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The Iron Spine of NATO

Down in the conversation thread for my Saturday contribution (The Change which Hope has brought us) one of the commenters was making much of France's change in position between Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Odyssey Dawn.   Were France a key player in NATO's centralized command and force structure, that would make a certain amount of sense.

France is certainly central to Western Europe (as a quick glance at a map will demonstrate), but their role in NATO is, by their own choice, rather less central.

Shorty after NATO's inception, during the Administration (some would say the reign) of Charles de Gaul, France concluded that the NATO leadership and command structure were insufficiently Gallic.  When France proved unable to convince the other members of NATO that France's Martial Glory required a greater degree of control over NATO, the French withdrew from the NATO Unified Command Structure and required all non-French NATO forces to be withdrawn from France.

And now we see why this was not a bad thing:


NATO may have contracted "the French Disease."

Dan Miller | PJ Tattler

According to the  Financial Times (subscription may or may not be required), French sidestepping of NATO at the beginning of military operations in Libya has divided the no-fly-zone coalition. On March 21, French and German ambassadors to NATO walked out after the secretary general faulted France for impeding NATO involvement and Germany for not participating actively.

Turkey is said to be offended because her representatives had not been invited to a "summit" in Paris. There are also tensions between the United States and Britain on one hand and France on the other. One western official is reported to have said, <

As we got closer and closer to closing the deal at Nato, France suddenly blocked everything, which confused us at first ... But then it became clear - [French president Nicolas] Sarkozy wanted to announce strikes just as he was walking out of his meeting in Paris where he was leading the show."

France denied all charges.

Perhaps there is something to be said for better United States leadership in international matters. Quo vadis?


With allies such as these who wouldn't charge off into battle with them?


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Comments (9)

The "French Disease"...... (Below threshold)
jim m:

The "French Disease"...

Heh. I think antibiotics can cure that.

quo vadis ou quid p... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

quo vadis ou quid pro quo, actons that nations love to engage in inculding ours.

From Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004, and then whistleblower, pre WikiLeaks:


A senior diplomat in a western mission to the UN in New York, who I have known over ten years and trust, has told me for sure that Hillary Clinton agreed to the cross-border use of troops to crush democracy in the Gulf, as a quid pro quo for the Arab League calling for Western intervention in Libya.

I think it's high time we g... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

I think it's high time we got out of NATO.

Steve Crickmore @ 2,<... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves:

Steve Crickmore @ 2,

We've known for 15 years now that Hillary could be bought at a bargain price and won't publicly complain when publicly embarrassed.

Yes, ever the pragmatist, s... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Yes, ever the pragmatist, she will never divorce Bill or Obama. It is all about retaining power or influence, but there is always the law of unintended consequences. From the same Craig Muray blog I quoted,

It was former UK Ambassador to Libya, Oliver Miles who said western military intervention in Libya should be avoided above all because of the law of unintended consequences. One consequence has happened already, unintended by the liberals who fell in behind the calls for military attacks on Gadaffi. They helped cause the foreign military suppression of democracy in Bahrain. For Clinton and Obama, it is a win-win forwarding US foreign policy on both Libya and the Gulf, where they don’t want democracy.
As to France withdrawing fr... (Below threshold)
Edward Sisson:

As to France withdrawing from the NATO military role, it is my understanding that in those years, the US was quite concerned about the strength of the French Communist Party, such that we felt that anything we told the French government would be told to the French Communist Party and thus to the Soviet Union. Accordingly, the US refused to tell the French government where, inside France itself (or anywhere else) we had positioned nuclear weapons.

The French government, finding it politically impossible to be in a situation where the location of nuclear weapons inside its own territory was kept from it, expelled all NATO military forces, so that there would be no nuclear weapons inside France except those whose locations were known to the French government.

The result was unfortunate, but frankly, I cannot see how either government could have behaved differently. The US was reasonable in fearing that military secrets disclosed to the French government would become known to the Soviet government; the French government was reasonable in refusing to allow a situation in which it was kept in ignorance of nuclear weapons inside its own country.

Perhaps Edward. But for al... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Perhaps Edward. But for all that, any country which tolerates the indiscriminate proliferation of Escargot and Mimes is neither understandable nor tolerable.

Oh, what a fucking mess... ... (Below threshold)
John S:

Oh, what a fucking mess... I feared that Obama following the French into battle would not end well.

"The French disease"<... (Below threshold)
mojo:

"The French disease"

A pox on their houses!




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