Unless I've missed something, the response to this so far seems to have been remarkably low key:
Brest, France (Reuters) - France said on Thursday it would be ready to use nuclear weapons against any state that carried out a terrorist attack against it, reaffirming the need for its nuclear deterrent.I'm puzzled. One, because of how calmly everyone seems to be taking this. Chirac appears to be saying that France might be willing to kill tens of thousands of civilians in response to a terrorist attack, and there's been nothing much by way of public reaction.
Deflecting criticism of France's costly nuclear arms program, President Jacques Chirac said security came at a price and France must be able to hit back hard at a hostile state's centers of power and its "capacity to act".
He said there was no change in France's overall policy, which rules out the use of nuclear weapons in a military conflict. But his speech pointed to a change of emphasis to underline the growing threat France perceives from terrorism.
"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," Chirac said during a visit to a nuclear submarine base in northwestern France.
"This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind."
Two, just what is he saying? I claim no special expertise in the language of statesmanship, but one way of reading it is that it's an attempt to protect the French against the possibility of a really mass terrorist atrocity - involving a dirty bomb or whatever - by intimating that should such a thing occur and the perpetrators be clearly linked to another state, then... well, the warning has been given. Could it even be a signal in the light of something known by French intelligence? I haven't a clue - obviously. But I'd have expected a rather more worried reaction than there has been. I can't imagine Tony Blair getting the same low key response for the same statement. (Hat tip: MK.)