The Tightrope: French Colonial Collapse and the Shaping of Cold War Europe
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS
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At the end of World War II, France was much weaker than it had been before the start of the war however, France still had a role within the U.S.-dominated Western alliance standing against Soviet expansion. Nevertheless, the French leadership chose to engage what remained of their national power in the reestablishment of their overseas colonial empire. Frances preoccupation with the reestablishment of its colonial empire was strategically important to the structure of the post-World War II security environment because it amounted to a direct competition to its obligations for the defense of Europe. Paradoxically, the possession of these colonies provided the appearance of greatness that France needed in the wake of its World War II defeat to gain a seat at the table. The energies that France exerted in the course of attempting to reestablish or retain its colonies while it rebuilt its economy and attempted to dominate the military and economic fate of West Germany led to a number of consequences that they did not intend. In particular, France defeated its own initiative to limit the rearmament of Germany, the European Defence Community, while it almost simultaneously lost Indochina. This led to a chain reaction of events that included the admission of West Germany to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the war in Algeria, additional U.S. forces in Europe, the fall of the French Fourth Republic, and the return of Charles de Gaulle.
- Government and Political Science
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics