Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Attempting to arrive at a coherent worldview today is an uphill battle.  Fluctuation rules.
Surrounded by tectonic collisions, one is, naturally, tempted to become alarmed. One should accept from the start to differentiate the map from the territory.

The EU looks bad. The institutional framework has become largely unconvincing.  Still, the Union resists despite the negatives which pile u : the Euro, Ukraine, the refugees, terrorism, the ambiguity of the UK, the populist surge.  Nevertheless there is also a rebound on almost all fronts and, paradoxically maybe, an awakening with respect to the financial, security, military and political challenges is undeniable. The situation remains risky but in the end one might come to the conclusion that the German way saved the day.  If the French were able to appeal to muscular pride, Germany injected dispassionate reason into what appeared to be getting out of control.

The US is in the electoral hell of their own making. The candidates want to appropriate the mantel of American exceptionalism, which was present at the creation but since has fallen victim to the current culture wars. The foreign policy is less incoherent than what many observers pretend but it has become almost over-doctored, academic, lacking the seal of popular approval.  President Obama is a loner here and abroad, surrounded by an echo chamber which deflects more than it connects. Difficult choices regarding the Middle East, the nuclear deal with Iran, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Russian Federation, China, need a more convincing narrative than the Byzantine "take it or leave it" which only antagonizes already bruised egos.  The "pivot" to Asia is still the right bet on the future but it was derailed by other events. Those bumps in the road need more co-operating with some, rather than ignoring most.  Former "colonial" left-over borders and maps do not cover the "territory" any longer. The better option is to face it, "together" with others,rather than  maintaining a fiction "alone".  Syria is a "mirage" and the spoils should be dealt with, with ALL interested parties.

Latin America is on the move.  The pendulum to the left got a black eye in Argentina and Venezuela. Brazil might be the next in line. Washington's opening to Cuba deprived the usual anti-American chorus line of its major argument. Now that a new normal is in the making it would be inexcusable if, yet again, the United States would lose interest at a time when the overall political equilibrium has been reset in their favor. 

China is showing signs of metal fatigue. The economy, the environmental malaise, the anti- corruption campaign and the hardening of the political climate are indicators that not all is well.  Xi Jinping tries to dislodge the Americans out of Asia but Washington can still counter Beijing's ambitions through Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, the Philippines, Kampuchea and Singapore...among others. The Taiwan/China summit was more an au revoir than an a bientot for nowThe South China Sea dispute is a serious one and is not without parallel with the Ukraine grab. Both test the resistance of the West and need to be monitored with force, coated in savoir faire.  Wars start more often by reason of false premises than by rational choice.
China is shrewd enough to be cautious (as is Putin).  It had better start to behave in matters of trade, currency, counterfeit, and undermining emerging economies by way of intellectual property distortion. 

 Lots of loose opportunistic groupings, like the Shanghai cooperation or the BRICS, are photo- ops for yesterday's illusions.

Africa is a sand-glass, wherein the problems of the northern bulb slowly fills the southern one. Terrorism has reached the sub-Saharan region and becomes a problem in addition to the many structural deficiencies which exist already. The post-Mandela South Africa is making an ominous U-turn.  Zimbabwe is the new heart of darkness and the Chinese are there to deplete, not to heal.  The EU has a role to play and a responsibility to assume, together with the US. The continent risks running empty if not more is done to halt the looming human catastrophe. The flotillas coming to Europe will only multiply if the problems remain unattended.

Most existing state defense and research mechanisms are poorly managed. Unlike the private sector, they miss both opportunity and danger.  Space is already taken away from its former guardians, cyber-security and technology are sub-contracted. Terrorism rules in absentia of a more sophisticated co-ordination between competing surveillance forces.  Climate change has become a political football in the United States, opposing mostly Democrats and Republicans, locked in some biblical/fossil-fuel aberration.

Utopia would demand a government of wise men and women.  Reality teaches us that the future might be more of the same. With some degree of intellectual humility, the most arduous problems can still be solved if they can be lured into therapy.  This requires some form of ad hoc consent. The more civilized world needs an ideological cease-fire to concentrate on the essential battle against ISIL.  It finds itself in a cramped lifeboat, a situation which makes for unexpected partners and does not suffer fools.

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