Paris '07 Workshop
Key Address to the 24th International Workshop on Global Security, 14-17 June 07
Address of General Jean-Louis Georgelin
Chief of General Staff of French Armed Forces
Lieutenant General Christian-Charles Falzone presents the key
address on behalf of General Jean-Louis Georgelin, French
Chief of General Staff.
"...the crisis is almost always a crisis of the state...the local political organization...is either incapable of keeping its own population at peace or unable to enjoy harmonious relations at the regional international level.
These crises trigger phenomena that go way beyond existing borders."
Key Address Presented by General Christian-Charles Falzone
The theme for the 24th International Workshop on Global Security is central to the challenges we are facing today. After the very important contributions that have been made so far, I would like to address global security from the military point of view, which is mine.
The question as to which threats most urgently affect world security arises quite naturally in the context of my activities. In order to better answer it, we are developing military capabilities able to deal with the multiple and diverse crises occurring throughout the globe, even when we cannot anticipate their nature in advance. It is also natural for me to reflect on the specific situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa since our forces are presently engaged in Afghanistan, the Indian Ocean, Lebanon, and several African countries. Indeed, we must never forget that even the most elaborate strategies must find their application in a specific location and in a specific context.
This conjunction of the general nature of our strategies and the specific aspect of each action is a constant source of difficulties: the best thought-out strategies are sometimes unable to resolve local crises—crises which in turn may have a large impact on an entire region of the world. There are well-known examples of this.
In order to resolve this challenge, I believe that we must reflect on the profound significance of military action and, consequently, on the role of our armies. First, we must examine the threats we are facing, then the way we deal with them, and finally infer practical consequences for the tools at our disposal.
When we study the crises we are involved in and think of as causes for concern today, in Africa, in the Middle East and in Afghanistan in particular, we notice that they share two main characteristics:
· First, the crisis is almost always a crisis of the state, a crisis of the local political organization which is either incapable of keeping its own population at peace or unable to enjoy harmonious relations at the regional international level. These two failures are often linked. Strategy analysts have even come up with a theory of the notion of Failed State.
· Second, these crises trigger phenomena that go way beyond existing borders:
I have in mind massacres and sometimes genocides that engender almost inextinguishable hatred.
I have in mind population movements which, when exploited by unscrupulous smugglers, in particular in Africa, end up generating resentment and frustrations in the destination countries.
I have in mind the effect of crises on production and energetic procurement. The sensitivity of this question, including its impact on the financial markets, is well-known. The Middle East is of course at the heart of this question.
I have in mind the problems crises create on the water supply which, in turn, generates new crises in a whole region.
I have in mind the ecological disasters to which we are undoubtedly more susceptible to today than we were yesterday.
I have in mind organized crime and specifically illicit drug trade which is a real threat to a region’s equilibrium, with corruption, money laundering and the discredit of State organizations as its corollaries. We are directly affected by it.
I have in mind terrorism which finds a fertile soil and financing in destabilized zones and then casts its shadow on our societies. The case of Afghanistan is in all our thoughts.
I have in mind the dissemination of conventional weapons, including the most sophisticated ones, through various kinds of smuggling. This makes the military challenges confronting our armed forces even more difficult to deal with.
I have in mind the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which puts at risk an ever larger number of regions through the spread of long-range missiles.
These examples are well-known. They show how interdependent our societies are; they also show how much we need to be connected to each other.
Yet we should not derive erroneous conclusions from the analysis I have just made. Although we live in an interdependent world, the disquieting phenomena I have mentioned, which are triggered by state failures, arise from situations that are all different and specific.
Here state instability is caused by history and derived from ill-defined borders, ethnic rivalries, or ancestral hatred.
There, secessions or uprisings against the legal authority result from identity phenomena or religious fanaticism.
There, fragilities and dismemberments are due to powers along borders with regional appetites.
There again, they derive from a national or ethnic community’s feelings toward solutions that have been imposed from the outside. These feelings can even be stronger when there is an added perception of a double standard by the international community in treating the crises.
There finally, they arise from a marginal state’s feeling of insecurity, prompting this state to arm itself beyond its legitimate needs and to cut links with the international community.
Thus a variety of reasons causes states to fail and, consequently, to generate the global and trans-border phenomena that feed the threats. These various reasons deserve our careful analysis; they also deserve to be thoroughly understood. In fact, nothing would be more dangerous than to aggregate all the causes of crises into a unique threat that would be promoted to public enemy rank under the pretexts that our societies are interdependent and that crises reach out very far, sometimes even on our own territories. Very quickly, we might run the risk of creating this unique threat by uniting against us adversaries that have no particular reason to do so.
We know that the actual situation is quite different:
Among those men and women who contribute to the phenomenon of desegregation of states, you can occasionally find terrorists intent on using indefensible means; you can often find men who rebel out of despair or arm themselves to defend a cause they believe in. There are also men and women whose motivations and objectives follow their own logic. We should always try to understand those who take the risk of resorting to arms. This is my deep conviction, which is borne out of my daily experience in the conduct of operations. It is the conclusion I have reached based on my personal observations on the theaters. It is the feeling I am getting after reading the reports from my staff when they are back from a mission.
It is in effect what prompts me to say that, in order to confront these crises, we must rediscover the meaning of military action.
An army only acts and should only act based on a specific situation and after careful review of the limits of its engagement. A military action should always be viewed in its political context; its goal is always to submit the will of the adversary who has chosen to fight. In order to reach that goal and influence the adversary’s will, it may be necessary to resort to armed confrontations or to seek the destruction of some of the adversary’s forces. Sometimes, the simple threat of destruction may be enough. In any case, our forces must show great determination if they are to work effectively on the adversary. This means taking risks and acting with great cohesion within the multinational coalitions which are the most common framework for today’s interventions. Once the engagement decision has been made, French forces will be full co-partners of their allies, as it is the case in Afghanistan.
In our use of armed forces, however, we must guard against several pitfalls:
· First, an adversary’s destruction can never be a goal in itself. Let’s not take the means for the end. The use of force always necessarily takes on a political meaning. What matters in current crises is “the day after.” We all know that one day, even though there may still be ambiguities, a “peace of the brave” will have to be signed. Therefore, the political negotiation that we will conclude with the adversary’s forces is what gives meaning to our action. This requires that we keep a partner for negotiation; that we understand all the intricacies and particularities of a crisis. And in these crises, political negotiation takes place at all levels, both central and close to the theater of operations.
This brings me to the problems that occur when “non-political” security actors are involved. Although we can justify employing subcontractors in the area of logistics for example, which is a rationalization of our expenditures, subcontracting with private partners for functions that may involve the use of force raises delicate questions as to their legality and to our goals. Indeed in this case, the necessary link between political solutions and military means is broken.
· Also, we must draw attention to a second pitfall: military forces only have a limited role in these crises which, as I just mentioned, are often crises of state. They are powerless to resolve by themselves problems that are essentially political in nature. Other national or international political forces must participate in their resolution. It is always important that local actors be able to make the difference between what concerns combat’s military logic and what concerns other types of logic.
For this reason in particular, France, which advocates a global approach to the resolution of crises, believes that a purely military organization like NATO or an ad hoc coalition, cannot single-handedly assume the global responsibility of the interagency and pluridisciplinary approach that the action of the international community must assume. If we fail to take into account this aspect of the question, the military operations we are starting may turn out to add complexity to a given problem rather than help with its resolution.
Finally, and it is the third pitfall, we should stay away from the thought that armed intervention is the only way to deal with threats. Prevention is a major requirement. In this respect, armed forces have a dynamic role to play.
The use of force is not always necessary, even when there is a definite threat. Beyond cultural and national differences, it seems that the military from different nations may understand each other more easily than other groups. They are often trained in the same schools. They often share similar problems in terms of doctrine, equipment, and leadership. This shows the usefulness of both military defense cooperation and of the different exercises that we can share with armies from countries in fractured regions.
This is all the more so that in certain parts of the world, the army remains an institution which is among the most solid and open to the outside world ones. It is a privileged tool of positive influence that can consolidate the democratic state and highlight the necessary role of regional cooperation. This is the whole idea behind the RECAMP initiative in Africa whose goal is to allow Africans to be the actors of their own security through the installation of an African Force on standby. The European Union has agreed to be in charge of RECAMP.
Those are some of the comments I wanted to share with you. I believe that the military institutions from our various nations and the multinational organizations we belong to constitute first-order instruments at the disposal of our political authorities. They are the product of a constant investment by our fellow citizens and of the determination of men and women who, before us, served their countries in these institutions. They deserve that we reflect on their future and on the way they must be used because an organization that cannot adapt and is centered on itself is condemned to disappear. They also deserve it on account of the consequences of the actions they have been asked to carry out, which sometimes require the use of force. It is to the credit of this conference that it permits all of us to reflect on this together.