Can France Be a Hawk on a Dove Budget?

The World
How It Works
Aug. 22 2013 6:47 PM

Can France Be a Hawk on a Dove Budget?

173435245
French President Francois Hollande (L) and French Army Chief of Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud review the troops during the Bastille Day parade at the Place de la Concorde, on July 14, 2013 in Paris. AFP PHOTO POOL / MARTIN BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images

The new, more aggressive foreign policy posture that the French government adopted in the later months of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency seems to be permanent. Following on the 2011 peacekeeping operation in the Ivory Coast and Sarkozy’s championing of the international intervention in Libya later that year, Francois Hollande’s government launched a military intervention in Mali—which involved 4,000 troops at its peak. Even before the operation Mali, France had almost 5,000 troops stationed abroad at posting including Afghanistan, Chad, Lebanon, and Ivory Coast. At least 1,000 troops will remain in Mali. The French government has also emerged as the most forceful voice pushing for intervention in Syria.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said today that if reports of a chemical weapons attack by Bashar al-Assad’s government are confirmed, “There would have to be reaction with force in Syria from the international community.” (For what it’s worth, former President Sarkozy has been pushing for intervention  for a while now.)

Advertisement

What’s interesting about French foreign policy is that at the same time its posture is becoming more hawkish, it’s scaling back on its military capabilities. The French military is still large and well-funded by European standards, but austerity cuts are taking their toll. A six-year budget adopted this month reduces the total military and defense staff from 324,000 to 242,000. That will include a cut of 10,000 operational troops. Spending will be held at current levels for the next three years.

French military planners still claim the ability to sustain the deployment of 30,000 troops overseas, and in any case Fabius was adamant that any intervention in Syria would not include ground troops. But it remians unclear whether Europe’s preeminent military power has a bite will keep up with its bark for much longer.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories to the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
Outward
Oct. 22 2014 9:00 AM Wailing Against the Pansies: Homophobia in Whiplash
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 22 2014 6:00 AM Why It’s OK to Ask People What They Do David Plotz talks to two junior staffers about the lessons of Working.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 8:43 AM Thunderstruck: Rock Out With Mother Nature’s Evil Side
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 22 2014 7:30 AM An Illusion That Makes Me Happy and Sad
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.