Monday, November 30, 2015


Apres avoir ete condamnee dans la presse internationale, suite aux attentats de Paris, la Belgique se fait une nouvelle fois remarquer a Paris.
L'ineffable Geert Bourgeois joue  cavalier (?) seul dans le dossier climatique...jusqu'au "finish"? De toute facon quelle que soit l'issue, l'on retiendra le ridicule plutot qu'un eventuel retour a une forme de sagesse retrouvee, condamnee d'avance pour cause "d'arrivee tardive".

Le gouvernement federal est l'otage de ses pieces demembrees. Une nouvelle fois le "mal Belge"est apparu dans toute sa mesquinerie minable.
Plusieurs fois j'ai critique l'aspect ridicule et franchement provincial de la reforme de l'etat qui privilegie les tendances les plus obscurantistes et qui penalise les ajustements necessaires pour une insertion, difficile au depart, dans l'ere de la globalisation, de l'innovation et des defis politique, strategique et technologique.

En Belgique les regions, a des degres divers, sont trop souvent impermeables a la critique exterieure, preferant etre les aveugles dans le pays des borgnes.
Monsieur Bourgeois, le Voltaire d'Izegem (LOL), est le maitre des mesalliances (avec les Pays Bas). J'entends ce que nos voisins en pensent, mais ce sourd Trissotin a la carte ne veut rien entendre. Pourtant son parti occupe des postes de choix dans le gouvernement federal. Il est vrai que les medias etrangers ont abandonne tout espoir de comprendre tout cela,  preferant couvrir la Belgique sous le voile pudique de "laboratoire surrealiste". Cela est genereux, eu egard a la mediocrite du scenario. Suite au prochain numero !

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Tomorrow, November 30, 2015, Paris will see a gathering of world leaders who are supposed to arrive at a consensus regarding the ways, goals and means to deal with climate change. There are still deniers, although all evidence is available which gives ample proof that climate change is happening at a pace which is alarming. 

The issue is one of a fast approaching menace. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that another danger should receive top priority and that the flock of world leaders should  likewise have come together to discuss and sort out responsibilities regarding the fight against radical Islam (or whatever you want to name it). The priorities are wrong, seen in the" current " context.

We are confronted by a nihilistic scourge which wants to wipe history, creativity, pluralism, and secularism from the face of the civilized world. Words like beauty, tolerance, and empathy do not figure in the "mission statement" of the terrorists.  Palmyra, beheadings, and genocide are the trademark of zealots without "humanity". We are at war, indeed !

The front line lies in an existential battle for life against a multiplicative of death. Climate change is most important indeed but comes second now, whatever the US president, wrongly so, argues. Things are no longer equal, they need prioritization. The Paris conference risks ending up in ambiguous deals and, more dangerously, becoming a covert event which allows the ones under suspicion elsewhere to walk out with a free-pass here. That which is on everybody's mind will not be on the agenda.  "Ceci n'est pas le climat".  

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Paris is always a great city.  It is also stressed and often rude.  Since the massacre, the neurotic aspects of Parisian life have disappeared and the indifferent waiters have become again the sophisticated handlers and voyeurs in the vein of Sartre, the Left Bank and Charles Trenet. Out of the ashes of tragedy, Paris seems to be reborn for awhile as the city of lights and love. The cover of The New Yorker  (Nov. 30, 2015) speaks louder than words.

There are other lucky cities like New York, Prague, Rome, which might descend into hell at times, but never lose their claim to the mythology of being the first-tier enchantresses.  Other cities are in various degrees relegated to the inferior classes. Whatever their merits--London, Berlin-- they lack the "existential proximity response" factor in the psyche.  Humans need "such stuff of as dreams are made of ".  The same goes for personalities who for some reason resist all attempts (including those of their own making) to diminish them and have a staying-power larger than time.. Churchill, JFK, Mandela.  One remembers the grace and prefers to avoid what Churchill called the times of the "black dog".

France does not suffer from low self-esteem. For now its cafes, intellectuals, rituals have received a prolongation of life, until arrogance displaces the good-will yet again.  The good thing is that people will continue to flock to the magical cities because they provide allegories and dreams. Tragedy only multiplies that appeal. Other cities remain stuck in a pathological lack of recognition.  They are shunned, and when visited it is for reason rather than for pleasure. They will never be validated. On the contrary, the cloud of impatient despise which hangs over their urbanized banality will only increase.

The current "Paris +" vogue will not last but for the time-being both the tragic play and the actors deserve each other. Not since the funeral of Princess Diana and 9/11 have so many been touched by a grief which is as much rooted in the tragedy played-out as in the increasing loss of wonder and confidence which plagues the Western psyche today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

THE NEW YORK TIMES (Nov. 25, 2015 ) about BELGIUM.

The article in the New York Times regarding Belgium and the homegrown terrorists is devastating.  The numerous shortcomings of the existing macro- and micro-policy making or management structures are yet again under attack.  It is hard to defend what is so blatantly inefficient and not working.  On numerous occasions I have joined the chorus of the "J'accuse". Walking in Brussels is like visiting a lab where all forms of terrorism samples are stored with disregard for possible contamination consequences. 

Nevertheless, I have also some sympathy for the prime minister and his government who have to work under the strain of past mistakes. The minister of the interior (Flemish nationalist) has acted loyally and the population at large has remained stoic.  Belgium is more an "arrangement" than a "nation", therefore, it is in a permanent flux of revision, unlike countries with a defined, proven identity. This "fluidity" has its merits, and many shortcomings. The country has been able to avoid unrest or real social chaos. At the same time it has missed opportunities, given the growing centrifugal forces. The state is not "failed" (yet), it is "weak". 

The outcome of the current impasse should be one of a more centralized chain of command in various sectors, transparent mission statements and of getting rid of overlapping, unnecessary, competing structures. The country can be resilient, as it is now.  It does not have to become a copycat ersatz of centralized others. It just has to admit that in its current form, the system doesn't function as it should.  The climate change dispute between regions now is the perfect example of the implosion of rationality.

The "ridicule", if not addressed head on , can easily become a disease with fatal consequences .

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


It is becoming more difficult by the hour to come to terms with the accumulative contradictory challenges the world needs to face.  We find ourselves also in some vacuum of leadership.
Churchill, de Gaulle, Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, George W. Bush (after 9/11) were able to anchor their most felt convictions in the minds and hearts of their constituents. Sometimes this reciprocal "contract" lasted, other times it ended up broken. While it lasted it rested on conviction, given that at times it started with some form of rite of passage, as was the case with de Gaulle's famous "Je Vous ai compris".  The point is that great statesmen have been able to process their own beliefs in a larger consensus. They did not need reinforcement or flattery. Suffice that they were the owners of their personal judgement and that they had the gift of "persuasion".

After watching the press conference of Presidents Obama and Hollande today, one can rightly end up being perplexed. The American president filibustered and his French counterpart sounded more pathetic than existential.  Obama looks as entitled to the perks of the presidency as he remains reluctant to admit blunders after his infamous red line. The French show guts but are realistic enough to realize that the American side remains a Platonic partner. They stand mostly alone, while the EU is becoming farcical.

True, it is hard to come by great leadership anywhere. Putin is manipulative, Xi Jinping is Sino-selfish and the rest are corralled into the climate change enclosure.  ISIL meanwhile is a sophisticated multinational of "desperados" which runs away with headlines, prime-time news, random killings under the umbrella of the euphemisms dear to this White House. Radical Islam is the enemy and no band-aid can cover up the horror its stands for.  Likewise, the Arab "allies" have to be notified that modernity is not something to be lived in London or New York alone and that pluralism has to become a "home product".  It is too easy to be nouveau riche   outside while perpetuating the "stone age" inside.

Hollande is now touring Berlin and Moscow. In Brussels, NATO (after the Russian/Turkey "incident") and the EU+Turkey will convene. In the absence of any form of leadership and because of the continuation of asymmetric alliances of convenience, the air strikes will continue for some unforeseeable time.  So will ISIL...while Syria looks more and more like warfare with mirrors.  Iraq became George W. Bush's graveyard.  Syria looks like it is waiting for the Obama administration's demise.


Contrairement a son pere, Louis Michel, brillant mais envahissant, Charles Michel est une personnalite discrete autant qu'intelligente . Il conduit une experience politique innovatrice,  et il s'est avere pouvoir maitriser les ecueils. Le dernier en date, lie aux evenements de Paris, vient de prouver que l'homme n'est pas banal.
Heritant d'un pays fracture, dans lequel les pouvoirs d'un autre age existent dans un etat de competition permanente, sur le dos de la transparence et de l'efficacite, il essaye de preserver un minimum de coherence.
Les defis contemporains requierent la mobilisation de moyens. Or le demantelement continu du "pre carre" de l'Etat a conduit a l'erosion du "made in Belgium". Il convient d'arreter cette hemorragie qui frappe de plein fouet le commerce, la credibilite, la surete et la creativite. Charles Michel semble etre conscient de cette menace. Les recentes peripeties "regionales" autour de la prochaine conference de Paris sur le changement climatique ont demontre combien le ridicule est l'interface de l'arrangement constitutionnel  Belge. 
Son pari de gouverner avec le parti le plus "autonomiste" du pays est risque mais pourrait encore s'averer avoir ete une manoeuvre Machiavelique apres coup.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


I suggest Tim King's commentary in POLITICO " Belgium is a failed state" as mandatory reading for the too many governments in Belgium. They might take notice...or not ?!

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed. The French police gave him his "martyr"exit.
There is no reason for rejoicing though. Every day brings a further  indication of the range and sophistication of the Jihadists. The death of one mastermind is almost trivial, given the many who wait for their hour.
France should not carry the burden of the campaign against radical Islamists alone. Certain comments coming out of Washinghton are really disturbing. It looks as if the administration has found yet again an other sophism to do too little...the "strategic patience" suggested by the White House and the rumors regarding Art.5 of NATO are frankly disturbing. Patience, when applied to ISIS, is almost a slap in the face of the victims. 
The United States are no sanctuary, protected by Dr. Stangelove's security apparatus and by the oceans. When the worse will happen, the administration's " reluctant nonchalance" will haunt them , rightly so. President Hollande has often been criticized as "weak". By comparison president Obama becomes "irrelevant", while  his NSC team looks like a grouping of amateurs.
When there is only the Iran deal to crow about, the situation verges on the absurd. The moral abdication only feeds the despise in others.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


L'apres Paris n'est pas une fin, c'est un commencement.
Il n'est plus necessaire d'imaginer des scenarios catastrophe. Le coup d'envoi a ete donne. La certitude est desormais affaire de constat et non d'hypothese.
La France semble avoir bien compris l'ubiquite et la complexite du danger. 
Le president Americain au contraire donne l'impression d'etre prisonnier de son syllogisme permanent, pour le moins aleatoire.
Les retombees se succedent et s'accumulent, mettant surtout en lumiere les faiblesses qui sont apparues partout.

La Belgique est un maillon faible dans la ligne Maginot edifiee afin de contenir la vague Djihadiste.
Deja dans mon essai "Traces" j'avais mis au pilori les faiblesses du modele Belge. Aujourd'hui la Belgique paye le prix de cette politique de clocher qui a conduit  a une division de moyens, de l'information et d'une strategie partagee. Les defis modernes requierent davantage d'interventions mobilisatrices en amont. Or c'est le contraire qui s'est produit. Ridicule dans le dossier "rechauffement climatique", le pays apparait pathetique dans les domaines de controle policier, de guerre cybernetique, ou du renseignement..
Deja les institutions nationales survivent a peine a Bruxelles. Le reste est a l'avenant et il ne faut pas attendre des interets provinciaux qu'ils abandonnent tant soit peu de leur prerogatives absurdes, fut-ce pour le bien commun, desormais aux oubliettes.
Ce ventre mou de l'Europe arrange les terroristes qui doivent sans doute penser que la Belgique est un don d'Allah. 
A contrario  certains commentaires etrangers sont franchement inacceptables. Ostraciser un quartier de Bruxelles sans autre forme de proces ressort a une capitulation de la raison. La Belgique non plus ne merite pas de servir de bouc emissaire pour une bavure qui est collective.
Entretemps on attend le prochain  mouvement d'un requiem annonce. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Les attentats perpetres a Paris sont un acte de guerre.
Le President Francais a raison de tenir des propos clairs .
Ce massacre a aussi mis en lumiere nombre de questions.
- La strategie (?) du president Obama et sa circonspection liguistique ont perdu leur credibilite.
- Les contorsionistes Arabes risquent d'etre mis dans le meme sac que les Jihadistes. Ils payent  le prix de l'ambiguite. Il leur reste a demontrer qu'ils sont encore recuperables et mobilisables pour un combat  de civilisation, a plusieurs . L'envers doit enfin appuyer l'endroit!
  - L'appaisement a vecu. Un combat oppose desormais l'Europe aux Jihadistes. Que l'on ne vienne pas servir une nouvelle fois un Coran a la carte, ou le moins mauvais est suppose gommer l'inacceptable.
-Ayant vecu dans un pays Musulman, je me suis adapte aux codes et rituels d'un autre age. La     contrepartie n'existe pas. Des lors le contrat anterieur du "laissez evoluer" est nul.
- L'UE doit revoir sa politique d'immigration et preserver son projet de societe qui est remis en 
  question par les retardataires de l'hisoire..
-Il faut mettre fin par la force a la territorialite de Daesh et en finir, par " tous" les  moyens, avec ce pretendu Calyphat du MAL.

La France reste un symbole de valeurs et d'une societe civile. A ce titre toute attaque contre elle est une atteinte a des principes acquis et partages par l'Occident . La substruction d'une societe doit etre defendue. Elle ne doit pas pour autant se refermer sur elle meme, comme le font les societes Arabes, prisonnieres des "vers Sataniques". L'Europe doit rester ouverte mais elle est en droit de renforcer les regles du jeu, avant qu'elle ne perde son identite 

Je vois mal quel candidat aux presidentielles Americaines pourra faire la demonstration d'une strategie mobilisatrice et d'une reflexion creative sur les moyens d'enrayer les longitudes du Malin.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Tragedy has struck Paris (again).  The city of enlightenment has become a target for the haters of memory pluralism and democracy.  I am reminded of what Jefferson said about the French: "A more benevolent people, I have never known, or greater warmth and devotedness in their select friendships".  Whatever France's fault-lines, it remains a cultural hub in Europe. 

Terrorism hit it again. Foregoing the almost nihilistic former agenda with a defined goal--against Charlie Hebdo (against a Voltairian perspective)--the terrorists have now appropriated an undiscriminating, barbaric "war mindset" against the Western way of life as such.  We are not cognizant enough of the enemy in our midst, but we have the opportunity to hit it in its lair. What are we waiting for? This clash of civilizations (wrong word, since ISIL is not part of the civilized mantra) needs to be won fast and on target. Why be timid with the Barbarians at the gate? ISIL's added value is the "territory" (Grotius) which it controls. To deprive it thereof is part of destroying it.

It is time for the US in particular not be shy from HARD actions, rather than fighting ISIL with "needle point". This is not the time to get stuck in words which fit a political correctness obsession while missing the target!

Europe is starting to belch, needing at the same time to deal with immigrants (bona fide and others). Their welcome risks shrinking, just as the Schenghen free-pass may soon be a thing of the past.  Europe, as we knew it, might become a mortgaged ambition. The writing is on the wall if it continues to choose reaping benefits from above rather than facing the snake pit in its backyard.

9/11 changed everything, it continues to do so, but it has become a "ritual" covering an abstraction.  We have to continue to rely more on "intelligent" hard-power than cover our faces under the shroud of soft-power. Unfortunately we allowed the enemy is on our midst, already. Allah, again, became a dirty word, as in Paris, yesterday!  

I fear there is no common ground with a perverse DNA. The fifth columns better be monitored and sent back to the sender! There is no room for redemption here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Some books have staying power because of their "ouverture" or some phrasing in "major".
Flaubert (Salambo), Proust (A la recherche...), Racine (Phedre) belong to that category. 
They more often than not leave the reader exhausted, unable to reach the finish.  It is easier to start an "affair" or a novel, than to get out when sobered or to close the pages prematurely, when exhausted. The same goes for armed conflict or intervention. Once started they run amok.

When I was for a short period in Columbia University, the Vietnam trauma was still raw and   discussions regarding possible lessons which might have to be retained after that terrible episode, were merciless. The inability for high-tech warfare to come to terms with a less sophisticated counterpart continues to fill books and articles. 

The rumor goes that in the current accumulation of debacles any overt reference to Vietnam  is taboo in the White House. This is paradoxical given that the past and current American administrations are deadlocked in situations wherein, yet again, the ally (?) they support is often more toxic than some of the forces they oppose. The "comparison" with Vietnam stops there. Besides it is is only valid insofar as asymmetric capabilities are concerned.  Vietnam was also a misunderstood a liberation war (since the French humiliation in Dien Bien Phu), waged against a corrupt regime in Saigon which had lost all credibility. The Kennedy and Johnson administrations started the descent into hell and were unable to reverse course. I know that JFK supposedly wanted to do so, but history is not written in evanescent ink.

Mission creep is a step into a perverse logic, easy to decide and difficult to reverse. President Obama's claim to end "dumb wars" is unconvincing, given the aftermath.  The strongest force always ends up in a trap. Different mind sets, comfort zones, philosophies (?) /religion, end up making the weaker stronger and the more advanced prone to mood swings and erratic behaviour. Westerners depend upon logistics, on some form of an all encompassing rationale, which at the end of the day fail to match a fanatical theocratic mindset or, in the case of Vietnam, a liberation anti-colonial DNA.

As is the case for literature which can fail to enrapture or is too complex to struggle through, unwinnable wars lose legitimacy. The few women and kids in Kabul who are shown off for prime-time TV do not speak for the faceless majority which is stuck by force or free-will in a demented mindset. Iraq is no longer a country but a tectonic plate collision.  Syria and Libya are up for grabs. In this swamp ISIS grows.

Should one give up and leave the "Thousand and One Nights" book unread and left to rot in history's garbage bin? One can only hope for a better alignment between governance and opinion in this arc of trouble.  Given the Arab' broken maps and minds, the waiting game might be long! Decades might be needed before repair from within becomes possible. Vietnam by contrast returned to performance in a fortnight because all sides, North and South, wanted a "win-win".  The dysfunctional parties in the Middle East have to find out what they want first. The West should be on positive stand-by rather than trying to force an outcome for which we have no formula anyway. ISIS will not be crushed by military air power, which will always remain insufficient, given the uneven "pain threshold".  While Vietnam's pain became ours, the Arabs' pain remains mostly theirs, and there lies the tragedy. The conflict has to be fought from within mostly, but before it can be operated upon convincingly and be supported accordingly, there has to be a "there" there first.  Giap or Ho Chi Min were not some corrupt Sardanapales. There lies the difference between yesterday's pain and to day's descent into the abyss.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Two important meetings were supposed to reset very crucial bilateral relations.  In Singapore, the Chinese President Xi Jinping met the President of Taiwan Ma Yingjeou.  In Washington, President Obama met with the Israeli P.M. Binjamin Netanjahu.  The two encounters are remarkable insofar as the expected difficult one looked easy and that the presumed easy one looked constrained.

President Ma and the Kuomintang strive for a modus vivendi with the mainland while his opponent in the upcoming elections, Tsai Ing-Wen and the Democratic Progressive Party oppose any unconditional rapprochement.  Ma represents the Old China link and the conceptual heritage of a party which was founded in China in 1912, claiming the heritage of Sun Yat-Sen.   A lot has changed since the two Strait crises in 1954 and 1958. The president's party (DPK)  initiated a detente with the mainland, and today the linkage between the two looks irreversible. Nevertheless, the DPP prefers distance over pliancy. The independence movement is a force to be reckoned with but has no chance.  Besides, it would be a casus belli for the Chinese.  Nothing will change after the elections, fortunately.  I was always surprised at hearing how far the Chinese side was willing to go in accommodating Taiwan if it were to return to the "Motherland".  The Hong Kong precedent need not apply, however Beijing will never tolerate any form of "independence".  The meeting went well and fits into Beijing's recent good neighbor policies, as seen during Xi's official visit to Vietnam.

The meeting between the US President and the Israeli P.M. was more subdued despite the exchange of handshakes and expected positive banalities. Netanjahu came with "baggage" and President Obama came with "history".  At least both looked willing  to overcome their mutual distrust.  Fortunately so, because, paradoxically, US allies in the region were alarmed by the rift between "natural-born partners".   If the cold shoulder had not been mended to a point, the Gulf States and the Saudis might well have given up on America's support. The former is already damaged since the Iran nuclear deal and Washington's erratic behavior in the region. The marriage is not sailing but the counselling had some effect. The Palestinians must now come aboard fast and stress legitimate claims rather than repeating grievances which will lead them nowhere. 

The two encounters were a contrast of sorts between (Chinese) creativity and (Western) stubbornness. Too often the West looks lost in a kind of intellectual lock-down, on the defensive when more creative terms are needed. When one looks at the sorry spectacle of the EU or the American presidentials, one is tempted almost to think that Toynbee and Gibbons were right. Believing has become an uphill battle. Giving up cannot be allowed to become an alternative.

Monday, November 2, 2015


The news is not just bad, it is worse than that, a repeat of the bad turning into worse.  Nothing is what it looks like.  This fall is a repository of frustrations and grievances. The sceptical observers have many reasons to lament and too few to rejoice.  One ends up being tempted to hide in some obscure Marienbad-type of spa and read Proust until exhaustion sets in...but the "ostrich way" is not "Swann's way".

Seen in and from America, most events or personalities "in the news" appear in denial or frankly grotesque.  The European refugee crisis is tragic. It is also dangerous. It is getting worse by the day and might well end up reversing the still fragile equilibrium in the EU. Preferring to ignore that there are no bad sheep in this advancing "diverse" human wave is naive.  The EU commission and the member states look pitiable.

While Syria risks running empty, the slaughter continues in prime time. The United States has lost its grip and the unwelcome are taking over from the amateurs. President Obama sticks to his mantra of "dumb wars" and allows himself to be reduced to an "invited" party. Washington has no coherent strategy for the Middle East. After having broken the region under President George W. Bush, it is unable to repair it under President Obama.

The US incursion in the Chinese blue seas looked more like some juvenile prank than a strategic confidence-building measure directed at the US allies in the region. President Xi Jinping is not a person to be deterred by such a timid approach.

The US secretary of state tours the "Stans" at the moment and will make sure that larger ambitions do not collide with short-term interests. So much for human rights (again), so close to the heart of this administration.

President Putin remains demonized while he actually acts rather rationally filling the gaps or taking advantage of opportunities where he sees them. The US is an obliging partner in this (provisory) reversal of influence.

The US presidential election campaigns are in full-swing. Republicans gather around the Christian pew while Mrs. Clinton tries to hide her liaisons dangereuses.  The hysteria of a right- wing fringe, who seem to have walked straight out of Salem, only ends up helping her where it counts, in the Electoral College.  Jeb Bush sulks. Trump entertains. Rubio tries to shed his baby face persona. Carson looks and sounds often quietly paranoid. Cruz is busy being pro-life, pro- God, pro-Texas boots, pro-noise.  I forgot the others who are drowning in the Iowa gravy. The Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision torpedoed the spirit of what the Founding Fathers in America had in mind. Elections are no longer fought, they are bought.

The President is mostly absent. I bet he is not reading Sun Tzu's Art of war.  One gets a vague sense of ennui in the country at large which might well become indifference. The captain is not on his post. The White House looks almost off-limits. Here, as is the case in Europe, the life-line between leaders and opinion looks close to the breaking point.

The West is becoming a beleaguered concept.  Its enlightenment values are under siege, from the mostly ultra right wings of parties and countries as well as from a disorderly, sloppy immigration quagmire. The German chancellor has it generally right, but in this case her brushstrokes painted too large.  It is one thing to support the refugees and to bring humanitarian order into the chaos.  It is another to choose to remain blind to the many moral, economic, and social transformational consequences which might lead to a future clash between secularism and an imported theocratic mindset. The wound in the Mediterranean needs to be cauterized indeed but not at the expense of the cause, which remains unattended for too long.

This is a bitter autumn.  In 2022 we hope to celebrate Queen Elisabeth II's platinum Jubilee, rightly so. I hope there will be enough time left before her carriage becomes a pumpkin (Halloween oblige).