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Thread: German occupation of France(1940-1944)model for regime change?

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    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Default German occupation of France(1940-1944)model for regime change?

    I was reading an article today in Military Review. Comparing the policies and outcomes practiced politically and military by the US in Germany after 1945 against Iraq from 2003-onwards vs. the German occupation of France 1940-1944.

    However, as a perspective model for regime change and restructuring, I found France 1940-1944 to be the most interesting due to the parallels between Iraq to France during the Second World War. For example, rapid invasion and defeat, stark underlying social and political differences in society, anti-democratic and sectarian undercurrents etc, just among the few similarities that can be drawn.

    In addition, could this instance from history provide possible lessons for state building, regime change, and nation restructuring? As the German occupation of France during WWII largely left the French to the day to day including the pre-existing governance and most enforcement(despite occupying most of the French heartland), including tolerating participation of individuals and entities with differing opinions across the spectrum so much as they didn't stand in the way of German objectives(this excluded Jews, Communists, many Republicans). All of which were taken in much part to avoid agitating the various elements and French society as a whole.

    Overall, the German's it could said maintained the French state as it largely existed before the invasion, while directly influencing it to meet their needs. As well as partitioning France early on, to meet earlier objectives and reuniting the country to ensure ones later on.

    While in comparison, the US-led invasion and nation-building venture in Iraq attempted to create n entirely new state from the ground up, without much regard to the existing, underlying, political cleavages and issues in Iraq pre-invasion.

    Sorry if this all appears a little jumbled obvious, or even doesn't make sense as I was just drawing conclusions from the article I read.

    Also here is the article,

    http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/Military...831_art009.pdf

    So any opinions?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
    So any opinions?
    I have been reading Mark Moyar's new book, "A Question of Command" and have come to the initial thought that the lack of strong "military occupations" in both Iraq and Afghanistan were negative contributing factors to those campaigns. He covers several historical examples where strong military governance - executed by effective leaders was a strong factor in a successful counterinsurgency campaign. Strong military oversight of civilian functions during the early stages of an occupation in order to establish the illusive "Unity of Command" are important. The disaster that was the Bremer experiment in Iraq, or the empowering of the Warlord class in Afghanistan both can be argued to steam from a misplaced desire to utilize indigenous non-military leaders/agencies to fulfill the role of economic, political, social change agent.

    Perhaps someone with more historical knowledge than me, could comment on the role of "military occupations" during/post WWII vs the hybrid model that were developed in Iraq and Afghanistan, where security was the primary role of the military and civilian authorities (both indigenous and foreign based) were the primary drivers of social, economic, and political change. Of particular interest might be how the Soviet's dealt with these issues, post WWII.

    The thesis I would like to test would be something roughly along the lines of :

    "The military is uniquely suited to conduct occupation operations in contested theaters, ensuring unity of command, where civilian organizations are likely to fail due to their inability to deal with risks from hostile actors such as insurgents."

    Such a discussion could be very interesting in the context of analyzing Afghanistan. For instance, one might argue for greater military governance over areas where there is little or no central government presence, or where corruption totally mitigates the effectiveness of such a central government presence.

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    Default Kevin, you pick interesting topics

    I suppose that comparison of 1945 Germany and 2003 Iraq is inevitable, given that 1945 Germany (and 1945 Japan) were held up by some as models for what we were to do in Iraq - and thence, in the entire Arab World (a 1000 democratic flowers blossoming !).

    Since my own prejudice involves a three-step regime change process (unrelated to an long-term occupation): (1) Remove old regime by armed force (or by less violent means, if feasible - usually not feasible); (2) Remove armed force from country without a formal, legal occupation; and (3) Allow the natives (whether restless or not) to come up with their own new regime (or regimes). Chaos, anarchy, .... shouts the chorus in opposition. In short, I'm not the right person to critique nation-building (state-building) via military occupations.

    As to 1940-1945 France, the picture was scarcely as rosy as the author paints. However, I'd be more interested in what M. Legrange has to say about that period in French history - as I believe his dad was an officer on the Charlie Gallstone side of the fence.

    So, Marc-André, if your current travels permit, RSVP.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default Baath Party Membership

    When Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority banned the participation of former Baath party members in the government in 2003 it forgot the complications that excluding ex-Nazi Party members caused in Occupation Germany. Patton was relieved of command of Third Army for his comments on the subject. One does not have to be a military historian to know that--anyone who saw the George C. Scott film should have remembered it. The disbanding of the Iraqi army at the same time also removed one of the only national institutions the country had.
    Last edited by Pete; 07-25-2010 at 07:01 PM.

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    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    I suppose that comparison of 1945 Germany and 2003 Iraq is inevitable, given that 1945 Germany (and 1945 Japan) were held up by some as models for what we were to do in Iraq - and thence, in the entire Arab World (a 1000 democratic flowers blossoming !).

    Since my own prejudice involves a three-step regime change process (unrelated to an long-term occupation): (1) Remove old regime by armed force (or by less violent means, if feasible - usually not feasible); (2) Remove armed force from country without a formal, legal occupation; and (3) Allow the natives (whether restless or not) to come up with their own new regime (or regimes). Chaos, anarchy, .... shouts the chorus in opposition. In short, I'm not the right person to critique nation-building (state-building) via military occupations.

    As to 1940-1945 France, the picture was scarcely as rosy as the author paints. However, I'd be more interested in what M. Legrange has to say about that period in French history - as I believe his dad was an officer on the Charlie Gallstone side of the fence.

    So, Marc-André, if your current travels permit, RSVP.

    Regards

    Mike
    Jmm.

    On your point in regards to what the author said, the French as a whole as well as those in other Western European countries(even many of those who collaborated with the Germans). Were obviously not thrilled and overall highly unhappy about the defeat and overthrow of their home governments. However to further touch on what the author said, the vast majority didn't resist and the resistance in countries like France didn't gain widespread support despite this. Because the population and societies of the occupied countries largely accepted that new European and International order that the Nazi Regime was attempting to establish through aggression, had legitimacy and deserved a try since as we know the previous democratic governments weren't as a whole viewed as very successful.

    The Nazi Regime further played on this by putting policies in place that attempted to create a less harsher and more benevolent occupation in countries like France, Denmark, the Netherlands and the remaining WWII occupied nations in Western Europe.

    None the less though, you are right again in pointing to the fact that things were harsher and darker in France then portrayed in this article, especially later on in the war when conditions worsened. For example, the resistance was quite successful in some acts against the Germans and their collaborators and making alot of noise. In addition as we all know those elements among the general population that were suspected(real or imagined) of aiding or harboring the Resistance, Jews, downed Allied airmen or other personnel, foreign agents, commandos, saboteurs ,and other subversive elements were dealt with quite harshly.

    The German occupation and administration in occupied Western Europe was more successful in preventing upsprings and guerrilla war, then the stark strategy practiced on the Eastern Front in the occupied Soviet Republics, like Belarus , the Ukraine, or parts of Russia it's self.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Default

    Might this have something to do with a cultural acceptance of a ritualized notion of war, akin to chess, where victory is conceded and resistance ends when the capital falls and the King is taken? If so, the key variable would not be the policies of the conqueror, but rather the culture and attitudes of the conquered.

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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default Western Way of War

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Might this have something to do with a cultural acceptance of a ritualized notion of war, akin to chess, where victory is conceded and resistance ends ...
    I think it's the Western concept of war that evolved in Europe after the Thirty Years War and during the Rennaissance, when kings and aristocrats, the class owning most of the property, agreed that gratuitious violence and destruction should end after the point has been conceded. The old "Usages of War" was a sort of unwritten code that later came to be incorporated into the Geneva, St. Petersburg, and Hague Conventions. The Law of War may seem quaint, but when people don't agree to abide by it (more or less), wars can turn into the kind of ethnic cleansing we saw in the Balkans. Resistance does indeed cease when all the people have been killed.
    Last edited by Pete; 07-26-2010 at 04:37 PM.

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    How about looking at the French Resistance, armed and supported by opposing nation states and enjoying almost universal support among the population, as a model for current insurgency, esp. when you have a weak and unpopular national government installed and propped up by your occupying power?

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    What hasn't been mentioned in the last elections in pre-war France there were banners by the right wing parties stating 'Better Hitler than Blum'. There were plenty of right-wing anti-Semetic groups prior to the German invasion of 1940, and the Germans had no trouble tapping into them for recruits. I haven't read of any Afghan groups that were even secretly promoting 'Better Bush than the Taliban'.

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    Default Parallels?

    This is an interesting historical parallel and so well done to Kevin23. Not sure how our French readers would follow it though.

    GI Zhou's comments on the ability of the Germans / Nazis to recruit Frenchmen in support roles has been catalogued IIRC; notably in the paramilitary Milice, apologies they were originally a Vichy regime body: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milice and there was a Waffen-SS French division: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlemagne_Division.

    In my reading of the Soviet era in Afghanistan there was a period when some Afghans did fight alongside the Soviet Army, notably in the paramilitary wing of the intelligence service. Let alone the political converts to the "cause" and even after the Soviets left the Kabul regime survived for IIRC two years.
    davidbfpo

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    Default The non-German SS volunteers

    I ran into a general overview of European pro-Nazi sentiment and those men who then joined Waffen-SS units, when I was researching the Finnish unit (including Lauri Torni, later aka MAJ Larry Thorne US SF) that at times was attached to the Waffen-SS (at other times, attached to the Wehrmacht or simply fighting as a Finnish Army unit).

    Anyway, the general overview is found in Richard Landwehr (Wiki), The European Volunteer Movement in World War II (Magna Europa est Patria Nostra), in three parts - with great poster art (which is why I saved it):

    Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

    Be aware that Landwehr is a controversial figure; although I suspect his figures for the SS volunteers are probably accurate. He relies on Leon Degrelle (Belgian), of whom, Hitler said: ""If I should have a son I would like him to be like Leon." Nuff said, at Epic: The Story of the Waffen SS.

    Take care when walking in this wilderness.

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Default I believe I have to respond

    Well, I will come back to Kevin post first.

    The idea that French Government was not cooperating is wrong, unfortunately.
    1) The French government from Vichy was one of the most supportive to the racist ideology of the Nazi.
    2) The French government was not rebuilt. Actually Vichy government was ruled by the laws of French republique. Which makes a huge difference with Irak or Astan. The French government (against all imaginable possibilities) surrended and this was made by a handfull of politicians and not the majority of the parliament and even less the army. Historians just published an interresting book (only in French unfortunately) of politic fiction on what would have happened if France did not surrender by actually fought until the end.
    3) The main actions taken against the civilian populations in France were the fact of the Milice, the French police. Especially if you look at deportations.
    4) Finally the French army was not dismantled. Unlike in Irak.

    But, to also give some credit to this idea, modern warfare developped during Algeria has a lot to see with what the Nazi (And not the germans as people/folk) did during occupation. This actually one of the critics of the modern warfare and COIN.

    I will take more time to look at the issue in details as it is interresting: how to conduct COIN and not end up either as the Nazi or the French during Algeria...

    Finally, Mike, you are right, one of my grand father was on the right side. While the otherone was prisonner in Poland as officer for 4 years.

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post

    On your point in regards to what the author said, the French as a whole as well as those in other Western European countries(even many of those who collaborated with the Germans). Were obviously not thrilled and overall highly unhappy about the defeat and overthrow of their home governments.
    Right

    However to further touch on what the author said, the vast majority didn't resist and the resistance in countries like France didn't gain widespread support despite this. Because the population and societies of the occupied countries largely accepted that new European and International order that the Nazi Regime was attempting to establish through aggression, had legitimacy and deserved a try since as we know the previous democratic governments weren't as a whole viewed as very successful.
    Partly right for France
    Some part of France did liberate them selves and several "insurgent"/resistant were hardly crushed. Which brings the question of who is an insurent and who is a resistant (freedom fighter). (No doubts on my side about resistance against Nazi regime but still, the question remains).

    The Nazi Regime further played on this by putting policies in place that attempted to create a less harsher and more benevolent occupation in countries like France, Denmark, the Netherlands and the remaining WWII occupied nations in Western Europe.
    Wrong. The STO Service de Travail Obligatoire (mandatory work service) in germany was one of the trigger of the rally to the resistance cause.
    But it is true that the problematic of the democratic regime was not the one coming first.
    Also, you have to consider that many of the resistant were communist.As long as the Nazi regime did not attack USSR, they did not move. The day Hitler launched Barbarossa, it was another story.

    The German occupation and administration in occupied Western Europe was more successful in preventing upsprings and guerrilla war, then the stark strategy practiced on the Eastern Front in the occupied Soviet Republics, like Belarus , the Ukraine, or parts of Russia it's self.
    What about Yougoslavia?
    It is true that French resistance was not that powerfull but the actions taken at the end of the war to prepare Operation Overlord were of some importance. As example, the resistance destroyed almost all bridges between Paris and Normandie.
    Last edited by M-A Lagrange; 07-27-2010 at 02:43 PM.

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    Default Marc, you guys are too young ....

    Well, I was a generation away from right:

    from
    MAL
    Finally, Mike, you are right, one of my grand father was on the right side. While the other one was prisonner in Poland as officer for 4 years.
    Your grandfathers were of the same "vintage" as my father - and on the same side.

    But I still have a 18-year old mentality.

    Colonialement

    Mike

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    Default

    Difficult to equate France and Iraq because the societies were so different. France does not have the equivalent to the Shia/Sunni split that exists in Iraq, and although the societal divide at the time between left wing (communist) and right wing (fascist) was large it was not as pervasive nor as violent. When looking at Iraq and Afghanistan I think that many of the problems we face in running a COIN or FID campaign is that we do not understand the environment we are in, and there are often inherent contradictions between what we perceive as as the right thing and what the locals perceive as the right thing, as well as what might be in our interests and what the local elite perceives as in its interest.

    That is not to say that there are not lessons in how to take over a country as the German practice of (in the west) maintaining government structures and especially the police are relevant.

    I will take advice from those better informed out there (M-A Lagrange?) but I believe that the relevant French Government files pertaining to the period 1940-45 have not yet been released and so the definitive account of the role of the French Police, the milice and the resistance has yet to be written.
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

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