Over the last several years, great-power competition has become a major topic of discussion, prompting policymakers, scholars, and pundits alike to look to the past for lessons to explain the emerging contest between the United States and China. Considering how a variety of historical powers have faced rising challengers can aid our understanding of the challenges ahead.
Gen. André Beaufre, the father of contemporary French strategic thought, epitomizes better than anyone the traits that make modern French military theory unusually rich. He is also a key for accessing a rich and distinctly different way of thinking about war with direct applications for today, whether one is pondering Afghanistan or how to deal with China.
Recent American military history suggests civilian and military leaders could benefit from studying French military strategy. For those who wish to understand French military thinking, the place to start is with Marshal Ferdinand Foch.
The UK government's decision to deploy an additional 250 soldiers to join the United Nations mission in Mali might be in Britain's security interests. Such deployments display the UK's commitment to international security and may well form a critical part of its post-BREXIT diplomacy.
News that the U.S. Department of Defense is contemplating a major drawdown in West Africa comes as the region is in crisis. For Americans, the Sahel crisis raises a fundamental question: Beyond basic humanitarian concern, if the Sahel falls apart, why should Americans care?
Each year brings more violence to Mali and its neighbors. Mali and Burkina Faso are rapidly destabilizing; the situation in Niger is less dire, but that is hardly a commendation. Why is the violence in Mali getting worse given the significant efforts by the international community to stem it?
When asked about their heroes, one name comes up with French Army officers more than any other: Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc. Saint Marc lived an extraordinary life, to be sure. But his story also contains important lessons about modern warfare and counter-insurgency warfare in particular, the work of training local forces, and the imperative of aligning military means with realistic political objectives.
As French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in London for the 35th UK-France Summit, there is growing French discomfort with arrangements at the UK-France border. The UK's decision to leave the European Union has added new urgency to this already fraught debate.
Gen. Vincent Desportes and Col. Michel Goya draw on careers focused on the study and practice of war and share a grimmer and more Hobbesian vision than what one normally meets in French public debates. This makes them appealing guides to the dark world in which the French now find themselves.
At first glance the comparison between the French military operations in Mali and America’s involvement in Afghanistan is compelling, and in some important ways, accurate. It also presents some fundamental differences that give reason for optimism in France.
The French Joint Force G-5 Sahel plan offers the possibility of strengthening the Sahel nations' efforts to combat terrorism. Supporting the French initiative is a worthy undertaking, provided, of course, that everyone understands what it is and is not.
The novel La 317e Section (The 317th Platoon) informs and reflects an operating style rooted in the French Army's collective memory of the colonial wars. Colonial operations tended to be low-budget, small-footprint missions that placed junior officers in positions of considerable authority and responsibility. Service promised quick glory but was also more dangerous.
It's time for Paris and Washington to get together with the G5 nations of the Sahel and draft a strategy for achieving shared objectives. The French cannot do it alone or even with the support of the G5 nations. The U.S. would be penny wise but pound foolish to stay aloof or even just uphold the status quo.
Right-wing nationalism is rising in Europe, but Emmanuel Macron's election in France shows that support remains for liberal-democracy and the European Union. But the struggle over France's future is far from over and Macron will need to tackle his country's economic problems head-on.
Mali needs more international engagement, as well as serious pressure on the Malian state to strengthen its hold on the country. The key will be helping beyond just security force assistance and conventional economic development aid; Mali needs help governing.