A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria's Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era

A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria's Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era

A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria's Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era

A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria's Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era

Synopsis

Algeria sits at the crossroads of the Atlantic, European, Arab, and African worlds. Yet, unlike the wars in Korea and Vietnam, Algeria's fight for independence has rarely been viewed as an international conflict. Even forty years later, it is remembered as the scene of a national drama that culminated with Charles de Gaulle's decision to "grant" Algerians their independence despite assassination attempts, mutinies, and settler insurrection. Yet, as Matthew Connelly demonstrates, the war the Algerians fought occupied a world stage, one in which the U.S. and the USSR, Israel and Egypt, Great Britain, Germany, and China all played key roles. Recognizing the futility of confronting France in a purely military struggle, the Front de Liberation Nationale instead sought to exploit the Cold War competition and regional rivalries, the spread of mass communications and emigrant communities, and the proliferation of international and non-governmental organizations. By harnessing the forces of nascent globalization they divided France internally and isolated it from the world community. And, by winning rights and recognition as Algeria's legitimate rulers without actually liberating the national territory, they rewrote the rules of international relations. Based on research spanning three continents and including, for the first time, the rebels' own archives, this study offers a landmark reevaluation of one of the great anti-colonial struggles as well as a model of the new international history. It will appeal to historians of post-colonial studies, twentieth-century diplomacy, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Excerpt

The historian is “a witness to what has been found on a voyage of discovery, ” as Peter Novick once put it. Readers will never know—even if they wished to—all that was seen. All they can expect is a good story, one that speaks to their concerns or, still better, says something new about timeless themes. But at some point in the narrative, with impatience or real interest, they may wonder what impelled the voyage in the first place—especially one that ranged from Kansas to Cairo, London to Tunis, at no small expense to two universities and several foundations.

The answer to that question begins with a road not taken and a scholarly debate without end. Originally this was to be a diplomatic history of America's involvement in the Algerian War. If it were still, I might never have ventured beyond American shores. Leading scholars have argued that since U. S. foreign policy emerges from the perceptions and motives of its practitioners, U. S. archives can account for their actions. Given America's exceptional power in the Cold War period, what critics deride as “the world according to Washington” warrants special attention. Nevertheless, even proponents of this view concede that one cannot assess the effects or effectiveness of U. S. policies without doing research abroad.

While there is doubtless interesting work to be done on American officials' perceptions of the Algerian War, I wanted to know about the impact of their actions. Moreover, I did not understand how I could invoke U. S. power to validate my work even while admitting that my sources could only reveal how Americans reacted to external events and influences. I therefore resolved to conduct archival research and, when the archives were unavailing, interviews in Europe and North Africa.

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