Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, January 20, 2006

Force Frappe

French President Jacques Chirac said yesterday in a speech at l'île Longue, the home of the French submarine nuclear force, know as Force Océanique Stratégique or FOST, that if attacked by state-sponsored terrorists, he would consider using nuclear weapons in retaliation. His statement was mild, and did not suggest that France would definitely use nuclear weapons, but his speech was meant to accomplish 4 things in my view:

1. To warn Iran.
2. To let U.S. to know that it is not the only nuclear power calling the shots (no pun intended).
3. To justify the continued existence of a €300 million/year expense (10 % of France’s military budget ) on nuclear arms. France is facing budget deficits that put it outside the EU’s 3% limit. He actually wants to increase spending on the nuclear arsenal in order to modernize it.
4. He wants the French to know that he can talk just as tough as Bush about the threat of terrorism.

His comments came on the heels of the review of French nuclear forces, which is conducted every 5 years.

Don’t blow this off as the French bloviating. France maintains the fourth largest nuclear force in the world, after the United States, China, and Russia. It is said to have approximately 300-350 nuclear missiles and it has long maintained the Force Frappe or Strike Force that consisted of land, sea, and sky nuclear capabilities. This Force, conceived in 1958 under DeGualle, was meant as a deterrent to then Russian aggression. This is now referred to as “force nationale de dissuasion”, loosely translated, “National Force of Deterrence”. Chirac made it clear that there are new dangers that still make such a deterrent relevant. This is not the first time Chirac has stepped out on nuclear weapons. In 1995, he angered many in the international community by conducting nuclear tests in Mururoa despite the NPT. The reasoning then was that the nuclear arsenal was aging, and France needed to make sure it still worked. Whatever.

You can read the original text of Chirac’s speech and you will see that he is using some of the same rhetoric used by the Bush Administration.

Here is a sample:

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.

Translation: The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using in one way or another weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part. This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind.

Chirac did go on to say that France would continue to support international non-proliferation efforts and would continue to reduce its nuclear arsenal “in compliance with the spirit of the NPT and the principle of strict necessity.”

France no longer maintains land based missiles, having closed those military bases in 1996. But it does maintain air and sea forces. The FOST is composed of a fleet of nuclear ballistic submarines. Initially 6 were built. Three have been decommissioned. There is currently a new one being built and is expected to be operational by 2010. The French Air Force has 60 Mirage planes (according to Wikipedia) that can carry medium range attack missiles. A long-range version is in development as is expected to be operational by 2010.

What does this mean when world leaders are willing to stand up and basically say, hey, we have 'em and we'll use them? Are we headed for a new genre of cold war?


Anonymous said...

I think this is a perfectly reasonable thing for a President of France to say. And I think US West is probably right about the complexity of the motives.

I think another aspect of the warning Iran bit is that for French officials to say anything this stern to a Muslim gvoernment is really quite a departure from their normal accomodating approach. Chirac is perhaps signalling to Iran that France will not shield them from US moves in the UN Security Council.

I wonder if Chirac doesn't feel that Iran's government broke some promise to France by restarting their program.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

This wonderful quote appears in a 1950s political science book. Few academics dare write in anything but a turgid clinical style these days, so it's a lost art.

"There are two kinds of mysteries, subjective and objective. A subjective mystery is one that is mysterious because one lacks a certain amount of learning, such as calculus or Hebrew, but can be learned, and the mystery will dissipate. An objective mystery is one that, regardless of learning or study, will remain a mystery, such as trinitarian doctrine or French foreign policy."

It is a positive asset to the France to be viewed as more dangerous than they are because they are, well, slightly off their nut. Their unpredictability is legendary. For all we know, Chirac made his announcement for no other purpose than to stir the pot a little. Set of bombs in London or Madrid, sure. Their won't go ape. But France? France will do whatever it does its own way. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

I have written on this blog in favor of deterrence (as opposed to prevention) as the only feasible policy remaining to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions. But I remain queasy and uncertain about this position. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks we discussed nuclear strategy, and on one of my comments I wondered aloud if the use of nuclear weapons against civilian populations could ever be justified.

I'm just musing here, but maybe a better answer would be to hold leaders directly responsible for their actions, rather than holding large civilian populations hostage as Chirac implies. Perhaps we should simply threaten the leaders themselves: if Iran's government funds terrorists to kill Americans, we will kill their government, not their people. Or perhaps we would send in a strike team to arrest their leaders and take them to the Hague to stand trial. Doubtless this would involve "collateral damage" against some civilians, but surely it would be a more ethical response than nuking Tehran?

This is not, of course, how international affairs are typically conducted. But then, war is typically waged by statesmen, who do not appreciate the precedent of killing other statesmen. (They also mislike bringing other leaders before war crimes tribunals.) It is not a practical solution, since it would have to be implemented by those same statesmen. But maybe it is worth mulling over?

Dr. Strangelove said...

I LOVE LTG's quote re "trinitarian doctrien and French foreign policy." I laughed out loud.

Anonymous said...

That is a great quote! But I still think their foreign policy is easier to understand than their system of higher education or their maze of unions! You think we drown in acronyms! Try reading the front page of Le Monde!

Another the thing to remember is that the only EU member with nukes other the UK is France.

I also agree with LTG. The French do love to stir the pot just to see what surfaces. And in a case like Iran, why not? What do you have to loose, really? The negotiations with Iran have stalled. So why not try an re-energize them with something bold. Consider the reactions that his comments have had.

Le Monde  is reporting today that the German government are not pleased with Chirac's statements and he has been criticized by the British and Spanish media. Within France, the Communists and the Greens are grumbling while the Socialists are supporting him. Some in Germany are saying that this will just egg the Iranians on.

The real effect of Chirac's statement remains to be seen, but it is at least stirring up the dialogue and perhaps adding new life to the flagging negotiations with Iran.

And what Chirac has implied is that he would be ready to defend his EU allies with his weapons as well. So this could get interesting. Of course, his comments were not discussed with his EU allies before hand. So this is yet another example where France is demonstrating its independence from a common foreign policy as well.

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

I think Dr. Strangelove's ideal of "killing the government" instead of "holding the people hostage" is admirable. Indeed, if I thought it were practicable I would advocate it. The problem arrises when you consider that even the most brutal governments are not totally disengaged from their populations. How would we get at the Iranian government if significant portions of the population are willing to protect/shield/support them?

And in order for deterance to work, the retaliation must be against someone in a position to effect the original decision to attack. Consider the following scenario: Iran gives a nuke to a terrorist group. That terrorist group uses it against New York or Paris or something. The US (or France) retaliates with a swith surgical removal of the Iranian government (not a very feasible operation but that's what's been proposed so let's assume it's possible). Would the terrorist group in question consider the removal of the Iranian government a great loss? If not, then the threat of such an action would not deter them. This is a possibility that must be considered in the context of MAD type deterrance.

All that said, while much is made about the decisive nature of nuclear weapons they have significant limitations. First and foremost they are the exact opposite of "surgical." They are the very definition of indiscriminant destruction. Second, they leave the areas in which they are used contaminated for years after. These limitations make them poorly suited to the kind of "regime" change, counter insurgency and peace keeping missions most military experts expect to dominate warfare in the 21st century.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

Thanks, RxR, for your thoughts on the "killing the government" idea. As I said, I accept it it's probably infeasible. But perhaps something feasible can come out of that line of thought.

RxR then contemplates a scenario in which:

1. Iran gives a nuke to a terrorist group.

2. That terrorist group uses it against New York or Paris.

3. The US (or France) retaliates with a swift surgical removal of the Iranian government.

RxR then asks, "Would the terrorist group in question consider the removal of the Iranian government a great loss? If not, then the threat of such an action would not deter them."

Yes, but the aim of this policy would not be to deter the terrorists' use of the nuke. I agree that there is nothing we can threaten them with. Instead, the deterrence would be aimed at Iran's decision to give the nuclear "device" to the terrorists in the first place.

Anonymous said...

That's a good point. I think the best kind of statement is to announce that the source country's government will be held responsible for any use of WMDs by any government or private agent but don't specify exactly how - let 'em use their imaginations.

The French statement comes pretty close to that. They don't come right out and say they'll nuke Iran. But the French military is simply not capable of invading Iran conventionally so nukes are pretty much their only option. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Well, Chirac acknowledged in his speech that nuclear weapons wouldn't act as a deterrent to terrorists, but that it would, perhaps, make states think twice before sponsoring terrorism.

That said, the Sunnis in Iraq are saying that if France were to use nukes on Iran, they would hit France hard. So in the end, the spiral escalates.

// posted by unwest

Anonymous said...

I want to amplify Dr. Strangelove's remark that "this is not how international affairs are normally conducted." Under international law, states, not persons, are the only actors. With the rare exception of war crimes and "crimes against humanity," individual leaders have always been absolutely immune for any action they caused the state to take. It would be a very radical notion to employ some form of judicialized assassination, or (in conceptual terms) to change the fundamental character of international law from a statement of the customary rights of sovereigns to some sort of penal code.

That being said, I am in favor of moving international law out of the 17th century.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I'd like to point out that Strangelove's propsal is not new. We do try to hold some leaders responsible, take Slobodan Milosevic as an example, or Saddam Hussein. We do try to hold leaders responsible for some of their actions, but usually after the damage has been done.

The question is can you hold any one person responsible for the actions of many? Are all Americans responsbile for George W. Bush? Where does the buck stop? THink about our own society. Ken LAy is making the case that he isn't responsible for ENRON's collapse and that he "didn't know" about the saddy deals is CFO was making. But, thanks to him, we are now more willing to hold big business CEOs personally responsible for their actions or the lack thereof. The insurance agencies cheer!

On the other hand, there are many leaders who are protected from prosecution while in office. Chirac himself is a prime example. He has been investigated for years. They can't touch him so ling as he has immunity. And we can't even get diplomats to pay their parking tickets. So, I think we are stuck in the 17th century for a long time.

Of course, if France dumped a big enough bomb on Tehran, I think they'd have a pretty good chance of taking out the government.


// posted by USwest

Anonymous said...

LTG, out of historical curiosity how did governments deal with rogue privateers back in the 17th and 18th century? What did the law say about a government's liability if a captain holding their letter of mark committed some act generally acknowledged to violate international law? 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

USWest is right, of course, that my modest proposal of "killing the government" is not new. I bring it up because I personally have not heard it before in the context of coping with nuclear proliferation.

Anonymous said...

In answer to RBR's question about a letter of marque. The letters permitted reprisal only against vessels from a specified country. The captain was sometimes tried for piracy by that country, if caught. If a the privateer injured a third party vessel, both the grantor state and the third party state would prosecute for piracy. These letters were generally abolished by treaty in 1856, but the USA never signed the protocol. However, the USA did sign on to the Hague Conventions that also forbade them. 

// posted by LTG