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France - Military Doctrine

At the core of French civil-military relations for two centuries was fear on the part of the political left of repression by the regular army. The regular army had repressed leftist uprisings in bloody confrontations in 1789-90, 1848, and 1871. It supported rightwing coups d'état in 1799 and 1851, and a possible coup by General Georges Boulanger had alarmed the politicians in 1889. One of the principal issues in the Dreyfus Affair of 1894-1906 was the claim by the army that the word of its officers was not subject to question by civilian authority.

The politicians prevailed over the officers and seized every opportunity to weaken and humiliate them. The Combes and the Clemenceau governments in 1905-07 forced Catholic officers to supervise the seizure of church property, degraded them in the order of precedence, and appointed a Dreyfusard general as minister of war. A right-of-center government in 1910 used the regular army to crush striking railway workers, confirming the leftists' perceptions of the army as their enemy. In 1914, a central tenet of the Socialist program was replacement of the regular army with a popular militia. The left won the election of 1914 but could not enact its program because war began two months later. During the war, the generals assumed extraordinary power and robbed the left of its electoral victory.

In 1924, the left again won control of the government and moved swiftly against the regular army. A series of laws in 1927-28 reduced the army from a combat force to a training establishment, a 1931 law mandated laying off 20 percent of the regular officers, and two laws (1928 and 1933) amputated military aviation from the army and navy and set it up as a separate service.

General de Gaulle’s attitude to NATO, progressing from overt mistrust even before 1958 to his decision in 1966 to withdraw French forces from the integrated military structure, was part of his plan to provide France with an independent defence policy…, while his relations with successive American governments evolved, General de Gaulle judged it time for France to reclaim its independence: the country was now in a position to act alone in Europe and worldwide, and would develop “a nuclear force such that none shall dare attack us without fear of suffering the most terrible injuries.”

The French concept of defence, as defined in the ordinance of 7 January 1959, is a comprehensive one, setting three goals for the country's defence.

  • To defend France's vital interests, which are defined by the President of the Republic and include its people, its territory and the freedom to exercise its sovereignty. At the same time, France must also protect its strategic interests at the international level and contribute to conflict prevention, keeping and restoring peace, as well as ensuring respect for international law and democratic values in the world. Its strategic interests lie in keeping the peace in Europe and the adjacent areas, such as the Mediterranean and the Middle East and in areas that are critical for its economy and the freedom of trade.
  • To work for European integration and stability in Europe. For France to keep its place in the world, it will need to influence European integration and the coming changes in Europe. Its European choice stems from strategic and economic considerations. Furthermore, although France is still free to determine its security requirements and to choose which resources it deploys, it recognises that the Atlantic Alliance is a critical link between Europeans and Americans, even for peace-keeping missions carried out on behalf of the UN or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The challenge is to renew the capabilities of NATO, to strike a better balance of responsibilities between the United States and Europe and to put these capabilities to work for peacekeeping missions and crisis management.
  • To implement a comprehensive defence concept, which is not limited to military concerns. Indeed, a country's security and stability depend on its social organisation, education system and social cohesion as well as its armed forces and police. This means that the concept of defence is intimately linked to the concept of the nation. For example, emergency services protect the population, maintain public order and thereby ensure the continuity of the State. The emergency services play a preventive and protective role with regard to natural and man-made risks, and ensure the security of critical infrastructures and networks. They also ensure proper allocation of resources during crises.

Changes in the strategic environment throughout the 1990s meant that France now had a strategic buffer to the east that can be measured in thousands of kilometers. This was the first time in its history that it has been in this situation. However, contrary to certain expectations and hopes, crises and conflicts still occur around the world, according to rationales and under circumstances where the parties to them are often new and unexpected. This fragmented and multiplied the threats from government and non-government players. The attacks on 11 September 2001 marked the emergence of mass terrorism that gave rise to a new type of conflict, with no clearly identified battlegrounds or armies, where the enemy, which is willing to use weapons of mass destruction, clearly targets the general population. France is a developed society that is open and that has a high level of technological achievement. This makes it particularly vulnerable to new types of threats. Its commitments to a set of political partnerships, common interests and alliances make it a potential target.

France has adapted its strategy to these two changes in the international environment with the primary policy objective of defending the security of the French and their interests in France and outside France, since some 1.5 million French citizens live in other countries.

Deterrence is based on the concept of non-use and requires maintaining diversified resources to affirm France's credibility when faced with changing threats. France must also be able to contribute to protecting Europe's security in consideration of the growing solidarity between the countries in the European Union. France plays an active role in the implementation of regional stabilisation instruments, such as the CFE Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty on confidence-building and security measures, and the Dayton Accords. It also participates in initiatives to control weapons as part of the OSCE, including the fight against the spread of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and the French-Dutch initiative on munitions stockpiles. Conventional forces now play a full strategic role and are no longer considered to be merely an adjunct to the nuclear deterrent.

Prevention is the first step in the implementation of the defence strategy. This means that intelligence should provide France with the ability to anticipate events and give it an independent capability to assess the situation. France's defence diplomacy also contributes to prevention by developing defence and security relations with foreign partners through strategic dialogue, information sharing, assistance and military cooperation.

Projection and action are the basis of the French armed forces model. The keys are the capability to deploy forces in Europe and outside Europe, and the ability to provide rapid deployment and long-term support for joint forces that can rapidly assert their superiority in a theatre of operation.

Protection of the population, institutions and France's territory are ongoing requirements, defence of France's national territory must be ensured under all circumstances. This means being capable of resisting blackmail, retaliation or attacks against France's territory or population at all times, or limiting the impact of an asymmetric attack. As a direct result of the free movement of people and goods throughout the European Union, the protection of the national territory increasingly involves closer cooperation with France's neighbours and allies.

Under President Mitterand, a 1994 Livre Blanc (White Paper) laid out a strategy to restructure the French military — although the strategy did not have the sweep or effectiveness needed for a real transformation. The new White Paper defining French post-Cold War defense policy objectives. These focus on the preservation of peace in Europe and its bordering zones and in other areas essential to French economic activity and free trade. French security planning now focuses on six different classes of future conflict scenarios that could require a French military response. These are: regional conflicts not touching French vital interests; regional conflict touching French vital interests; attack on French overseas territories/departments; fulfillment of bilateral defense agreements; peace and international law enforcement operations; and resurgence of a major threat against West Europe. .

These scenarios collectively require French armed forces to conduct: (1) high-intensity regional conflict within a coalition; (2) interventions to assist overseas territories or in application of defense agreements; and (3) limited peace or international law enforcement operations. French defense policy is still evolving.

In 1996, the “neo-Gaullist” Chirac government developed another White Paper on defense. Building on the directions established earlier, the paper reinforced the priority of conventional over nuclear forces and specified four primary policy objectives: ending conscription and the development of a professional French military force; strengthening and developing a European-based military structure and defense industrial base; continuing to modernize major military equipment; and reducing cost by 30 percent to defense production (over a six year period)

France's concerns about domestic security - a central theme of elections in 2002 - focus mainly on common crime and antisocial behavior, organized crime, and terrorism, especially Islamist terrorism. Since late 2005, the prospect of urban unrest also has become a matter of concern. At that time, widespread rioting erupted in France's city outskirts and reached a scale not seen in France since the student-worker riots of 1968. In the several weeks of rioting in 2005, the children of mainly North African immigrants burned some 10,000 cars and community centers and schools in 300 urban areas-areas where unemployment is rampant among young males. The property destruction was extensive and led to nearly 3,000 arrests and an official state of emergency lasting until January 2006.

These riots aroused more consternation than the usual politically charged actions arising out of France's tradition of wildcat strikes, street demonstrations, and mass mobilization. Many interpreted the 2005 riots as evidence of the failure of French policies on immigration and integration, particularly of Muslims. A few even saw the riots as fueled by religion and hostile teachings in mosques. Others dismissed any causal connection to religion, blaming the mayhem simply on small numbers of gang leaders competing in destruction and exploiting the social disaffection of other underclass youth.

Whatever the interpretation, the riots ensured that law and order and immigration were major themes in the electoral campaigns of 2007, recalling the dominance of security concerns in the 2002 presidential election, when the far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen polled a startling 17 percent in the first round of voting. In 2007 Nicolas Sarkozy, a relative hard-liner on law and order and immigration, garnered votes previously given to Le Pen, whose vote total fell to 10 percent.

In the April 22, 2007 first round of presidential elections, Sarkozy, the leader of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, placed first and extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen placed fourth out of a field of 12 candidates. Sarkozy prevailed in the May 6, 2007 second round.

On June 17, 2008, President Sarkozy announced the findings of a 35-person Presidential Commission on the Livre Blanc (White Paper).217 The White Paper sets forth a new comprehensive security strategy that deploys a full spectrum of military and civilian tools to address the range of risks France faces. This more holistic approach highlights the risks of terrorism associated with radical jihadism that “aims directly at France and Europe.” It also recognizes that potential adversaries will use asymmetric warfare and exploit vulnerabilities to the French homeland.

The White Paper set forth a new Eurocentric national security strategy and changing force structure to address the new range of threats. In effect, the new strategy confirms the gradual changes underway since the last White Paper in 1994 and effectively adopts a neo-Gaullist approach that focuses on maintaining an autonomous military capability — but through the EU rather than on a go-it-alone national basis.

On 05 May 2012 François Hollande, the former leader of France’s Socialist Party, was elected president of France, defeating incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. The French White Paper on Defense and National Security of 2013 noted that Europe was moving towards economic and financial integration, but at the cost of stringent controls on public spending as introduced by the main EU member countries. At the same time, the threats already identified in 2008 – terrorism, cyber-attacks, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, etc. – had become even more pressing.

The 2013 White Paper highlighted the three priorities of our defence strategy: protection, deterrence and intervention. They reinforce each other and are inseparable. "We must guarantee the protection of French citizens, including against cyber related threats, preserve the credibility of our nuclear deterrence and explicitly affirm our right to take the initiative in actions that defend our interests and those of the international community."

The White Paper took into account the evolution of French defense capabilities set against budgetary constraints. It conveys a will to retain autonomous, swift-reaction deployment military means relying on well-trained, well-equipped and well-informed forces.

In recent years, France has shifted from its traditional Gaullist policy of National Autonomy to a neo-Gaullist policy of Strategic Autonomy centered on building a stronger European defense capability. Under Strategic Autonomy, France seeks to ensure its ability to choose where and when to operate militarily and its ability to operate independently if necessary. But this policy does not mean all industry sources must be French; only a few select areas must remain national (e.g., nuclear weapons capability).

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