Hollande-aise sauce? Benign military invasion of the critical kind

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 7, 2013

Mali expresses gratitude for France’s humanitarian services, complete with armed men

The Hollande doctrine is beautifully simple, so long as it remains basic. Which is to say, it must be firmly focussed on a benign short-term military invasion of a French-speaking African country where law and order has broken down. It requires that French forces enter by international consent and to the hallelujas of clamorous local players.

Simon Tisdall explains in The Guardian that this is the sort of feel-good, incisive military action abroad that the French enjoy. “As Napoleon, another pint-sized French leader knew, la gloire makes little men feel grand,” he writes.

That might sound a tad harsh but it’s probably as good a way as any to explain Mr Hollande’s instinctive recourse to military operations in Ivory Coast, Somalia, Mali and now, the Central African Republic. He’s on his fourth such engagement since taking office in May 2012.

So far, nothing has gone overly wrong. Might Friday, December 6, be the point at which this starts to change?

That’s when French troops rumbled into the Central African Republic, a country so imperilled that even the house of its current ruler, rebel leader-turned-president Michel Djotodia has been looted and vandalized.

As AP dolefully reported from the capital Bangui, “the city remains awash in weapons” and questions are being asked, not least by French security specialists themselves if France has been wise to in with 1200 men. “There’s a big gap between the vision France has of itself as a global power and as a power that can intervene,” AP quoted Aline Leboeuf, an expert at the French Institute for International Relations to say.

But so far, as Mr Tisdall records, France boasts many “happy interventionists”, their eyes fixed on the grandest prize of them all, “La Francophonie redux”.