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The Government of France

By E. Drexel Godfrey | Go to book overview

deed often strengthened it. This does not mean that France dealt alone in the faded glories of past greatness -- a manifest impossibility in the cold world of international diplomacy. What it does mean is that France has demonstrated through de Gaulle that diplomatic technique, firm leadership, world influence (if not world power), although overlooked in recent decades, if skillfully employed can be indices of international status only slightly less formidable than vast populations, great national wealth, giant industrial complexes, and large standing military establishments. What de Gaulle has done is to emphasize the best of France's assets, all of which have their roots in the past: her world-wide cultural influence, the traditional intelligence of her people, the energy of her leaders, and a crucial geographic position on the crossroads of Western Europe. From this amalgam he has created the image of a vibrant, living State with a special character and force that he is busily adapting to the requirements of an otherwise bi-polar world.

There is no trickery in all this because France is accepted as a power on the international stage to an extent which nations of roughly comparable size and equivalent richness in historical tradition, such as Spain and even Japan, are not. One reason for this, of course, is that de Gaulle has insisted on asserting his claim for French grandeur. Furthermore, he has never desisted from forcing his claim on the other nations of the world which are sufficiently endowed with the natural and tangible elements of power to make their recognition of his claim decisive. Spain and Japan, on the other hand, have generally preferred the seclusion forced on them since the days of World War II; as their pretensions have been limited, so have their international positions been confined to secondary and even tertiary roles. While de Gaulle has not used sleight of hand in carving out a unique status for France, he has not hesitated to capitalize on the mystique of his own person to achieve the goals he has set for his country.

Although essential to the task of restoring the glory of France, the fact that de Gaulle's part in the effort is dominant constitutes its greatest fragility. Before analyzing the international drives of French foreign policy, one perhaps preliminary observation must be made at this point: the discussion of French foreign policy which follows depends on the survival either of General de Gaulle personally, or on the successful implantation of the image of France he is fostering. If he should pass from the scene suddenly, before the nature of his effort was fully appreciated and

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