Saturday, September 02, 2006

What's the French Army Good For?

The Feline Theocracy's College of Cardinals over at No Pasaran have a good post about the Europe's peacekeeping attempt in Lebanon. They excerpt from a piece in the Economist describing Europe's continued decline into military irrelevance and compare it to the Three Stooges.

For many Americans, Europe's current involvement in Lebanon continues the tradition of irrelevance. It has been rather like a "three-stooges" show in which Jacques Chirac grandiloquently announces that France will save the world, offers to send three men and a popgun, and is finally shamed by—of all nations—Italy into sending 2,000 troops, which still won't be enough.
So is the EU more like Moe, Larry, or Curly? I say Shemp. "Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!"
How valid is this criticism? That is to say, what do we have a right to expect out of the French Army?

The US Navy explicitly calls out their strategy in a publicly available document called Sea Power 21. Expectations for the Navy are clearly laid out.

These dangers will produce frequent crises, often with little warning of timing, size, location, or intensity. Associated threats will be varied and deadly, including weapons of mass destruction, conventional warfare, and widespread terrorism. Future enemies will attempt to deny us access to critical areas of the world, threaten vital friends and interests overseas, and even try to conduct further attacks against the American homeland. These threats will pose increasingly complex challenges to national security and future warfighting.

Previous strategies addressed regional challenges. Today, we must think more broadly. Enhancing security in this dynamic environment requires us to expand our strategic focus to include both evolving regional challenges and transnational threats. This combination of traditional and emerging dangers means increased risk to our nation. To counter that risk, our Navy must expand its striking power, achieve information dominance, and develop transformational ways of fulfilling our enduring missions of sea control, power projection, strategic deterrence, strategic sealift, and forward presence.
Emphasis mine. The world is a dangerous place in many ways and the Navy needs to be able to respond to it any time and anywhere. For the overall US military strategy, see Joint Vision 2020.

What is the analagous French doctrine? You can't expect what they don't promise. The French spell out their expectations in "Military Model 2015." I couldn't find an English language version, but the Brookings Institution provided a good summary. Some key points for me were these.

The recent decisions on French defense policy do not in and of themselves guarantee that the ambitious modernization objectives in the 2015 Military Model will ultimately be met. The do, however, reverse the trend of declining French defense spending so evident in recent years - a trend that, if it had continued, would have led to a virtual collapse of French defense capabilities.
This excerpt is also key.

There is now a widely shared sense in France, at least within defense circles, that the large European countries are right after the U.S. on Al-Qa'eda's target list, as the attack on the French oil tanker Limburg recently demonstrated. Indeed, the short set of strategic considerations introducing the LPM contains language surprisingly close to recently released U.S. strategic documents.
In other words, the French see the threat and wish they could meet it, but they're still trying to recover from letting their military go to seed. In all the Chirac-ish hemming and hawing over how many troops to send, there are probably a good number of financial considerations. The cost of sending troops abroad takes away from maintenance on, say, the French Air Force. At this level, it really does come down to a choice between sending peacekeepers and repairing aircraft.

It may not be a lack of national will keeping the French from playing hardball in the Middle East. It may be a lack of Euros.

1 comment:

Kelly the little black dog said...

How about this as a model for the future of the French military.