La Vigie Nr 125 : The growing importance of strategic intelligence | Strategic reliability | Lorgnette : Saudi Arabia is burning

The growing importance of strategic intelligence

Strategic intelligence is an increasingly crucial activity for many organizations facing infobesity. It serves strategic objectives (anticipation, security and mobilization), does not only operate outwards and is not limited to improved documentation: it must take into account the contemporary hostile environment where information is both energy and weapon.

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Strategic reliability

The reliability of a strategy is assessed with several indicators: its ability to manage uncertainty and assess possibilities, its pragmatism and agility in the face of the unexpected, its ability to combine determination and restraint… It is an essential factor in its sustainability and in the consolidation of the country’s security interests.

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Lorgnette: Saudi Arabia is burning

A coordinated attack by air seriously damaged a Saudi oil site on 14 September: it is not known whether they are drones or missiles or where they come from (Yemen, Iraq, Iran?) and who fired them. The reduction in production capacity has led to a surge in oil prices and affected markets. And yet, while the accusations flourished very early on, there was some restraint in Washington and Riyadh . Here, the bogging down in Yemen highlights the war limits of the kingdom, which cannot engage in an open conflict with its Iranian rival. Here, an already open election campaign is preventing President Trump from opening a new front, against the deep desire of his electorate.

Let us move on to the capacity limits of ground-to-air protection (detection and destruction) in the Saudi kingdom or to the surprising technical innovations of an aggressor capable of launching a salvo of devices operating several hundred kilometres away: let us note the boldness of this strategic initiative and its success, as it reveals the military and political limits of the American-Saudi alliance.

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La Vigie Nr 124 : On the right foot | A fine diplomatic sequence | Lorgnette : Buying Greeenland

On the right foot

Getting off to a good start in terms of security after a tense summer is for France to pay close attention to public security. It then means seeking to redevelop the strategic space of its geopolitical neighbourhood. Finally, it is to free oneself from the traps set by an indiscriminate American administration that blows hot and cold and destabilizes global governance. It should be noted that, pragmatically, expected progress is currently being developed.

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A fine diplomatic sequence

Summits of heads of state are often of little use, other than staging the supposed agreement of the leaders. This is even more true of the G7s, usually. However, the end of the summer saw a fine diplomatic sequence led by President Macron, who succeeded in generating an opening on the Iranian issue and an agreement on the taxation of the GAFAs. This was followed by a speech to the ambassadors that signalled a change of line and certainly a pragmatism that seemed to us to be a good method

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Lorgnette: Buying Greenland

Donald Trump’s summer offer to buy Greenland sparked the eternal flow of sarcasm and caused a diplomatic crisis with Denmark, which remains sovereign on the island. It should be recalled that the idea is not as absurd as it seems (the United States has already bought Louisiana and Alaska and made two proposals to buy Greenland in the past), that America has the Thule base there, that yesterday’s geostrategic interest in the USSR is now being renewed with the increased interest in the Arctic, particularly by China. Finally, it should be noted that geologically, the island is more American than European. Nevertheless, Denmark remains sovereign, there is a status of autonomy (as in the Faroes, whose recent elections highlighted the independence fighters) and this raises the question of all these northern islands (Greenland, Faroe, Spitzberg/Svalbard) but also the place that Europe (not the EU, given Norway’s non-membership) could have on these polar issues. In other words, instead of giggling, take a serious interest. France has apparently an ambassador for the poles: we haven’t heard him on the subject.

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Photo credit: La Moncloa – Gobierno de España on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

La Vigie Nr 123 (double issue) : Lassitude | Miscellaneous | Sudan : end of games | Commanding space | Reading stickers

La VIgie Nr 123 ( 31 JUL 2019)

Strategic fatigue

In the face of approximations and inconsistencies, weariness becomes the strategist’s fatigue. It must recall some obvious facts: the false concept of weapons of mass destruction, which combine special tactical weapons and weapons of strategic superiority in a catch-all; the vicissitudes of arms control; and finally, the strategic confusion of inclusiveness, a new French strategic dogma that mixes everything up without really deciding anything.

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Lorgnette 1: Political Miscellanea

The first half of the year was full of political reflections, those prompted by the Treaty of Versailles or the 75th anniversary of the D-day. We also enjoyed reading the Tocqueville Conversations, which this year dealt with the future of nations and the debates on Brexit and European disorder. As is often the case, it is a question of the past and the future, the contours of which are difficult to define in the present. But if history never repeats itself, it always continues. To ignore it would be a mistake. The nation-state of the 20th century is transformed into a connected state of the 19th century. But then what to keep from the past? What European, Community and strategic achievements should be preserved? What lessons can be learned from missed appointments and peace? The time for the collective heroism of peoples has passed, but their dispersion in singular trajectories will not be progress. In Europe more than elsewhere, inter-state disasters have been experienced. We need different rules of the game on the Eurasian continent to manage our nations, which are being blamed for inclusive globalisation. So instead of claiming innocence, i.e. to a justice without force, let us try to be a little stronger, even at the risk of being a little less just (Pierre Manent).

Sudan: end of game?

The death of the Tunisian president reminds us that popular pressure can change the system. The Algerian victory in football delays the blocking of this pressure. Finally, the agreement in Sudan gives the illusion that the system is changing: it is probably only an illusion, the dual regime put in place probably allowing the extension of the power system.

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Lorgnette 2: Commanding space

France will soon have a military space command: The new space strategy recently presented provides for a real space force (new surveillance satellites, nano-satellites, small reactive launchers, power lasers). Everything would be launched from 2023 (next five-year period). 700 million have been generated on the current LPM, €1.5 billion on the next. The doctrine would be aligned with that of deterrence: active but not offensive and “not first engagement”, in order to protect and defend our space interests. Of course, this will be done in a Europeanised framework (no one notes the German delay in this area). The new space command will be installed in Toulouse while the 2008 Space Operations Act will be reviewed to allow for genuine military specificity.

This new strategy acknowledges the ongoing arms race, driven both by the proliferation of state actors (Japan, China, India) and private actors. Space was placed between deterrence and intelligence: it is now becoming autonomous. The Air Force is in charge of it.

Reading stickers :

Some books we read : Les défis chinois (E. de La Maisonneuve) – La mesure de la force (M. Motte) – Vision(s) du monde (Ch. Grataloup) – La puissance au XXIè siècle (P. Bühler) – L’orthodoxie (N. Kazarian) – L’affolement du monde (Th. Gomart) – L’archipel français (J. Fourquet) – Le désert et la source (R. Cagnat) – La France et l’Otan en Syrie (R. Hureaux) – Les guerriers de l’ombre (JC Notin) – Babel minute zéro (GP Goldstein) – Piège au levant (R. Pietrini) – La bombe d’Alger (M. Bowman) – Les invasions allemandes (N. Isigny).

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La Vigie Nr 122 : Pariahs and States | Under the thresholds | Lognette : In Kosovo

La Vigie Nr 122 : 17 JUL 2019

Pariahs and States

The current conflicts are often the result of the inability of international society to enable communities to establish themselves as viable and stable states. The reason is to be found in the dislocation of empire systems that leave orphaned peoples, in the inconsistent diversification of international law and in the transformation of international actors. To regulate global tensions, we must offer everyone the perspective of the state they need.

Under the thresholds

The notion of threshold has been well known to strategists since the development of nuclear deterrence. Below the threshold, we would live under the reign of conventional warfare. Yet, in the post-Cold War world, this category struggles to explain all the conflicts we have experienced over the past thirty years and, above all, the latent but intense conflict of the contemporary world. It is therefore necessary to determine a new threshold, well below the nuclear threshold: it allows a better understanding of the conflicts of the moment.

Lorgnette : In Kosovo

There was to be a summit in Paris in early July between Serbia, Kosovo, Germany and France. It was cancelled. The diplomats hoped to resolve a political dispute that had been dragging on for 20 years: the separation of Kosovo from Serbia. There was a conflict, a NATO operation and since then things have calmed down: the time has come for negotiation.

We know the principles, since both Belgrade and Pristina agree to proceed with territorial exchanges. However, this ancestral practice seems extremely complicated to carry out.

The first reason is public opinion, whether Serbian or Kosovian. However, prior media preparation should succeed in overcoming the obstacle. Secondly, the two capitals have recently adopted blocking measures that will have to be lifted to allow discussion: the ultimate firm stance before the negotiation, or lasting stiffening? To see. Finally, Germany is not very much in favour of the principle of land exchange. This is the most embarrassing, because it introduces a principle of the inviolability of borders that is pernicious and counterproductive.

So let’s make way for diplomats….

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La Vigie Nr 121 : There is no cyberwar | Equation of strategy | Lorgnette : Desescalation

La Vigie Nr 121, 3 July 2019

There is no cyberwar

The term cyberwar sounds good and is regularly used by many: Yet it is false, which does not mean that there is no latent cyberconflict marked by opposition by all against all. Moreover, war does not ignore cyberspace because there is on the contrary a lot of cyberspace in the conduct of war and military operations.

Equation of strategy

the Grand strategy is the art of combinations. The equation of the strategy of France is simple to state, mixture of defense of interests, exercise of responsibilities, values assumed, valued assets and compensated weaknesses. In the current strategic slump it is difficult to establish, especially in the presence of a deep European crisis and a breakdown of multilateralism.

Lorgnette : desescalation

Between Iran and the United States, the rag has been burning for weeks and observers are struggling to decipher threatening speeches, avenging invective and provocative statements. It should be noted that the deregulation initiative has come from Washington for the past two years, from a president who has thrown away the Paris Agreement, the Iranian JCPoA, the INF Treaty and any multilateral mechanism that would undermine the position of strength from which he wants to restore the dominance of American interests in the world. It was noted with interest that the European clan had remained united in preserving this agreement with Iran and that it had engaged in resolute resistance to the American position. The West is nothing more than a fiction, interests and methods diverge.
There remain two embarrassed countries that are trying to get in touch with each other with the assets to do so, Japan and France, whose strategic analyses are converging more and more, particularly on maritime issues. At the last G20 meeting, which was quite disappointing, they were also responsible for de-escalating the situation.
De-escalation is the great strategy of which France must be the tireless craftsman in the world (LV 89).

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La Vigie Nr 120 : Maritime Asset | Belgium : how many divisions ? | Lorgnette : Ormuz, June 2019

Maritime asset

Maritime news commands and shows that the maritime fact is an important part of the equation of the strategy of a globalized economy. It is a major asset for those who know how to develop it and a lucrative predation area for those who want to criminalize it. It also carries a cooperative logic that weighs on global governance. France, although well placed, is slow to take the true measure of it.

Belgium : how many divisions ?

On 26 May last, not only European elections were held in Belgium, but also parliamentary elections. By dint of talking about Brussels to designate Europe, we forget that it has been the capital of an independent kingdom since 1830. However, these elections are worrying because they confirm that the country’s agony process is continuing, without anyone paying any attention to it. This is another symptom of the serious European political epidemic.

Lorgnette : Ormuz, June 2019

Holes in the hull, tankers on fire. The artery through which one-third of the world’s hydrocarbons and one-third of China’s oil supply exits the Arabian Gulf is threatened. Where did the blow come from? Who benefits from the case? Is it a game, a bluff? Is it serious? The equation is complex. Initially, the 2015 JCPoA agreement signed by President Obama with Iran and honestly denounced by President Trump. To negotiate better, he exerts maximum pressure on this country, which neither the Americans nor the Saudis like. Behind the curtain, Israel and its desperate Prime Minister want to create a diversion. In trading rooms, oil prices, shale gas producers.

And then there are the boutefeux, the American duettists Pompeo and Bolton who will do anything to make Iran bend and block its nuclear route, as in North Korea. boutefeux also among the Pasdarans who are losing patience. We’re shooting but blank. The amazed Europeans watch as a blockade, a real act of war, takes hold. Chinese, Japanese, Turks and Russians count the blows and rodomontades and think of a world without Americans. France is on the picket line in Abu Dhabi, powerless.

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La Vigie Nr 119 : Innovation and prospective | A European army ? | Lorgnette : changing era in Japan

La Vigie, Strategic Letter, Nr 119, 5 June 2019

Innovation and prospective

Innovation and prospective studies are two methods to understand the future. They contribute to the strategy in a different way. They are not exclusively technological, contrary to a common perception. Useful, they must also give way to a change in approach to strategic thinking: an innovation, in essence.

A European army ?

The European army generates interest again even if it remains a tight conjecture between NATO and EU. Despite multiple attempts, it will probably emerge only from a deep reflection on the European geostrategic space. But it could already begin with a local security neighborhood coordination within the flexible framework of a European guard.

Lorgnette : changing era in Japan

A calendar is also a representation of the world. Muslims date their years from the Hegira, the Japanese speak in eras… Thus, Japan has just changed imperial era on the occasion of the advent of the new emperor, Naruhito, who succeeded his father Akihito. The land of the rising sun thus passes from the Heisei era to the Reiwa era, which can be translated as “beautiful harmony”, which is intended to herald a new spring.

However, this change is still a challenge, given Japan’s seemingly unchanging nature. Having become the bridge between the Far East and the West, anchored in the Western camp, downgraded to 3rd world economic power (thanks to China’s rise and 30 years of unfavourable economic conditions), the leading conservatism keeps Japanese society very far from Western standards.

Paradoxically, it is in tune with the new international mood, which is undoubtedly very attentive to the roots to be preserved in the face of the standardization of globalization. This permanence goes hand in hand with advanced technology and a certain market economy. A formula to be observed because it may herald spring.

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La Vigie Nr 118 : France and her new Armée | Trump and the Middle-East | South-African disappointment

La Vigie, Strategic Letter, Nr 118, 22 mai 2019

France and her new Armée

The relationship between France and its armed forces is evolving. A global army emerges, integrated, combatant, jointed, served by an experienced high command supporting a policy whose presidential centralization is constrained to short-term by a short mandate. The preservation of the eco-systems of the various armies is essential to feed this new armée as well as the maintenance of a  strategic military ecosystem to preserve the long-term military posture of France.

Trump and the Middle-East

Some are beating the war drums in Washington against Iran. Does this mean that the conflict is inevitable? Probably not for two reasons: first, D. Trump is not a supporter of military commitments: if he is brutal, he is not a falcon unlike many in the establishment. Basically, he wants to raise the stakes to push the Iranians to negotiate a new agreement in a weak position. Not sure if they will fall into the trap…. Because Trump becomes predictable…

Lorgnette : South-African disappointment

Twenty-five years after the end of Apartheid in 1994, South Africa has seen new elections, marked by an expected but disappointing victory for the ANC, N. Mandela’s heir party. It certainly obtains 57% of the votes (down 4.5%) but it is more a vote of habit than of conviction, still less of results.

The result was greeted by a discreet and silent embarrassment: here is indeed the first power in Africa that is slowly collapsing in all areas, especially economic with an “official” unemployment rate of 28% and a GDP in free fall. The country has not made the necessary investments to maintain its industrial and mining park and security is one of the worst in Africa, a continent that has references in this field.

Certainly, the new leader, C. Ramaphosa, who succeeded Jacob Zuma in 2018 as a matter of urgency, managed to ignore the enormous corruption scandal that affected the latter. The new elite has been more predatory than reformist. The announced land reform is likely to break the last sector still operating a little. Behind the disappointment is the concern. Few say so….

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La Vigie Nr 117 : China and the heart of the earth | A look at North Africa | Lorgnette : Spanish elections

La Vigie, Strategic letter, Nr 117 ( 8 MAY 2019)

China and the heart of the earth

China, which is re-emerging, is, in the eyes of the United States, the challenger. Yet, despite its need for revenge on unequal treaties imposed by “barbarians” and felt as a humiliation, it has no desire for power. Certainly, its “Belt and Roads” initiative to refocus across Asia is a major geo-economic ambition: it can be seen as a re-reading of the founders of Anglo-Saxon geopolitics and the intention to control the heartland. This requires us to renew our strategic calculations.

A look at North Africa

North Africa is a strategic area that is poorly identified and agitated by multiple rivalries. In the centre, torn Libya is experiencing a strong east-west push that is having a negative effect on the adjacent Maghreb. France must be careful not to encourage this perverse dynamic and promote an autonomous Maghreb area based on the MENA concept.

Lorgnette: Spanish elections

The Spanish general elections on 28 June did not quite resolve the country’s deep political crisis. Certainly, the Socialist Party comes first and if it allies itself with Podemos (radical left), it arrives at 11 seats of the majority necessary to govern. Faced with it, the Popular Party lost many seats, a loss badly compensated by Vox, a radical right-wing formation born of a split. This right-wing bloc is reportedly supported by the centrist, liberal and anti-independence party, Ciudadanos.

In other words, no “classic” left-wing majority is possible without the support of small parties. The Catalan secessionist parties obtained only 39% of the votes, which puts the independence issue into perspective in a context of electoral mobilization. P. Sanchez, the socialist leader, could rely on the ERC (Catalan left) or on a Basque party and some independents.

Nevertheless, P. Sanchez will not want to launch a referendum on the independence of Catalonia (even if we wait for the regional elections on 26 May to check the intensity of the independence movement, which fell on 28 June, see LV 94). It is to be hoped that the fragile coalition that will be put in place will help to cool the secessionist crisis.

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La Vigie Nr 116 : Common good and defence | Notre-Dame revelation | Lorgnette : Trump and Mueller

La Vigie Nr 116 (24th April 2016)

Common good and defence

How to define and defend the common good for France in the current emotion? It will be assumed to be the result of an unacceptable common and a shared desirable . There will be concern about a latent distortion between a mobilized population whose frustrations have been expressed by the Yellow Vests and a political elite that wants to value France in its own way in globalization.

Notre-Dame revelation

The Notre-Dame fire immediately shut down all conversations. Suddenly, a “patrimonial emotion” appeared, a collective and first French emotion in the face of an affected heritage. A public good beyond all value, the mutilated cathedral touched the souls of the French because Notre-Dame brought together the opposites, sacred religious and sacred national at the same time. Some official reactions immediately appeared staggered, yet the international surge of compassion reminded us that the world still expects something exceptional from France. This expectation of France is now too often disappointed by uprooted leaders.

Lorgnette : Trump and Mueller

The Mueller report was therefore made public and the opposition to President Trump is very disappointed: there was no collusion or even direct obstruction of justice.

Let us first pay tribute to this American democracy, capable of challenging a president through a public inquiry and at the same time acknowledging, at the end of the day, that there is no fault (even if there are many ambiguities). Not that Trump was perfectly honest, not that there was any confusion, not that the Russians did not want to influence the election: but nothing that goes beyond the limits and practices.

To the great displeasure of the Democrats. Because most of their political discourse over the past two years has been based on the “stolen election”. However, D. Trump won “in the regular” (in the face of a bad campaign by a bad candidate) and above all, it shows a radical evolution already demonstrated by B. Obama: the one that refuses the takeover of an establishment dictating what to say and think but ultimately serving the interests of a few. And so, the aspiration for a real democratic return that had become outdated under the influence of economism (LV 88). Doesn’t the lesson learned also apply to Europe and France!

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La Vigie Nr 115 : Europe and Fantasy | Free strategic figures | Lorgnette : Demos in Africa

Letter La Vigie Nr 115 (10 April 2019)

Europe and fantasy

French pro-Europeans, including federalists, are sincerely convinced that this option is in the country’s interest. For them, it is a question of taking advantage of Europe as a power multiplier but also of dealing with their inferiority complex towards Germany. The EU would thus be the only way to cope with unbridled globalisation. If it has not been successful so far, it is because we have not gone far enough or hard enough, not because of a mistake in method and strategic calculation. In other words, they are responding to their fear of decline by wanting to base themselves in an EU seen as a “larger France”, which it is clearly not.

Free strategic figures

What is France’s power relationship with its European neighbours, but also with China, Russia and the United States, the strategic triangle that currently dominates the international scene? Can it be satisfied with the European response and hide behind the multilateral method?

Lorgnette: Demonstrations in Africa

Yellow vests inspire people. So here is a wave of peaceful demonstrations that are changing the course of history. The case is obvious in Algeria, where the masses of the people, thrown into the streets, managed to force President Bouteflika’s departure, while waiting for the others to leave. But this is also true in Sudan where, for the past four months and in general inattention, the people have been demonstrating against the regime of Omar al Bashir. Not far away, major demonstrations took place in Mali against President IBK (who was re-elected last year), deploring the ineffectiveness of international forces and the corruption of the system. Finally, in Venezuela, the opponent J. Guaido stands up to President Maduro thanks to his supporters in the street.

It is not said that all these movements succeed in bending the powers that be. Let us simply note their multiplication, in very different societies and with different political systems. And let us remember that similar movements in Eastern Europe had led to the collapse of socialist regimes, transitions to civil rights and thus the end of the Cold War. So we may be facing a deeper movement than we think. To watch out for.

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La Vigie Nr 114 : Religious bias | Lessons from Yemen | Lorgnette : Diverted Sentinel

La Vigie Nr 114 (27 MAR 2019)

Religious bias

The religious bias, implicit or explicit, always affects the strategy. To be convinced, an overview is sufficient in Europe as in Asia. But the religious fact can also serve as a mask to the cynicism of states engaged in their power policies. As for the new civil religions, the law and the climate, their approximations also affect the strategy.

Lessons from Yemen

Several operational lessons can be drawn from the conflict in Yemen, which has been going on for more than four years. In particular, it is much more symmetrical than it seems, there are de facto two juxtaposed coalitions, the Emirates are more agile, the air strategy does not work when the naval embargo achieves results, among others. In other words, it is not an irregular war like any other.

Lorgnette : Diverted Sentinel

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