The French government vigorously opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. No doubt its members had several motivations. One would have been to avoid embarrassment on being found to have taken bribes from the Iraqi government; another would have been to continue large contracts from Saddam Hussein's government; a third would have been opposition to the US fulfilling its UN mandate in a strict legal sense, but not fulfilling its spirit.
But a fourth motivation makes more sense, and would likely have been welcomed by a good portion of the French elite, including those otherwise opposed to Chirac's government: that the French opposition, and its accompanying independent leadership, was the initial `positioning' for an anti-US alliance in 20 years time.
Currently the positioning is `anti-war by the US', but over a generation, it will be possible to drop the `anti-war' part of the notion perhaps by engaging in more peacekeeping actions and focus on the `anti US' part.
Moreover, in 20 years, the US may well be countered by China, giving Europe and its allies more maneuver room.
I doubt that the French will try to counter the US militarily. It seems obvious to me that neither the French independently nor the European Union as a whole desires to spend the amount of necessary money on the military.
But France still wants influence. To reach this, France could follow another path. Here I am promoting my thoughts; this is nothing the French government has proposed.
The situation is this: the countries of western Europe, including France, depend heavily on Middle Eastern and Russian oil and gas. This makes them dependents rather than leaders.
Europe and the French government would think of itself as a leading part of Europe could gain more independence if they had their own sources of energy. With independence, Europe could and would influence the rest of the world more.
So I would figure that the Europeans, inspired by France, should spend huge sums of money say 3 per cent of GDP or 200 billion Euros per year on alternative sources of energy. This is vastly more than is currently spent.
As I said, I have not heard the French government proposing this; but the action makes sense. To vary an old saying, `it would be the practical equivalent of military spending' and seen by many as more moral as well.
The money could be spent on yet more wind generators and on various kinds of solar power, both voltaic and thermal. The spending could fund devices that make use of waves and of ocean water temperature differences.
With vast funding, not only would it be easy to fund the current ITER hydrogen fusion project, but others, too. One of the efforts might succeed.
Europe could fund hydrogen-boron fusion, which I think is more important than hydrogen-hydrogen fusion. (Hydrogen-boron fusion is considerably more difficult than hydrogen-boron fusion, but does not give off neutrons.)
Europe could also fund work on insulation, and more efficient ways to build houses, offices, factories, and great buildings. It could fund work on fuel cells that are more efficient than current methods, and on fuel cells that use coal and oil as well as hydrogen.
The European Union could fund the growth of biomass in the new countries from central Europe. This would provide a way to continue the current agricultural policy, which major contemporary countries have vowed to end, without appearing to give in to the agricultural lobbies.
That is the European side. On the US side, the outlook over the next generation is growing weakness, so long as current Bush Administration policies continue.
If successful and continued long enough, the actions of the Bush Administration, will reduce US governmental power. In particular, the Bush Administration is inducing very large deficits. As a consequence, funding the government will eventually require either large tax increases possibly via an inflation, which many people do not see as a form of regressive taxation or large cuts in government expenditures.
Just as the borrowings during the Reagan administration hamstrung the first Bush administration in its dealings with the collapsing Soviet Union, borrowings during the second Bush administration will hamper the US in projecting power abroad either directly or through the IMF and World Bank.
The private economy will hurt. Huge government borrowings will crowd out other uses of money. The economy will slow.
Also, the current Bush Administration is trying to extend monopoly or oligopoly capitalism through its support of patent and copyright laws that hinder small entrepreneurs. This is a major break with the old Republican idea of supporting competitive, free markets.
(You will notice that members of the Bush administration talk more often of `commerce' than of `competitive, free markets'.) Over a decade or two (but not immediately), if continued, this action will reduce US technological prowess since monopolies and oligopolies have less interest in innovation than free competitors.
All told, the French government has a course of action that may eventually benefit them.