Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So, What's Up with the Codes Anyway?

I don't know if this will strike anyone else as peculiar, but I've been amazed to read at least half a dozen stories over the past few days about the "secret nuclear code." France2 had a story last night about the code that featured pictures of a military aide carrying a large satchel, supposed to contain the precious code, or red button, or whatever it is. But Le Figaro tells us that Mitterrand left "the code" on a slip of paper in a jacket pocket. Why, one wonders, did he become aware of his lapse? Did he have a moment when he felt like dropping an A-bomb on someone, reached into his pocket, and realized he had left the code at home? If so, where was the military aide with the famous satchel?

When a new president takes office in the US, we aren't treated to such stories. I conclude that the French obsession with "the code" must signify some basic anxiety about the bomb. Maybe the French think that they don't really have a bomb, that their nuclear arsenal is a Potemkin arsenal like Saddam Hussein's famous WMD. That would explain the recurrent code stories: if there is an actual slip of paper on which Sarko jotted down the code to hand over to Hollande, then there must be a bomb, and Parisians can rest easy.

But what if Sarko really believes that his successor is as feckless, mou, and nul as he claimed in the campaign? Would he really hand over the actual code to un capitaine de pédalo? Maybe he transposed a few digits. So when François attempts to bomb Athens tonight after his dinner with Merkel, nothing will happen. And tomorrow, when the irate president awakens the ex-president, wherever he may be (on a Bolloré yacht? on the Côte with Carla?), to complain, Sarko can plead dyslexia: "Désolé, mon pote, tu sais, j'aurais dû écrire 517483 mais j'ai inversé l'ordre 483517. C'est presque biblique: les derniers seront les premiers."

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