No Comment, Quotation — December 10, 2007, 12:00 am

de Tocqueville on the War in Algeria

tocqueville

Pour ma part, j’ai rapporté d’Afrique la notion affligeante qu’en ce moment nous faisons la guerre d’une manière beaucoup plus barbare que les Arabes eux-mêmes. C’est, quant a présent, de leur côté que la civilisation se rencontre. Cette manière de mener la guerre me paraît aussi inintelligente qu’elle est cruelle. Elle ne peut entrer que dans l’esprit grossier et brutal d’un soldat. Ce n’était pas la peine en effet de nous mettre à la place des Turcs pour reproduire ce qui en eux méritait la détestation du monde. Cela, même au point de vue de l’intérêt, est beaucoup plus nuisible qu’utile ; car, ainsi que me le disait un autre officier, si nous ne visons qu’à égaler les Turcs nous serons par le fait dans une position bien inférieure à eux : barbares pour barbares, les Turcs auront toujours sur nous l’avantage d’être des barbares musulmans. . . Pour moi, je pense que tous les moyens de désoler les tribus doivent être employés. Je n’excepte que ceux que l’humanité et le droit des nations réprouvent.

I for my case report back from Africa with the pathetic notion that at this moment we are in our way of waging war even more barbaric than the Arabs themselves. These days, they represent civilization, we do not. This way of waging war seems to me as idiotic as it is cruel. It can only be found in the head of a coarse and brutal soldier. Indeed, what purpose was served by replacing the Turks only to reproduce what the world so properly detested about them? This, even for the sake of interest is more noxious than useful; for, as another officer was telling me, if our sole aim is to equal the Turks, in fact we shall never reach that goal: barbarians for barbarians, the Turks will always outdo us because they are Muslim barbarians. . . I personally believe that we must avail ourselves of every tactic to destroy the warring tribes, but we may not reach to those means which humankind and the law of nations forbid.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Travail sur l’Algérie (1841) in: Œuvres complètes vol. 3, pp. 704-05 (Pléiade ed. 1991)(S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Weed Whackers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Neoliberal Arts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.”
Artwork by Julie Cockburn

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today