Looking Back at Charles de Gaulle


I have always found General De Gaulle an intriguing figure. Or perhaps mysterious is the better word. To the present generation that has not know the politician from his many public appearances and his famous charming manner, he is necessarily something of a cardboard figure; I presume many people only consciously recognize the name as that of a Paris airport. Yet De Gaulle was one of the most important European politicians of the post-war period; in many ways, his policies were even the decisive shaping influence on the new Europe, and he certainly was the most ambitious European politician of that era. So how has it come about that the memory of  this statesman, desperately striving to recapture the grandeur of France, has almost been buried under the sands of history in the public consciousness.? I believe this has certainly not happened by any coincidence, but that, on the contrary, De Gaulle was a symbol of the morally declining Europe of his times – concerning manners, policies, as well as ethics. And if the current presidential administration of the United States does not steer another course quickly, his story might presage the decline of America as well. 

De Gaulle – let us be straightforward - was not in any sense a genius, no matter what the official French hagiography would have us believe. It is true enough that he was one of the brighter soldiers of the interwar period, and predicted that the French defenses would not resist the German onslaught in the next war, and of course that he was leader of the free French forces, which made him something of an idol. But this doesn’t all add up to make a hero of the man; indeed, France itself only played a very minor role in the second world war and the liberation, and on the international scene he is dwarfed in importance not only by Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, but by many minor but more influential figures as well. There is little heroic about the man till now, and it rather appears that in any case it was more a matter of coincidence that he became the leader of the remaining, anti-axis French forces. 

But of course, there is nothing wrong about not having a genius to lead a country, and indeed a government is better off with a cool-headed realist who sticks to the facts. We would have remembered De Gaulle as such an honorable politician had his career definitely stopped in the early fifties. However, the people and an utterly clueless political class called him back in to lead the country at the height of the Algerian crisis. This war was more than simply a violent struggle for independence of one of the many European colonies; on the contrary, it had very deep implications for the general policies France and Europe would choose to follow towards the Arab - and later, Islamic - world. In fact, the Algerian crisis can be considered a general rehearsal for later European reactions in the face of Arab and Islamic aggression. 

Much nonsense is told today about the “Algerian war of independence”, and I presume even with some conservatives the notion has stuck that France was simply an imperialist power desperately and ruthlessly clinging to her last colonies, and defying all international standards of justice by inflicting torture upon an innocent civilian population. To begin with, most Arabs who lived in Algeria did not have the right to call this country theirs any more than the (over one million) European settlers had; a large part of the Arab population in reality consisted of immigrants from neighboring states from the past decades; they had not been there any longer than the French settlers along the coast. This is simply to underline that the European population of Algeria could not simply be called a vestige of colonialism, but had a title to the ground on which they had lived for some time now. Secondly, the politically correct media –already fully operative in those days, taking the lead from Jean-Paul Sartre - has consistently covered up the real motives behind and the course of the war, namely that it started with the totally unprovoked attack on the European settler town of Philippeville, killing over a hundred citizens, men, women, and children. The FLN (National Liberation Front) was notoriously brutal, to the point of barbarity, in its tactics, not only having its opponents tortured but routinely mutilating everyone who refused to collaborate with them. The media or the standard history books will not mention that the FLN initiated the torture, and that (as in the case of the crusades) the French only imitated the barbarity of their opponent’s behavior  when at last, in utter exasperation, they resorted to the same tactics. 

When the Gaulle came to power, he solemnly vowed to save French Algeria. Later he chose to betray the nation for short-term success, and deemed this one of his mayor accomplishments as a politician. De Gaulle gave in to the FLN; independence was agreed to at Evian, and France was given special rights to exploit the gas fields of the Algerian Sahara. On paper al was well, and undoubtedly De Gaulle also believed all had come to a good end. This was the familiar pattern that many western dealings with Islamic countries would follow in the next decades: on paper, all is splendid, but what matters is what can be read between the lines. Meanwhile, more than a million people who could rightfully claim Algeria as their homeland had to flee Islamic barbarity, and with them a lot of Algerians who had sided with the French. Those that remained, were often massacred by the same government that De Gaulle had congratulated on its “peaceful transition” to independent democracy. But then again, it was not all the Gaulle’s fault. Ninety per cent of the French people voted for Algerian independence, and the only consequences that mattered to them were less taxes and peace – and of course, cheap Algerian gas. The FLN knew very well how to read between the lines, to see what the Europeans did not wish to see, out of naivete or unwillingness: that the west, from now on, would refuse to protect its own interests and citizens from Islamic aggression. 

However, as was to be expected, patriots within the French army keenly felt this betrayal by the motherland, and the OAS (Organisation de l’armée secrete) fiercely tried to save a lost cause by engaging in acts of terror in Algeria and even attempted a coup against the French government. We can only condemn the brutal means whereby they tried to achieve their objectives, but political correctness has once again rewritten history to the extent that the story of terrorism by “paramilitary organizations” in the Algerian war is made to begin with the appearance of the OAS, not with the first brutal acts of terrorism of the FLN. De Gaulle, calling them “traitors to the fatherland” (once again confusing the fatherland with his own authority) had the leaders condemned to death (the sentences were never executed) for their last stance, their last attempt to draw attention to the violation of the rights of more than a million Europeans and Arabs who had fought the FLN. But the glory of France was worth such sacrifices, De Gaulle must have thought. 

Perhaps some readers will be surprised I stress the Algerian episode to such a degree. Was it really more than one episode in the confusing process of decolonization, more bloody but therefore not essentially different? There are other instances we could just as well consider landmarks in the weakening of Europe, first of all the Suez canal crisis, and then the meekness the American and British governments showed when the Arab oil nations unilaterally raised their share of oil income out of wells discovered and exploited through the efforts of Europeans alone. But Algeria really was different, in the sense that Algerian independence with full authority going to the desperado’s of the FLN, was by no means a forborne conclusion, and that De Gaulle, whose mission was to solve the problem satisfactorily, actually secured the worst possible outcome. I am no proponent of colonialism, and I am not siding with de diehard French reactionaries of those days who wanted Algeria to stay “all French”: but certainly an equitable solution could have been found had the French government stood up for the rights all of its citizens, such as partition, the European zones along the coast becoming part of France. As I said, this solution was blocked by the now all too well-known combination of an idealistic progressive press, material interests, and short term thinking.

De Gaulle’s next great move was his neutral stance in the cold war, meant to loosen the hold of American “imperialism” on France. In Jean-François Revel’s How Democracies End there is an excellent chapter on De Gaulle’s great ideas for a neutral France and Europe; essentially, we learn he was a useful idiot, and at times even a pawn, in the Soviet power game. In the age of nation states, this Frenchman ruled his country as a sun-king, thinking in terms of grandeur, as if the country was his personal fiefdom. Anyhow, his thoughts on these questions did not matter in the least, because Europe and France with it were squeezed between the two nuclear superpowers, and were no longer the places where the fate of the world was decided upon. But De Gaulle, who considered himself a great strategist, flew to Moscow to make clear he was not America’s poodle any longer – only to become the Soviet poodle instead. Numerous documents have since shown that the Soviet Union had an interest in keeping him in power, because he drove a wedge in the Atlantic alliance; in the crisis of 1968, Moscow gave directions to the communist party not to get involved in the tumult, since the Gaulle’s survival was of strategic importance to the USSR. I am aware of the fact that historically De Gaulle’s antipathy toward the US has been considered justified to a certain extent, since that country’s financial policies were harming France. However, De Gaulle and other French chauvinists gladly kept silent about the fact that the United States had committed itself to the defense of the free world and that for all his nervous maneuvering, de Gaulle was entirely dependent on American force to survive the communist threat. It was only natural that American defense outlays should indirectly be paid for by the European nations (as Germany did without much complaining.) 

For De Gaulle, it was not enough “grandeur” yet. I am sure many readers will have encountered his name in a version of the Eurabia theory; without passing judgment on the veracity of the theory, some facts are nonetheless available to us about the decisions of 1967 that are accepted by mainstream Middle Eastern specialists as well as by critics of Islam. Arab oil was not, in my evaluation of the events, the main reason behind France’s shift to the Arab world and condemnation of Israel, which it had favored up till that year’s Arab-Israeli war; (even supplying nuclear technology to the Jewish state) the Arab world at that point was not organized enough to exert such pressure on any western country. It was mainly the result of the old general pursuing the phantasmagoria of French greatness –in fact, simply his own megalomania. This is an important point to note, since it signifies that Europe was not doomed to fall into the clutches of Arab Islamism, but was consciously driven into its arms by De Gaulle and later by other European politicians in 1973. Anyone who has studied the general’s character, knows that De Gaulle’s reconciliation with the Arab world to form a new power bloc besides the Soviet and American bloc, is certainly more than a silly conspiracy theory.

Here we seemingly stumble upon a contradiction. On social issues, de Gaulle was a catholic conservative. He knew full well that Islam was a barbarous, alien culture, that would never fit in a European background. He is unequivocal on this issue:

«It's a very good thing that there are yellow French people, black French people and brown French people. It's a sign that France is open to all races and that it has a universal vocation. But on condition they stay a minority. If not, France wouldn't be France anymore. After all, we are an European people from white race, Greek and Latin culture, and Christian religion. Try to mix oil and vinegar together. Shake the bottle. After a while, they get separated again. The Arabs are the Arabs, the French are the French. Do you believe that the French nation is able to integrate ten million Muslims who shall be twenty million tomorrow and forty million the day after? If we integrated them, if all the Arabs and Berbers were considered French, how could we prevent them from moving to our home country where the standard of living is so much higher? My village wouldn't be named Colombey-les-Deux-Églises (Colombey of the Two Churches) anymore, but Colombey-les-Deux-Mosquées (Colombey of the Two Mosques)! »

So why did the Gaulle (and the same can be said for one of his “conservative” successors, Giscard d’Estaing) enforce mad policies such as the gradual establishment of free movement of goods and persons between the Arab world and Europe? The only answer I can imagine, is that he was deluded by megalomania to such a degree, that the faith of the common French left him wholly indifferent by the end of his presidency. 

Directly and indirectly, Europe followed the Gaulle’s lead. There was the sucking-up to Arab oil states and the enforcement of political correctness concerning Islam, and the shaping of a Europe dominated by Islam - a course of events that was by no means inevitable, as I already mentioned, had De Gaulle not started the process of erosion. Indirectly, the Eurocrats have inherited De Gaulle’s obsession with grandeur. Like him, they are very keen on posing to the world as the defenders of human rights, of civilization, of economic progress, and as long as these dreams materialize for them personally in well-paid jobs and well-sounding titles, they can believe Europe is indeed the land of milk and honey, that tip of Eurasia on which the sun shines brightest. Meanwhile, Europe is caught in the quagmire of a declining economy, that has been deliberately made uncompetitive in the name of “labor rights”; a barbarous political religion is being assisted by our governments in its silent conquest of our nation states; and in the popular consciousness not even a clue is left as to what “western civilization” actually means. In human rights issues, we are still at the forefront of the world, but this is the legacy of happier and more dignified times, not at all an achievement of our Eurocrats – who are exerting themselves to the utmost to turn criminals into victims and to show tolerance for the grossest imaginable intolerance. In short, like de Gaulle: all bragging and blustering, while the world is laughing in our face and the Islamic hordes are getting ready to devour our continent. 

Alarmingly, the United States seems to be following in Europe’s footsteps. Symptomatic was president Obama’s support for the “Arab Spring” movements, which, even if no one at the time had knowledge of the large Islamist element involved, would clearly have brought no more change in the condition of these peoples than the palace revolutions of yore. Obama is well on his way to become an American De Gaulle: he desperately tried to augment American prestige and influence in the area – which means: appeasement in the face of Arab aggressiveness, abandonment of Israel, and, above all, plenty of cash for the Islamists - with the result that the Arabs just despise him all the more for it – the usual fate of the Neville Chamberlains of this world. America is steadily losing its grip over the Middle East, and indirectly supporting the spread of Islamic totalitarianism in all of the countries that so far have been touched by the Arab rising. One wonders if he isn’t gradually perceiving he is making inexcusable blunders, but probably he is also so blinded by his notion of American “grandeur” that he cannot read between the lines of the official story of Middle Eastern events: the Arab world is getting filled with democracies, is “modernizing”, “westernizing”, and all is just going fine. It is not uncommon to meet left-liberals who believe the same thing, who really think Egypt is making a peaceful transition to democracy (sharia in the constitution is simply a “temporary particularity”) and apparently never heard of the bloody riots taking place every day, the suppression of dissent, and the frequent deadly attacks on the Christian population. But again: you bet the Muslims can read between the lines.