How Morocco Was Saved
Gen. Lyautey Defeated German Intrigue Among the Moors.
ONE of the miracles of the war has been the way in which France has held Morocco. French occupation had barely been completed when the war broke. The Moors were not too pleased with foreign rule and German agents were everywhere stirring them up to revolt. Yet Morocco remained loyal to France. It was all due to the genius of one man General Lyautey. A. F. Bell tells the story of it in The Contemporary Review:
There were districts as yet unoccupied by the Protectorate forces, where the struggle still continued. Columns of troops were employed to protect the submitted tribes from their rebellious brothers of the mountains, who lost no opportunity to swoop down and pillage as in the old days. A Protectorate entails "protection," and the importance of being able to preserve the friendly tribesmen from their own unsubmitted people was essential and recognized. Force was employed only where necessary, and in those cases where negotiation was impossible. General Lyautey'a policy was to have the force ready to hand, to make it very apparent, but never to use it unnecessarily. Success everywhere accompanied the Protectorate troops. When necessity demanded, they struck hard, generally once— and then negotiations in a spirit of conciliation were opened. In parts the French were welcomed, in others tolerated; but an understanding was in nearly every case arrived at and maintained. So successful has been this policy, which has been maintained since the War broke out, that in the greater part of the French Protectorate the presence of troops is absolutely unnecessary, and one can travel for hundreds of miles without seeing more than a handful of soldiers. The whole Protectorate forces form the cordon that holds the still unsubmittod tribesmen in check, on the faraway outskirts of the occupied territory. Two years (1912-1914) was a short period in which to prepare the most aloof of Islamic peoples to withstand the shock of war, and the temptations of revolt. Yet Morocco has remained
Above I have pointed out the bright side of the picture: the eminently successful French policy, the prosperity of the country, and the peace which ensued. All that stood France in very good stead. It was the factor that saved the situation. Yet August, 1914, was a critical month in Morocco. All outward appearances foretold a continuation of calm, but how deep, or how shallow, were these outward appearances? No one could say. The great majority of the Moors had accepted the French Protectorate and realized its benefits; but there is no people serving under a foreign domination, more especially when that domination is alien in religion, that does not turn its thoughts to revolt, should the temptation be too strong. No matter what benefits may accrue from it, foreign control is. to say the least, irksome, and at such crises human nature is apt to be influenced less by clear reasoning, less by coramonsense or by an appreciation of its own welfare than by a blind sentiment which often fails to foresee—and is content to leave to chance—the future. Most oriental revolutions have been undertaken rather to get rid of what existed than in the spirit of a desire for prearranged amelioration. Mulai Abdul Aziz, the Sultan, was deposed by his people under his brother, Mulai Hafid, because he was too gentle and too extravagant to reign. Four years later Mulai Hafid was forced to abdicate because he was too harsh and too grasping. But in August, 1914, it was no case of choosing between two brothers of their own Royal Family. Morocco, emerging from chaos, was called upon to decide between the continuance of a foreign and religiously alien domination and a possible— to them probable—restoration of their country’s integrity under a Sultan of their own
race and a Government of their own religion. Had the question been confined to the districts already occupied and pacified by the French, no doubts as to the loyalty of the people would have existed; but there were still large and inaccessible districts of Morocco—forests, and snow-clad mountains and deserts -where the tribes were unsubmitted and hostile. These tribe lands - and the Spanish zone in the north —had become the refuge of all the agitators, whence the cry of a “holy war” was sounded far and near. The outbreak of war increased the German intrigue tenfold. Money was poured into those regions; Turkish agents were despatched to assist in the dissemination of lies, and in the flooding of the districts with anti-French literature. The tribes were already weil armed Morocco has always been the paradise of the contrabandist—and fur-
ther supplies of rifles and ammunition were speedily forthcoming, smuggled in through the Spanish zone, or landed in the extreme south by boats from the Canary Islands. That the French and Protectorate forces that were in Morocco in August, 1914, were amply sufficient to have faced this new danger, there is no doubt; but the greater part of the troops, and of their artillery, were wanted in France, and that at once. Just at the moment when it seemed suicidal to withdraw one man from Morocco, General Lyautey was called upon to denude the country of troops.
It is not surprising that, under these circumstances, the French Government decided to withdraw all its garrisons, and all civilians, from the interior of Morocco, and to hold only the towns on the Atlantic coast. No other policy seemed possible, and orders to
this effect were telegraphed to the ResidentGeneral.
These orders to abandon the interior were never carried out. General Lyautey took upon himself the responsibility to refuse to obey them, and a wise Government accepted his determination.
Let us consider for a moment what obedience to these orders would have entailed. First, the political effects would have been disastrous. The prestige of France in Morocco would have been lost, probably for ever. Secondly, the withdrawal oftroops and civilians from the interior—and Europeans of all nationalities would have had to retire with them —would have let loose every passion of the more lawless of the population, for no selfrespecting tribesmen could look on at such an exhibition of weakness and acknowledgment of failure, without seizing the occasion to pillage and murder. Colonists in outlying districts would have been massacred, and all European property in the interior would have been destroyed, for the Sultan and Government, tainted with French protection, would have had to leave too, abandoning the entire country to anarchy, to the fanatic, and to the barbarian. Probably the better class and richer Moors would have suffered a like fate, for the mob would have been intent upon indiscriminating havoc and pillage. It is not only in countries like Morocco that the withdrawal of every semblance and form of Government would lead to similar results! The retreating columns, hindered by the presence of women and children, would have been hampered all along the roads, and have suffered heavily. The disastrous effects of this retreat would have been felt not only in Algeria and Tunis, but also in Egypt. Nothing but the most critical situation in France eouW have led the Government to envisage such a policy. Yet it was perhaps all they could do. It was better to risk losing Morocco than to lose France, and every available soldier and gun were desperately needed.
General Lyautey never hesitated. He began at once to ship troops and artillery to France, as requested, but his orders to such garrisons as he was able to leave in the interior were these: “Stand fast. Not an inch of ground must be ceded.” He took upon himself a vast responsibility. Time and subsequent events have proved that he was justified in doing so, for he saved France in Morocco.
A man of the world, an aristocrat in the best sense of that often misapplied term, an indefatigable worker, just, reasonable, and full of kindness, General Lyautey’s character is one that has appealed direct to the heart of the native of Morocco. His personal influence is immense. He admires and likes the Moors, and, above all, is possessed of that charm which so facilitates dealings with oriental peoples. Under his regime there has been a renaissance in Morocco of ail that is best in Islam—of Moorish education and of Moorish art. The people have seen their ruined mosques and colleges reverently restored to their pristine beauty. Fez is not becoming an Europeanized town, but is being brought to a semblance of what it was at its best—a beautiful, mysterious, oriental city. Nothing is being changed, except in accordance with Moslem art, and Fez is to-day practically the only Eastern city in the world which has never been defaced by Western improvements.
But General Lyautey’s first duties in August, 1914, were naturally to guarantee the protection of the Europeans in the interior, and to continue with seriously diminished forces to keep the outer tribes in check. The whole military system of the country had to be reorganized, for a long time must elapse before territorial troops could be expected to take the place of the regular forces sent to France. With an admirable celerity, mobile columns were organized, with instructions to be always patrolling. The distances these columns covered, and cover to-day in their long and tedious duties, are almost incredible. By a system of the co-ordination of movements and dates, the columns met from time to time, only to disperse again in different directions. The enemy was given no chance to collect in force. Wherever a hostile group was reported, a column arrived and dispersed it—often inflicting serious losses.
Once the organization of the protecting circle of troops was accomplished, and the programme of their never-ceasing movements re-
gulntcd, General Lyautey turned his attention to the occupied districts of the country. His idea was that there must be no sign of the weakening of the French position, and no sign thut the critical period at home could lessen French effort in Morocco. With his mobile columns his work was but half accomplished. It must also be brought home to the peaceful inhabitants that France was capable of continuing her work for their welfare and prosperity, as well as of protecting herself in Europe. Enjoying the confidence of his Government, the Resident-General obtained almost all he asked for in the way of finances. He realized that peace could only be preserved if Morocco continued on its road of prosperity. He organized vast und useful public works; the construction of roads was hurried on. Nothing was abandoned; everywhere new works were undertaken. The Moor who had expected to see a relaxation of France’s effort in the country saw, on the contrary, an augmentation. The laborer found work at good wages. The money he earned was spent in the little native shops. The native shopkeepers refurnished their stores from the wholesale merchant, and every* class benefited. The extension of roads, the improvement of the ports, and the building of bridges facilitated transport and trade, and that part of Morocco that France had pacified continued its existence in u state of increased prosperity. Nor were public works the only appeal thut the Resident-General made, for in 1915, under every disadvantage that war and a shortage of shipping occasioned, the Protectorate Government held a most successful exhibition in Casablanca, where whole streets of pavilions exhibited the products of the country and the manufactures of France, and where the native was initiated into the exhilarating mysteries of “Alpine railways” and side shows.
Meanwhile the German agents, safely installed in the friendly Spanish zone, were carrying on an impassioned campaign against the French, and moving heaven and earth to raise a revolution. For years past Germany had been trying to combat French influence in Morocco, und, since the declaration of the Protectorate, to undermine her influence by a campaign of intrigue and abuse. So sudden was the outbreak of war, that some of these agents fell into the hands of the French authorities. They were tried, found guilty, and shot. Letters and incriminating documents were discovered that proved that the Germans had prepared a revolt which was to include a massacre of the French. How far the German Legation was guilty will probably never be known; but there was a group, directed from Berlin, who for years past had been preparing the coup that was to accompany a declaration of war upon France. The programme included the proclamation of a new Sultan, and a cession of Morocco to Germany.
Germun intrigue, like German diplomacy, failed. Here, as elsewhere, they misjudged Moslem mentality and Moslem sentiments. They saw everything from the point of view of the Berlin professor. They never comprehended the mind of the Moor as he is: they merely insisted that they understood him as he ought to be—that is to say, as they imagined him to be. A Germun Minister in Tangier, not many years ago, once boasted to the writer that he had only to lift his little finger and all Morocco would rise against the French— and he really seemed to believe it. This bombastic conceit seems to have permeated nearly all their officials. To them it was impossible to believe that the population of Morocco would not do as they wanted—merely because they wanted it. It was sufficient reason, and to them an undeniable one. Germany suffered diplomatic defeat after diplomatic defeat in Morocco, but nothing could change the truculent self-satisfaction of her representatives, whether they were intriguers like Dr. Rosen, whose methods were subterranean and muddy, or shouters like Baron Seckendorff his successor, who beat the Prussian drum very loud, and whose voice was imitation thunder. That the German representatives often succeeded in bluffing their colleagues is true, but, as a rule, the native was more astute or more callous. Yet when war broke out the Germans held many good cards in their hands. They counted principally upon the innate and hereditary dislike of the native for the French, which, however, they quite misinterpreted. On
principle no native likes the power that governs him, even if it be that of his own coreligionists and race. Less, naturally, does he like an alien government. We know it in Egypt, where the feeling is quite as strong as in Morocco. To some extent it is artificial and a pose; but, after all, it is not unreasonable. A generation or two is not sufficient for a people to rid itself of religious and traditional antipathy. Probably there are few Moors who would not rejoice to know that France had abandoned Morocco. A week or two later nine-tenths of them would want her back again. I remember once, far up the Nile, asking an aged Sheikh, whose confidence I had gained, his real opinion of the British occupation of Egypt. After a pause, he replied,
“When I lie down to sleep I implore God that the British may have gone before morning. Wfhen I awake in the dawn I thank God that in His infinite wisdom and mercy He has not granted my prayer of overnight.” He knew that, with the departure of British domination would go also his security of life and all his property, for he would fall a prey at once to the anarchy of his own people. Such, too. is the feeling in Morocco.
The loyalty of the Moslem subjects of England and France is rendered all the more admirable because of this very feeling. It is not difficult to be loyal to one’s own race, one’s own king, one’s own government, and one’s own religion. It is quite another matter to be loyal to that of others.