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Book Review April 6, 2003
 
Fairytales for the Scared Stupid
By John Dolan Browse author Email
 
Page 3 of 3
 
Since everything under and including the Sun grows and dies, a sufficiently amoral moralist can turn the tale of any nation or empire into a cautionary tale. The key is to keep one's terms as blurred and temporally vague as possible. Carr does this perfectly in his fairy-tale version of twentieth-century Algerian history: "Algeria was to remain a trouble spot for the French for generations..." That's a rather breathtakingly casual "And they lived unhappily ever after" denouement to a wholly false moral tale.

In fact, as a recent eXile article showed, the history of Algeria shows that terrorism can work. Between 1954 and 1962, almost a million people died fighting for possession of this "trouble spot." The French did their best to match the Algerians, but in the "long" run -- eight years of war -- their army and settlers flinched , wavered and fled in the face of the Algerians' willingness to give and take seemingly infinite pain.

A dying Irish "terrorist," Terence McSwiney, Sinn Fein mayor of Cork, said it best, just before he died in prison: "Victory will go, not to those who can inflict the most, but to those who can endure the most." Among those who heard the message and remembered it was Ho Chi-Minh, then working in the kitchens of the Ritz Hotel, London, who used Sinn Fein's doctrine of the long war to push the French and Americans out of his country a half-century later. Terrorism can and does work. Indeed, one of the glories of 20th-century history is the way subject peoples, despised, bullied and disarmed, found ways to fight their Imperial masters and even drive them out. This, roughly speaking, is what we call "terrorism"; and thank God, it works.
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