Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lyautey Lives


One French general seems to have been studying the American military's "lessons learned" file rather closely. In an interview published today in Le Monde, Gen. Vincent Desportes, commander of the Centre de doctrine des emplois de force, waxes lyrical about the military as an instrument for building "social contracts," the global right of intervention and "violence prevention," the humanitarian role of the military and the need for "reversibility" (between combat and nation-building roles) in military training. He gives a French twist to a program that would no doubt win the imprimatur of David Petraeus by invoking the ghosts of Lyautey and Gallieni as builders rather than destroyers (the imperial context of their construction is left out). Desportes makes his own the idea popular among American neoconservatives that World War II drained the martial spirit from Europe and sees this as a problem in maintaining support for defense spending in European democracies. That the obverse of this difficulty--the obsession with military solutions to the problem of "evil," which Tony Judt ponders here--does not similarly concern him is perhaps to be put down to the nature of his professional focus.

Nevertheless, I find Desportes' "Thomist" criterion for intervention rather chilling: "One has the right to intervene if one is almost persuaded in one's soul and conscience that the good to come is greater than the temporary evil one is going to create." This is a standard--even if one deletes the "almost" modifying moral certainty as an unfortunate slip of the tongue--that can be and has been used to justify anything.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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