Gallic Nukes, the Real and Present Danger

During the last fifty years, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) has never gone to war or threatened its neighbors. Ok, its agents kidnapped a handful of Japanese nationals in the 1970s. This was a reprehensible action, but dwarfed by the hijacking of the entire Korean nation following the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 and the kidnapping by the Japanese military of tens of thousands of Korean sex-slaves during the Second World War. Under the iron-fisted rule of Great Leader Kim Il-sung, continued by his son and successor Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, North Korea has maintained an extraordinarily stable if highly weird socio-political order. So I am not losing any sleep over North Korea’s putative, paltry arsenal of nukes. I worry, though, about another power, and I’m sure there are others out there who share my concern.

I refer, of course, to France. France, unlike the DPRK, has maintained a consistently aggressive posture during the last half-century. It has fought two colonial wars, in Indochina and Algeria, slaughtering over a million in the latter war alone. It intervened alongside Britain and Israel in an attempt to prevent the nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956. It has deployed troops in Chad and is now killing rebels in the Ivory Coast. It has bombed Iraq and Yugoslavia in concert with U.S. forces. And to think, this country has had nuclear weapons since 1960! The Dear Leader in Pyongyang has maybe three. They can hit the Aleutians. The leaders in Paris have over 460 nukes, and they can easily hit me, ici à tout moment, here in Boston. Who should I be worried about? That’s a no-brainer.

We are told that the North Korean leadership is unstable and unpredictable. But does it rival the French? Il n’y a pas de comparaison, à mon avis. Consider the record of Charles DeGaulle, first president of the Fifth Republic. He withdrew French troops from the NATO command structure in 1966. Who expected that? And then he shocked the Anglo-American world by barking “Vive le Quebec Libre!” to a crazed mob in Canada the next year. The French continue to revere this man, whose government was nearly toppled in 1968 when France was one of the most unstable countries in the world. It remains unpredictable, its leadership giving conflicting signals on its support for U.S. foreign policy. Its foreign ministry calls the U.S. a hyperpuissance and accuses it of simplisme. People so unhinged and so prone to vilify the U.S. might very well decide to lob nukes at the East Coast. I have firm evidence (which for security reasons I cannot reveal) that the French plan to provide an independent Quebec with the land-based Hades and SSBS S3D missiles President Jacques Chirac claimed he eliminated several years ago. Quebec is very close to Boston, and so I worry.

The North Koreans are xenophobic, we’re informed. But if you’re talking xenophobia, you’re talking French. I mean, they have a government board specifically designed to keep out English-word borrowings in their language (that they think is so hot). They tried to keep out Disneyland and McDonalds, because they just weren’t good enough and sophisticated enough for their elite selves. And when you’re talking barbarism and brutality, the Pyongyang folks have nothing on the French. Koreans kill dogs humanely before they eat them. The French eat snails (and anything), and actually force-feed geese with alcohol, and kill them when their livers are swollen with alcoholic hepatitis, so they and their wives, mistresses and children can eat those livers mashed up with onions and spices. That’s why the French are so sexually promiscuous. I repeat: the French have 460 nukes, most of them, probably, in terrorist hands in Quebec.

The French overthrew their monarchy in 1789, invented the guillotine, beheaded countless aristocrats, including Marie Antoinette, and paraded their heads on pitchforks around the streets of Paris. The French common people really liked that. Their national anthem, La Marseillaise, was composed soon afterwards. Just listen to its refrain:

Aux armes, citoyens Formez vos bataillons Marchons, Marchons Qu’un sang impur Abreuve nos sillons

(My translation): “To arms, citizens! Form your battalions! Onward! Onward! Let’s drench our fields with [the enemy’s] tainted blood!” They make schoolchildren sing this!

Tell me that’s not terrorism. The French have never renounced terrorism or that terrorist anthem. Again I repeat: 460 nukes dans les mains de terroristes, wrapped in l’étendard sanglant brazenly celebrated in the Marseillaise. Will the world, including North Korea and Iraq, stand idly by, as France and its allies threaten humanity avec leurs armes de destruction de masse?

(J’ai parlé faussement des armes nucléaires dans le Québec. Ceci est, après tout, une satire.)

GARY LEUPP is an an associate professor, Department of History, Tufts University and coordinator, Asian Studies Program. He can be reached at:


Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: