Well, one line has now been drawn in the sand.
Chirac's change in French nuclear doctrine is not trivial.
First, a brief history.
When looking at deterence, not everyone used the same words, and this gave insight into national charachter and what sort of role that politics plays in national plans for using nuclear weapons.
In the US, we use the word "deterrence", meaning, fundamentally, defending one's self and limiting the options of others in attacking.
In SovSpeak, the word was, transliterated, "ustrashenie", of instigating terror in the other.
In French it was "dissuasion", of persuading the other to adopt a point of view.
While you can't strictly build nuclear policy based on philological hermeneutics, it does give you some insight into what people meant: the US meant deterrence as a defensive posture, not allowing others to use all their threat options; the Russians intended their opponents to be terrified of the idea that the Russians would strike; the French place value on persuasion that it simply wasn't a good idea to use nukes against the French.
So what does the change in French doctrine mean?
The gauntlet has been thrown down.
Demographics are now politics. The Islamists, the proponents of a radical Islam, have clearly stated that they believe that they are using demographics as a weapon: they simply plan to outbreed the West, giving them, in their twisted world view, a right to be in charge.
Chirac has now told them that demographics isn't the only game in town: if you try and hide behind demographics, i.e. become the Maoist fish in water, then we will empty the pool and dry out the stream beds.
Good for Chirac, good for France: they have added two and two to get four, after the car-burnings of last year, to understand what the threat is.
On the other hand, the incentive to get nuclear weapons has just increased for the Islamists.
The major problem here is that the NPT has a fatal flaw, a false understanding that has led to this impasse. In agreeing to foresake the development of nuclear weapons, the non-nuclear signatories demanded - and got - a clause in the NPT that say that the nuclear powers will take steps to achieve nuclear disarmament. Not that they will do so, but rather that they would take steps to do so: this means not disarmament, but rather an end to the development of massive overkill raised to the nth degree.
Given that the Cold War is now over, those non-nuclear signatories with the hidden desire to develop the weapons nonetheless, view the lack of complete nuclear disarmament of the West as an excuse to start their development. It's not: lack of disarmament doesn't serve as a ground for developing your own (if you are truly convinced that the things are evil - people, not things are evil - then adding to their number doesn't make the situation better: hence this is a specious argument at best.), it only serves as an excuse for those third-world apologists that want to justify the Islamic Bomb.
This false understanding gives the nuclear ambitions of Iran an excuse (not a ground, just an excuse) that they can hide behind.
Why can't we trust Iran with nuclear weapons?
Because we can't trust Iran with almost anything. It's that plain and simple.
The change in French nuclear doctrine isn't merely an extension of threat: it says, simply, that the French will use their nuclear weapons as a political tool to gain their goals. Nuclear weapons are first and foremost political weapons: the French have come to restate their own political goals.
That France, regardless of demographics and economic dependencies, will not bow to political pressures based on demographics and economic dependencies, but rather will, if need be, used its weapons to serve its national interests.
And about time.
The threat of the Islamists is that they will, throught demographic shifts and the accompanying shifts in political power, transform their opponents in way that are, for the West, completely unacceptable and repugnant.
The threat that France is facing - not only France, but they right now are the only ones talking about it - is not merely economic and/or political: it is an existential threat, one that goes to the heart of what the French understand it to mean to be French.
Chirac is now bluntly stating that France understands existentialism better than anyone else thinks.
And if Iran continues on its track, the likelihood of using nuclear weapons to remove Iranian ambitions to have the Islamic Bomb has just increased markedly.
PS: And while I've bashed France enough here, it's done because I believe that France should know better than to have behaved the way they have over the last several years. I don't hate the French: I've hated what they've done for short-term political gain that has helped lead the world to its current state. Big difference, in my eyes...