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France's nuclear doctrine (1 Viewer)


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Jan 12, 2006
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Chirac's nuclear faux pas
Source: Tehran Times, Iran

Last Thursday, in an address to the crew of Le Vigilant, a French submarine armed with nuclear weapons, French President Jacques Chirac displayed a terrible sense of theatrical humour, but, alas, no one is laughing. Rather, everyone is shocked.

In a reversal of France's longstanding nuclear doctrine, which had never envisioned the possibility of a first strike and had always designated nuclear weapons as a defensive option, Chirac said, "Leaders of any state that uses terrorist means against us, as well as any that may be envisaging, in one way or another, using weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would be exposing themselves to a firm and appropriate response on our behalf." The French president stunned the civilized world by announcing that his country would consider using nuclear weapons against any country or nation deemed to have sponsored a terrorist attack against it.

What has happened to the once relatively moderate and independent European country and its leader, which only three years ago argued so convincingly in the UN against intervention in Iraq without international consensus and due legal process? Now the French president is telling the world that he could unleash nuclear weapons on any country that supposedly aided or abetted terrorist activities on French soil.

This is the biggest nuclear bombshell that France has detonated since developing advanced nuclear technology.

Most of France's 350 nuclear warheads are based on submarines, which are always on standby alert to deter aggressors from attacking France. The French allocate well over 10 per cent of their defence budget, over 3 billion euros ($3.62 billion) annually to maintain their nuclear arsenal. What a nuclear luxury for an indebted country! With so much money being spent on a prestige weapon, straining the French economy, and the Cold War over with no new enemy in sight, voices arose among the French people calling for a reduction of this enormous non-productive expenditure, but then Chirac found an imaginary enemy to threaten with nukes.

Until now, France only had the Cold War nuclear option of mutually assured destruction (MAD), according to which the response to a first strike by an enemy would be an overwhelming nuclear assault totally destroying the aggressor, which would most likely respond by destroying the attacked country, too. But today, with non-state actors conducting terrorist operations, the geopolitical landscape has changed dramatically, making this option no longer feasible. Seeking a credible nuclear deterrent for the modern era, Paris has adopted the threat of a limited nuclear war using tactical nuclear weapons.

The odd thing about the whole situation is that these plans are astonishingly similar to U.S. President George W. Bush's ideas about mini-nukes and Washington's doctrine of pre-emptive warfare.

Writer Paul Craig Roberts, who served in the Reagan administration as assistant secretary of the treasury, put forward a worrying thesis recently that the U.S. might decide to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states and quoted a Pentagon document entitled "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations", which "calls for the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear adversaries in order 'to ensure success of U.S. and multi-national operations'."


For some time there have been reports that the United States has been planning to develop a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons in violation of the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and planned to team up with Israel to use the so-called mini-nukes in 'surgical strikes' against states and non-state actors. However, no one wanted to believe that any country could degrade itself to such an extent that it would even consider using the most horrible weapons against anyone in this day and age. Yet, it seems that the unthinkable is now thinkable, with the United States and its client states like France sinking to new depths of moral depravity.

And now, one of the countries of Rumsfeld's 'Old Europe' has taken a step further, with France declaring that it would consider using nuclear weapons against countries it believed were sponsors of terrorist acts against it. Imagine, had incidents similar to the London or Madrid bombings taken place in Paris, Chirac would have contemplated dropping one or two atom bombs on the country he believed was the culprit. In addition, due to its alliance with the U.S. in the so-called war on terrorism, if some misguided elements explode a few hand grenades at the Eiffel Tower, the Montparnasse Tower, the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvers, or the Arc de Triomphe, dealing a blow to France's grandeur and dignity, France might seek out rogue elements in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, or the uncontrolled tribal areas of Pakistan to use 'smart', 'precise' French nukes to obliterate them.

Chirac said the new military doctrine is designed to cope with an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable world where the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons could become the norm rather than the exception. Indeed, it looks like Chirac himself is determined to make this the norm. Shortly after winning the presidency in 1995, he ordered France's final nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

With his second and probably final term as president nearing its end, Chirac has formulated a dangerous military doctrine for France in the 21st century. Regardless of whether Chirac leaves office next year or not, he will have left an indelible mark on France's nuclear doctrine.


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