Small Wars Journal

Book Review: The Islamist Challenge in Algeria: A Political History

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How could a popular movement toward democracy lead to the deaths of 140,000 citizens in six years?  Could the Arab Spring--events spawning from the 2010 revolution in Tunisia--instead of fostering democracy, produce violent civil wars?  Quite possibly.  With the shackles of repression finally off the Islamists, they are likely to contend for power.  If the Islamists do democratically accede to power, the political elites of the new regimes may react to the threat of Islamist rule and prevent its formation.  The popular support for the Islamists within these budding democracies could manifest itself as civil war.  This scenario occurred in Algeria twenty years ago.  What started as a turn toward liberal democracy, instead paved the way for an Islamist political majority.  Subsequently, the Algerian military preemptively squashed the Islamists and any notion of an Islamic state.   With it, Algeria's brief era of democracy came to a close.  The ensuing bloodshed nearly tore the nation apart.

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About the Author(s)

Major Richard Nessel is a U.S. Army Special Forces officer currently studying Irregular Warfare at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.  Major Nessel served with 1-10th Special Forces Battalion, and has multiple deployments under Operation Enduring Freedom Trans-Sahara within North Africa, specifically targeting Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).