethnic discrimination. Although there were no explicit policies, the integration of the Algerian and French communities was virtually unachievable due to the implicit laws of behaviour that segregated them. Obviously, Algerians were majorly Arabic and had a different ancestry from their colonizers. Ibn Badis defined Algerians: My religion is Islam, my language is Arabic, and my motherland is Algeria. Religion was also a central factor in the conflict. Despite the FNL congress insisting that the Soumman declaration separate issues of religion from those of the larger state, “in 1962, they exercised control over the Algerian population by prohibiting the use of tobacco under the pretext of Islam.” Ideally, the conflict was founded along ethnic lines.
Anarchy is an evident concept witnessed in the Algerian revolution in the security dilemma context. Although the anarchy in Algeria was not akin to international standards, the colonial control was less limited in some areas than others. Indeed, World War II drastically diminished France’s ability to control its colonies outside of France efficiently. Additionally, the natives faced numerous problems of power as a result of the wars. The defeat by Rommel against the Muslims significantly affected their faith. Furthermore, none of the conflicting parties intended to harm the other. The French only wanted to maintain Algeria in a subordinate position. On the hand, Algerians fought for equal inclusion in society. The violence broke out due to the realization that the parties were unwilling to resolve the conflict peacefully. The Algerian population was increasingly dissatisfied by the worsening economic status, political equality of the natives. As a result, hostility towards French rule increased exponentially.
Power in the Algerian revolution was accumulated through amassing support of the populace, financial, and weaponry for engaging in violent encounters. The accumulation of brute force was vivid in the war — Algerians on the other hand accumulated soft power by gaining a significant number of supporters for the uprising. Algerians also obtained weapons through raids at the French posts. Although the Algerian use of firearms was limited, their asymmetrical approach to the war was sufficient.
In conclusion, it is safe to say that the conflict between Algeria and France can ideally be viewed from the ethnic security dilemma perspective. Both Algeria and France were divided along the bound of ethnicity. There was the threat of an imminent system of anarchy, no explicit maligned intentions from either party and the vivid accumulation of power (especially among Algerian revolutionaries). To further examine other interpretations of the conflict, future research could focus on the democratization and grievances theories.
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