J'Accuse

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New at Reason: Michael Young looks at minority reports in the French media.

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  1. Where’s Bill Moyer when you need him??

  2. I hope this thread will confine itself to policies of the French Government and not zee people, whom I love.

  3. The impression one gets from here, is that France albeit a genuine democracy, is not a very healthy one. That there is very little policy debate concerning anything of much substance. When the conservative and Left coalitions have at each other, it is mostly over issues that might seem glamorous in an American mayoral race, while all the policy questions which would naturally seem fundamental are simply not up for discussion– the right supports the welfare state, and the left supports guallist grandeur. The voters get no choice.

    I don’t know whether it is true (Bart will be here soon enough) but I’m told that no major figure in French intellectual life (mush less politics) has ever dared to question France’s decision to aquire nuclear weapons– funny how you might have figured this would arouse SOME controversy.

    Supposedly this goes back to the trauma of the Algerian War. It doesn’t pay to lose to Arabs, I guess.

  4. With the exception of the nuclear weapons issue, I’m waiting to hear how what Andrew described differs from American politics since 1988. The only likely candidates in most races are those from Welfare/Warfare Party-Right and Welfare/Warfare Party-Left. You aren’t going to see a major party candidate suggest ending the war on drugs, eliminating gun control, etc. (excluding Ron Paul, who’s secretly a Libertarian).

    In regards to the actual article, I am shocked, shocked, to learn that media outlets slant news to appeal to the prejudices of their readers/viewers/listeners. I look forward to future articles on the recent discovery that the sky is blue.

  5. Nice article Tim. Once again we see that the Emperor has no clothes.

  6. Jack, you read a lot of LRC don’t you? They love that welfare/warfare bit. Of course, since they started pounding that slogan shortly after Afghanistan, they’ve been proven 100% correct. Always good to see.

  7. Six posts on France and no JB? WTF? Did he get buried under his back issues of le monde again?

  8. Joe is a dickus!

  9. Michael Young,

    BTW, it is generally the impression of Frenchmen that a subjective press is the best press; I myself find the faux-objectivism of the American media to be rather noxious and a kin to the hiding of biases. This is one of the basic things that Americans as a rule misunderstand about the French press, and about how Frenchmen tend to view their news sources. That you treat it as if it were some sort of sin is well, I think a display of your own ignorance.

    As to the “spirit” of 1441; well, that depends on what you think the “spirit” was. To the Americans it appears to have been one thing, to France and Germany, another. As far as I can tell, 1441 was never by itself a mandate for war; the American government attempted to spin it into such of course.

    Correction: As I recall, Alain Hertoghe is actually of Belgian citizenship.

  10. Michael Young,

    Also, most of Alain Hertoghe’s reporting was specifically on Le Monde; the bulk of the stories he discusses comes from that paper.

  11. Michael Young,

    Also, can you explain to me this statement:

    “That’s why France has yet to engage in a public debate over whether it gained anything politically from its fervent opposition to the US.”

    What is France specifically supposed to do here? And why does debate about the wisdom of invading Iraq seem so paltry or indeed non-existant in America? I often get the impression that Americans like to judge France and other countries by measures which they do not apply to themselves.

  12. Seems the issue is one of the reliability of the news. If one knows the reporting is subjective, then one can reasonably conclude that some facts are being conveniently ignored or dismissed as insignificant. Perhaps Hertoghe is concerned that the debate was not fully relavent because the public did not have a full understanding of the situation. And in calling attention to Le Monde’s reporting style, he required the paper to state whether it reported subjectively or objectively. They claim to be reporting objectively. Therefore one can dispute facts and presentations and their effect on the level of national debate.

    And the American press – oye. Fox New Channel is pilloried for not being objective because they consciously and admittedly work to bring conservative viewpoints into the public sphere of knowledge. FNC has been dismissed as a government stooge, and Dean has indicated a desire to shut it down on ideological grounds. But FNC is popular because it presents real debate, and with information and viewpoints not presented in the mainstream media. The viewers are smart – they do not want to hear someone repeating only things they agree with – but they are tired of being presented with opinions that sanctimoniously claim to be “objective reporting”. Check out http://www.mediaresearch.org , website of the Media Research Center, a watchdog organization that reports instances of left-leaning bias and mind-numbing close-mindedness in the media.

  13. Well…now I know more, although I am still skeptical.
    I first ever heard about this when a French-woman from (I believe) LeMonde, discussing tests in French Samoa and the refusal of American overflights to Lybia, declared “When it comes to foreign policy, France speaks with one voice”…which I take it expressed a sort of culture-ideal.
    She went on to explain about the Algerian War.
    I am relieved to hear about Sartre– I’d have been disappointed otherwise. He was one of the first to criticise the Algerian war, come to think of it– something the French Communist Party never quite got ’round to. (Well– maybe after DeGualle gave everyone permission to.)

    Was he so alone? What about the rebels in 68? Did this figure conspicuously in their demands?

    The possession of nuclear weapons is not altogether optional for the US (for one thing, we invented them)…unless the entire world is to be re-configured. The decision by France was far more optional, and therefore on the margin, far more debatable.

    How do you feel? I somehow don’t expect a very forthcoming answer from you. I don’t think the French discuss such preferences much with others. I don’t think they discuss them much with themselves

  14. “The possession of nuclear weapons is not altogether optional for the US (for one thing, we invented them)…”

    Don’t be ridiculous Andrew. The Nazis had all kinds of sophistimicated research programs going. Many Manhattan Project superstars were europeans expatriates or refugees. Continuing to argue along your lines, maybe the Germans are the only nationality that should have ICBM’s ?

  15. Joe, FNC is not mainstream media. Mainstream media includes ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times and the Washington Post. FNC – as opposed to the Fox broadcast network – is a cable channel and thus not available to everyone, the way that broadcast is. Most papers in the country follow the lead of the New York Times – “if the Grey Lady does not report it, then it must not be news”. And public broadcasting – PBS and NPR – present opinions and coverage from a left-leaning standpoint. It may be hard for you to conceive, but a large portion of the American public does not think that the mainstream media is adhering to its professional requirements to present all the facts and without ideological slanting. I recommend reading “Bias” and “Arrogance” by Bernard Goldberg, remembering to keep an open mind. After all, he might – just *might* – be correct in some things.

    FNC says “fair and balanced” – why? Because they make a conscious effort to include conservative viewpoints, to identify when a speaker leans to a left on an issue, instead of presenting an “unbiased” expert and a “conservative” pundit, as is frequently presented on the networks. You think FNC is biased? No. They lean more to the right, but they acknowledge that they do so, and they explain that they do so to present a more balanced look at the news. They are trying to be as objective as possible, and part of that includes admitting that journalists DO have their own pov’s and that those pov’s DO influence what questions a journalist will ask. Mainstream media won’t even dignify the question with a serious response, taking the 19th century evasion – “You dare to question my honor?? I am insulted, sir!” and so forth.

  16. Oh subscriber

    I mean to say we HAD them. Obviously no debate could have preceded that decision owing to wartime secrecy. In France, you might have expected a public debate to precede such a momentous decision. But it was rather sprung as a surprise (at least, in the case of the hydrogen bomb), as if France like Russia or China, might reasonably have feared an American pre-emptive strike.

  17. PS JB

    The American policy in Iraqwas, of course, debated in our congress for months, the British decision was formally debated for a day (at the last minute– but with plenty of anticipation), and in the French Senate (or whatever)…not at all, that I can tell.

    Anyway, love to hear your take on it. I know what Chirac thinks…how ’bout you?

    I thought the controversy with the Samoan test was more because SDECE’s barbouzes blew up the Greenpeace boat?

  18. Jean Bart, debates about war in Iraq were raging before the dust even settled in Afghanistan in early 2002. I have newspaper clipping from that time. Debate continued as war appeared more and more likely; and then once troops were in Iraq, many criticized what was going on and prophesized doom. Debate still continues on other matters in Iraq, with a smaller percentage of the country still debating whether the war was necessary.

    I have heard nothing BUT debate on Iraq for two years. Perhaps your perception of American debates mirrors how you perceive Americans perceive French debates. [wood chuck could chuck wood…]

  19. Oops– scratch that last. That was in the 80’s!
    Still boys will be boys, and barbouzes will likely always be barbouzes– I doubt much has changed. What do you think JB?

  20. Shorter Jean Bart: France is better at everything than America is, and if you disagree with me, it’s not because there are actual matters of opinion or debate on the question, but because you are stupid.

  21. Andrew,

    I do not view possession of nuclear weapons as optional for France; the last thing we want to do is be hostage to a hot and cold American public and political system on the matter (somehow I doubt that the U.S. would want to depend on France or any other nation for its security; thus one wonders why it is wise for France depend on the U.S. in a similar way). Furthermore, nuclear weapons ensure that France will not suffer another collapse as was the case in 1940; and of course they provide a defense against terrorist states (which is why they have largely been re-positioned against nations like Syria and Iran).

    “I don’t think the French discuss such preferences much with others. I don’t think they discuss them much with themselves.”

    And people say that Frenchmen are arrogant. How do you know what Frenchmen do and do not discuss? How can you be so arrogant and outright paternalistic in your attitude towards France and Frenchmen? Is it any wonder that some Frenchmen view Americans as imperialistic jackasses?

  22. Michael Young,

    One wonders what contracts you are talking about; as Elf has consistently stated, they had no contracts with the Iraqi government after 1990, and any contract they would have made in the inter-war period would have been illegal anyway. Indeeed, there were negotiations in 1999, when it appeared that the “smart sanctions” regime would soon be in the offing (a regime even favored by Bush prior to 9/11 no less). These never led to a contract; and could not have led to one legally anyway.

    “And when Chirac was faced with Eastern European states that supported the US, his small-minded response showed very little concern for democratic behavior.”

    Well, given that even in Poland, a majority of the citizens opposed the war (and continue to oppose the presence of Polish troops there), one wonders who is the “real” practitioner of democracy or democratic values.

    “The Iraqi oil industry was essentially a cash cow for the regime and, particularly, the Husseins.”

    And the same isn’t true for China and every other despotic regime that American business works with? Again, this is cherry-picking on your part.

    Andrew,

    BTW, opposition by Sartre and Foucault virtually guaranteed opposition by large groups of individuals in France. One is reminded of de Gaulle’s response to an aid of his when there came a complaint about Sartre’s opposition to the nuclear program: “How can I disparage Sartre? He is France.”

    Before the start of the war in Iraq, there was a spirited debate in the Senate by a small minority of Senators who supported the U.S. action.

    RE: Opposition to the war – It seems to me that what you, Young, etc. wanted in France over the issue was some group of devil’s advocates to arise and argue the opposing position. The fact is that France was fairly unified in its opposition; for historical as well as other reasons. That Young fails to grasp these reasons – the Algerian war being paramount here – while playing on the whole “France wanted Iraq’s oil” canard is illustrative of simply how shallow minded Young can be in these matters.

    Indeed the war smacks of imperialism to French people; the sort of imperialism that those involved in protests against the Algerian war, in attempted 1968 revolution and onwards have tried to desperately rid France of. Perhaps many Frenchmen drew the wrong conclusions about US actions in Iraq; but even if that is the case, the opposition itself was hardly solely or even partly driven by a desire for oil or anti-Americanism. In my mind the deep historical and cultural lessons and attitudes which arise from the post-1945 experience with colonialism and imperialism inform this more than what Young’s factors do.

  23. Andrew,

    The Greenpeace vessel was attacked in 1986; under the Mitterand regime (I can’t recall if the PM was a Gaullist or not then – I don’t believe so – but we’ve had divided government so often since 1981 that is hard to recall) – not Chirac’s regime in other words. The opposition to the 1996 tests had little to do with that assault; and they helped convince Chirac that an end to the tests was required. Luckily we’re able to use more successfully computer models that can tell us the performance of new weapons as they are introduced.

  24. Rebecca,

    What does this mean?

    “wood chuck could chuck wood”

    Perhaps you are correct in my impression of the American debate on the issue; it is easy to view any other culture and nation as a monolith. Clearly neither France nor the U.S. are monoliths.

    Generally speaking I would say that French people do not expect “objectivity” from the media; or at least we do not think that objectivity means what you think it does. Objectivity, in my mind, means revealing one’s biases upfront, as opposed to what Americans might call “straight reporting”; the true subjectivity comes when such biases and opinions are hidden. Thus news articles in French news sources are a combination of opinion and fact.

    I would also say that the way Americans present news is baffling and dishonest to a person who is French. I know that I found the way Americans reported their news to be dishonest when I first encountered it (deceitful might be even a btter term); it appeared as if they were trying to hide something. Over time I grew to appreciate that the news culture in each country is different and that each has its points of strength and weakness.

  25. “This hardheadedness may have been financially explicable, but it also meant France was hitching its Iraqi fortunes to the resilience of Saddam Hussein.” That’s odd. I keep reading about how greater trade with Cuba will bring about the end of the Fidel regime. I guess that theory doesn’t apply in the Middle East.

    I do like the part about the French government “hiding behind” the overwhelming public opposition to the war to justify opposing the war. I’m confused, Mr. Young, exactly which values are we aiming to pass on to the Iraqis?

  26. jb, i want to say that i — for the first time ever — agree with everything you’ve written here so far. i’m going to break out the vueve clicquot a bit early in honor!

  27. “This hardheadedness may have been financially explicable, but it also meant France was hitching its Iraqi fortunes to the resilience of Saddam Hussein.” That’s odd. I keep reading about how greater trade with Cuba will bring about the end of the Fidel regime. I guess that theory doesn’t apply in the Middle East.

    lol — excellent point, joe.

  28. Joe has a good point, but alas the wrong context. The Iraqi oil industry was essentially a cash cow for the regime and, particularly, the Husseins. The French were not trying to use commerce as a means of enhancing greater economic (and by extension political) freedom in Iraq; if anything, implementation of the contracts would have strengthened the regime by pouring millions of dollars into Saddam?s private coffers–money he would have used to pay off his various rings of praetorian guards.

    I won?t address Cuba, because that was never my initial intention.

    What values are we trying to pass on to the Iraqis if we criticize Chirac?s bending to his own public opinion? Nice rhetorical question, and I agree with some of its implications. But politics by public opinion is a double-edged sword as anyone can appreciate. And when Chirac was faced with Eastern European states that supported the US, his small-minded response showed very little concern for democratic behavior.

  29. “The Iraqi oil industry was essentially a cash cow for the regime and, particularly, the Husseins.” Castro’s government isn’t entangled in the economy? He doesn’t use revenues to buy loyalty and keep himself in power by handing out money to an inner ring of political and security elites?

    Saddam blamed his people’s privation on UN embargoes. Fidel blames it on US embargoes. In both cases, the embargoes strengthened the dictator’s hold on power.

    And virtually all of those Eastern European countries that Chirac insulted had large majorities against the war. I’ve got to go with Chirac as being on the democratic side on that one, too.

  30. “Fox New Channel is pilloried for not being objective because they consciously and admittedly work to bring conservative viewpoints into the public sphere of knowledge.”

    Their slogan is “Fair and Balanced.” Consciously, yes. Admittedly, no. They pose as an objective news source, but don’t even try to behave as one.

    “But FNC is popular because it presents real debate,”

    Shut up. Shut up! Cut her mike! Let’s ask Alan Colmes what he thinks. Oh, he’s crying in a corner.

    “…and with information and viewpoints not presented in the mainstream media.” Fox is the mainstream media. Perhaps you meat to use the word “legitimate?”

  31. Yelowd, show me where the federal-level Republicans and Democrats differ on a point of *substance* (i.e., not the anti-flag burning amendment or other sideshow bullshit) and I’ll retract the statement.

  32. Jean Bart, my notion of objectivity aligns more closely with the one you expressed – that journalists and reporters should acknowledge their slant up-front, which better equips the viewer to evaluate what he is being told. In America, the notion of objectivity means to have no bias whatsoever, a complete separation of one’s own personal views from reporting the facts. What you have said about American reporting seeming duplicitous – well, many here also think that, because more and more, reporters highlight stories or information that tends to hammer home a certain ideological view, taken collectively. And, then is astonished when viewers and critics observe this and demand change – the reporters either have no idea that they are biased (and refuse to listen to constructive feedback), or they DO know they are, and have their own reasons for denying it. That was the main thrust of one of my earlier points. Thank you for identifying the difference between the differing meanings one can apply to the term.

    And “wood chuck could chuck wood” is a tongue twister, and I used it to refer to the sentence using the word “perceive” many many times. 🙂

  33. Jean

    If you are still there, a couple more points.

    “If a WMD were used against France, France would respond with a nuclear attack; that has been the doctrine since 1996 (spurred by the terrorist attacks that occurred for several months in Paris of that year).”

    Those were Algerians, right? At odds with there own govt? Who are you going to bomb?
    How realistic is it to think that ANT nuclear power can/should respond to WMD terror with a nuclear response? Would the US? Would Putin?

    “France is not contemplating invading Syria, Libya (even though we pasted the latter in the 1980s during their invasion of Chad), etc. as the U.S. invaded Iraq; the deterrant alone should be enough”

    Well, browsing last night, I am given to understand that Chirac’s “new doctrine” is to pre-emtively use the force against ‘rogue states’.

    So he won’t invade them, just bomb them? No democratic transformation, you just make them glow in the dark?

  34. nuclear weapons ensure that France will not suffer another collapse as was the case in 1940; and of course they provide a defense against terrorist states (which is why they have largely been re-positioned against nations like Syria and Iran).

    Jean– do you actually believe this crap?

    Does the same rationale apply to Germany? (Iran?)

    Under what circumstances would France use nuclear weapons against another state? A French 9/11? Why didn’t they express “solidarity” with us after OUR 9/11 by offering to cap Kabul? Or at least suggesting that they considered this a measured response?
    If Syria (???) requires a French nuclear deterrent (thermonuclear weapons aboard submarines) why should Israel disarm? Or Lybia? Or Iran? NK, Pakistan, India– hell, Syria!– all states with much more evident security concerns.
    If Syria’s (alleged) chemical program justifies the force-de-frappe how can US concerns about Iraq imaginably be considered exagerrated?
    Why has France largely moth=balled its conventional force? What is the aircraft carrier all about (will this help France avoid collapse– like the fleet in 40?)
    Nothing about the French configuration of forces makes all that much sense, but it more nearly resembles the profile of a rogue-state/thugocracy (with an ever-shifting rationale) than a rational security policy.

    It sounds like you are parroting the line given– the above doesn’t smack of real conviction. If an about-face were announced tomorrow, would you leap to protest it?

    One thing is confirmed– coming off second to Arabs will put the zap on your head.

  35. Andrew,

    Psycho-babble refers to psychology; psychology refers to individuals generally. Get your disciplines correct at least.

    “What French “interests” will be serviced by the carrier, and how? Gunboat diplomacy?”

    Our interests in the Mediterranean of course; as well as the Atlantic.

    “Name one bad thing that could happen to France (or the world) if France didn’t have nuclear weapons, and explain how the force-de-frappe makes it less likely.”

    A WMD attack from a rogue state; but then again this should have been obvious.

    “Answer the question– if the French polity tomorrow decided this was all an expensive, dangerous and unbecoming boon-doggle, would you dissent?”

    Certainly I would; but then again, I don’t view it as “an expensive, dangerous and unbecoming boon-doggle…” Nice attempt to negatively frame the question.

    Somehow I get the impression that you feel only the U.S. should have a credible nuclear or conventional military; and one wonders if you are attacking France so, why you also don’t attack the U.K. for having nuclear weapons.

  36. “somehow I doubt that the U.S. would want to depend on France or any other nation for its security”

    “The wisdom of allowing the US and Britain to supply this deterrent is apparent to all the other countries in continental Europe, who must basically share all the same concerns as France, and who in many cases could arm themselves with nuclear weapons. (Or do you think Europe finds reassurance in the force-de-frappe?)”

    Demonstrate how it is “apparent.” Because other European countries lack nuclear weapons? The fact is that France depended on the US and the UK to come to her aid in 1939; such was not the case (indeed, though Wilson promised that America would defend France in the event of another war with Germany, the American public chose to ignore that promise). It is perfectly rational to eschew such a policy of dependence on the U.S. If other countries want to be dependent on the US in such a fashion, that’s their decision; but that on its face does not make a contrary decision irrational; indeed, what you are fostering her is what is generally termed an “argument from popularity.” Such an argument is by definition one based on a logical fallacy; not the first logical fallacy you’ve paraded about here during this conversation.

  37. Andrew,

    “Under what circumstances would France use nuclear weapons against another state?”

    If a WMD were used against France, France would respond with a nuclear attack; that has been the doctrine since 1996 (spurred by the terrorist attacks that occurred for several months in Paris of that year).

    “Why didn’t they express “solidarity” with us after OUR 9/11 by offering to cap Kabul? Or at least suggesting that they considered this a measured response?”

    Actually, France offerred about 5,000 soldiers and a large portion of its air force in the days following 9/11 (indeed, around 1,000 French soldiers are there right now; along with a French air force unit). As Al Qaeda did not use a WMD against the U.S., that is likely why that was not offered; that and the U.S. has its own nuclear arsenal.

    “If Syria (???) requires a French nuclear deterrent (thermonuclear weapons aboard submarines) why should Israel disarm? Or Lybia? Or Iran? NK, Pakistan, India– hell, Syria!– all states with much more evident security concerns.
    If Syria’s (alleged) chemical program justifies the force-de-frappe how can US concerns about Iraq imaginably be considered exagerrated?”

    Well, the American position on the possession of nuclear weapons (and arguing against their possession by other states) is as hypocritical as the French; if that is what you are trying to point out. Such is the nature of power in this world. As to French concerns and the use of nuclear weapons to deter Syria, etc., well France is not contemplating invading Syria, Libya (even though we pasted the latter in the 1980s during their invasion of Chad), etc. as the U.S. invaded Iraq; the deterrant alone should be enough.

    “Why has France largely moth=balled its conventional force? What is the aircraft carrier all about (will this help France avoid collapse– like the fleet in 40?)”

    France spends around 3% of its GDP on defense; if anything, France has increased its purchases of and creation of more advanced, etc. weapons systems. It did drop conscription; but a large conscript army is not required in the era after the Soviet collapse. A smaller, more technologically adept army, along the same lines of Rumsfeld’s ideas has been the focus of the French army and air force’s efforts since 1996. Indeed, if anything has been “moth-balled” it has its nuclear weapons component; which has been reduced in size by half since 1996.

    The aircraft carrier was built for the same reasons that the UK is building their air craft carrier; to maintain their presence as a military power in the regions of interest they have in the world, and to meet any military threat that might occur.

    “Nothing about the French configuration of forces makes all that much sense, but it more nearly resembles the profile of a rogue-state/thugocracy (with an ever-shifting rationale) than a rational security policy.”

    Given what you’ve stated, it appears that you know little about the current configuration of the French military. That’s alright; your ignorance has been shining through most of this conversation.

    “It sounds like you are parroting the line given– the above doesn’t smack of real conviction. If an about-face were announced tomorrow, would you leap to protest it?”

    I don’t care what you think it “smacks” of; can we please stop with the psyco-babble from your side? Or are you some sort of aspiring Deanna Troi?

    I have generally been in favor of the post-1996 military reform; a specific example of this is since the end of the Balkans war a new effort has been placed into creating more heavy-lift capability (in a joint venture with the German government to build a new aircraft).

  38. Andrew,

    “Those were Algerians, right? At odds with there own govt? Who are you going to bomb?
    How realistic is it to think that ANT nuclear power can/should respond to WMD terror with a nuclear response? Would the US? Would Putin?”

    If the Algerian government were behind such an attack, then yes, one response would be to launch a nuclear salvo at them. How realistic would such a situation be – it would depend on the situation of course. I would imagine that if Iran launched a nuclear attack on the U.S., the U.S. would respond in turn. For exampple, during GWI the U.S. and its allies told Saddam’s government that the use of WMDs would bring about a use of WMDs in return.

    “So he won’t invade them, just bomb them? No democratic transformation, you just make them glow in the dark?”

    If they are a threat, certainly. Its not France’s responsibility to “transform” other nations; that is the responsibility of the people of those nations.

  39. Andrew,

    RE: Depending on the U.S. – Fool me once, it is your fault; fool me twice, it is mine.

  40. In my mind the deep historical and cultural lessons and attitudes which arise from the post-1945 experience with colonialism and imperialism inform this

    Sounds like psycho-babble to me.

    How would France collapse? Give me a scenario– Germany, like in 40?

    What French “interests” will be serviced by the carrier, and how? Gunboat diplomacy?

  41. Name one bad thing that could happen to France (or the world) if France didn’t have nuclear weapons, and explain how the force-de-frappe makes it less likely.

    Answer the question– if the French polity tomorrow decided this was all an expensive, dangerous and unbecoming boon-doggle, would you dissent?

  42. Jean — first some ancient history:

    “The fact is that France depended on the US and the UK to come to her aid in 1939; such was not the case (indeed, though Wilson promised that America would defend France in the event of another war with Germany, the American public chose to ignore that promise)”

    What the fuck?

    France and Great Britain DECLARED on Germany in 1939– nobody then, or since, has asserted that the US had an obligation to “defend” France during the first year of the “phony war”, or could have been much use during the ’40 collapse.

    And the British DID join France in the 39 declaration of war, and was as of much use as they could be during the debacle that followed.

    Most of this is irrelevant, anyway. The force-de-frappe has never, so far as I can tell, been premised on the assumption that France realistically needs to fear an attack by a European near-neighbor (read “Germany”), or could realistically respond to one with nuclear weapons (there would be some obvious drawbacks to such a response).

    In fact, nothing else in her diplomacy or security policies would indicate that France actually DOES fear an attack by a European near-neighbor– such a rationale does not mesh with the rest of French policy (if you fear Germany, why end conscription), and as I say, hasn’t been supplied as France’s reason for acquiring nuclear weapons, from “Tuts Azimuths” to this day.

    It is unique to Jean Bart.

    The original reason for acquiring nuclear weapons was to deter a Soviet attack on Europe. The rationale was redundant within the context of a US guarantee for Europe, and useless without it– if the US had abandoned Europe, to resist the Soviet Union with the force-de-frappe was not an option for a French leader within his senses.

    Now the rationale has been shifted to dealing with terror and rogue states– indeed, upgraded to contemplate unilateral and pre-emptive first-use, if news reports are correct. This also doesn’t mesh with the rest of French diplomacy. The acquisition of nuclesr weapons in the 60’s probably helped create the problem in the first place (by way of precedent), and threats to use them pre-emptively now only aggravate it (French nuclear sales in the third world haven’t helped either).

    BTW– how does nuclear saber-rattling, paras in Africa, and floating a gun-boat around the Med help France devolve from her colonial-imperialistic heritage?

    A little more psych-babble: behind the shifting rationales for the force-de-frappe, and the meddlesome Mid-East policy it is possible to detect two purely psychological motives– a need by France to simulate a world power as much as possible (given finite resources, made more finite by an economy mis-shapen by the policy), and denial over the outcome of the Algerian War…Chirac wants to play King-of-the-Arab-World.

    Most continental Europens today (outside the Balkans) are good Europeans: eschewing irrational arms races, eschewing foreign policy adventures outside the continent, and emphasisng multi-lateral co-operation. Even Portugal turned her back on African colonial grandeur in 1974, and joined the modern world.

    The quasi-exception is Britain, and the reason is obvious. In a parallel universe, where France had kept Canada and acquired Australia, I would expect France to have a big fleet and nuclear weapons…in that parallel universe, not this one.

    France acquires hyper-power toys they can’t use and don’t need (and likely can’t afford), pursues neo-colonial games in Africa, the Oil Patch, and the Caucusus (the New Balkans), and preaches a :Multi-Polarity” doctrine which is music to the ears of every actual and potential rogue.

    The last time a continental nation chased a weapon system , and an off-shore empire, they didn’t need was Imperial Germany– with the Big Fleet and the burlesque African empire. The consequence launched the whole bloody history of the 20th century. Today Germany doesn’t have a big fleet– doesn’t have any power it can “project” to defend non-existent German “interests” outside Europe. Today Germany is more free, united and prosperous than would have seemed possible in 1900.

    Of couse, German society was re-fashioned by the US. America “paternalistic”? Sometimes you guys act like you NEED a daddy! (When Clemanceau said “We’ll handle Germany”, what the world got was Hitler.)

    How about that referendum?

  43. “somehow I doubt that the U.S. would want to depend on France or any other nation for its security”

    There is a short answer to this– it is for sure that the security of even Western Europe, still less the rest of the Western world, could not depend on the ability or willingness of France to provide a credible nuclear deterrent.
    The wisdom of allowing the US and Britain to supply this deterrent is apparent to all the other countries in continental Europe, who must basically share all the same concerns as France, and who in many cases could arm themselves with nuclear weapons.
    (Or do you think Europe finds reassurance in the force-de-frappe?)

    But behind your assertion is something else– “If he was French, how would he feel?”

    That merits a long answer.

    If I met a Canadian girl, decided to make my life there, sired children I expected to make their way in the world as Canadians, with no prospect of ever becoming Americans, I wouldn’t want Canada to acquire nuclear weapons– it would be silly.

    If I met a German girl…I’d be apalled by the idea! I would move my family somewhere else.

    If I met a French girl? Well the nonsense might so strike as so dangerous as to require immediate flight. But I still wouldn’t be persuaded of it.

    What is the difference between me and you? I would have the same “interests” (on behalf of my beloved wife and children, and even a community that accepted me), the same fears, the same needs.

    Except for my emotional needs. What would guallist grandeur mean to me? (Or post-colonial trauma?)

    That is what I am saying– it isn’t rational.

    This has been interesting. Isn’t France a referendum country? How could something like this get ballot status?

  44. >>As to the “spirit” of 1441; well, that depends on what you think the “spirit” was. To the Americans it appears to have been one thing, to France and Germany, another. As far as I can tell, 1441 was never by itself a mandate for war; the American government attempted to spin it into such of course.

  45. Andrew,

    Are you really that worried about French nuclear weapons? I don’t lay up at night worrying about nuclear weapons in the hands of democratically accountable governments that aren’t hell bent on destroying civilization. The Iranians or Syrians are another story entirely.

    France and the United States may have a disfunctional relationship, but I’d hardly say we need to worry about them doing something rash. Any nuclear power, if attacked with nuclear force, would have to respond in kind. That’s the nature of deterrents, you have to be willing to back up your words with action or it becomes useless. We shouldn’t preclude France from this doctrine any more than we would preclude ourselves.

  46. Reading this whole thread made me feel like I was being sucked into a vortex.

    JB, Andrew is essentially correct, if over-the-top and bouncing all over the place. France has no real military reason to retain its nuclear deterrent. Perhaps you can make some other case for it, but its original function was clearly to give France, then the unilateralist rogue of the West, a bit of a machismo boost.

    As to the potential use of nukes to respond to WMD attack, this is actually a significant issue that deserves a lot more comment as libertarians debate foreign policy. Many argue that nuclear weapons are a sufficient deterrent against the use of nukes or biochems by rogue states (no one seriously argues that they’d be useful in direct response to terrorist strikes).

    But this is a dangerous fallacy. No way could I envision any American president ordering Pyonyang to be vaporized in retaliation for a North Korean missile attack — or more to the point, if a WMD used by a terrorist was traced by to the North Korean regime. No way. Similarly, neither the U.S., Britain, nor France is going to order nuclear strikes on Damascus or Tehran if their nationals or terrorist clients use WMD.

    This is not a credible threat, hence not a deterrent. The bad guys know the West is too decent to do that. Even in the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the justification was the prospect of massive Allied and Japanese casualties in the event of a conventional invasion, with the decision made just after a bloody U.S. engagement to the south. I still have my doubts about the decision, and I’m not at all certain that today’s political and military leaders would have ordered the strikes.

    Without a credible deterrent, what are we left with? Even more intrusive programs of “homeland security”? Complete withdrawal from the world in hopes of not angering anyone? In my view, the most credible deterrent is the prospect of “Operation Fill-in-the-Blank Freedom.” That really is a scary prospect to contemplate, as Qaddafi’s whimpers have demonstrated, because one can imagine it being ordered and carried out, probably fairly effectively.

    Oh, and Andrew, you’re over-the-top and bouncing around a lot.

  47. JB: Nice to see that those back issues of le Figaro didn’t do you in. Obviously the light weight failed to do any damage.

  48. BTW, I am curious as to why the U.S. media has largely been silent on the likely coming indictment of Cheney on corruption charges by a French judge.

    Le Figaro story on the matter that has been translated: http://www.ocnus.net/artman/publish/article_9276.shtml

    I don’t endorse anything else that OCNUS publishes; but they do have nice translations of French articles from time to time.

  49. JB,

    One would have to be pretty dim not to know that “serious consequences” meant military force
    (there was an army being assembled on the border).
    Why would anyone think it meant more sanctions or never ending inspections? 1441 said nothing of the sort. It clearly said Iraq had to come clean quickly. The main argument the appeasers of Saddam (eg France and Germany) were putting forth was that there hadn’t been enough time to determine compliance not whether “serious consequences” meant military force.
    And as David Kays interim report shows Saddam wasn’t interested in cooperation with the UN.

  50. A good post, John. My beef was with Andrew’s implied assertion that Libya’s abandonment of its WMD program, along with sunshine, long walks on the beach, and puppy dogs, can all be attributed to the invasion of Iraq.

  51. Joe

    Nyanh…who can say? It doesn’t matter to my point anyway– if it even LOOKS that way to Chirac, or even to anyone else, it is enough to ruin 2003 for him.

    JB was right about one thing– Iraq was likely the last event of its kind. If there are more episodes in the War on Terror each one of them will have to be different.

    A few ideas:

    A.) Back the SLA in Sudan– with a little help, they could take Khartoum in months.

    B.) Get Israel to dump Syria. Or kick them out of Lebanon. Or just roll up the Hammas bases. Actually our trade sanctions will probably do the trick. Maybe that’s why Jean wants to blow them up– he is afraid they will change.

    C.) Buy Morocco a constitutional monarchy. They are trying to do this themselves, and do something about their fucked up economy. For once it looks like a worthy and neglected cause. It is not such a bad place– basically capitalist, just no oil. If some closet libertarian had anything to do with the aid, they might go pot-legal…it practically is, anyway.

    Nuff day-dreaming.

  52. “France and Great Britain DECLARED on Germany in 1939– nobody then, or since, has asserted that the US had an obligation to ‘defend’ France during the first year of the ‘phony war,’ or could have been much use during the ’40 collapse.”

    Actually, France on numerous occassions throughout the 1930s tried to get the U.S. to honor Wilson’s promise; to no avail. Indeed, much of the decade France spend considerable diplomatic and cultural capital in trying to push the U.S. into having greater concern for what was occurring in Europe. Your ignorance of this is telling.

    “Most of this is irrelevant, anyway. The force-de-frappe has never, so far as I can tell, been premised on the assumption that France realistically needs to fear an attack by a European near-neighbor (read “Germany”), or could realistically respond to one with nuclear weapons (there would be some obvious drawbacks to such a response).”

    Actually, that was de Gaulle’s main concern, that another European power would invade France; be it Germany or the USSR. Indeed, his remarks in 1958 and onward make this a primary concern.

    “In fact, nothing else in her diplomacy or security policies would indicate that France actually DOES fear an attack by a European near-neighbor– such a rationale does not mesh with the rest of French policy (if you fear Germany, why end conscription), and as I say, hasn’t been supplied as France’s reason for acquiring nuclear weapons, from “Tuts Azimuths” to this day.”

    Well, I never wrote that France today “fears” Germany; so this is a bit of a lie on your part. Indeed, I have said repeatedly that the rationale for its possession today is as a deterrance against WMD attacks by rogue states.

    “The original reason for acquiring nuclear weapons was to deter a Soviet attack on Europe. The rationale was redundant within the context of a US guarantee for Europe, and useless without it– if the US had abandoned Europe, to resist the Soviet Union with the force-de-frappe was not an option for a French leader within his senses.”

    Explain how that is the case? You have this wonderful way for saying that something is obvious, when in fact it is not really obvious. Indeed, about all you know of these matters appears to be that you know the name – force de frappe – and that de Gaulle implemented it. BTW, I really don’t expect an honest answer to this question; as I have not received one as yet.

    “Now the rationale has been shifted to dealing with terror and rogue states– indeed, upgraded to contemplate unilateral and pre-emptive first-use, if news reports are correct. This also doesn’t mesh with the rest of French diplomacy. The acquisition of nuclesr weapons in the 60’s probably helped create the problem in the first place (by way of precedent), and threats to use them pre-emptively now only aggravate it (French nuclear sales in the third world haven’t helped either).”

    How does this not “mesh” with French foreign policy? You say it does not, but never explain why it does not. And what “nuclear sales” would those be? Are you going to prattle on about Iraq or something? A plant designed and partly built by GE no less. And need one be reminded that nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants are not the same thing?

    I take the rest of your comments for the national chauvanist, bigoted comments for what they are.

  53. chip,

    What they thoought that they were; continued sanctions and a heavier inspection regime. Indeed, if “serious consequences” really meant war, one wonders why “war” was not spelled out in the document.

  54. Andrew,

    Yes, I see you being seriously stupid and bigoted all the time here; so there must be some consequences.

    The fact is that the force de frappe is not (a) expensive, (b) has been cut in half since 1996, (c) and no longer has a ground-based component. Indeed, France took all these reduction measures on its own, without some treaty goading us into it.

  55. JB, you are being a tad disingenuous when you say that there is a difference between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. I say this because even rudimentary knowledge of the issue reveals that the easiest way to acquire fissile material for a bomb is through the establishment of a nuclear energy program. I believe that this is how both India and Pakistan managed to join the club, and probably the Israelis, too. So, for all practical purposes, they are more accurately stated to be two sides of the same coin.

  56. Andrew,

    BTW, just to illustrate your outright ignorance, the main reason for a large French fleet is to protect the parts of France that are in the South Pacific, South America, North America, Caribbean, etc. And before you spout off some non-sense about France keeping an empire; each of these overseas departments has full representation in the French National Assembly and each has been allowed a referendum on gaining statehood (all voted against it). This is unlike the status say of Guam; where the people have no real representative in the U.S. Congress.

    To only country playing neo-colonial games is the U.S.

  57. AJBM,

    It depends on the type of nuclear power plant that is constructed.

    Israel got some of its nuclear weapons technology from France; some of it came from the U.S.

  58. Sebastian,

    Well, the French nuclear program is built around such small attacks; indeed, the newest missile systems are far more accurate than that was the case during the 1980s when our missiles were trained at the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact.

  59. Agreed, but my point has some validity. Canada backpedalled on sales of reactors to Argentina many years ago when it was thought that the Argentine government would use them to begin weapons research. I know the CANDU 2 system is supposed to be unusable for weapons production purposes, but how many others are usable? That is, after all, why the Israelis went after the Iraqi reactor in the first place.

  60. BTW, I would argue that disarmament is the path to war. Nations which are militarily weak will pay for their weakness in the long run. Dependence on the U.S. for Europe’s security is dangerous, stupid, lazy and foolish. America will not always be willing or able to defend Europe; say against a future Russia as an agressor (not a bizarre or remotely strange idea). Europe should take that burden on itself.

  61. At least on that we agree. I wish my government had the same sensibility.

  62. AJMB,

    The U.S. government (under Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan)approved Osirik; that’s how G.E. was able to be involved with it. Do you think the U.S. government would approve something that had weapons capabilities?

  63. JB: Are you kidding? Wasn’t Iraq one of the ‘good guys’ back then? All they probably secured was a promise not to misbehave with any of the byproducts.

  64. AJMB,

    Well, the GE plants are France’s first-generation nuclear power plants; they aren’t used to make weapons-grade material for French nuclear missiles.

  65. Mea culpa, JB.

  66. John Hood,

    No, Andrew is wrong; he’s also a bigot. The latter explains why he is over the top.

  67. John Hood,

    BTW, one wonders how many times I have to correct Andrew’s factual errors, illustrate his use of logical fallacies, etc., before you realize that Andrew is largely a purveyor of bullshit.

    As to “Operation…blah” it is fairly obvious that the U.S. is not willing or even able to commit itself to another Iraq-like war; so that’s not a credible deterrant.

  68. Quand on a le malheur pour faire la guerre ? l’int?rieur de son propre pays, la strat?gie de pur ne peut pas toujours avoir le dernier mot. – Lt. Col. de Thomasson, Les Pr?liminaires de Verdun

  69. Translation, please?

  70. Andrew may be a bit hysterical at this point, but he does not come across as a bigot or a chauvanist. Perhaps that’s impatience and frustration you’re sensing, JB.

    Anyway, regarding the 30s: the U.S. had been isolationist for most of its existance at this point. There was the Spanish-American War (1898-1901) that stretched around the world, and then there was the Great War, which America got involved in after its shipping was messed with. The U.S. got involved because of ties to England. Then, in 1918, everyone went back home and drew in on itself again. France and England, as the main participants in the War, and as closer neighbors with Germany, had a greater responsibility to enforce the treaty. They had more information and more involvement in what was going on in Germany during the 20s and the 30s. How America could be responsible for France’s security in the 30s is beyond me – France still had its empire and its claims of moral, historical, and intellectual superiority. Indeed, the French of the time are partly to blame for exploiting the Germans while they were down, with war devestation and massive deflation….

    Secondly, the main reason no one has attacked with nuclear weapons since 1945 is because of the known results of those bombings. That is due to the restraint of national leaders. I doubt nuclear weapons would ever be used first by an American president, regardless of the provocation, because the human costs would be too great, and the decision is not one that would be celebrated by any leader — unless that leader rejoices in causing the suffering and devestation of millions. There is just no evidence that there is that sort of political force in America, not at this point, anyway. It is not impossible, though, for it to develop.

    And I have no sympathy for the notion that we’d have peace if only no one had nuclear weapons. Bull. While preparing for war does not secure peace (recall the Western mentality of the early 20th century), turning swords into plowshares while enemies wait in the shadows is suicide. Some may think that dismantling our nuclear weapons will set a good example for the rest of the world; I maintain that our careful and studied restraint over the past 60 years has been a better example, showing that it is possible to influence things without *using* terrible weapons. There are those who would rather we were dead and care not how they do it (bin Laden and company) – these people must be stopped before they can do things already worse than what they have done.

    I have hopes and high confidence in the ability of individuals to set aside their desires for power and control and to lead peaceful and productive lives; but that does not make me naive, nor idealistic. There has never been eternal peace in the world – why do we think we can now achieve it when human nature simply has not changed?

  71. I really like plan c. We need to have a model of liberalization/democratization that is clearly indigenous, and does not require an intrusive, mulitbillion$ military adventure, for practical reasons and to make modernization and liberalization more appealing to patriotic Middle Eastern people.

  72. Ancient history again:

    Jean, you can’t be arguing that the United States “betrayed” France in 1939, when it had (on paper) the largest army on the continent, and was confident enough to declare war on Germany with her British ally. I am sure they would have welcomed help from Brazil or Thailand (more to the point, Italy), but France did not enter on the assumption that the US would join them, nor did they contemplate such a rapid collapse.

    >> The fate of France’s last big army is worth lingering on for a moment. The Big Fleet had to be sunk by the British in the ensuing collapse, and the balance of the armed forces sat out the war in North Africa, where their principal role was to hinder Allied efforts to liberate France.

    World War II in general discredited the idea of continental european armies. Armies that were considered formidable– or at least significant– in the 1930’s were simply demolished…first by Germany and Japan (most notably France) and later by the US, the USSR and Britain on the comeback trail.
    Most continental countries were reluctant to rearm after the war (because the futility of continental armies was plain) and only did so at the request of the US. France rearmed to save a tottering empire.

    BTW Jean it is WAY disingenuous for you to refer to the USSR as a “european” near-neighbor. I expressly said that the stated rationale France gave for acquiring nuclear weapons was to deter a Soviet attack. The real reason was sheer show-offiness and perhaps to intimidate the colonials (what was left of them).> door prizes were a seat on the UN Security Council you didn’t merit, and an occupation zone you didn’t earn

  73. Ancient history again:

    Jean, you can’t be arguing that the United States “betrayed” France in 1939, when it had (on paper) the largest army on the continent, and was confident enough to declare war on Germany with her British ally. I am sure they would have welcomed help from Brazil or Thailand (more to the point, Italy), but France did not enter on the assumption that the US would join them, nor did they contemplate such a rapid collapse.

    >> The fate of France’s last big army is worth lingering on for a moment. The Big Fleet had to be sunk by the British in the ensuing collapse, and the balance of the armed forces sat out the war in North Africa, where there principal role was to hinder Allied efforts to liberate France.

    World War II in general discredited the idea of continental european armies. Armies that were considered formidable– or at least significant– in the 1930’s were simply demolished…first by Germany and Japan (most notably France) and later by the US, the USSR and Britain on the comeback trail.
    Most continental countries were reluctant to rearm after the war (because the futility of continental armies was plain) and only did so at the request of the US. France rearmed to save a tottering empire.

    BTW Jean it is WAY disingenuous for you to refer to the USSR as a “european” near-neighbor. I expressly said that the stated rationale France gave for acquiring nuclear weapons was to deter a Soviet attack. The real reason was sheer show-offiness and perhaps to intimidate the colonials (what was left of them).> door prizes were a seat on the UN Security Council you didn’t merit, and an occupation zone you didn’t earn

  74. Had to double post. Don’t know what the problem was.

  75. Also Jean

    I have no problem with the French version of the commonwealth. But I seriously doubt that a single aircraft carrier that took fifteen years to build was a response to an urgent need to defend Tahiti or the French Antilles. YOU originally said the mission was in the Mediterranian and the Atlantic, not the Caribean and the Pacific.

    You are concerned with details, but it really doesn’t matter: it could be force-de-frappe or force-de-jerry; it could have been concocted in 1958 or dreamed up yesterday; it could be mounted on subs or mounted on zeppelins; it could be half the size or twice the size; it could be aimed at China or the polar ice-cap; it could consist of city-busters or suit-case bombs; it could be intended to rebuff a resurgent Russia or an attack from Deep Space (doubtless the next rationale)…but it still wouldn’t make any sense!

    Only a fool pays good money on a hokey insurance policy that contains nothing but double-indemnity clauses against contingencies that just aren’t likely.

    And is is expensive. Anything is expensive for a France with a flat-line economy and a huge pension overhang.

  76. Andrew, I think you overstep. The United States entered WW1 3 years into the conflict, after the tide had already begun to swing against Germany. While their entry no doubt hastened the inevitable, it was hardly the deciding factor that American entry into WW2 was. Even still, by the time the U.S.A. did enter the fray, in Dec. ’41, England was coming good through the Blitz, and had begun to make strides in North Africa, as well.

  77. And Jean

    The distasteful snarking and procedural quibbling smacks more desperation than anything else. I have seen it on every thread you have ever participated in– you won’t abide the give and take of a genuine discussion.

    And the only reason you seem to be here is to promote some dreary Derrida-esque version of “moral equivalence” that has its roots in a morbid anti-American pathology.

    What the world knows for sure was that France fought a nasty war in her own back yard– costing a million lives– to sustain a mildewed empire that was manifestly detested by its subjects.

    But done is done. When the Legion last slow marched out of Algiers they sang Piaf’s “I have no regrets”.

    Good advice, then and now: get over it!

  78. “Andrew, I think you overstep. The United States entered WW1 3 years into the conflict, after the tide had already begun to swing against Germany. While their entry no doubt hastened the inevitable, it was hardly the deciding factor that American entry into WW2 was. Even still, by the time the U.S.A. did enter the fray, in Dec. ’41, England was coming good through the Blitz, and had begun to make strides in North Africa, as well.”

    Nah.

    In the first war our support for Britain (private and public) was important– maybe critical– even before our formal entry…and was why we became enfouled in the U-Boat war. The mere prospect of our entry sustained the Allies. And I swear, Wilson’s 14 Points did more to crack German resistence than the naval blockade.

    That goes double in the second war– FDR was helping Britain rearm before the war started.

    Strides in N Africa? What would that weigh, against a collapse in the Pacific?

  79. AJMB:

    My reading of history is rather different from yours. When America entered WWI, the tide was not turning against Germany. If anything, things were looking better for Germany on the continent, in that Russia was tottering and would soon be out of the war and the Germans were beginning to figure out the appropriate tactics to defeat the Allied trenches (involving changes in artillery timing, for example, and better use of spotters). I’m not at all convinced that the Allies would have defeated the Central Powers in WWI without the prospect of American military intervention (I would agree that the prospect was more important than the actuality, in defeating German morale long before many US troops arrived). Without US involvement, I think the war might well have ended up in a negotiated peace — take your pick as to whether you think this would have headed off WWII or made it worse, ’cause historians argue it both ways.

    There is a version of the argument that makes more sense, but it has to do entirely with the war at sea. The British use of (illegal) blockades of even neutral shipping bound for German ports was biting, so the Germans decided to renew unrestricted submarine warfare in a gambit to answer and thus defeat Britain’s maritime strangulation before the Americans (inevitably) entered the war in response. In this version, then, it was the British blockade that really did the Germans in, since the gambit failed, but the scenario still played out with American troops at the end.

    On WWII, similar deal. Hard to believe that the Axis would have been soundly defeated without American intervention. Russia alone could not have decisively defeated the Germans on land, nor England elsewhere. Best guess would have been some kind of negotiated peace with Germany as a European hegemon.

  80. Andrew:

    Sorry, I still stick to my guns on nuclear deterrence. I agree that there was a credible threat during the Cold War that the U.S. would respond with devastating nuclear effect to a Soviet first strike. But that wasn’t really the likely scenario. The likely scenario was a Soviet conventional attack to which the U.S. (and, of course, the indominable French) would respond with nukes. Even if this case, I agree with those who argued that the Soviets would not have taken at face value a threat to vaporize Moscow should a conventional war break out. I think they were deterred by the prospect of the military use of nuclear weapons, involving battlefield weapons and intermediate-range missiles and better-targeted strategic weapons, etc. This is a very different thing. Nuclear deterrence only works, I think, when the enemy can see serious military preparations by a civilized power for using nuclear weapons to prevail in war, not to prevail in a vengeful slaughter after military loss.

    I’m not saying that the West didn’t need, or doesn’t currently need, a strategic nuclear deterrent. But a great many weapons, held by multiple allies, are not needed. And we should n’t waste scarce defense dollars on nukes that can be better spent recruiting and equipping conventional forces to carry out (selective) missions to protect our interests and freedom.

  81. Hood

    Sure the Soviet military threat in the second half of the Cold War was mostly conventional– with nuclear weapons as insurance for the Motherland.

    Long gone. Russia will never have a conventional army as big as the one in the 70’s, would take a long time to re-fill the Soviet space and will never re-absorb eastern europe. Seriously, it is hard to see Russia ever being a threat to europe again.

    But Russia still has nuclear weapons. Who would they use them on? China I guess. That’s why I said China first– Russia will never dis-arm before China.

    Except for Taiwan, and maybe S Korea, I doubt whether China is much of a conventional threat either– hell, their offensive against Viet Nam stalled! I doubt they could drop in on India. They cast a nuclear shadow over Asia, Russia and India though– and just may believe they could withstand a nuclear exchange.

    I don’t think we could safely dismantle our main strike capacity, as long as Russia and China have their’s. But there is for sure no way that other countries can help. (Excepting UK).

  82. Andrew,

    Why do you even want France to depend on the US for support? Or any of Europe? They are wealthy countries, they can and should take care of their own defense without a constant US presence on the continent.

    France collapsed in WWII not through the incompetence of their army and soldiers, but through their leaders naive reliance on fixed fortifications to defend the country. They were fighting the last war, a common ailment among military men of all countries.

    You have no rational basis to conclude that a modern European army would be unable to sufficiently provide for its own defense. Relying on the United States for defense is costly to us in terms of manpower, money and equipment, and costly to them in terms of national pride.

    It’s time for us to forgive Europe for World War II. It’s a dangerous world out there, and we’re going to need all the help we can get. I’d like to think that a Europe that can stand on its own will be less wary of American power and more confident taking part in building a better, more free world.

  83. Sebastian

    Sure they can defend themselves– especially if you include England in europe. There isn’t even that much of a threat profile out there, anyway. Beyond the English arsenal, they don’t require additional nuclear weapons…but I suppose they will keep the French nukes, too.

    And of course, as always, we are the great Last Resort.

    I hope Chirac isn’t at all serious about using his French arsenal for anything. I’m having trouble even imagining a target, but Jean was ranting about Syria. I don’t guess Mad Jacque was waving his dick at Iran. There are comparatively minor and mysterious “research facilities” in several Arab states, including Egypt and Algeria.

    Chirac strikes me as a guy with a bad case of Penis Envy, and in that case this has been a pretty bad year for him: the US drops a nation of 25 million in three weeks, and promptly wrestles concessions out of Lybia that haven’t come in 20 years of sanctions. He has got to be sick with feelings of inadequacy!

  84. I’m afraid that’s an ideal world that’s a long ways off. As long as we live in a dangerous world, nations are going to aspire to have the ultimate stick in the playground. If that’s going to be the case, I’d rather have them be in the hands of countries like France and the UK than Iran and North Korea.

    I would agree with a previous poster that strategic stockpiles are becoming increasingly useless considering the geopolitical situation, and we’re unlikely to go into the city leveling business in response to a terrorist WMD attack, but I would argue that using small tactical warheads against select targets wouldn’t be wholly impractical. Remember, for 9/11 we lost 3000 people. A nuclear attack on one of our cities would cost hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of lives. We’d all know someone who was killed. You can’t take this kind of thing lightly. In an imperfect world sometimes you have to do nasty things in order to preserve yourself and deter further attacks. The message you definitely don’t want to send is that you can lob a few nukes at America or other western allies, and escape grave consequences for it.

  85. Would those concessions from Lybia be the ones the Khadaffy issued after a ship loaded with centrifuge equipment was seized by the Germans and Italians?

    It’s a little silly to pretend that the Iraq invasion is the only, or even primary, method of anti-terror and anti-proliferation activity. Though it may not look as good on TV or get the yahoos yelling “U-S-A,” the quite stuff done with the cooperation of allies is our first line of defense.

  86. John Hood

    Good post!!!! THIS is the kind of discussion I would like to have.

    Over the top and bouncing around? Probably, but that is OK. One reason to participate in these discussions is to sharpen my own thinking…it isn’t about being right the first time (to show how clever I am) but about being right in the end.

    I gotta disagree with you on one point though:

    “But this is a dangerous fallacy. No way could I envision any American president ordering Pyonyang to be vaporized in retaliation for a North Korean missile attack — or more to the point, if a WMD used by a terrorist was traced by to the North Korean regime. No way. Similarly, neither the U.S., Britain, nor France is going to order nuclear strikes on Damascus or Tehran if their nationals or terrorist clients use WMD”

    That just isn’t so. In fact, the threat of massive retaliation remains our only defense against an assault by Russia or China– we are not out of the Cold War in that sense. We would respond to a Russian or Chinese assault with a strike that would eliminate their leadership, and end them as societies. Period.

    North Korea, by play-acting the nuclear ower, has placed themselves in this category– with the further caveat that they are a serious candidate for a pre-emtive strike.

    Iran could manage to do the same thing to themselves, and there is a scenario where someday you could see 30 million dead Persians– the Mullahs would be among them, but so would millions of innocents.

    Jean Bart take note– there can be serious consequences for being seriously stupid.

    Missile defense doesn’t really help: at best, missile defense is a costly check on rogue states (“What if you try…and fail?”) and I am not sure you can justify it.

    Mini-nukes supply a handy policy alternative with rogue states, but not with genuine global powers.

    Disarmament is the hope of peace. And we have already seen that disarmament follows the transformation of other societies, it doesn’t precede it. We are halfway out of the water with Russia, because Russia is halfway out of communism. We will be all the way out when Russia is all the way out. If the same thing can happen with China…it’s a done deal!

    Until then, deterrence with central nuclear weapons remains the heart of our security. This can be augmented usefully with mini-nukes and– perhaps– missile defense. But not replaced.

  87. Joe:

    Among our actual and significant military allies, only the French and Germans have declined to participate in the Iraqi campaign in any way. We have had allied help, probably about as much as we could have effectively used in any event. We should not be in the business of compromising our ability to move quickly and effectively with able and integrated forces just to placate (ill-informed) international public opinion.

    A French brigade or two would have come in handy, admittedly, but they weren’t needed for the invasion itself but perhaps for the aftermath. Such a role should still be possible today, but apparently is not. Why? The topping of the Ba’athists is a fait accompli, so why not help sort things out?

    I agree with you about the quiet stuff’s value. In fact, by definition, some of what may be going on beneath the surface is too quiet for us to know about. For example, remember the leaked interview with Tariq Aziz in which he stated that French and Russian diplomats told Saddam’s regime that a coalition invasion wouldn’t happen? Assuming he is telling the truth and is being accurately reported, this need not feed the “Axis of Weasels” theory. There is another one that makes some sense: misdirection. This could have been the only politically salable and face-saving way to aid the coalition’s efforts.

    Stranger things have happened in military history, and more recently in the war on terror (as revelations about Qaddafi’s recent covert aid to Western powers is demonstrating).

  88. The only rational reason for the existence of much of the French armed forces is to act as a kind of guarantor of European interests and security.The saner members of the French political class recognise this.
    The trouble is that this would have to be done in association with the UK, the only other European state with projectable military power.The new Europeans such as Poland and others would probably also want to contribute as well
    Unfortunately most of the French political elite is so anglophobic as to make long term co-operation difficult if not impossible.Furthermore, Chirac’s idiotic and cavalier treatmant of the Poles, Czechs, Spaniards and Italians et al has left France thrown back on it’s friendship with Belgium and Germany.Due to deeply ingrained pacifist attitudes neither of these states are serious military players.
    In short,France’s foreign and military policies are in a mess. Unless closer understandings can be reached with Britain and the other European,Atlanticist powers then the French armed forces are largely without purpose.

  89. EMAIL: master-x@canada.com
    IP: 82.146.43.155
    URL: http://www.debt-consolidation-low-rates.biz
    DATE: 02/27/2004 05:00:29
    You know what’s interesting about Washington? It’s the kind of place where second-guessing has become second nature.

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