THOSE INSCRUTABLE FRENCH….As a followup to the post below, I’d like to take a crack at the question implicitly posed by Steven Den Beste and Michael Ledeen: Why is France opposing us so strenuously? Here are a few possibilities that do not include partnerships with Osama or threats of nuclear war against the United States:

  • They have good relations with the Arab world and have a natural inclination to side with them.

  • Jacques Chirac thinks it’s good domestic politics since 80% of his constituents oppose war.

  • Based on their experience with both terrorism and the Muslim world ? which is quite a bit more extensive than ours ? they believe that a war will destabilize the Middle East and cause more problems than it will solve.

  • They agree that Saddam is dangerous but genuinely believe that intrusive inspections can keep him in a box at less cost and risk than a war.

  • Chirac doesn’t really care about the United States, he just wants to piss off Tony Blair.

  • Chirac has his back up now and is refusing to back down purely for reasons of Gallic pride and macho posturing.

I haven’t the slightest idea whether any or none of these is true, and there are plenty of other possibilities too. But warbloggers, who are so wrapped up in their revulsion for Saddam Hussein that they can’t conceive of why anyone would be opposed to going to war against him, should understand that there are plenty of perfectly plausible reasons for French opposition ? some of them honorable and some not.

And another warning: if it were only France that were opposed to war, then conspiracy theories about their stand might be within the realm of reason. But (a) half the population of the United States is opposed to war in one form or another, (b) a large majority of virtually every other country in the world is also opposed, (c) on the Security Council, there are currently 11 countries leaning against war and three permanent members who might veto a U.S. resolution, (d) Turkey’s parliament has denied us basing rights, (e) most of the Arab world, including Iraq’s neighbors, who are certainly in the greatest immediate danger, oppose the war, and (f) every single country in the world except two ? Britain and Australia ? has declined to provide us with any military assistance.

Whether you like it or not, Chirac is pretty much in the mainstream of world opinion ? and probably loving every minute of it. You hardly need to engage in any conspiracy theorizing to figure that out.

UPDATE: As a couple of readers have noted, it’s also likely that general French dislike of American “cultural hegemony” should be added to my list. You bet. But you still don’t need partnerships with al-Qaeda to understand why France acts the way it does.