Saturday, February 28, 2015


The poster boy for ISIL got a name and a face.
He also got a nick name and a profile.
I bet that soon the Souks will have him for sale, like Barbie's "fiance". The Islamofascists have shown their skills in using Western image making techniques and surely some Halal Mattel type of "prop" JIHADI JOHN will become available. 

Contrary to others, the American administration continues to be in denial, to avoid or reluctant to confront. By doing so it almost banalizes the existential danger the West finds itself in. It alienates the "willing" (?) Arabs and fails to reclaim the narrative. ISIL's exploits become prime time entertainment...beheading, genocidal horror, iconoclast behaviour are the Menu du jour.
We have reached the abyss and we might as well become dizzy. If the horror is allowed to become a daily soundbite, we will have lost all self respect.

Speaking thereof,  US Congress is supposed to vote on an authorization to go to war with ISIS. Does that mean that the territorial span and the claim to a Caliphate are considered a fait accompli ? One might use macro terminology but a "declaration of war" is an act which has de facto and de jure consequences. Do we want to give ISIS the reach/status it should never be allowed to get ? We better fight, pursue, destroy what is only a well organized, funded "terror"syndicate", pursuing an archaic agenda. Or we go  (not alone) for the jugular or we let a Darwinian alternative run its course, but at what human cost !

Monday, February 23, 2015


Washington has become the playground for a Game of Names instead of a Game of Thrones.
Republican fury has broken loose since the President is considered to be tip-toeing around the issue of "terrorism which doesn't dare to speak its name." And Democrats are apoplectic after former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that he felt Obama does not like America.

The indignation on both sides is an overreaction.  The intellectual curve of the President's thought regarding terrorism is not that outrageous, it is just out of touch.  Giuliani did not mean to question the President's patriotism but his words were inappropriate at the least.  He admits now that his bluntness might have overshadowed his "message".

It is likely that the expected performance of Prime Minister Netanyahu will further inflame the choruses on both aisles. The possible Iranian "deal" could as well be the "overture" for a major convulsion in the region and at home.  It is strange to witness how politicians and pundits rush into what could wait and do nothing about situations on fire.  To act under pressure is risky, to put oneself under pressure is foolish.

Washington looks ready to enter even further into dysfunction.  On both sides of the aisle, egos are bruised while at the top stubbornness prevails. The petty war of attrition between Republicans and Democrats is a farce because the right questions are overtaken by the wrong pretexts. This can only encourage other actors in the world to arrive at false conclusions about America's resolve, and to continue roaming and testing the waters.  Pique is not a policy. Macbeth's three "witches" seem to have overtaken 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We know how that ended.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


History proves that winning a war on two fronts is hard if not impossible. Napoleon and Hitler both lost their bets when confronted with the consequences of walking into the trap of a second front.
The West finds itself currently in the crossfire of two challenges.  The Jihadist epidemic cannot be cured by the prescribed or accepted "medicine", and the Russian aggression is played out on all sides: geo-political, territorial, material.  With both threats the West is on the defensive while the "undesirables" are coming nearer by the hour.

The Western paralysis has many causes.  The European "disunion" is for all to see.  NATO is more bark than bite. The American leadership has lost its conceptual ways in the tortuous alleys of pseudo-intellectual confusion. As a result, friend's mistrust and foe's intentions advance.  Nothing stops them for the time-being. The utopian American president lives in a fallacy dressed up as a moral tale. Europe is a flock stricken by bird flu.

The European situation is dire because in the absence of a credible resolution all the alternatives become equal, and the freelancers (Hungary, Greece, the Franco-German "cosi fan tutte") have a free-ride. Putin plays with maps and words, while at the same time testing the waters elsewhere. ISIL's expansion, first and foremost in Libya, now gives it a launching pad into Europe.

Russia was able to do two things in the short run. It cashed in the Ukrainian "check" and it made the French and Germans appear to play the fools in a largely imposed script. Putin will not stop here, knowing too well that the paper NATO tiger will not awaken, whatever this coalition of the unwilling and the bickering might pretend.

ISIL must be having a good time watching the proceedings of the "White House Summit on Violent Extremism". This gathering looks more like some Jamboree for the aging or middle aged, not daring to call evil by its name. A picnic impresses nobody. The kind of NGO talk that comes out of there will fall on the deaf ears of the beheaders and other executioners.

The danger is that the West has become timid since the American leadership took a leave of absence. Ukraine is certainly more of value to Russia than it is to the West. Nevertheless, the debacle there might well be repeated elsewhere, when convenient. The genie is out of the bottle.

Speaking of Arabian tales, Jordan and Egypt did not wait for the United States to react when they felt that ISIL had overstepped moral or national pride. Obama's coalition by contrast looks like a symbolic, ineffectual pack of unevenly convincing or convinced few, who dislike ISIL for sure, but remain equally suspicious of Washington's intentions. Some Sunnis suspect President Obama of being tempted by a reversal of alliances. He is supposedly not to exclude that Iran might become potentially more transformational than the Wahhabi or Salafi creeds. Since the oil blackmail no longer applies as before and since Netanyahu's Israel is highly unpopular with this administration, it was to be expected that yesterday's unfathomable has become today's possible game-changer. By the way, I doubt that Putin went to Cairo to see the pyramids.

Likewise, the bounds between the United States and Europe are no longer made of the former FDR/JFK mould. The civilised principle is lost, the Churchill/MacMillan touch has been replaced by a routine without animus. Paradoxically, this has increased a tendency of the no-longer indispensables to see themselves larger than who they are. Minsk is a perfect example of lethal self-aggrandizing. Besides, the EU is looking more and more like Gericault's Medusa raft than like the gathering of the philosopher founders of the early days. 

The West had better regroup fast before falling prey to outside and inside "rot". The White House should consider its world responsibility as a reality and not as a question mark. More and more the nameless terror (in the White House mantra) will be tempted to consider the United States as a cardboard power. They will regret it, but America might pay a big price for being late. The Europeans should reconsider ways to revive their Atlantic roots. They should continue to engage Russia for sure and should at the same time abstain bluffing their Eastern neighbor who is taller than they are. Paying their NATO dues would be a good start. Convening a Helsinki implementation meeting might be a right step.

Good intentions, community initiatives to fight "home" radicalization are not secondary, far from it. They are just not the overall recipe for this alarming "global"onslaught on values which are universal.  Sometimes being rude is more commendable than just being correct. It is high time to switch the narrative from the obsolete to the future.


    J'avoue être un inconditionnel de Michel Houellebecq.

    Son dernier livre est a la fois extraordinaire, mais aussi curieusement réticent.

    Ce "coup d’état de velours" qui constitue la trame du roman reste étrangement hexagonal. Or, si pareil bouleversement devait se produire il ne manquerait pas de provoquer des réactions de par le monde et ne serait point "subi", sans autre forme de procès.
    Arrivée au pouvoir en France  par des voies démocratiques, la mouvance Islamiste crée des mutations socio économiques et de nouveaux équilibres stratégiques qui sont  apparemment avalises tant a l’intérieur qu'a l’extérieur. Cela n'est pas vraisemblable. Les remous collatéraux - fusillades, aires de parking désertés, événements menaçants - suggérés  en mineur, restent comme des sous-titres.
    La centralité de Dieu et le refus du hasard, désormais "codifies"balisent le nouveau régime. Le suicide Européen est présenté comme un fait accompli , l'ancienne Union Européenne basculant vers les pays du Sud-Méditerranée,sans autre forme de procès.
    La personnalité "suggérée" du président Ben Abbes est ambiguë, presque séduisante. Ce réunificateur proclame son respect pour les trois religions du Livre. La classe politique de l'ancien régime est somme toute banale, voir même stupide.
    Ben Abbes croit encore que l’adhésion aux valeurs occidentales a abouti a la déchéance de la Chine et de l' Inde, qui n'ont d'autre recours que l’adhésion a l'Islam monothéiste.

    L'auteur observe, en passant, que la prise de pouvoir des Islamistes en Belgique  a abouti a atténuer les divisions entre Flamands et Wallons qui se retrouvent  autour du même principe Islamiste partage.

    L’étranger de Camus implosait de l’intérieur. Le narrateur de Houellebecq se rend a un "inévitable", venu du dehors.

    Le nouveau pouvoir est oblique ou pervers. Il sait aussi être pragmatique. Les anciens politiques, devenus collaborateurs portant la marque de Cain , sont résignes . Les convertis se rendent au hammam/baptistaire pour se purifier et prononcer le "passe partout" phonétique qui est la passerelle qui conduit a la nouvelle identité.
    Ces stations balnéaires et thermales théocentriques  et politiquement correctes (pas de mixité) sont étrangement apaisantes. De Fellini dans 8 1/2 a Mahomet que de distance parcourue !   
    Mélancolique projection,  ce livre est déjà en de ça du cataclysme réel  que le terrorisme Jihadiste multiplie dans un Caliphat de cauchemar et chez" l’infidèle". La fiction "light" a pris du retard par rapport a la réalité "hard".
    Grand roman !

    Saturday, February 14, 2015


    The Minsk Agreement found the proper setting for its DOA (Dead on Arrival) shroud: Belarus. The country of President Alexander Lukashenko looks like a European version of North Korea... "light".  And, while shrouds are not supposed to have pockets, this one has lots, thanks to Putin's design.

    Under the current circumstances the deal may well have been the less-undesirable outcome, even short-lived. Ukraine is the offspring of circumstances which Russia, early on, did not want and which the West got stuck in. The hard line of the Russians matches the embarrassment of the West. The Merkel/Hollande duo looked almost pathetic in Minsk, while Putin retreated behind his usual judo/karate persona. The Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was just a patient on a gurney, wondering which limb might be cut next. Mariupol looks ripe for an other rebel/Russian kiss of death.

    The ceasefire should start February 15. Ukraine is supposed to be able to monitor its eastern  borders again at the end of 2015, after the East will have been given a de facto free-ride, albeit in the Ukrainian state. The future of the weapons, other than the "heavy" ones, of verification, of financial support for Kiev and respect for its freedom of choice remain unpredictable.
    Contrary to the Helsinki Agreement, European borders are fair game from now on!

    Sanctions can bite nevertheless. Moscow feels the pain.  On the other hand, Putin's internal firewall policies allow him to remain in control of a public opinion which is easy to manipulate, since there is no real collective memory of pluralistic times. From the Tzars to the Soviet Union and now into Putin's logic, the story line is one of reactionary orthodox immobility and slick propaganda.  If and when the "rebels" make another move, it is to be hoped that further sanctions will multiply, without delay. It is one thing to have to swallow a bitter pill, it is altogether another to relish it.

    Putin is trying to compensate for his losses through bold moves with China, Egypt and Greece. At least we should abstain from paying for his travel expenses!  Neither should we isolate him, which only adds to the stature of what he is in reality:  a highly shrewd apparatchik. He must be measured in the open, as an undesirable interloper, looking ill at ease, misplaced, when seen in an enlightened gathering. Let us beware of an other George W. Bush "portrait".

    As usual, the Obama Administration chose to be absent, this time in Minsk. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke must turn in his grave!

    Friday, February 13, 2015


    Three young students were shot dead by a neighbor over a "parking  spot" dispute.  The three victims were Muslims.  The neighbor happens to be a disreputable character.  If it is established that this execution-type killing was a hate crime, we should face the reality and come to the realization that "Charlie" has mutated.

    Muslims and non-Muslims have come together in the States and will continue to do so. It has to be hoped that, if proven to be a "hate crime", this abominable act will not remain unnoticed by the "guardians of conscience."  The slain deserve better than the opportunistic outrage of Turkey's palatial president--he daring to talk "human rights"? / seen the Turkish students lately?--or the embarrassed silence (for now) of the usual chorus line.

    Saturday, February 7, 2015


    Yesterday was supposed to be the pre-Valentine foreign policy's magnum opus day, but it was overshadowed by the President's prayer breakfast slips of the tongue. In one presentation he managed to collide with Christians, Indians and Chinese...Il faut le faire.  The National Security advisor is not popular.  Her spotty reputation in the UN sticks despite her new responsibility and the President's favor.  Instead of presenting an overview of a strategy she served a Spanish omelet. One can throw anything in it and serve it without further explanation.

    Dr. Rice claims to recognize the complexities of the diverse situations which the United States has to deal with or confront. She seems, nevertheless, unwilling to call problems by their name or to project a vision which is able to connect the dots. The differences between various upheavals are real but there is also a causal aspect which is neglected. Flash points also stem from a perception that America is reluctant to lead or to activate its given superiority. The world expects a commitment, as was the case in former days, but only receives a patronizing message where arrogance, unfamiliarity with history and self-loathing prevail. This is strange since Dr. Rice has the usual Oxford/Stanford credentials.

    This high-octane IQ administration is not willing to translate its claim to "exceptionalism" into deeds.  It is perceived as not trustworthy and colorblind (remember the red line?)   It is certainly correct to pursue diplomacy and to avoid armed intervention, but dangerous to let the adversary peek into a weak hand!  Washington has to lead and call all parties to order. One side of the world is dissolving, another part is being forced to regroup.  By not owning the divergent flows of energy, the United States let non-actors and proxies from Ukraine to the Middle East and Central Africa "steal" borders and agreements from under their nose. Fragmentation and reconstitution is becoming a fait accompli which remains strangely unsanctioned.

    Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande in the Kremlin looked more ill at ease than the culprit.  Obama should have been in the lair of the enemy!  The United States has been negotiating for years with Iran over a nuclear "face lift", nothing more. We know what is said in Tehran is worse than what is said in Moscow.  So, what is the President afraid of?
    Likewise, in the Syria/Iraq/ISIL conundrum the reality obliges the West to sort out the evils which occupy the terrain. Fighting the worst might need the support of the less-desirable (which is happening de facto to a certain degree).  All this melange is the result of the inability to come out into the open and to replace a phantom "coalition" of 60 ("bandits" included) by a comprehensive force of the willing, with agreed upon rules of engagement.

    Just as Dr. Rice missed her Benghazi prime-time, she has now forsaken the opportunity to present a State of the World-view. Instead, the cascade of political misreadings remains unattended, which makes America look "dispensable." In saying that, unlike former situations, the current threats are not existential, Dr. Rice shows that the Existentialists are not her reading material and that she prefers not to share the burden of today's seasons in hell. After all...L'enfer c'est les autres.

    Thursday, February 5, 2015


    Two ominous developments are playing havoc with the world's tectonic plates.  They obey to different speeds and goals but they are creating a "tropic of unbalance."

    The Middle East is engulfed in a turmoil which may end up rewriting the post World War I order and borders. The growing atrocities might finally alienate the Muslims from the radical jihadists but the tribal component may also reverse the imposed artificial nation/state supra- structure which can no longer contain trans-border loyalties.  In Europe, the Ukraine crisis is a flagrant violation of past agreements and order, threatening what was an agreed post-Cold War system. The communist disintegration obliged Gorbachev to abandon a bloated, costly utopia in favor of normalcy. Putin wants to regain the lost quantity by sacrificing the found quality.  The latter is a story of deconstruction. The former is a story of reconstruction.
    Both events are veering into higher speed, out of control .

    The Middle East has always been misunderstood by the West. It became the matter of a "tale" which was both unrealistic and, to a point, unfair. Karl Marx said that "they cannot represent themselves; they must be represented."  Such thinking opens the doors for all the fallacies of orientalism. The reality was starved in favor of a mythology, the hungry beast woke and the ringleader is gone.

    Ukraine is by far a more calibrated danger.  It reminds me of Churchill's boutade after proposing a toast to Stalin's professed desire for peace, adding sotto voce "a piece of Poland, a piece of Czechoslovakia, a piece of Romania..."  Putin will not stop since he knows he does not have to.  Sanctions do hurt indeed, and the new Russian middle-class is now fed with slogans rather than with past luxuries or easy money. Putin knows the Russian history and plays the nationalistic, orthodox card with brio.  His thugs do the dirty job in Eastern Ukraine and Kiev looks on. Diplomacy can only be continued if there is good faith and verification. Crimea cannot be forgotten, otherwise the Budapest Memorandum or the Helsinki Agreement will end up in the Munich Wastebasket. The slow breakdown of recognized borders has a rather unpleasant deja vu connotation. The German-French peace efforts cannot become a substitute for "absolution" or for a  fait accompli in disguise.

    In both theaters the United States and the European Union are mere voyeurs. President Obama does not grasp the call of history or the importance of the toll the West will pay for a unforgivable lack of vision and guts. Germany will not undercut its Ostbindung and Russia will march on. Ukraine is a difficult partner for the West and it is easy to understand why the Americans are reluctant to deliver lethal weapons. An accident could lead to a most dangerous conflagration between the bold and the timid.

    The Arab world has to be put in a sort of parenthesis.  Because of the faults of some, the Muslims run the risk of becoming the new "pariahs." This is mostly their doing, since it is hard to see a Mandela or Havel in their midst. As long as they are unable to separate nation-building and belief, as long as they avoid reciprocity, they are doomed to be the wardens of their misfortunes. What we see is a repeat of a 100-years war.  Should the West get involved? Yes, but only if there were to rise an enlightened alternative, which is dubious in the short-term. 
    The fight against ISIL looks more like shadow boxing, and the fear to call the monster by its name does not win you friends and only emboldens enemies.

    Both for Ukraine and the Middle East (not to forget the events in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia) the fight has to come into the open and the division between the frequentables and the beasts has to be made clear. Realpolitik, the workings of parallel circuits (Arab
    charities, energy, safety) can no longer have a free-hand in a world wherein the rule of law has been marginalized with impunity. Leaders must be "outed" for their intentions. Double-talk can be a great performance but it should not be allowed to rule. A meeting for the willing, friends and foes, is more appropriate than a coalition of the hidden-from-view. There is too much micro ma management lately, which provides cover for procrastination.

    The road ahead is slippery. Better avoid falling into a Carryb and Sylla dilemna. The West should equally beware of falling victim to a "guilt complex" which only feeds the frenzy of the "outlaws" who have found an easy pass to become a fifth column in its own midst. They eat as long as they are fed.