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.