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The Thermonuclear Men’s Club:  France

The Thermonuclear Men’s Club:    France | Great Britain | India | Israel |
Pakistan | Russia | United States | The Up and Coming: Iraq and Iran

In 1960 France detonated its first atom bomb; by 1967 51% of its defense procurement budget was dedicated to nuclear weapons. Since the end of the Cold War, France has been unilaterally scaled down its nuclear forces by 30%; the French, however, are not likely to give up their nuclear weapons altogether. After World War I and World War II, France sees their atomic arsenal as insurance against another invasion … and as a way to preserve France’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

While France is not known for its love of America and things American, there was a great outpouring of sympathy after the September 11 attacks. The French are no strangers to terrorism; since 1992, France has been the target of attacks by Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) or the Armed Islamic Group, a terrorist organization responsible for a series of bombings (and for a 1994 Air France hijacking which was thwarted before the hijackers could use the fully fueled Airbus as a suicide weapon). French intelligence agents and aircraft have already been deployed in the Afghan conflict.

This should not be mistaken for carte blanche. The French government has pushed strongly for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan; they have also been critical of Israel’s excesses in Occupied Palestine, and have repeatedly expressed concerns that the “War on Terrorism” not become a “War on Islam.” This is as much due to self-interest as to benevolence; approximately 8% of France’s population, some 4 million people, are Moslem. French Defense Minister Alain Richard has said that intervention in other countries is “unnecessary,” and the French are not likely to participate in any military action against other “terrorist-supporting states.”

While the French have a nuclear capability, they are not likely to deploy it in this conflict. While the French recognize the threat which Islamic radicalism poses, they are also of the opinion that blundering in with guns blazing will only serve to stir things up and ensure future attacks. They are more worried about North Africa than Central Asia; without French aid the unpopular Algerian dictatorship would likely fall to an Islamic fundamentalist government, and throughout Algeria France is loathed more than America. It is in their best interests to neutralize terrorism; it is not in their best interest to further alienate Algeria and Algerians living in France. We can count on France for support against Al-Qaeda; we cannot count on their support for our foreign policy in Iraq or in Israel.

International Herald Tribune (English Language Paris Newspaper)
http://www.iht.com/frontpage.html

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (English Language Site)
http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/index.gb.html

France’s Nuclear Weapons
http://www.fas.org/nuke/hew/France/


Mike Doughty



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