Europeanisation or “NATO-isation”? The United Kingdom, France and Germany in Afghanistan

I just published an article (in French) in the Journal Politique Européenne on military adaptation in the Afghan War. You can access it online or in pdf. I also reproduce the abstract below.

“The decade-long military intervention in Afghanistan had a strong effect on the transformation of western armed forces. This article examines one of the pathways of such military change, namely selective emulation. Taken aback by the evolution of the fightings in Afghanistan, France, Germany and the UK looked for doctrinal or technical answers to the challenges they were facing on the ground within NATO (the structure and/or the member states). However, the importation of such solutions depends on each national political-military context, in particular the proximity with the United States, the existence of a strong local defense industry or a specific strategic culture. After the “Europeanisation without the EU” of the French defence policy in the 90’s identified by Bastien Irondelle, we now observe a “NATO-isation with NATO” of the three major European military powers’ defence policies, because of the Afghan campaign.”

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Institutionalised cooperation and policy convergence in European defence: lessons from the relations between France, Germany and the UK

My latest article, co-authored with Alice Pannier (Sciences Po/CERI) has just been published by European Security. You can access it here, or in pdf.

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The article explores the evolution of British, German and French defence policies since the end of the Cold war, interrogating the links between dynamics of policy convergence and bilateral cooperation. It draws conclusions that run against the assumption that international institutions foster the resemblance of national policies.

I reproduce the abstract below:

What are the prospects for trilateral concord among Britain, France and Germany in terms of defence policies? Would more institutionalised links among them lead to more convergence of their defence policies? To answer these interrogations, this article investigates the relation between policy convergence and institutionalised cooperation, in particular by studying whether and when one is a prerequisite to the other. First, this article examines the extent to which these countries’ defence policies have converged since the end of the cold war based on several indicators: their attitudes towards international forums, their defence budgets, the structure of their armed forces and their willingness to use force. Second, we study each of the bilateral relations between the three states to qualitatively analyse their degree of institutionalisation and the convergence of their defence policies. This article concludes that contrary to the arguments of many discussions, think-tank reports and political actors, there is no evidence that institutionalised cooperation leads to policy convergence as far as defence is concerned.”

French Strategic Culture

I co-authored with Bastien Irondelle (Sciences Po Paris) a book chapter on the French strategic culture, published in a collective book entitled Strategic Cultures in Europe.

This is the first book adopting a common framework to compare the strategic cultures of all of the EU member-states. The product is then theoretically sound and empirically extremely rich, and should be of interest to anyone working on european security issues.

The book can be ordered on the editor’s website.

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“Cheese-eating surrender monkeys?”

I attended the last International Studies Association (ISA) annual meeting in San Diego, and participated in a roundtable I helped to organize entitled “Cheese-eating surrender monkeys? Reassessing the French contribution to international security”.

The aim of the roundtable, chaired by my thesis supervisor Theo Farrell, was to bring together French and American scholars and have them discuss France’s role on the international stage in a funny, friendly, and provocative way.

The French team consisted of Prof. Pascal Vennesson (European University Institute), Prof. Frédéric Charillon (IRSEM) and I. The US team was made up of two big guns realists: John Mearsheimer (U. Chicago) and William Wohlworth (Darthmouth College).

The discussion was quite interesting. Pascal Vennesson showed that France’s return to NATO was just a normalization, since the majority of the recent French military interventions were already happening in a NATO framework. Frédéric Charillon argued that France was facing the traditional dilemma of middle-range powers: how to reinvent the ways to matter on the international stage when France’s power (measured by traditional indicators such as military power, economy, size of the population, etc.) is seen has gradually diminishing? I tried to list the main issues in contemporary international security, and to show that in most of them (the notable exception being the Israel-Palestine conflict), France was playing an arguably positive role. Moreover, France’s “immaterial” resources (I don’t like the term “soft power”) also matter: for example, France is one of the very rare countries at the UN to be able to draft an entire UNSC resolution in both French and English, hence setting the agenda in some ways.

John Mearsheimer adopted a historic look at France’s role, and argued that it was gradually diminishing over the last two centuries, because of a relative French decline in the traditional indicators of power. Basically, he thought that France did not matter anymore, a view consistent with his own theory of international politics. Of course, the three Frenchmen on the panel begged to differ and offered a more nuanced appraisal. William Wohlworth asked why France was so irritating to the US public and argued that it was because France behaved pretty much as predicted by the realist theory of international politics, which did not fit into the American liberal narrative on foreign policy. Hence the framing of France’s behavior as an issue of betrayal or reliability instead of an issue of diverging or shared interests. Wohlworth also tried to balance Mearsheimer’s view, arguing that it is only compared to the US that France appears weak, and that the French voice in the world still matters a lot.

The debate with the audience covered topics such as the Anglo-French defense treaties, France’s relations with Germany or the state of the French armed forces.

Overall, an interesting and funny debate.

From left to right: William C. Wohlworth, John Mearsheimer, Theo Farrell, myself, Frédéric Charillon and Pascal Vennesson