Courtesy Reuters

The Algerian Problem Begins

From the statements of M. Georges Pompidou, the new head of the French Government, one would infer that the Algerian conflict is a thing of the past. On the theory that he is now freed from that incubus, he has serenely set about dealing with French social questions and above all with the international problems which, to tell the truth, have always been General de Gaulle's sole, indeed almost obsessive, preoccupation.

But can one really speak of Algeria in the past tense? The secret Army Organization is very far from having been disarmed, despite the spectacular capture of Generals Jouhaud and Salan. The daily bulletins recording assassinations and crimes of all sorts are as regular as ever and the lists of the victims are as numerous. How can one speak, then, of having "got over" the Algerian problem?

It is "got over" by taking a specifically Gaullist attitude. Charles de Gaulle has said more than once that a statesman is a man who can "see beyond," who is farsighted enough to be able to distinguish the hidden essential from the visible nonessential, no matter how serious it momentarily seems. In his view, actions that are urgent at the moment should be carried out by simple executors; statesmen must devote themselves to the future.

This concept would be plausible enough if the executors were always on the watch to see that current actions did not compromise the future and that day-by-day realities did not jeopardize the long-range ideal; and if they had the means to do this effectively. But this is far from being the case. It is certain, for example, that since September 16, 1959,[i] General de Gaulle's closest entourage has not set out seriously to do what needed to be done if the concepts of decolonization which he had formulated in more or less precise terms were to be realized. It is equally certain that the conditions in which de Gaulle himself felt able to carry on the war in Algeria

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