PR 3770Candidate Number: 1809021 Is Gaullism of relevance in understanding contemporary French defence policy’?   In this essay, I shall lay out the reasons which make Gaullism enormously important to understanding contemporary French defence policy. Generally speaking, Gaullism is a wide-ranging concept with a deep impact in French society, in both culture and politics. I shall start by providing a historical context to its rise in France, its nature, and then by addressing the impact it has on the country’s international relations.Charles De Gaulle is widely considered to be one of the most influential men in French politics since the German occupation of France in 1940. As a precursor to the French Resistance movement, through the “Appeal of 18 June” and leader of France’s government-in-exile, “La France Libre”, De Gaulle became a long-standing and integral symbol of French identity, a beacon of patriotism, unity, independence and hope. De Gaulle came to power in 1958, after a long period of political absence and as a result of the Algiers crisis of the same year. At the time, the French government was widely perceived as too weak to resolve the confrontation. René Coty, president at the time, quoting the serious possibility of France falling into a civil war, requested that De Gaulle form a new government. Mr De Gaulle agreed, under the condition that a new constitution be drafted by a committee which he was part of. The committee itself, however, was chaired by a gentleman by the name of Michel Debré. Mr Debré was to later become the first prime minister of the Fifth Republic, established by the constitution which he authored. (Haine, 2000, p.172-179)The establishment of the Fifth Republic in France and the resulting constitutional changes, placed the French core executive in a very powerful and autonomous position, in matters of defence policy. More particularly, it allowed the presidential role to develop new defence strategies when confronted with new challenges and threats. (Dyson, 2016, p.151) And so, it must be clarified that Gaullism does not consist of an “–ism” in the mainstream use of the term, in other words, it is not a doctrine or a “pre-packaged ideology” (Bergman, 2006, p.4). Instead, Gaullism consists of an unwritten and far looser set of principles and ideas that “give precedence to France’s interests and, assure its survival” by, essentially, granting wider powers to the executive branch of government. (Krieger, 2001, p.307). As such, it could be argued that Gaullism could be compared to, or even equate to a form of Realism or French exceptionalism, since its aspirations are to “guarantee its national independence without resorting to allies whose interests might not coincide with those of France” add to this the fact that, according to Krieger, De Gaulle believed that “history consists of the rivalry between nations struggling to realise their own ambitions” (2001, p.307). As ambitions change, so must the strategies to obtain them.Furthermore, it leans neither Left or Right, (Krieger, 2001, p.307) this non-partisanship reinforces the ideas of unity through a strong and stable State as well as emphasizing the power and autonomy of the executive branch. Simultaneously, however, and as a result, this consensus has constrained the political perspectives and behaviours available to De Gaulle’s successors. Having, been the source of much political controversy up until 1984, during Francois Mitterrand’s presidency, Gaullism has become a consolidated part of French political heritage. And most importantly, in terms of French foreign policy, it has been “the guiding force of French International relations” (Krieger, 2001, p.308).During his time in office, De Gaulle dramatically changed French defence strategy, having decided that in the context of the Cold War France could not depend on the NATO alliance for its protection. And so, in 1959, France withdrew from NATO military integrated command. This meant that France “required an independent nuclear capability” (Krieger, 2001, p.307). Therefore, De Gaulle’s importance to French defence policy, both in the past and present is undeniable for a very simple reason, France’s nuclear weapons capability. This in turn, considerably increases the country’s status by making it the member of a very exclusive club. But this is not to say that all Gaullist ideas have withstood the pressures created by several terms of so-called “cohabitation”, where the president and the parliamentary majority/prime minister have emerged from different political parties. Or even, that Gaullist foreign defence strategy is still relevant.   One example of this deviation is France’s distancing from state stewardship and oversight of the country’s economy. According to Darmon J. (1985, p.129) “In France, everything is initiated by the state”, but in 1986, the president at the time, Jacques Chirac pushed for the privatisation of state-owned companies, the deregulation of the labour market, cuts in public spending as well as the deregulation of prices and interest rates (Hulsink, 2012, p.238). More importantly, subsequent presidencies have abandoned De Gaulle’s unilateral, nuclear weapons focused defence strategy: Chirac in 1997 signed the Amsterdam treaty, thereby agreeing to a European Security Strategy (SEE) which laid the basis for what later became the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP); In 2009, under Sarkozy, France began the process of reintegration in to NATO. But the point is not that De Gaulle’s policies have or have not lasted, many have not. The point is that, due to his influence, leadership, the establishment of the Fifth Republic and the development of the country’s nuclear program, France has the ability to quickly and effectively adapt to its security needs and defend its interests, independently, if need be, whilst also not ignorant to the ever-growing need for global cooperation in the face of new threats.  Bibliography: Bergman, G. (2006). Isms. Avon: Adams Media.Darmon, J. (1985). Le Grand Derángement La Guerre Du Téléphone. Paris: JC Lattè.Dyson, T. (2010). Neoclassical realism and defence reform in post-Cold War Europe. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Haine, W. (2000). The history of France. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.Hulsink, W. (1999). Privatisation and liberalisation in European telecommunications. London: Routledge.Krieger, J. (2001). The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World. New York: Oxford University Press.


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