This article examines the ways in which recent military experiences have affected France’s approach to the use of military power, the role of allies and its vision of future warfare. In its management of strategic challenges, we identify the persistence of many traits of France’s historical habits and practices. France remains a distinct, outward looking, and militarily willing and able European power. However, the threats that France has sought to address and the operational and financial constraints it has faced in the past decade in particular, have led to significant changes in its approach to and conduct of warfare. In particular, the threat of Islamist terrorism has led to a reframing of French governments’ priorities around more narrowly-defined national interests. It has translated into a ‘pragmatic’, or ‘realist’ turn in foreign policy, and a move from ‘wars of choice’ to ‘wars of necessity’. In this context, France’s military alliances are being rethought around a core number of functional partnerships to compensate for capability gaps and military overstretch. Meanwhile, French armed forces are getting prepared to face the challenges posed by emerging technologies and the future of Great-Power competition. Overall, the multiple security challenges faced by successive French governments have confirmed, yet redefined, the contours of France’s traditional dilemma between a desire for an autonomous defense policy and the reality of a necessary reliance on allies.
I just published a chapter on French defense policy since 1962 in the second volume of the new Histoire Militaire de la France (French Military History) edited by Hervé Drévillon and Olivier Wieviorka. You can access the book here.
My latest paper has been published by Contemporary Security Policy. You can access it online here and in pdf. I reproduce the abstract below.
There is a growing consensus that multinational military operations are often less effective than the theoretical sum of their constitutive parts. Multiple chains of command, restriction on intelligence sharing, and capability aggregation problems can reduce fighting power. However, partners may be necessary to provide legitimacy to an intervention. As such, most studies assume that the state leading a coalition (usually the United States) has to accept a degree of operational ineffectiveness in order to gain political benefits from the participation of junior partners to a multinational military operation. However, such analysis puts all junior partners under the same category, without taking into account the differentiated contributions of those junior partners based on their relative military power and international status. This article explores variation between the junior partners’ contributions and their impact on coalition political and military dynamics. It teases out the implications of adopting a fine-grained analysis of junior partners.
Stephanie Hofmann and I co-authored the chapter on the “Regional Dimension of Diplomacy” published in the Handbook of Diplomacy, co-edited by Thierry Balzacq, Frédéric Ramel and Frédéric Charillon (in French).
I published a chapter on the current challenges to the Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures in a collective volume on the strategic impact of military exercises edited by Guillaume Lasconjarias, Beatrice Heuser and Tormod Heier. The volume is available here and the chapter can be downloaded here.