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PostFDR's Foreign Policy Failures (Nigel Jones, UK, 01/22/13 4:55 am)
John Eipper (21 January) asked me what, in my view were FDR's biggest foreign policy minuses. Well, if you discount (1) the biggest elephant in FDR's room (i.e., refusing to join in a war that pitted aggressive, genocidal totalitarianism against western civilization until the US itself was attacked, presumably because of the strength of the America First isolationists); and (2) handing Poland and the rest of eastern Europe over to Stalin's tender mercies at Yalta (which is a bit like saying, "And apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"), FDR's third major Foreign Policy blunder was his support for the Nazi-loving French fascist Admiral Darlan, Petain's de facto deputy, in the wake of Operation Torch in Algeria in November 1942.
The US, via its ambassador William Bullitt, had in fact maintained cordial relations with fascist Vichy France throughout the war. FDR was clearly lining up Darlan to be the ruler of French North Africa, and possibly later of France itself, because of the President's dislike of the real leader of anti-Nazi France, General De Gaulle. Churchill was so enraged by this that, very unusually, he took drastic covert action against FDR's protege, possibly with De Gaulle's knowledge, certainly with his approval. Darlan was duly assassinated in Algiers on Christmas Eve 1942. Shortly afterwards, following De Gaulle's political defeat of yet another FDR French protege, General Giraud, the President very grudgingly was forced to recognise the reality that post-war France would be Gaullist. His error had enormous consequences, breeding a lifelong animosity on the General's part towards the US, leading in the 1960s, when De Gaulle was once again in power, to France's withdrawal from NATO and its opposition to US policy which has continued to this day.
JE comments: Nigel Jones raises an important point about FDR's mishandling of De Gaulle. My understanding is that FDR saw him as a dictator-in-the-making, but this does not explain or justify the President's conciliatory attitude towards Vichy. I'd like to know more.