Rebirth: A Political History of Europe since World War II

By Cyril E. Black; Robert D. English et al. | Go to book overview

design. The modernized armed forces continued to take pride in their force de frappe (strike force), yet the anomaly remained that, though France had nuclear weapons, it possessed separate from NATO neither the methods to deliver them successfully nor the means to prevent them from being destroyed on the ground should attack occur. Nevertheless, shorter-range missiles such as the Exocet -- which France sold to Argentina and which the Argentineans used to sink a destroyer belonging to France's ally, Great Britain, during the Falkland Islands War -- gained France renown. They also made the French munitions industry a subject of controversy. France won itself a position of trust with some Third World nations but at times at the expense of firmer relations with its Western allies (for example, when France refused overflight permission to U.S. planes operating against Libyan terrorists in 1986).

Such problems are not unusual. Their linkage with technology demonstrates France's movement into an advanced industrialized society, as did the reduction in the size of the French agricultural population from about one-third in 1945 to less than 8 percent in the late 1980s. The political process of adapting to and controlling the scientific and technological revolution that the political leaders had forthrightly launched and abetted was still under way in the century's last decade. It seemed likely that some shifting of programs would continue as consensus built regarding the correct mixture of centralization and local autonomy, welfare, investment, energy, and defense and foreign policies. Achievement of a technological society was assured and therefore no longer required a single strong political hand such as that of a de Gaulle. Values had steadily moved toward increased personal freedoms. For some while, the debate had not been about clinging to traditional formulas but rather of ascertaining the right formula for entering the future. Thus even if no consensus were rapidly to emerge in terms of one-party or coalition control and economic doctrine, yet the commitment to a modern, technological economy, military, and society (a key achievement of de Gaulle) remained basically unchallenged despite Le Pen's criticisms. Since 1945 France had not only revived; it had also defeated its fears, renewed its economy, found grounds for a positive relationship with Germany, and assumed a leadership role in the European integration movement.


Notes
1
The nature of the several French republics varied. Each was marked by one or more new constitutions, although the Third Republic did not even have a

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