After the resignation of General Pierre de Villiers, it is an understatement to say that the speech of Emmanuel Macron at the air base 125 of Istres was expected. But once the imposed figures of the exercise are put aside, what remains? To tell the truth, very little, and all the less since a part has already been contradicted, at least in spirit.

Thursday, in fact, the president said: “General de Villiers yesterday wished to hand over. It's his choice, and I fully respect it. I want to pay him a warm tribute, for he was a great soldier, loved and admired by his subordinates, and he commanded you brilliantly for just over three years. »

The disloyal Monsieur Castaner

Friday, government spokesman says “The Chief of Staff was disloyal in his communication, he staged his resignation. (…) It was his behavior that was unacceptable. (…) He behaved like a protesting poet. »

The words of Christophe Castaner do not seem to me to be of complete respect, nor of warm homage, even if they are unintentionally flattering!

Read also: Pierre de Villiers: the army must be loyal to the people, not to Emmanuel Macron

Because many great soldiers have been writers or poets, and have dared to claim what seemed necessary to them to defend their subordinates and their country. And if Pierre de Villiers indeed refused to pledge allegiance to a power that he considered irresponsible, and staged this refusal in order to alert public opinion, it was precisely out of loyalty to our nation.

On the other hand, it seems to me that a government spokesperson who allows himself to publicly take the opposite view of the Head of State less than 24 hours after his speech could be appropriately described as "disloyal in his communication"...

Macron has not got it all wrong

So let's skip over the rest of the compliments and encouragement. The military are too accustomed to hearing about the recognition of the nation in barracks falling into ruins to stop at fine speeches.

There were good things.

First the reminder of the complementarity within the French nuclear deterrent between the underwater vector and the air vector, clearly submarines and planes. It is good that the head of the armies stifles in the bud any possible inclination of some to take up too much space to the detriment of others.

The desire to really consider an update of Sentinelle, this costly deployment of forces, exhausting for our soldiers and whose effectiveness is questionable to say the least.

The main thing is not the budget…

The announcement of a large-scale study aimed at taking better account of the situation of military families, particularly when deciding on transfers, is more than welcome. The mountain may give birth to a mouse, but it is all the same very encouraging that the Head of State in person raises the subject, as it is sensitive on a daily basis for the entire military community.

Finally, Emmanuel Macron rightly pointed out that the essential was not the budget, but the strategy and the evaluation of the means necessary for the implementation of this strategy. It's an elegant way to evacuate the controversy of recent days, but it is no less true.

Alas! "At the same time" as he recalled this sound principle, the President announced that the decisions on the budgetary trajectory have already been taken for the next few years, while the results of the strategic reflection should not be presented to him until the fall … He insisted on the objective of 2% of GDP in 2025, which on the one hand is premature before the announced reflections have been carried out, and on the other hand postpones the meeting three years after the next presidential and the next legislative. In political terms, we might as well say indefinitely.

For the rest, the essential is lodged in the details.

…that's the strategy

Thus, we learned that, of all the state budgets, only that of the armies was going to be increased. We bet that the civil service unions, so attached to the growth of the wage bill, will not fail to ask for clarification on this point...

We also discovered that the budget cuts were not so serious, since they related to the execution during the year and not to the budget law. The pirouette ready to smile.

The armies have long understood that the finance laws are beautiful and good, but that once amputated from the reserve, the freezing, the budgetary transfers and the non-budgeted measures decided during the year, the budget does not is not quite what was expected. However, it is with the budget in management, actually executed, that war must be waged, not with the theoretical decisions of a finance law.

In addition, the LOLF has never put an end to the old “base + new measures” calculation method, which means in concrete terms that future budgetary entitlements are not calculated from previous entitlements but from actual expenditure. Expenditure which, precisely, has just been very seriously reduced. Mr. President, talk about it occasionally to a former member of Bercy, he will explain it to you.

A leader (of armies) must make choices

Having mentioned police, gendarmes and nurses to put the situation of the armies into perspective was clever, since their missions are those to which the military are generally sensitive. But the argument is hollow. It implies that the budgetary efforts must be shared by all, whereas the role of a leader is to make choices, to define priorities and to invest in these priorities the means and the determination necessary for the realization of his Goals.

The idea is not to ask for savings from all components of the public service, but to assess what is useful and what is less useful, what is expendable and what is not, what what is strategic and what is not, and to act accordingly.

Finally, the place obviously lent itself to a reminder of the crucial role of nuclear deterrence in supporting France's place in the concert of nations, but this almost exclusive focus worries me. In the presence of the media, Emmanuel Macron's speech was obviously not only addressed to the military, and it is never useless to raise public awareness on this point.

However, having underlined the quality of the training of the units responsible for this mission, we should not forget that very many regiments today no longer have the time to train and prepare as they should, whereas 'they are also essential to our ability to act.

People first

It is to be hoped that the president's modernism does not lead him to the chimeras of a strategic project which would rely only on a few cutting-edge weapons. These are very important, and it would be time to seriously develop our digital combat capabilities and think about our space defense. But it is impossible even today to hold a territory and, even more, to build something with its inhabitants, without relying on ground troops deployed among the civilian population. And this observation is also valid for the national territory.

In the end, the future will tell what was an attempt at appeasement and the announcement effect, and what will be translated into action, to improve the living and working conditions of our soldiers, and to ensure the defense of France. Force is far from solving everything, but there are things that cannot be solved without resorting to it. Provided you have given yourself the means, intellectual, material and human, without overbidding but without naivety.