France’s military “intervention entrepreneurs”

Political expediency shapes design of interventions, says Marina Henke in a new paper.

Since the early 2000s, France has spearheaded a large number of multilateral military interventions. The most prominent include operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, Libya, Mali, and the Central African Republic (CAR). These interventions have varied quite dramatically in terms of institutional intervention design – meaning whether they are carried out, for example, unilaterally or in cooperation with the United Nations or NATO. 

These institutional intervention choices are shaped and decided by “intervention entrepreneurs” who develop plans based on political expediency rather than norms, organisational interests, political ideology or historical learning, Marina Henke writes in her new article, “A tale of three French interventions: Intervention entrepreneurs and institutional intervention choices”, published in the Journal of Strategic Studies in March 2020. 

In the case of Côte d’Ivoire, France first intervened unilaterally, launching Operation Licorne in 2002, and then orchestrated the deployment of a large UN force: the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI). In Chad, France turned to the European Union (EU) to deploy a multilateral force, EUFOR Chad-CAR, over the course of 2008-2009. In Libya, French calls for military intervention resulted in a NATO operation.

Tracing French decision-making for interventions in Chad/CAR, Mali and Libya, Henke concludes that the “intervention entrepreneurs” carefully study possible domestic and international opposition to their plans and make decisions accordingly. This approach means venues for military intervention are often selected on an ad hoc basis, and not necessarily because the design is likely to benefit peace and prosperity in the conflict area over the short or long term. 

Read the full paper here. 

More about Marina Henke

  • Marina Henke , Professor of International Relations | Director, Centre for International Security