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Local Editorials

From our archives: France’s president flouts postwar reality

What we thought: 50 years ago

Charles de Gaulle
A Telegraph editorial on Aug. 2, 1963, expressed frustration with the French president's "deluded" policies.
Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) A Telegraph editorial on Aug. 2, 1963, expressed frustration with the French president's "deluded" policies.

Note to readers – Sauk Valley Media reprints editorials from the past as a regular Monday feature. The following editorials appeared in the Telegraph on Aug. 2 and 3, 1963.

The delusion
of de Gaulle

French President Charles de Gaulle’s Western allies have gone through several cycles in their relationship with him. It is clear they have now entered another one.

In World War II, he was first greatly admired for his foresighted military judgments and then nearly despised for his ramrod stiffness as a leader in exile who often hamstrung his more powerful confederates in America and Britain.

They gave him new regard when he became France’s first postwar leader. They knew he alone could restore some semblance of order to a torn nation. But when the French cast him aside, statesmen in friendly countries took it as fresh proof de Gaulle was unsuited to politics. There were few regrets.

Out of retirement he came, in 1958, once more to lead a badly disrupted country. To Western men who feared for France’s future as a free land, his coming was a marvel of resurrection.

All the qualities previously scorned were now hailed as just what France needed. There seems little reason to doubt the soundness of this view. De Gaulle pulled his people together, ended the draining Algerian strife, and set his country on a highly prosperous course.

Yet, the same delusions of French grandeur which marred his wartime ties with Churchill and Roosevelt showed themselves anew in this otherwise remarkable second de Gaulle regime.

Flouting reality, he talks of separate defense for France in a nuclear war. In truth, America’s power is his only shield.

In the face of the strongest assurances of aid America has given any land in peacetime, he professes doubt that we would come swiftly to France’s side in every conceivable future war emergency.

The basis for his doubt is false. He cites our “slowness” in entering each of the two world wars.

But on those occasions, we had no commitments to help France or anyone else. We were an isolationist nation, in contrast to today, when we are enmeshed in countless military and diplomatic entanglements around the globe. We now have more soldiers in Europe than we had in our whole Army before World War II.

Furthermore, if slowness is the issue, France itself stands convicted of painful inaction even after it was in World War II. A France that was not helping itself carries little weight as a complainant today.

France in 1963 is not a great power, nor is it ever likely to be so again. It is a highly prized element in the valiant Free World family, but its future safety and well-being are entirely bound up with the fortunes of all the other important members of that family.

De Gaulle’s efforts to deny this bond have gone too far. He needs his friends more than they need him. He has dreamed long enough. It is time he looked the hard facts of modern nuclear life straight in the face. They do not favor the course he now pursues. – Aug. 2, 1963

FBI, crime
and courts

We have grown so accustomed to annual  increases in crime rates that it comes as a mild surprise to learn from the FBI that in 1962, murders showed a 2 percent decline in number from the previous year.

There seems to be no profound explanation, other than the fact that police work in this field is extraordinarily good.

The FBI, in its annual report, says that over the nation, the police cleared up 93 percent of willful killings in 1962. These include both murder and so-called non-negligent manslaughter.

Unhappily, that does not indicate a 93 percent rate of conviction. Of those cases disposed of by the courts last year, about half resulted in dismissal, acquittal or reduction of the charge.

Often it is complained that the courts themselves, through the action of either judges or jury, are guilty of incredible softness toward the perpetrators of crime – serious and minor.

The FBI makes no such complaint, whatever it may feel on this score. As a matter of fact, intelligent studies of court performance are sadly lacking. Judge and jury act from a wide variety of motives, only one of which may be an inclination to “take it easy” on the defendant.

The FBI does note that other factors, too, help explain why a big disparity may exist between the number of arrests and the number of convictions.

Sometimes the police discover they were wrong, and there is no formal charge. When young persons are involved, special local or state laws may dictate leniency. Sometimes, despite police “clearance” of a case, the evidence proves insufficient for an indictment. And, though this could hardly apply in a murder case, the victim of a crime often refuses to cooperate in prosecution of the alleged offender.

So, it is not a simple matter of the police doing a great job in some fields and the courts not doing so.

Nevertheless, it is most interesting to note that only half of the “willful killing” cases which reach the courts results in conviction on the original charges of murder or non-negligent manslaughter.

The FBI points out that not only in the matter of killing but in other crimes against the person, such as rape and aggravated assault, dismissal, acquittal, or charge reduction is more common than for crimes against property.

This seems to indicate a considerable reluctance on the part of the courts to act harshly or too swiftly in areas where the penalties may be severe – even unto capital punishment.

The tendency exists in some quarters to depict the courts as agencies of brutal retribution – eager to speed defendants toward death or a life term. The figures do not support them. Obviously, much murder and mayhem is never penalized at all. – Aug. 3, 1963

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