Thursday, April 05, 2018

Don't Discount the French Role in the Long War

The French get a fair bit of grief, some deserved, most not. Most of it has to due with some of the unpleasantness from WWII, but in a certain way it is because it takes one to know one. The French are more like Americans than either nation would be willing to admit.

You can't take away the fact that they are one of the finest militaries in the world. When taken from a long view, they have an impressive military record in wars both large and small. Their national character - still dented from being bled white in WWI - is still there as it has been since Charles Martel.

Especially in Africa, they have been critical players in the Long War. If you need a catch up, check out Michael Shurkin over at Politico.
There is a French way of warfare that reflects the French military’s lack of resources and its modest sense of what it can achieve. They specialize in carefully apportioned and usually small but lethal operations, ...
Emblematic of the French approach was France’s military intervention in the Central African Republic in March 2007. To stop a rapidly moving rebel advance into the country from the Sudanese border, the French attacked using a single fighter plane and two waves of paratroopers totaling no more than a “few dozen” who dropped into the combat zone in the Central African town of Birao. In military terms, what the French did was a pinprick, yet it was sufficient to break the rebel advance like placing a rock in the path of a wave. It was, moreover, a risky thing to do: Airborne assaults are intrinsically dangerous, all the more so when one has little capacity to reinforce or withdraw the lightly armed soldiers in an emergency. The first wave of “less than 10” soldiers reportedly made a high-altitude drop. The French military, moreover, did all this quietly, with the French press only learning of the intervention a few weeks after the fact.
France’s intervention in Mali in January 2013 also illustrated these attributes amply.
They did so, moreover, with a scratch "pick-up team" consisting of bits and pieces of a diverse array of units cobbled together in great haste and on the fly. Some of these could be considered elite, but most were not. In addition, the French put this ad hoc force up against a dangerous enemy that was operating in the worst imaginable physical environment–all with barely enough supplies simply to keep French troops from dying of thirst and heat exhaustion. French soldiers’ boots literally fell apart because the glue holding them together melted from the heat. The French went places their enemies assumed they would never dare go, fighting hand-to-hand among caves and boulders deep in the desert.
What makes the French way of war distinct from, say, the U.S. way of war has to do with scarcity. The French military is highly conscious of its small size and lack of resources.
Read the rest for the details.

We could learn a lot from the French.

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