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over NATO, the French withdrew from the NATO Unified Command Structure and required all non-French NATO forces to be withdrawn from France.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:
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?