Friday, August 15, 2014


In Italy for one month....
Don't forget Oscar Wilde : " Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."
A bientot !

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Mrs. Clinton's interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic felt like a bombshell, unlike Obama's "pinpricks" in northern Iraq.  She walked a fine line between "respect" and "correct." The impact of the latter sounds louder than the imprint of the former. Her rejection of the President's "Don't do stupid stuff" mantra in favor of "Great nations need organizing principles" is no longer a trench skirmish but an assault.  About Jihadism, Syria, Gaza, Mrs. Clinton often sounds more like a "neo-con reborn" than a middle-of-the-road Democrat.

This is obviously a difficult time for a president who is viscerally opposed to getting America into a war narrative. His body language betrays his psychological mindset, wary of any unilateral intervention not shared by like-minded countries.  He prefers "balances" to "checks" but meanwhile the Middle East and Ukraine have no time left for such "niceties."

Mrs. Clinton's rather abrupt presentation of her views is in stark contrast with Obama's proverbial caution. However she should not receive a free pass after a tenure as secretary of state wherein the ambiguities were many and the real achievements few.  She often avoids qualification and prefers to hide behind quantifying.  Views evolve and her new walk on the "wild side," while not devoid of contradictions, is still more appealing than the lame abstractions of the former law professor.  He dwells on procedure instead of acting. This can at times be appropriate but legal and metaphysical spirals do not halt a growing immediate danger such as ISIL, which is a de facto growing failed state. The President is making the same mistake he did with Russia, flippantly and erroneously "reduced" by him to just being a "regional" power.  It can be expected that if not hit hard and now, the off-shoots might lead to rude awakenings in Europe and the United States.

Little is said about the humanitarian aid.  Mount Sinjar has become less a potential killing-field. Erbil is no longer in immediate danger.  ISIL might as well change tactics and prioritize Baghdad (in political free-fall for the time being ) over the rush into the Kurdish region (bolstered by the U.S.).  Obama's righteous call for an inclusive Iraqi government falls on dead ears for now.  The EU is harder to locate in this quagmire than a needle in a haystack.  Other countries, with the exception of the UK, which dispose of aid apparatus are seemingly on holiday (Where is Belgium's B-Fast "First aid and support team" by the way?)

Mrs. Clinton likes tightropes and thin ice.  She needs the limelight (so does her husband). The political acrobatics of this first couple (in waiting) might well "boomerang."  One can be right as long as one does not overcharge. The Clintons like to mark out their future moves with early warning signs. They might overdo doing so, expediting saturation, which every politician rather prefers to avoid. The President has the tactical advantage of not having to run and he may come back from Martha's Vineyard refreshed and "rebooted."  Since his own future is no longer a bargaining chip he might as well get more involved, by choice rather than by necessity.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Thomas L. Friedman wrote a most interesting Op-Ed in the New York Times (August 9, 2014) wherein he relates a conversation he had with President Obama on August 8.  Observers have already noted a degree of "fatigue" and "disenchantment" in the President's latest public comments which are no longer tinted by "change" but with a new undertone of "spite."
Seldom has an American president had to deal with such a large number of dysfunctions at home and abroad.  He looks and acts tired, with good reason.  Ironically, this comes at the time of the 40th anniversary (?) of President Nixon's tragic "curtain call."

When reading about the President's thinking process, one is at the same time aware of his intelligence but also of a certain reluctance to claim the leadership which is inherent to the function. True, the unipolar world is gone and America can no longer do it all alone.  True also, partners are needed but Obama seems to play the waiting game rather than organizing an "order" under American "inspiration."  He does not appear to want to assume the fatality of American might.  He may feel uncomfortable having to be the ultimate mover and shaker but in the absence of a comparable "other" he must act alone.  Russia is again a Potemkin construction. China bothers, but remains largely unloved.  The EU runs on an empty tank. Who else ?

Now, again in northern Iraq the American president takes reluctant gradual actions, humanitarian and military, which are supposed, indirectly, to force an outcome to the stalemate in Baghdad. The Yazidis need urgent help (where is the EU?) and the Kurds should receive massive support.  ISIL should be taken care of without respite. Waiting for the Iraqis to come together is like "waiting for Godot."

It is certain that any move by President Putin in eastern Ukraine would have no military consequences from the West.  The half-baked commitments now make it even easier for Moscow to have its cake and eat it tomorrow, if Putin decides to do so. He might even consider the American military action in Iraq as a precedent for a Russian crusade in support of Russian minorities on the EU's eastern border.

ISIL has received a free pass until now because the American administration declined to intervene when it was easier and is disinclined to correct in the absence of a political deal in Baghdad, allowing the Jihadists to solidify their gains in Iraq and in the region.

The Gaza problem is becoming even more complex given the poor chemistry between the President and the Israeli P.M.  Allies can quarrel, as Roosevelt and Churchill did, in private but in public they should maintain self-control.  Now the situation has worsened because Hamas has won the media war in the United States and elsewhere.  It is not enough to praise Israel while at the same time introducing the notion of "disproportion" in the conversation.  One should abstain from airing ideas which can easily be manipulated for very inglorious motives.

It is normal that one is tempted to read in the President's assessments what is, unfortunately, becoming the fabric of America's gloomy Zeitgeist. This is not a structural "given" yet, but it might become so if the "sage" in the White House neglects for too long to reconnect with what de Gaulle called "une certaine idee de la France", applied to the United States.  Jefferson is seen as benevolent and enlightened but he did not hesitate to start unilaterally, without informing Congress, a war against the Barbary powers (Tripoli, Algeria, Morocco, Tunis).  Obama seems unwilling to consider his call as a global one.  He rightly said that he would never enter a "dumb war," but neither should he let neglect or lack of empathy overrule accepted priorities.

Washington's foreign policy looks too often like a quest for reasons "not to" rather than a search of a strategic rationale for reasons "to do." As a result, the deficit of aborted action climbs and the time-consuming negotiations (Iran) with no end in sight sap the energy for achieving "comprehensive" results elsewhere.

The President posed the question of whether the United States would have an answer for "the day after" (a military intervention).  I am of the opinion that if the question is raised "ante" it is a wise one, coming "post," it would be considered a repeat of the Iraq after-invasion blunder.

Monday, August 4, 2014


L'essayste Belge Jules Gheude estime que la scission de la Belgique est ineluctable. Sur le site Figaro il s'exprime ouvertement sur cette "mort annoncee".
Il est representatif d'un courant minoritaire qui favorise le rattachement de la Wallonie a la France, comblant ainsi les voeux les plus ardents de certains hommes politiques Flamands lasses de devoir renflouer leurs voisins Wallons.
La situation est souvent paradoxale. Le Roi Philippe a pris un bon depart, prenant de court tous ceux qui pensaient pouvoir le pieger. Les jeunes generations semblent plus tentes par l'integration dans un monde globalise que par la desintegration d'un etat-compromis. La Belgique a effectivement une memoire plus artificielle que reelle, mais la reside aussi sa resistance. Elle va de compromis a reforme, mais cela lui donne une souplesse et une faculte d'adaptation redoutables. Il arrive que l'absence d'histoire est preferable a son poids.

Ceci  etant, l'evolution en Ecosse et en Catalogne exercera certainement une influence ailleurs. Il est difficile de prevoir l'avenir mais je crois que l'electeur Ecossais, place devant le choix, se prononcera en faveur de la continuite du Royaume Uni, sous sa forme actuelle, moyennant une decentralisation et une autonmie elargies.

Il est incontestable que la Belgique continuera aussi d'evoluer et qu'elle sera sans doute de plus en plus confederale. L'absence de "drame" devrait faciliter des glissements a moyen terme qui ne devraient pas remettre certaines solidarites en question. Celles-ci existent deja au nivueu Europeen et regional, reduisant le poids de certaines contraintes centralisatrices.
Bien entendu, il est plus facile de trouver des arrangements entre plusieurs que de devoir les negocier a deux (je simplifie). Un tete a tete debouche fatalement sur un "score" qui laisse une partie sur la defensive. Il ne faut pas non plus se faire des illusions sur les tendances plus radicales propres a la generation dite du millenaire de part et d'autre. L'opportunisme de l'instant ne garantit point son endurance demain. 

Quoi qu'il en soit,et contairement a ce que prevoit Jules  Gheude, il apparait qu'il serait sans doute plus difficile de defaire que d'evoluer. Ce pays "virtuel" est coriace et il tire sa force d'une artificialite affichee. Il a une marge de manoeuvre parce qu'il ne doit ni pretendre, ni jouer la continuation de ce qu'il n'a jamais ete. Il est en definitive le veritable laboratoire Europeen et devance les mutations sociales, economiques, politiques qui gagneront l'ensemble de L'Union Europeenne. Bruxelles en est le centre sismique. Il est des lors fatal que les equilibres peuvent apparaitre precaires meme si, en fin de compte, ils resistent.

Friday, August 1, 2014


The Middle East is a house on fire. The aborted "unconditional" three-day ceasefire looked from the start more like a flight from "fatigue" rather than a real will to negotiate (what?).  Egypt might have tried to come up with something but as long as ideas are suggested by too few, they risk falling on too many deaf ears.  Besides, how would the parties have come together, given their mutual incompatibilities?  The toolbox of "diplomatic acrobatics" looks depleted.  Ad hoc recipes, applied in former times to larger long term geopolitical questions, do not work any longer.  Opportunistic and contradictory imperatives are short-term minded and generally avoid "the heart of the matter" in every way.  When a "third man" is needed we are often in for trouble or for a mismatch confirmed.  John Kerry knows the taste of ingratitude and unreliability all too well.

The macabre rules.  Hamas uses its people as shields and death as a prop, which makes for "good demagogic" television.  Israel is losing the media war and was expected to swallow the ceasefire, which would indeed have been welcome if the other side would have played along.  What is at stake is more than Gaza. The situation might as well be the preview of a deconstructed Arab world (Iran included) wherein a topsy-turvy chaos rules supreme.  Nowadays it's difficult to know where anybody stands, or with whom.  Some allies of the US in the region service Hamas. Sunnis look elsewhere rather than having to side with Hamas.  Syria, Iraq and Libya are hardly alive.  ISIS consolidates its territorial grip.  Egypt, Turkey and Qatar play poker, not with one another but against each other, for influence.  Once again the United States tries to bring some rational perspective to this hellish situation, but it looks as if the takers are few and the appreciation is in short supply.

I continue to think that the individual approach which might still work for a ceasefire is doomed to fail when the stakes become regional.  Only a gathering of all, with the Quartet, can oblige the parties to confront their responsibilities and choices in the open.  The shuttle between A and B is a thing of the Balfour past or Kissinger diplomacy when the region was not yet overrun by hybrids. The second invasion of Iraq and the disastrous management of its aftermath created a sinkhole wherein all better intentions disappear.  The Saudi peace plan might still preserve a two-state solution and marginalize Hamas and Hezbollah.  They have no say in a new Middle East as long as they stick to their unacceptable, heinous platforms.  Only if they are isolated by their own "brethren" might they finally depart from their "killer instinct."  Otherwise, left to their own devices, they will continue to adhere to an agenda of death, denial and betrayal.

It is to be hoped that the American secretary of state will be willing to consider a gathering of all Arab countries and require them to come first of all to terms with what "is" before inviting them, at a second stage, to discuss about what "can be in the future."   Everything has to be put on the table before it can be cleared.  The Annapolis formula has to be disregarded in favor of a more "working party" formula which can be upgraded later on.

A further complication is that the EU is hapless and that Russia might be reluctant to help, under the current geopolitical circumstances. The Americans stand alone and get flack from all sides, some of which is absolutely despicable.  The anti-Israel prejudice is equally unacceptable, given Hamas' total disrespect for human lives under its supposed protection.  Using its people to cover for tunnels and rockets is a war crime. The UN should differentiate blunders (which unfortunately occur) from the deliberate putting of Gaza civilians in harm's way. 

On an additional somber note, the flaring up of anti-Semitism in Europe is ominous. The concern for all should not be misdirected in the condemnation of one!