"Here are the real calculations of the French leader.
First, as Paris sees it, the internal political setting can hardly be more advantageous. Chirac's control over domestic French policy is watertight. He has just won a fresh mandate as president. The parties that support him also enjoy a crushing majority in parliament. The opposition is almost non-existent and most of the French government consists of Chirac's hand-picked appointees. The last leader to enjoy such an unlimited power in modern French history was Charles de Gaulle. His supposed disciple, Chirac is now determined to repeat de Gaulle's feat.
More importantly, there is a new Germany. France has long dictated events in Europe through an alliance with its neighbour. Nevertheless, there was one issue on which the French and the Germans historically never agreed: relations with the USA. All this has changed in the last few months. For the first time since 1945, France has a German partner prepared to criticise the USA.
France used to have large oil interests in Iraq, and a reasonable expectation of retaining some influence in the region. Chirac's current policy has put all this at risk. The French attitude has also split Europe, with Britain, Spain, Italy and the former communist countries in eastern Europe now deeply suspicious of Paris. The French leader always knew that, ultimately, he could not stop the USA from resorting to war. So why is he persisting?
Mainly because he believes that all the disadvantages pale into insignificance in comparison with the ultimate prize: a France that leads all those willing to stand up to US 'arrogance' around the world, a France that articulates Europe's distinct opinion and enjoys a good reputation in the Arab world as well.
Is the new French global policy impregnable? There are two snags. First, the USA is now determined to foil Chirac's policies; President George W Bush will do everything possible to make sure that France ultimately emerges the loser; until now the French were considered in Washington as just a nuisance, but now they are widely regarded as a real menace."
¶ 12:17 PM