The Battlefield

The Battlefield:Algeria 1988-2002: Studies in a Broken Polity

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Combating the tendency to reduce Algeria’s tragedy to a clash of stereotypes, Roberts offers a radical corrective to Western misconceptions.

The violence that has ravaged Algeria has often defied explanation. Regularly invoked in debates about political Islam, transitions to democracy, globalization, and the right of humanitarian interference, Algeria’s tragedy has been reduced to a clash of stereotypes: Islamists vs. a secular state, terrorists vs. innocent civilians, or generals vs. a defenseless society. The prevalence of such simplistic representations has disabled public opinion inside as well as outside the country and contributed to the intractability ofthe conflict.

This collection of essays offers a radical corrective to Western misconceptions. Rejecting the usual tautological approaches of inherent, predetermined conflict, Hugh Roberts explores the outlook and evolution of the various internal forces as they emerged – the Islamists, the Berberists, the factions within the army, and the regime in general – and he looks at external interests and actors. He explains their strategies and the maneuvers in which they haveengaged. The resulting analyses illuminate the startling dynamics of the conflict and the real issues at stake, and identify the implications not only for Algeria but also for this crucial region.

Informed by a deep knowledge of Algeria and Algerian history, these accessible essays guide the reader through the extraordinary politics of the drama in all its complexity.


  • Provocative, profoundly committed and impeccably documented. [The Battlefield] enlightens the obscurity of Algerian politics and questions the conventional wisdom of intellectuals. It is not only a collection of articles but a book all of its own, worth serious reflection for years to come.

    Jean Leca, Professor at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques
  • No other European scholar has followed the twists andturns of Algerian politics with such tenacity, sympathy and understanding.

    Roger Owen, A.J. Meyer Professor of Middle East History at Harvard
  • I found The Battlefield deeply knowledgeable, clearlywritten and always thought provoking. Of many writers on Algerian contemporaryaffairs I particularly value Hugh Roberts' unremitting effort to site Algerianproblems in an Algerian context, thus avoiding the stereotypes and incorrectanalogies that so clutter much writing on this subject ... an excellent anddeeply rewarding book for anyone who wants to try to penetrate the oftenobscure politics of this troubled and important country.

    Ronald E. Neumann, US Ambassador to Bahrain, Ambassador to Algeria 1994-1997