Summary of Nous sommes en guerre, la stratégie française ? Général Didier Castres [EN DIRECT]

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00:00:00 - 01:00:00

In this YouTube video, General Didier Castres discusses the importance of avoiding strategic surprises and the need to adapt to a world where crises and uncertainty are constant. He emphasizes the erosion of international law and the use of force to protect interests, highlighting the divide between the Western world and countries that reject established norms. Castres also delves into the lack of dedicated structures for energy analysis and long-term planning within the French government, stressing the importance of good intelligence and decision-making processes to anticipate and prevent crises. He further explores the need for coordination, tailored strategies, and comprehensive approaches to address crises, using examples like the Mali intervention and the fight against ISIS in Syria. Lastly, he touches on the role of the military in economic warfare and interministerial strategies, pointing out the challenges faced by the French government in implementing integrated strategies effectively.

  • 00:00:00 In this section, General Didier Castres introduces himself as a military officer who entered the army not initially by choice but grew to appreciate the fraternity, friendship, and challenges it presented. He served in various operational units and went on missions to countries like Côte d'Ivoire, Tchad, and Centrafrique. Later, he had the opportunity to work at the Elysée, advising the president on military affairs and crisis management, which ignited his passion for crisis management. For 11 years, he was involved in crisis management at high levels, including the planning and coordination of operations. After reaching the age limit, he left the military and now works in a consultancy firm, sharing his experiences and insights.
  • 00:05:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the importance of avoiding surprises in strategic planning. He mentions that since 2007, the frequency of global crises known as strategic surprises has been accelerating, making crises a constant rather than an anomaly. He gives examples such as the subprime crisis in 2007, the Arab Spring in 2011, the rise of ISIS in 2013, the migrant crisis, Brexit, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Castres argues that in order to prevent being caught off guard, individuals and countries need to become accustomed to living and thinking with the uncertainty of strategic surprises. He emphasizes the need to "imagine the unimaginable" and to constantly be alert and vigilant. Castres also highlights the importance of recognizing the return of force as a lever and regulator in international relations. He suggests that stepping out of mainstream thinking and being open to alternative perspectives is crucial in navigating the evolving strategic landscape.
  • 00:10:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the current state of international conflicts and the erosion of international law. He argues that conflicts are no longer resolved through dialogue and diplomacy, but rather through the use of force by certain countries to protect their interests. He also highlights the erosion of international law, with the majority of the world's population and countries rejecting a legal framework that they see as imposed by the winners of World War II. Castres emphasizes the need for vigilance in upholding the principles of international law and warns of a divide between the Western world, engaged in a war over rights, and other countries that reject these norms. He then responds to a question about anticipating crises, acknowledging his limited expertise in the energy sector but emphasizing the importance of good intelligence, analysis, and decision-making processes in order to effectively anticipate and prevent crises.
  • 00:15:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the lack of dedicated structures within the French government for energy analysis and long-term planning. He mentions that there are very few departments focused solely on analysis and prospective planning, and that the only ministry that devotes significant resources to this is the military. Specifically, he refers to a group of officers within the military called the CPCO, who are responsible for anticipating and planning based on intelligence gathered. General Castres emphasizes that while the military has officers with operational experience, there is no specific branch for intellectual pursuits or physical fitness within the military. He explains that part of the CPCO, known as J5, is tasked with constantly monitoring the world for potential risks and changes in situations that could affect French interests. They create anticipation dossiers for different countries, outlining potential crises, required actions, and objectives. When a crisis arises or early indicators emerge, the dossier is retrieved and used for further analysis and refinement.
  • 00:20:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses an operation called "L'Opération Panther" that took place in 2013. He explains that the operation required 2000 soldiers, 200 million euros, and lasted for two months. This level of anticipation and planning is necessary in the context of the French military's shift towards integrated strategies, which involve combining all aspects of national power including cultural and demographic elements. He also mentions the work done by Louis Gautier in the field of national security and recommends reading his publication titled "Menace 2030" for further insights.
  • 00:25:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the different strategies and approaches that are required to effectively handle a crisis. He explains that it is not solely the role of the military to aggregate these strategies, as it goes beyond their jurisdiction. Instead, there needs to be a higher authority, such as the Élysée, that can orchestrate and coordinate all the different economic, energy, diplomatic, and military levers. However, he questions whether the Élysée is capable, given its limited resources and organization, to fulfill this role effectively. General Castres also highlights the five "capital sins" of crisis management, one of which is the tendency to apply pre-existing solutions to a crisis without truly understanding its root causes. He emphasizes the need for tailored, bespoke strategies for each crisis, rather than relying on generic approaches. Additionally, he laments the loss of expertise in understanding the intricacies of regional dynamics, as resources are being diverted elsewhere. General Castres suggests that this expertise can now be found in think tanks and NGOs, and that it is important to tap into these sources to effectively address and resolve crises.
  • 00:30:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the first two "capital sins" in the French strategy. He mentions that one of the primary sins is the lack of knowledge about conflicts outside of France. He gives an example of sending a young officer to retrieve historical archives about the French conquest of Sudan in the 1880s, highlighting the importance of understanding the origins of crises. The second sin he identifies is the overemphasis on the military aspect of resolving conflicts. He argues that viewing crises solely through a military lens negates understanding the root causes of the crisis and the need for a more comprehensive strategy that includes governance, development, education, demographics, and economy. Castres criticizes the focus on "body count" as a measure of success, noting that this criterion is insufficient and that a broader approach is necessary.
  • 00:35:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the importance of coordination in addressing crises. He emphasizes that the ability to coordinate different elements and timeframes is crucial in finding effective solutions. He also highlights the misconception of viewing crises as isolated and geographically contained, when in reality they can migrate across regions and spaces. He argues that systemic responses are necessary when dealing with a complex crisis system, and that focusing on individual crises without considering their interconnectedness is futile. Additionally, he criticizes the tendency to prioritize media effects over strategic planning, citing the example of the Sofia maritime operation that was initially established to prevent tragedies like the drowning of the Syrian child Alan Kurdi, but later lacked resources and attention. General Castres emphasizes the need for military leaders to alert politicians to the realities and consequences of their decisions.
  • 00:40:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the three prerequisites for finding a solution to the crisis in Mali. The first prerequisite is that there will be no solution without Algeria's involvement or against Algeria. However, Algeria was not onboard with the intervention, leading to difficulties in finding a solution. The second prerequisite is that the warring parties must sign a sincere peace agreement, which has not been implemented since 2013. The third prerequisite is the need to close the pipeline of arms, drugs, fighters, and ideology flowing from Libya to the Sahel. General Castres admits that in the first few years of the intervention, France was not able to meet these three imperatives, despite their attempts to anticipate and implement them. The discussion then shifts to the question of whether the military models and includes economic warfare in its scenarios, to which General Castres responds that the military primarily focuses on conventional warfare but acknowledges the importance of economic considerations in the overall strategy.
  • 00:45:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the economic aspect of warfare and how it is not the role of the military. He criticizes politicians for being unprepared and caught off guard, while the adversaries they face have been meticulously planning for years. While the military studies economic factors as part of their planning, their focus is on promoting national interests and reducing the adversary's capability, rather than engaging in economic warfare. General Castres also mentions that during the war against ISIS, the destruction of their oil fields was a strategic move to cut off their main source of wealth.
  • 00:50:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the role of the military in economic warfare and interministerial strategies. He explains that while the military is not directly involved in economic conflicts, they can work collaboratively with other ministries, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior. The General also mentions the importance of the SGDSN, the organization responsible for creating consensus and interministerial strategies. He then shares his experience attending over 300 defense council meetings, where military matters were primarily discussed. However, he highlights a particular meeting during the migrant crisis when the President invited the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Education, leading to a different focus of discussion on visa policy and the integration of foreign students.
  • 00:55:00 In this section, the speaker discusses the need for integrated strategies and the French government's struggle to implement them effectively. The speaker highlights the example of the fight against ISIS in Syria, where the US had a comprehensive plan that included cutting off funding, stopping foreign fighters, and building a local army. In contrast, France focused solely on military operations until an attack in Nice prompted a shift in approach. The speaker believes that the French government's cultural and bureaucratic barriers hinder its ability to develop integrated strategies, particularly in the economic sphere. However, the speaker also acknowledges that he does not have the expertise to comment on economic matters, but mentions that inflation in France is lower than in other European countries.

01:00:00 - 02:00:00

In this YouTube video titled "Nous sommes en guerre, la stratégie française ? Général Didier Castres [EN DIRECT]," General Didier Castres discusses various aspects of French strategy and decision-making in relation to conflicts and crises. He criticizes the French approach to managing the war with Russia, particularly in terms of economic warfare, and questions the effectiveness of sanctions. He also reflects on the French intervention in Libya and the potential risks and consequences of military actions. General Castres emphasizes the importance of self-reflection and exploring different perspectives within the armed forces. He discusses the need for a Council for Strategic Orientation to gather diverse viewpoints for informed decision-making. The general addresses issues such as defense spending, demographic dynamics, and historical baggage that France needs to confront. He also shares his experiences in Africa and highlights the importance of understanding different cultures and education systems. General Castres concludes by discussing the use of artificial intelligence in military decision-making and the reintegration of France into NATO.

  • 01:00:00 In this section, the speaker discusses the French approach to managing the war with Russia, specifically in terms of economic warfare. They criticize French politicians for downplaying the reality of the situation and failing to take proactive measures. The speaker also questions the effectiveness of sanctions, stating that they only punish the population and do not produce the desired outcomes. They suggest that sending a different kind of warning to President Putin may have been necessary to demonstrate a stronger commitment to international relations principles.
  • 01:05:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the options and strategies that France could have taken in response to the conflict in Ukraine. He mentions that since 2014, there were warnings from experts like Védrine about the slippery slope that Ukraine was on. However, the French government chose the option of not taking military action and instead reaching a diplomatic agreement with Putin, which Castres believes will only lead to more challenges in the future. He also acknowledges that there is tension within Russia itself and doubts that the war can be sustained by the Russian people for a long time. Castres touches on the potential economic consequences for France, mentioning the upcoming winter and the need to stock up on gas and resources. He concludes by discussing the management of the COVID-19 crisis, highlighting EDF's preparedness and praising their efforts in comparison to other government agencies.
  • 01:10:00 In this section, the speaker criticizes the French government for its handling of the mask shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that they sent poor-quality masks to overseas territories and created a negative public perception. They also express frustration with the lack of strategic thinking and anticipation in French politics, contrasting it with non-democratic countries like China and Russia that have more consistent strategies. The speaker argues that France's democracy is hindered by its ability to quickly change strategy, and that this inconsistency is a major flaw in crisis management. They also emphasize the need for lucidity in recognizing France's diminished power and effectiveness in resolving crises.
  • 01:15:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the limited impact and influence of France in international coalitions such as those in Afghanistan and Syria. He highlights that France's contribution is only 2.5% of the overall force, indicating that the country does not have the power to dictate strategy. Castres emphasizes the need for realism in assessing France's capabilities and objectives in various crises, highlighting that the goal should not be to transform countries into replicas of Switzerland, but rather to focus on achievable outcomes. He also emphasizes the importance of patience and resilience, as strategic decisions take time to produce results. Castres acknowledges the challenges posed by political considerations and the need for continuity in strategic decisions, as well as the public perception and the cost of military engagements. He ultimately raises the question of the sustainability of strategic decisions and the understanding that crises resolutions take time, often spanning decades.
  • 01:20:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the need for self-reflection and introspection in the armed forces. He explains that the military strives to question itself and think differently in order to break away from conformity. One method they use is creating a "RED team" or a group that tries to think like the enemy and develop strategies accordingly. However, he highlights the challenges and difficulties in implementing this approach. He also mentions the importance of language skills in understanding different cultures and viewpoints, but laments that budget constraints and career paths have hindered language training within the French military. Overall, he acknowledges the importance of trying to see things from a different perspective but questions whether this has been effectively done in practice.
  • 01:25:00 In this section, the speaker discusses a previous idea he had while working at the Élysée Palace to establish a Council for Strategic Orientation. This council would provide a different perspective from NGOs, major corporations, academic experts, and professionals to inform the President's decisions. While the idea initially received support, it was eventually abandoned due to conflicts and egos. The speaker believes that President Macron's Council for Africa (CPA) might have been a similar attempt to gather diverse viewpoints. He emphasizes the importance of preserving institutional roles and confidentiality in decision-making while seeking input from different perspectives. The speaker then briefly mentions France's intervention in Libya, suggesting that the mission's original aim was to stop Gaddafi's forces from reaching Benghazi and prevent a humanitarian crisis. However, he implies that there may have been other motivations behind the intervention.
  • 01:30:00 In this section, the general discusses the potential risks of intervening too forcefully in Libya. He mentions that creating a power vacuum could allow jihadists to establish themselves, there could be a surge of weapons from Libya to the Sahel region, and the disruption of the anti-migrant blockade established by Gaddafi. Despite anticipating these risks, the general expresses frustration at being accused of lying when warning about the jihadist threat. He then discusses the command structure of the operation, explaining that it was initially planned to be a joint French-British command but the British backed out, leading to American command during the first phase. The general also reflects on his misconception about NATO, realizing that it is merely an administrative entity and not a decision-making body. He describes how France eventually took on a leadership role in the operation and dispels the notion that President Sarkozy gave orders to eliminate Gaddafi, stating that there were explicit instructions not to target him or his close associates.
  • 01:35:00 In this section, the speaker recounts a story from his military experience where French aircraft were sent on a mission to stop a column of vehicles during a military operation. The initial Dutch aircraft that were supposed to carry out the mission were unable to fulfill it, so French Mirage aircraft took over. The speaker dismisses any notion of a conspiracy orchestrated by the Elysée Palace, stating that this narrative falls into the realm of conspiracy theories. The discussion then shifts to the geopolitical changes Europe is currently undergoing, with the speaker expressing skepticism about whether the European Union and France will become powerful forces in international relations and defense. The speaker suggests that the EU, and particularly Germany, may be hesitant to take on a more offensive role due to the historical baggage of World War II.
  • 01:40:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the consequences of prioritizing social investment over defense spending in France. He highlights that in 1960, 5% of the GDP was allocated to defense, but by 2014 it had decreased to 1.7%. While social transfers were increased, it did not consolidate society as hoped. General Castres also points out the growing geopolitical influence of China and Russia, despite their demographic decline. He believes that both countries are still influential but face challenges due to demographic factors. He emphasizes that understanding the demographic dynamics is crucial for the future of international relations. Additionally, General Castres mentions the importance of France's relationship with Africa and the need to address the negative perception of French influence in the region, both from foreign actors and spontaneous reactions. Overall, he suggests that France needs to confront its historical baggage and move beyond the "white man's burden" ideology.
  • 01:45:00 In this section, General Didier Castres shares his experience of traveling through Africa after his military career. He wanted to have a different perspective of the continent and decided to live and travel like the locals. He learned valuable lessons during his journey, including the importance of time, the hospitality of the people, and the power of laughter. He discovered that the Western obsession with time was meaningless and that there was always a solution to any problem. He also witnessed the incredible hospitality of the people, who welcomed him into their homes without asking for anything in return. Lastly, he discovered that laughter was a common response to anything that wasn't death, injury, or illness. Through this experience, he gained a deeper understanding of Africa and a new perspective on hospitality and happiness.
  • 01:50:00 In this section, the speaker discusses his experiences traveling to different countries and observing how history is taught to children. He reflects on the importance of understanding the upbringing and education of others to foster better communication. The speaker also addresses concerns about France's ammunition stocks, highlighting that they are unreasonably low. However, he believes that scenarios would need to align for a major attack to occur on French territory before action is taken. The issue of ammunition stocks is recognized by both military and political figures and will be a priority in the upcoming military planning law. The length of time the stocks would last depends on the scenario and the manner in which they would need to defend themselves.
  • 01:55:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the use of artificial intelligence in military decision-making. He explains that there is a need to develop systems that can autonomously identify and respond to targets, but also highlights the importance of maintaining human control in the decision-making process. The general mentions the ethical considerations involved in the use of such technology and the creation of a group to address these concerns. He emphasizes that, currently, no weapon can independently engage a target without human intervention. However, he also acknowledges the challenges posed by the vast amount of data that needs to be analyzed and the potential for using algorithms to synthesize this information. Ultimately, he concludes that human intuition and the ability to take risks are crucial in warfare, as purely technical approaches focused solely on minimizing risks do not lead to victory. The general also addresses the topic of France's reintegration into NATO, refuting claims that it compromises national sovereignty and explaining that decisions within NATO are made unanimously, ensuring that French interests are protected.

02:00:00 - 02:25:00

In this YouTube video, General Didier Castres discusses various aspects of French military strategy and operations. He talks about France's relationship with NATO and the decision to join in 2007, highlighting the need to build trust with European allies. The general also emphasizes the importance of understanding asymmetric adversaries and the concept of the "arithmetics of rebellion" which cautions against indiscriminate use of force. He shares personal experiences that demonstrate the need for ethical considerations and the avoidance of creating more enemies in warfare. General Castres also touches on the challenges of managing prisoners during military operations. Additionally, he recounts a mission in Côte d'Ivoire and emphasizes the importance of holding onto one's convictions.

  • 02:00:00 In this section, the speaker discusses France's relationship with NATO and the decision to join in 2007. He explains that while France is not part of the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), which is responsible for nuclear planning within NATO, this decision has not significantly changed France's position within the organization. The intent was to build trust with European allies and dispel the belief that France was pushing for an alternative to NATO through the European defense initiative. The speaker also touches on the topic of the arithmetic of rebellion, describing the strategies employed by the US and Russia in conflicts, particularly their use of bombing and artillery. He emphasizes the importance of understanding asymmetric adversaries and describes them as part of his experience in military operations.
  • 02:05:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the evolving modes of action of the asymmetric enemy and the need for discrimination in the use of force when dealing with them. He highlights the concept of "arithmetics of rebellion," which states that killing an innocent or non-enemy individual will lead to the recruitment of more enemies. Therefore, the military must be careful in employing force and take into account the potential consequences. General Castres shares a personal experience where he refused an order to attack a building due to concerns about potential civilian casualties, emphasizing the importance of ethical considerations and the need to avoid creating more enemies in warfare.
  • 02:10:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the French approach to warfare and emphasizes that France does not practice the law of retaliation or seek revenge. He highlights the need for politicians to understand the effects of military force and mentions that today, a company of infantry has the firepower of a battalion from World War I. The general warns against making decisions without experiencing the effects of weapons firsthand and recounts President Hollande's shock after seeing the aftermath of the Bataclan attack. He believes that militaries have a particular role in bringing distance and rationality to highly emotional situations, while also ensuring humanity is maintained in operations. General Castres firmly states that torture is both ineffective and illegal, although it has been used in the past. He mentions that in foreign operations such as Afghanistan, prisoners must be handed over to someone else for internment and trial, usually in accordance with agreements that prohibit the death penalty or degrading treatment.
  • 02:15:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses the challenges faced by the French military in managing prisoners during their operations in Afghanistan and during the Serval operation. He explains that the Afghan government refused to sign an agreement with France, making it difficult for them to handle prisoners. To address this issue, they either had Americans manage the prisoners or relied on Afghan forces to do so. However, General Castres criticizes this arrangement as hypocritical and not respectful. During the Serval operation, France created a detention center in Gao and entrusted the management of prisoners to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to ensure proper treatment. They sought the guidance of ICRC and human rights organizations when there were doubts about the status of a prisoner. By involving these organizations, France aimed to handle prisoners in a clean and transparent manner, avoiding the mistakes made in Afghanistan.
  • 02:20:00 In this section, General Didier Castres discusses a mission he was involved in during the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire in 2011. He recalls receiving orders to stop the massacres and destroy the military capabilities of Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to accept the election results. With helicopters and missiles, the French forces carried out the mission, but Gbagbo managed to evade capture. The general then ordered his troops to continue the search on foot, despite the challenges. Eventually, Gbagbo was captured without any French soldiers being injured. The general reflects on the difficult decision-making process and the risks involved. Towards the end, he suggests three books that he believes are important to read, particularly for those interested in Africa and the desert, as they offer insights into the human experience in these environments.
  • 02:25:00 In this section, a question is asked about advice for future generations to which General Didier Castres responds by emphasizing the importance of not giving up on truth and one's convictions, regardless of the cost. He mentions his personal experience of saying no to bomb a building and highlights the significance of holding onto these principles. The conversation continues with the mention of the number of viewers and the promise to bring General Didier Castres into the discussion.

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