Mister President, on January 19 you gave an important speech in which you reminded our country the fundamental principles that make up our defence policy. But, even when it’s important for the French population to know how we defend our vital interests, having irrefutable decisions about this is also essential. However, that’s not the case.
The usefulness of the French nuclear deterrent has been debated since the end of the Cold War. You have just added another element to this discussion by stating clearly that our deterrence should focus on terrorist states too. This is a dangerous innovation.
I think both polemic issues must be separated. During the Cold War, the French converted in a massive way to the idea related to the importance of French deterrence. Due to the fact that the United States adopted the doctrine of flexible counterattack since 1962, which stated that the United States would not use the atomic weapon if the USSR did not use it, the USSR had the possibility of invading western Europe without receiving a nuclear response even when, in this last case, the clauses of the North Atlantic Treaty would be implemented and the United States would put an end to the occupation. By withdrawing the French Forces from NATO, General De Gaulle allowed the reestablishment of the total autonomy of the French decision. Any sudden movement of the Soviet army created a difficult-to-imagine, although huge, instant risk. Kissinger and McNamara, on their part, made known this analysis they both shared: the uncertainty founded by France had a decisive role in peacekeeping. This argument created a consensus about nuclear deterrent in France.
The Warsaw Pact was dissolved after the Cold War but our answer was the extension of NATO and the exclusion of Russia, condemning it to our perpetual distrust, something that has provoked its current rearmament. We were mute witnesses of the American mistake, which consisted in the extension of NATO when what was actually needed was its dissolution. Nonetheless, we also witnessed, from that moment on, a mutual disarmament. And nowadays, there’s no strategist in the world capable of inventing another scenario of crisis in which using the nuclear weapon would be appropriate. There’s no one to be deterred. When you interrupted the nuclear tests, the world thought that France had endorsed the option of nuclear disarmament and was, therefore, determined to put into practice Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. There are no possible comparisons between the imminent danger of proliferation (which would be better faced if the nuclear powers were really disarmed) and the management of hypothetical conflicts that will take place in the distant future. However, instead of turning France into the initiator of a disarmament programme, you follow the steps of the United States, Russia and China, which reform and reinforce their nuclear arsenal. Besides, you entrust a new mission to our nuclear forces: to deter terrorist states.
Nuclear energy is not appropriate for terrorism. The destruction of terrorists, their refuges and means will be considered to be much more legitimate if less collateral damage was caused. We will destroy all these movements by means of intelligence, the use of special services and the economic boom that will release the population from despair. To threaten terrorist states that shelter terrorists (reluctantly, usually) with a nuclear counterattack is not appropriate and could be taken by those countries, Muslims mainly, as a general threat against their societies as soon as terrorists seek refuge there. This attitude can only bring about the disapproval by the international community with the exception of the United States and its current presidency. The current leaders of the most-infested-with-terrorists countries, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, say they are and want to be friends of the West. How are you going to explain to them what you have just said?
Mister President, there’s no reason to feel embarrassed if you retract, the world will appreciate it.

Le Monde (France)

Surenchère nucléaire : danger”, by Michel Rocard, Le Monde, January 26, 2006.