I don’t want to go into a whole lot of detail about this, because I’m currently working on an article that in some ways grows out of it. But Nicolas Sarkozy’s announcement that France is ready to re-negotiate its military treaties with its former colonies in Africa is motivated by more than just a desire to finally bring an end to the archaic and patronizing legacy of post-colonialism.
France currently has 9,000 soldiers stationed in Africa, predominantly in four permanent bases. To give you a comparative idea, that would be the equivalent of 42,000 American soldiers based on relative population between the two countries, 52,000 based on relative GDP, and a whopping 80,000 based on relative military spending. Suffice it to say, that’s a lot of manpower committed to “policing” Africa (read: propping up unpopular regimes) that could be put to better use elsewhere in a rapidly shifting global strategic environment.