Cultural Revolutions

Standing Straight

The notion of the “French intellectual” makes a decent man reach for a gun.  Almost as odious as its Manhattan equivalent, it evokes images of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Jacques Derrida and Bernard-Henri Lévy.  Evil degenerates, enemies of God and man.

Gen. Pierre-Marie Gallois, who died on August 23 in Paris at the age of 99, was a French intellectual of a very different kind.  He was a patriotic Frenchman contemptuous of what France has become, a proud European who therefore loathed the European Union, a royalist loyal to the republic, a practicing Catholic who loved the Orthodox Serbs.  A good man.

Gallois will be remembered primarily as the architect of France’s nuclear-deterrence doctrine.  A geopolitical realist who believed in “peace through fear,” in 1956 he convinced Charles de Gaulle that France needed her own force de frappe, independent of the United States.  Some weeks before, he successfully urged the same point on the Socialist prime minister, Guy Mollet.  His reasoning was clear: “In the mid-fifties the ballistic missiles could not reach America, but it was obvious that, after some years, these weapons could hit American soil . . . As soon as Americans were on the frontline[,] as we were already, they would change their strategy.  Then, my country, and possibly other countries of Europe, had to find a substitute...

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