From the interview I translated and subtitled(1) for you, we can sum up the following:
First, the astute French Foreign minister figured that the worse this whole business with Iran might come to is War; and not a Wet Tee-Shirt World Cup in Teheran — Which I shall deplore for various reasons, including some not closely related to my (purely, ahem, academic) interest in women's shapes and curves.
Next, we French prepare for war by trying to have our high command lay plans. Because, as even that stupid journalist should know, that's how one prepares for war — including those who actually manage to win them. However, as Mr. Kouchner reassures us, not just now.
We usually wait cunningly until the Panzer divisions make it to the nearby café, and organize the Wet Tee-Shirt World Cup in Paris. Fick fick Mademoiselle, and all that jazz.
Then, and only then, we reveal our well laid plan, that usually consists of mumbling how unfair it was from ze Germans to rush through the Ardennes instead of gently clashing upfront with the Maginot line, while signing disdainfully at the bottom of the unconditional capitulation form, and offering weekly shipments of fresh French Jews, totally.free.of.charge.
In the meantime, we propose that more efficient UN sanctions be possibly taken. Possibly. But hey, don't worry Mahmoud, it's not done yet. Not even close. No resolution, no nothing, no hard feeling, okay?
In the words of G. Julius Crittenden, in his Commentarii de Jell-O Gallico:
That begins to sound more like, "Remember what happened to Iraq! If you don't behave, there may be nothing we can do for you."
Indeed. And this is where you may be tempted to tag me a mean, sarcastic and cynical bastard(2) with an axe to grind when it comes to the SarkoShow, if you haven't already done so. Here's why:
Observation: Sarkozy adopted part of the National Front's aggressive public security rhetoric, and managed to steal a great deal of their votes, saving the country from the 2002 presidential elections blunder that saw the far-right making it to the second turn, and killing Le Pen's party for (at least) the next decade in the same move. So far, the aggressive rhetoric on security has been just that: rhetoric.
Gut feeling: far from being the disruptive young "Reaganite" newcomer who will shake the old dusty French political establishment and "save" the country from itself, Sarkozy was in fact said establishment's smart bomb to bust the old disruptive candidate (National Front's Le Pen) who had all these neo-aristocrats shaking in their boots when the voters hoisted him against the no-less odious Chirac. It worked, and French politicians from all sides will keep sleeping and eating while inbreeding vigorously; and nothing will change.
Observation: The new administration of what's been the most anti-American Western country to date(3) looks as if it suddenly whipped itself up one morning into a frenzy of pro-Americanism; and doesn't miss an occasion to sound Rover than the Karl. The French president goes a-running ostentatiously wearing NYPD tee-shirts and a-knocking on the White House's door every other day. France is dying to join NATO again and put the accordion back in its military wing while the new Foreign Affairs' boss, himself a Socialist, trips to Baghdad and rattles his glavius towards the Mad Persian Mullahs, even outpacing the most belligerent Neocons.
Gut feeling: the French realized that Chirac's strategy of opposing "American hegemony" — one of the most used expression in French politics for the past 30 years — upfront and in the open failed miserably and hurt "French interests" far more than they will publically admit. Therefore, a change of tactics is required and they're now aiming at working against the US from inside any alliance they can join: NATO, the Coalition of the Willing redux vs. The Iranian Nukejobs, your local AA, you name it. From their own account, the French want back into NATO because nobody listens to them otherwise. The age old French pretense to counterweight American power is not gone, but renewed — albeit far more sneakily(4). Will it work? I sure hope the United States have someone watching the French diplomatic channels as well as the DGSE's doings.
I really like the Americans. They're a bunch of incredibly decent people with an impressive record of achievements to prove it(5) but I do have to tell them something, from a friend to a friend: giving people the benefit of the doubt, and always looking for the best in them is a great quality, and one that honors your character as a nation. But when dealing with the corrupt ruling class of Old Europe in general and France in particular, it will get you nowhere, fast: Backstabbing is more than a national sport here; it's a way of life and politics. And they love to hate you.
Finally, even if we admit that I'm wrong, and that France took a 180° turn three months ago, after three decades of particularly vicious anti-Americanism(6), are we sure we want them back anywhere near the battlefield?
(...) When the coalition needed to show a united front, France continued to press for a deal with Hussein (...) He [Mitterrand] also pushed for another Security Council meeting, whose only possible purpose could be to delay the ultimatum. (...) Meanwhile, the defense minister was making several gestures of his own, all in the service of obstructing the United States. Although France had positioned 10,000 soldiers in the desert, it refused to follow Britain's lead and place them under U.S. command. The French wanted to emphasize their independence from the coalition, and so their top officer reported instead to Saudi commander Prince Khaled. (...)
On January 9, Mitterrand (...) announced that French forces would neither fly over Iraqi territory nor march into it. (...) Even French officers began to complain (...) though not out of wish to degrade the enemy or defend Gallic honor. As the Washington Post reported: "Senior French officers in the Gulf reportedly have been unhappy with the restraints, which they contended would lead to more casualties among their troops than necessary (...)" Mitterrand was persuaded (...) four days later and a week after the start of the air war, French pilots flew over Iraq for the first time. They also appeared to meet their safety goals. The Americans, British, and Italians all lost planes in the early days of Operation Desert Storm, but the French emerged unscathed.
(...) As the start of ground operations approached, French soldiers in Saudi Arabia were assigned the task of capturing the Iraqi town of As Salman (...) They were given two days to meet this objective. Major General Jim Johnson of the 82nd Airborne Division said that his men could accomplish the same task in less than twenty-four hours. His superiors decided that coalition politics outweighed the need to achieve every military goal as rapidly as possible. The French would have their two days to get to As Salman.
When the ground war began on February 24, the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division sent a message to their French comrades: côté (sic) à côté (sic) soldats français et américains nous écrirons une page d'histoire "Side by side, French and American soldiers will write a page of history."
"It would be written slowly," deadpanned Rick Atkinson in his account of the Persian Gulf War. Because French commanders were under considerable pressure to limit their casualties, their portion of the offensive crept forward at a snail's pace. Within hours of the first friendly message, Colonel Frank Akers radioed the French: "François, get your ass moving! Why are you guys taking so long?"
The French achieved some of their objectives on the first day, but irritated American commanders by quitting early: They had bivouacked when there was still an hour of sunlight in the sky. "To avoid mistakes," explained French brigadier general Bernard Janvier, "it's better to delay." When they finally reached the outskirts of As Salman on February 25, they set up their tents for the night instead of taking the city. As they moved into As Salman at dawn the next day, the French discovered a ghost town: Only a dozen civilians and fifteen soldiers were still there. There had been no reason for hesitation.
Accordion Brigade indeed.