Precision and Purpose: Airpower in the Libyan Civil War

By Gregory Alegi; Christian F. Anrig et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
The French Experience: Sarkozy’s War?*
Camille Grand
Introduction
The Libyan campaign was unique in many respects among recent French military engagements, to the point that some commentators have called this operation “Sarkozy’s War,”1 a reference to the 2010 Bob Woodward book Obama’s Wars about the U.S. president’s efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This emphasis on the Libya campaign in the narrative about Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency overshadows France’s recent military endeavors elsewhere. After all, in 2011, France did send more troops and spent more money than the United States did in Afghanistan, and engaged its forces to facilitate a successful political transition in Ivory Coast. Yet several important factors make Libya stand out:
  A genuine French leadership (or co-leadership) in the diplomatic management of the crisis and the conduct of military operations, making France much more than a contributor to a U.S.-led operation.
  A strong moral, legal, and political case in the context of the Arab Spring, combining a clear mandate with a United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR 1973), the moral imperative of the responsibility to protect (R2P), and the support of many Arab countries.
  A successful military campaign combining an appropriate use of force, few civilian casualties, and a successful political outcome with the fall of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.
  The personal involvement of Sarkozy, who decided very early in the crisis to take the lead and who was directly involved in the daily conduct of operations.

* This chapter draws on numerous interviews with French military and government personnel conducted by the author in 2012 and 2013.

1 For example, Natalie Nougayrède, “La guerre de Nicolas Sarkozy,” Le Monde, August 24, 2011.

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