A Battle of Algiers - Theodore Dalrymple, New English Review, March 2015
http://www.newenglishreview.org/Theodor ... f_Algiers/
... The first fruit of a war fought in the name of a struggle against racial injustice and discrimination was de facto ethnic cleansing, that is to say of the million French residents of Algeria, 11 per cent of the population, including Jews, practically all of whom left Algeria in the few months after the signing of the Evian Accords in 1962. And, as the subsequent history of the country has proved, the so-called freedom fighters turned out to have been fighting not so much for freedom as for power. They were power-fighters rather than freedom-fighters, for once they were installed in power they instituted nothing that any political philosopher would recognise as a regime of freedom. The only sense in which the new regime was freer than the old had been was freedom from the old oppressor. The new oppressor (who immediately killed 15-30 thousand of his fellow countrymen who had fought on the old oppressor’s side) was, however, of the same ethnic, cultural and religious origin as the population it oppressed. How much of an advance was this, and was it worth the lives of half a million people to make it?
If the answer is yes, then it is to admit that it is preferable to be oppressed by one’s own people rather than by people of alien origin, even if the weight of the oppression is ‘objectively’ similar. But if that is so, it is to admit that racial, religious and cultural identity are morally important in politics, precisely what so many people would like to deny because it is so uncomfortable to have to admit it, and can so easily unleash the vilest political passions. Something that is true, say our people of goodwill to themselves, could have nasty consequences; therefore it is not true.
Back to the question, is it better to be oppressed by people of the same racial, religious and cultural identity as oneself that to be oppressed by aliens? There is something to be said on both sides. To be oppressed by a foreigner gives an extra dimension of outrage to the oppression, but on the other hand permits the hope that if only the foreigner can be expelled all will be well; to be oppressed by one’s own countryman avoids the extra dimension of outrage, but does not permit of the comforting illusion of a simple solution. On the contrary, it suggests that there is something flawed in one’s own traditions, which leads either to despair or to the espousal of ludicrous utopian schemes of political salvation or redemption.
Another element in the equation of 'self-determination' which Dalrymple does not talk about is the tyranny of the majority. We've seen a good example of this in Egypt recently, a country which has mostly been held together by foreigners for the last 2500 years chiefly because no one, not even Egyptians, and especially Egyptian minorities, trusts native born (Muslim) Egyptians.
Fascinating insights from this short essay. I hadn't remembered (if I ever knew) that François Mitterand had been Minister of Justice during the Algerian war and sent hundreds of fighters to the executioner. Then, in the eighties, as president of the Republic, he became an abolitionist.