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French Military Interventions in Africa: Realism vs. Ideology in French Defense Policy and Grand Strategy
Unformatted Document Text:  the particularly French values of exceptionalism, republicanism and civilization from the shared colonial history are more important for the power relationship between France and Africa than relative military power or strategic position in the region. 6 The bulk of the recent French literature shares Chipman’s focus on French identity and colonial ideas of civilization as driving forces for French military activity in sub-Saharan Africa since decolonization. 7 Almost all of the French sources appearing after 1995 privilege the role of French historical, colonial identity in its African policy, and that the continuity of policy comes from a continuation of the beliefs in the superiority of French civilization and the effort to bring it to Africa on a large scale. André Dumoulin, in an important source from 1997, argues that French motivations for military intervention are the ideas of Françafrique (French Africa, a derogatory term for the ideas of French and African Union popular in the 1950s and 1960s), la Francophonie, 8 and French nationalism. Dumoulin says these ideas are more important than any material strategic factors, since he argues that Africa is not strategically vital for France. 9 Most of the more recent writings after the 2002 Côte d’Ivoire operation still continue to emphasize the explanatory value of particular French ideas and identity of the mission civilisatrice for the resurgence of French military activity. 10 In this paper, I will argue that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the continuity of French military interventions in Africa is due to a realist grand strategy of selective engagement and offshore balancing designed and implemented by the 6 Ibid, 6-9. 7 Not all of the French literature prior to the 1990s shared this point of view, however. See Pascal Chaigneau, La politique militaire de la France en Afrique (Paris: Centre des Hautes Etudes sur l’Afrique et l’Asie Modernes, 1984), for the most important example of a realist approach to French intervention in the French literature. 8 This is the common term to refer to the community of French-speaking countries. After 1984, it became an official international organization, La Francophonie, see www.francophonie.org . 9 Dumoulin, 10-19. 10 See in particular Magelan Omballa, “La politique africaine de la France : ruptures et continuités,” Questions internationales 5 (January-February 2004), 54-65. 4

Authors: Griffin, Christopher.
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the particularly French values of exceptionalism, republicanism and civilization from the
shared colonial history are more important for the power relationship between France and
Africa than relative military power or strategic position in the region.
The bulk of the recent French literature shares Chipman’s focus on French
identity and colonial ideas of civilization as driving forces for French military activity in
sub-Saharan Africa since decolonization.
Almost all of the French sources appearing
after 1995 privilege the role of French historical, colonial identity in its African policy,
and that the continuity of policy comes from a continuation of the beliefs in the
superiority of French civilization and the effort to bring it to Africa on a large scale.
André Dumoulin, in an important source from 1997, argues that French motivations for
military intervention are the ideas of Françafrique (French Africa, a derogatory term for
the ideas of French and African Union popular in the 1950s and 1960s), la
Francophonie,
and French nationalism. Dumoulin says these ideas are more important
than any material strategic factors, since he argues that Africa is not strategically vital for
France.
Most of the more recent writings after the 2002 Côte d’Ivoire operation still
continue to emphasize the explanatory value of particular French ideas and identity of the
mission civilisatrice for the resurgence of French military activity.
In this paper, I will argue that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the
continuity of French military interventions in Africa is due to a realist grand strategy of
selective engagement and offshore balancing designed and implemented by the
6
Ibid, 6-9.
7
Not all of the French literature prior to the 1990s shared this point of view, however. See Pascal
Chaigneau, La politique militaire de la France en Afrique (Paris: Centre des Hautes Etudes sur l’Afrique et
l’Asie Modernes, 1984), for the most important example of a realist approach to French intervention in the
French literature.
8
This is the common term to refer to the community of French-speaking countries. After 1984, it became
an official international organization, La Francophonie, see
.
9
Dumoulin, 10-19.
10
See in particular Magelan Omballa, “La politique africaine de la France : ruptures et continuités,”
Questions internationales 5 (January-February 2004), 54-65.
4


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