George Will

Many in the Bush administration believe that France is comprehensively complicating NATO actions for no better reason than that the United States favors the actions. For example, because the buildup around Iraq requires increased shipping through the Strait of Gibraltar, the United States has favored increased NATO maritime patrols there. Although France in the end acquiesced, it did so only after NATO was forced into diplomatic and institutional contortions to counter French bloody-mindedness.

Asked about anti-French feelings in the United States, Villepin said, ``We've known that in the past. I've known that in the past. I was in the French embassy (in Washington) in `86 when happened the crisis of Libya.'' Thank you, Mr. Minister, for reminding us that in 1986 France, true to form, tried to encumber one of the most effective blows ever struck against terrorism--the bombing raid President Reagan ordered in response to Libyan involvement in a terrorist bombing targeting Americans in Berlin. France denied U.S. planes fly-over rights.

On ``This Week,'' Villepin was asked: Given that Saddam Hussein has said that his mistake was invading Kuwait before he acquired nuclear weapons, do you now believe that Israel was right to bomb the reactor outside Baghdad and that France was wrong to help build it? French diplomacy has sunk to this Villepin gaseousness:

``I think you cannot remake history. You can take lessons, you can imagine different scenarios. I don't think it's possible, today, definite answers. I think that the idea of pre-emptive strike might be a possibility. Have it as a doctrine, as a theory. I don't think it is really useful. Sometimes by using force pre-emptively we might create more violence and we have to be always thinking to what are the consequences.''

It is not a ``scenario,'' it is a virtual certainly that absent Israel's 1981 pre-emptive attack, Iraq would have had nuclear weapons in 1991, and today, as Gerard Baker of the Financial Times writes, Kuwait would be the 19th province of Iraq--and Saudi Arabia would be the 20th. France's goal--less violence--would have been achieved because the First Gulf War could not have been fought.

Fortunately for the United States, which has serious things to think about, the French foreign minister continues to demonstrate the absurdity of his country's demand to be taken seriously.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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