The european union member states split over the military intervention in libya with france, germany and the uk voting differently in the united nations security council. This article compares news media in france and germany to better understand the foreign policy decisions of these key actors. Using a newspaper analysis of 334 articles, it shows that the german domestic debate started very late and was much less stable than the french debate. This supports arguments that germany's decision-making was erratic. The analysis, however, also shows that the german debate was comprehensive and included an extensive discussion of the legitimacy of intervention. This fits in well with the traditional reluctance of german foreign policy elites to support military action.