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

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

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.

But it is wrong to suggest that Hollande has been decisive or visionary in handling these crises. Paris has been dragged into the CAR against its initial instincts, just as it only chose to fight in Mali as a last resort. Hollande, like his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy before him, had wanted to curtail France’s African commitments to concentrate scarce military and financial assets elsewhere. By this logic, the fact that he has ended up doubling down on Africa, just as Sarkozy ended up fighting in Libya and Cote d’Ivoire, equals a strategic failure. And as Paris has waded deeper into these battles, it has encountered further strategic frictions with its European allies, the U.S. and even the African states that welcome its actions.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.