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Ironduke
23 Oct 07,, 10:26
Enrolled in a class that features a book by Frantz Fanon and that movie that was filmed about the French trying to retain control and the eventual results, I got to wondering why France didn't at least try to retain a portion of Algeria.

Something like 13% of Algeria's population was French. Given the example of the UK retaining Northern Ireland, and Spain Ceuta and Melilla, why didn't France, though having lost the political will to fight the Algerian insurgency any longer, try to retain at least a portion of Algeria, such as Oran, which was about half European?

667medic
23 Oct 07,, 12:01
Enrolled in a class that features a book by Frantz Fanon and that movie that was filmed about the French trying to retain control and the eventual results, I got to wondering why France didn't at least try to retain a portion of Algeria.

Something like 13% of Algeria's population was French. Given the example of the UK retaining Northern Ireland, and Spain Ceuta and Melilla, why didn't France, though having lost the political will to fight the Algerian insurgency any longer, try to retain at least a portion of Algeria, such as Oran, which was about half European?
Hi Matt, you could go through Galula's thesis on the Pacification of Algeria...http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2006/RAND_MG478-1.pdf

The fact that algeria had more than 1 million French people was one of the reasons why French still held on. Afterall the French had given up Morocco and Tunisia but these places didn't have the significant French population. Apart from the French, there were also many ethnic Algerians who supported the French and these people paid for it when the French retreated from Algeria.
The tragedy is that the situation in Algeria was very similar to Iraq. The French efforts in Algeria was undermined by the French communists, similar to the Lefty Liberals of USA. The violence in Algeria was limited to bombs and IEDs in the city of Algiers as that is where the journalists were based, so any little violence was amplified......

Ironduke
23 Oct 07,, 12:05
France wasn't particularly noted for playing "nice", especially outside the cities in the countryside. What was to prevent France from expelling all Arabs from the Oran Department, for example, and replace them with Pied-Noirs from elsewhere in Algeria, and set up a border between the them?

Bigfella
23 Oct 07,, 13:39
Duke,

I'm no expert on this, but many years ago I read one of the better english language books on the subject 'Wolves in the City' by Paul Hennisart (The other key text in English is 'A Savage War of Peace' by Alastair Horne).

While 'Wolves' focusses primarily on the final year of the war & the battles among the French themselves, it gives some insights into why the French had to leave.

Best as I can tell one of the key reasons was actually the behaviour of the Pieds-Noirs (european settlers) themselves. They supported & participated in an extremely brutal campaign of terror designed to cow the majority into submission. This included extrajudicial killings & widespread use of torture. In military terms this turned out to be quite effective. In political terms it ensured that France would never be able to govern even a part of Algeria, such was the hatred engendered in the local population.

The other reason was the impact of the war on France itself. Americans who lived through the Vietnam War & Watergate often refer to the divisions within the nation during that time. With respect, this was 'penny ante' stuff compared to the war in Algeria.

Something like 2.7 million Frenchmen, mostly 20 year old conscripts, served in Algeria. This was greater than the number of Americans who served in Vietnam from a nation one third the size. The experiences of many conscripts made them cynical about the war & the professional officers who ran it. About 25,000 died during the war. They have no memorials to them in France & are still not acknowledged.

Metropolitan France also had some 300,000 - 500,000 Algerians (French citizens of course) living in it. As they protested against the war & supported terrorism by the FLN they were increasingly segregated. They were also subject to the most appalling treatment. In 1961 a huge peaceful protest by Algerians was assaulted by the police. Tens of thousands were illegally detained, many were murdered. No one knows how many were killed, but it may be as many as 200. The war in Algeria may have killed 500,000.

Protests by the Pieds-Noirs and pressure from the Army led to the fall of the 4th Republic & the return of DeGaulle to power. Revalations about torture in ALgeria led to protests in France & deep divisions in the new 5th Republic. When DeGaulle made it clear that he would grant independence the Pieds-noirs[I] & sections of the military revolted, formng the OAS & threatening an invasion of Metropolitan France.

Protests in France by Communists & Algeria by [I]Pied-noirs were brutally suppressed, resulting in over 50 deaths. The OAS launched a vicious campaign of terrorism, especially bombings, in Algeria and France. Numerous attempts were made to assasinate DeGaulle (remember 'Day of the Jackal'). The OAS even began to flirt with Vichy-style Fascism. Algeria descended into a bloodbath of overlapping struggles. Some of the unresolved wounds of the Nazi occupation were being opened up, while new wounds were being created.

The only way that Oran or any other part of Algeria could have been retained would have been with French military power. However, with France wanting to put the war behind it, and the pieds-noirs turning themselves into traitors by rebelling & threatening a coup, the will simply didn't exist. I suspect that French politicians wanted the spectre of a rebellious military backed by a million Frenchmen banished once & for all. Retaining enclaves in Algeria might have provided a breedng ground for more rebellion.

glyn
23 Oct 07,, 15:13
A good post Bigfella, and I cannot fault the historical facts or your summary. I can't prove it but I think the rot set in when the French were expelled from Indo-China, and that made them all the more determined to hold on to their remaining foreign possessions.

S2
23 Oct 07,, 17:19
Nice post, bro.:)

Shek
23 Oct 07,, 19:21
While this isn't the primary cause of de Gaulle wanting to end the Algerian War and historical analogies can be messy, this passage from A Savage War of Peace is rings too hauntingly familiar to pass up:


The use of the word "manoeuvre" reminds one that, above all, de Gaulle rmained the eternal, quintessential soldier. The fragile "ship", in danger of capsizing, to which he referred, was not specifically public opinion. It was the army, his army. From his earliest days as a "prophet without glory", de Gaulle had always been a military innovator, profoundly deploring the backward mentality of the French army. "And what did he find in 1958?" asks Tricot:


An enemy conducting a totally archaic battle, without tanks, just rifles and machine-guns, and with the French army combating them with the slowest aircraft - which were the most useful. It was all very distasteful to him. What he really desired to do was to modernise the French army, bring it into the atomic era, and this was always impeded by Algeria.

I am sure that the reference here is not lost on many . . .

Bigfella
23 Oct 07,, 22:21
A good post Bigfella, and I cannot fault the historical facts or your summary. I can't prove it but I think the rot set in when the French were expelled from Indo-China, and that made them all the more determined to hold on to their remaining foreign possessions.


Thanks Gyn.

You are definately on to something. I would argue that The root of many of France's decolonization problems was WW2. This humiliation had a particularly powerful effect on French politics, creating a 'blind spot' on decolonization among even those who would usually support it.

Where I think you are spot on is in relation to the Army. Most of the officers who served in Algeria had served in Indochina, especially in the senior ranks. many had also served in Suez. The sense that they couldn't trust politicians and the determination not to let them give away Algeria allowed some officers to consider mutiny. Accounts from conscripts suggested that they saw some officers who had served in Indochina as permenantly & fatally scarred by that experience.

I think there was also a element specific to conditions in Algeria. The home of the Foreign Legion was Algeria. It had been formed there & was always based there. Legionnaires saw themselves as inseparable from Algeria, and in many ways felt more loyalty to the pieds-noirs there than to Metropolitan France. Further to your theory, the Legion had suffered terribly in Indochina, leaving that conflict with a genuine sense of humiliation. It is no surprise that the Legion and its elite paras were among the leaders of the military rebellions that began in the late 50s.

The events of the 40s & early 50s cast a very long shadow over events in Algeria.

Shamus
24 Oct 07,, 01:58
I found this website regarding Dien Bien Phu Dien Bien Phu - 1953-54 : the website of the Battle (http://www.dienbienphu.org/english/) a section of it goes into some of the political machinations going on in France at the time.It also has a ton of good info about the battle.

Ironduke
26 Oct 07,, 13:00
As I mentioned elsewhere, I think France could have come out a whole lot better in the whole post-colonial game than they did if they sacrificed what was necessary and kept what was best. I'm not endorsing a policy of continued French colonialism, but they could have retained territories of strategic and economic importance while sacrificing what they had to, like the British did.

France reminds me of a gambler that got its money stolen (WWII), came back with some more, and instead of quitting while they were ahead (or before they lost it all again, matter of interpretation), they went ahead and gambled it all away.

bugs
27 Oct 07,, 16:09
The tragedy is that the situation in Algeria was very similar to Iraq. The French efforts in Algeria was undermined by the French communists, similar to the Lefty Liberals of USA. The violence in Algeria was limited to bombs and IEDs in the city of Algiers as that is where the journalists were based, so any little violence was amplified......

When you loose public support, you allready lost the war....

bugs
27 Oct 07,, 16:27
Given the example of the UK retaining Northern Ireland, and Spain Ceuta and Melilla, why didn't France, though having lost the political will to fight the Algerian insurgency any longer, try to retain at least a portion of Algeria, such as Oran, which was about half European?

National pride. Just Oran means you are loosing Algeria...
The french did not callled it a War until 1999 , before that it was caled :
Peace keeping... ;)