Defense Transformation a la Francaise and U.S. Interests

By Michel, Leo G. | Strategic Forum, September 15, 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Defense Transformation a la Francaise and U.S. Interests

Michel, Leo G., Strategic Forum

"La grande nation" Still?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged that France "will remain a great military power" when he unveiled the White Book on Defense and National Security and endorsed its wide-ranging reforms. (2) The next day, a group of anonymous general officers condemned it as an "amateurish" and "incoherent" exercise that "cannot mask the downgrading of our military in a more dangerous world," and former conservative Prime Minister Alain Juppe criticized Sarkozy's intention to enhance France's role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a "fool's bargain." (3) Behind such rhetorical volleys lies the complex, costly, and occasionally humbling process of defense transformation a la francaise: the Sarkozy government's attempt to refashion the strategy, structures, capabilities, and international engagements of the only European Ally, except for the United Kingdom, that aspires to be a global actor able to act independently, if needed, to promote or defend its interests.

Sarkozy launched the effort with ambitious terms of reference for the White Book: a prospective analysis, covering a 15-year horizon, of the international security environment and priority missions of French armed forces; a comprehensive strategy that emphasizes synergies between defense and nondefense structures and capabilities (such as economic and diplomatic tools) and between external operations and homeland defense; and recommendations on future force structure, equipment, financing, human resources, intelligence organization, and industrial and research policy. (4)

Moreover, the White Book was to be the product of a relatively transparent, inclusive, and bottom-up process--unlike the White Books of 1972 and 1994, which were essentially defense ministry products carefully guided by the president's staff. To prepare the document, Sarkozy appointed a commission of some three dozen civil servants, military officers, parliamentarians and local elected officials (of the majority and opposition parties), and eminent representatives of civil society. He encouraged the commission to hold open hearings with French and international specialists and to solicit public input through an Internet forum.

In some respects, the White Book fell short of expectations. Sarkozy effectively preempted the commission process on a few contentious issues--notably nuclear weapons policy, France's future role in NATO, and whether to construct a second aircraft carrier. Some critics, including the aforementioned group of anonymous general officers, charged that the military's viewpoints were not sufficiently represented in the commission's work, although General Jean-Louis Georgelin, Chief of the Defense Staff and a commission member, asserted otherwise.

Still, the White Book placed on the table key questions facing the government and public that for too long had escaped critical analysis by all but a relatively small circle of officials and experts. The commission's open hearings, Internet forum, and spinoff meetings held by defense-oriented think tanks created an important record for journalists and researchers and served as a welcome supplement to closed-door meetings with parliamentarians and military leaders.

France's defense transformation is a work in progress. But based on the White Book, statements by government and military officials, and reactions from leading politicians and nongovernment analysts, a reasonably clear picture has emerged on three questions:

* How do the French assess the future strategic environment?

* How do they intend to adapt their strategy, capabilities, and international partnerships to deal with that environment?

* What are the implications for the United States?

Threat Perceptions

The threats of international terrorism, weapons proliferation, and deepening ties between state and nonstate actors--arrayed, according to the White Book, in an "arc of crisis from the Atlantic to [the] Indian Ocean"--are at the top of French strategic concerns.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Defense Transformation a la Francaise and U.S. Interests


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.