83. Telegram From the Consulate General at Algiers to the Department of State1

376. Before going on home leave in February I said (my telegram 278)2 my departure justified as I could “see no early or [Page 263] desirable solution to problem”. Upon my return Algeria I find that phrase amply justified.

Efforts at military pacification continue as do those toward implementation Lacoste vast program of administrative and economic reform. At same time nationalists continue unabated their economic sabotage, their ambushes of military and other convoys and their assassinations of any one refusing them support or collaborating with the “enemy”. In fact, our charts indicate monthly average terrorist acts this year appreciably higher than two preceding years. Chasm between two communities is widening, rational thinking is ruled out with emotions increasingly in control and eventual reconciliation disparate elements of country becoming less and less likely.

Algeria seems to be moving tragically towards catastrophe. If France had determination and perseverance necessary to complete military reconquest of country she could do so. On other hand it seems unlikely France can long continue the drain on her resources of wealth and manpower required for such task and even if she did her problem would not be solved. She would be right where she was on November 1, 1954, and in meantime her relations with Tunisians and Moroccans could be counted upon to have deteriorated seriously.

But can France compromise? More than year ago, I argued that if France delayed too long she would lose control of course of events in Algeria. That time may have come. Am told by source close Lacoste that he is frustrated with his failure to achieve quicker results, realizes his much vaunted program is a failure and is seeking graceful way out (shades of Soustelle).

If Lacoste departs and new approach is sought reaction of European element and army is unpredictable. Am told on all sides that we could expect European demonstration much more serious than took place on departure of Soustelle and that blood would be sure to flow. Also, there is definite unhappiness among military commanders and considerable question as to their reaction should civilian government once again as in Indo-China, Tunisia and Morocco pull the rug out from under their feet. That Algeria would be in turmoil for awhile seems certain.

Given this picture I venture to suggest that we be most cautious in pressuring France to any course of action in Algeria. Calm cannot be restored overnight and there are already signs France is looking for whipping boy. Our long-range interests may well therefore best be saved by letting Algeria fester for time being.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/6–457. Confidential. Repeated to Paris, Rabat, Tunis, London, and Rome for John M. McSweeney, First Secretary of the Embassy and special NATO liaison officer with CINCSOUTH, and Edward P. Montgomery, Consul General at Valletta.
  2. Telegram 278 from Algiers, February 12, reported that the situation in Algeria remained largely unchanged. Clark foresaw no prospects for a cease-fire or for an early or desirable Algerian solution. (Ibid., 751S.00/2–1257)