FRANCE: The Beautiful Road

An instant before 8 o'clock one night last week the radio and TV sets of France momentarily fell silent. Then, over hundreds of thousands of loudspeakers, a solemn voice boomed: ''French unity was breaking. Civil war was about to start. In the eyes of the world France appeared on the point of dissolution. It was then that I assumed the task of governing our country."

In the six minutes that followed, 67-year-old Charles de Gaulle, who knows how to make an effective short speech, briskly ticked off the awesome array of problems that bedevil France—rebellion in Algeria, strained relations with...