News / Europe

What Drives France's Military Operations Overseas?

French military ground crew prepare a Mirage 2000 jet fighter for a mission to Libya, at Solenzara 126 Air Base, Corsica, Mar 23 2011
French military ground crew prepare a Mirage 2000 jet fighter for a mission to Libya, at Solenzara 126 Air Base, Corsica, Mar 23 2011

The three French military operations - in Afghanistan, Libya and Ivory Coast - are very different. France's involvement in Afghanistan is a holdover of the previous conservative government and within the framework of NATO. But only recently has France taken a prominent role in helping quell the unrest in Libya and Ivory Coast - displaying a new openness toward using force on the part of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In a spate of interviews this week - including this one on France 2 television - Foreign Minister Alain Juppe argued there was no change in French policy.

Mr. Juppe said that in both Libya and Ivory Coast, France was working within the framework of international law - notably UN mandates to protect civilians. He said France had no intention of deploying a more offensive foreign policy.

But analysts see other motives behind French action. In Libya, Paris not only launched the first airstrike against forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, but also became the first country to diplomatically recognize the rebel National Libyan Council in Benghazi. In Ivory Coast, France's Licorne force and UN troops have attacked President Laurent Gbagbo's forces.

Clara O'Donnell, a research fellow at the London-based Center for European Reform, said France's forceful role in Libya came as a surprise.

"Simply because of the nearly 180 degree turn in which France - and particularly President Sarkozy - underwent in the run-up to this intervention. France had had very close ties with Libya in recent years, and we go from one extreme to the other," said O'Donnell.

French intellectual Bernard Henry Levy, who has close ties with Benghazi's opposition council, says Mr. Sarkozy was swayed into action after meeting with its top members - at Levy's request.

"I was proud and I'm very proud of my country to have taken the good move.  And to have had, maybe, an influence on others," Levy said.

A French armored vehicle patrols a street in Abidjan Mar 31 2011
A French armored vehicle patrols a street in Abidjan Mar 31 2011

When it comes to Ivory Coast, prominent Ivorian journalist Venance Konan says Mr. Sarkozy was also right to intervene - to prevent further civilian bloodshed. He says while some Ivorians might accuse former colonial power France of meddling, most will not.

"Don't forget that the majority in Cote d'Ivorie voted for [internationally recognized President Alassane] Ouattara. and this majority will support Mr. Sarkozy for helping them install democracy," said Konan.

What is driving Mr. Sarkozy? When it comes to Libya, analyst Philippe Moreau Defarge of the French Institute of International Relations says the president is partly making amends for France's initial support of the former regime in neighboring Tunisia during that country's January revolt.

"France has the same dilemma as the United States - on the one side, when you are a great power, very present in the region, what you want is to preserve stability - your priority is stability," said Dfearge.

But at the end, Defarges says, France and the United States ultimately will support democracy. He also believes there's another reason for Mr. Sarkozy's more muscular policy.

French soldiers patrol in the mountains of the valley of Kapica in Afghanistan (File)
French soldiers patrol in the mountains of the valley of Kapica in Afghanistan (File)

"France would like to keep a great power status and to preserve a specific national foreign policy," Defarge added. "And to a certain extent, maybe they're [French diplomats] happy to have such a passive European Union showing that Europe needs to keep great powers like France."

Center for European Reform's O'Donnell agrees French force contrasts starkly with the low-key reaction to Libya by the European Union as a whole. She draws parallels with the Balkan conflict - a decade ago.

"What's very striking is that we're over a decade down the line and the same problems are there," O'Donnell said. "We still have very strong disagreements about the extent to which Libya should be perceived as a strategic threat, very strong disagreements about if force is the best way to deal with that threat - and again, military capability in most countries is completely inadequate. And I think this is a sad indictment of the limited progress the Europeans have made in trying to pursue any kind of common defense policy."

The fallout, O'Donnell says: Increasingly France - as well as Britain - is becoming disillusioned with a common European defense policy. Increasingly, she believes, the two countries will be forging ahead militarily - in some cases, alone.

You May Like

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid