Studying France’s defence policy

I published two articles in the Journal of Strategic Studies on France’s defence policy. They are part of a special issue on France in the transatlantic security order I guest-edited, and which includes articles from Alice Pannier (US-UK-France relations), Stephanie Hofmann (French party politics and policies towards NATO), Olivier Chopin (intelligence reform), Nicolas Giacometti (nuclear policy) and Élie Tenenbaum (irregular warfare).

Below are the abstracts and the links to the two articles, available in open access thanks to the SDU library.


“The Reluctant Atlanticist: France’s Security and Defence Policy in a Transatlantic Context” (link) (pdf)

This article introduces the key tenets of French foreign and security policy during the Cold War, and illustrates the deep challenges to the French consensus raised by the emergence of a unipolar system. There is a growing gap between the rhetoric of French security policy, emphasizing ‘autonomy’ and ‘sovereignty’ out of habit from the Cold War, and the actual security practices showing a gradual embedding within the transatlantic security structures. In the absence of a new transpartisan grand narrative relevant for the contemporary international system, such embedding is easily portrayed in France as a ‘treason’ from a romanticized Gaullist foreign policy.


“French Military Adaptation in the Afghan War: Looking Inward or Outward?” (link) (pdf)

For some, a specific feature of the French armed forces’ adaptation process would be the capacity to look inward instead of outward in order to identify relevant solutions to tactical/doctrinal problems. This article questions such a narrative, and argues that the French armed forces are as quick as any to borrow from other countries’ experiences. In order to do so, this article introduces the concept of ‘selective emulation’, and compares the French and German military adaptation processes in Afghanistan. The article argues that there is indeed something distinctive about French military adaptation, but it is not what the fiercest defenders of the French ‘exceptionalism’ usually account for.


The Causes, Character and Conduct of Armed Conflict, and the Effects on Civilian Populations, 1990-2010

My new publication is available from here and in pdf.

It is a paper I co-authored with my thesis supervisor, Theo Farrell, originally commissioned by the UNHCR.

The UNHCR is engaged in a major project to get states to look again at the 1951 Refugee Convention. This is the key international agreement on international protection of refugees. It provides a right of asylum for individuals fleeing persecution but, amazingly, it does not provide any such right for those fleeing armed conflict. The UNHCR wants states to rethink this. Our paper is supposed to provide background for brainy lawyers working on the implications for refugee law.

This paper provides an overview of the whole debate on “new wars”, “civil wars”, “greed v grievance”, etc. and uses six short cases studies to illustrate the effects of war on civilian populations.

The paper will be reprinted as the first chapter of a UNHCR-edited book to be published by Cambridge UP in 2013.

I hope you will find it of interest.

Strategic Users of Culture: German Decisions for Military Action

My new paper has just been published by Contemporary Security Policy, and is available from here (behind a paywall) and in pdf.

Here is the abstract:

This article looks at cases in which political leaders have engaged in seemingly inconsistent behaviour and explores how they framed and justified their decisions. After showing that strategic culture is composed of different facets, I argue that when faced with conflicting pressures from the international environment and their own national constituencies, political leaders intentionally manipulate facets of their own strategic culture to legitimate a decision, made for contingent reasons, to participate (or not) in a military operation. I illustrate this argument by analysing in depth the decision-making process and public justifications of the German participation in the European and Security Defence Policy (ESDP) mission EUFOR Congo in 2006 and its refusal to militarily participate in a similar mission in Chad in 2007. This conception of strategic culture as both a constraint and a resource for policymakers reinforces our understanding of the boundaries of strategic culture’s explanatory power, and provides an explanation of seemingly inconsistent foreign policy behaviours.

An earlier draft was presented at the ISA annual convention in Montréal (2011) and won the honorable mention of the Alexander George Best Graduate Student Paper Award.

I am extremely grateful to Keith Krause, Stephanie Hofmann, Theo Farrell, Thomas Rid and Heather Williams for their help on earlier versions of the paper.

Thinking Strategically About Sanctions

My new publication is available from here, and in pdf.

Here is the abstract:

Students of sanctions tend either to use a vocabulary coming from strategic studies without recognizing all the implications of such a use or to describe strategic concepts without naming them. After having justified the relevance of a strategic analysis of sanctions by underlining their common political and coercive nature, an analysis of sanctions using strategic concepts leads to interesting findings and a research agenda proposal for broadening our understanding of the use of sanctions in world politics.

The paper originates from a research seminar led at the Graduate Institute (Geneva) by Prof. Thomas Biersteker.

I hope you will find it of interest!