If politics were fair, Algeria's Islamists would be exercising a degree of state power after being on the verge of winning the 1991 parliamentary elections -- deeply flawed as they doubtless were. From this observation, Fuller extrapolates that the Islamic Salvation Front will again have its moment, and that the West should prepare for an inevitably more Islamist Algeria. He then tries to imagine what that will be like. "Not so bad" is the gist of his reassuring answer. One can object to several parts of the analysis. The FIS seems unlikely to be resurrected anytime soon, and a more moderate Islamist party, Hamas, is taking its place. The military is not about to step aside and allow another Islamist victory, and the balance of forces in the field is, at least for now, tipped in its favor. Although they may be the single largest and best organized political movement, the Islamists cannot plausibly claim support from the majority of the population. Finally, no doubt, the FIS did contain some moderate voices, but the key individual responsible for the enormous popularity of the FIS among Algerian youth was a radical firebrand named Ali Benhadj, who most likely would have won the power struggle had the FIS come to power.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.