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Jacques Chirac Poll

by name Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 04:26:12 PM EST

I was rather shocked when chirac threatened to nuke the iranians today morning (he did not say names but he meant them). I dont know what iran has ever done to france - ayatollah khomeini was a refugee there before coming to power, and the countries appeared to enjoy more or less 'normal' relations. I also fail to understand why iran is being accused of employing "terrorism", IIRC they've never done anything in the past beyond what was necessary to protect their national interests (not that they were always nice).

So why this sudden and apparently unwarranted escalation of the rhetoric ?

threats against france / chirac ?
blackmail ?
corruption / massive buyout of french politics (by whoever) ?
something else ?

Why did Chirac escalate the nuke rhetoric ?
. Was he or France blackmailed ? 0%
. Was he and/or the french politosphere bough out ? 0%
. Are there any real French interests threatened by the current situation ? 66%
. Something else (please comment) ? 33%

Votes: 6
Results | Other Polls
Ah, please, no conspiracy theories again. (Who are your threateners, blackmailers, massive buyers of French politics? Let me not guess it.)

You forget that Chirac is only marginally better than Bush. It's just stupid grandstanding meant to 'convince' Iran. Remember that Chirac was a rather big fan of nukes for French grandstanding, and pulled back with clinched teeth only when seeing the public reaction after the Greenpeace protests at the nuke testing site.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 04:35:39 PM EST
For the record, I think the nuclear tests in 1995 were one of the few useful things that Chirac did.

As to today's declarations, I think they have more to do with justifying the military budget for nukes inside France than with Iran.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 05:32:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't mean this to be a snarky question, but an honest one:

Why was the 1995 nuclear testing a good idea?

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 07:08:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because those testings were needed to validate and calibrate simulations. We need to do those tests so we could do avoid doing more tests in the future and still maintain our nuclear arsenal through software simulations.
by Francois in Paris on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 07:40:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've corrected my stance in today's Breakfast stance. Chirac's comments do look a bit stupid and reckless.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 04:41:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"a bit stupid and reckless".
Yep, that's him.
by Bernard on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 05:09:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nothing new here, Chirac has already threatened rogue nations of using nukes against them, in the past (I believe the last time was 2000 something). Chirac was also visiting a nuke submarine base when he made that remark, and what better way for him to play the political "I love to be popular" game than by saying "I had a dream of a world that needed nukes ..." to a bunch of eager nuke sub personnel?

Here is a question ... what is the most plausible scenario of peace for the entire world?

  1. some nations have nukes
  2. no nations have nukes
  3. all nations have nukes

I am generally tempted to answer 3) as I would never trust 2) and find 1) appalling.

ps: does anyone remember the "we were afraid of a doomsday device race" comment in Dr Strangelove?

by Alex in Toulouse on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 05:48:04 PM EST
Personally, I have even less trust in 3) than in 2). A nuclear equilibrum with too many players is not equilibrum, first strikes by error or by proxy or designed to be blamed on others will become too easy. 2) can at least be ensured with a strong global inspections regime - nuclear programmes are too big to be hidden easily by today.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 05:39:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the thing, 2) and 3) both require some amount of faith, with 3) being exceedingly difficult in that respect. 2) is the most logical choice, it would save billions of dollars, would ensure human safety etc

But I believe that given the volume that a warhead can be hidden in (suitcase), 2) is also very dangerous ... imagine this: some countries might believe there's no risk in them having a little border skirmish with another country, not knowing that this other country has a few undeclared nukes and is fully happy to use them.

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 05:50:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the bomb itself can be very small. However, the industrial infrastructure building it is not.

Also, (officially or between-the-lines) undeclared nukes aren't worth much in terms of deterrence.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 05:56:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
However, the industrial infrastructure building it is not.

Certainly so, but I'm positioning myself in a context in which, say, a UN treaty totally banning nukes would be ratified by all countries in the world ... in this case, countries already with nukes would, in my opinion, pretend to have rid themselves of their arsenal while keeping a few suitcases handy.

aren't worth much in terms of deterrence

Very true, undeclared nukes fall in the defensive/offensive category, which makes them even more dangerous I think. As of now they are used in a mildly deterrent manner, like for example when Israel hints that it may have nukes but never openly admist it. But in the context of a worldwide and UN-sanctioned ban on nukes, suggestive deterrence as practiced by Israel would be impossible. These would have to then be kept totally quiet, probably assigned to some secretive military branch, making them even more dangerous ... there would be no way to know where they are, what becomes of them etc

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 06:01:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say that it is the "slippery slope" argument. Iran is a ways yet from building a nuclear device (although may have already bought one on the black market), but the idea may be to try to stop them while it's still possible.
by asdf on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 08:10:46 PM EST
From the comments of Jerome, Francois, and Alex, it appears the French take a very nuclear-friendly attitude.

Is it fair to say you feel confident your leaders would never actually use them?

Perhaps it is because 1)we've actually used one and 2)our leaders tend to be reality-challenged nutcases, but neither I nor any of my American friends feel good about having nukes or other countries having them.

And I find the argument that the more people who have them the less likely they are to be used mutual destruction line a bit resonant of the NRA's stance on guns.  We shouldn't get rid of them because we need to protect ourselves from other menacing folks who might have them.  A sensible argument, but which leaves out the fact that not everyone is sensible.  So we end up with nutcases owning guns and nukes and innocent people end up dead...

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 09:10:24 PM EST
How could I be nuclear-friendly? These things cost billions, do not help people eat, travel, they do not cure people etc etc

I am merely suggesting that the only way to escape from a world in which few countries have nuclear weapons, and use these to bully others (do you think the US will ever attack China, or inversely?), the only sensible thing would be to let everyone have nukes, as there is no way that every country will agree to get rid of their nukes (think about all those secret nukes in South Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere ... there must be dozens of countries with undeclared nukes).

You can't argue that some people are sensible and others not, as this would be a problem regardless of whether only a few countries or whether all countries have nukes.

Also, the NRA argument is off-limits ... this is not "let's have nukes to protect ourselves from others who have nukes", but "let everyone have nukes so that nukes become useless". I don't care about protecting myself against a nuke ... as there is no protection against a nuke.

Anyhow handguns and nukes are not exactly on the same scale, so I don't exactly see how you could compare one with the other. The first concerns killing your enemy for your survival and is arguably as dangerous as a car (they kill about the same number of people each year, worldwide, 1-2 million). The other concerns killing everyone, most probably including yourself.

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 05:05:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if every citizen of the world shouldn't have nukes. Imagine the stalemate ... or the oblivion?

On the other hand, I can easily think of a few people who really shouldn't have nukes, like my 3 year old niece.

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 05:12:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, all things considered, I'm just being provocative.
by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 05:14:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it fair to say you feel confident your leaders would never actually use them?

Indeed that's the crux of it. I don't trust Chirac anymore than Ahmadinejad or Bush. Also I don't see which enemies France does need to deter with nukes.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 05:41:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Chirac can definitely NOT be trusted regarding nukes. The nuclear tests he carried out shortly after his 1995 election were not in his electoral program. This is a man, let's not forget, who's not only been involved in a large number of scams (like the fictive voters one), but who also had the nerve to carry out nuclear tests just before signing a nuclear treaty.

The whole argument about final tests being necessary to be able to create simulations ad vitam eternam, is, I think, something that he let himself be convinced of by some people eager to detonate a few nukes. I'm sure the same results could have been obtained over a longer period, say 20 years of harmless testing in a small lab. But hey, who has 20 years when the enemy is at the gates, right? Who's the enemy, again? Ohhh man!!

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 05:57:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Yeah, I'd prefer a world without nukes but given what the world really is, I'm OK with the French nuclear posture.
  • Actual arsenal is pretty modest: at most 96 TN-75 warheads on alert (150 kT thermonuclear) on SLBMs, rather 50 or 60 in reality as some of the M45 missiles' MIRV are depopulated for better riposte granularity (otherwise, it's 6 nukes at a time) plus a few dozens TN-81 warheads (300 kT thermonuclear) on cruise missiles. It's big enough to be credible (as in "it's gonna hurt really bad") but not so big to be an existential threat to anyone and justify an aggressive stance against France. So I see it as a just-in-case / shit-happens insurance. The current level is also a proof of good faith regarding disarmament, as France arsenal thoroughly reduced its arsenal from a much higher stand 20 years ago.
  • French technological capacities for weapons are very high, quite on par with the US and Russia for warheads, probably lagging a bit for vectors (France doesn't have anything like, say, Russia's Topol-M) but not too much, and we are doing a decent job of maintaining them. It means Europe can build an independent large scale nuclear force if international relations take a very wrong turn and require it. It's not a desirable option but it's still a good thing to have it available.

The second point is extremely important in my view.

Nukes, by themselves, are not militarily worthless but quite close. Starting from scratch, any country with a decently competent industrial base can go nuclear in less than 5 years. But what matters is the system, the whole chain from building the nukes to the vectors and going by the command and control structure, the guidance systems, the carriers, etc. It's incredibly complex and difficult to develop a consistent and autonomous capacity and it touches to all sorts of domains way beyond the nuclear industry. It took thirty years for France to develop that capacity and if we junk it now, it will take another thirty years for Europe to develop it again. It's a long term investment worth keeping and sustaining just in case we need to expand. Otherwise, it will be impossible to build anything credible, need arising.

And no, I don't see Chirac launching nukes on a whim. I actually read the discourse he made in l'Isle Longue and I don't see any substantial change in the French nuclear doctrine. France has always had a first use doctrine, not a game theory-based graduated tit-for-tat strategy like the US against the USSR. Nothing new.

The only "new" aspect is a warning (to Iran, clearly) to tell them that acquiring nukes won't make them safer but at the contrary up the ante and the risks for them. It was always implicit in the French doctrine. Now, it's a bit more explicit. The danger is that the radicals in Teheran believe they can carry on using terrorism - as they've done against France in the past - and avoid all retaliations thanks to a nuclear umbrella. Given what we see of Ahmadinejad, it's not entirely far fetched to think he could be so reckless. Better let him know where he stands.

One of those days, I need to write a primer on WMDs, strategic forces and proliferation, when I have time (and pigs crowd the skies).
by Francois in Paris on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 08:20:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and regarding "Is it fair to say you feel confident your leaders would never actually use them?".

No, it's not fair and that's the point. You don't bother having weapons if you spend your time promising not to use them for any reason. French nukes are not no-use or second strike weapons. Since 1964, France's position has been that we would use them against any attack, nuclear or not, that we would deem sufficiently serious to deserve a nuclear riposte.

France's stance has always been unambiguous: "Attack us and we nuke you".
by Francois in Paris on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 08:35:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And by the way, when I say that France's stance is unambiguous, it's not completely exact. And it would be counterproductive as a good deterrence doctrine must ne ambiguous.

In French doctrine, the ambiguity is on the nature of what we would deem sufficiently serious to deserve a nuclear riposte. And on that matter, the doctrine is mum, just alluding to "vital interests", whatever that means.

But before you all freak out, a bomb in a train à la Station Saint-Michel is not a breach of our vital interests. Something on the scale of the Madrid attack, I have no clue (and anyway, in this particular case, it was al-Qaeda, stateless and outside of nuking scope. See my response below to LEP).
by Francois in Paris on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 09:53:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks François for the rational and detailed comment. A diary on the topic would be very much welcomed!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 08:59:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What a stupid comment by Chirac. It's like inviting stateless terrorists to attack France. Who will France nuke in that case?

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 04:23:06 AM EST

Read his discourse first before bitching and moaning. He makes clearly the difference between stateless and state-sponsored terrorism.

La dissuasion nucléaire, je l'avais souligné au lendemain des attentats du 11 septembre 2001, n'est pas destinée à dissuader des terroristes fanatiques. Pour autant, les dirigeants d'Etats qui auraient recours à des moyens terroristes contre nous, tout comme ceux qui envisageraient d'utiliser, d'une manière ou d'une autre, des armes de destruction massive, doivent comprendre qu'ils s'exposeraient à une réponse ferme et adaptée de notre part. Cette réponse peut être conventionnelle. Elle peut aussi être d'une autre nature.
by Francois in Paris on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 06:51:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll stand by my original comment. Who in the world wants to attack France today, with the exception  of Bill O'Reilley? This discourse is Chirac's "bring it on" and you know the reaction to Bush's.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Sat Jan 21st, 2006 at 02:02:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fact: we have a problem with nukes since the end of the soviet threat. No well formulated generally accepted theory for having it and how using it today.

Contingency: we have Chirac the politician in command.

Chirac attitude: to go with the last flavour of politic /theory, or with the last adviser to speak. No conviction of his own, except maybe a commitment to the "Grandeur", and believing that farmers are an important constituency.

Conclusion: chirac try to formulate a theory, because he somehow knows we need one, especially when he is speaking to the nuke workers, and try it more or less inspired of the "war on terror" rethoric of the moment.

Plus what Alex in toulouse said (key word: Ile longue).

OK, I admit having a problem with Chirac as president, and his (lack of) strategic vision, and it is not new. And for the record: the Irak position was not product of an intellectual superior strategy, just the superiority of a human being who went into the algerian mess over on who ducked the vietnam one.

La répartie est dans l'escalier. Elle revient de suite.

by lacordaire on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 04:40:08 AM EST
. Was he or France blackmailed ?
. Was he and/or the French politosphere bough out ?
. Are there any real French interests threatened by the current situation ?

None of the above, as far as we know today. There could have been recent threats that we don't know of; rather unlikely, though.

Most probable explanations: domestic politics (see also the comments from Alex & lacordaire).

Chirac is seen as a lame duck, in the last year of his tenure. Perceived as "weaker" (he suffered a mild stroke last year), totally AWOL during last November's youth riots.

Last but not least: his detested rival, Sarkozy, is taking front stage and is positioned to win next year's presidential elections.

Right after Christmas, the French media were abuzz with the news that Chirac would start the new year with a bang (no pun intended). Since Jan. 1st, we've had a new job creation plan, high speed fiber optic networks and now this "who's your daddy?" address in one of the main military sites.

There you have it: people start paying attention to him again. We made his day.

by Bernard on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 05:44:52 PM EST

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