In This Review

The Algerian Civil War, 1990-1998
The Algerian Civil War, 1990-1998
By Luis Martinez
Columbia University Press, 2000, 265 pp

Published earlier in French and now updated, this book offers a convincing interpretation of Algeria's civil war, a conflict that began after the January 1992 military coup canceling elections slated to bring the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) to power. The author interviewed many Algerians from all walks of life and has woven their words into his account. His findings are many. The Islamists, sensing the rewards of violence, were able to create virtual "emirates" in certain (mainly urban) areas. In the mid-1990s, the military government received the outside financial support, especially from France and the International Monetary Fund, needed to ride out the armed challenge. The government therefore cannot be defeated but is unlikely to crush the more extreme Islamists represented by the Groupement Islamique Arme (GIA). The FIS and its military arm, the Armee Islamique du Salut (AIS), see themselves undercut by the pincers of government and the GIA and have sought an accommodation with the government, as have other political forces. But the military-dominated government and those "emirs" of the GIA are comfortable enough in their culture of violence. They may just let the civil war simmer on.