[Winning the Battle, Losing the War]
Michael T. Kaufman
CHALLENGED by terrorist tactics and guerrilla activities in Iraq, the Pentagon recently held a screening of “The Battle of Algiers,” the film that in the late 1960s was required viewing and sonething of a teaching tool for radicalized Americans and revolutionary wannabes opposing the Vietnam War.
As the flier inviting guests to the Pentagon screening declared: “How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound Familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.”
No details of the discussion were provided but if the talk was confined to the action of the film it would have focused only on the battle for the city, which ended in 1957 in apparent triumph for the French with the killing of La Pointe and the destruction of the network. But insurrection continued throughout Algeria, and though the French won the Battle of Algiers, they lost the war for Algeria, ultimately withdrawing from a newly independent country ruled by the F.L.N. (Algeria’s National Liberation Front) in 1962.
The New York Times (9/7/2003), The Week in Review p. 3.