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.

The thinkers of irregular warfare

I just published a book chapter, in French, entitled ” the thinkers of irregular warfare”. The chapter is part of an edited volume on the thinkers of strategy, which constitutes an update of Paret’s classic work.

You can buy the the volume here, and I also reproduce the table of contents below.

penseurs stratégie

Thucydide : stratégie, géostratégie et histoire,
par Jean-Nicolas Corvisier, Professeur d’histoire ancienne, Université d’Artois.

La pensée stratégique byzantine,
par Jean-Claude Cheynet, Professeur d’histoire byzantine, Université Paris-Sorbonne.

Polybe, sa pensée et sa réception,
par Thierry Widemann, Chargé d’Etudes à l’Irsem.

La pensée stratégique de Guibert entre science et littérature,
par Hervé Drévillon, Professeur d’histoire moderne, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne.

par Pierre Manent (EHESS)

Continue reading “The thinkers of irregular warfare”

A Tragic Lack of Ambitions: Why EU Security Policy is no Strategy

My latest article has been published by Contemporary Security Policy. You can access the online version here and download the pdf here.

It is a short article, part of a symposium discussing European security policy. The idea of the symposium was initiated by an article by Cladi and Locatelli arguing that the European Union is basically bandwagoning with the United States. This article triggered a reply by Benjamin Pohl, who instead argues that the EU is neither balancing nor bandwagoning, but that European security policy is driven partly by a shared liberal consensus, and partly by diverging national preferences and priorities rooted in idiosyncratic political cultures.

The symposium, which brings together the contributions of Felix Berenskoetter, Tom Dyson, Trine Flockhart, Adrian Hyde-Price, Jens Ringsmose and myself, discusses these two perspectives.

I reproduce below the abstract of my own article:

Tools of classical strategic analysis support distinctive explanations for the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union. Looking at the articulation between ends, ways, and means offers a perspective on the CSDP that is different from the approaches usually favoured by European Union specialists or even security studies scholars. In particular, it is argued here that the CSDP is no strategy, and little more than an institutional make-up for the lack of strategic thinking within the European Union. First, I show that the CSDP is not European security, and that the EU security policy is astonishingly absent from the security challenges facing Europe. Second, I argue that this situation stems from a lack of a political project within the European Union. I refer to the classical distinction made by Hans Morgenthau between pouvoir and puissance to show that, short of a political project, we will not see a strategic CSDP any time soon.

Contemporary Security Policy

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.



NATO and the end of the expeditionary model

I published an article (in French) in the prestigious Revue Défense Nationale on “Nato and the End of the Expeditionary Model”. It is available online and in PDF.

Here is the abstract: After twenty years of expeditionary activities, we can see the emergence of a less interventionist posture within the Atlantic alliance. A less interventionist NATO would nevertheless keep its utility as: a communication channel between the Europeans, the Russians and the Americans; a socializing institution for newcomers; a deterrent capability in new areas of collective vulnerability.

The paper is published in a special issue on NATO, which deals with many aspects of the alliance in a fresh and multinational perspective. You can access the TOC here.

Strategic Users of Culture: German Decisions for Military Action

My new paper has just been published by Contemporary Security Policy, and is available from here (behind a paywall) and in pdf.

Here is the abstract:

This article looks at cases in which political leaders have engaged in seemingly inconsistent behaviour and explores how they framed and justified their decisions. After showing that strategic culture is composed of different facets, I argue that when faced with conflicting pressures from the international environment and their own national constituencies, political leaders intentionally manipulate facets of their own strategic culture to legitimate a decision, made for contingent reasons, to participate (or not) in a military operation. I illustrate this argument by analysing in depth the decision-making process and public justifications of the German participation in the European and Security Defence Policy (ESDP) mission EUFOR Congo in 2006 and its refusal to militarily participate in a similar mission in Chad in 2007. This conception of strategic culture as both a constraint and a resource for policymakers reinforces our understanding of the boundaries of strategic culture’s explanatory power, and provides an explanation of seemingly inconsistent foreign policy behaviours.

An earlier draft was presented at the ISA annual convention in Montréal (2011) and won the honorable mention of the Alexander George Best Graduate Student Paper Award.

I am extremely grateful to Keith Krause, Stephanie Hofmann, Theo Farrell, Thomas Rid and Heather Williams for their help on earlier versions of the paper.