George W. Bush allegedly once pointed out that there is no word for ‘entrepreneur’ in French; there is, however, a word for hawk. It is faucon, and there seem to be plenty of them in Paris these days.In the midst of the greatest European crisis since the 1940s, and at a time when France stands on the brink of a bank panic and the loss of its AAA credit rating, France has been taking a high profile leadership role against Iran and its allies in the Middle East. Earlier this week it stunned the world by being the first major power to call for humanitarian safe havens in Syria; now it has followed this up with a call for a European embargo on Iranian oil exports.France has interests in both Syria and Lebanon going back more than 150 years and France ruled both countries under a League of Nations mandate after 1918. Beyond that, the humanitarian concerns of many French people and of intellectuals should not be dismissed. With a large immigrant population from North Africa, France has a deep stake in the peaceful development of that region: there are many good reasons why France is taking a strong stand.But something else is involved: the anti-Iranian bandwagon is a good place to be. There is no one the Saudis hate and fear more than the ‘heretical’ mullahs of Iran. The oil rich Arab sheikhdoms up and down the Gulf worry about Iran’s regional power as well. Attacking the increasingly isolated and unpopular Syrian regime pleases Arabs in France and rich Arab investors in the Gulf. The combination is a powerful one; the Arab Lobby in parts of Europe is very strong.At the same time, France fears the consequences if western failure to act on Iran leaves the Israelis feeling they have no choice but to attack. (Keeping Europe worried that Israel might do precisely that is an important goal of Israeli policy; when parsing statements by Israeli leaders about Iran it is wise to keep this in mind. If Europeans were to conclude that the Israelis won’t pull the trigger, European support for sanctions against Iran might weaken.) If Israel attacks Iran and Iran retaliates by closing the Persian Gulf to oil traffic, France’s goose is cooked. An oil spike to $300 per barrel would not help the eurozone cohere or stabilize France’s economy.French hawkishness on Syria and Iran makes sense at several levels. It strikes many people as a very moral approach. It can be played as an effort to short circuit more dangerous and more radical steps from the US and Israel. It wins public support at home, raises France’s profile abroad, and may well lead to expanded sales (Airbus, arms) to grateful oil sheiks. It also commits France to very little; we are not hearing about deadlines or threats of imminent war. The hawkish noises also distract world attention from the irrelevance of France when it comes to events in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.This is what well crafted foreign policy looks like. It builds on national strengths, advances more than one goal at a time, combines values and interests, synthesizes economic and political concerns, and conceals or mitigates weakness. The French remain among the most quick thinking and talented diplomats on earth and they are very good at what they do. It is not clear that all this skill will bring the French much in the way of lasting benefits, but professionally speaking, it is worth admiring the construct they have made.It is harder for America with its cumbersome and open decision making process and its divided political authority to make foreign policy this sleek and efficient; American policy makers and students should watch and learn. Fortunately the US has its own model of foreign policy formation that works pretty well for us, but to the extent we can incorporate some of the qualities of the French school without losing our own strengths, we will get more done with less cost.Technique aside, the substance of the French hawkishness (and the backing they are getting from David Cameron’s government in the UK) suggests that the US will not walk the last mile of the road toward Iran on its own. That is very good news, especially because the bigger and more imposing that coalition is, the more we can hope that the Iranians will decide not to push this confrontation all the way to war.Effective diplomacy makes war less likely even as it makes victory in war, should it come, more likely at a lower cost. The confluence of forces pushing France and other European countries toward a tougher stance against Assad and A-jad gives the Obama administration important advantages in the Middle East. Sometimes you have to flip Clausewitz and note that policy is the continuation of war by other means; the pressure on Iran to drop its ill advised and unnecessary nuclear program continues to grow.