Leadership: January 11, 2003

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While France has been vigorous in opposing military action against Iraq, the French president has recently made several announcements warning the French armed forces to get ready for war in Iraq. This is not unusual, as France was initially opposed to American military action in the 1991 Gulf War and the Afghanistan campaign. But in both of those cases, France made major contributions, often without getting much recognition in the American media. For example, in Afghanistan, French warplanes flew ten percent of the combat sorties, and were the only non-American bombers to support American Special Forces in combat. But despite the enthusiasm, France is still behind the curve when it comes to updating their technology so they can work with American forces. During the Afghanistan operations, the French found that they were a generation behind the United States in many equipment areas. Not just smart bombs, which got attention in the press, but also in how their satellite communications and Internet systems were set up, and more mundane areas, like computer systems used to plan air warfare operations. The French, of course, blamed the Americans for not honoring the NATO interoperability standards. But the U.S. pointed out that the standards have stayed with older equipment because only the United States is willing to buy newer and more effective stuff. On the positive side, the problems were quickly solved with some quick improvisation by troops from both nations. 

 


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