Despite the gloomy picture painted by Field Marshal Pierre de Villiers yesterday he nevertheless gave some keys as to how this war against terrorism might be won: the means, the will and commitment, or in other words:”Power – Will – Act”.
The chief of staff explained that “nothing is possible without the means to drive the action.” But in a clear message for policy makers he added that “our means must help ensure that we can undertake our missions. Doing more with less: we’ve been doing this for years. It’s finished!” De Villiers stressed that “the challenge is maintaining a full model army, to cover the entire spectrum of threats” and that “the objective of defence spending accounting for 2% of GDP” would be reached “probably before 2025 given the security situation.”
As for the “will” component, the chief of staff first recalled that “winning the war is not enough to win the peace and therefore the will is primarily a political one” and he welcomed the “extremely reactive” chain of decision-making. But, he said, the will “must ensure that military objectives are coherent with the political ones” stressing that “military action is only part of the response to a crisis… an operative one, but not enough.” And he warned that it takes patience: “This means not only having a long-term vision, but also accepting to wait for our actions to bear fruit. It is our capacity to resist the temptation to trumpet our achievements or their immediate effects that proves this [long-term vision] and wherein lies its effectiveness. This is the difficulty of the increasingly strong contradiction between managing short time and the need to place action in the long term.”
When the means and the will come together, he said, the result is action. And right now there are currently, all arms combined, nearly 41,000 French military on operations.
“Far from home, these soldiers provide nuclear deterrence, are on external or internal operations, belong to the forces of presence or sovereignty, are involved in one of our permanent missions or protecting military establishments,” he said.
And he paid them tribute, expressing the “… sincere admiration” he has for the women and men engaged in the armed forces: “They are remarkable: they take on one mission after another without complaint; they put their duty before their rights. We have real heroes amongst our ranks.” He reminded his audience that as the military are not unionised it is “the responsibility of their superiors to defend their interests and provide them with the means they need to carry out the tasks entrusted to them.”
De Villiers ended by stressing that the “armed forces are an institution of the Republic, stable and solid, that defend the values of France; a perfect representation of the nation. The 200,000 military embody society in all its diversity; a model of social integration and promotion. Any young person can enter as a simple soldier and end up as a General.”
“The French must recognize themselves in the armed forces that act on their behalf, for the common good: that of France,” he declared.