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.

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