196. Letter From General Franco to President Eisenhower1

My Dear General and President: I am taking the opportunity of the visit of my Foreign Minister, Sr. Martin Artajo, to tell you how glad I am that you have recovered your health, which is so important for the great task of defending the peace of the world, in such a bad state when you took office. I would also like you to know what I think about the situation in North Africa, especially Morocco, which in these moments must undoubtedly cause you some anxiety.

I consider that the problem of North Africa over-reaches the specific interests of each nation and that, through its great importance, it involves all the West.

North Africa is the back of Europe, and it is therefore vital for Europe that the peace, order, and security of that region should not be upset and that at no moment should it be allowed to fall under the domination or influence of the adversary.

Just as the fate of Europe is intimately linked with the fate of these territories, the future of the latter is equally bound up with events in Europe. It is therefore extremely important to awaken and strengthen in them the sentiment of this common interest.

Spain understands that everything that might contribute to increase the authority of the Sultan and the achievement of the lawful wishes of his subjects, will consolidate peace, security and internal order. And, although independence may seem a little premature in certain aspects, because of the backwardness and unpreparedness of the Moroccan people, and the antiquity of their basic code of laws, nevertheless this sentiment of independence is undeniable and common to all of them and would be very dangerous to contradict.

Although the population of North Africa is very small compared to that of Europe—twenty million Muslim inhabitants, from Tunis to the Atlantic, as against more than two hundred millions—we have to consider certain special characteristics, so very different from those of Europe, and which force us to multiply in our minds the value of a possible resistance. These characteristics are: a predominantly mountainous terrain, the deep-set Muslim faith (of a xenophobic tendency), a wild and warlike spirit, love of independence, and almost incredible sobriety and toughness, and a knowledge of the ground for defensive purposes, as against the unpreparedness of modern European armies for guerrilla warfare with small units.

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All this points to the advantage of helping the North African peoples, to enable them, in an atmosphere of order and peace, to reach their aspirations and elevate considerably their standard of living, which is really miserable in some regions, and in which they should not and must not be disappointed.

Another characteristic feature is the difference to be found in North African communities, especially in Morocco, between the people of the cities (and adjoining plains or downlands), who are always ready to obey the authority of the Sultans and their Governments, and the people of the mountains, who are independent, sober and warlike, mostly pastoral, lovers of freedom and usually eager to join in any rebellion. Although these two social groups may appear now to be united in a common feeling of independence, fundamentally, they despise and suspect each other.

The social level of the rural population of Morocco and other North African States is so low that there is a constant exodus from the country to the cities, which increases unemployment and creates a host of discontented men, naturally very good soil for the sowers of disturbance and disorder.

In Morocco, the state of confusion provoked these past years by contradictory French policies is very great. Underneath the general sentiment of independence, to which all Moroccans feel bound through their race and religion, there is the natural suspicion between the victors and the vanquished, as a result of the specific attitudes and situation of so many greater and lesser personalities, khaids, khadis, and aduls, who joined in the adventure of the dethronement of the Sultan, and upon whom, during many years, the French based their attempt at pacification.

In view of all this, I consider it necessary to act very loyally towards the Moroccan and North African peoples, in order not to lose their confidence; helping them to solve their problems, thus enabling them to fulfill their dreams and really improve their standard of living on their own (which is very important when nationalism awakes), so through progress and efficiency to reach the well-being which best guarantees order, interior satisfaction, and the security in which we are all interested.

I would like to emphasize my opinion that the problem transcends the specific frame of the nations directly interested, and that it affects the principal nations of the West, who with similar rights and equal duties should help in this task of improvement of the peoples of North Africa, so that their progress may be more speedy and efficient.

The unknown factor of the situation is the French nation, with its markedly 19th Century type of mentality. Is France really interested in these aspirations? That is the great problem, and a source of considerable suspicion. The lack of stability and continuity in French politics [Page 563] creates a bad impression for the solution of these problems of foreign policy, in which the French make the mistakes which others have to pay for.

The very problem of Algeria has taken a bad turning for a proper solution. If France momentarily quells the rebellion, she will, no doubt, want to take her opportunity and exploit her victory, forgetting that violent repressions do not suppress the spirit of independence, once this has taken root in a people, which also, in this case, can always count on the support and sympathy of its neighbours.

All the foregoing can give you an idea of our policy with respect to Morocco and our conversation with the Sultan. He will have to face many problems and many necessities. I therefore consider that the more help we can give him to solve his problems and those of the Moroccan people, the more we will be helping the strength and solidarity of the Western world, which is in such need of unity.

You must forgive the length of this letter. The importance of the problem justifies it. I felt the need of conveying its gravity to you, as your political action carries such weight in the world.

Please receive the cordial greetings, and best wishes for yourself and your family, of your good friend and comrade

Francisco Franco2
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File. Confidential.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.