Monday, October 24, 2005

Peace is closer

I saw the Battle of Algiers last night. It's worth seeing just as a movie. It's shot in documentary style with amateur actors. The pacing and score make it an exciting watch. The director was a member of the Italian Communist Party and there is a Marxist element in that the victory of the people is inevitable. This really only matters at the end in a incredibly shot conclusion.

From a policy perspective, the choice of tactics by both sides is interesting. The insurgents quickly move from targeting the police, a generally legitimate tactic, to targeting civilians, an illegitimate one. The army, once called in, quickly engages in brutal torture. In both cases, the tactics are effective. The civilian attacks rally the Algerian populace, lead to reprisals, which then further rally the Algerians and get the UN talking. The torture of suspects leads the army to identify, hunt down and kill all the Algerian leaders. Torture and civilian attack are plainly immoral, although depending on your political preferences, you are likely to play down one as being necessary and play up the other as evidence of one side's inherent evil.

The unfortunate point is that war often leads both sides to break established rules of behavior and destroy the people committing the acts. The initial goal of each side can become consumed in the need to crush the enemy. If you've not read War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges, I highly recommend it. He explores the psychological relation to force and it is quite moving.

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