4. Paper by the Officer in Charge of Tunisian Affairs (Stackhouse)0


—Despite many present uncertainties in the North African picture, the West’s position now is substantially better than could have been foreseen only a little over a year ago during the final throes of the Algerian War. That war left its scars on the West’s relations with the area as the increased Bloc presence there attests. But the War’s end has permitted the end of what was for many of North Africa’s governing elite a painful estrangement. They have actively sought to resume close ties with Western Europe. France has risen to its opportunities and has actively pursued policies of rapprochement with each of the North African countries (though traces of vindictiveness are discernible in the manner in which they are going about their Bizerte military installation shutdown). The United States and other Western European countries have similarly contributed [Page 6] to a reinforcement of the North African swing toward the West. For the United States the problem has become less one of finding means to build North African-European relationships than to discern ways to encourage and perpetuate ties now in existence, while at the same time defining and carrying out a supplemental role consistent with US interests and objectives.
—The Bloc, too, has found a different situation in the area than it probably anticipated a year ago. Morocco and Tunisia are less hospitable to Bloc overtures than they were under the stresses of the Algerian War. Algeria remains a relatively soft target for the Bloc but has not become, as was conceivable a year ago, a beachhead for Bloc domination of North Africa. In all three countries an intense pride in independence has been a barrier to the Bloc. Faced with stickier going than expected, the Bloc has not made a major resource commitment to subvert the area. Its interest remains high, however, and we may expect the Bloc to continue to be attracted by the opportunities this important strategic area offers. At the moment Algeria is particularly vulnerable; the Bloc has not been remiss and recent months have seen a substantially increased Bloc presence there.

—In quantitative terms, the American presence in the area tends to decline. The Algerian War’s end has sharply reduced the danger of a sudden North African spin into the Bloc orbit. Western Europe, again politically acceptable in the area, is helping to take up the assistance slack in Morocco and Algeria. Our assistance to Tunisia represents a major contribution to a soundly conceived development plan, but Western European aid is increasing. Our strategic presence likewise is declining as our SAC operation is pulled out of Morocco. All of this adumbrates a smaller US material involvement in the area and lessens the possibility that we will face assuming the major share in foreign assistance to North Africa.

There is nothing here, however, to lull the US into a false sense of security. Deep-seated economic and political forces bid fair to keep the area disturbed. Morocco’s King seems to be in control but his efforts to set his rule in a democratic, constitutional frame, in which he would remain pre-eminent, are encountering disruptive opposition. The political foundations of newly independent Algeria are still settling as Ben Bella goes about eliminating rivals, consolidating his power and attempting to cope with Algeria’s massive economic problems. Tunisia appears relatively serene, but only last December it was shaken by a plot aiming at Bourguiba’s assassination, and opposition voices continue to be heard. Bloc interest persists and a flexible US policy, alert to the special and not always predictable demands of the troubled period through which North Africa is passing, is essential to protect US interests in the area.

—Talk of North African unity has been more abundant since the end of the Algerian War, but objective analysis discloses little basis for anticipating such a development in any comprehensive form, embracing spheres of major economic and political interest. Political differences, often tied to personal rivalries among leaders, cut deeply. The parallel nature of North African economies gives little real incentive to broad scale, intimate economic cooperation, though the desirability of offering a common front to the challenge of the Common Market may provide a spur to cooperation in limited areas. North African nations clearly intend to pursue their destinies in the near future through national channels; it behooves the United States to continue to address itself to the nations of the area as individual entities and to appraise any proposed US involvement in regional undertakings first from the standpoint of our relations with the individual nations involved.
—The skeptical view we take of chances for comprehensive North African unity should not imply hostility for the concept. We look with favor on North African efforts to promote greater regional cooperation and greater cooperation with Western Europe. Such efforts—under leadership not substantially less well disposed toward the West than that presently in control—will tend strongly to damp intra-regional tensions and strengthen the region in all respects against external threats. We can conceive of instances in which US assistance could be helpful. But, given the lack of forceful momentum behind North African unity at present, we would be badly miscast in a leading role in a halting process whose final issue is so uncertain. North African unity, though desirable, is not the key to the achievement of US aims in the area; we are wise to leave unity initiatives to the North Africans themselves.
  1. Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, AF-1963. Confidential. A handwritten marginal notation on the source text indicates that the paper was discussed at the Secretary’s Policy Planning meeting on July 30.