Monday, July 27, 2015


If this is the new "tone" , I better stock on earplugs.


Yesterday's world looked manageable, albeit it with many demurrals.  There were two poles, the USA and the Soviet Union.  In between, the 77 under the umbrella of Zhou Enlai, Nehru, Tito, Sukarno, Nyerere and Nasser "navigated."  Both poles made some singular incursions into this de facto orbis.  The West made confusing colonial catastrophic moves regarding Indochina,Vietnam and the Suez Canal. The Soviets controlled their turf by way of proxies, invasion or intimidation. The 77 were left to their own devices, even when they were deadly, mainly for their own nationals.  Nevertheless, the Unites States remained in this Duumvirate the undisputed architect of world order.

Today's world has become unmanageable.  Even after the Soviet Union became nuclear, the reciprocal blackmail created a deterrent which none of the Duumvirs dared to test to the limits. The  proliferation wave later on (Pakistan, China, India, North Korea, Israel) shook this negative equilibrium.  The inexcusable second Iraq war killed the ailing patient. Since this irreversible calamity the world has unraveled, the dam broke. Out of the flood rose a generation of aberrations which has left the more responsible powers in disarray, internally and externally.

The consequences, from Dagestan to 9/11, from ISIL to Boko Haram, from false perceptions to unattended situations, lead to a form of "hot pursuit" behavior on the part of the more reliable powers who resorted to half-baked measures in the absence of agreed goals. There were no well thought operations of the Overlord type, there is no new Bretton Woods in the making, there is no Yalta formula in view.  The Huns rule, the arsonists are in our midst and Rome has only water buckets to stop the fire from reaching even further. 

The Iran deal has laid bare some unpleasant facts. The discussion is not about the merits of this unpleasant arrangement. The merits are undeniable, the unknowns (access, cheating window) are still awaiting an answer. The reality is that the 5+1 accepted to deal with what remains in reality an amoral entity, giving it by stealth the status of normality while it pursues the annihilation of a third state, finances terrorism and sacrifices human rights for the sake of a mandatory Orwellian religion.  The Iran deal may work out in the end, but by ignoring the collateral it remains a hypocritical affair. 

While Russia and China stay mostly in their layers or near abroad, the West appears to be on the defense. When one mentions the West, one means mostly the United States of course, since Europe is nailed on the cross of the EU and since the common foreign and defense policies are the stuff fairy tales are made of.

The US remain the ultimate world architect for the unforeseeable future. They will need time and a mix of will and creative power to extricate themselves (and others with them) from of a foretold catastrophic miscalculation. The Americans made a Barbarossa or Napoleonic type of mistake in Iraq and are paying a colossal price without any chance of positive reversal in the middle long-term.  Hence they have their power questioned, their influence diminished, their indispensability in doubt. The famous American Arabists from former times seem to have abandoned the State Department while the White House appears unable to come up with leadership.  Russia and China are equally to blame, but I see few illegals trying to cross their borders in search of a better future!

Since there is not yet an alternative for America's role, what can be done?

--The MIDDLE EAST is in free-fall and the contagion reaches a large part of Africa.  The kinship between the US and Israel needs to be restored. The relationships with Sunni states must be reviewed with appropriate attention given to education, human rights and core values.
Syria can only be dealt with in a multilateral forum which must include all, with Assad, who should be given time and opportunity to relinquish power. There is no time left to play difficult and it is advisable to choose the shortcut before Iran is able to prop up its proxies. The choice must be made clear for the Syrian president:  either accept an exit with dignity or to face the harsh reality of a renewed Sunni/US alliance or the consequences of the "civil war" between ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra.

The Shia oil spill must be contained before it can overrun more than what it can swallow!  It is doubtful that the US/Iran bi-laterals in Lausanne or Vienna led to some form of confidential entente on peripheral strategic matters. Slogans speak louder than words and the sound of them remains ominous. The whole Middle East needs a bottom-up overview under some form of 5+1 umbrella, reinvigorated by the input of the ones directly involved and by the assistance of mostly the US, which for the better and lately for the less advisable, are the Primus inter pares in the region.  Turkey's recent larger profile in the fight against ISIL is considered to be a positive. One should not forget, however, that Turkey is a NATO member. Accidents can happen and consequences could be unforeseeable. This is one supplementary reason to rush to the negotiating table rather than to persevere in an unconvincing strategy. After all, ISIL, unlike Al Qaeda, is the embryo of a nihilistic entity.  Most Arabs want to be known for more than just oil and suicide bombers!

--The future belongs to ASIA.  The Obama Administration proclaimed  a "pivot" to Asia.
The move is a good one, if implemented.  Everybody is convinced by now that Asia will be a major player in the areas of finance and economy. As a continent, it is still a power-in-waiting. North Korea is a pathological case and can only be seen as a dangerous aberration. India is still obsessing over Pakistan (and vice-versa), while China tries to project a sea power that could break through the American firewall which encircles it from Guam to South Korea. The South China Sea is the major inroad of China's power by way of the Paracels and Spratlys, which are also disputed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan. The 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea calls for a peaceful settlement. Vietnam welcomed it, China "noted" it. Today, Beijing has created the fait accompli in what it considers its larger territorial abroad. Only unhindered freedom of navigation and trade can partially compensate for this "creeping enlargement." The Sensaku dispute in the East China Sea creates an ominous tension with Japan, with even a greater risk factor, given the strong alliance between the US and Japan.

Washington reacts on many fronts, be it through bi-lateral upgrading (India, Vietnam), by consolidating (Japan, South Korea) and through a multi-lateral trade deal (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) in which China plays no part. It looks to Australia as its first defense.

President Xi Jinping's trip to Washington later this year is crucial for bi-lateral relations which could tilt in every direction. The cyber-war has to be addressed, otherwise any good will will sound hollow. The current authoritarian culture war waged against intellectuals and civil society in the P.R.C. is a bad omen. The economic/financial uncertainties might likewise weigh on the strives that China has made towards a more consumer-oriented economy and a decrease of state interventionism. Still,the per capita G.D.P. in 2013 in China was the equal of Ecuador's. Together with the latest uncertainties, those facts should have a sobering effect on the usual "hyperbole."
China feels duped, mostly by the United States, insofar as it has not been given the "weight" it deserves in the major international (mostly financial/economic) organizations.  Hence, it duplicates or resorts to other groupings which are more to its liking (Shanghai cooperation/ BRICS/the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership).

In the end, there are more countries which want America in, rather than out. Washington is still the arbiter in Asian affairs but it had better act in accordance with facts than with wishful thinking. China is never going to give up what it considers to be "its", neither is it in a forgiving mood regarding past grievances, be them directed at the West or at Japan. The modus vivendi between Moscow and Beijing is a tactical one. The cautious entente between Washington and South East Asia rests on more solid fundamentals, strategic and economic. The Americans have every reason to act in responsible ways since their alliances with Taiwan, Seoul, Tokyo and Manila can easily backfire if China chooses to test them. The Chinese do not build aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and stealth jets for nothing!

The US has every good reason to elaborate a less paranoid partnership with ASEAN+, so that China feels it can cooperate without looking as if it were giving in. It were better for the future if the TPP and the RCEP could melt in a FTAAP (Free trade area of the East Pacific, including both America ans China). China must be encouraged to become a participatory power and no longer be treated as an interloper.  Soon the renminbi will become a global reserve currency, and China's state-owned development bank has already surpassed the World Bank in international lending.

The rush to all things Asian is unstoppable.  Paradoxically, American soft-power is more in demand over there than anywhere else.  Besides, Asian investment in the United States is growing exponentially and creating a creative added-value, mostly in R/D, media and manufacturing. The Financial Times has now gone Japanese, what could be more symbolic?

--EUROPE often looks like a mass of inertia.  The Greek crisis showed the EU at its worse behaviour.  Still, the house stands and the hurricane has subsided, for the time-being.  The sophisticated institutional web which the EU created might be its downfall. The layers of decision-making at so many levels risk sinking a ship which was not built to carry such a heavy load.  Besides, the proximity between power and citizen has gotten totally lost. The military/political ambitions look almost vain when compared to their original aspirations. Since the Delors years, the EU has lost its soul. Indifference and disenchantment rule.  The euro is no longer a flagship, it is the currency for a beggar's opera.

All this stands in sharp contrast to a continent which is at the same time creative and sophisticated, be it mostly in the arts or in innovation. Unfortunately, one gets used to what functions (or doesn't) while concentrating solely on the many dysfunctions which do not result from the original Rome Treaty, by the way, but from the bad cholesterol which is imbedded in the Nice and Maastricht aberrations. There is too much heterogeneity in the EU workings, which try to accommodate opposite priorities.  Immigration is another wildfire which spreads with total disregard to borders or shared common principles.

The Atlantic, former Churchillian component is almost totally gone. The Americans look at Europe in disbelief, while the Europeans pretend to snub American pop culture, which they buy online as if it were some forbidden fruit to be enjoyed out of sight.

The existential problem which Europe faces is Islamic terrorism. Because of geography and sloppiness, the sleeper cells multiply and find a fertile ground in a continent which is over- regulated where it should not be and under-regulated where it should. The EU, which is supposed to embrace most things super-national remains shy when it might have to give up sovereignty in matters of security (and finance!)   There should already have been a European FBI at a time when the shores of Italy and Greece can no longer cope with the influx of refugees and when the trains and trucks in Calais or Belgium become the favorite targets of refugees trying to make their way into the UK.   Obviously, most of them flee poverty and marginalization, but some tend to join the fifth columns which want to destabilize existing order and codes. Lately all the focus is on Iran but are we forgetting that all terrorists known until now are non-Iranian. ? Are we aware that the core of believers in this unholy crowd is mostly Wahhabi? The EU must urgently focus on this creeping danger which is already homegrown. The awakening after Charlie Hebdo risks becoming a flash in the pan. 

There is not much to look forward to.  A free-trade agreement with the US is long overdue.
Better to consider a European NATO pillar than none. European machinery is in need of weight loss if it does not want to become even more alienated from the (scarce) voters who still show some interest in the workings of the EU Parliament.

--AFRICA and LATIN AMERICA.  Both continents hold promises, and both look equally vulnerable.  They have become, first of all, prey to China's insatiable hunger for energy and raw materials. The Chinese buy and/or build whatever the "client" wants while at the same time hiding behind the veil of non-interference, choosing not having to deal with the environment, human rights or social change. It is a win-win situation for provider and client.

--SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA is divided between mostly unsavory regimes (Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, R.D. Congo, Zimbabwe) and fiefdoms of terrorist Islamic outlaws in existing states (Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Mali) or in the Horn of Africa (Al Shabab).  At least President Obama tries (in vain) to spread an inclusive message, while the Chinese continue raiding, and do not confuse being welcomed with being liked.  After Mandela, South Africa is probably the greatest disappointment. The complex message followed a complex man into the grave and Africa is torn between dynastic corruption and a Faustian bargain with China. The take-off was promising but today the hard-landing is a sad awakening.  The wealth of too few does not generate the conditions wherein more could advance. The cellphone has become the lolly-pop to compensate for hard work, bad conditions, corruption, health problems and unfair governance. Rene Dumont's book L'Afrique noire est mal partie has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yesterday it made a scandal, today it is the subtitle for an even larger tragedy.  Former colonial powers should at least take a more concrete interest in supporting African countries and not hide behind moral reprobation of disagreeable leaders to find alibis for doing too little. The Rwandan tragedy, not unlike the Khmer Rouges, is a stain which still overflows the capacity for grief.

--SOUTH AMERICA.  The Cuba move by President Obama was smart.  He re-dimensioned the importance of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador & Co. 
Nevertheless, the relationships with Latin America need a qualitative and quantitative input. Here too, the Chinese are asserting their financial clout and secure access to natural resources. Facts show that the Monroe Doctrine is not only forgotten, it is buried. President Kennedy was the last American president who engaged structurally with the Southern Hemisphere, not only for reason of the Cuban crisis, but out of a rationale made out of a mix of diplomatic concern and self-interest.  Now that Brazil and Argentina find themselves in murky waters and since the BRICS experiment lacks staying-power, there exists a political/economic widow of opportunity for a positive, participatory American re-engagement. The Cuban lock is no longer and the leftist regimes now find themselves deprived of argument and obliged to face their own internal socio-economic turmoil and corruption.

Mexico is a case sui generis.  It is northern by choice (NAFTA) and southern by culture. It was for awhile engaged in a royal battle for leadership but it lost to Brazil.  While it made progress on many fronts, in the first place energy, it is unable to come to terms with the corruption at all levels and with the narco state within the state.

There is a systemic empathy for Europe in all Latin American countries. Unlike elsewhere, there is an extraordinary cultural open-minded discours about the colonial times and atrocities. This has given rise to a literature, creativity and research which helped the people to regain some form of self-esteem and identity. Europe, unlike the United States, is seen in a more favorable light, despite a history of cruelty and exploitation. The EU should concentrate more on highlighting a privileged relationship with a subcontinent where it is probably more welcome than anywhere.  Marquez, Neruda, Paz, Fuentes, Borges have become almost writers shared ! 

IN THE END the world is in need of an organizing principle. Given the many changes, the clock cannot be turned back to former universal principles. Dr. Kissinger's Westphalian concept is not sustainable in a situation wherein too many hybrids collide with classical entities.
The embryonic Caliphate, the new religious war, the radical perverse forms of aggression (cyber, suicide bombers, terrorism, drones) have totally marginalized the spirit of the Geneva Conventions.  It is important that the five permanent Security Council members have remained  "five" and that no alternative naive formula replaced them. The five disagree about a lot but they all share similar problems. Russia has the Caucasus, China has its Autonomous regions (Tibet included). The US, France, and the UK have equally to count with the enemies within and elsewhere.   The 5+1 formula (created by Dr. Rice) for Iran (including the EU and Germany) should be maintained for other warnings or situations.  It remains important to talk to all, meaning that yesterday's aberrations will fatally be part of tomorrow's new normal. Better to divide than accumulate, better open channels to Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban than driving them into the arms of worse. The current fight against ISIL is a fight between civilizations (plural) and nihilism (singular). We have chosen the enemy, let's now bring conditionally together a possible alternative. This supposes a difficult choice and a reliance on Jeffersonian principles which admittedly are still alien to the values of additional possible interlocutors. Universal principles are an endangered species, given that the tribal is programmed agaist the encompassing global.  Conversions might still happen. It will be an uphill battle given that recent fractures are rooted in past frustrations and not in future openings.

Universal principles no longer figure on the agenda, unfortunately.  Globalization has lost most of its appeal.  What about "communality"?  It is less about imposition than about a pro-active approach with regard to adhering to an arrangement, less glamorous, but balancing both self-interest and a set of rules, tolerated more for the sake of self-preservation than out of adhesion.
The Wilsonian, European, almost metaphysical ambitions, have become a waste of time...the future will be a mix of thrill and dread.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Here we go again.  The American presidential elections are already in full swing.  Everything could be called banal if it were not for Donald Trump who is one of the many, often obscure, Republican candidates.

The primaries concentrate on a couple of states which candidates would normally choose to fly over rather than make a stop-over. Those states, which can look like a refuge for bigots, evangelicals, anti-gays, pro-lifers and gun addicts, are important insofar as they send delegates to the electoral college which chooses the next president. Conservatives do not even bother to campaign in California or New York, considered lost for their holy wars.  Hence, the Republicans choose to play to an audience which is politically essential and sociologically not to be found in the culturally more advanced Greenwich timezone.  All this was to be expected (yawn) until Donald Trump...

Since he entered the race, the real estate business man has almost insulted everyone while aggrandizing his money (there is plenty of that) and himself (there is more to him than Shakespeare's "pound of flesh") while deriding his fellow candidates.  Lately, he has attacked Senators McCain and Graham in the most undiplomatic terms. McCain is considered a hero and a wise statesman. (One tends to forget that the senator once quibbled that Chelsea Clinton was the illegitimate child of Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno...speaking of good taste!)  But now is now, and Trump relishes undressing the "political elites". This has given him an audience but I doubt that this will be translated into sustainable support. Besides, the soundbites are no substitute for political and diplomatic argument.

Other candidates, Republican and Democratic, look mostly tame, boring and predictable in comparison, although the Republicans do have some interesting up starters. On the Democratic side Mrs. Clinton is like a Nyqil, without the high.  She nods a lot and seems unable, so far, to awaken her troops.  She is so cautious that she ends up sinking in the quicksand of non-argument.

The primaries and caucuses bring the worst out of candidates.  Some feel they have to figure awkwardly into an unfitting scenario or ice cream shop photo-op while others (mostly in the unabashed right camp) feel at home in an America, unspoiled by the unstoppable social changes in the Sodoms and Gomorrahs of East and West coasts.  Contrary to what Europeans believe, the United States are not the New York Times.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

21 JUILLET (pardon pour les accents hors clavier).

La fete nationale est devenue une affaire de routine, et pourtant...
Le roi Philippe a tenu des propos qui n'etaient plus de circonstance. Le discours etait interessant et innovateur.
Les Belges semblent plus motives et en tout cas plus en symbiose avec la famille royale.
Le moral du pays reel est meilleur. Le pays legal continue a mal fonctionner.
Les elucubrations de certains visant a mettre la monarchie sous "tutelle" sont absurdes et frisent l'indelicatesse. On a le droit d'etre republicain. On peut envisager des modalites visant a actualiser la fonction royale, pour autant que l'on sache choisir le theme et le moment !
Que certains preferent n'apparaitre qu'a  la carte est etonnant, voir meme impoli. Que le ministre de l'interieur boude le Te Deum et n'assiste qu'au defile militaire peut surprendre car au titre de sa fonction il est suppose defendre les institutions et la securite, ou que ce soit. Que les inexistants, type Bourgeois et l'ineffable Peumans, aient prefere rester chez eux est passe inappercu...De minimis non curat...
Bon, la  Belgique est restee fidele a sa dimension surresaliste. Elle en a vu d'autres.

Friday, July 17, 2015

BOURGEOIS ...een komiek vervolgverhaal.

De Vlaamse Minister President  blijft het "dommage, le ridicule ne tue pas" trouw.
Na zijn voorlopig mislukte protocolaire coup, na de uitreiking van  Vlaamse "eretekens" (sic) , beslist hij nu een volwaardige portefeuille buitenlandse betrekkingen te voorzien  in zijn befaamde Homans/ Crevits en Co. regeringsploeg (no comment).
Hij moet nu nog wel een Ganzendonk  proberen te vinden  die zijn Weltanschauung naar buiten kan overdragen .


The Greek crisis has laid bare a serious fault line in the European workings.  Difficult monetary and financial problems need therapy. Although the Greek patient had to pay for his own wrongdoings, he was also allowed to enter the Emergency Room.  Nevertheless, the ailing one appears at times more eager to shoot the (German) doctor with live ammunition rather than with rubber bullets.  As a consequence, the almost structural meltdown in Europe as a whole needs to be attended to without further delay. Fractured personal relations must be repaired.

The situation started to deteriorate before, when the EU found itself besieged externally by an assertive Russia and internally by growing disenchantment related to immigration and slow growth.  The EU machinery failed on all accounts. The claims for solidarity and closer cooperation started to sound hollow before Greece entered Dante's inferno. The former acted as an accelerator of all things going wrong.

Old demons have long shadows. Having to witness how former prejudice and antipathy are played out so shamelessly should be a wake-up call. The German philosopher Jurgen  Habermas wrote a devastating  J'accuse regarding Europe's sad return to divisions which are dangerous because the ruling mediocracy--contrary to what happens in the IMF--often acts as if it were solely preoccupied with backroom deals rather than with facing the abyss.

Immigration, terrorism, cowardice have infected the core of the former European ideal. The negative Zeitgeist could paralyze further indispensable creative thinking. Personal chemistry amongst Europeans is a quality on the verge of extinction. Instead, one is confronted with opportunistic alliances which further undermine the cohesion of all. 

The EU can only regain some of its credibility if it becomes again an "enlightened republic" rather than an employment bureau for all "have beens". The Commission is bloated because the choice was made that member states needed a turf, even on the back of the believable. The ECB chair is equally shadowed by the representatives of the national banks in the euro zone. And one could go on...

The Greek crisis is bad for the Greeks but it has also shown the EU at its worst. We haven't seen the end yet and the dreaded "Grexit" is still on all parties' minds.  
Band-aids don't last!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


The Iran nuclear deal could have been worse.  One has to wait to read the fine print and be able to venture between the lines before risking a definitive appreciation.  All negotiators certainly deserve praise for stamina. They appeared more often than not like actors in a remake of "The Grand Budapest Hotel".

One fact is clear:  What was addressed is a brick in the wall, but the wall still stands.  The Iranian stands against the US, Israel and most of the values which the West still represents, remain unattended. It might appear surreal that the 5+1 accepted to negotiate while their counterpart is pursuing a nihilistic agenda and refuses to waiver on its nefarious agenda.  In "The Persian Letters" Montesquieu argues that "mankind constantly waivers between false hopes and silly fears, and instead of relying on reason, it creates monsters to frighten itself with, and phantoms which leads it astray." True, in his novel one of his heroes, Usbek, returns home to find the Seraglio imploded and his wives dead. I hope the very able Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif or Prime Minister Hasan Rohani will not encounter the wrath of their unpredictable Supreme Leader!

Diplomacy is not always a gourmet feast.  Partners might look unpalatable.  A contario yesterday's enemies might become tomorrow's allies. Who could have imagined Obama meeting last week with the Vietnamese in the White House years ago? True, the American president has a knack for attracting the marginals while alienating his natural allies.

The major flaw in this deal lies less in what it pretends than in what it might do. The nuclear pause "in time" is a positive step. The former was nevertheless taken in almost total disregard of Israel and allies in the region. Hence, the United States might end up harvesting a rotten apple on the back of a better harvest. To negotiate with a rogue state which claims the annihilation of another state is far-fetched. Not to bring up the unpleasant dealings in a region which is booby-trapped as a consequence of inter alia Iranian interference is hard to explain. The fact that human rights were not even mentioned once torpedoes the image of the American white knight! True, one cannot totally forego more confidential bilateral agreements en marge but until further notice, this remains doubtful and more a thing of past classical diplomacy, which is forgotten by now. The likes of the China communique are history!

The nuclear issue in the Middle East is of paramount importance. One could have chosen for a multilateral path on the Tlatelolco model whereby Israel might have agreed to a gradual, step-by-step denuclearising.  Instead, the other path was the chosen one, giving the former pariah the status of major regional power.

Even if the deal (arrangement is a more suitable term) were agreed upon by the US Congress, the question remains if it was really a necessary one.  If cheating becomes a way to get recognition, we might as well return to some comedy of errors. Would it have been better to leave Iran to exhaust itself under sanctions, than to lift the former for a brief respite (under control)?  Iran behaved like the Mexican drug pin. The more it is locked up, the more it will find a way out! Behaviors do not change overnight and whatever the Pollyanna's proclaim, improved manners or regime change are not in the cards for now.

In fact Iran can cash in, create havoc in OPEC and continue to manipulate its Shia minions.  It is not bound by a code of good behavior.  It remains to be seen if the 5+1 which are not on the same page (France, Russia and China) will be able to present a united front when unavoidable divergent interpretations occur.  Verification, qualitative and quantitative commitments look good on paper but interpretation thereof remains an untrustworthy actor.

At the end of so many days, the negotiators are rightfully exhausted. It is their own doing, be it by calculation, or illusions of Nobel grandeur. The agreement looks and sounds better than many had feared but, in the end, the tired enemies remain the same as at the start, despite the smiles: incompatible for now. Muslims follow often a disputable norm "taqiyya "which gives them a free pass to deceive infidels,if the situation warrants it, without penalities for dishonesty.Cela promet !

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Niemand kent hem.
Niemand will hem.
Hij  is een Servier in Belgie.
Hij is als een nobody elders, goed voor grafondernemer in Delft ( Willem verdient beter).
Arm Vlaanderen !
Rubens en Van Dijck zullen hem in NYC in 2016 niet missen alhoweel hij wel zal afreizen na zijn recent Damiaan "succes" in Manhattan (sic).
Hij wil wil nu een Vlaams Minister van Buitenlandse zaken...Le ridicule ne tue pas ! Wij wachten nog op zijn aangekondigde Vlaamse Vlaamse kermis herleeft !
Wat een kater....vergeleken met grote Vlamingn, Vermeylen, Grootjans, Lefevre, Huysmans .Wij verdienen beter  dan Bourgeois, Homans en Co,

Sunday, July 5, 2015


By voting NO, the Greeks have put their Prime Minister in a box.  His mandate cannot be ignored and he will feel obliged to negotiate even more generous terms both with Brussels and the IMF.  In reality his room for manoeuvre has gotten smaller and it is hard to see how the Euro group, which is fed-up with the antics of the Greeks, can be more forthcoming than in the past. Surely adjustments are possible but the basic problem remains. The Greeks were never part of a sophisticated consultation. They became hostage to a demagogic scenario and a hidden agenda. The internal gridlock remains the same.

Athens might be foolish enough to imagine that it was comforted in an anti-Brussels stand. This would be all the more dangerous since it might boomerang when the money runs out, not in timely theory but in unforeseeable practical terms.  Unpleasant words have been said. After all, creditors are entitled to expect better manners from the Greek Beggars Opera.  On the other hand, the Greeks deserve respect and support as long as they obey by the rules of accepted good governance. There should be no room for Schadenfreude. Greece is a small piece in the EU puzzle but the infection may spread to the EU, to markets at large and to NATO. The play is too large for a Greek group of amateurs or personalities with a dubious standing. The names of Manolis Glezos and Nikolaos Michaloliakos come to mind,  unsavoury demagogues, who can join the ranks of other EU undesirables.

All reasonable parties should choose for reason. The former is claimed by Greece but they better reclaim their lost property first at the "Lost-and-Found" window.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


As happens in other parts of the world, with some pompous exceptions which will remain unnamed, America's 4th of July will be celebrated with the usual barbecues and fireworks. This world power prefers to embrace rather than to impress.

As a European, American resident, I remain impressed by how different the old and the new continents are.  In his book Cousins and Strangers Chris Patten uncovered the cliches which exist in the Anglo (European)-American relationship.  Besides the embrace (Normandy or ad hoc flurries of camaraderie and a true partnership) there still exists a residue, made up of prejudice, suspicion, snobbery and pique. In reality both partners mutually mistrust as much as they like. They are more about a menage than about love.

Lately, all this came to the fore after the disastrous decision of President George W. Bush to invade Iraq.  The divergence has never healed. The United States continues to suffer the consequences of this self-inflicted major mistake while the Europeans never fully recovered their former trust in American leadership.  The chamber music approach of candidate Obama seduced Europeans for a short while, but the initial enchantment vanished as soon as the candidate became president. As much as President Bush was often seen as abrasive and unpolished, President Obama is considered weak and unpredictable.  This is unfortunate and it shouldn't be. Europe finds itself currently in very dire straits while the United States fair better. The bad atmosphere over trivial issues risk distracting from the existential ones. The Jihadist curse does not spare anyone, acting more like a universal crime syndicate than a coherent hostile "philosophical driven" grouping. It is not something that can be deposited on American or European doorsteps!   It is a common enemy!

What divides Europe and the United States is more subtle but perverse insofar as it feeds on stereotypes. Their social models collide. In the United States the social wars are still going on. In Europe a moral code rules by irrelevance, while in the United States abortion, gay rights, climate change, laicity, and end-of-life remain unsettled issues. While there is no declaration of independence more relevant than the American one, civil wars continue to be waged over causes which Europeans can only condescend to.  The level of he political discourse in the United States is often pedestrian, disconnected from the academic conversation which is highly sophisticated. Presidential candidates still discuss how gay couples can be served in restaurants, how the confederate flag should be considered, how abortion must be made a battle rather than a right...and one can go on!

Europeans fail to understand this cacophony. They see movies made in Hollywood as a trip to imbecility, forgetting that a movie can also be a commodity--like coal or platinum--and that in the end Jurassic Park will make money while Lars von Trier will not: "It's the economy, stupid!"  True American popular "culture" looks retarded, but ask how many Europeans care about the EU Parliament or are familiar with the names of the top EU Troika.  One had better get ready for a surprise. Even Ms. Christine Lagarde is more known for her scarves rather than for her skills!

Both the Europeans and Americans should take a pause. In the good old days, President Roosevelt and P.M. Winston Churchill behaved like a vaudeville duo, tricking behind each other's back. Egos were bruised but the relationship withstood the storms. Today, the couple sleeps in separate rooms and is in need of therapy, in the vein of the Nancy Astor/Churchill ferocious argument:

       Astor:  "If I were your wife, I would put poison in your coffee."
       Churchill: "Nancy, if I were your husband, I would drink it."

That is what I call a model for transatlantic marriage!