Jens Gathmann / Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Charles de Gaulle at the Palais Beauharnais, in Paris, 1968.

De Gaulle: Pose and Policy

This is the A.B.C. of the art of politics. De Gaulle's mastery of mystère, which is above all the art of ambiguity and of Pythian formulas, permitted him, when faced with the gravest problem he ever had to meet-the Algerian War-to man?uvre among the reefs for four years, to envisage in turn every possible or impossible solution and to see them all miscarry. First there was the offer made to the Algerians to become "whole-share French citizens;" then the mission given the army to "integrate the souls" of the Algerian people; then the grand vision of an African California grouping Algeria and French Black Africa in a zone of prosperity around the oil of the Sahara; then the still ambiguous concept of an "Algerian Algeria," independent but associated-all leading finally to the collapse of French colonization in North Africa and the accords of Evian, now hardly more than a scrap of paper. At the end of this tortuous course, the wisdom of the statesman has been "to accept things as they are," to respect the Evian Agreements on his side and to accept unflinchingly the violation of them by the other side, in order to show that he is satisfied-and to keep the future open.

The extent of de Gaulle's success in this tragic imbroglio is shown by the fact that the whole world is convinced that from the outset he wanted in his secret heart to end up exactly where he did. This is an improbable hypothesis and, above all, terribly unjust, for it supposes that de Gaulle willfully deceived and betrayed all those who carried him to power in 1958; but the reputation for being a man of unfathomable cunning does not displease him, and in any case he prefers it to the contrary hypothesis- truer but less grandiose-that, unable to do what he wished, he wished for what he could do. The essential is that the prestige of the leader be preserved; the rest counts

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