Asia: The American Algeria
TWO GREAT ILLUSIONS have obscured for France the true nature of the Algerian problem. Their persistence has depleted the resources of France, contributed to the political and moral disintegration of France, and brought the nation to the verge of civil war. One illusion sees in Algeria just another French province, as integral a part of France as any other. The other illusion holds that the Algerian rebellion can be stamped out by military means. The illusory character of these beliefs is obvious to the outsider, but not to many intelligent Frenchmen. Nations, like men, need illusions to sustain them in their relations with themselves and their fellows, and most of the illusions are in the nature of foibles and, hence, do little harm. However, there are other illusions, such as the French ones about Algeria, which obscure a vital complex of a nation’s concerns and confound its thoughts, corrupt its judgments, and misdirect its actions. They are the stuff catastrophe is made of.
It is not only France which suffers from illusions of this kind. America has them, too. What has happened in Laos allows us a glimpse into the nature of some of them. And it is probably the most dangerous of our illusions which the events in Laos have brought to the fore.
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