Delorme, Emmanuel; Gruselle, Bruno; Schlumberger, Guillaume
Chez Le Cavalier Bleu
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Innovation: always dangerous.
Gustave Flaubert, Dictionnaire des idées reçues
Missile defence is among the most difficult topics in the strategic debate in France, because so many opinions are expressed and the debate is so dominated by generally accepted ideas. If we listen to most of the “experts” and commentators, missile defence is out of reach in budgetary terms, dangerous in strategic terms and ineffective in military terms. To a great extent this outdated view ignores reality in a case which had been undergoing profound changes for fifty years as a result of three factors: the development of the ballistic threat, the maturity of the technologies and the reality of the programmes.
Although the new White Paper on Defence and National Security and the impending Military Programming Law should give decisive guidance, this book comes at the best possible moment to give an indispensable perspective, both for the reader with an interest in strategic issues and for the civilian or military decision-maker.
So the authors, who have all being working on the subject for many years and are among the foremost French experts, are offering an unbiased briefing on the issues of ballistic proliferation and missile defence, and are putting paid without prevarication to the numerous generally accepted ideas that prevent calm and conciliatory debate on this major strategic topic. Their work demonstrates the extent to which ballistic missile defence (BMD) has become an essential strategic issue that justifies an in-depth debate far from prejudice and pretence.
The book examines the reality of ballistic proliferation and of missile programmes of countries such as North Korea, Iran and Syria, noting recent worrying developments, in particular the North Korean and Iranian tests. It also shows how the topic has developed, to become a central element in the American strategic posture and of the American alliance system; several decades of substantial investment have borne fruit and have greatly transformed the American approach, which is now built round a series of systems linking protection for the Allies and protection for American territory in a dense and ever more structured network. It notes the growing linkage between deterrence and missile defence, the complementarity of which is now recognised, particularly within NATO but also in the French official line.
Faced with these developments and despite the decisions taken by the Atlantic Alliance, Europeans – including the French – more often than not continue to neglect missile defence. Budgetary constraints justify the low level of financial and industrial investment in the sector, even though BMD is among the critical and innovation-generating technologies in defence. Even so, this non-choice which is in general characteristic of the European approach is not fatal. European industry is in a position to offer many technological building-bricks and capabilities that might profitably supplement the deployment or purchase of American materiel through cooperation. The budgetary issues, often exaggerated, are not an insurmountable obstacle. It is for the Europeans to get the measure of this challenge and to make the choices which, without sharing American ambitions and obsessions, will nevertheless enable some of them to consider real opportunities for cooperation and for remaining technological and strategic parties to a major debate offering substantial spin-offs to future programmes in the area of defence.
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