27. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the Office of Western European Affairs (Tyler) to the Director of the Office (Jones)1


  • Paris Telegram No. 54872 on North African Situation

It seems to me that this message confirms the dilemma in which we find ourselves with regard to United States policy toward North Africa. It fails to convince me that it is in the best interest of the United States to come out now with a ringing declaration of confidence in the purpose and progress of French policy as now observable.

One can argue, as does Paris, that we must reassure France now, encourage French progress (whatever this means), and make it clear that we consider the French presence in North Africa essential. All this in the hope that by our attitude, and political as well as material support, we will bring about not only the restoration of order but a new and permanently improved relationship between France and the North African territories. Unhappily, on the basis of the past record of the history of France’s relations with her overseas territories, the above must appear to be largely based on wishful thinking. There is no new element at present discernible which justifies the expectation that the French Government, parliament and people appreciate the urgency and danger of the present situation in North Africa, or that anyone is disposed to create such an awareness. And yet this is a prerequisite to effective political action, and to the defeat of the powerful lobbies and of special interests which paralyze political action and threaten the life of any government which attempts to undertake it.

I am convinced that we must somehow succeed in bringing it home to the French that rapid and courageous and farsighted policies, adapted to the particular status and requirements of each of the three North African territories, are not merely a precondition to American support, but a precondition to the effectiveness of any American support. I think this is the vital point: I do not believe that as things stand there is anything that we can do to prevent the French position in North Africa from deteriorating increasingly rapidly. On this assumption, it would not only be politically inept to [Page 99] take a public position of confidence with regard to French policies in that area, but such an act could not reverse the present trend.

In my opinion, if there is to be a chance of saving North Africa, we must somehow get the French to understand not merely United States policy, but the political realities of the situation on which United States policy is based and to which the French themselves still seem to be blind (or politically impotent) in the same way as with regard to Madagascar,3 Indochina, and North Africa itself in the past. I think that if we lose sight of this fundamental factor, we risk following a course which leads to the same frustration, failure and danger as we have experienced in Indochina.

On the basis of this analysis of the political character of the situation, I feel that the Paris analysis does not go far enough and does not draw the inevitable conclusions from its own premises, i.e.: that if we continue to admit that there must be the “other side of the coin” and that “from the purely practical standpoint” French progress will continue to be paralyzed by selfish French interests in North Africa and political cowardice at home, then any words of confidence and encouragement on our part will be a mockery and a self-deception.

In short, it seems to me that the Paris telegram sees and analyzes every aspect of the problem clearly and convincingly with the exception of the one vital element, which is: what should the United States Government do about it in order that there should be a chance of saving the situation.

I do not believe that the mere repetition to the French Government of United States hopes and exhortations will achieve the fundamental shift in French awareness of the needs of the situation. I do not know whether the possibility has been considered of bilateral talks between the President and Faure in Geneva on this subject, but it may well be that this is the only chance for the necessary measures being taken in time. Conceivably, out of such a high-level discussion could come agreement by the French to much closer consultation on North Africa with us and possibly the British than has hitherto been the case. Such consultation might find some kind of continuing formal expression, though I realize it is most unlikely that the French would ever agree to this.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770.00/6–1655. Secret.
  2. Supra .
  3. Madagascar experienced a nationalist revolt in March 1947.