To fight another day: France between the fight against terrorism and future warfare

I co-authored with my colleague Alice Pannier (Johns Hopkins) an article on French defence policy, which was published in the latest issue of International Affairs.
It is available online here, or in PDF.

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.

When are strategic narratives effective?

My latest paper has been published by Contemporary Security Policy. You can access it online here and in pdf. I reproduce the abstract below.

Most research on strategic narratives has explored their creation, and their interaction with other elements of national power in the conduct of foreign policy. Yet, the issue of how the targeted political communities receive those strategic narratives, and thus how those narratives are likely to have a political impact, is understudied. This article argues that in order to understand the ways strategic narrative are received within a political community, political myths must be taken into account. It introduces a typology of political myths based on their degree of universality and their degree of coherence with other myths, and shows how those factors influence the reception of strategic narratives. These mechanisms are illustrated through a study of the reception of the Russian strategic narrative in France. This approach offers opportunities to assess the differentiated impact strategic narratives have on political communities.

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The Impact of Institutions on Foreign Policy Think-Tanks in France and Denmark

I published with my colleague Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen a piece in The International Spectator comparing the French and Danish think-tanks. The article is available here and can be downloaded here. I reproduce the abstract below.

Even though France is an active player on the world stage, its foreign and security think tank milieu is smaller than that of similar powers, most notably the United Kingdom. Comparing French think tanks with those in Denmark illustrates how French institutional structures constrain think tank activities. France’s political tradition of centralisation, its non-academic civil service education, and separation of academia and administration create an environment in which think tanks are underfunded and walk a fine line between an over-controlling administration and a suspicious academia. Some French think tanks perform well in spite of these structures, which indicates that they could flourish and compete at the highest international level if given better structural conditions.

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