It can be dangerous to have leaders with no experience of war – as Macron’s spat with his military chief shows
As David Cameron found when he was considering intervention in Libya, those who have experienced, or at least know about war, are generally warier about the prospect than those who have not, and more conservative in their assessment of what can be achieved
Emmanuel Macron with his chief of defence staff General Pierre de Villiers at the Bastille Day parade in Paris last week. De Villiers resigned days later EPA
It is the first serious glitch in Emmanuel Macron’s fabled rise to the French presidency. Just days after the new President rode alongside the head of the armed forces in the Bastille Day parade, General Pierre de Villiers resigned, saying – with quite brutal directness – that the model of the armed forces, as envisaged, would not “guarantee the protection of France”. The next day, he strode out of the defence ministry to applause from a guard of honour. The sequence was shown on the chief of staff’s Twitter feed, with a one-word caption: “Merci”.
With hindsight, Macron may accept that he could have acted differently. Having taken umbrage at confidential criticisms the general had made of defence cuts, he then gave de Villiers a very public dressing down – at the top brass’s summer party, no less. This, almost as much as the unexpected reductions in spending on military procurement, seems to have convinced the five-star general his time was up.