Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

French Military Rule in Morocco: Colonialism and Its Consequences

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

French Military Rule in Morocco: Colonialism and Its Consequences

Article excerpt

French Military Rule in Morocco: Colonialism and its Consequences, by Moshe Gershovich. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass Publishers, 2000. xvii + 218 pages. Sel. bibl. to g. 230. Index to p. 238. $54.50. France's relationship with its Moroccan Protectorate (1912-25) has generally been regarded as a happy one, especially when compared with that of neighboring Algeria, for at least three reasons. First, France's Moroccan policies were skillfully guided by the flamboyant Resident General Hubert Lyautey, whose patient "oil-spot" strategy of conquest and "indirect" methods of governing both avoided a bloody and divisive conquest and preserved much of Morocco's traditional political structure. Second, Moroccan soldiers acquired a reputation for ferocity and loyalty in two world wars that made them the Gurkas of the French army. Lastly, unlike Indochina and Algeria, the French retained the good sense to depart Morocco before they became totally engulfed in the tide of Moroccan nationalism, leaving behind a conservative government well disposed to France.

Moshe Gershovich amplifies this vision of a Franco-Moroccan past. He argues that Lyautey was essentially a pragmatist whose policies were forced on him by opponents of colonial expansion in Paris, by a dearth of soldiers available to complete the conquest, and by his growing conviction that Moroccan independence was inevitable. While these arguments are generally convincing, it is nonetheless true that there had been a longstanding theoretical debate in France between proponents of assimilation and supporters of "association." Lyautey arrived in Morocco with certain preconceived ideas, among them a preference, at least in public, for Gallieni's "peaceful penetration" methods of conquest, and the conviction that France's disastrous settlement policies in Algeria should not be replicated in Morocco. He also realized, from his earliest days in Tonkin, the entire raison d'etre of colonialism was to prepare the colonies for self-government.

Gershovich provides an admirably succinct summary of the French side of the Rif War, the event that hastened Lyautey's departure. His contemporaries, including Charles de Gaulle, denounced Lyautey's removal and the subsequent "Algerianization of Morocco" as a coup orchestrated by military and colonial interests hostile to Lyautey's imaginative and successful methods. However, Gershovich argues that, by 1925, only the rhetoric of Lyautey's original vision of "peaceful penetration" and "indirect rule" survived. Indeed, one may ask if Lyautey's vision was ever anything more than propaganda calculated to seduce the French people, rather than reflect Moroccan realities. He overlooks Edmund Burke's point that Lyautey's "oil-spot" methods actually provoked much of the resistance to the advance of French rule, especially east of the Atlas. …

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