What’s more surprising is that the socialist Hollande is following in Sarkozy’s footsteps. For Jean-Pierre Maulny, co-director of IRIS, one of France’s leading strategic research institutes, this is because “many of the defense and foreign affairs ministries’ top civil servants have kept their positions” despite the change in power. In January 2013, Hollande decided to send French troops on their own to rid Mali of extremist groups that had taken control of the northern part of the country. (Washington sent cargo planes, but no ground troops.)
But while interventions in Libya and Syria can be attributed to France’s new readiness to assume responsibilities in cases of violations of human rights, Mali was different. “There was a direct threat to national security” notes Maulny.
France recorded a swift success in Mali, and Hollande’s dismal approval ratings improved temporarily. Today, even before an intervention In Syria, latest polls suggest he already gained a bit of popularity just by talking tough. He will certainly take this into account as pressure is growing for him to call a Parliament vote like his allies.
“The best case for a diversionary war is when a leader is unpopular for economic reasons as opposed to personal scandals, which does fit Hollande’s situation” explains David Burbach, associate professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. He will certainly take this into account as pressure is growing for him to call a Parliamentary vote of his own.