Following the Rolling Stone interview that landed an American general in deep trouble, a similar fate (although not as drastic a dénouement) is befalling a French general for similar reasons, writes Nathalie Guibert
of Le Monde
After France's newspaper of record
published an interview
with Général Vincent Desportes
on the subject of the difficulties of American strategy in Afghanistan, the officer was summoned to the office of Edouard Guillaud, the chef d'état-major des armées
(the equivalent of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), who went on to ask defense minister Hervé Morin to sanction the officer with a 38-year career behind him for what he, the chief of staff, called "misconduct."
Indeed, General Desportes' "faute"
is compounded by the fact that he has been serving as director
of none other
than the Collège interarmées de défense
, France's answer
to West Point, Annapolis, Parris Island, and Colorado Springs, all rolled in one (and all in the center of Paris
). And in the Le Monde interview, the head of the institute teaching military strategy states that General Stanley McChrystal's discharge "opens a debate on the chosen tactics," and this, at a moment when "the situation on the ground has never been worse." The French general, who is about to retire and who has an impressive bibliography to his name
(including in English
), goes on to make the same criticisms that have been leveled at the White House, both within military circles and without: "Strategy will need to be revised" because Barack Obama has "chosen a middle road that is struggling to function effectively."
Most revealing, perhaps, is the fact that when asked if the revision
of tactics was not a matter for the international coalition to decide, General Desportes corrected the journalist, stating that the conflict is, in fact, "une guerre américaine"
— an American war.
The "truth to power" aspect in this case, therefore, seems not only to be the (rightful) one of questioning the left's wishy-washy feel-good "strategy" (the strategy of the left in America or anywhere else), but also to be the (self-serving) one of depicting the war in Afghanistan (not just the one in Iraq!) as being nothing if not one of the "does not concern us" type.
Indeed, the French seem to be showing, once again (and in knee-jerk fashion), that they are constantly on the outlook for excuses (however valid or otherwise) not to have to stand beside the Américains
— something seen also among a majority of comments from Le Monde readers
— and that the French, therefore, are not to be trusted as reliable allies. Stating this taboo subject publicly
may have been the main reason that the général
earned his superiors' displeasure.
Update: in wake of the scandal, a CID page showing the original French version of Desportes' book
(La Guerre Probable
) seems to have vanished…