Wednesday, December 30, 2015

EXIT 2015

This horrible year of slaughter is tragically illustrated by the picture of the body of Aylan Kurdy, the Syrian child drowned in the indifferent waters of the Mediterranean. The weight of all that went wrong in the world, from Paris to Syria, was too much for this fragile frame to carry on living. It is heartbreaking.


Attempting to arrive at a coherent worldview today is an uphill battle.  Fluctuation rules.
Surrounded by tectonic collisions, one is, naturally, tempted to become alarmed. One should accept from the start to differentiate the map from the territory.

The EU looks bad. The institutional framework has become largely unconvincing.  Still, the Union resists despite the negatives which pile u : the Euro, Ukraine, the refugees, terrorism, the ambiguity of the UK, the populist surge.  Nevertheless there is also a rebound on almost all fronts and, paradoxically maybe, an awakening with respect to the financial, security, military and political challenges is undeniable. The situation remains risky but in the end one might come to the conclusion that the German way saved the day.  If the French were able to appeal to muscular pride, Germany injected dispassionate reason into what appeared to be getting out of control.

The US is in the electoral hell of their own making. The candidates want to appropriate the mantel of American exceptionalism, which was present at the creation but since has fallen victim to the current culture wars. The foreign policy is less incoherent than what many observers pretend but it has become almost over-doctored, academic, lacking the seal of popular approval.  President Obama is a loner here and abroad, surrounded by an echo chamber which deflects more than it connects. Difficult choices regarding the Middle East, the nuclear deal with Iran, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Russian Federation, China, need a more convincing narrative than the Byzantine "take it or leave it" which only antagonizes already bruised egos.  The "pivot" to Asia is still the right bet on the future but it was derailed by other events. Those bumps in the road need more co-operating with some, rather than ignoring most.  Former "colonial" left-over borders and maps do not cover the "territory" any longer. The better option is to face it, "together" with others,rather than  maintaining a fiction "alone".  Syria is a "mirage" and the spoils should be dealt with, with ALL interested parties.

Latin America is on the move.  The pendulum to the left got a black eye in Argentina and Venezuela. Brazil might be the next in line. Washington's opening to Cuba deprived the usual anti-American chorus line of its major argument. Now that a new normal is in the making it would be inexcusable if, yet again, the United States would lose interest at a time when the overall political equilibrium has been reset in their favor. 

China is showing signs of metal fatigue. The economy, the environmental malaise, the anti- corruption campaign and the hardening of the political climate are indicators that not all is well.  Xi Jinping tries to dislodge the Americans out of Asia but Washington can still counter Beijing's ambitions through Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, the Philippines, Kampuchea and Singapore...among others. The Taiwan/China summit was more an au revoir than an a bientot for nowThe South China Sea dispute is a serious one and is not without parallel with the Ukraine grab. Both test the resistance of the West and need to be monitored with force, coated in savoir faire.  Wars start more often by reason of false premises than by rational choice.
China is shrewd enough to be cautious (as is Putin).  It had better start to behave in matters of trade, currency, counterfeit, and undermining emerging economies by way of intellectual property distortion. 

 Lots of loose opportunistic groupings, like the Shanghai cooperation or the BRICS, are photo- ops for yesterday's illusions.

Africa is a sand-glass, wherein the problems of the northern bulb slowly fills the southern one. Terrorism has reached the sub-Saharan region and becomes a problem in addition to the many structural deficiencies which exist already. The post-Mandela South Africa is making an ominous U-turn.  Zimbabwe is the new heart of darkness and the Chinese are there to deplete, not to heal.  The EU has a role to play and a responsibility to assume, together with the US. The continent risks running empty if not more is done to halt the looming human catastrophe. The flotillas coming to Europe will only multiply if the problems remain unattended.

Most existing state defense and research mechanisms are poorly managed. Unlike the private sector, they miss both opportunity and danger.  Space is already taken away from its former guardians, cyber-security and technology are sub-contracted. Terrorism rules in absentia of a more sophisticated co-ordination between competing surveillance forces.  Climate change has become a political football in the United States, opposing mostly Democrats and Republicans, locked in some biblical/fossil-fuel aberration.

Utopia would demand a government of wise men and women.  Reality teaches us that the future might be more of the same. With some degree of intellectual humility, the most arduous problems can still be solved if they can be lured into therapy.  This requires some form of ad hoc consent. The more civilized world needs an ideological cease-fire to concentrate on the essential battle against ISIL.  It finds itself in a cramped lifeboat, a situation which makes for unexpected partners and does not suffer fools.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Another year almost gone, another hangover staying.  Pessimists argue that this past year was one of the worse.  Optimists are hard to find nowadays.  Realists might argue that there is a need for "perspective"...good luck!  Indeed, there have been other years in history that were so much worse and any comparison risks looking almost indecent.  It is just that 2015 was so unbearably mediocre, if it had not been for the tragedies which extracted indignation out of the epidemic stupor.

The EU continued to look like a ship of fools. The US holds onto its reputation of being the worse poker player in town.  Russia is getting more and more enmeshed in its global Ponzi scheme. China is in full Qing replay mode.  The BRICS (remember?) are like a collapsing hedge fund.  The semi-states deflate.  The non-states roam.  Worse is that the "normal" states are also besieged by the "new normal":  unconvincing recovery, structural income inequality (Thomas Piketty's r > g big-bang), home-grown terrorism, cyber imbalance.

Are we doomed?  I don't think so. The private sector has never been as inventive. Technologies, upstarts, pharmaceuticals, ideas in architecture, climate, health care have seldom been as bold. States, for their part, look tired, bankrupt and unable to keep up with the myriad advances which shattered the old Keynesian mindset.  The former L'Etat c'est moi fell victim to the new innovators, financiers and entrepreneurs. The old behaviourist reflex has been dealt a fatal blow by the likes of Jobs, Bezos, Ma, Branson, etc.  The lab is ahead of the bureaucrats.
Amazon might actually be ISIL's most performing enemy!

This agonizing miserable year comes not alone to its inglorious end. The nation states, the post- WWII architecture, the accepted military strategies are in free fall.  So will the rag pack of zealots and killers who operate on borrowed time and largess.

While losers fight in the name of the absurd, the unknowns--space, social media, medicine, high-tech--become the fiefdom of the willing.  Other yet undiscovered incursions into the unimaginable will follow.  No longer will outsiders be the state's clients, the state will become the entrepreneurs' servant. Already the Neue saglichkeit in world affairs has dislodged ideology and weakened alliances. The already shaky old-fashioned power structures will have no other choice than to adapt. In a shipwreck one does not choose his or her lifeboat, the nearest will do.

The leaders in the multiple-G meetings, or the ones we have seen lately in Paris, look like a congress of losers, blind to evidence, late for urgency and timid in the face of innovation. Yesterday's "social contract" was a great achievement. The progress made should not be forgotten, neither should it be rolled back, where and if it works. A new contract is needed so that regulation no longer stands for strangulation. The future today happens outside of the political realm. There is no need to plead in favour of some Utopia however. One must readjust unfitting structures and enter new poles of excellence. When confronted with a new generation of life and death challenges, out-manoeuvered Fourth Republic modes, EU's sullen corridors, or delusional uni-polar terms, are out of place. 

Change is hard to come by.  The new "explorers" are waiting in the wings for their hour. A reversal of fortune becomes urgent when the Barbarians are no longer at the gates but among us.  Should we need another Lusitania or Pearl Harbor to wake up or shall we go for another Munich? Progress should receive a pole position rather than just the occasional accolade in Davos.   That yearly "magic mountain" retreat is no more than a temporary respite, after all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


December is supposed to be a month of rejoicing and family togetherness.  This was especially true in America which was used to retrograde in a collective stupor, fed with resuscitated Christmas carols and syrupy "ambiance".  In 2015, the strident is louder than the melodious.

Despite John Updike's saying that "America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy", the remedy doesn't work here and now.  In this vast echo chamber frustration and dysfunction have overtaken the chromatic scale, while unwelcome omens prevail.  The great men who founded the republic were extraordinary in their common ambition and in their intellectual creativity. Seldom have so few created a Res publica which may still be the most ambitious project ever conceived.  But today it is hard to believe that the likes of Jefferson and Hamilton existed elsewhere but on a Broadway stage.

The US presidentials do not project a flattering image, on either side. The Democrats sleepwalk for the time being, since the stage for Mrs. Clinton's coronation has been set.  The Republicans forgot that they were indeed the Grand Old Party and have become a chorus line of grey angry men and one woman, equally vinegary. 

Only Donald Trump emerges out of this uninspiring lot.  He is a ruthless,  an "entertaining" manipulator, devoid of vision and gifted with a visceral ability to play on the most unappealing instincts of the frustrated, the uninformed and the bullies. Trump is actually a dangerous man. His words are like checks which bounce. His egocentric paranoia is free on bail and his bluster on international affairs would lead him to be DOA upon election night.

For now he rallies masses like no one else and his bombast reduces his opponents to the status of sleeper cells. His inroads indicate that his "utterances" resound. The Republican establishment now lives on Pepto Bismol.  If he were the "chosen one", Mrs. Clinton would certainly tower over Trump's undignified insults.  He should, nevertheless, not be 
underestimated.  He goes for the plexus and it might be difficult for anyone to keep cool when the elephant breaks loose.  It was to be expected that he relates to Putin, although he doesn't share the Russian president's mastery of history and strategy...inter alia.

Trump's interacting with the crowds shows clearly the authoritarian and paternalism-like technique of this uncommon practitioner.  His act is his message.  Both are equally unappealing. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015


It appears now that the Belgian police missed Salah Abdeslam by some minutes when Brussels was on "lock out". Police raids could nevertheless not be initiated, in consideration of a legal time-ban  (9 pm / 5 am).

This is surreal. That the Brussels police apparatus is already sliced up like some souffle rate is hard to understand, but that a search operation was disabled during the night "slot", is absurd.
Belgium, being an arrangement rather than a state, lacks both hard- and soft-power (unlike the Netherlands or Luxembourg).  The government is made up by parties which want to salvage what is left and by others who want to bury the leftovers of the State. They form an opportunistic alliance which, for the time being, seeks to prioritize the economy--rightly so. This does not imply that the separatist North has given up on its dismantling agenda. Already, the responsibilities of the Federal authority are shrinking by the day. The regions discuss climate as if different weather conditions prevail over some square miles (true, it is all about money).

The tragedy is that the many institutions which were obliged to choose Brussels, caught the Belgian disease. The EU has not become more European but, as it turned out, more Belgian. NATO rots near the Brussels airport and SHAPE sulks near Mons.  Belgium will never achieve the trans-substiantiating stage. Many individuals there are remarkable, but the system is not! Suffice  to see the mayor of Molenbeek...Quod demonstrandum est.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


There is so little to celebrate, that to snub the climate deal would be totally inappropriate. The 2-degrees Celsius warming goal is the objective.  Meanwhile, the warming will in reality be limited to 3-degrees Celsius. The five-year revision clause regarding greenhouse gas emissions is a positive added value. 

It would be naive to argue that all is solved. The targets are not legally binding and developing countries are still set against measures which might slow growth. China chose to join the "developing camp", which is ironic.  The island nations did not get their 1.5% goal.  Financial commitments remain hazardous.  Still the world came together!

Of course the debate will continue, especially in the United States, where the Republicans are hostage to coal, guns and Evangelicals. President Obama would like his administration to be considered as the climate change much for Al Gore.  The French scored a real diplomatic coup and their foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, deserves praise for his negotiating skills.

One wishes that consensus could be found on other issues, among countries with different, often contradictory interests.  Such a breakthrough looks unrealistic. The clash of civilizations is on a collision course.  It will get even worse if ISIL is not deprived of the land which feeds it or the media which multiply it. The silent majority of Muslims will remain out of sight as long as the nihilistic narrative gets a free-rein. It looks as if, in the short run, no reversal is to be expected. The bold beholders of martyrdom will continue to strike and the West, prisoner of absurd rules of engagement of its own making, will remain a target rather than the game-changer. Its "heroic" leaders will not forgo their vacation nevertheless.  San Bernardino might even get a stop-over on the way to Hawaii.  Who knows?

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Not a day goes by without a piece of the President's policies being dislodged or weakened.  As the saying goes:  defeat has many "claimers". The Republicans are waging their own Jihad against anything the President does, for their own reasons, primary to have some smoke-screen handy, in order to hide their more fratricidal doings. The White House acts like Houdini, unable to disentangle himself after gone a trick too far.

One by one the goals of the President backfire or get stuck in the mix of Democratic amateurism and Republican obstructionism. Obama has lost his ability to communicate and he lost the common sense to evaluate the public mood. He touts climate change at a time when the Americans are Christmas shopping for guns rather than being glued to the Weather Channel.

The mood in the US is one of disbelief.  Americans are smart enough to realize that for now they have become "almost dispensable" in world affairs. The current Trump poll numbers are more the result of "pique" than of "hype".  When diminished or uneasy, countries tend to become insular and go for noise. Trump is, by the way, a formidable competitor playing with bombast on frustration and a new inferiority complex in the land.  If elected (no chance) he would be a pariah in the world, making Putin "thoughtful" in comparison.

The President should take some cues from de Gaulle.   Rather than sticking to what doesn't work, he should change course...and personnel.   He obviously wanted to reboot America first and re-dimension its involvement in world affairs. What he got is a nervous breakdown at home and a devastating reality-check abroad.  As a result the United States is in a real confidence/socio-cultural impasse. The intelligentsia chooses for the Aventine, while the demagogues encircle the Capitol.  Obama looks totally out of touch. The knowledgeable scholar of yesterday became a president, ignored almost. The Pax Americana is crumbling around the world, while the homeland is besieged by the most unwelcome but understandable challenges.
"New Reality" among allies is no substitute for former sharing of moral principles.

These times call for a study of character to unlock where the President stands. Given his intellect, the result should be interesting.  Seldom has such potential been wasted in the minds and hearts of so many. The world is orphaned without American leadership.  Babble is no substitute for speech.   Obama's legacy might be a sad one, indeed.

Monday, December 7, 2015


Donald Trump, Republican presidential candidate, said that he wanted to ban Muslims from entering the United States.  In doing so, he offended all the USA stands for and he cornered himself into some "neo-fascist" niche.

It is one thing to condemn radical Jihadists, it is another all together to resort to a vocabulary which has no legitimacy in the American psyche. Few countries have been as good and generous in accepting plurality in their midst...contrary to Europe.  Muslims are in their vast majority Americans first. To confuse all of them with a "bad lot" is a fraudulent assessment. In doing so, Trump was able to insult all Muslims, to provide ISIL with counter-argument and get Mrs. Clinton and Dick Cheney to agree.   Who could ever have imagined that to happen?

The anti-Trump uproar, coming after the San Bernardino massacre, shows that America can still relate to its Jeffersonian heritage.


It is difficult for an atheist to write about what appears to be, in part, the paroxysm of a religious anachronistic aberration.  On the other hand, denial of  "fact" is not a sustainable attitude for a free spirit. Lately Paris and San Bernardino speak louder than words...and prayers.

The violence waged by Islamic Jihadists has no boundaries.  It becomes more difficult by the hour to differentiate between good--if there is room for such a thing in a demented storyline--and bad Islam.  First, it is becoming absurd to try to dislodge the better parts of the Koran from the bad ones. Secondly, too many Imans talk more often as the heirs of the heinous than as the interpreters of what might still be worth rescuing. Muslim worshippers can be brainwashed rather than enlightened. Third, the silence or absence of indisputable condemnation of unspeakable mayhem is "scandalous".  Muslims are too often shy to recognize the evil in their midst.  As a result, the good ones (the majority) are taken hostage by the radical ones.

The West finds itself in a Gordian situation. It would prefer to avoid any sort of profiling. Intelligence is called upon but it does not always work and the sleeper cells multiply in a society which rests on pluralism and diversity. The courtship of the enemy with death is alien to a Western mindset which is bewildered by the rising nihilism.

The "caliphate" gave ISIL an added raison d'etre.   Contrary to Al Quaeda, ISIL has recreated the myth of a global caliphate and was also able to consolidate a land grab in Syria and Iraq. The two should not be confused.  Territory belongs to the praxis/logistics while the caliphate appeals to history/logos.   One is a concrete basis for commerce (?), regrouping, training, services, marriage bureau (yes); the other is a claim to the former Muslim commonwealth, which spanned an area from Spain to India and came as close as Vienna.

ISIL is not going to hide in the mountains of Afghanistan. It chooses the "plains". It is well organised, with a mastery of social media. It does not play defense, it chooses offence. It does not suggest past grievances, it claims future appropriation.

The West bombs what is no longer bomb-able and this strategy looks almost pathetic, given the dichotomy which exists between an organized coalition and a mutant adversary. History does not repeat itself in the same ways.  While there are similarities between past situations, when an "advanced" power falls victim to an enemy wrongly perceived as inferior, the comparison stops there. Former wars of liberation rested mostly on rational principles such as Marxism, anti-colonialism.  Here the main factor is a religious fanatical strand which is able to sell death for an aftermath of virgins and pleasure. How sick can a creed be?

Instead of fighting the abstract, one has to consider going for the "jugular".  Such a move cannot be done ex abrupto. A US diplomatic offensive is needed, mostly with the Sunni states and with the permanent members of the Security Council.  Iran, Israel, Turkey must be part of the equation.   So must Assad, the Palestinians and the non-states (by way of a third party). ISIL must be hit where it hurts most, in its territorial claim. The territory it covers needs to be taken away by all means.  Its de facto capital must be pulled out from under its control, as Berlin was taken from Hitler.  ISIL must be rolled back to the bunker of history, by all conceivable means.  If informed and consulted, too many Arab states will rejoice and the disenfranchised left in our midst will choke on their own anger. I fully realize the complexity and also the backlash, but at times one needs action. Leave the soliloquy for the matinee audience. 

This not about regime change or about a search for what is "not", as was the case in Iraq or to a lesser extent in Libya. This is about giving the fatal blow. This needs fast consultation with the Arab League, the OAU,  NATO, revised rules of engagement, and has to end in the destruction of Raqqah (in Syria) as a first step.  Symbols legitimate, their destruction hastens the end. 

The discussion in the United States lacks direction. The "left" injects gun control, while the right--in the first place the Evangelicals--tries to import other issues such as abortion, climate change, the overall right to bare arms, immigration, into the debate. The current times require clarity of purpose, not some anti-intellectual confusion. The timid hesitations at the top create an opening for grievances and innuendos which only debilitate the argument.

The President was supposed to make a transformational entree in the conversation. His address to the nation on December 6 left everybody confused. He spent more time talking about the "good" Muslims (most are) than about the heart of the matter. The strategy of the Administration remains unchanged, while proven ineffective. The broad-brush therapy, wherein gun control (a separate priority) is smuggled into a larger issue, is counter-productive. At the end of the day, the Oval Office speech fell flat. The strategy (?) remains the same, the worries unattended, the priorities "on sick leave".  The Americans were served the old professorial abstract Obama remedy, analytical to a point, ineffectual as can be the case. They hoped for a "reboot". What they got was the same old dish, warmed-up for the occasion. The President convinced few and disappointed most.   ISIL had a good night!

Thursday, December 3, 2015


The photos which were published on the occasion of the President's youngest daughter's 14th birthday show Obama as a proud father, self-secure, happy. Obviously he is a great family man.

His comments regarding the San Bernardino shootings show another Obama, a man who appears to be unable to leave behind some form of "holding pattern".  At this early stage of the FBI inquiry caution is required, of course. Nevertheless, the linguistic contortions of the President, who remains unwilling to call things by their name or to keep issues separate, are becoming a liability.  He leaves both the Americans "word shocked" and foreign leaders at a loss. In Heidegger's words he is more sollen than sein. His perceived aloofness has created a credibility gap. Foes and friends alike find themselves in a remake of "Delphy sur Potomac".

The Administration makes links where they are not warranted, creates expectations that stay empty, and takes half-measures which are unconvincing. From climate change to Syria, from terrorism to Iran, policies look shaky, in part because the President chooses to remain stubbornly hostage to his former commitments. Today's problems will not be solved by yesterday's policies. The man of "change" risks being seen as the ultimate immobiliser. 

America looks stuck in an approximated mood.  The Fed, the Pentagon, State, are perceived as being frozen in some form of "airplane mode".  Everything in the world seems to happen despite the United States, rather than because of them. This gives rise to a frustration, especially among Republicans. Unfortunately, they react in the worst possible fashion, making a further right-turn which pushes them into a religious/populist/reactionary frenzy. The Democrats resort to their spending/regulatory habits, with disregard (for now) for some form of financial discipline.

When America does not lead, understudies step in. This seldom benefits the quality of the play.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Le roi et la reine des Belges etaient en France quand Bruxelles etait sous haute surveillance.
Et alors ?
Neanmoins les questions sont legitimes, bien que les intentions soient au dessus de tout soupcon.
On est en droit de s'interroger sur la qualite de "l'entourage", qui est suppose conseiller le roi. Le capitaine du navire est suppose rester a bord en temps d'incertitude. 
Les temps du "twitter" accordent au moindre geste ou pas, qui pourraient apparaitre inopportuns, une importance qu'ils ne meritent pas. Autant eviter les pieges !

Monday, November 30, 2015


Apres avoir ete condamnee dans la presse internationale, suite aux attentats de Paris, la Belgique se fait une nouvelle fois remarquer a Paris.
L'ineffable Geert Bourgeois joue  cavalier (?) seul dans le dossier climatique...jusqu'au "finish"? De toute facon quelle que soit l'issue, l'on retiendra le ridicule plutot qu'un eventuel retour a une forme de sagesse retrouvee, condamnee d'avance pour cause "d'arrivee tardive".

Le gouvernement federal est l'otage de ses pieces demembrees. Une nouvelle fois le "mal Belge"est apparu dans toute sa mesquinerie minable.
Plusieurs fois j'ai critique l'aspect ridicule et franchement provincial de la reforme de l'etat qui privilegie les tendances les plus obscurantistes et qui penalise les ajustements necessaires pour une insertion, difficile au depart, dans l'ere de la globalisation, de l'innovation et des defis politique, strategique et technologique.

En Belgique les regions, a des degres divers, sont trop souvent impermeables a la critique exterieure, preferant etre les aveugles dans le pays des borgnes.
Monsieur Bourgeois, le Voltaire d'Izegem (LOL), est le maitre des mesalliances (avec les Pays Bas). J'entends ce que nos voisins en pensent, mais ce sourd Trissotin a la carte ne veut rien entendre. Pourtant son parti occupe des postes de choix dans le gouvernement federal. Il est vrai que les medias etrangers ont abandonne tout espoir de comprendre tout cela,  preferant couvrir la Belgique sous le voile pudique de "laboratoire surrealiste". Cela est genereux, eu egard a la mediocrite du scenario. Suite au prochain numero !

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Tomorrow, November 30, 2015, Paris will see a gathering of world leaders who are supposed to arrive at a consensus regarding the ways, goals and means to deal with climate change. There are still deniers, although all evidence is available which gives ample proof that climate change is happening at a pace which is alarming. 

The issue is one of a fast approaching menace. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that another danger should receive top priority and that the flock of world leaders should  likewise have come together to discuss and sort out responsibilities regarding the fight against radical Islam (or whatever you want to name it). The priorities are wrong, seen in the" current " context.

We are confronted by a nihilistic scourge which wants to wipe history, creativity, pluralism, and secularism from the face of the civilized world. Words like beauty, tolerance, and empathy do not figure in the "mission statement" of the terrorists.  Palmyra, beheadings, and genocide are the trademark of zealots without "humanity". We are at war, indeed !

The front line lies in an existential battle for life against a multiplicative of death. Climate change is most important indeed but comes second now, whatever the US president, wrongly so, argues. Things are no longer equal, they need prioritization. The Paris conference risks ending up in ambiguous deals and, more dangerously, becoming a covert event which allows the ones under suspicion elsewhere to walk out with a free-pass here. That which is on everybody's mind will not be on the agenda.  "Ceci n'est pas le climat".  

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Paris is always a great city.  It is also stressed and often rude.  Since the massacre, the neurotic aspects of Parisian life have disappeared and the indifferent waiters have become again the sophisticated handlers and voyeurs in the vein of Sartre, the Left Bank and Charles Trenet. Out of the ashes of tragedy, Paris seems to be reborn for awhile as the city of lights and love. The cover of The New Yorker  (Nov. 30, 2015) speaks louder than words.

There are other lucky cities like New York, Prague, Rome, which might descend into hell at times, but never lose their claim to the mythology of being the first-tier enchantresses.  Other cities are in various degrees relegated to the inferior classes. Whatever their merits--London, Berlin-- they lack the "existential proximity response" factor in the psyche.  Humans need "such stuff of as dreams are made of ".  The same goes for personalities who for some reason resist all attempts (including those of their own making) to diminish them and have a staying-power larger than time.. Churchill, JFK, Mandela.  One remembers the grace and prefers to avoid what Churchill called the times of the "black dog".

France does not suffer from low self-esteem. For now its cafes, intellectuals, rituals have received a prolongation of life, until arrogance displaces the good-will yet again.  The good thing is that people will continue to flock to the magical cities because they provide allegories and dreams. Tragedy only multiplies that appeal. Other cities remain stuck in a pathological lack of recognition.  They are shunned, and when visited it is for reason rather than for pleasure. They will never be validated. On the contrary, the cloud of impatient despise which hangs over their urbanized banality will only increase.

The current "Paris +" vogue will not last but for the time-being both the tragic play and the actors deserve each other. Not since the funeral of Princess Diana and 9/11 have so many been touched by a grief which is as much rooted in the tragedy played-out as in the increasing loss of wonder and confidence which plagues the Western psyche today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

THE NEW YORK TIMES (Nov. 25, 2015 ) about BELGIUM.

The article in the New York Times regarding Belgium and the homegrown terrorists is devastating.  The numerous shortcomings of the existing macro- and micro-policy making or management structures are yet again under attack.  It is hard to defend what is so blatantly inefficient and not working.  On numerous occasions I have joined the chorus of the "J'accuse". Walking in Brussels is like visiting a lab where all forms of terrorism samples are stored with disregard for possible contamination consequences. 

Nevertheless, I have also some sympathy for the prime minister and his government who have to work under the strain of past mistakes. The minister of the interior (Flemish nationalist) has acted loyally and the population at large has remained stoic.  Belgium is more an "arrangement" than a "nation", therefore, it is in a permanent flux of revision, unlike countries with a defined, proven identity. This "fluidity" has its merits, and many shortcomings. The country has been able to avoid unrest or real social chaos. At the same time it has missed opportunities, given the growing centrifugal forces. The state is not "failed" (yet), it is "weak". 

The outcome of the current impasse should be one of a more centralized chain of command in various sectors, transparent mission statements and of getting rid of overlapping, unnecessary, competing structures. The country can be resilient, as it is now.  It does not have to become a copycat ersatz of centralized others. It just has to admit that in its current form, the system doesn't function as it should.  The climate change dispute between regions now is the perfect example of the implosion of rationality.

The "ridicule", if not addressed head on , can easily become a disease with fatal consequences .

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


It is becoming more difficult by the hour to come to terms with the accumulative contradictory challenges the world needs to face.  We find ourselves also in some vacuum of leadership.
Churchill, de Gaulle, Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, George W. Bush (after 9/11) were able to anchor their most felt convictions in the minds and hearts of their constituents. Sometimes this reciprocal "contract" lasted, other times it ended up broken. While it lasted it rested on conviction, given that at times it started with some form of rite of passage, as was the case with de Gaulle's famous "Je Vous ai compris".  The point is that great statesmen have been able to process their own beliefs in a larger consensus. They did not need reinforcement or flattery. Suffice that they were the owners of their personal judgement and that they had the gift of "persuasion".

After watching the press conference of Presidents Obama and Hollande today, one can rightly end up being perplexed. The American president filibustered and his French counterpart sounded more pathetic than existential.  Obama looks as entitled to the perks of the presidency as he remains reluctant to admit blunders after his infamous red line. The French show guts but are realistic enough to realize that the American side remains a Platonic partner. They stand mostly alone, while the EU is becoming farcical.

True, it is hard to come by great leadership anywhere. Putin is manipulative, Xi Jinping is Sino-selfish and the rest are corralled into the climate change enclosure.  ISIL meanwhile is a sophisticated multinational of "desperados" which runs away with headlines, prime-time news, random killings under the umbrella of the euphemisms dear to this White House. Radical Islam is the enemy and no band-aid can cover up the horror its stands for.  Likewise, the Arab "allies" have to be notified that modernity is not something to be lived in London or New York alone and that pluralism has to become a "home product".  It is too easy to be nouveau riche   outside while perpetuating the "stone age" inside.

Hollande is now touring Berlin and Moscow. In Brussels, NATO (after the Russian/Turkey "incident") and the EU+Turkey will convene. In the absence of any form of leadership and because of the continuation of asymmetric alliances of convenience, the air strikes will continue for some unforeseeable time.  So will ISIL...while Syria looks more and more like warfare with mirrors.  Iraq became George W. Bush's graveyard.  Syria looks like it is waiting for the Obama administration's demise.


Contrairement a son pere, Louis Michel, brillant mais envahissant, Charles Michel est une personnalite discrete autant qu'intelligente . Il conduit une experience politique innovatrice,  et il s'est avere pouvoir maitriser les ecueils. Le dernier en date, lie aux evenements de Paris, vient de prouver que l'homme n'est pas banal.
Heritant d'un pays fracture, dans lequel les pouvoirs d'un autre age existent dans un etat de competition permanente, sur le dos de la transparence et de l'efficacite, il essaye de preserver un minimum de coherence.
Les defis contemporains requierent la mobilisation de moyens. Or le demantelement continu du "pre carre" de l'Etat a conduit a l'erosion du "made in Belgium". Il convient d'arreter cette hemorragie qui frappe de plein fouet le commerce, la credibilite, la surete et la creativite. Charles Michel semble etre conscient de cette menace. Les recentes peripeties "regionales" autour de la prochaine conference de Paris sur le changement climatique ont demontre combien le ridicule est l'interface de l'arrangement constitutionnel  Belge. 
Son pari de gouverner avec le parti le plus "autonomiste" du pays est risque mais pourrait encore s'averer avoir ete une manoeuvre Machiavelique apres coup.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


I suggest Tim King's commentary in POLITICO " Belgium is a failed state" as mandatory reading for the too many governments in Belgium. They might take notice...or not ?!

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed. The French police gave him his "martyr"exit.
There is no reason for rejoicing though. Every day brings a further  indication of the range and sophistication of the Jihadists. The death of one mastermind is almost trivial, given the many who wait for their hour.
France should not carry the burden of the campaign against radical Islamists alone. Certain comments coming out of Washinghton are really disturbing. It looks as if the administration has found yet again an other sophism to do too little...the "strategic patience" suggested by the White House and the rumors regarding Art.5 of NATO are frankly disturbing. Patience, when applied to ISIS, is almost a slap in the face of the victims. 
The United States are no sanctuary, protected by Dr. Stangelove's security apparatus and by the oceans. When the worse will happen, the administration's " reluctant nonchalance" will haunt them , rightly so. President Hollande has often been criticized as "weak". By comparison president Obama becomes "irrelevant", while  his NSC team looks like a grouping of amateurs.
When there is only the Iran deal to crow about, the situation verges on the absurd. The moral abdication only feeds the despise in others.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


L'apres Paris n'est pas une fin, c'est un commencement.
Il n'est plus necessaire d'imaginer des scenarios catastrophe. Le coup d'envoi a ete donne. La certitude est desormais affaire de constat et non d'hypothese.
La France semble avoir bien compris l'ubiquite et la complexite du danger. 
Le president Americain au contraire donne l'impression d'etre prisonnier de son syllogisme permanent, pour le moins aleatoire.
Les retombees se succedent et s'accumulent, mettant surtout en lumiere les faiblesses qui sont apparues partout.

La Belgique est un maillon faible dans la ligne Maginot edifiee afin de contenir la vague Djihadiste.
Deja dans mon essai "Traces" j'avais mis au pilori les faiblesses du modele Belge. Aujourd'hui la Belgique paye le prix de cette politique de clocher qui a conduit  a une division de moyens, de l'information et d'une strategie partagee. Les defis modernes requierent davantage d'interventions mobilisatrices en amont. Or c'est le contraire qui s'est produit. Ridicule dans le dossier "rechauffement climatique", le pays apparait pathetique dans les domaines de controle policier, de guerre cybernetique, ou du renseignement..
Deja les institutions nationales survivent a peine a Bruxelles. Le reste est a l'avenant et il ne faut pas attendre des interets provinciaux qu'ils abandonnent tant soit peu de leur prerogatives absurdes, fut-ce pour le bien commun, desormais aux oubliettes.
Ce ventre mou de l'Europe arrange les terroristes qui doivent sans doute penser que la Belgique est un don d'Allah. 
A contrario  certains commentaires etrangers sont franchement inacceptables. Ostraciser un quartier de Bruxelles sans autre forme de proces ressort a une capitulation de la raison. La Belgique non plus ne merite pas de servir de bouc emissaire pour une bavure qui est collective.
Entretemps on attend le prochain  mouvement d'un requiem annonce. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Les attentats perpetres a Paris sont un acte de guerre.
Le President Francais a raison de tenir des propos clairs .
Ce massacre a aussi mis en lumiere nombre de questions.
- La strategie (?) du president Obama et sa circonspection liguistique ont perdu leur credibilite.
- Les contorsionistes Arabes risquent d'etre mis dans le meme sac que les Jihadistes. Ils payent  le prix de l'ambiguite. Il leur reste a demontrer qu'ils sont encore recuperables et mobilisables pour un combat  de civilisation, a plusieurs . L'envers doit enfin appuyer l'endroit!
  - L'appaisement a vecu. Un combat oppose desormais l'Europe aux Jihadistes. Que l'on ne vienne pas servir une nouvelle fois un Coran a la carte, ou le moins mauvais est suppose gommer l'inacceptable.
-Ayant vecu dans un pays Musulman, je me suis adapte aux codes et rituels d'un autre age. La     contrepartie n'existe pas. Des lors le contrat anterieur du "laissez evoluer" est nul.
- L'UE doit revoir sa politique d'immigration et preserver son projet de societe qui est remis en 
  question par les retardataires de l'hisoire..
-Il faut mettre fin par la force a la territorialite de Daesh et en finir, par " tous" les  moyens, avec ce pretendu Calyphat du MAL.

La France reste un symbole de valeurs et d'une societe civile. A ce titre toute attaque contre elle est une atteinte a des principes acquis et partages par l'Occident . La substruction d'une societe doit etre defendue. Elle ne doit pas pour autant se refermer sur elle meme, comme le font les societes Arabes, prisonnieres des "vers Sataniques". L'Europe doit rester ouverte mais elle est en droit de renforcer les regles du jeu, avant qu'elle ne perde son identite 

Je vois mal quel candidat aux presidentielles Americaines pourra faire la demonstration d'une strategie mobilisatrice et d'une reflexion creative sur les moyens d'enrayer les longitudes du Malin.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Tragedy has struck Paris (again).  The city of enlightenment has become a target for the haters of memory pluralism and democracy.  I am reminded of what Jefferson said about the French: "A more benevolent people, I have never known, or greater warmth and devotedness in their select friendships".  Whatever France's fault-lines, it remains a cultural hub in Europe. 

Terrorism hit it again. Foregoing the almost nihilistic former agenda with a defined goal--against Charlie Hebdo (against a Voltairian perspective)--the terrorists have now appropriated an undiscriminating, barbaric "war mindset" against the Western way of life as such.  We are not cognizant enough of the enemy in our midst, but we have the opportunity to hit it in its lair. What are we waiting for? This clash of civilizations (wrong word, since ISIL is not part of the civilized mantra) needs to be won fast and on target. Why be timid with the Barbarians at the gate? ISIL's added value is the "territory" (Grotius) which it controls. To deprive it thereof is part of destroying it.

It is time for the US in particular not be shy from HARD actions, rather than fighting ISIL with "needle point". This is not the time to get stuck in words which fit a political correctness obsession while missing the target!

Europe is starting to belch, needing at the same time to deal with immigrants (bona fide and others). Their welcome risks shrinking, just as the Schenghen free-pass may soon be a thing of the past.  Europe, as we knew it, might become a mortgaged ambition. The writing is on the wall if it continues to choose reaping benefits from above rather than facing the snake pit in its backyard.

9/11 changed everything, it continues to do so, but it has become a "ritual" covering an abstraction.  We have to continue to rely more on "intelligent" hard-power than cover our faces under the shroud of soft-power. Unfortunately we allowed the enemy is on our midst, already. Allah, again, became a dirty word, as in Paris, yesterday!  

I fear there is no common ground with a perverse DNA. The fifth columns better be monitored and sent back to the sender! There is no room for redemption here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Some books have staying power because of their "ouverture" or some phrasing in "major".
Flaubert (Salambo), Proust (A la recherche...), Racine (Phedre) belong to that category. 
They more often than not leave the reader exhausted, unable to reach the finish.  It is easier to start an "affair" or a novel, than to get out when sobered or to close the pages prematurely, when exhausted. The same goes for armed conflict or intervention. Once started they run amok.

When I was for a short period in Columbia University, the Vietnam trauma was still raw and   discussions regarding possible lessons which might have to be retained after that terrible episode, were merciless. The inability for high-tech warfare to come to terms with a less sophisticated counterpart continues to fill books and articles. 

The rumor goes that in the current accumulation of debacles any overt reference to Vietnam  is taboo in the White House. This is paradoxical given that the past and current American administrations are deadlocked in situations wherein, yet again, the ally (?) they support is often more toxic than some of the forces they oppose. The "comparison" with Vietnam stops there. Besides it is is only valid insofar as asymmetric capabilities are concerned.  Vietnam was also a misunderstood a liberation war (since the French humiliation in Dien Bien Phu), waged against a corrupt regime in Saigon which had lost all credibility. The Kennedy and Johnson administrations started the descent into hell and were unable to reverse course. I know that JFK supposedly wanted to do so, but history is not written in evanescent ink.

Mission creep is a step into a perverse logic, easy to decide and difficult to reverse. President Obama's claim to end "dumb wars" is unconvincing, given the aftermath.  The strongest force always ends up in a trap. Different mind sets, comfort zones, philosophies (?) /religion, end up making the weaker stronger and the more advanced prone to mood swings and erratic behaviour. Westerners depend upon logistics, on some form of an all encompassing rationale, which at the end of the day fail to match a fanatical theocratic mindset or, in the case of Vietnam, a liberation anti-colonial DNA.

As is the case for literature which can fail to enrapture or is too complex to struggle through, unwinnable wars lose legitimacy. The few women and kids in Kabul who are shown off for prime-time TV do not speak for the faceless majority which is stuck by force or free-will in a demented mindset. Iraq is no longer a country but a tectonic plate collision.  Syria and Libya are up for grabs. In this swamp ISIS grows.

Should one give up and leave the "Thousand and One Nights" book unread and left to rot in history's garbage bin? One can only hope for a better alignment between governance and opinion in this arc of trouble.  Given the Arab' broken maps and minds, the waiting game might be long! Decades might be needed before repair from within becomes possible. Vietnam by contrast returned to performance in a fortnight because all sides, North and South, wanted a "win-win".  The dysfunctional parties in the Middle East have to find out what they want first. The West should be on positive stand-by rather than trying to force an outcome for which we have no formula anyway. ISIS will not be crushed by military air power, which will always remain insufficient, given the uneven "pain threshold".  While Vietnam's pain became ours, the Arabs' pain remains mostly theirs, and there lies the tragedy. The conflict has to be fought from within mostly, but before it can be operated upon convincingly and be supported accordingly, there has to be a "there" there first.  Giap or Ho Chi Min were not some corrupt Sardanapales. There lies the difference between yesterday's pain and to day's descent into the abyss.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Two important meetings were supposed to reset very crucial bilateral relations.  In Singapore, the Chinese President Xi Jinping met the President of Taiwan Ma Yingjeou.  In Washington, President Obama met with the Israeli P.M. Binjamin Netanjahu.  The two encounters are remarkable insofar as the expected difficult one looked easy and that the presumed easy one looked constrained.

President Ma and the Kuomintang strive for a modus vivendi with the mainland while his opponent in the upcoming elections, Tsai Ing-Wen and the Democratic Progressive Party oppose any unconditional rapprochement.  Ma represents the Old China link and the conceptual heritage of a party which was founded in China in 1912, claiming the heritage of Sun Yat-Sen.   A lot has changed since the two Strait crises in 1954 and 1958. The president's party (DPK)  initiated a detente with the mainland, and today the linkage between the two looks irreversible. Nevertheless, the DPP prefers distance over pliancy. The independence movement is a force to be reckoned with but has no chance.  Besides, it would be a casus belli for the Chinese.  Nothing will change after the elections, fortunately.  I was always surprised at hearing how far the Chinese side was willing to go in accommodating Taiwan if it were to return to the "Motherland".  The Hong Kong precedent need not apply, however Beijing will never tolerate any form of "independence".  The meeting went well and fits into Beijing's recent good neighbor policies, as seen during Xi's official visit to Vietnam.

The meeting between the US President and the Israeli P.M. was more subdued despite the exchange of handshakes and expected positive banalities. Netanjahu came with "baggage" and President Obama came with "history".  At least both looked willing  to overcome their mutual distrust.  Fortunately so, because, paradoxically, US allies in the region were alarmed by the rift between "natural-born partners".   If the cold shoulder had not been mended to a point, the Gulf States and the Saudis might well have given up on America's support. The former is already damaged since the Iran nuclear deal and Washington's erratic behavior in the region. The marriage is not sailing but the counselling had some effect. The Palestinians must now come aboard fast and stress legitimate claims rather than repeating grievances which will lead them nowhere. 

The two encounters were a contrast of sorts between (Chinese) creativity and (Western) stubbornness. Too often the West looks lost in a kind of intellectual lock-down, on the defensive when more creative terms are needed. When one looks at the sorry spectacle of the EU or the American presidentials, one is tempted almost to think that Toynbee and Gibbons were right. Believing has become an uphill battle. Giving up cannot be allowed to become an alternative.

Monday, November 2, 2015


The news is not just bad, it is worse than that, a repeat of the bad turning into worse.  Nothing is what it looks like.  This fall is a repository of frustrations and grievances. The sceptical observers have many reasons to lament and too few to rejoice.  One ends up being tempted to hide in some obscure Marienbad-type of spa and read Proust until exhaustion sets in...but the "ostrich way" is not "Swann's way".

Seen in and from America, most events or personalities "in the news" appear in denial or frankly grotesque.  The European refugee crisis is tragic. It is also dangerous. It is getting worse by the day and might well end up reversing the still fragile equilibrium in the EU. Preferring to ignore that there are no bad sheep in this advancing "diverse" human wave is naive.  The EU commission and the member states look pitiable.

While Syria risks running empty, the slaughter continues in prime time. The United States has lost its grip and the unwelcome are taking over from the amateurs. President Obama sticks to his mantra of "dumb wars" and allows himself to be reduced to an "invited" party. Washington has no coherent strategy for the Middle East. After having broken the region under President George W. Bush, it is unable to repair it under President Obama.

The US incursion in the Chinese blue seas looked more like some juvenile prank than a strategic confidence-building measure directed at the US allies in the region. President Xi Jinping is not a person to be deterred by such a timid approach.

The US secretary of state tours the "Stans" at the moment and will make sure that larger ambitions do not collide with short-term interests. So much for human rights (again), so close to the heart of this administration.

President Putin remains demonized while he actually acts rather rationally filling the gaps or taking advantage of opportunities where he sees them. The US is an obliging partner in this (provisory) reversal of influence.

The US presidential election campaigns are in full-swing. Republicans gather around the Christian pew while Mrs. Clinton tries to hide her liaisons dangereuses.  The hysteria of a right- wing fringe, who seem to have walked straight out of Salem, only ends up helping her where it counts, in the Electoral College.  Jeb Bush sulks. Trump entertains. Rubio tries to shed his baby face persona. Carson looks and sounds often quietly paranoid. Cruz is busy being pro-life, pro- God, pro-Texas boots, pro-noise.  I forgot the others who are drowning in the Iowa gravy. The Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision torpedoed the spirit of what the Founding Fathers in America had in mind. Elections are no longer fought, they are bought.

The President is mostly absent. I bet he is not reading Sun Tzu's Art of war.  One gets a vague sense of ennui in the country at large which might well become indifference. The captain is not on his post. The White House looks almost off-limits. Here, as is the case in Europe, the life-line between leaders and opinion looks close to the breaking point.

The West is becoming a beleaguered concept.  Its enlightenment values are under siege, from the mostly ultra right wings of parties and countries as well as from a disorderly, sloppy immigration quagmire. The German chancellor has it generally right, but in this case her brushstrokes painted too large.  It is one thing to support the refugees and to bring humanitarian order into the chaos.  It is another to choose to remain blind to the many moral, economic, and social transformational consequences which might lead to a future clash between secularism and an imported theocratic mindset. The wound in the Mediterranean needs to be cauterized indeed but not at the expense of the cause, which remains unattended for too long.

This is a bitter autumn.  In 2022 we hope to celebrate Queen Elisabeth II's platinum Jubilee, rightly so. I hope there will be enough time left before her carriage becomes a pumpkin (Halloween oblige).

Friday, October 23, 2015


The hearing by the House Committee on Benghazi was a farce.  This unfortunate event was bungled from the offset when Susan Rice was ordered to act as "liar in chief".  I doubt if we will ever know who did what in the Obama Administration and when.

Yesterday was Hillary's turn. We are not wiser.  I only retain the inexcusable abrasive behavior of the Republicans who acted like some deranged species. If the Republicans choose to be hostages of the Freedom Caucus or of the mad Charenton crazies of the Trump/Carson-type, so be it.  Mrs. Clinton kept her cool , and the truth.  She won, insofar as the Republican screaming onslaught might boomerang and offer her martyrdom in place of her well known triangulation.

In the end, it is the whole political class which is on trial here. It is understandable that Paul Ryan hesitates to become House speaker at a time when the system is in a coma. The country is orphaned because a lack of leadership has created a void wherein noise banishes discourse. Soon the debt ceiling will create another melodrama.  Economic, military and social priorities, as well as international credibility will yet again pay the price. 

It is time for the United States to review the electoral mechanics. They are hostage of what is a two-year pre presidential electoral cycle, which leads to prolonged dysfunction and discontent. The outgoing president becomes an accessory to what is already a bad scenario. Politicians, who have become a travelling circus, are not good at the high-minded trapeze. If nothing changes, the disparities on social issues might become nefarious. Sometimes comparisons are made to European regionalism, notably with Catalonia, Flanders, and Scotland which strive for more autonomy, but this phenomenon is of a different, more legitimate historical nature. There are also ulterior motives at play, generally economic redistribution and taxes, but the cultural and religious wars are over (as long as they are not re-imported by way of immigration). In America, the splits between North and South, the Middle and the Others, the rural and the urban mindsets, conservatives and liberals remain unresolved. Obama promised healing but he left the bedside for the golf links.  Both parties talk pork rather than reason and as a consequence, the outsiders win.

Only Mrs. Clinton has the survival pedigree. She is intelligent and by comparison desirable. Such a resigned commitment does not bode that well for the future.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


In a remarkable Opinion editorial in the Wall Street Journal (Oct. 17/18, 2015) Dr. Kissinger analyzes the current situation regarding the Syrian crisis and the repercussions thereof. One needs some form of courage or foolishness to try to approach such depth of perception, rooted both in history and personal experience.

Still I might attempt to make an observation. The argument and the reference to a Westphalian mindset are at the same time pertinent and absurd. They are projections of a rational, strategic Western mindset. They might not be able to cross the threshold of illegitimate countries built on a tribal DNA. President Putin has his way (for now) by staying strictly focused on a well- defined self-interest. It so happens that this fits the Alawite ambition, but President Assad in all this is not a partner, he is a tool. Russia's ulterior interest is to close the Caucasus and to reduce once and forever the American monopoly in the Middle East, by any means, the more cynical included.

After the failed Arab Spring, hopes were crushed and the succession of autocrats was restarted and is now in full gear. The Americans are stuck with allies (?) whose values and ways they dislike. They dealt with Iran which gave Israel a "generous" survival period of 25 years. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey even, are "allies" which one would never trust with the house keys.

Dr. Kissinger points the finger at ISIS, rightly so. ISIS presents an immediate global danger. Bashar Assad is a cold killer, unlike Saddam who was a deluded psychopath. Unfortunately, the scale of urgency to destroy ISIS is just like a choice between an evil at home almost, and another at bay, for now.  Indeed Assad=Southern Iraq=Iran=Hezbollah = ?

The major problem lies in the contradiction which exists between political science and primary emotion. The Shia play on the feelings of shame, unease with modernity, and humiliation which can be ignited when convenient. Sunni states have been able to connect with a more positive narrative since the meeting of FDR with Ibn Saoud and Farouk (and Haile Selassie)
aboard the Quincy in 1945 after Yalta. An American president could still summon then. The modus vivendi with Iran was doomed after the Mosaddeg debacle.

It will be difficult to come to terms with a quagmire. The non-state wants to be one, the existing one is falling apart and the surviving states are more regimes than states. Only by bringing all together fast might they be obliged to admit that the absurdity of their claims may well lead to the implosion of a whole region.

Remains Israel, which is another elephant in the room. As much as the West must be creative in its approach to the Middle East collapse, it must be clear and absolutely unambiguous in its total support for Israel. For reasons of diplomatic expediency one might have to meet the undesirable. However, one should never stay shy of standing for shared values. 

Without the destruction of ISIS by all means, Europe risks becoming a demographic nightmare. The United States should recreate a new CENTO with the Sunnis before Putin arrives first at the finish line. There is still time for a Kissinger solution as long as there are enough actors remaining who understand the rules of the game.The battle against ISIL is also a battle in the name of civilized "memory". The spoilers cannot be allowed to have the upper hand. The new world is not for the timid! The White House should blush!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


The first Democratic presidential debate is over.  The choice of the plush and louche Las Vegas for this "progressive" give-and-take was kind of surreal.  The proceedings went as could be expected, given the absence of a Trump-like personality which generally unshackles the most tied scenarios.

The candidates who are at the bottom stayed there.  Sanders looked like King Lear lost in a play not of his making. Mrs. Clinton ruled without being condescending. Remains to be seen how she will handle her Congressional hearing next week when the very intelligent, if not likable, Republican chairman of the House committee will unleash the pack of hounds. He will not let Mrs. Clinton "triangulate", but at the same time he must curse the Republican majority leader for having made a "gaffe", which gave Mrs. Clinton a claim to martyrdom and victim-hood.
Bernie Sanders was right in saying that he was sick of hearing about the e-mail saga. One overdoses indeed, given the Republican repetitive drum and also considering Mrs. Clinton's unconvincing revisionism. 

The real problem lies elsewhere in the American Zeitgeist. The questions regarding President Obama's "proximity reluctance" are growing in numbers. His analytical method is considered as standing in the way of an assertive posture. One can understand that the United States "aversion" to become entrapped in inextricable situations, but caution should never be allowed to marginalize principle, alliance, choice. Arguing that "dumb wars" have to be avoided is a cause, refusing to make difficult choices is a mistake. The American president plays golf by himself, he also reasons by ignoring the counter argument. Hence this intelligent individual is mostly a lonely man , both abroad and at home.

The next president will have an uphill task, having to re-energize alliances, political discourse and strategic credibility. This president started with a Nobel Prize and the "famous" Cairo address. Seen now all this looks all totally unreal. The aborted Arab Spring, the Crimean theft, the Chinese arrogance, all contributed to fuel disenchantment and further increase the frustrations of Main Street. Since there is almost nowhere to go after President George W. Bush opened the gates to hell, which President Obama chose to leave mostly unattended, both left and right in America have raised their most unappealing heads! The center is not holding, it is backtracking.

The next Prudential's are very important but the claimers are a mostly unconvincing lot. The winner will be a default candidate. One could apply Oscar Wilde's bon mot:  Men marry because they are tired, women because they are curious.  Both are disappointed.    Ergo...

Friday, October 9, 2015


Syria is a catastrophe.  No wonder the takers are few, especially the ones who prefer the soliloquies to engaging in what is a messy, solipsistic tragedy.  President Obama abhors proximity to chaos or violence. He is always tempted to consider problems as Pythagorean theorems rather than for what they are. He is, rightly so, adverse to enter "dumb wars", but he creates the impression that he is equally adverse to confronting their cause.  He is so eloquent and moving at funerals because they follow an order and bring closure, albeit with tears. He must hate the dawn of order.

Now he might think that the Russian moves in Syria will boomerang in Putin's face. This might happen indeed but the  Russian "calculus" goes further than Assad. Moscow follows a strategy here and elsewhere which makes it impossible for the US to ignore the Russian footprint in the future anywhere. President Putin is busy putting landmines in America's path.

Washington's reluctance to get its hands dirty does not provide any dividend. On the contrary, it alienates friends and bolsters bluff.  A secondary consequence of the Syrian nightmare is that Europe has to digest a sociological flood, which finds the EU unprepared and which might feed a dangerous homegrown populism.  Likewise the refugees, who have a religious chip on their shoulder, carry also the "unforeseeable" in their midst. The crisis warrants a social engineering which is totally lacking.  Since the American waiting game allowed the uninvited to further complicate the chaos, only a quick initiative can stop a further deterioration. The saga of the emperor's new clothes should remind the United States that they might well end up as the losers,  not by lack of means but by some form of diplomatic snobism. This situation will not be resolved by some Oscar Wilde-type of bon mot,  it needs to be treated head on and without gloves. It is wise to avoid a conflictual threshold but it is dangerous to look on or to resort to half-baked measures while Iran, Russia, Syria & Co. do not pussy-foot or waste time trying to sort out the better among the undesirables.

Sadat got rid of the Soviets, Assad brings the Russians back and 50 years of "Pax Americana" are wasted, while the White House looks on and the US political machine appears to be turning the clock back to God and gravy.  None of the presidential contenders in either party looks willing to revise or repair the former claim to American exceptionalism. The banality rules. So does opportunism. Mrs. Clinton's criticism of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), one of the better moves of President Obama, is inexcusable and depasse. The vilified former President Carter reacted boldly after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and boycotted the Moscow Olympics.  President Obama's "wait and see" posture might cost the United States dearly! This White House is in need of a change of personnel.  Likewise, the usual commentary coming from the usual suspects on the left and the right is in need of "rebooting". 

The US needs to change its tune, channel and political class...dream on!  Elsewhere, the bullies rule.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


De excellentie was op stap met de Nederlandse PM in de V.S.
De man lijdt duidelijk aan een uitgesproken masochisme. Hij staat in de schaduw en speelt zwarte Piet tegenover de briljante Nederlandse P.M.
Hij geeft er de voorkeur aan op stap te gaan met wat hem marginaliseert, liever dan gezien te worden met wat hem mischien nog kan valoriseren.
Het is absurd dat Vlaams bedrijfsleiding dit slikt . Erger is dat hij dat niet beseft. Zijn pastoors profiel maakt hem immuun.

Hij staat trouwens niet alleen, helaas, want Minister Homans wordt stilaan zijn Servische compaan. Ik was in Bosnie en herken in haar dezelde DNA . Linkebeek wordt haar nieuwe Gulden Sporen saga (nog een historische fabel).
PAUVRE F (staat voor Vlaanderen).

Saturday, October 3, 2015


I hardly survived disentangling myself from Hanya Yanagihara's "A Little Life".
I cannot say if this book is "technically" great literature or not, since the emotion overtakes structure, images, style.  The raw, often sublime lyricism is certainly overwhelming.

It is hard to finish this novel without scars.  Given the story, "scar" is an appropriate word.
The four men who inhabit this "Bildungsroman (?)" will haunt me for a long time. The writer drags the reader into the fatal spiral wherein the Orpheus descending reaches the abyss. This remains also one of the most poignant love "epics" I have ever read.  Jude = Tristan.  There is almost too much pain. The weight of the pages feels like lead.  The price paid for the floating good, marked for extinction, is too high.  Former hurts never heal.

The strength of this very urban, contemporary novel also lies in its almost absolute rebuttal of the imposition of the mediocre. Being mercilessly absolute comes with a price. The four friends might look successful from the outside, but they are frail, damaged souls. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


They met...finally.  The two leaders had stated their views beforehand in public. It is hard to believe that their private meeting turned out a "love fest".

Obama laid down the consequences.  Putin cross-examined the causes.  The US President looked into the abyss clinging to the life-vest of generalities.  The Russian leader had already changed the layout of facts on the ground.  The Moscow/Damascus/Tehran axis comes as no surprise. The Iraqi "co-optation" freaked most American pundits out. The US has the largest diplomatic facility world-wide in Baghdad. What for?

Putin is not a cypher.  He is actually highly predictable, since his admitted major goal is to regain the sphere of influence of the former Soviet Union. The American administration's disdain of history has nefarious aftershocks and the lack of familiarity or empathy with the thinking of others has become frightening. The post-Versailles trauma still holds an unpleasant mirror to our face.

From Eastern Europe to the Middle East, from Western Europe to Asia, egos have been bruised by American amateurism and abstract wishful thinking. Hence Putin's paranoia is perceived as the result of US incoherence while it salmost !hould have been, rightly so, considered as a post-Cold war revanchist game-changer. Obama's intentions are often laudable but whenever the distance between "logos" and "praxis" becomes to wide, the perception of reality becomes blurred. Miscalculations are waiting to happen.

The Russian analysis of the global Syrian situation is logical. Identifiable enemies must be crushed, be it with undesirable allies.  There is a Putin world-view. There is no US doctrine at the moment. Obama claims the mantle of climate change, disputed by the Pope, while the geo-political map is on fire. A just cause will soon begin to look trivial in the absence of any form of deterrence to avoid that overall the bad metastasizes into worse.

Meanwhile Crimea is in Putin's pocket and Eastern Ukraine is a "fait accompli " almost !

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


President Obama has a busy week.  Currently he is receiving the Pope.  His Holiness is a strange man. He has an extraordinary skill to adjust the message without actually changing the doctrine of the Church.  He is adulated by the thousands who, in their vast majority, will continue sinning, ignoring, forgetting as before. In the West the Church is as good as dead, while the Asian and Latin American recruits stand against almost all this Pope is supposed to be willing to change. The conservative "backlash" is coming and Pope Francis' populism might have a short life span. President Obama finds himself to be in agreement with some of the Popes's ideas regarding climate change or the excess of capitalism, but like the former he remains often surprisingly low key when the roof is falling in on the world order. Anyway, there is more pomp than substance and Stalin's observation (Where are the Pope's legions?) remains valid. The ephemeral has no lasting standing power. Nevertheless Pope Francis touches hearts and minds and one floating watermark might have an unforeseen impact.

On Friday the President will meet with President Xi Jinping. This "state visit" will not enthrall the masses and the babies will not have to endure random kisses. Some imagine that President Xi is a weakened leader, given China's financial bump in the road. Such an assertive analysis is short-sighted if not intellectually absurd. Besides, it totally ignores the Chinese psyche. Xi's Chinese dream is alive and well and can withstand current and future bumps. The closer China comes to globalization and privatization, the recurrence of financial and economic jolts will happen intermittently. The climb of the stock markets were due for a contraction. The global trade, commodities, energy "waves" do not stop at China's shores. There is a lesson for president Xi to consider insofar as he will have to acknowledge that there is no such thing as an exclusive Chinese way. The interconnections can no longer be ignored and the myth of a purely Confusean society stands in total contradiction with a world wherein the neighbor has become the uninvited guest.  The Chinese should know better, given their record in island grabbing, intellectual property stealing in cyber plundering. If you want to be a club member, you have to respect the club rules. All countries spy but there is something like le mensonge est un hommage que le vice rend a la vertu .  Despite some Cassandras in the United States, China is with us to stay and to grow.

Next week President Putin will address the United Nations in NYC.  His latest "coup" in Syria is masterly.  I bet he sees more of Dr. Kissinger than President Obama does. The policies of the Kremlin are often textbook Kissinger, less concerned with morals than with the projection of power.  Since the Nixon/Reagan years the world has changed and the old triangular 2+1 formula does no longer apply. Now we witness President Putin's belated attempt to revive the old formula since the BRICS approach flopped. He tries now an  alternative route, bringing China into a strategic Castor and Pollux formula, directed against American interests, which are on the defensive on all fronts: Asia, the Middle East and Europe. China will probably hesitate to jeopardize its relationship with the US though, even at a time when the American president is perceived as unwilling to engage outside and as a lame-duck internally.  Hence he is seen as "predictable", which can be the kiss of death for effective leadership. President Putin almost obliges Obama to swallow the bitter pills he is served:  the red line yesterday, the Russian deployment in Syria now, not to mention the coming Ukraine games tomorrow. The American president is prisoner of his psyche and of an entourage which had better remain nameless. He should have a man-to-man talk with Putin. He can afford to have some aplomb!  Will he? After all, the Americans talk for years with Iran, which is arguable, but ignore others, which is remarkable.

What about Europe? Coming above all the dysfunction, the out-of-hand migration wave shows the inept managerial skills of the EU, the structural divisions between member states and the growing gap between citizens and leadership. Mutatis mutandis the same can be said about the American pre-elections which indicate that the political career seems to have become the realm of the losers.  Europe is digging deeper into an existential crisis. When weakness comes with cowardliness, the future looks gloomy indeed. Well, the Pope and the British monarchy are catnip for Chinese tourists. What more can one want? Europeans are made to believe that their pumpkin (seasonal now) is a carriage.  Some "bad"refugees might even bomb it!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Parts of the Middle East and Africa empty out while Europe gets filled to the rim.  Europe and the world have seen human displacements before with the consequences thereof in agriculture, science, mobility of labour, industry, trade, culture...  Most of those events were nevertheless geographically confined. The only exception might have been the Balfour Declaration which led to the creation of Israel in the biblical homeland.

Today, part of the Middle East looks like a ship adrift, abandoned by passengers clinging to the nearest viable alternative. They arrive by the thousands in Europe which remains in fact an opportunity rather than a cause. European history, culture, secular values, economy, are generally unknowns to the refugees, who risk all in order to exchange the inferno they know for the fate they ignore.

Europe's welfare system is already strained and will be unable to care for individuals who ignore "birthrate borders" as well.  Besides, the EU is totally unprepared to face a crisis of a magnitude which might well lead to a hard reality check, once the emotions give way to a more rational analysis.

Europe has a moral obligation to intervene in what is a humanitarian issue for now. Germany is right for now.The EU should also be aware of the fact that most refugees will be reluctant to engage in the democratic values which make Europe what it is, a system wherein the separation between state and religion is absolute.

The EU is trying to redistribute or redirect refugees among member states. This is an illusion, since refugees will continue to try to enter their country of choice rather than stay in a place of imposition.  Meanwhile, setting them up in "glorified" Bantoustans (type Banlieu), or with generous families, is a missionary approach doomed to backfire, or worse, by way of an incompatible (given the background) Malthusian sustainable model Utopia.  Better to take the example of Singapore:  do not accumulate, separate.

Many bona fide individuals suffer from past indignities and current trauma. Once "recovered", their DNA will normally take over. The better will pay for the black sheep in their midst and the Europeans will have been the gullible accomplices in worse to come.

All EU interventions should be linked to agreed conditions: the option of return in case the situation in the countries of origin improves;  obligation to seek employment after verifiable identification is secured; respect for existing law and order; "temporary status" for non- political refugees, open to periodic scrutiny, sanctioned in case of non respect of statutory rules of conduct.

Meanwhile, the world and regional powers have to come together in a Geneva-bis conference, encompassing ALL, under the auspices of the 5+1 and the Arab League or the Organisation of Islamic cooperation, so that proper arrangements can be considered even if the outcome or participants are not to everybody's liking.

If nothing is done, the human traffickers will have won, like ISIL does now.  Peace is not for the choosers, it is the work of the doers. One is right to feed the hungry, but to ignore the drought is criminal.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


The images coming from the Mediterranean and Europe are hallucinating.  The lack of a common strategy to deal with the refugee crisis is staggering.  In the end, the new generation of "boat people" is penalized twice:  upon departure and upon arrival, looking for freedom and dying in a truck.

Most are bona fide, some are not.  The EU pretends to stand up for certain values but it ends up bowing to parochial self-interest.  It would nevertheless be unfair to underestimate the legal and bureaucratic chaos at hand and it is understandable that EU members on the "front line" expect some form of burden-sharing from member states which are farther away.

The EU commission has suggested some form of Malthusian "redistribution" amongst all member states but the message remains unheated so far. Only Mrs. Merkel has confronted the ugly side of the realty head-on. The stream of refugees creates trauma and spreads xenophobia in mostly Eastern European member states, which resort to intimidation and other measures that sadly remind us of images we want to forget.  The EU seems as if it were remaking an Iron Curtain between its Eastern and Western flanks. Not that the situation in Western Europe is ideal, far from it. The difference being that there are more signs of compassion in the Western half than the brutal rejection in the East.

The EU Commission is ignored and individual states are trying to deal with this human corridor of the "unwanted" in more humane, organised ways, so that political refugees do not have to be further penalized for the sins of the opportunistic, the nefarious or the economic-minded. The summit in Brussels later this month does not look very promising, given the overall negative attitude from countries such as Hungary, Macedonia or the Czech Republic. Greece, Turkey, Spain and Italy need urgent support, supposedly there is still room for solidarity in the EU.

Schengen--the free movement of persons in the EU--is on trial.  The principle must be maintained but the applications might be asymmetrical.  In certain situations a correction could be considered whereby the "automatic" free-pass might be monitored for non-EU citizens who could be asked to provide credentials regarding cause and effect. This would require proper medical, bureaucratic and housing facilities.  Otherwise, the model of the Calais "jungle" will spread and conditions would be created wherein expectations turn into hatred.
One should never be naive, however, and it can be expected that the wretched serve at times as cover for the felons.

The Southern flank of Europe is becoming a season in hell. Europe has to prove that there is an alternative, indeed. If it fails to do so, intelligently, in a verifiable way, it risks taken in what might become a fifth column inst read, seeking revenge by way of Europe's demise. At times morals should overtake expedience. If the body of the drowned child washing ashore in Bodrum does not break open hearts and minds (which have already preferred to ignore the deaths of hundreds), we have entered the ice age of civilization! At the other hand this tragedy should not hide the contradictions which come with individuals who are diffrently programmed! The clash of civilizations knocks at the gates.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


All of a sudden, the particles which sat idle in the dysfunctional, out-of-order, diplomatic cyclotron, start to move, out of control.  Diplomacy was meant to foresee, correct, amend, reverse. We have not seen much of that of late.  Sometimes fire had to be fought with fire-- often on amoral terms (i.e. Dr. Kissinger-type of manipulative intervention)--but it led to a resolution, at a price. None of that happens nowadays. Hypocrisy and fatalism have taken over from Machiavellian disputable interventions.

Ukraine, the Korean peninsula, the Chinese and Russian "disturbances", the global financial turmoil, the Middle Eastern drama, the moving uncontrolled immigration spill in Europe enter into a downward abyss.  Major world players wait for their hour to strike, while the American president plays golf with his Narcissus shadow. Besides, the "offerings" of the American pre-presidentials are frankly pathetic. The Democratic front runner is in a sinking mode. The Republican short-term man in the news reminds me of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi. The EU appears to be clueless, but this is a repetitive pattern. That Russia and China seek to keep their distance is to be expected since they prefer ready commodities to disregarded rags. The usual pundits who are mothballed when their concepts do not fit the reality come back out of the grave pontigicating about China's collapse (Gordon Chang) or Putin's demise. They are wrong, of course. The economic turmoil and falling oil prices have hit hard but the boomerang effect in the West should be a warning shot. Globalization is here to stay, for the better (yesterday) and the worse (today). Both in economic and political matters there is a need to talk instead of resorting to economic sanctions, or letting situations rot even further because some favour personal antipathy over agreed therapy.

This is a very ominous moment indeed.  It is becoming difficult to predict if even worse can be avoided. The superfluous Iran deal coming after the infamous "red line" in Syria continues to convince few and rattles all. Europe might sink further under the weight of a wild immigration.
The wretched knock at the door, but populism and xenophobia have dislodged common policies. Yet again nothing gets settled and the same pattern of delaying tactics is set in motion. All is noise and none is action. Where is the EU's common foreign and defense and foreign policy?

Danger and threats alike remain not classified by the US administration.  ISIL gets a ride without having to present identification papers. Political correctness is no substitute for diagnosis. Palmyra is destroyed, thousands are killed and dislodged, but the narrative is about climate change!  President Putin will continue to nibble at his cake, until the moment comes when he can eat it. President Xi Jinping will be received with full honors in the White House and might offer the US president a revised map of territorial China.  Europe will sink further under the weight of immigrants who are psychologically damaged and unfit to enter a democratic pluralistic model, which offers them survival without hope. The EU is the blind one led by the blind in Brussels, where Bruegel feels home!

No action is taken where it should be and the Stars and Stripes only returns where it is overdue. One might opt for a passive policy but then it had better be called so, openly.  On the contrary one could opt for a pro-active role, which would be welcomed by most.  Moscow and Beijing are the Cheshire cats in Alice in Wonderland. Washington has become the master of the Grande Illusion.  The Islamo-fascists in the arc of horror, from the Philippines to sub-Saharan Africa, have stolen the beheading method of Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts. 

The West looks to be waiting for what is left of the rest to implode. The cyber war is in full swing. The propaganda war is lost.  The short-term danger is the implosion of the more Western universal  intellectual discourse.  If the American political system resembles (it does not, fortunately) the current presidential race, it is doomed to end up being plain vulgar.  If, in the UK, Labour chooses for Jeremy Corbyn, it will have proven that it did not heed the lesson of history.  If the EU decides to remain in a Schengen suicide pact, so be it. The Russians look eager to take over the diplomatic inroads in the Middle East, which were America's monopoly. Asia is starting to question whether the famous American pivot is a toy rather than a move. President Obama might wake up as he does infrequently but everybody is already resigned to see Ukraine losing Mariupol, or Iran becoming some replay of Georges de la Tour's famous "cheater" paintings.  The fall of 2015 will be a season in hell for the White House. The fire at home will yet again distract from the flames elsewhere. The US president is right in thinking that the past WWII order has become obsolete, but instead of suggesting an alternative he lets BRICS or Shanghai co-operation and their offspring mushroom.

The US secretary of state, already considered "Skerry" by some, might have to take second role given that his Russian counterpart prefers to get his hands dirty where there is a gain.

The waiting game may become an unpleasant experience, the more so, in that all this might have been avoided. After all, the attendees of the Congress of Vienna could teach some lessons. Concept overshadowed rancor. To emulate Piketty: Addition > Substraction. 

Monday, August 17, 2015


Every country is cursed by some event or fair which seems to attract the obese and the conservative minded. A mix of bad food and creepy amusements brings together the same type of crowds everywhere.  

In America, Iowa is the summer capital of this form of collegial bad taste.  It is also the first shot for presidential candidates who, for the most part, dread this gastronomical Gotterdammerung.  A few fit in (Huckabee and sorts), most make it short (Clinton, Bush),  while one makes the most of it (Trump...who else?)

This fair is not "innocent."  It looks like democracy at its worse but it might well be democracy at its best.  It is anti-elitist and non-sophisticated but it gives a voice to the discontented who claim ownership of their votes and who would be snubbed in normal circumstances.  Many candidates will have to undergo again next winter the "caucus water-boarding" and try to connect with an America of hard work and values, most of which are elsewhere disposed of in the graveyards of forgotten causes (religion/same sex outrage/pro-life). 

Until now, the various candidates muster more curiosity, ennui, and deja vu, than commitment. Only Bernie Sanders has been able to mobilize a left-wing fringe which is genuine. Others are predictable or just mildly palpable. Trump is an American remake of  Silvio Berlusconi. Bush looks and sounds as if he were the victim of some Oedipal curse. Hillary Clinton acts like some Chinese grave-sweeper, trying to clear her name or bury her sophisms.  Carly Fiorina is working on some form of Republican Joan of Arc redux.  Dr. Carson would actually be more interesting if he left God to the other chosen ones:  Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and similar religious zealots. Marco Rubio tries very hard to be the new young face for Republicanism and is a persuasive campaigner.  Nevertheless, he pushes the age factor to such an extreme that he might soon be relegated to some youth camp.

The campaign is actually stalled like the infamous Governor Christie's bridge, where too many try to get ahead while only end up being in each other's way. Nobody shines, nothing interesting is said, suggested or debated.  In these Putin times, with Chinese uncertainties, Middle Eastern alarm bells, Jules Verne-type cyber and drone scenarios, the political discourse remains largely parochial. When it is not, as in Trump's case, it reaches the climax of the absurd.  The offerings are so mediocre that more names keep popping up:  Vice-President Biden, Al Gore (the one of the climate !), Governor Romney (the better but improbable outcome).

Obama has retreated into his inertia mode before the autumn slaughter fest. Meanwhile the unraveling of deals (Iran, trade, the Paris climate conference, monetary transparency) might accelerate after the melting Iowa butter cow leaves the ground even more slippery than before!