"Wanton and Senseless? The Logic of Algerian Massacres" by Stathis Kalyvas - Critical Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1737 Words
Date:  2022-10-04


Mass terror empirically refers to an immoral use of excessive force by insurgents against the non-combatant innocent citizens to achieve selfish gains. Mass shootings, kidnapping, and inhumane torture are some of the common features of mass terrorism. Algerian massacres are not irrational instances of random violence fueled by extremist Islamist ideology, as presented in the media; they should be considered instead as part of rational strategies initiated by the Islamist rebels with the aim to maximize civilian support under a given set of constraints (Kalyvas, Stathis 663). The paper explores Kalyvas' understanding of the Algerian massacre. It describes the paper written by Kalyvas about the Logic of Massacres in Algeria, the evidence he develops in support of his argument. The paper further examines its strengths and weaknesses and wraps up with a concise conclusion.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Stathis considers his approach as a rationalist, meaning he gives more weight to logical reasoning to gain a better understanding of the reasons behind massacres in Algeria. Ideology gives the most popular explanation for the insurgency in Algeria and the coherent understanding of what most people consider immoral and not fit for an ear. However, a better understanding would make it very easy to bring a long-lasting solution. According to Stathis, Algerian massacres have been painted immoral without paying considerable attention to motives behind the act. He looks into the issue from insurgents' point of view to give a clear picture of the reality of the matter. He reveals the logic behind mass terror, showing the real intention of the insurgents that makes them indulge in the insurgency.

In his book, "Wanton and Senseless? The Logic of the Algerian Massacres" Stathis Kalyvas uses a rationalist approach to examine the issue of insurgency in Algeria, which has been typically considered irrational and senseless in the context of the civil conflicts. It is difficult to understand the motive behind mass killings in Algeria. In this book, it is very evident how people seem confused about what is happening, and therefore, they cannot come up with the best approach to bring a long lasting solution to the problem.

The international community, on the other hand, is more or less having the same confusion as is observed within the country. No one understands the insurgents' motives for carrying out very heavy and torturous actions against the innocent civilians. The massacres seem so much incomprehensible and self-defeating. Therefore, they are considered irrational and senseless.

Stathis sketches a framework that may aid in better understanding the civil war violence in Algeria. He tries to understand and explain the logic behind those massacres. In this book, the main argument is that the massacres in Algeria are not irrational cases of random violence that are encouraged by the extremist Islamic ideology, as the people and the media have always described it (Kalyvas, Stathis 668). Instead, the massacres can be considered rational strategies employed by the Islamist rebels trying to increase the civilian support within a given set of restraining conditions.

According to Stathis (2012), when the incumbents attack the areas liberated by insurgents, the elements discussed above are most evident. The counter-attacks of incumbents against insurgents mostly combine pure military strategies with advanced pacification techniques. The primarily utilized strategy is the militia building that seeks to find the wholesome problem-solving approach.

According to Stathis, insurgents deter and punish defection by civilians in a particular strategic order or condition by use of the mass terror. However, most such mass terrors are highly selective and targeted. The activities of such insurgencies are usually favored especially within the context of a given strategic conjuncture with the following characteristics. The situation in which there is much fragmented and unstable rule by the incumbent government powers. Second, frequent mass defections towards the incumbent government provide a way through which insurgents arise to their actions. Third, when violence escalates in a country, the insurgents take that opportunity to establish their control, power, and authorities in the affected part of the country.

Stathis considers a narrow definition of the massacre as the large-scale violence against civilians as target groups in a situation of civil war. In this text, he narrows it down to homicide mass violence that involves battle like civilian deaths (Kalyvas, Stathis 660). The massacres involved brutal night raids typically happening in Algeria's small towns and villages where the rebels kill everybody they find in a family including older adults, women, and young children.

Rebel raiders use ruthless ways to kill their prey. Usually through mercilessly hacking them with machetes or axes until they die. In some circumstances, corpses have been found mutilated, and their houses set ablaze. They also abduct young women to be raped and then put them to death. The activity has been so much recurrent such that the region has been named the triangle of death.

Civil wars occur in the form of guerrilla warfare with the civilians taking center stage of the battle. The actors of these battles are, however, the political incumbents against the insurgents. The latter has a more significant contribution to both the beginning and progress of the warfare. The incumbents and insurgents try to gain and maintain the civilian support. Despite having varied political interests, civilians will bow to the most influential actor for the sake of their life. Having this ideology, both political actors scramble to win the civilians to their sides by any means affordable.

Terror becomes counterproductive when it is executed selectively and indiscriminately. Indiscriminate terror enhances civilian compliance to the will of the relatively stronger political actor. However, the compliance guarantees no meaningful security since the battle continues between the incumbents and the insurgents.

However, the following is a puzzle arising from the incumbent-insurgent battle. It is not clear who is to blame for the massive killings that are experienced especially within the "Triangle of Death" since this place is supposed to be the most secure area, having military barracks and outposts (Kalyvas, Stathis 658) Despite heavy security in this region, security personnel lacks quick responses to the security alerts and emergencies. Civilians are murdered at proximity to the security barracks police posts. In addition to that, the Algerian government is so much reluctant at carrying out sound investigations of the cases. Moreover, investigations, if carried out, does not produce reliable results.

Another puzzling issue is that the killings are not necessarily random. The killings selectively target particular villages or towns. According to testimonies by witnesses, within the targeted places, particular individuals, families or neighborhood are preferably targeted. The targeted population always comprises three main groups including the security personnel, members of the guerrilla organization, and even the former sympathizers who refused to aid rebels or switched sides during the warfare.

Whenever the government security defeats insurgents from villages, the sympathizers of such insurgents may be forced to comply with the will of the government, flee, or be killed. However, the killing or torture given to surviving rebels fuels the further thirst for revenge by their families, friends, or the victims. As a result, civilian strife and rebellions escalate continuously.

According to Stathis Kalyvas (2012), the following arguments in his take about the massacres in Algeria was presented. First, Stathis argues that mass killings are mostly committed by the government forces, not rebels as thought by many people. Since the media and the people consider the insurgents very immoral and evil people, they will always consider the insurgents as bad people and associate them with every bad outcome from a raid. However, Stathis realizes that mass killings have been associated with the government troops in various parts of the country, especially the most affected areas of insurgency in Algeria.

According to Stathis, some people commit massacres with ideologies fed with racial, tribal, or religious disparities. Racism has brought troubles among people of different races. Tribalism is another worse enemy to human peace. When people consider themselves different by the language barrier, discrimination commence. Discrimination then brings hatred because people lack the brotherly love because of the differences in their languages. As a result, civil conflicts become very rampant among the previously peaceful communities.

On the other hand, some insurgents are angry with God. For example, the Ghadhiboune Aala Allah group claims that God did not deliver his promise of a quick victory to them. For that reason, they have declared themselves to be angry with God. They engage in mass murder as a way to coerce God to fulfill his promise to them.

Stathis presents some evidence to back up his arguments as follows; he draws the evidence from direct sources of information such as the testimonies or documents are written to show political actors. The people who give testimonies serve as primary sources of trusted data which gives more emphasis to the validity of his arguments. Apart from direct sources of information, Stathis also used the indirect source of data such as the written journals focusing on the matter.

Based on the various evidence, testimonies have logical reasons within them. The insurgents have a clear reason to inflict fear into the people. Reasons can be to leverage the civilian support so that they can gain power and authority of a city. Apart from that, insurgents can coerce the government to change a particular policy by the use of mass killings of the innocent civilians. For the insurgents, the act of killing is not immoral because it is an avenue to achieving their goal. In a rationalist point of view, the ideology here is that suppose what these people want can be given; then they would stop killing the innocent civilians.

The strength of Stathis' arguments is that they help shed light into the matter for further studies. It serves as an eye opener into getting suitable strategies to help end civil wars and associated rebellions as well as reduce the effects insurgencies against the government incumbents. On the other hand, Stathis' argument does not fully present personal motivations of the perpetrators of the massacre.


In conclusion, based on Stathis Kalyvas' arguments, it is evident that Algerian massacres are not irrational instances of random violence fueled by extremist Islamist ideology, as presented in the media; they should be considered instead as part of a rational strategies initiated by the Islamist rebels with the aim to maximize civilian support under a given set of constraints.

Work Cited

Kalyvas, Stathis N. "Micro-level studies of violence in civil war: Refining and extending the control-collaboration model." Terrorism and Political Violence 24.4 (2012): 658-668.

Cite this page

"Wanton and Senseless? The Logic of Algerian Massacres" by Stathis Kalyvas - Critical Essay. (2022, Oct 04). Retrieved from https://midtermguru.com/essays/wanton-and-senseless-the-logic-of-algerian-massacres-by-stathis-kalyvas-critical-essay

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the midtermguru.com website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism