Arming against Hitler: France and the Limits of Military Planning

Article excerpt

ARMING AGAINST HITLER:

France and the Limits of Military Planning by Eugenia C. Keisling. 260 pages. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. 1996. $35.00.

Over the years, the 1940 Campaign and the development of the German and French armies that became the principal opponents have received much attention. All too often conclusions are similar-the Germans, looking to the future, got it right; the French, looking to the past, got it wrong. Other accounts usually try to understand how the French could have made such bad choices.

Eugenia C. Keisling brings a fresh approach to the problem. Instead of trying to understand why the French failed, she simply tries to articulate why the French did what they did. She does not concentrate on the failures of 1940; she concentrates on the choices made and their timing.

Beginning at the highest levels of French national policy and strategy, Keisling examines the interaction of politics, economics and public opinion; focuses tightly on the military itself and examines how the French military attempted to carry out the French nation's public and political will through military policy and strategy; and highlights the doctrine, organization and leadership designed to support that military policy and strategy.

Several critical factors become apparent. France was limited politically in its options. It did not have the strength to fight a resurgent Germany alone. France could not financially or politically afford to create large-scale professional forces nor keep conscripts for long service. This compelled a "longwar" strategy of attrition and coalition building. …