Sunday, November 3, 2013


Years ago Jean Jacques Servan-Schreiber wrote the best seller "Le Defi Americain."  This apology of all things American became the talk of Europe.  Nowadays one is tempted to look more to the American malaise. The country looks, and feels, lost.  The branches of power appear to be in some suicidal agreement a trois.  It is becoming hard to foresee a direction either in internal or external affairs.  The fiascos multiply while the Executive appears too often to have become a prisoner of some "voyeuristic" metastasis.

The latest mishaps are well-known and need not be repeated ad infinitum. Worse is the Schadenfreude in certain parts of the world, Europe included. It could be expected that China or Russia (among many others) relish in watching the American hubris humiliated.  The Europeans, who are, rightly, highly critical of Uncle Sam leading (?) from behind should be more discreet and undergo some anger management. Besides, the spying saga is actually less worrisome than the impasse created by a US foreign policy which begins to look in urgent need of a compass.  If the United States catches a cold, the Europeans had better run for a flu vaccine. We are linked in too many ways and on too many interests to let a quarrel become a blindfold while the house is on fire.

President Obama has already become a "lame duck" and the political pundits are more preoccupied with the post-Obama than with current dysfunction.  This is dangerous at a time when the formerly globalized worldview is under attack.  We are witnessing a "gerrymandering" which is slicing the world into a perverse power struggle between actors and non-actors who have little interest in balance-of-power politics.  It is becoming urgent to put the US-EU Free Trade negotiations on the fast track. NATO needs more than mere a facelift, a strategic check-up. China and Russia have to help calming the turmoil in Northern Africa, the Middle East and the Caucasus because those arms on the cheap which cross borders and continents may as well end up haunting them. Besides, Russia might very well be a haven for Edward Snowden, but it better look over its shoulder when the Afghan/Pakistan beast sets loose. The same goes for China which will have to come to terms with the events in its Wild West and with a post-Dalai Lama Tibet.  Free-lancers like North Korea or Iran should no longer be pawns for some but should be monitored by all.

American leadership was often resented, but the absence thereof is now lamented. The President looks more and more detached at a time when his involvement is invaluable. Congress today is a stain on Washington's reputation. It is symptomatic that the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination is creating a wave of nostalgia for a time when leadership was respected or envied and when rhetoric ruled stronger than today's platitudes. The comparison between then and now is embarrassing.

The EU and the United States need a grand bargain rather than a quick fix. The world is in need of a Western Partnership as much as the EU and the United States need each other as reliable, respected partners. The pulpit is waiting for a Churchillian ( more than "reset" or "pivot" bons mots) address in Brussels, President Obama. Better speak to the ones who understand than to the ones who do not hear.
The movie of the moment in America is "All is lost". It shows what the Zetigeist is about.

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