The Strategic View from France

I wish there was an English translation of this Le Figaro interview with outgoing French army chief of staff, Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, mainly for the overlap it reveals in terms of French and U.S. strategic thinking, but also for the very cogent way in which he frames many of the familiar aspects of the discussion. For the overlap, Georgelin suggests that instead of preparing for enemies, the military must prepare for a variety of unpredictable threat scenarios, something the QDR also emphasizes. His discussion of the difficulty democracies face in maintaining political will to wage distant wars of “forward defense” would also ring familiar to anyone who followed the Stateside debate over the Obama administration’s Afghanistan strategy review last year.

Something that also caught my eye, in the context of widespread discussion over American decline, is his remark that, “. . . whatever people may say, the U.S. role has become more pronounced over the last few years.” That this remark is directly followed by the observation that China’s — and India’s — power is on the rise did nothing to lessen its impact. Is it possible Americans are more worried about American decline than are overseas strategists?

Finally, putting France’s operational capacity in context, Georgelin points out that the total force projection “contract” — that is a force deployed at long distance, mobilized in six months’ time and maintained for a year — outlined in France’s 2008 Defense White Paper is equivalent to the Afghanistan surge announced by President Barack Obama in December. Something worth keeping in mind for anyone keeping score of NATO troop commitments to the Afghanistan War.