JACQUES CHIRAC AND THE GRASSY KNOLL….Several weeks ago, weary of his futile efforts to understand the French psyche, Steven Den Beste announced that he had exhausted all other logical possibilities and come up with the only possible remaining reason why the French continue to oppose our war with Iraq: they have supplied banned weapons to Saddam and are afraid that an American invasion will turn up evidence of their treachery. Mind you, this is not just garden variety sanctions breaking he has in mind, which nearly everyone has done, but active help developing nuclear bombs and other WMDs.

Now, Den Beste’s essays usually strike me as being bastard stepchildren of JFK assassination conspiracy theories: long, closely argued tracts that are full of facts and surface plausibility, but drawing conclusions that any rational person recognizes as fantasies. So I didn’t take this very seriously.

But as with all conspiracy theorists, Den Beste has his own cult following and his speculation about French motives quickly made the rounds of the warblogosphere. Today, even Glenn Reynolds is apparently a believer, reporting happily of “more support for Steven Den Beste’s theory.”

But I’ve got a question about all this. I have no doubt that the French have sold Saddam lots of stuff ? that’s no secret, and U.S. companies have also done business with him ? but if they really had sold him WMDs (or the makings for WMDs), wouldn’t their best bet be to support the U.S. wholeheartedly in return for us keeping quiet about the whole thing? Especially since, as Den Beste himself admits, it seems obvious that “the US is going to move with or without any further UNSC resolution.”

Does this make any sense at all? And who are the people who take it seriously?

POSTSCRIPT: Actually, the best part of this essay is the part where, Unabomber-like, he concludes that if this French perfidy is made public “it seems unlikely that this would lead to an immediate and direct war with the US.” I’m not making this up. He thinks we might refrain from an invasion of France. On the other hand, it would “really hurt the tourist industries in both nations [France and Germany, that is].”

UPDATE: Chad Orzel thinks I’m being too nice to Den Beste! And be sure to read the comments….

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