Courtesy Reuters

PAUL REYNAUD published a little book in 1937 called Le Problème Militaire Français. Two years before, France had decided to extend military service from one to two years. Was that a sound method of building the army? Was that real preparedness? M. Reynaud answered "no," it was "only patch-work." He said that to let Germany have the advantage in respect of the "modern instruments" for destruction would permit the ancient threat weighing on France to grow in terrible proportions. "On the contrary, if we know how to play the new card which the evolution of warfare offers us, we will find again all our advantages, for it is above all in the realm of quality that it is within our power to seize the advantage since the superiority of numbers is, alas, denied us."

Generals, ministers and parliamentarians did not heed Reynaud's words. A few months before, the government

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