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Getting Along with the Bloody-minded Algerians

So what exactly happened in Algeria last week? You’re getting a distorted picture of the story if you’re just reading newspapers. As an antidote, we direct you once again to our friend and colleague Adam Garfinkle, who gives us an excellent rundown of what the MSM is missing. (And if you haven’t done it yet, check out his two [1, 2] excellent essays on Mali as well.)

What the MSM is missing, as usual, is a sense of history and context. For example, who exactly are these men running Algeria right now?

The present Algerian leadership consists of the very last remnants of the old guard that experienced the war of independence against France, and the generation right behind it experienced the civil war. Taken together, then, this leadership is as battle-hardened, ruthless and cold-blooded a group of guys as can be found anywhere. This is not a kind and gentle military that holds regular sensitivity-training sessions; it’s a military that uses eight bullets when two will do nicely, and that has no qualms about feeding still wriggling bodies through the wood chipper. They are also very proud and exquisitely sensitive to any slight coming from the general direction of foreigners.

Excerpting like this doesn’t do the post justice. Definitely read the whole thing. You’ll understand, among other things, who exactly we’re up against in North Africa, how the Japanese may have hurt themselves in the Game of Thrones by pleading with Algeria to show restraint at In Amenas, and how the U.S. and France are trying to cooperate with their prickly partners in Algiers.

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