Thursday, May 28, 2015


The other day I watched the British monarch delivering the traditional address to Parliament. As usual, Queen Elizabeth II was perfect in manner and delivery. The pomp, the dress codes looked gorgeous. The British political establishment inhabited the ceremony with savoir faire, as could be expected.

This being said, I fear that all which looks regal now, given the personalities involved, might look out of place in a future invested in a very  different mindset. Besides, the regal and imperial symbolisms risk being overtaken by the hard reality of a country "on the brink", which barely survived the last elections.  This is not unique to the "United" Kingdom (for how long?) and the same disengagement appears in many European countries in minor or worldwide in major.  The dissociation between assumption and specifics is creating a disconnect between problems awaiting resolution and the considered therapies.

Most political analysts continue to view countries, conflict, tension, crisis through an antiquated looking-glass. They focus on states and borders, which can be irrelevant, and in some theoretical geographical or geopolitical projections which are fiction. They are equally oblivious of the power shifts underneath. They are tone-deaf and continue to search for remedies, while the patient is gone.

The conversation around Syria, Iraq or Sub-Saharan Africa is a waste of time, since those countries are mutating into something altogether very different. Leaders who feel empowered are themselves overrun by tribal loyalties or by de facto autonomous entities. The photo-op in the Oval Office becomes farcical when the official received has no clothes.

The classical forms of diplomacy have not been able to catch up with the transformational earthquake which has created new players, new rules, and changes which overrun existing maps. There is a Darwinian temptation to look on while the rogue "transformers" fight it out amongst themselves. The Obama administration appears sometimes to be reluctant to intervene in those atypical syndromes. By being a voyeur or over-cautious one risks letting structural necrosis step in, as is the case in the Middle East. Too many leaders who are on the way out are still part of the game of mirrors, while the waves of change should oblige us to confront the new normal of heterodoxy.

Since the end (?) of the Cold War the West has acted like a bewildered orphan. It was used to classical confrontation and has forgotten to look elsewhere or to reboot its more creative analytical mind. The pomp in Westminster cannot hide the fact that Great Britain is no longer that great. The "red lines" of President Obama are no longer being taken at face value.  Like it or not, the new actors will not obey by the old order. Dr. Kissinger's brilliant Westphalian model is becoming obsolete, given that the concept of balance of power doesn't apply to parties which only go for the fratricide or nihilistic kill.

Ideology has always been an aphrodisiac:  Mao, Hitler, Stalin were in control of their show. They infused the spectacle with enough rationality to keep it going for a while. Only their ultimate encroachment led to their defeat. The current ideology does not waste time investing in some form of rationality. Hence the West lacks, for an unforeseeable time, the means to counter the perverse occupation of territories and minds which appears almost unstoppable and which has the ability to mobilize a fifth sleeping cell or column as it feels fit. This new curse cannot be ignored. Left to its own devices it will continue both its internal bloodshed and its external transgressions.

Regal speeches flatter the ego. They also hide the reality. Entertainment is no surrogate for being taken seriously. The lofty words out of the White House cannot replace an enlightened strategy. As much as containment worked yesterday, only engagement will reduce the new fighters and suicide bombers to the rag pack they are. Ignored they strive, confronted with the light they look diminished. Half measures prolong the agony, as is the case today. Their defeat and humiliation can come in many forms. The lack of imagination in the Western mindset is another form of cowardly retrenchment. I fear that an Iranian deal will only further aggravate what is bad, blurr the map and further alienate the moderately useful. 

We need Lewis Caroll's Queen of Spades!

No comments:

Post a Comment