What ever happened to the French Foreign Legion


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Aug 19, 2017
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Maybe pick out a few passages that might be interesting? Because it is way too long for me.
I cut out a bunch of fluff and left some interesting bits for you to read.
I read through it quickly so I may or may not have missed an important bit of information but the author does tend to yammer on instead of getting to the point so I hope you understand.

  • The Legion was conceived as a provisional solution to a fleeting problem —the migration of undesirable persons into France in the wake of revolutions throughout Europe in 1830–31.

  • The July Revolution of 1830 had resuscitated the French Revolutionary concept of a citizen army and led to disbandment of the Swiss Guards and other foreign formations that had enforced Bourbon mastery of such uprisings. To address the resulting coagulation of refugees in French cities, King Louis-Philippe on March 9, 1831, signed into law an act creating a ghetto foreign force within a citizen army. Recruiters quickly enlisted the undesirable aliens and packed them off to Algiers.

  • A French general named Ulrich, who in 1861 inspected the 1er régiment étranger at Sidi-Bel-Abbès, in then French Algeria, warned that if the army failed to disband the Legion by decree, it was in danger of dissolving itself from below: “Misdemeanors, serious infractions are very frequent and denote an advanced state of demoralization,â€￾ he wrote. “A regiment which counts 648 deserters, in which one does not dare hand out the munitions which each soldier must carry, in which only one pair of shoes per man can be distributed lest they sell them, is far from being a disciplined regiment.â€￾

  • Two years later in Mexico those very legionnaires executed the corps’ signature action at Camarón de Tejeda, Veracruz.

  • Rollet lamented that defeated White Russians who joined the Legion en masse after November 1920 were “bad soldiers, insubordinate, not good fighters, lacking esprit de corps.â€￾

  • No battle-hardened sergeants remained to whip this rabble of German schoolboys, Muscovite mobsters and “Orientalsâ€￾ from Asia Minor into fighting form. When French officers who had spent time as prisoners in Germany were sent to the Legion to acquire command time for promotion, they so abused German legionnaires that many opted to desert.

  • In 1857 Lieutenant Charles Jules Zédé reported for duty at Sidi-Bel-Abbès to find a command “permeated with the wreckage of [Europe’s] vanquished parties.â€￾ He claimed his company included the defrocked bishop of Florence, a descendant of an Eastern European royal family, a Hungarian general who had chosen the wrong side in 1848, “and even a Chinese, who looked strange with his pigtail hanging from beneath his kepi.â€￾

  • The problem is not that the Legion has disappeared, but that other units have raised their martial profile by adopting the Legion’s business model, thus eroding the signature characteristics of Legion exceptionalism—its reputation as a professional island in a conscript sea, and the international character of its recruitment.

  • Private military companies (PMCs), which have proliferated since the end of the Cold War, have also challenged the legion’s “whores of warâ€￾ monopoly. Firms such as Xe, Executive Outcomes and L-3 MPRI have helped create a $100 billion a year industry by offering customized, off-the-shelf packages of military organizers, trainers, bodyguards and security teams for government agencies and private aid organizations. PMCs have also branched out into intelligence, cyber security and aviation-support operations. Who, in fact, needs to maintain a foreign legion when anyone with enough cash can summon an à la carte, multi-capable PMC with a simple phone call?

  • Perhaps the greatest challenge to the French Foreign Legion’s particularism comes from the French government itself, which in the summer of 2010 declared that after 179 years of Legion existence the anonymat — with exceptions for those whose political or personal safety might be in jeopardy — is now illegal.

  • What ever happened to the French Foreign Legion? It has blended into the background, camouflaged by the military multitude hopping aboard its historical bandwagon. In the process, it appears Beau Geste has deserted for good this time.


Oct 17, 2004
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Some very interesting comments, in particular if you realise they were made almost 100 years ago, like Gen Rollet's comment on White Russians not being good soldiers. To make it current, just replace "White Russians" by "people from the former Eastern European block".
As for the anonymat, it was reinstated, in spite of the recommendation made by MP Lebranchu in her report. And finally, look how many so-called PMCs are still really in business, after the 2003-2010 frenzy?

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