Bobby and I are discussing Robert Kagan’s opus in the comments to this post. Figured I’d move it up to the front page. At this point we’re discussing Kagan’s point in the block below, with Bobby taking the position that France deploys troops and therefore Kagan’s point is inaccurate.
Kagan: During the Cold War, Europe’s strategic role had been to defend itself. It was unrealistic to expect a return to international great-power status, unless European peoples were willing to shift significant resources from social programs to military programs.
Clearly they were not. Not only were Europeans unwilling to pay to project force beyond Europe. After the Cold War, they would not pay for sufficient force to conduct even minor military actions on the continent without American help. Nor did it seem to matter whether European publics were being asked to spend money to strengthen nato or an independent European foreign and defense policy. Their answer was the same. Rather than viewing the collapse of the Soviet Union as an opportunity to flex global muscles, Europeans took it as an opportunity to cash in on a sizable peace dividend. Average European defense budgets gradually fell below 2 percent of gdp. Despite talk of establishing Europe as a global superpower, therefore, European military capabilities steadily fell behind those of the United States throughout the 1990s.
I said in support of this that the things the French did were a pittance compared to what it takes to wield power in an external manner, and one significant example is the lack of strategic lift for their own troops.
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(Italics here from the last comment from Bobby on the previous thread. There, you’re all caught up now!)
Okay, but strategic lift isnâ€™t what I thought Kagan was getting atâ€“ his point was that continental Europe had become insular, its interests confined to improving the economic lot of its member-states…
Sure, Kagan wasn’t specifying platforms or anything, but what you buy indicates how you think. If you never buy stuff that gets you from Point A to Point B, then you don’t really intend to do so. Or perhaps you intend to but will never be able to without outside help. I’d also say that they canâ€™t really operate at anything above the Brigade-level is pretty relevant considering that country used to have a huge deployed force!
Perhaps it might help to discuss this through the French official viewpoint. The way I read it (my French is lousy but sometimes useful), they deploy for reasons just like you say–confined to improving the economic lot of itself (or trying to prevent damage to French folks or stuff).
L’emploi des armÃ©es sur le territoire national rÃ©pond Ã trois principes exclusifs ou cumulatifs :
* une menace sur la sÃ©curitÃ© de la population,
* une urgence absolue Ã laquelle seuls des moyens militaires peuvent rÃ©pondre,
* lorsque les moyens civils ne peuvent rÃ©pondre Ã l’urgence et Ã l’ampleur des besoins.
Ce bilan ne prend en compte que des opÃ©rations majeures et non des actions menÃ©es au quotidien (telles que la mise Ã disposition de lits pour les sans-abris, la dÃ©pollution d’un site..), ni des missions de l’Ã©tat en mer.
(Babel version:The use of the armies on the own territory answers three exclusive or cumulative principles:
* a threat on the safety of the population,
* a top priority which only average soldiers can answer,
* when the average civil ones cannot answer the urgency and the extent of the needs.
This assessment takes into account only major operations and not of the actions carried out to the daily newspaper (such as the provision of beds for the homeless people, the depollution of a site.), nor of the missions of the state at sea.)
Here’s a reference, un Babelfished. Something like the ongoing Beryx mission is more like what we’d do–which is an unusual thing for them, but it’s naval (= MUCH easier, which is why it’s exempted from the above statement of French intention), and was done after some delicate negotiation and understanding of French interest afterward. (And a few years more after Kagan wrote his paper.)