Andrew Moravcsik, "De Gaulle Between Grain and Grandeur : The Political
Economy of French EC Policy, 1958-1970", with commentaries by Stanley
Hoffmann, John T.S. Keeler, Alan Milward, John Gillingham, Jeffrey Vanke,
Marc Trachtenberg, and a response by Andrew Moravcsik, Journal of Cold
War Studies, Volume 2, Numbers 2-3 (Spring-Fall 2000).
Comment by Sean Kennedy, University of New Brunswick, email@example.com
From the perspective of the Cold War, Charles de Gaulle has been alternately praised as the tenacious architect of France's diplomatic revival, or decried as an ungrateful meddler who needlessly disrupted the Atlantic Alliance. Whatever their perspective, however, most scholars of his foreign policy agree that Gaullist diplomacy was informed by a set of fundamental principles with geopolitics at their core. De Gaulle rejected the bipolar system of the Cold War era, and sought to restore his country's _grandeur_. He accepted European cooperation, but only if it did not compromise his nation's autonomy and provided a platform for distinctive French interventions in global affairs. Compared to the domestic reforms enacted during his tenure, some commentators have questioned whether the general's foreign policy had as many durable results, but few of them question its central importance to de Gaulle himself. These are the principle ideas that I, as someone who has taught rather than researched Gaullist foreign policy, emphasize in my classes. After reading the detailed and lucid exchange between Andrew Moravcsik and his interlocutors, I find myself compelled to revise my conception of Gaullist foreign policy - - to an extent.
Moravcsik's detailed two-part article on de Gaulle's European policy expands upon the argument presented in his book _The Choice for Europe: Social Purpose and State Power from Messina to Maastricht_ (1998). In that work Moravcsik maintains that the fundamental factor in shaping the process of European integration was commercial interest, rather than ideology or geopolitics. His more detailed examination of Gaullist policy is an exploration of the "most difficult test case" of this theory. Since de Gaulle is normally regarded as a leader influenced by strategic considerations, a reinterpretation of his European policy which highlights the primacy of economic interests would make Moravcsik's general interpretation all the more convincing.
Moravcsik thus begins by suggesting that the copious literature which depicts de Gaulle as "the archetype of the visionary or ideological statesman" is in some respects misguided (Part 1, 3). To be sure, de Gaulle had geopolitical aims, but at least as far as European unity was concerned, "the pursuit of mundane agricultural and industrial interests, combined with domestic economic reforms, constitutes a _predominant influence on and sufficient explanation of French policy_ " during the general's presidency (Part 1, 6). Moravcsik's conclusions rest upon a re- examination of the weight accorded to commercial matters in the discourse of de Gaulle and his colleagues, the coherence of French EEC policy, and the domestic pressures brought to bear upon the leaders of the Fifth Republic.
Moravcsik uses a series of case studies to make his point. First, he points out, despite opposition by some Gaullists to the 1957 Treaty of Rome, once in power the general's government diligently implemented its provisions for a customs union. One rationale behind this accommodating policy was that economic ties would facilitate subsequent political cooperation. But de Gaulle also argued that a customs union would induce French industry to increase its productivity, and would provide a 'preferential area' for the country's agricultural exports. The latter
was an especially crucial problem, for French farmers were easily undercut
by North American and British Commonwealth producers. Given that a quarter
of France's working population was employed in agriculture at the time of
de Gaulle's accession to power, a preferential trade agreement was essential. Small wonder, then, Moravcsik concludes, that in speeches and confidential meetings, de Gaulle insisted that economic cooperation - specifically
the entrenchment of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) - was crucial, whereas political cooperation was (merely) desirable. This rigid determination to secure French economic interests within a European
The fate of the Fouchet Plan further illustrates this axiom. Beginning
in 1960, the French initiated a consultative process aimed at the creation
If the Fouchet Plan was largely the result of a determination to ensure the CAP, Moravcsik continues, so was de Gaulle's desire to prevent Great Britain from joining the EEC. Claims that the British were kept out because they would threaten France's political dominance within the Community, or because they were too attached to the United States, are misplaced. Once again, the weight of available records indicates that
Just how far Gaullist France would go to ensure a protected market for
its agriculture was demonstrated once again, Moravcsik contends, during the 'empty chair' crisis of 1965-66. The imbroglio began when the European Commission's president, Walter Hallstein, proposed an extension of this
Moravcsik sees some validity in the interpretation of this episode which stresses de Gaulle's determination to thwart supra-nationalism, but reaffirms "the importance of concrete commercial considerations", especially in determining the outcome, if not the origins, of the crisis (Part 2, 40). It is important to note in this regard that while de Gaulle got the Luxembourg Compromise and Hallstein's resignation, he did not secure - nor did he ultimately push very hard for - the major reconfiguration of European institutions which he ostensibly desired. Instead, Moravcsik argues, he was willing to accept limited changes as long as he also secured a veto over CAP financing. The key factor here
was the French farm vote. Afraid that de Gaulle would water down the CAP in
For those historians of contemporary France who are first introduced
to de Gaulle as a man who seemingly threw rational calculation to the wind in
Gillingham also maintains that "Moravcsik is careful not to overdraw his portrait", but I suspect that a number of the other commentators would disagree (Part 2, 83). Indeed, the argument that Moravcsik has given a neglected dimension of Gaullist policy the attention that it deserves, but has overstated his case in doing so, is one made by several authors. Tied to it is the critique that Moravcsik seeks to disentangle geopolitical and economic motivations when in fact it is difficult to do so. Thus, Marc Trachtenberg is rather disquieted when Moravcsik consigns de Gaulle's geopolitical vision to "insignificance" because of the constraints placed upon it (Part 2, 101, quoting Part 1, 6). John Keeler takes issue with Moravcsik's suggestion that de Gaulle simply bowed to the interests of a protectionist agricultural sector. Instead, he argues, the general was determined to see French agriculture modernized, a goal which complemented his quest for _grandeur_. Stanley Hoffmann, too, implies that Moravcsik's focus on the economic factors behind de Gaulle's foreign policy is too single-minded, asserting instead that they commingled with other priorities.
Some commentators, in particular Trachtenberg and Jeffrey Vanke, also suggest that Moravcsik's interpretation of some of the available evidence
The tone of Moravcsik's response to these various criticisms is broad-minded. He concedes some errors in interpreting the documentary
With respect to the subject of Gaullist policy towards European integration, Moravcsik's interpretation retains some internal tensions. In his response to his critics, he insists that his explication is multi-causal, but this still seems a little hard to square with assertions that "commercial considerations constituted a predominant and sufficient motivation for French policy" (Part 2, 129). A tension also persists between the sections of Moravcsik's work where he implies that de Gaulle acted largely on the basis of commercial _motives_, and those - such as during the "empty chair" crisis - where he was instead _constrained_ by economic and interest group pressures. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the author's reconsideration of the available evidence is simultaneously probing and stimulating; subsequent scholarship on Gaullist foreign policy will have to take his interpretation fully into account.
In the final section of his response to his critics, Moravcsik rightly indicates that their exchange has implications which extend beyond this particular subject. He suggests that in studying Gaullist foreign policy more work must be done to understand fully the motivations of the general and his colleagues, as well as the various economic and interest group pressures. Elsewhere, Moravcsik also maintains that what might be true of de Gaulle's European policy might not be the case with respect to other aspects of his diplomacy; in other words, his foreign policy might not have been as well-integrated as many observers believe.
These insights, like Moravcsik's general interpretation, are both provocative and worthy of further consideration. But it seems to me that, in addition to considering geographic variations in Gaullist foreign policy, a temporal perspective must also be kept in mind. In this regard it is worth considering de Gaulle's actions as head of the Provisional Government in 1944-46. To be sure, during this critical period economic interests played a major role in shaping foreign policy. France's aggressive stance towards a defeated Germany - which included demands
for the detachment of the Rhineland and Allied control over the Ruhr - was intended to ensure security, but also to serve the goal of reconstruction. Nevertheless, when it came to international relations de Gaulle would
only go so far in allowing economic concerns to prevail, as his last debate with the political parties before his resignation in January 1946