Beijing Is Still Playing the Long Game on Taiwan
Why China Isn’t Poised to Invade
BETWEEN phases of armed conflict and phases of relaxation the cold war actually has never ceased since the end of World War II. The tension between the two great blocs takes a great variety of forms depending on the place and the time; but all feed the central fire. From the Berlin blockade to the tension between Egypt and Israel, or from the fall of North Vietnam to the riots in Algeria, events with no common denominator have joined to produce the same result.
France, a European country anchored on the Atlantic, facing the United States and Britain and neighbor to Germany, but also with interests and responsibilities in the Pacific, in the Mediterranean and in Africa, has been in a most dangerous position ever since 1945. In Europe, the tough logic of the cold war led her allies to force her to accept the rearmament of her recent enemy. In Asia, she endured the shock of Communist expansion for eight years only to find herself, in the end, driven not simply from the territories conquered by the Communists but from others also. Finally, in North Africa she is fighting at this very moment. In fact, she is the only one of the former warring nations which has almost never stopped fighting since V-J Day.
Without exaggeration one can say that France has been the vanguard of the Western world since 1945, not because she has sought to play an aggressive rôle but because strategic and political facts have placed her in eruptive positions. As is often the case with vanguards, she has received the hardest blows, and sometimes she feels that her sacrifices are not duly appreciated by her partners. Like a patrol in an advanced line she feels isolated and abandoned.
I should like to conduct the following analysis on this double level, the level of facts and the level of collective psychology.
II. RETREAT IN THE FAR EAST
After eight years of bloody and ruinous war the Geneva agreements authorized the division of the Indochinese peninsula into two separate states: the Communist state of Viet Minh in the north and the "democratic" state--if this word can be applied to the dictatorship of Ngo Dinh Diem--of Vietnam in the south. It should be noted that since 1945 this division had figured in agreements made, against the wishes of General de Gaulle's government, between the United States, Great Britain and the China of Chiang Kai-shek. Disregarding French warnings, Washington and London agreed to divide Indochina into two parts. The British, who were to control the south, allowed the French forces to take over again in this area without too much delay; but the north, which President Roosevelt had entrusted to the Chinese army, was able for many months to evade the reestablishment of French authority. Ho Chi Minh and the Communist Party profited from these months to organize their power. In this way, at the very moment when the Japanese collapse brought peace, there were created the conditions of a new war which was to end in 1954 in the division of the peninsula.
Be that as it may, the Geneva agreements signed by Premier Mendès-France recorded more or less the situation as it existed after the fall of Dienbienphu. They recognized Communist control of the north; while in the south, France retained the duty of guaranteeing order and democratic freedom in the part of the territory which, in theory or in fact, was under the control of a régime still headed by the Emperor Bao Dai.
A firm policy might have been based on these agreements. Since Viet Minh had been recognized as a sovereign state in the north, France could (and, it seems, should) have established as normal relations as possible with it, particularly in economic and cultural matters, so as to safeguard the maximum of her interests and investments there and provide for the future. In the south, France was to supervise the consolidation of a truly democratic régime, to contribute to its political and economic development and to make agreements with it for honest coöperation on an equal state-to-state footing.
By an odd paradox, the Mendès-France government which had signed the Geneva agreements showed itself almost entirely uninterested in putting them into effect. From the beginning a grave misunderstanding developed. It seemed to be assumed that the agreements had left France with no rights at all in South Vietnam. At the same time, nothing was done to extract from the agreements their potential benefits regarding relations with Viet Minh. Each time an attempt was made--notably by the Sainteny mission at Hanoi--to make the most of the Geneva text and to establish correct relations with Ho Chi Minh, a storm of recrimination arose. In Saigon, France was bitterly accused of inclining to support the Communist régime; and these suspicions were echoed in Washington. In Paris, meanwhile, right-wing opinion became worried. Soon the attempt was practically abandoned.
Even though it was not in line with the agreements of 1954, this policy of reserve toward Viet Minh--indeed, almost of rupture of relations with it--could have been justified if it had been balanced by a reinforcement of relations with the southern state. But the opposite happened. One might even say that, on the whole, France since Geneva has been worse treated at Saigon than at Hanoi. The Diem government has carried out a series of hostile acts toward France, her interests and persons under her jurisdiction. Soldiers and officers whose sacrifices had, after all, made possible the very existence of this state have been spared no insult. Vietnam quit the franc area. In both the economic and the cultural sphere President Diem's attitude has been entirely uncoöperative. In the political sphere he has established a dictatorship, violating the pledges which France gave the people when she recognized Vietnam's independence.
The grave part of this is that on the basis of the information available in Paris the South Vietnamese seem to have adopted this attitude at the instigation and with the support, if not of the Government of the United States, at least of certain of its officials. It almost seems as if these had conceived the project, once France had been weakened by a long war, of driving her from Vietnam. This impression is strengthened when one studies the new orientation of commercial and investment policy in Vietnam.
It would be absurd and dangerous to deny that these facts have had serious effects on French opinion. The Communists drove France from Tonkin, it is thought, in open war; she was faced with declared enemies with whom it was possible to make peace and find limited bases of coöperation in a realistic spirit. In turn, she was chased from the south by people with whom she had been fighting shoulder to shoulder and on whose behalf she had made very heavy human and financial sacrifices; they drove France out in an unelegant way with the help of her Western allies. This explains the strange phenomenon that many Frenchmen feel more bitterness toward South Vietnam and the United States than toward North Vietnam and the U.S.S.R.
I am describing here the psychological facts as they exist. Political reality is interwoven with ideas and sentiments. However, without being emotional one must say that the Western alliance has not proved favorable to France in the Far East. It is not surprising that many Frenchmen question the value of a relationship which leads to such results and that they ask themselves whether France in her capacity of vanguard is not being considered by her allies as expendable.
III. STRUGGLE IN NORTH AFRICA
After M. Mendès-France came into power the situation in North Africa began to evolve rapidly. He faced two urgent pieces of business there: Tunisia and Morocco. Obviously he was not responsible for the policy applied by previous governments and had to make the best of things as he found them. It would be unjust to blame him for this. His policy, or rather what one might call his basic guiding idea, was to replace the French protectorate over these two states by a contractual régime to be established by negotiations with their qualified representatives.
True to the slightly dramatic style which he favors, M. Mendès-France immediately set off for Tunisia by plane, delivered a speech at Carthage on July 31, 1954, and announced that Tunisia was to make ready for "internal autonomy" within the framework of agreements to be reached with France. He presided personally over the negotiation of these agreements, which lasted over six months and besides being extremely tedious was often bitter and emotional. In detailed and very precise terms these agreements divided Franco-Tunisian relations into three sectors: a purely Tunisian domain where local sovereignty would prevail fully, with no other limitation than the popular will; a French domain, in which France would have charge of external representation and defense; and a mixed domain, including supervision of internal order and particularly the police. In this latter field Tunisia would gain full independence by stages and according to a fixed schedule in proportion as she gradually took over French institutions and services.
This treaty was debated freely and on an equal footing between France and Tunisia, and was duly signed and ratified by both sides. It rubbed out every trace of "colonialism" in Franco-Tunisian relations. It opened an era and set an example. Similar agreements were bound to be concluded with Morocco. Having been unjustly criticized for her so-called rigidity toward problems of overseas territories, France now was able to give, to the contrary, proof of her imagination and liberalism. It is disconcerting that the Franco-Tunisian agreements should have been so little noticed by those who are in the habit of assailing French "colonialism." All men of good will ought to recognize that it was the spirit of these agreements that made it possible to solve peacefully and in the best interest of all the irritating problems brought to a head by the need to transform old colonial structures. Unfortunately the main concern of certain persons seems to be to discredit systematically everything France does in this field.
The profound value of the Franco-Tunisian agreements makes it the more regrettable that they have not been applied in practice; instead they were stripped down and taken to pieces without ever having been tried. This was due to three reasons:
Outside Pressure. The Arab League and those who manipulate it from Cairo could not let an Arab and Moslem state conclude a serious and lasting agreement with the West. Hence the outbreak of the troubles in Morocco, the armed riots in Algeria and the violent campaign of nationalist demagoguery conducted against Habib Bourguiba by his rival, Salah ben Youssef.
Weakness of the Tunisian Government. Prior to this campaign, Bourguiba had hardly proved his qualities as a statesman but had conducted himself rather as a politician during an election campaign. His position is weak, between a dynasty which distrusts him and anarchistic forces which he has unleashed without any certainty of being able to control them. I must point out the important part played here by the trade unions, supported by the American Federation of Labor, which contributed heavily to maintaining Tunisia in a state of near chaos.
Weakness of the French Government. When Mendès-France was overthrown in February 1955 the coalition cabinet of M. Edgar Faure was unable to cope with the problems of North Africa. In the political confusion decisions were made which led to grave consequences, including the restoration of Sultan Mohammed V to the throne in Morocco. After dissolving the National Assembly, the Faure government called general elections and lost them. The new cabinet presided over by M. Guy Mollet endorsed the de facto independence of Morocco and Tunisia, but without settling the remaining problems: the status and indeed the very existence of French residents there (approximately 800,000) and the question of diplomatic and strategic guarantees.
Between the time the Franco-Tunisian negotiations opened in August 1954 and the present, the situation in North Africa has gravely deteriorated. Tunisia and Morocco have fallen prey to incessant agitation and have entered a grave economic crisis. Investments have stopped; capital has fled. Insecurity and discrimination have driven French economic and technical groups to leave. The small state of Tunisia, which had been united for a long time, remains relatively well-controlled; but the same cannot be said about Morocco, where the central government owed its authority and even its existence to the French Protectorate. Moreover, the tribes in the interior have stopped paying taxes and obeying the government. The Sherifian Empire is rapidly returning to the state of semi-anarchy that prevailed in the beginning of the century. It was fated that in such an atmosphere the worst instincts should break loose and that mediæval practices which had been checked only by the presence of France should reappear. This explains the kidnappings, extortions and pillaging carried out by gangs of so-called "nationalists" in regions like Oujda, the atrocious massacres of Marrakech and, finally, the growth of anti-Semitism; for one of the first gestures of this young state was to forbid Jewish emigration and hold thousands of Jews in camps. Which, incidentally, goes to show that "independence" and "liberty" should not be confused.
In addition, a new factor of supreme importance appeared in North Africa: the armed riots which broke out in Algeria on November 1, 1954. Because of its scale, its economic and political consequences and the vital character of what is at stake this conflict overshadows all other French problems at present, foreign and domestic. Certain considerations should be underlined.
1. Algeria has been a French territory for 126 years. All her inhabitants (9.5 millions) are French citizens. The Moslem natives (over 8 millions) have the privilege of remaining under the law of the Koran, while Christian and Jewish citizens (1,200,000) come under the French Civil Code. Most of the citizens of French origin, over a million in number, were born in Algeria. Their parents and grandparents already resided there, and they are deeply attached to their land; in their minds, it forms an integral part of France. Contrary to what is often believed, these Europeans in Algeria are not mostly colons or landowners. There are only 20,000 landowners or agriculturalists among them. Of these, 7,000 own less than 25 acres apiece and 12,000 less than 250 acres. The large majority which lives in the cities is composed of merchants, industrialists, workers, officials, doctors, teachers, etc.; they belong essentially to the middle class. Its annual per capita income (Frs. 200,000) is slightly lower than that of a resident of France (Frs. 240,000). They are the people who give cities like Algiers and Oran and even small towns in the interior their typically French character. They are dynamic, hard-working and patriotic. They supplied the French forces fighting alongside the Allied armies in 1944-45 with a relatively enormous contingent --300,000 men, of whom 130,000 were killed or wounded.
2. The Moslem part of the population has risen from about 2,000,000 in 1830 to over 8,000,000 and it increases by 200,000 each year. This very rapid rise is due mainly to the decrease in infant mortality and to the disappearance of almost all endemic diseases, particularly malaria, against which the health services have waged a methodical struggle. Part of the Moslem population--from one and a half to two millions--participates in varying degrees in the life of the European population. As landowners, educators, industrialists, merchants and craftsmen these Moslems, together with the Europeans, form what one might call the "modern economic sector" of Algeria, in all about 3,000,000 people.
The part of the Moslem population enjoying the fewest advantages is the "sector of archaic economy." Here are the small peasants, the fellahin who suffer equally from the climate, the imperfect rules of cultivation laid down in the Koran and the inadequacy of traditional agricultural methods. Even though the Moslems own seven-tenths of the arable land and nine-tenths of the flocks, even though the acreage sown to wheat has continuously increased (it has tripled in 100 years), their farming is too inadequate to keep up with the increase in population. Soil erosion ruins almost 100,000 acres of arable land. In the very mountainous parts, such as Kabylia, where the number of inhabitants has more than doubled since 1900, the traditional crops of olives and figs are unable to satisfy the demand. In the central plains the harsh climate severely affects the flocks of the douar.
Obviously Algeria's main problem is not only to modernize her agriculture, as the "Sectors of Rural Amelioration" have tried to do since 1946, but in addition to develop her industry, for that alone will create jobs and pay regular wages. This is why more and more importance is attached to the Sahara areas in the south, with their coal, iron, manganese and oil.
3. To call Algeria a "colony" in the habitual--and depreciatory--sense of the word is to misuse language. There has never been an Algerian state or an Algerian nation. The country is inhabited by an ethnic and linguistic mixture brought into it over a period of two millenniums. It is not an Arab country but essentially Berber, invaded successively by Romans, Vandals, Byzantines and Turks. Far from being exploited by France, it is from France that she has received the main part of her budget (81 percent of the investments in 1955). She sells her agricultural products to France at more than world prices and she exports to France her manpower surplus; over 300,000 workers there send back to Algeria about 35 billion francs every year.
Politically, Algeria is not a "dependent territory" governed in an authoritarian manner by France. She has her elected assemblies and her representation in the French Parliament like any other French province.
4. The armed rebellion which came to a head in November 1954 took in general the form of terrorism. This was directed much more against the Moslem population than against the Europeans. One may count one European to 10 or 15 Moslems killed or mutilated. This seems paradoxical at first glance but it can be explained by the absence of enthusiasm for so-called "nationalism" among the Moslems and by the fact that when the rebels were unable to win people over by persuasion they had to resort to terror. Significantly, today, a year and a half after the outbreak of the rebellion, it is still in the same stage. In other words, it remains in the hands of terrorist gangs; the population as a whole has not rallied to it. It is also significant that in the course of recent months over a thousand Berber villages in Kabylia have taken up arms against the terrorists, as the Berbers of the central Aurès had already done in 1955.
5. Just as the rebellion did not spring from a deep feeling within the native population, so its inspiration, its slogans, its directives and its arms came from abroad. It is directed from Cairo by Mohammed Benbella and his idara committee under the control of the Egyptian dictator, Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, whom the terrorists generally refer to as "Big Brother."
Egyptian support takes a variety of forms: radio propaganda from Cairo through the "Voice of the Arabs," which launches appeals for massacre and burning; a constant dispatch of messengers and officers, trained in Cairo or Baghdad, and charged to take over the command of certain districts; and a traffic in arms, generally through Libya and the Sahara. Under cover at first, this support has gradually become an admitted fact. Numerous documents which have been published or cited in the French Parliament leave no doubt on all this.
6. The Communist factor has also appeared and has been gaining in importance. At the beginning, its rôle seems to have been rather weak. But since November 1954 Radio Budapest has taken over the usual themes from Radio Cairo in its Arabic language broadcasts and the Algerian Communist Party has made contact with the bands of the Aurès. From 1955 on, doubtless on instruction from outside, the Algerian Communist Party began to come out flatly in favor of "nationalism." This led to its being dissolved by the government. Since then the Communists have formed terrorist bands of their own and also have infiltrated already existing bands. They specialize in sabotage and terrorism in the cities.
In view of the increasing influence of Soviet policy upon the Egyptian dictator one can say that the Algerian conflict is under Communist control on two levels: through terrorist action at the base and through the shaping of strategy at the top. On both levels the nationalists play their part in rousing pan-Arabic and pan-Islamic fanaticism. But there can be no doubt that the management is slipping from their hands and that the conflict they created is becoming plainly and simply an episode of the cold war.
IV. REVOLUTIONARY WAR IN WORLD STRATEGY
The leaders of the Western world may have committed an error with grave consequences when they let themselves be hypnotized by the prospects of a scientific total war, the "pushbutton war." When the means of destruction become as apocalyptic as those now at the disposal of the Great Powers there is a natural tendency to return to limited wars, that is to say, to conflicts in which it is possible "to pursue one's policy by other means," in the words of Clausewitz, without risking an international catastrophe every time. The "revolutionary war" or "subversive war" which the Communists have conducted against the Western Powers in various parts of the globe since 1945 fills this need. Sometimes it has ended in defeat, as in Greece, sometimes in victory, as in Indochina.
As stated by Mao Tse-tung, one of its masters, this method of war is not new in principle. It is the Spanish guerrilla against the armies of Napoleon, the fight of the Russian partisans during the Nazi invasion. But in the present world it takes on a special importance, first because the weapons for total destruction make a return to it necessary, but more because any democratic state is automatically at a disadvantage in a conflict of this nature. The extent to which public authority is divided and limited in democratic régimes, the slowness of parliamentary procedures, the restrictions on police action--all are grave impediments in counteracting terrorism. Moreover, the Western armies have adapted themselves with difficulty to the requirements of scientific war in its perfectionized form. They will have still more difficulty in reconverting themselves in order to fight a dispersed and elusive enemy who uses simple weapons, such as rifles and grenades, and vanishes into wild country or goes underground in cities and suburbs.
The guerrilla, as Mao Tse-tung says, lives among the population like a fish in the water. The rebel bands are vitally dependent on the surrounding population for food, money, shelter and, above all, information. Hence terrorism. By fighting the native authorities in the villages and treating them in atrocious ways the rebels seek to frighten the population into obedience. Attacks like those of August 20, 1955, may lead to a complete defeat from a "military" point of view, but they spread terror. Anything will serve to create a myth--the myth of the invincibility of the gangs. Whereas conventional warfare aims to evict an enemy from a certain territory, the revolutionary war aims to break the spirit of the population. In a country like Algeria the goal is to render the situation so tense that the position of the Power in charge becomes literally untenable.
When we try to give the type of war now taking place in North Africa its place in the pattern of world strategy we see that it serves as a substitute for the conventional war which has become too expensive; in place of a hazardous frontal attack it launches a lateral offensive at minimum cost.
It would be extremely dangerous for the Soviet forces to attack directly from east to west across the European peninsula. In view of this, they would find it greatly to their advantage to detach North Africa from the strategic area of the West and to establish there either anarchy or direct Communist rule or dictatorships similar to that of Egypt. Thus Europe would be hemmed in from the Baltic to the Atlantic by way of the southern coast of the Mediterranean.
World War II showed that the North African theatre is of vital importance alike to those who wish to preserve Europe or to conquer it. The Russian strategists certainly have not forgotten these lessons but sometimes it seems as if the Western alliance had done so. It is quite clear in this perspective that an attack against France in North Africa is not directed against her alone; it is launched against the entire Western world, which will be threatened with the loss of its naval, air and land bases from Bizerte and Mers-el-Kebir down to Casablanca.
This offensive is evidently connected with the events in the Middle East and primarily with the support the Russians have given to the régime of Colonel Nasser. The goal is to be able to cut the West from its Middle East oil resources and thus threaten it with economic suffocation. This is what leads Moscow to play the neo-imperialist card of the Arab League against the West and against the state of Israel, a true Western outpost in the heart of the Middle East. For Israel and Algeria to fall into pan-Arab hands would create a solid barrier isolating Europe from Arabia and the west coast of Africa. In geopolitical terms, therefore, Israel and Algeria are two pillars of Western strategy; their fall would involve a general collapse.
V. THE WESTERN ALLIANCE: ASSETS AND LIABILITIES
How, in the light of these facts, is the Western alliance to be judged from the French point of view? What are its positive and negative aspects?
In the Far East, France has derived no help from the fact that she is an ally of Britain and the United States. As already described, she has found herself ousted even from the south of Indochina under conditions that lead an important part of French public opinion to suspect that the United States actively contributed to this result.
In Europe, NATO (which incidentally includes the whole of Algeria) has certainly been successful in developing an instrument of defense and thus has strengthened French security in the face of potential aggression from the East. But France had to pay a high price: German rearmament. Many Frenchmen are not convinced that it was necessary to pay such a price. They point out that the much-feared Soviet frontal attack has not taken place and that the danger seems to have diminished even though there is no German army as yet ready to operate. They believe that atomic weapons alone have averted the threat of a Soviet offensive and that France has been forced to accept an unnecessary sacrifice in the rearmament of her recent foe.
The manner, moreover, in which this sacrifice was pressed upon our country has sown the seeds of lasting bitterness. France's allies called on her to agree that Germany should be given a military force; the threat was made to abandon her if she refused. In spite of the pressure, Parliament rejected the E.D.C. project in a move of genuine national revulsion on August 30, 1954, and it accepted the Paris agreements reluctantly under the urging of M. Mendès-France. The French, perhaps with justification, feel that they know Germany better than their allies do. They believe that a military Germany will all too easily tend to become again a militarist Germany. The high-handed way in which France was pushed into approving German rearmament awoke lasting anxieties. On top of this is a feeling that once again France has been cheated out of her most elementary rights when the Saar, which contributes to her economy in an essential way and which might compensate for her immense losses, is seen to be about to return to Germany.
In North Africa, finally, where France feels that she is playing a vital rôle on behalf of the entire Western world, she has faced apparently inexhaustible complacency by her allies towards Egypt and the Arab League. Responsible British and American quarters have always minimized the important rôle which states like Libya are playing in the traffic of arms for the Algerian rebellion. Articles in American papers--sometimes by correspondents who have not even taken the trouble to spend a few hours in Algeria--have continually described the Algerian situation and the French position there in hostile terms. All this has created the impression in France that our allies across the Channel and across the Atlantic have taken our troubles rather lightly and have accepted without excessive regret the prospect of seeing French Africa--that is to say, French power--collapse, and all without even realizing that their interests and ours are closely linked.
In view of the essentially psychological character of the Algerian conflict nothing would be more unfortunate than to create the impression among the Moslem population that the West is divided. That is just what the rebels tried to do when they paraded at Heliopolis on the day of the massacres, August 20, 1955, shouting "America is with us!" In this respect it is significant that, judging from the press, the attitude of the United States Government immediately following Egypt's seizure of the Suez Canal was quite out of line with that taken by the French and British Governments.
Sometimes the political confusion reaches an extraordinary and paradoxical degree. Take, for instance, the decision made in July by the Conféderation Internationale des Syndicats Libres, inspired and led by the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and by the British trade unions, to accept and subvene the Algerian central trade union, U.G.T.A. In other words, the moral support and money of American and British workers are now going to strengthen an anti-Western and pro-Communist organization. Blunders of this sort are hard to explain.
It is not surprising, in these circumstances, that the Atlantic Alliance has lost much of its credit in France. People cannot see how they can be allied on the European Continent and not allied elsewhere, especially in regions which are of strategic concern to the Continent itself. A restatement of loyalty to the alliance is needed if it is not to lose all its substance. In view of the new menace to peace coming from the East a united front of the three Western Powers is vital.
VI. NEUTRALISM AND "NATIONAL COMMUNISM"
The considerations noted above suffice to explain the great temptation of neutralism for many Frenchmen. No doubt a more profound examination will demonstrate that neutrality is impossible for France. But rational consideration is relatively rare and emotional reactions such as chagrin and resentment often wield more power.
Should France as the result of an unprecedented disaster actually have to quit Algeria, and consequently North Africa and Africa in general, the chances are that she will be thrown back into neutralism and soon after that into Communism. French history over the last 30 years has shown that Communism has no chance at all to gain the leadership of the country so long as national feeling is ranged against it. But if it is able to exploit nationalism it has a good chance to do just that. In the present stage, French Communism is ordered by the Soviets to fight against the national interest in Algeria. It goes against the tide and loses influence even among the masses of the workers because it appears as the champion of defeatism and the accomplice of those who are killing our soldiers. But let us suppose Algeria was lost. From that moment the Communist Party with its usual dialectic versatility will have no trouble in falling back into nationalist talk. It will have no shame in exploiting French resentment and rancor and simultaneously will draw new strength from the economic and political chaos created by the defeat. It will turn public opinion against those who lost the Algerian war and at the same time against the Western allies who will be accused of having left France in the lurch. Nor will they be in the least embarrassed by such contradictions.
Thus--and especially if the Kremlin's present orientation persists--we shall see French Communism proclaim itself national; and the influence which it will acquire will be the more irresistible because all other parties will have been discredited by being involved in the defeat. Indeed, one may conclude that the expulsion of France from North Africa will separate her from the Western alliance and throw her into the arms of Russia, somewhat as the defeat of 1940 broke her ties with England and, under the leadership of Vichy, linked her to Germany.
Not just for the sake of France, then, but for the whole Western world must her position in North Africa be maintained. If the tricolor is lowered in Algeria the red flag will soon fly in Paris.
VII. THE PROBLEM OF THE FRENCH REGIME
Essentially, of course, the hesitant and uncertain policy of France in Indochina and later in North Africa is due to the instability of French cabinets, their short duration, their internal divisions--in short, to the political system itself.
In the great crises of French history since the beginning of the century France has succumbed whenever, as in 1940, she was unable to overcome the defects of her régime. She has saved herself in spite of the régime, or outside of it, when she could find a Clemenceau or a de Gaulle. But these remedies were temporary only and they did not outlast the danger that had brought them into being. When the threat was over the country fell back into the old track.
Nevertheless it seems as if the very succession of defeats and the graveness of the events in North Africa had begun to arouse a sense of responsibility. A young generation is coming of age, and its state of mind is very different from that of its elders. Large sections of public opinion realize that a fundamental reform, in fact an overturn of existing French institutions, is imperative. This is a field where the responsibility rests with the French alone. All we can ask from our friends abroad is to stop showing sympathy for the notorious middle-of-the-road governments which find so much favor in their press and which have presided over the continuous decline of France for the last six years. Can they not be brought to understand that France would not be any less democratic if, like the United States, she were given a strong and stable Executive?
It is possible, of course, that if she is equipped with new and more effective governmental institutions France may be less malleable, more difficult to handle. From 1940 to 1945 Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt often found General de Gaulle difficult. But he was a reliable ally; "one can lean only on something that resists." The Western alliance has suffered from the fact that successive weak French governments have not dared to tell the truth to the United States, as shown in the case of E.D.C. Actually Washington and London can gain only by a strong régime in Paris. The political systems of Great Britain and the United States are not alike; but by different means each manages to achieve stability in democracy. A French system which in turn was different but at the same time had things in common with them, such as the one outlined by General de Gaulle at Bayeux, would achieve the same result. It could be a solid and efficient alliance, no longer perpetually weakened by the instability of one of its members.
The process of changing French political institutions may be brief or long. But it will have time to succeed only if we avoid the collapse which the loss of North Africa would instantly bring about. Everything points up the vital imperative: North Africa, and more specifically Algeria, will decide whether France will be saved or lost to herself and to the free world.