880.00/6–1047: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in France

top secret

2082. Repeated Tangier as 124. We are greatly interested nature of long-range plans French are now contemplating for North Africa and hope you will keep us informed as to details as well as method and time table for putting them into effect.

Our present thinking leads us to believe that no peaceful solution North African problem which will ensure political stability and redound to best interests of France, North Africa and US is possible unless leading North Africans are approached with some plan guaranteeing evolution toward self-government while concurrently safeguarding economic development of country and legitimate French interests in area by integration into French Union. In this regard [Page 687] reforms proposed by Mast1 for Tunisia and those which Juin intends to institute in Morocco though progressive do not appear constitute alone firm basis for integration these countries into French Union. Piecemeal application of reforms seems to have succeeded only in whetting appetite of North Africans with result that best intentioned measures appear in effect “too little and too late”. Furthermore present French political dealings with Sultan do not appear transcend short range conception.

We feel solution this problem is a matter of urgency lest situation in North Africa develop into one comparable to that now existing Indo-China, and because possibility case being brought up UN in Sept.

In view of above Dept considering line of action outlined below. We would appreciate your frank comments and consider it would be most helpful if this telegram were included agenda North African meeting (Deptel 20232) in order we may profit views all interested offices. Please feel free also recommend any alternate course which you consider would be more successful than following:

Begin summary. Suggested approach would be to Bidault and/or Ramadier3 orally along these lines: We are vitally interested peaceful solution North African problem and we are seriously concerned with manner in which situation now developing. As they must be fully aware we are most anxious to see rapid regrowth of strong democratic France and are in accord with their belief that France’s strength depends in no small measure on peaceful integration into French Union of this important area. We believe this can be accomplished however only on voluntary basis and therefore that French approach to Arabs and manner of presentation of French plans for Union are even more important than substance of current reforms if future faith in and cooperation with French are to be achieved. Conversely, if French do not regain faith and cooperation of Arabs we believe situation will continue to deteriorate to benefit of no one except Communists. Longer Communists have fertile ground for stirring unrest and Arab League has excuse promote independence less likely become chances French and Arabs establishing type relationship on which long term modus vivendi must be based. Furthermore, continued tension may lead to violence with result relations would probably be irreparably affected despite ability France suppress outbreaks. Finally, with or without violence case may be brought before General Assembly UN in Sept and it is obvious that in such eventuality our interests will suffer as well as those of France. It is in light of these considerations that our approach is made. In order to do everything possible avoid [Page 688] situation in North Africa comparable to one now facing France in Indo-China could not French approach leading Nationalist elements with constructive, concrete and long-range plan which will guarantee gradual but sure evolution toward something comparable to Dominion status within French Union? France could also grant to Arabs freedoms of speech, press, and assembly and legal recognition of political parties at least to same extent that these are presently enjoyed by Communists in North Africa. We envisage that on such basis North African states can under France’s benevolent tutelage develop into friendly partners which will be bulwarks of a strong France, rather than weak and unwilling vassals who will only cause France trouble and cost her men and money.

You may add that if in opinion of French it would be helpful for us to do so we would do our part in endeavoring to persuade Arabs to accept France’s offers in same spirit of cooperation in which they are made. While explaining why we consider our assistance would be helpful you may make it clear that in injecting ourselves into such delicate situation our only thought is to bring French and Arabs closer together and we fully understand that any other result would defeat very purpose which we are endeavoring achieve. As French know North Africans have for some time evidenced desire for closer political relations with U.S. We believe most responsible French officials are convinced we have not encouraged this tendency and we wish to emphasize to French, and are prepared to emphasize to Arabs, that this country does not contemplate now or in the future playing dominant role either economically or politically in French North Africa. It must be obvious to all political observers of US that trend is in opposite direction. Should be sufficient to mention Philippines.

For your info—

If French should indicate desire for us to approach Arabs and if we are satified that French will implement a program which we can support vis-à-vis Arabs our idea would be to talk to latter somewhat as follows: Our attitude toward dependent peoples is well known. We believe that they should be educated and given a chance to govern themselves. By our own experience in self-government however we know very well problems involved and amount time and patience required to achieve satisfactory results. In our opinion they are not yet ready for independence. They have neither personnel nor technical knowledge to run their countries without outside help. They have no means of maintaining their national security. Nation in best position to aid them in maintaining stable and effective government is France. France is now showing sincere desire to assist North Africans evolve toward self-government within French Union. In view above it should be clear why we do not consider break with France in best interest of Arabs. More than that we envisage North African countries developing [Page 689] into prosperous self-governing “associated states” with French assistance in such manner as to achieve true goal of Arabs.

End summary.

  1. Gen. Charles Mast, French Resident General of Tunisia until January 1947.
  2. June 4, not printed.
  3. Paul Ramadier, President of the French Council of Ministers since January 21.