La Vigie Nr 172 : The need for foresight | Spanish restraint | Lorgnette : Olympic Truce

Letter from La Vigie, dated 21th July 2021

The need for foresight

The DNA of the military naturally leads them to foresight and to translate it into action through operational planning procedures. Planning is a virtue and foresight remains more necessary than ever at a time when long-term orientation, a traditionally very Western cultural trait, is being questioned.

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Spanish restraint

Spain is the heir to a long history that began under the Romans, continued through the Visigothic empire before experiencing the long cycle of the Muslim invasion and the Reconquista. At the end of the Middle Ages, a world power was built, combining a European power with the Habsburgs and a colonial power with Latin America. Centuries of long decline and a painful 20th century followed, leaving a democratic Spain in reconstruction, having made a Western choice and more concerned with itself than with its obvious but little used international assets.

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Lorgnette: Olympic Truce

On 23 July the Games of the 32nd Olympiad will open in Tokyo. Restored by Pierre de Coubertin, bringing together every four years the world’s best athletes to compete in a fair joust, celebrating youth, friendship between peoples and the universal values of sport, they usually offer an opportunity for a truce in the development of world tensions and conflicts. This truce should be very brief.

The global politicisation of the Covid-19 pandemic, the virulent rise of nationalist discourses thought to be a thing of the past, the questioning of international law and order, pessimistic editorials heralding the Chaos Games, and the fracturing of most national societies along these lines are among the reasons given. In spite of reinforced health protection measures excluding all spectators from the venues, the Games are expected to attract nearly 4 billion viewers and become the most watched in history. After August 9 and the commemoration of the nuclear holocausts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, regional geopolitics, usually animated during the summer when Europe is on holiday, will resume its rights.

Long live the athletes and long live Olympism!

JOCV

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La Vigie Nr 171 : Providing France with a grand strategy | The games of war and chance | Lorgnette :Iran and negotiations

Letter from La Vigie, dated 7 July 2021

Providing France with a grand strategy

The discontinuity in the global trajectory caused by the pandemic invites France to rethink the strategic framework of its current action; in the absence of sufficient European coherence, it must adopt a long-term national vision and define the axes of a major long-term strategy for which six key factors to be prioritised and combined are proposed to the reader.

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The games of war and chance

Strategy is too serious a matter not to devote all one’s time to it. Games are an abundant means of doing so. In these times when we are constantly being surprised by our environment, it is time to get serious and finally play.

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Lorgnette: Iran and negotiations

In Iran, Ebrahim Raissi was elected President of the Republic on 19 June, after a soft campaign that resulted in a record abstention, a sign of voter disaffection and perhaps the sidelining of all reformist candidates. The press labelled him an ultraconservative. The system probably selected him first for his ability to maintain: he is conservative in the first sense. The fact remains that this impoverished and corrupt country is suffering from the sanctions imposed by D. Trump and that during his campaign, Mr. Raissi constantly affirmed his desire to obtain the lifting of the sanctions.

This is the subject of the Vienna negotiations, which are the focus of the new US president’s attention (LV 168). So we should not be surprised by the latest IAEA report which states that Iran has “begun the necessary steps to produce enriched uranium metal“. This comes as no surprise to anyone, but it is a good way to put pressure on the Iranian authorities to negotiate.

Thus, a new Iranian leadership seems to be in a position to discuss with the new American leadership. Let’s hope that Mr. Raissi’s conservatism will give way to a fine pragmatism to compromise.

JOCV

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La Vigie n°170: J. Biden’s European campaign | Strategic orientation and synthesis | Lorgnette: France and the Indian Ocean

Letter from La Vigie dated 23 June 2021

Joe Biden’s European campaign

The long experience of J. Biden has allowed the success of a meticulously prepared European tour, satisfying all parties (G7, EU, NATO but also V. Putin) while subordinating them to a more global objective, by means of carefully maintained ambiguities not always perceived by his interlocutors.

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Strategic orientation and synthesis

At a rare moment in history, the need to manage a complicated present is preventing policy makers from devoting the necessary time to finding solutions to tomorrow’s challenges. It is time to reintroduce the long time of reflection and strategy, within the State and society, to enable our country to pull its weight in the Great Game that is being set up. For this, the creation of a National Council for Strategic Orientation and Synthesis appears to be a necessity.

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Lorgnette: France and the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean, which is part of the Indo-Pacific, occupies a unique position for France. Bordering on the territory (Reunion, Mayotte, TAAF) and the sea (EEZ), it has both permanent sovereignty military forces and those pre-positioned abroad, by virtue of defence agreements concluded with partner countries (Djibouti, UAE), to ensure the protection of citizens and national interests and to contribute to regional peace and stability. It has strong strategic partnerships such as those with India, Australia and Indonesia.

In 2021, it will hold the annual presidency of the IOC, which brings together Mauritius, the Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles, whose recently elected SG is French for four years, as well as the two-year presidency of the Indian Ocean Chiefs of Navy Forum (IONS), whose plenary session will be held in La Reunion from 28 to 30 June. It is also a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. As the EU Member State that launched Operation ATALANTA to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, France has valuable assets to guide the Union’s maritime ambitions during its EU Presidency in 2022.

JOCV

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La Vigie Nr 169 (Free) : What is France ? | Staying on course | Lorgnette : Tchüss, Angèle

Letter from La Vigie, dated 9 June 2021

What is France?

To say France today is much less obvious and shared than in the past. There are many gaps between generations and populations. Beyond that, it is a common understanding of geography, history and the State, these three pillars of the person France, that seems no longer to be shared. Being aware of this is essential before launching any grand strategy project.

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Staying on course

In such a fluid strategic situation, how do you stay on course? How to conduct an effective manoeuvre? How to get rid of untimely strategic biases? From Europe to Africa, the practice is difficult, the difficulties follow one another and are similar.

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Lorgnette : Tchüss, Angèle

Angela Merkel is leaving office: we won’t miss her. This cold-blooded politician knew how to kill her political rivals. She was excellent at coming to and staying in power, but has been a disappointment since. It is true that her measured, nuanced and ‘proper’ side appealed to the French notable, who was impressed by this Germanic restraint which he took for healthy rigour. And yet… she systematically decided late, always taking the time to let situations rot before giving her opinion. The few times she has allowed herself to be guided by instinct, it has been catastrophic: whether it was the decision to stop nuclear power after Fukushima or the decision to welcome a million migrants in the middle of summer 2015.

Of course, her policies may not be bad for Germany, whose short-term interests and ageing, satisfied rentier ideal she has always preserved. Externally, it was worse. She is presented as pro-European: she was the most Germanolist of German leaders since the war. Worse: not a single French leader noticed.

Tschüss Angèle, we will not miss you.

JOCV

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La Vigie 168 : New develoments in the Middle East | Deterrence reversed | Lorgnette : Rafales in rafales

Letter from La Vigie, 26 May 2021

New developments in the Middle East

The Middle East theatre is changing very quickly. Indeed, Saudi Arabia seems to be conducting a foreign policy reset, resuming its dialogue with Qatar and Syria, deepening its dialogue with Iraq and even opening bridges with Iran. Meanwhile, Joe Biden is cautiously moving forward with his resumption of negotiations with Tehran, while Israel is at a standstill.

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Deterrence reversed

French strategic thinking on nuclear deterrence has traditionally been dominated by an extremely realistic vision. Deterrence from the weak to the strong is effective and obvious. In reality, purely material calculations are not enough to explain the use, but especially the non-use, of the nuclear bomb since 1945. In particular, normative factors such as the “nuclear taboo” must be taken into account: who is really deterred from doing what? The question is more open than it seems.

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Lorgnette: Rafales in Rafales

Dassault has just sold another 30 Rafale fighters to Egypt, as well as a dozen to Croatia, while a forthcoming sale to Indonesia has been announced. This flurry of success is surprising, given the aircraft’s difficult commercial debut. Why is the aircraft selling so well today?

There has been a general upturn in military equipment around the world, especially as many countries need to renew their fleets, which was not the case 20 years ago. The Russian offer is less attractive and many countries have distanced themselves from the United States, following the excesses of D. Trump. Therefore, the European alternative appeals. The Rafale has several advantages: it is more expensive than the Gripen but has far greater capabilities, it was designed to be upgraded regularly and now offers a versatility that the Eurofighter does not.

A national aircraft can therefore find its commercial way and international cooperation is not necessarily an indispensable economic necessity: a reminder at a time of tough negotiations on the SCAF!

JOCV

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La Vigie 167 : The French security fronts | The high intensity | Lorgnette : Afghan withdrawal

La Vigie letter, dated 12 May 2021

The French security fronts

Of all the fronts on which France is engaged in this period of persistent pandemic, one is an exception, that of internal security. Is this a fate, a challenge, a transition or a threat? The military are worried about it and say so. La Vigie, which has regularly addressed this issue, remembers. If the country comes together to face up collectively, then the proven targeting of France by Islamism will be defeated without the armed forces having to intervene to guarantee public order.

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The high intensity

The chiefs of staff are now talking about a high-intensity war for which we should be prepared again. Yet this seems unlikely, for both strategic and geopolitical reasons. The military chiefs are well aware of this, but insist on it anyway, for valid but indirect reasons. The fact remains that other fields, below the threshold, deserve very close attention. They should not be forgotten because of the high intensity.

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Lorgnette: Afghan withdrawal

President Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan makes sense. It had tempted B. Obama as well as D. Trump: to take his losses, to note that the mission has not been fulfilled and that the objectives pursued for twenty years have not been achieved. Remember, at the Bonn conference in 2001, the international community committed itself to accompanying Afghanistan in a democratic transition towards prosperity. Although progress has been made in education and even in the economy, the Taliban have won, thanks to the support of neighbouring Pakistan, which has become the real Islamist sponsor of the region, with the support of China.

So what does the future hold? The current Afghan government has a lot to worry about, as it will probably be ousted fairly quickly. The other neighbours will try to keep the mess together: to the north (Central Asian countries and beyond Russia), to the west (Iran) and to the south (India). But it is likely that the country will once again become an epicentre of international jihadism, abandoned to the ‘barbarians’. Will the Pakistani godfather and the Chinese big brother be strong enough to control Kabul? Nothing is less certain.

JOCV

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La Vigie n° 164 : Chinese culminating point | What is a great battle?| Lorgnette : Suez and industry

Letter from La Vigie dated 31 March 2021

Chinese culminating point

As the United States rallies its allies around the world, especially those in NATO, to present a united front against China, the latter is showing a vindictive and triumphant face that manifests a newfound pride: but does this climax not mark a “culminating point”, the one that Clausewitz described as the maximum point of the offensiv ?

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What is a great battle?

Military historians study battles. But what really defines a ‘great’ battle? Is the tactical genius deployed enough? And can the military commander draw a conclusion at his level?

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Lorgnette : Suez and industry

One year ago, when the global market seized up because of the health crisis, we pretended to discover how dependent we were on a globalisation that had ended up depriving us of manufacturing resources, making it impossible to manufacture simple protective surgical masks. The time had come to reindustrialise France.

Today, a new Suez crisis (accidental this time) is once again preventing the flow of goods through this canal between Asia and Europe, through which 12% of world trade passes.

In addition to the traditional volatility of the price of a barrel of oil, supply difficulties for electronic products are already looming, in addition to the direct and indirect costs linked to delivery delays, especially at a time when containers are already in a state of flux.

Let’s remember that after a year, we can still draw the same conclusions regarding the insufficient resilience of our economy, dependent on maritime traffic; the importance of reindustrialising and regaining a form of self-sufficiency. What if this was the real “strategic autonomy”?

JOCV

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La Vigie Nr 102 (10 OCT 2018) : Universal service takes it time – Uzbekistan and the Great game –

The Universal national service (UNS) takes its time

The UNS takes its time. The development of the SNU is laborious, it is that the stake is of importance since it aims at a resocialization of France to reinforce the national cohesion. To achieve this essential objective, which must take its place in the training of young people, it is necessary to develop an entire system based on a broad preparation process leading to a call for civic responsibility by the civilian majority. Developing and implementing it will take time.

Uzbekistan and the great game

Central Asia is undergoing rapid changes, marked in particular by the ongoing change in Uzbekistan. By reconciling with Tajikistan, organizing a regional forum, proposing a common approach on Afghanistan in the face of the emergence of Islamic state affiliates, Tashkent shows an interesting dynamism. But undoubtedly, even if political control remains strong, Uzbekistan is seeking to revive its economy and above all to take advantage of the Chinese project of new silk routes: for Tashkent, this means reconnecting with a glorious past that has ensured the region’s prosperity for over a millennium.

Lorgnette’s view : Reflux

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N° 84 bis (free reading) : The world has changed – Table of contents 2017 –

To reach the French version of La Vigie, click here.

The world has changed.

The world has changed. It needs a sustainable strategic grammar that is only the management as rational as possible of a structural and fluid chaos. Here is the return of the circumstances of the world, in the words of De Gaulle.

Index 2017

In 2017, La Vigie published 91 articles that are listed in this index. […]

Happy new year

JDOK

 

N° 84 : Entering a wasteland – Strategic Capacity and sterility –

To reach the French version, clic here

Entering a wasteland : Returning to the year 2017 to characterize it strategically, is to observe that it has in fact led to a space cluttered by obsolete objects inherited from the cold war and those of an illusory global governance. It is also to observe that everywhere the peoples have sought to obtain from their elites that they give them top priority and defend their interests first. Finally, it is to point out that France without leaving its state of general precariousness has strengthened and regained confidence in it. The twenty-first century will open in 2017 on a strategic wasteland.

Strategic Capacity and sterility : The strategic review of the year 2017 can not be summarized in the review of the only weapons programs, in the enumeration of some theoretical debates, in the analysis of the different kinds of conflicts that took place. A central problem seems to be to examine the preponderance of technology in the definition of strategic postures. Is the only strategy of the means sufficient in view of the diversity of the current by-passes? Probably not, which reveals the need for a new strategic imagination.

Merry Christmas

JDOK