LV 210: There is no magic weapon | Will the rear end hold ? | Lorgnette : Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Letter from La Vigie, dated 1st FEB 2023

There is no magic weapon

The recent decision by the Europeans and Americans to supply tanks to Ukraine was intended as a show of unity in favour of Kiev. The difficulties in achieving this, and the relief that resulted, show that the issue remains fragile. Above all, it is based on an illusion: that arms alone can change the course of the war, whether by their quality or their quantity. Beyond that, a concern is surreptitiously emerging: is it still about winning or is it now about not losing?

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Will the rear end hold?

If the fortunes of the weapons mainly decide the fate of a war, it is essential to also worry about the rear: if the combatants develop a certain and indispensable self-sufficiency, this is the result of the efforts made by the rear. The war in Ukraine shows us, however, that the notion of the rear is not as simple as one might think, and that the rear can also have a certain geographical depth.

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Lorgnette: Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Recent events in Palestine have once again put the Palestinian question at the heart of the news. While it is likely that everyone will do their best to ignore it, it is important to note that it is still there because no solution has been found. The Abraham Accords promoted by D. Trump explicitly ignored it, organising a peace between Israel and certain Arab countries while agreeing to ignore the Palestinian question. Without going back to the triggering element of this week’s incidents, let us observe that the lukewarmness of international reactions is justified by the assumption that there is a peace process that is taking its course. This is obviously false.

It should be remembered that this is not (despite the use by some of the word terrorism equated with jihadism) a religious issue but a question of national liberation – and therefore of the freedom of peoples to self-determination – and of the political control of a population and of territories by an occupier. This is the original objective of the peace process. That it is obviously not working means that there is no peace. But who draws the conclusions? The EU looks the other way, as it is so quick to agitate for values. It is a sign of its hypocrisy and thus loses its credit.


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LV 162 : Looking death in the face | France’s neighbourhood | Lorgnette : Biden and the Middle East

Letter from La Vigie, dated 3rd March 2021

Delacroix, Bataille de Nancy, 1834, Musée des Beaux-arts de Nancy, source

Looking death in the face

The doctrine of just war was developed in medieval Europe to regulate the use of legitimate state violence. But who then bears the moral burden of guilt, because “thou shalt not kill”? And how far is our society prepared to accept losses, especially civilian ones, now that war is on our soil (jihadist attacks) and at a time of “war against the coronavirus”?

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Neighbourhoods of France

France’s neighbours are drawing up a strategy that still lacks coherence: if the position towards the United States is asserted, the other Americas are neglected; the North is unthinking, the East centred on a European vision without much room for manoeuvre. As for the South, our position is very disjointed today. Further afield, in our overseas territories, our mechanism should enable us to promote an Indo-Pacific strategy that is original and distinct from that of our allies.

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Lorgnette: Biden and the Middle East

The new US administration has taken initial decisions regarding the Middle East. Thus, J. Biden declared that he wanted to resume the treaty with Iran (JCPOA) by wanting to add the question of ballistic missiles to it. Iran, on the eve of new elections, has not closed the door but remains firm on a strict return to the text signed in 2015. At least discussions are resuming. Without weakness, however: in Syria, strikes were decided against the Syrian Shiite militias after the attack on an American base in Erbil (Iraq).

Simultaneously, a mistrust was displayed towards Saudi Arabia. Washington has reopened an investigation into the assassination of J. Khashoggi (which points to the direct responsibility of MBS) and has declared its declining support for the war in Yemen.

Does this point to a new course? Undoubtedly in the case of Iran, even if it is a question of maintaining a position of strength. For the rest of the region, these initial decisions suggest a more measured and balanced position, both towards Syria and Iraq and towards the Gulf States. Israel is for the moment left a little to one side, as if it were no longer the priority.


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La Vigie Nr 139 : Face to the virus : first lessons from Asia | Forgotten strategic vocabulary | Withdrawing forces

Letter from La Vigie, 1st April 2020

Face to the virus: first lessons from Asia

Two weeks after the lockdown of the entire French population, much has been said about the measures adopted in some Asian countries to contain the Covid-19 epidemic. If the successes met by Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea or Japan to deal with the first wave of the epidemic are undeniable, they are due to a high level of preparedness of the administrations, the response forces and the populations to manage a probable crisis with potentially severe consequences. The rapid spread of the pandemic, incomplete information from China and hampered international cooperation have left most European countries with no choice but to confine themselves. These initial lessons from Asia will have to be quickly learned by all, individually and collectively, to prevent such a strategic surprise from being repeated in the new world to be built the day after.

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Forgotten strategic vocabulary

The health crisis we are facing reminds us of a number of terms that have been forgotten or neglected in strategic vocabulary: strategic surprise, weak signals, strategy of means, defence and innovation, freedom of movement, resilience… some are losing interest, others are regaining an importance that should not have been given up.

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Lorgnette: Withdrawing forces

The coronavirus is a good excuse. Or it can be very useful. For example, Iraq has decided on very strict border restrictions. The Americans took the opportunity to redeploy their force, in fact to abandon two of the three bases they had in the North and West of the country. That this decision came at a time when the Shiite militias had relaunched their campaign of harassment against American troops, following (post) the assassination of General Souleimani is of course completely fortuitous.

Unsurprisingly, many followed the American decision: the British and Czechs announced their decision to stop the training mission. France too, thus dismantling the Iraqi component of Operation Chammal, but also (discreetly) the special forces detachment operating in Syria. Officially, it is of course concerned about the strengthening of the Islamic state in the region. But it is in fact very happy to find a timely way out, since the objectives of this mission were no longer very clear. Above all, this will make it possible to lighten the system and strengthen the military resources in France. We have to relearn how to complete an operation.


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La Vigie Nr 128 : Why Indo-Pacific? – Towards calm in the Middle East – The Lorgnette: The inevitable Brexit

Letter from La Vigie dated 30 October 2019

Why Indo-Pacific?

In ten years, the term Indo-Pacific (IP) has almost replaced the term Asia-Pacific. What are the reasons for this change in the geographical framework of the main actors’ foreign policies? As the world’s demographic and economic centre of gravity, will the PI become the next challenge in the confrontation between Beijing and Washington or the area of cooperation, freedom and development from which as many people as possible can benefit? To avoid marginalisation, France and Europe must develop a global and coherent vision of the PI accompanied by projects that will concretely meet the expectations of the different sub-regions.

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Towards calm in the Middle East

The Middle East has long been polarized around the Palestinian question and then the jihadist question. From now on, we are in a new phase, initiated before D. Trump came to power. Whether in Turkey, Syria or even Saudi Arabia, policies are changing and one can imagine a region less conflictual than in recent years.

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The Lorgnette: The inevitable Brexit

Very few are able to follow the detours of Euro-British policy around Brexit. However, let us note several things. 1/ The European strategy of blocking Brexit at all costs has failed. It should be noted that the EU was indeed partly responsible for the blockage. Until recently, there was nothing to negotiate. But in the end, the EU negotiated. 2/ Boris Johnson won his bet, contradicting all speculation. Many expected him to seek only a no-deal, but he managed to negotiate, quickly and skilfully, an agreement that was certainly not perfect, which is the hallmark of all agreements. 3/ The British Parliament played an unpleasant role, between persistent blockage and refusal of dissolution: indeed, another of Cameron’s reforms was to introduce a threshold for dissolution, which blocks the system. 4/ The ultimate blockage implemented against BoJo is intended to counter it, not the agreement, which could lead to a no-deal that we were precisely trying to avoid.

Absurdity is indeed a British trait.

But this should not hinder a Brexit that is now inevitable. The result will then have to be assessed in five years or more.


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La Vigie Nr 126 : Take stock of the situation | Arabian peninsula | Lorgnette : PANG

La Vigie Nr 126 : 2 october 2016

Take stock of the situation

Taking stock of France’s strategic perspectives is a periodic necessity, especially when the scene is lively as it is now. To do this, it is necessary to step back and cross-reference the main lines of force that can be observed. We have identified six of them, which, overlapping each other, provide the framework within which France can act. But is it prepared and willing to do so?

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia is a new country that has long sought to control its neighbourhood, including the Arabian Peninsula. This purpose has been reinforced by the question of political Islam, which has been structural since the founding of the kingdom. A final factor, oil, is added to these determinants. This results in an attitude that is difficult to follow in a highly troubled region.

Lorgnette: PANG

Behind this acronym in the name of petroleum is a formidable mobile war machine capable of influencing the planet’s strategic balances and controlling vast strategic areas to defend our interests and ensure that our views prevail. The PANG is the new generation aircraft carrier. It will enter service in 2040 for 40 years and will serve what is called France’s power projection in the last quarter of the 21st century.

Anticipating the renewal of the CDG AP means both measuring its contribution to the country’s current external action and projecting itself into 2060 to imagine the conflict of the time and face it. Vast challenge, necessary and realistic. No one doubts the strategic centrality of the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean of tomorrow, and the Asia-Pacific region; economic activity will be decisive there and France and its European neighbours will be increasingly concerned. There is no doubt either that we will have to regulate this key maritime space for the development of the planet, we will have to move quickly in combat gear and be able to arbitrate tensions there. Who in Europe will be able to do it? France with its PANG! (To be continued)

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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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