The Statecraft of Charles de Gaulle
NATIONAL WAR COLL WASHINGTON DC
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In assessing the statecraft of any statesman, it is necessary to understand the historical context in which he moved and acted, and the assumptions and lessons he drew from it. The case of Charles de Gaulle, President of the French Republic from 1958 to 1969, illustrates this maxim with particular acuteness. De Gaulles experiences and his conception of France--drawn in large part from those experiences--make him perhaps unique in 20th-century history in the extent to which all he did was a product of personal, and national, history. Charles de Gaulle was born in 1890 into a Catholic, patriotic, and nationalist family which had produced writers, historians, and professors. His family thus stood on the conservative side of the great divide in French society which was manifested most notably in the Dreyfus Affair, but which went far beyond it. As a boy, he showed a great interest in military matters. He was educated at the famous military academy at Saint- Cyr, and in 1913 joined an infantry regiment commanded by Colonel Philippe Petain, with whom he was to have a long association. De Gaulle had an outstanding record in World War I. He was wounded and mentioned in dispatches several times, and was a prisoner of war for a lengthy period. During the interwar years, the patronage of Petain, by then a field marshal and Frances national hero, together with his own substantial abilities, gained de Gaulle prestigious staff assignments. He also served in the occupied Rhineland and the Middle East. De Gaulle also gained a reputation as a military intellectual, publishing several books. One work, The Army of the Future 1934, criticized Frances reliance on static defense and mass armies, as embodied in the Maginot Line, calling instead for a mechanized, mobile, and highly professional force.
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