Courtesy Reuters

Last Chance in North Africa

AT present North Africa is the great unsolved problem of Western diplomacy. France is spending a billion and a half dollars a year and deploying nearly three-quarters of a million men to fight a war in Algeria which she alone cannot win, and which is draining her financially and psychologically; at the same time, she is unable to exploit the 100 million tons of oil recently discovered in southern Algeria which could help recoup her world economic position. Her relations with Tunisia and Morocco have been strained, at times to the breaking point, because of the latter's support for the Algerian cause, and the two former protectorates have received little of the economic assistance they need from France. And, although Tunisia and Morocco have the most pro-Western governments in the entire Arab world, the United States has refused them long-term assistance out of deference to French fears that we seek to "replace" her in North Africa. The Algerian issue has aggravated our relations with France at the same time that it has exposed us to charges of supporting "imperialism," weakened the appeal of the Eisenhower Doctrine throughout the Middle East and Africa, and provided powerful propaganda for those who would like to oust Western influences from these areas.

There is, however, a rational solution to this problem on which much planning has already been done: a confederation of North Africa, which would include Tunisia, Morocco, an autonomous Algeria, and Libya. It would be organized independently--in fact, in defiance--of Cairo, and would be linked with France economically in what President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia has described as "a French-North African community," a pro-Western bloc at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The implications of this project are immense. First, its mere formation would be a stunning blow to whatever remains of Nasser's pan-Arab ambitions. It would effectively wean Libya away from the Cairo orbit. It would mean that the six American air bases in Morocco, the Bizerte naval station in

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