Thursday, July 10, 2014


Positive leaders fall often into two categories: redefining or transformational.  One could add other categories:  rhetorical or autocratic inter alia.  Today we are witnessing a surge of "self-deceptive leadership", anchored in untested beliefs and too stubborn to consider changing course.
Unfortunately, the West overdoses on the latter. The phantom of the EU plays in Brussels for a spare audience, while the American president sees his audience equally melt like ice.

Neither Brussels nor Washington is, for that reason, devoid of analytical talent.  It feels however as if the "virtual" has overtaken the "real":  one can lend itself to self-delusion or spin, while the other requires bold choices. Western leaders today tend to be more of the Sir Anthony Eden-type, a British P.M. who had it all going for him but who fell victim to the folly of having made the wrong choice to prove he was the right man.

As a consequence, the political literature is overtaken with more gravediggers than rational observers: "America is on its deathbed, in the emergency room, dispensable or absent." Actually there is some truth in the "absentee story."  This does not diminish at all the strides that the United States continue to make in technology, patents, energy, science, military supremacy or financial engineering.  Piketty's "r>g" is not an absolute after all.

The American dilemma looks more and more like a personalised one.  Candidate Obama often made the right assessment regarding the American overreach.  President Obama cannot ignore the expectations or consequences of a habit, call it an addiction.  The world has gotten used, for the better and for the worse, to American leadership.  Recognizing that this went too far maybe, and that other players have to be involved, is wise as long as a withdrawal reaction does not harm the patient. Now the disarray and lack of confidence in American mettle have overtaken a more sober analysis or correction.  The President appears unable to form an alliance of the like-minded and is losing the trust of the "given," allies (Germany) and partners (the Sunni states) alike.
US Congress meawhile which can hide its blatant irrelevance behind the unprofessional gauche machinery of a White House coterie which is becoming out of touch, while most think by now that it never came close to having a ounce of it. The President is isolated by a layer of asbestos. It is about time that insult stops being added to injury (Snowden/spy scandals, IRS, VA, immigration chaos, Benghazi, the rise of ISIS, and the list goes on ) and for the President to speak out rather than looking disengaged or in the wrong place (as in Texas yesterday).

This leads to self-deception and erroneous moves. The President looks all too often like a gifted actor in search of a role. The problem is that for an American president there is no other role than to fill the part for better or for worse.  JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan or G.W. Bush made mistakes, often tragic, but they never missed a line and would never have ventured in a un-presidential Chekhov soliloquy. The world might not like the conductor but without him the music will fall apart. There are no takers and the reputed competitors prefer to disturb rather than engage.  As a result the world isn't doing too well. The spreading brush fire brings with it the paradoxical message that, in the end, America remains indispensable and that the post-American world is not for today.  I hope that no 9/11 repeat will be necessary in order to shake the branches of the American system and put an end to the unappealing dysfunction that undermines all that the Founding Fathers created.  Mr. President, Hamlet is in Denmark!

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