26. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

5487. I am concerned over North African situation in itself, and at extent to which it has become both France’s number one problem and number one sore spot in Franco-American relations which can affect relations in all fields. There are widespread indications that North Africa is far more in minds of both official and unofficial Frenchmen than any other external problem and there is little understanding or confidence in U.S. policy of support for French presence. There is increasing tendency here to seek to blame U.S. for French troubles there. In separate message2 we are giving our evaluation of current French policy with respect to each of three North African areas.

France lost Indochina because of inability (1) to maintain its position by force or (2) to grant sufficient concessions in time to obtain native loyalty. U.S. policy suffered from a corresponding dualism. One school of thought was that we should do everything possible to assist French forcefully to suppress Communist-inspired rebellion. The other was that we should force French to grant the country independence and pull out as quickly as possible. The constant compromises between the two served gravely to handicap French efforts to secure a solution by military means without succeeding in bringing about independence except by steps which were substantially too little and too late.

History could easily repeat itself with respect to North Africa. I am not sure that French Government will succeed in holding North Africa by military means nor that it will have the foresight (or find it possible from domestic political point of view) to win true Nationalist friendship and support. Nevertheless I hope we will avoid insidious compromises in this case and make determined effort to obtain best rather than worst of both worlds.

Despite obvious differences in situation (absence of land frontier with Communism, probable inability of anti-French elements to mount more than guerrilla operations, greater French maneuverability, etc.), same problem does exist of French control over dependent peoples in area where maintenance Western control vital both to position of France as an ally and in our own strategic interest. Obviously our policy of (1) supporting French presence in North Africa combined with (2) encouragement of French progress [Page 96] in satisfying Nationalist aspirations is sound. Problem is for U.S. to avoid being caught in similar dualism (i.e. permitting points (1) and (2) above to pull in opposite directions) which proved fatal in Indochina. Without at this time expanding on possible considerations in U.S. policy towards North Africa it is apparent two points above must somehow be combined into single effective course of action. Convincing French of our sincere support of their continued presence in North Africa is prerequisite to successful pursuit point (2) above. Only on that basis can we hope to influence French toward major reforms in Morocco and later in Algeria.

In considering North Africa we must keep in mind that its retention represents last hope France has of maintaining anything approaching its present world status and particularly that Algerian departments of France are considered part of Metropolitan France. This makes fundamental difference, certainly in French eyes, between Algerian problem and that of protectorates of Tunisia and Morocco. Solution in protectorates presumably lies in increased autonomy. Algerian problem, at least as French see it, lies in (1) maintenance of internal order and (2) political and economic integration of French and Moslem populations on mutually satisfactory basis. Whether this will in effect provide permanent solution remains to be seen but we could not realistically hope to force French to adopt any other approach within foreseeable future. One major difficulty in applying our North African policy has been that all our efforts, whatever they might be worth in any event, to persuade French to adopt a more liberal policy have been handicapped by suspicion that we were basically working against them, a suspicion fostered by mere extent of U.S. presence in Morocco. Only exception to this was period after the Secretary made very clear to Bidault in 1953 our support for French presence. If our views are to have any weight we must somehow overcome this feeling and replace it by one of confidence in our intentions.

Supporting French presence does not mean blank check to French or that we should be expected to endorse all aspects of their policy in North Africa. It does mean, I believe, that we should make it clearly understood that we have confidence that French will formulate and apply programs which respond to the evolving needs of the several peoples of the area in the political as well as economic and social fields, that we believe it is in the interests of the area as well as the free world that North Africa retain its special ties with France and that we have no intention or desire to replace French in that area.

On other side of coin, we must admit that from purely practical standpoint, French progress in satisfying Nationalist aspirations has been and will continue to be limited by powerful French vested [Page 97] interests on spot and determined primarily by personal attitude of influential members of any French Government and by importance which they attach to this problem in relation to other temporarily pressing problems and in relation to parliamentary support they think they can count on, rather than on our efforts to expedite this progress. There is no question, however, but that full confidence of government in U.S. support of French position would assure us a more understanding and receptive audience among government leaders and add greater effectiveness to our efforts to influence French to take necessary measures to satisfy Nationalist aspirations.

In circumstances I am seeking early appointment with Faure. I expect to express regret over murder of Lemaigre-Dubreuil3 and concern over increasingly anti-American comment in France with respect to North Africa (including July statement Embtel 5461).4 Will draw upon appropriate portions of Deptels 42125 and 42476 and emphasize both basic U.S. support for French presence there and our hope that French policies can be reinvigorated to take greater account of urgent realities which must be faced if that presence is satisfactorily to be maintained.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 7515.00/6–555. Secret.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Jacques Lemaigre-Dubreuil, editor of the liberal Maroc-Presse, was shot by French assassins on June 12.
  4. Telegram 5461 from Paris, June 13, indicated that the comments of Pierre July, French Minister for Moroccan and Tunisian Affairs, had received little notice in the press. July was apparently upset by U.S. press criticism of the transfer of French troops to Algeria and U.S. labor union condemnation of France’s North African policy. (Department of State, Central Files, 671A.72/6–1355)
  5. Telegram 4212 to Paris, May 25, stated that if Faure sought U.S. support for France’s North African policy, Dillon should express gratification in regard to progress on Tunisia, but concern at the inadequate measures dealing with Algeria, Libya, and Morocco. For the United States to support French efforts in those nations a policy change was required. Because of the area’s importance to Western defense, the United States sought stability in North Africa. (Ibid., 751S.00/5–2355)
  6. Document 58.