This article is the English version of Martin Briens and Thomas Gomart, « Comment préparer 2050 ? De la « prévoyance » à la « grande stratégie » », published in Politique étrangère, Vol. 87, Issue 4, 2021.
“Nothing is more necessary in governing a state than foresight, since by its use one can easily prevent many evils which can be corrected only with great difficulty if allowed to transpire,” observed Cardinal Richelieu, adding that “it is more important to anticipate the future than to dwell upon the present, since with enemies of the state, as with diseases, it is better to advance to the attack than to wait and drive them out after they have invaded.” This evident but often forgotten truth points to the need for France to rethink its foresight systems, amid a strategic acceleration that is making long-term planning a matter of urgency.
The Livres Blancs (White Papers) provide major milestones in France’s defense and security sector. In 2017, the Defense and National Security Strategy Review laid the foundations for the Military Planning Act (MPA) of July 13, 2018 for the period 2019–25, and a Strategic Update paper was produced in early 2021, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting escalating competition between the great powers, the widespread use of hybrid strategies, the emboldened nature of regional powers, and the impact of disruptive technologies.
Given the many “evils” France now faces, the country must ramp up its foresight work, without limiting it to defense and security issues or to a timeline based on presidential terms, but approaching it as an intellectual exercise. Good foresight would incorporate aspects external to the political and strategic sphere much more actively than in the past, while recognizing the unique nature of this sphere as acting “in the shadow of war…
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