The French Army, 1936

Courtesy Reuters

LIKE all armies, the French army exists as the instrument of a definite policy. To appraise its effectiveness in the restless and uncertain Europe of today one must first establish the broad lines of French military policy. The aim of this policy is simple, even though the execution of it raises complex problems. Having recovered her lost provinces in 1918, and already possessing a sufficient colonial domain, France has no further territorial ambitions either in Europe or abroad. The French army therefore does not exist either for revenge or for conquest; it has one sole purpose, to assure the security of France and her colonies.

The task of defending the colonies is the easier of the two, despite the extent of the empire, its distance from the homeland, and the war-like character of the native inhabitants. In 1935, France had to maintain an overseas army (armée d'outre-mer) of 210,000 effectives in North Africa, Syria and the colonies; at home she had only 320,000 men under arms. Among the colonial forces, however, are 100,000 natives of North Africa organized into special regiments of infantry and cavalry (sharpshooters and spahis), who besides helping maintain order in the African territories where they are mainly stationed are ready to participate in any struggle that might develop in Europe.

The overseas army is both a liability and an asset. It would probably turn out to be a liability if France were unable to maintain the freedom of her maritime communications. In the final analysis it is on the French army in France that the burden of defending the country will fall. To determine whether this home army is capable of fulfilling its mission we must first consider what Powers are the potential aggressors against which it might have to fight.

To find the answer to this question the French commander-in-chief does not need to consult the Minister of Foreign Affairs; the man in the street can give it to him. Indeed, it is indicated by history and geography. France has

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