Honorable Mention

Michael’s point regarding “resignations of honor” is well taken. The political culture of Europe is still very much based on personal responsibility and reputation. That said, the unsolicited resignation yesterday of the French’s army chief of staff, Gen. Bruno Cuche, was as much a question of “le doigt d’honneur” (literally “the finger of honor,” situated between the index and ring finger) as a resignation of honor. According to Jean-Dominique Merchet at Secret Défense, Cuche felt that Nicolas Sarkozy had personally insulted him and the army in general while visiting the scene of the accidental shooting incident in Carcassonne:

Pointing at him, the Commander-in Chief exclaimed, “You are amateurs! You aren’t professionals!”

“He was unbearable,” a witness confirmed. (Translated from the French.)

Cuche’s resignation has to be understood in the progressively deteriorating relationship between Sarkozy and the military in general, but the Army in particular. Cuche was already on the record as opposing the troop increase in Afghanistan, which is bringing to light some of the French army’s equipment shortfalls (up-armored transport vehicles have been bought secondhand from the U.S.). The Livre Blanc that was unveiled two weeks ago called for shrinking the armed forces by 54,000 men. And Nicolas Sarkozy’s vocal and violent reaction to the incident in Carcassonne was considered by many officers as an attack on the institution itself. As another general cited by Merchet put it:

His resignation was a nice gesture. He took a hit for everyone, and he didn’t sell his stock options beforehand.

Cuche’s command was scheduled to end at the end of August. By resigning now, Cuche effectively sacrificed a prestigious figurehead position that he was reportedly hoping for.