War has not changed
Opening Address by Brigadier General Vincent Desportes, Commander, Forces Employment Doctrine Center (CDEF)

1War has not changed : man is the one who fights, the one whom it is fought against. He indeed remains, at the heart of war, one of essential and permanent elements of its nature. War has not changed , but war modes, war capacities, war role have changed and, with them, the useful patterns of the military tool used for the realization of political projects. War has not changed, but the modification of crisis natures implies to conduct coherent, harmonious and anticipating approaches in the diplomatic, economic, political, security-related, humanitarian and .military areas. This is done within the “intervention, stabilization, normalization ” continuum, from now on recognized as much more relevant than the old diptych “coercion, violence control”.

But military action undergoes a real mutation.

Conventional war, under its industrial and symmetrical forms, has disappeared or at least its likelihood to occur can be neglected. However, dissymmetrical war – this one opposing adversaries from same nature, most of the time states, but with unequal capabilities is a likely possibility. What is new is that these periods of dissymmetrical wars, always short, are now drifting to asymmetrical wars where the adversary is from another nature. Smartly dodging the fight with equal weaponry, the asymmetrical opponent draws its strength from bypassing power and playing with the imbalance of means and courses of action.

In these mostly asymmetrical conflicts, role and position of military action undergo a real mutation because victory from now on passes less through destruction of the adversary than indirect action through populations. These have become today the major actors and stakes. This indirect action aims at decreasing the level and need for violence, then to reconstruct the “social contract” up to the situation normalization. Subsequently, in asymmetrical conflicts, even should purely military capacities and their deterrence and coercion effects have an essential ranking, the soldier’s role turns very quickly in supporting and participating in a secure, economic and political reconstruction of the country.

What we can report is a deep evolution in proportions .

Yesterday , coercion phases were building the main part of interventions because the aim was to constrain a State and therefore to destruct its military capacities; means of destruction were constituting the major argument of military and political efficiency. Today, the most frequently and for the most long lasting time, the aim is, not to oppose an adversary of that kind. It is, on the opposite, to act for restoring the State and for the benefit of a population . .

We can then report that in the most likely conflicts for the future, the role and place of military action are very different from those we have been used to. Military action, previously central, is becoming only a part of a whole, or according to our military jargon, a line of operations among others. It is certainly essential as the security situation of the country is a condition for reconstruction projects,. but nevertheless a line of operations among others. The other lines are diplomatic, economic, humanitarian etc.

. And now enables to set up the conditions allowing to restore peace and to reconstruct the social contract.

What does this mean?

This means that, previously, military success was directly leading to the strategic objective . It is over. From now on, military success just leads to establishing conditions which will enable strategic success. It is fundamental. The aim is not for the armed forces to “win the war”; “winning the battle” becomes an interim objective that is indispensable but interim. The aim is also not really to “win the peace”. The aim is to set up, on the ground, within populations, the conditions that will enable the establishment of peace and reconstruction of the “social contract”.

This phase of “setting up conditions ” is the second in time after the initial pha
se of intervention. This phase that we will call “stabilization phase” is really central . It became the decisive phase , as during it, strategic success is being built, on the ground, at the contact of populations, at shared risk, in the long term. In this decisive phase, the time for settling crisis in depth is neither the rapid time of western impatience, nor the virtual time of destruction strikes at security range. The time needed for crisis settlement is long, by obligation , even if all efforts are to be made to shorten this time and to avoid any worsening of the situation and then the throwing back of the force.

Such decisive phase should have been prepared ahead in conjunction with its other non-military actors. The news are usefully reminding it to us. Last Friday, British General Sir Richard Dannat, Chief of General Staff, publicly called for a withdrawal of British troops while stating the counter-productive effects of upholding. He attributed this failure to thelack of preparation for post-intervention phase. I quote: “Preparations of the period after the first phase of combats, successful for their part, were insufficient and more founded on optimism than on reasoned planning”.

We should then take out of our minds the concept of mission creep as it is called by the Anglo-Saxon and replace it by implied task as they say. From now on, in operations, a number of non-military functions become, de facto, military functions . Other actors – civilian agencies and organizations – could fulfill them better than the military, but, initially they will not be there. The military will then always be employed to fulfill these roles during the more or less long lasting time period as needed to restore a sufficient level of security and stability for civilian agencies to take on these roles. It is fundamental since we know that success is built from the early stages : the Golden Hour should be prepared, planned and provided with resources.

Alternatively, the armed force should not – and the balance is uneasy – let itself be stuck in projects clearly outside of their capabilities and competences. This is exactly the reason why we are there together this afternoon. This silencing of the weapons by factions and perpetrators of violence can only be prepared by military forces; it is a matter of capability and it is a matter of healthy management of the nation’s resources. The relay should then be handed to other actors , capable with an assistance limited and decreasing from the military force to finalize the third phase of “normalization”, with a return to normal living conditions.

To know better how to switch from military to safety and from humanitarian emergency to reconstruction and development policies.

What do we see today? We entered a new phase of perception for going out of a crisis and we note both the best and the perfectible.

We became very good in the hard phases of the crisis. These are the emergency operational phases , the phase of military action for violence control, the immediate phase of humanitarian action. This is probably because they correspond to the western tempo for the immediate. Alternatively, we have still a lot of progress to make in the long-term actions . These are related to progressive settlements of crisis, probably because it does not correspond to our preferred tendency for strategic reasoning.

We are good in phases with a negative objective : stop an aggression, a massacre, a famine; oppositely, we are undoubtedly not so good when the objective becomes positive : rebuild social link, conditions of life, a minimal State.

We have then to think to better know how to go from military to security, from humanitarian emergency to reconstruction and development policies .

. To understand the primary role of non-military actors in crisis settlement .

All non-military actors, those from diplomatic, security, humanitarian, economic worlds and from contractors have then a fundamental role in crisis settlements.

We, as military, should know them, we should exchange with them, we should learn to work with them . We should learn how to prepare with them, upstream, this decisive phase of operations which is the stabilization phase. We should learn how to progressively hand them the relay on in our common march towards normalization. We should learn together to transfer from military efficien
cy to civilian efficiency for the crisis settlement

. And to know how to work collectively between French, civilians and military.

At this stage, I would like to consider the crucial issue of reconstruction: it is essential to stabilize a country coming out of a political / military crisis.

Reconstruction has a strategic range. With regard to the nation where we intervene, it is avector of influence and power . With regard to the intervening nation, the economic return enables to mitigate the initial financial investment cost . This will, by the way, facilitate, a further intervention. Reconstruction is however of tactical importance as well because, it enables reducing idleness and subsequent insecurity.

So, in all societies emerging from a conflict, security, economic growth and establishment of a minimal State are inter-dependent. Economic growth reveals without any doubt a major factor to prevent the conflict to re-start. It is then tactically of primary importance to establish a situation where persons, goods and services can freely move .

Finally, as concretely, we soldiers all know that if local opponents have no job because they fight, they fight us as long as they have no job .

Of course, aims of contractors and of the force are different but they are not divergent. The action lines, should they have not a common objective, are parallel for long. There is a real mutual interest to organize true Public-private partnershipsfor the exit of crisis. The military tool has a concrete interest to be a support tool for penetrating new markets , like it is implemented without ambiguity by the Anglo-Saxon.

We are then facing a double challenge . We should overcome some French incapability to work collectively , but in the same time, through an honest and balanced partnership , we should avoid the instrumentation of the Public by the Private.


Should three strong words be selected to characterize our works , they would bemodesty , adequateness and coherence .

Modesty first, because the failure of western interventions comes most frequently from atoo high ambition in the selected goals , that means a poor initial assessment. In particular and in this direction, the normality concept must be reviewed. It is indeed probably pretentious to want to impose our normality to the countries where we intervene. There, such normality, that we may however have, include for instance a degree of authoritarianism, corruption, prevarication, inequalities, organized crime etc.

Adequateness then, because the second reason for failure in inadequateness between the allotted resources – military, indeed, but mainly these corresponding to the willingness of long investment from intervening States – between allotted resources and the objectives looked for in regard of local conditions. The size of the country and volumes of population are not the smallest.

Coherence then as it is just indispensable.

Coherence between the objectives, the ways and the resources, in planning and conduct but coherence mainly to ensure the overall efficiency of action from diverse involved parties. It assumes political primacy then the objective to be unique. It assumes the overall management to be unique and the subsequent coherence between the various lines of operations . It assumes these actions to be integrated . This coherence builds up prior to action , it is managed during action , it is a pledge of the enduring realization of the desired effect.

When weapons get silent: how to anticipate and to manage an exit of crisis: it is a major stake, really strategic. It is the very objective of our today’s common work.