Oldest Allies, Guarded Friends: The United States and France since 1940

By Charles G. Cogan | Go to book overview
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ulation as a whole would not have agreed to accept 9 million Algerians as full- fledged French citizens.

Thus "association" came to be advocated as a substitute for "francisation." But association implies a liberty of choice. Indeed, a certain choice had been exercised early on by Morocco and Tunisia in refusing to participate as "associated states" in the assembly of the French Union. But later, once a full liberty of choice had been exercised by the French states of black Africa, beginning with Mali in September 1959, it became untenable not to permit this choice for Algeria--all the more so because the level of cultural life, by virtue of Islam and the Arab tradition, was more developed in the Maghreb than in black Africa.

Finally, putting the two other countries of the Maghreb in a different category and setting them on a path toward independence--all because of an accident of history--became utterly indefensible. It was not possible to sustain two different policies for the same people of North Africa. Neither "francisation" nor association was acceptable for the native population of Algeria. And so it became, of the three choices articulated by de Gaulle to Maurice Schumann, secession.

With the arrival of de Gaulle to power, it was the reversal: a new foreign policy was begun, as well as a profound change in France's institutions. Everything did not happen at once; it was necessary to await the year 1962. By this time the general had found, after many twists and turns, a solution to the A1- gerian problem, which was independence. And later in the same year France's institutional reforms were completed with the referendum on election of the president by universal suffrage.

It was a new and unfettered foreign policy--the implication of which was a more or less total decolonization and thus the destruction of the myth of association--plus the reform of France's institutions, which constitute the two poles of the reversal of 1958. It became apparent to the French political class that an aggiornamento was imperative; to accomplish this France had to have a strong government which would take the country's destiny into its own hands.

At first pleasing to the Americans, this French aggiornamento ended by being not completely to the liking of the great partner from across the Atlantic. To contain what now seemed to be emerging as untrammeled French nationalism, the imperium had some new ideas in mind, notably the Multilateral Force (MLF), which was essentially an effort to satisfy the Europeans' desire to participate in their own defense, while at the same time keeping these nations-- and especially France--under control. It should not have been a surprise, then, that de Gaulle decided not to take part in the MLF. It was more of a surprise that he, in effect, scuttled it. The affair of the MLF ( 1960-65) is considered in the next chapter.

Le Monde, January 30, 1991, 2 (the day after Minister of Defense Chevènement's resignation).


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