France and the Nazi Menace: Intelligence and Policy Making, 1933-1939

By Peter Jackson | Go to book overview

7

Paralysis

JEAN-BAPTISTE Duroselle described 1937 as a 'pâle année' in the history of French foreign policy between the wars.1 From December 1936 to March of 1938 France took no major initiatives while the international situation continued to deteriorate. Caught between an economic crisis which showed few signs of improving and clear evidence of Germany's ever-expanding rearmament programmes, the governments of Léon Blum, and his especially successor Camille Chautemps, gave priority to domestic over external policy. The struggle to maintain the franc and reinvigorate the economy therefore took precedence over rearmament and preparation for a possible war with Germany. Austerity measures were introduced which curbed government spending, halted social reform, and limited the expansion of the armed forces. France remained an introspective nation and the corollary to this introspection was a sort of paralysis in external policy. The foreign policy of Yvon Delbos, who remained at the Quai d'Orsay in the Chautemps government after the fall of Blum in June of 1937, was essentially devoid of energetic initiatives.

Intelligence was a contributing, though not decisive, factor in this paralysis. In 1937 perceptions of the German threat evolved dramatically from deep concern over the future ramifications of Nazi rearmament to the conviction that Germany had established decisive superiority over France both on the ground and in the air. And these perceptions were all the more influential because they took shape against a background of agonizing delays in French rearmament. The result was an often crushing sense of inferiority that constituted a powerful voice of restraint for the makers of policy. Restraint in this context translated into inaction.

1 Duroselle, La Décadence, 314–15.

-207-

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France and the Nazi Menace: Intelligence and Policy Making, 1933-1939
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Intelligence Machine and the Decision Making Process 11
  • 2: French Intelligence and the Nazi Machtergreifung, 1933 45
  • 3: Intelligence and the National Socialist Gleichschaltung, 1933–1936 82
  • 4: Initial Responses to Nazi Rearmament: Intelligence and Policy, 1934–1935 109
  • 5: The Rhineland 161
  • 6: Intelligence and the Rearmament Programmes of 1936 178
  • 7: Paralysis 207
  • 8: Munich 247
  • 9: A Change in Perspective 298
  • 10: Girding for War 337
  • 11: Decision for War 379
  • Conclusion 388
  • Appendices 397
  • Bibliography 403
  • Index 435
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