Mali: Is European Union to be ashamed?
Some days after France decided to deploy its troops in Mali, a quick look at the blogs and media dealing with defence and strategy let me deduce that, once again, Europe was sentenced to whatever you want for having been unable to react on time to counter the islamist threat coming from the Sahara.
Let us get deeper into the funniest critic I could read. I mean the lack of support by our main allies.
Indeed, that's a fact: neither the UK, nor Germany, even less Spain and Italy or Poland provided troops to reinforce the French ones. The only significant support they decided to offer, beyond the usual political backing, are transport aircraft, like C-17 by the UK and the USA, Transall by Germany and C-130 by Belgium, for instance. I was even told that this support was constrained by many caveats or even by the price!
1. Nicolas Gros-Verheyde reminds us on his blog Bruxelles2 that the French military decision making process is somehow archaic, as the democratic institutions are simply ignored. No other modern democracy works this way. He is right. Imagine you decide alone to go to the restaurant, while your wife wants to have a quiet evening at home watching a vintage episode of Derrick. Once arrived at the pizzeria, you call your wife and ask her to rush and pay a part of the bill, because you forgot your credit card at home! It sounds somewhat stupid, doesn't it? However this what happened between France and its partners.
2. France operational cycle is desynchronized. While French assets were made available by its unilateral withdrawal, Our main allies are still fully committed in Afghanistan, even reluctantly but by mere solidarity,l. Have a look at T. Wiegold's blog Augen geradeaus, about the deployment of the German Tiger attack helicopters. By the way, it brings us back to the point number one: on the one hand, France is not that much interested in solidarity: operations in Afghanistan not being popular in the French public opinion, both candidates claimed last year for a rapid withdrawal of Afghanistan. But, on the other hand France blames its allies for their lack of support in Mali.
3. From a more political perspective, I still wonder what direction France has decided to take in its relations with its European allies. Firstly the French administration has been trying for years to diluate the French-German relationship through a strategic partnership with the UK (under N. Sarkozy's presidency). A success was the British contribution to the campaign against Gaddafi. Nevertheless, the strategic goal of this war is still to be expressed, assuming that the downfall of a dictator cannot be a strategic aim by itself, this should be not more than a stage in a strategy.
As for the present administration refers, it seems more interested in Southern European countries to balance German supremacy. However, as usual in Europe, no major decision can be met without a French-German agreement. Furthermore, Spain and Italy are in such a financial trouble that they would not have provided any significant contribution, furthermore far beyond their traditional area of influence, which is limited to the immediate vicinity of the Mediterranean Sea.
4. At last, European is so conceived that any attempt to claim for any supremacy is condemned to failure, or one will have to assume remaining alone. Regarding the situation in Mali, there was obviously a French military operation already ongoing, even if limited and the EU operation commander is French. Furthermore France decided to send troops even without initiating a round of consultation with its allies, isn't it too much? Asking for support, while retaining the absolute leadership is a matter of concern in a Europe conceived on dialogue and consensus.
May be in a another post I will have a look at the strategy pursued by France in Mali, which is far from being obvious.
Therefore, whereas operation is a superb military success, I still wonder whether it has served to reinforce French position in Europe, and if France will again run on its own, when another former African colony will fail. May be, as there will be no other option. However, this implies that, despite its current budgetary problems France remains a major military power, capable of operating on its own!