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.