Thursday, September 19, 2013


I recently spent time in Europe, mostly in the EU inner circle of Dante's hell.  Brussels, where the rude info services are at their worst, is certainly not the ideal gateway to EU land.  Here and there things have improved but overall the Zeitgeist looks totally unappealing. Europe as a whole gives the impression of some arrested body in need of a bypass. Nobody seems to enjoy belonging to this club where the armchairs remain unoccupied. Besides, the EU members have to fight on many fronts, social and financial, and they are trying to hold on to what they still have, while Catalan's, Scots or Flemish have their eye on the exit door in painfully surviving states.

It did not have to be this way. The ambitions were sound but the leaders got cold feet and the common political and military goals were mothballed, pursuing a model in "reduced mode," based in a virtual capital. Members and institutions had better stay far away and  immune to the chronic Belgian compromise disease.   Anyhow, the Brussels meetings are "routine," not unlike the European Parliament, which is to be found everywhere doing almost nothing.

The United States is not in the best of conditions either. The President, "community organizer of hope," has become the "philosopher king," of doubt.  The major American institutions come up with traps instead of collaborative solutions. The debt continues on a path to nowhere. The foreign policy appears to be a patchwork of contradictory inputs. The economy does nominally better but the real unemployment is closer to 15% than to the official 7%.  Meanwhile, Congress is more a Medusa raft than a remake of ''le congres s'amuse''.  The country is in pre-electoral mood already. The absurd rules before its time.

Still, the Americans do not find themselves in dire straits like their European counterparts. They live in a cultural boom and a creative technological bubble which partially compensate for many sore points (Detroit, the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling which might very well lead to a government shutdown).  The climate is corroded but it is not mortgaged.  The United States remains Number One and the President's upcoming Asian trip is meant to indicate that the "pivot" is for real (remember the "reset"?)  Unfortunately, Obama has become a "lame duck" avant la lettre and seems unable to inspire his allies or to deter his foes. It has become personal.  

Putin remains a formidable antagonist but his ability is more about disturbance than about structural strategic change. The Chinese risk being more and more preoccupied with internal affairs (political and economic) than with foreign arrays. Actually, the Americans would do better looking closer to home, to Latin America, where they may have to pay a huge price for their past exploitation and their current neglect.

Both the US and the EU lack the creative bold leadership they need so badly.  Obama might still 
get hold of his former mojo if the free trade agreement between the US and the EU works out.  The EU appears unable to tackle the problems which it is faced with on all sides because it played with immigration like with fire, handled enlargement like a fairy tale, and inflicted monetary waywardness like some hide-and-seek game.

The United States had better call 911, and Europe had better regroup before it wakes up one morning not knowing whose head it finds on the pillow (thank you Mr. Churchill).   L'exception culturelle is not just a one-night stand !

At the end of the road the old lovers will reunite. The youthful eagerness will be replaced by mature necessity.

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