A Sight on European Defence

On 9th October, the French Socialist Party held a convention dedicated to foreign policy and intending to delineate the political orientations of the Party in the perspective of 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections. The text currently available on the net is not the definitive version and we are waiting for the public release of the amended text. You can find the provisional version under the following link:

http://www.parti-socialiste.fr/articles/les-propositions-ps-pour-l-international-adoptees-a-l-unanimite

For the numerous readers not accustomed to the French politics, the Socialist Party is the main party of the opposition to the current government, rather conservative, although the French political landscape does not mirror at all the US or British one. The Socialist Party as run the country at various moments of France contemporary History, beginning in 1981, with the election of François Mitterrand as President of the Republic.

I will not detail the whole program, but focus exclusively on my field of competence, I mean defence (if you read this post, it means that you endorse my assumption regarding my competencies).

Firstly, comparing with equivalent documents published in other countries, like Germany, this one is available exclusively in French language. We can hence presume that the induced target audience is not the international community, but exclusively the French electors of the socialist party. Indeed, the vehicular language of international relations is English language and no more French. In any matter of international relations, if you want to convince your partners, they first have to understand your intend. In this case, I fear that the audience will be limited out of the French borders.

Secondly, every citizen can appreciate the conceptual effort made by the Socialist Party on a topic that does not directly influence the immediate neighbourhood of Mr Dupont (French equivalent to John Doe, Mr Dupont always wears a beret and carries a baguette and a cheese).

Nevertheless, some points still disturb and show conceptual weaknesses indicating that the Socialist Party either ignores or at least prefers not taking into account the orientations of the main European stakeholders as for foreign policy refers.

This provisional document conveys a negative impression of the current involvement of NATO in Afghanistan and even states that “the reintegration in NATO military structure, the unconditional commitment in Afghan war, the stance on Iran, convey sometimes the image that France is anchored with the old America of George W. Bush, far away from our values, namely strategic independence and UN multilateralism”.

Obviously, if the French Socialist Party really wants to promote European defence, as claimed in this program document, it should take into account some major parameters:

-NATO and US umbrella remain the life insurance for most of our partners, mainly the countries still living under the traumatism of the Soviet occupation. Europe is not able to play this role of umbrella, and France alone even less, as the Socialists claim that NATO should again focus on collective defence, which clearly means a reinforcement of US presence, as this country is the only one able to provide the necessary military assets in such a perspective. By the way, I would add collective defence, against whom, as war is an issue for which you need at least two partners.

-I would express some doubts on the effective capability to implement what the Socialist Party calls ‘strategic independence’, as they simultaneously claim for more mutualisation of assets and more multilateralism. Indeed, strategic independence is not only reached through deterrent, but also through conventional assets. The conflicts of the past 50 years show as well that conventional capabilities are the key for independence. Furthermore, if France wants to be multilateral, as claimed in the same sentence, too much independence will not be that much appreciated by the European partners.

-UN multilateralism can be a matter of concern, when simultaneously Germany is claiming defending first its national interest. I fear that, for some internal political balance of forces, the Socialist Party is still unable to leave and abandon the old rags of left wing pacifism, which has always been more a rhetoric and electoral ideal than a reality.

However, even if this document is full of weaknesses and contradictions, it provides at least a good basis for discussion and political debate, which is already a great step forward.

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