In this Stratfor article George Friedman turns his attention to France. He points out that French power was hemmed in first by England's victory in the Napoleonic Wars which reduced France to at best a continental power, and then by its defeat in 1871 by a unified Germany which placed a major military power on its doorstep.
After WWII de Gaulle realized he could not compete at the same scale with either the U.S. or the Soviet Union, so he devised a strategy of binding Germany to France, with Germany as the junior partner.
That worked well enough for a while, but modern France is experiencing a role-reversal with Germany becoming the dominant partner. This is the challenge facing France as it attempts to maneuver the diplomatic mine field of the slowly disintegrating EU.
The beginning of the article is excerpted below, with a link to the entire article at the end of the excerpt.
To select the article's Hot Stratfor Babe I naturally turned to French cinema for a worthy candidate. After much deliberation I settled on Audrey Tautou, who American's would be most familiar with from her role as the lead in the French film Amélie.
I've only seen chunks of Amélie, but of course I won't leave the minor detail of never actually seeing the whole movie get in the way of me spouting off about it. It seems to be one of those films, apparently popular with a lot of young women, where the heroine is a charming and whacky girl who is a bit mousey and fades into the background. She then does a lot of charming and whacky things until she gets her beau. Smooch, smooch. The End.
In a lot of ways it reminded me of the final segment of the earlier Chinese film Chungking Express, only loaded down with irritating French pretentiousness.
Still, Ms Tautou has a very expressive face, and she did the charming and whacky waif bit quite well in the film. Her career has been quite successful, starting out on French TV and moving through French film to Hollywood. In spite of her Hollywood roles, she says she wants to remain rooted in French cinema -- preferring Paris to California. Good for her, although she may want to move for a bit before she gets the bejeezus taxed out of her earnings by France's new socialist President .
By George Friedman, May 15, 2012
New political leaders do not invent new national strategies. Rather, they adapt enduring national strategies to the moment. On Tuesday, Francois Hollande will be inaugurated as France's president, and soon after taking the oath of office, he will visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. At this moment, the talks are expected to be about austerity and the European Union, but the underlying issue remains constant: France's struggle for a dominant role in European affairs at a time of German ascendance.
Two events shaped modern French strategy. The first, of course, was the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 and the emergence of Britain as the world's dominant naval power and Europe's leading imperial power. This did not eliminate French naval or imperial power, but it profoundly constrained it. France could not afford to challenge Britain any more and had to find a basis for accommodation, ending several centuries of hostility if not distrust.
The second moment came in 1871 when the Prussians defeated France and presided over the unification of German states. After its defeat, France had to accept not only a loss of territory to Germany but also the presence of a substantial, united power on its eastern frontier. From that moment, France's strategic problem was the existence of a unified Germany.
France had substantial military capabilities, perhaps matching and even exceeding that of Germany. However, France's strategy for dealing with Germany was to build a structure of alliances against Germany. First, it allied with Britain, less for its land capabilities than for the fact that Britain's navy could blockade Germany and therefore deter it from going to war. The second ally was Russia, the sheer size of which could threaten Germany with a two-front war if one began. Between its relationships with Britain and Russia, France felt it had dealt with its strategic problem.
This was not altogether correct. The combination of forces facing Germany convinced Berlin that it had to strike first, eliminating one enemy so that it would not be faced with a two-front war. In both the first and second world wars, Germany attempted to eliminate France first. In World War I it came close, France saving itself only at the Second Battle of the Marne. The Germans surprised the French and perhaps even themselves by withstanding the Russians, the French and the British in a two-front war. With the weakening of Russia, Germany had new units available to throw at the French. The intervention of the United States changed the balance of the war and perhaps saved France.
In World War II, the same configuration of forces was in place and the same decisions were made. This time there was no miracle on the Marne, and France was defeated and occupied. It again was saved by an Anglo-American force that invaded and liberated France, effectively bringing to power the man who, in one of those rare instances in history, actually defined French strategy.
Charles de Gaulle recognized that France was incapable of competing with the United States and the Soviet Union on the global stage. At the same time, he wanted France to retain its ability to act independently of the two major powers if necessary. Part of the motivation was nationalism. Part of it was a distrust of the Americans. The foundation of post-war American and European defense policy was the containment of the Soviet Union. The strategy was predicated on the assumption that, in the event of a Soviet invasion, European forces supported by Americans would hold the Soviets while the United States rushed reinforcements to Europe. As a last resort, the United States had guaranteed that it would use nuclear weapons to block the Soviets.
De Gaulle was not convinced of the American guarantees, in part because he simply didn't see them as rational. The United States had an interest in Europe, but it was not an existential interest. De Gaulle did not believe that an American president would risk a nuclear counterattack on the United States to save Germany or France. It might risk conventional forces, but they may not be enough. De Gaulle believed that if Western Europe simply relied on American hegemony without an independent European force, Europe would ultimately fall to the Soviets. He regarded the American guarantees as a bluff.
This was not because he was pro-Soviet. Quite the contrary, one of his priorities upon taking power in 1945 was blocking the Communists. France had a powerful Communist Party whose members had played an important role in the resistance against the Nazis. De Gaulle thought that a Communist government in France would mean the end of an independent Europe. West Germany, caught between a Communist France supplied with Soviet weapons and the Red Army in the east, would be isolated and helpless. The Soviets would impose hegemony.
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