In This Review

France, the United States, and the Algerian War

France, the United States, and the Algerian War
By Irwin M. Wall
335 pp, University of California Press, 2001

There are books in which what is good is not original, and what is original is not good. Wall's book is a prime example. It first covers the Algerian war from its outbreak in 1954 to the collapse of France's Fourth Republic in 1959, touching on such crises as Suez in 1956 and the controversial bombing of Sakiet in 1958. Here Wall is serious and convincing but adds little new. The chapters that concern Charles de Gaulle's presidency from 1959 onward, however, are weaker. Wall maintains that de Gaulle sought to keep Algeria French to make it the linchpin of a French-dominated "Eurafrique" and propel France to world-power status. This grand hypothesis is original but simply not valid. De Gaulle knew perfectly well that Algeria would end up independent. He had to move incrementally, however, because of political resistance among the army, French settlers in Algeria, and conservatives in France -- factors that Wall overlooks. Wall wildly exaggerates the importance of Algeria and the United States in de Gaulle's global diplomacy, incorrectly arguing inter alia that Algeria was a major factor in de Gaulle's exit from NATO and that he had to accept Algerian self-determination because he had failed to enlist U.S. support. Wall's revisionism is ambitious, but such "orthodox" scholars as Frederic Bozo and Maurice Va•sse are far closer to reality.