A Question of Self-Esteem: The United States and the Cold War Choices in France and Italy, 1944-1958

By Alessandro Brogi | Go to book overview
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Conclusions

At the end of World War II, Charles de Gaulle strongly conveyed to the leaders of the Grand Alliance the notion that prestige for a devastated France was a substitute rather than a complement of power. He soon found out that the Italians, as well as his successors in the Fourth French Republic, shared this assumption, thus also its corollary that higher rank might not only precede but also produce power.

Yet what did French and Italian statesmen specifically obtain in their reliance on international status? How constructive or misleading for their nation's interests were their assumptions on prestige? And what lessons did they and their American counterparts learn from these status policies?

Prestige: Its Achievements and Its Drawbacks. First, a policy of prestige was supposed to heal deep divisions in France and Italy and allow the ruling parties to approximate political consensus. The establishment of legitimacy among French and Italian leaders would in turn help their countries to find a clearer sense of national purpose. Charles de Gaulle, Alcide De Gasperi, and Robert Schuman best utilized their achievements of status to boost their own legitimacy as well as their capacity for national vision. For many others—from Bidault to Mollet in France, and from Badoglio to Fanfani in Italy—the benefits of prestige were short-lived at best.

French and Italian statesmen also calculated how prestige, beyond its immediate political purposes, could serve their nations' security and economic interests. Only as an equal in rank to Great Britain and the United States could

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