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Diplomatic Fallout: For France’s Hollande, African Interventions a Strategic Failure

Monday, Dec. 9, 2013

Is there a lonelier or more poorly understood warrior than Francois Hollande? Last week, as French troops prepared to intervene in the Central African Republic (CAR) to stem pervasive disorder, there was praise from abroad for the domestically unpopular French president. The Economist characterized Hollande as a “strident neocon” and “decisive war leader” whose willingness to send soldiers to Mali and the CAR this year has been in contrast to his “shaky” performance at home. Noting that France’s recent interventions have enjoyed widespread African support, the Guardian announced the emergence of a “Hollande doctrine” involving a “benign form of armed interventionism based on international authority and local consent.”

Do these analyses add up? It would be wrong to begrudge Hollande his dose of international praise. United Nations officials insist that if the French had not begun to deploy across the CAR, the country could have been on course for large-scale sectarian killings and perhaps even genocide. Similarly, if France had not barged into Mali to halt Islamist advances in January, radical groups might now be holding sway over large tracts of the Sahel. ...

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