Ah, the fickle French.  I love everything about them — their food, their music, their wine, their films, their language, their paintings, their literature . . . their fries . . . their toast . . . but they do act like silly-asses sometimes when it comes to international diplomacy.

PARIS — President Jacques Chirac announced yesterday that France will send 2,000 soldiers to southern Lebanon and hopes to retain command of the UN peacekeeping force, as a top European Union official said international troops could start deploying within days.

The offer by France, Lebanon’s former colonial ruler and key architect of a UN Security Council resolution to increase the force’s size, was a major step toward expanding it more than a week after a ceasefire began.

It also represented a turnaround for Paris, which drew criticism last week after announcing it would only double its current 200-soldier contingent. France’s role as mission commander then came under pressure, with Italy expressing a willingness to take the lead and pledging as many as 3,000 soldiers.

Dominique Moisi, an analyst with France’s Institute for International Relations, said France felt the “international and national outrage at the contradiction between the French promises and what the French delivered.”

“At some point, the French realized they had gone too far by doing too little,” he said.

“It is a face-saving gesture.”

Full article here.  I think it was probably the word that Italy had volunteered to command the force that boiled the French blood.  They’ve always had a chip on their shoulder about things like that.