Nothing new under the sun

Paul Johnson writes of the Algerian war of independence:

The FLN strategy was, in fact, to place the mass of Muslims in a sandwich of terror. On the one side, the FLN killers replaced the moderates. On the other, FLN atrocities were designed to provoke the French into savage reprisals, and so drive the Muslim population into the extremist camp….

What they [the French] did not realize was that the FLN’s object was precisely to turn French generosity into savagery. [Governor-General Jacques] Soustelle saw the FLN as fascists. He thought he could defeat them by giving the Arabs genuine democracy and social justice.
– Paul Johnson, “Modern Times” p. 498. 1983

Sounds disturbingly familiar, doesn’t it? While George W. Bush did honor Johnson recently, it seems rather obvious that neither he nor any of his aides have actually read Johnson’s books. Or at least not more than 450 pages in….

Now, it’s interesting to note that the French were able to defeat the FLN by resorting to shocking savageries themselves. The Roman method works, after all. But, before the “we are at war” crowd wet themselves with excitement at the prospect of pursuing this strategy to victory in Iraq, it’s worth noting that the negative public reaction to this massive bloodletting so disrupted the French political system that it caused the fall of the Fourth Republic and nearly sparked a French civil war.