Of course, life is life, in other words a combat, for a nation as for a man. Charles de Gaulle1
In General de Gaulle's famous speech of November 3, 1959, before the classes of the French military schools, there is a passage very revealing of his line of thought:
The Government at all periods has had as a raison d'être the defense of the independence and the integrity of the territory. . . . In France in particular, all our regimes have come from that basis . . . there were always preoccupations or necessities regarding defense. Conversely, each invasion, each national disaster, has led infallibly to the fall of the existing regime. If, therefore, a government had lost its essential responsibility it would lose, by the same token, its justification. Once peace came, it would be soon acknowledged that it had not fulfilled its objective. (emphasis added) 2
For de Gaulle, governing seemed to imply the necessity of a permanent joust. The essential function of the French state was to assure its defense. Put another way, among the affairs of state, primacy was given to defense. The tone of this passage (which contains a sort of subliminal ex post facto justification of his rebellion against Vichy) and of the passage at the beginning of this chapter suggest that de Gaulle saw himself as permanently at loggerheads with other states.
Charles Bohlen spoke of talks he had about de Gaulle with President Kennedy in Palm Beach, at the time when Bohlen was the American ambassador in Paris: