740.0011 EW/3–145: Telegram
The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State
[Received 7 p.m.]
959. Now that the flurry which resulted from de Gaulle’s inability to meet the President at Algiers has died down it is possible to make an analysis of the reaction of French elements in Paris. In refusing the invitation de Gaulle may have hoped to play upon the inferiority complex of his fellow countrymen which has in the past caused them to support him wholeheartedly when he has presented himself as the person who refuses to let France be treated as a second rate power. If this was his intention there is little doubt that he miscalculated [Page 674]the importance which a very considerable portion of French opinion attaches to enjoying close and friendly relations with the United States.
Below the surface of superficial French emotions particularly the now well-known inferiority complex which often translates itself into chest-thumping and insistence that France is a great power and must be treated as such—there is doubt, confusion and anxiety as to what the future holds in store and a realization that France is still far from being a great power and will need all the assistance it can obtain from friends. Despite criticisms of the United States there is no doubt that many Frenchmen believe that of all the great powers our country is in the best economic position to extend such aid and that we are less inclined than Britain or Russia to try to grind our own axe.
Until de Gaulle refused to meet the President at Algiers practically every step he has made in the field of foreign affairs had been warmly welcomed and applauded by the overwhelming mass of the French people who have looked upon his foreign policy as concrete evidence of France’s return to its traditional position as a great power. By declining to meet the President, however, de Gaulle divided French opinion for the first time on a question of his foreign policy and doubt arose in many quarters that this gesture had best served French interests. Despite public French assurance that the resistance and FFI were largely responsible for the liberation, most French know that the American Army was the weapon which struck off the shackles of slavery and de Gaulle’s gesture hit many of them as the height of ingratitude. Some were ashamed and others feared consequences adverse to France.
While there are unquestionably many ardent nationalists and Gaullists who supported the position de Gaulle took there are numerous others, including high Government officials, who believe that he acted very unwisely. In addition certain political elements in France which heretofore have hesitated to be openly critical of him, found his refusal of the President’s invitation a perfect club with which to belabor him. This, of course, is not particularly helpful to de Gaulle at a time when the French Government’s internal policy is undergoing considerable criticism and when he obviously does not wish to have doubt arise as to his good judgment.
I have no wish, of course, to give undue emphasis to the “Algiers incident” or to imply that de Gaulle’s authority has really suffered as a result thereof. It will in all probability soon be forgotten, but the reaction is interesting as an indication that a considerable part of the French public has for the first time questioned the infallibility of de Gaulle’s action in the field of foreign affairs.