Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed a framework for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian "impasse".  His principled, structured positions were known but were never "outed" in such an urgent way.  His presentation sounded like a rescue mission for a two-state solution, at a moment when the increase of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem risks making the possibility for a contiguous, governable Palestinian state impossible.  Furthermore, that there is no love lost between the Israeli PM and President Obama is a fact. The latter does not hide his antipathy for the outgoing American president. The former can hardly control his despise. 

If Netanyahu's calculus is to bet on the incoming Trump administration, so be it. It is clear that the time for ambitious ideological brainstorms is over.  The world order, which looked for awhile like having arrived at a globalized, desirable consensual point, is no longer.  History did not come to an end. It has been ripped apart. I suggested last year that the motto for international relations in the foreseeable future might be one of Neue Sachlichkeit.  We seem to be entering a totally amoral narrative, wherein only a deal is a gauge for success. The former inimical situations were, to a large extent, a battle between perceived good and evil.   Nowadays, this cold war imperative has been marginalized in favor of ad hoc placebos. The end of the pax Americana might be the beginning of the backroom deals a trois, between the Trump US, Russia and China. Unfortunately, the incoming American administration is devoid of the most elementary intellectual, cultural or philosophical particle. The two other "partners in crime" are not!

Kerry's sophisticated address sounded like the ending of an ambition to govern by creativity rather than arrangement. One can have a different point of view, but the staying-power of any counterpoint lies both in its proven historicity and in its daring to project for the future whatever the existential cost might be in the short-term.  I doubt that we will hear again the bold challenges of President Obama's many memorable speeches in Berlin, Cairo or Sandy Hook, or of Secretary Kerry's passionate plea for an Israeli/Palestinian peace. 

The future does not look bright and the signals received from the Trump administration in the making are frankly shocking.  History or diplomatic precedent are not obligatory erga omnes, but ignorance or contempt thereof could be lethal, given that both Russia and China have long memories and historical/ cultural self-esteem.  Many Trump voters already suffer from a hangover, finding out that they were duped. The wake-up call might arrive earlier than expected, but better later than never.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


What a year...another exceptional personality gone. Carrie Fisher's life looked sometimes like an obstacle course. She overcame all possible traps that might have gotten the better of anybody but her. 

Send us a postcard from wherever you are!

Monday, December 26, 2016


The Security Council voted a resolution condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The United States abstained.

P.M. Netanyahu condemned the US vote in unequivocal terms. The relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv is a strange one. As much as the US military support for Israel remains solid, the chemistry between President Obama and the Israeli P.M. is absent. Under a Trump administration, improvement (in Israeli eyes) is expected.

A lot can be said about past and current dysfunctions. The deal between the US and Iran regarding nuclear weapons is working out, for now.  Still, it would have been better if a collateral existential issue, the recognition of Israel by Iran, could have been included. The diplomatic toolbox provides for enough alternatives to find a solution for this delicate issue. The unacceptable narrative on the Palestinian side continues to create a climate of increasing alienation and bad faith.  On the other hand, the same goes for all Arab states but this does not stand in the way of a cynical modus vivendi between Israel and many of the same Arab states.

President Obama followed in the steps of President Eisenhower who sent a resolution to the General Assembly of the UN, condemning Israel, France and the U.K. after their combined Suez attack in 1956.

P.M. Netanyahu, for his part, transgressed protocol when he addressed the US Congress over the head of the Obama Administration. Thin skin on both sides overruled wiser considerations.

It would be wise to deescalate. Obviously Trump's choice of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel might look like a blank check given to the Israeli P.M. However, personalities considered as too extreme in one direction or another can "surprise". This goes for the whole of the incoming US administration. The core of a fundamentally important partnership between Israel and the US remains unchallenged. The only democratic partner in the region deserves the respect of and support by both the United States and the EU. 

A two-state solution is the only possible outcome for a problem which drains Israel as much as the many willing to help. It is often impossible (Gaza) or hard (West Bank, Jerusalem) to find common ground with the Palestinians and the arteries, needed to keep a negotiation flowing, are hardening. The demographic clock is ticking. The outlines for a possible two-state architecture are known. Jerusalem remains a major stumbling block for now and any arrangement will require the input of more than two. Israel 's claims are just ones, as long as they also provide room for a form of "co-steering".

Security for all can't wait.


This often flamboyant-looking but by nature discreet man reminds us of the happier Princess Diana times...careless whisper.

His life ended "not with a bang but with a whimper".  He is missed already!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


The American president-elect likes to return to the "big stick" when he talks about China, accused of all evils under the sun.  Strangely enough, he prefers to give human rights a pass. Gordon Chang, who figures with Judge Napolitano and other usual suspects in the Fox/Madame Tussuad Wax Museum, is now again allowed to refer to his non-prophetic book (The Coming Collapse of China). Since its publication in 2001, no day passes since China, under "communist" rule, is advancing at a speed which should leave Mr. Chang mute. However, he continues lying because his, and other narratives, fit into the" false news" wave, dear to the Right.

Indeed China is cementing the South China Sea; It doesn't come close to finding an agreement with Japan over the disputed Diaoyutais ;it will not weaver from the 1972 Shanghai Communique between the US and China (One China policy). The president-elect's phone conversation with the P.M. of Taiwan is seen by Beijing as immature and uninformed. Everybody with some experience of China knows how faux pas can be frowned upon. One might like them or not, but the Chinese have their rules and their ways.  Besides, they know too well that they are America's lender of last resort. They will increase even further their influence in Asia after the probable TPP collapse.  This century will be Asian and its leading powerhouse will be China. It becomes abundantly clear that one is confronted daily with a stratum of strength which creates a widening gap with the prevarication of others. 

Paradoxically maybe, the Chinese are very good followers of Dr. Kissinger's strategic projections. They have become more adept, while the United States fell betwixt and between.  Obama's pivot to Asia is being hollowed by lobbies and the blatant ignorance of American lawmakers, to the chagrin of ASEAN countries which start to distrust Washington's quandaries. Just as what is happening in Europe with the Baltic States, the ASEAN countries doubt American resolve. President Obama's caution, and now Trump's unpredictability, have shaken the core of former trust. Ambivalence rules and the economic interdependence between the US and China tilts for now in favor of the former.

One should beware of generalization.  China has always impressed (Voltaire, Lord MacCartney, Napoleon) and South East Asia has always mesmerized and seduced.  Both entities distrust one another but both feel--in wicked or real terms --superior to the West, which retained from the encounter with the East a story line for operas, literature, the arts, without consideration for the sensibilities. These were good enough to feed fantasy but not taken seriously enough to be considered of equal, if not superior value.

Trump's first strange moves should not be magnified. Unfortunately, since Europe is a mostly irrelevant partner, only China and Russia have the upper hand.   The United States play "defense".  They consider themselves a Pacific power but to continue to be seen as such they have to retool their policy.Besides China, there is no place on earth where shrewd perspective, historical resentment and blatant cynical appropriation play such a major role. Before entering the game, one had better be familiar with the rules thereof.  Russia is not that great but comes in handy.   Kissinger's America could play on the Chinese need for face. But now the roles are almost reversed. America needs to save face not by bluster and bluff but by a multi-layered set of interests, consideration and the right mix of hard- and soft-power.  The South China Sea quarrel is a bad one. There are too many historical and recent pros and contras which actually play into China's hands. The Nationalist troops occupied some of the Paracels after WWII.  Other claimants such as Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei (!), Malaysia fall behind the geo-political Chinese fait accompli. The security of vital shipping lanes must be guaranteed now and a multilateral agreement between all parties might still alleviate tensions (which are more about gas, oil and other resources than about legitimacy).

The new US administration sounds eager to switch gears on a lot of standing issues.  There is nothing wrong with that as long as professionalism prevails.  So far, one only sees a group of people who play the role of a Greek chorus in some obscure play wherein the main protagonist receives applause for his daily or hourly swirls, whatever their value--proven or not--might be.  In this world, words do count and the future looks bumpy as a result.

Monday, December 19, 2016


This year has been a descent into hell.  It ended with the nihilistic outcome of the Aleppo siege under the cover of indifference dressed as Realpolitik. There is no Shakespeare to be found to wash the stain left on the Obama Administration after the "red line" reversal. Despite the disproportionate short-term (falsely) banal-looking impact of Brexit when compared to the Syrian tragedy, it could have lasting irreversible consequences for the future.

Just as 1848 was a watershed (for uneven progress) for Europe, 2016 might well have serious (negative) aftershocks. Then and now the brush fire spreads, torching everything standing in its way.  The British 'No' vote set in motion a chain reaction and a primal scream, heard in all European corners and during the recent ugly American political royal battle.  A movement has been unleashed which looks impossible to contain for the time-being. The danger lies in the amorphous brand of a discontent which is adverse to therapy, since it is a hybrid by nature. It is less geared to a specific set of claims than to an ill-defined overall frustration.   Sociologists and economists have come up with many reasons for this self-destructive malaise:  globalization, the 1% focus (income inequality), growing automation, immigration, terrorism (Xmas is no longer a safe heaven) etc. Taken separately or as a sum, none of those causes can explain the magnitude of the effect.

Western democracies find themselves in some existential struggle for legitimacy. The enemy is no longer a "there", it is a "here". The overall goal of reshaping a Commonwealth of countries united in the pursuit of agreed excellence is no longer considered as desirable. The model of a strong, self-centered leadership has become more attractive than the trans-border ideal of free movement of persons, goods and ideas. Trump's America and the Brexit avatars in Europe are no longer seduced by ambitious architecture. They choose to go topical, local, risk- free and parochial. 

The risks are multiple. If existing alliances or arrangements should never be immune to change, neither should they revert to references which can ignite fires that are hard to extinct. The last American and British upheavals are risky insofar as they are highly combustible and irrational. The vote precedes reflection, the gut takes over reason. Once the deed is done, reverting becomes impossible for an unforeseeable time.  When the more sobering appraisals reappear it will be very hard to correct the damage done.

A lot is being said regarding President Putin's supposed role in all this.  I believe that his "active" participation in current events is less relevant than the choice made by leaders in the US and Europe to procrastinate or to suggest lofty philosophical answers at times when the added value of "soft power" ( a Western monopoly, until now) is being overshadowed by raw "hard power" or by a new mix of ingredients (Chinese style).  Trump in America or the right wave in the EU are no aberrations. Both echo a new Zeitgeist of "shared insecurities". The Hegelian model is questioned and a synthesis between contraries looks out of reach, for now.

To return to Aleppo, the focus of the media and what is overall perceived as another abdication of the West have created a lasting narrative which is marginalizing "competing" stories in i.a. South Sudan, Yemen or Myanmar.   Do media still care about Mosul, since they are so concerned by this geographical small window into hell?

Maybe the West will benefit from a future wake-up call and find a way to reconnect again with the citizen. Washington, D.C. is being taken over by narrow interests. The EU is in Mayday-mode.  As a dispirited NATO moves into its new quarters, Moscow and Beijing sit safe in their existing abodes.  The world is adrift, and the danger is that it might look for safety in whatever harbor provides the best welcome.   Ideas have become an endangered species.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Since the election of Trump (by a minority of votes), WikiLeaks has suddenly gone AWOL.  At the same time, the prior hacking by Russia of the Democrats' emails has become irrefutable. 

The president-elect acts more like a Russian underling than an American statesman. When cornered, Trump has the irrepressible need to tweet and counter-act, not by correcting but by reaffirming.  His choices for high positions are open to legitimate scrutiny. The "chosen ones" are not all necessarily irrelevant, and that is what makes them potentially nefarious.

In the short term, the WikiLeaks silence is the best indicator of a former orchestrated cabal waged against Secretary Clinton. One can be critical of her chosen campaign mode but one is equally entitled to question the origin of the trickle-down leaks directed against her. The sole purpose was clearly to get a preferred candidate (without the strategic agenda of Secretary Clinton, disliked by the new czar) in the White House. Trump is not a willing accomplice of Putin. There is no need to cry wolf, yet, but the stakes are high. The Trump entourage looks more like a board meeting than a Kissinger/Scowcroft-type of laboratory, involved in world affairs. The 21st century priorities (i.a. climate change, governance, human rights, non-proliferation, terrorism, cyber) are disregarded in favor of a mindset wherein protectionism, climate change denial, trade wars, reversal of social achievements (womens' and LGBT rights, voting rights, Affordable Care...) rule.

Secretary Clinton is already being considered as the better opportunity "missed". It is hard to predict how long Republicans (Try Gowdy, Jason Chaffetz, Speaker Paul Ryan & Co.) will accept to play minor roles in this farce disguised as the Godfather IV sequel.  Self-respect is in short supply in certain circles.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


The President-elect is showing his true colors...peacock-like.  Day after day one has to face the reality of a man who becomes more of an American version of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and less the savior of the coal miners and the Rust Belt. How long will it take before the "deplorables" who voted for him will feel cheated?
His cabinet is filled with mostly plutocrats (who might be smart). His presumed choice for Secretary of State, the CEO of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, is known more for his connection with Putin than diplomatic savoir faire.  Presidents have the right to correct former political and diplomatic priorities, and Trump is entitled to follow a worldview which is different from the one of his predecessor.  It has to be acknowledged that President Obama often followed a path of ambiguity, wherein skepticism often interfered with clarity.  Under Trump, the deck of cards is the opposite. He lacks any form of moral, historical references or doubt and appears to see power as a test of give-and-take, with no room for equivocation.  In his mindset, the anno 2017 Western Europe partner does no longer count as an equal, since he sees it almost devoid of "hard power".  He prefers the company of "partners in crime", both in his inner circle and in the world. His considerations are purely practical, cynical and devoid of any form of empathy. The formation of his cabinet gives a clear indication of his "instinct and bluff".  He parades, flatters, ridicules, and manipulates without any form of courtesy or warmth. The victims are fools but so are the winners since everything becomes just a deal for convenience. His Vice-President plays the part of the anti-LGBT Sancho Panza henchman, which leaves Trump off the hook (sounds 1930s familiar).
We are watching a "coup" in modern Western terms. America is being taken over by the overhaul of what it was supposed to stand for:  pax americana, a force for the better (if not for the good), a moral compass, a laboratory open for the "other".  The post-electoral message is one of retreat, anti free trade (TPP), selfish purpose and moral  indifference.  We might enter a form of dictatorship of the "unproven".  The choice of (yet another) general, Michael Flynn, as National Security Adviser speaks louder than words.  He--and his son--share with others (Trump included) fantasies which have a more direct link with advanced paranoia than with certified truth.
Obviously, all this does not happen in a void. Obama's philosophical presidency left many loopholes and paradoxical situations. He refused to get involved in Syria but went out of his way to arrive at a deal with Iran.  He under-reacted regarding moves from both China and Russia, but took a bold move with Cuba and climate change. He achieved the Affordable Care Act but failed to find an overall modus operandi with Congress (which did not play ball). The President looked and acted at times too polished, too cool, more attuned to Shakespeare than to the vulgarities of power politics. Obviously, his successor has no need for books or references other than himself.  Hence, we can expect entertainment of a man with short attention span thin skin and little patience.
All this would be less serious in any other country than the United States. Under President Trump, the Western alliance might be ailing.  He has already trespassed all decorum when getting mixed up with Brexit, NATO, proliferation, Russia, China, alienating allies and pleasing the "post WWII borders denier".  His crass indifference to truth and experience is his bliss, recognizable in his choices for his cabinet. Imagine his ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, confronting her formidable Russian counterpart....speaking of catnip!
What is at stake is the major contribution of America to world affairs. From the day of their independence on, the new United States stood for enlightened governance, often with mixed results. Indeed, the war between the states, the slavery stain, the often crude and erratic foreign policy stood too often against the principles enshrined in Jefferson's ideal and in the Federalist Papers.  Still, there was always a push to improve what went wrong. Now that the power has been outsourced to mostly captains of finance and industry, the decision-making will be made in some form or other of boardroom deal and expediency. The lofty goals set up around the League of Nations, the Dumbarton Oaks order, the Peace Corps, the Alliance for Progress, the Great Society look suddenly almost obsolete. Obama tried, with uneven success, to consolidate this formidable heritage, but ended up being both a perpetuator of history and its final undertaker. Trump will divest his administration of most forms of truth, social justice and continuity. He anesthetizes the Republicans and will "Tweet" his mood swings over the heads of all branches of power. The executive and legislative powers are already echo chambers and the Supreme Court will be packed with narrow-minded constitutionalists. The Russian hag (?) is a sword of Damocles which will test the Republicans ulimate bona fide.
Europe is the big loser.  Sitting between an aggressive Russia and an indifferent Trump administration, stung by Brexit ( which will create major after shocks in the future), hit by structural dysfunctions, it is adrift and risks becoming irrelevant. True, the President-elect has so many loopholes in his curriculum (past and present) that he is a prey for impeachment. However, the Republicans are already neutered and the Trump machine will be a formidable force. Wall Street is partying on the coffin of Dodd-Frank. The oligarchs and "strong" leaders in all parts of the world will have their day!
Nevertheless, this American Cromwell had better be cognizant that the Restoration could have a come-back, with a vengeance. 

Monday, December 5, 2016


The Italian P.M. Matteo Renzi lost the constitutional referendum by a large margin.  He made the same miscalculation as David Cameron, presenting the vote as a judgment about himself rather than about the issues at stake. The "hubris" in those situations often backfires.  The result is bad for Italy and for the EU. It comes at a time when France, Germany, the Netherlands are faced with equally difficult choices in the near-futures. The euro and the institutional challenges risk being challenged by the same dark forces which gave us Brexit and Trump.

It is normal that democracies are exposed to some form of Hegelian dialectic. Unfortunately, in Italy and elsewhere opposition reposed mostly on an anti-intellectual, anti-historic mantra. The so-called working class has become an agent for regression. Rather than fighting for competitive modern jobs, they fight on behalf of arguments rooted in fear and denial. Instead of welcoming opportunities for change and technologically advanced alternatives, they defend a social order biased against free-trade, globalization and high-quality employment.  In the US, the Trump doctrine is already making the wrong moves which might end up only giving the Rust Belt a new lease and not a healthy awakening.

Returning to Italy, one might fear that most of Southern Europe's ills--in Greece, Italy, Spain--
could spread and further undermine the cohesion of the EU.  There is no other way but for the member states to remain on the same page.  By the way, the populist factions are the unwilling (?) handlers of Putin's ambitions. As in America, certain conservative forces in Europe have become disenchanted with the acceleration of a secular cultural tempest, considered elitist in the pursuit of a model of society disregarding a labor force stuck in irrelevant jobs. The added value of this technological age is looked upon with suspicion and disdain.  Proposals made under the umbrella of clean energy, climate change, better education, and equal pay fall on deaf ears. Candiate Clinton's message here was equally "returned to sender" by those who would have benefited the most.  P.M. Renzi fell victim to the same agents of "non-change".  The EU has to address this visceral paranoia which exists in one form or another in all member states. Nigel Farage is a buffoon but this aberration finds a large audience. The Italian five-star movement with Beppe Grillo (Trump admirer) who led the fight for a "No" does not look or act like a serious player in this allegro ma (non) troppo, but there as here, never say "never"...  Grillo wants to leave the Euro zone!

Italy will find itself in a political quagmire. One can expect to see a bruised euro and a crisis which might affect too many in and out of Italy while serving the short-sighted impropriety of too few.  Pessimists foresee a possible U-turn from Italy regarding the EU. The Treaty of Rome without Italy is a non-starter. The aftershocks of this referendum will be unpleasant. They will not be fatal. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Quelqu'un m'a suggere une proposition arguant que Trump et Houellebecq avaient en realite une forme de nihilisme en partage. La verite chez le premier n'etant qu'une succession d'affirmations contradictoires et non verifiables. Chez l'ecrivain elle serait costituee d' un assemblage arbitraire d'evenements subis.
Cet argument me semble une juxtaposition inconsideree de deux incompatibles.

Houelebecq transmet une inquietude horizontale tranchante. Trump est fondamentalement a-philosophe, non ideologogue et en fin de parcours "banal". Bien sur, chez l'un comme chez l'autre l'Occident est envoye aux urgences. L'ecrivain fait un diagnostic et ne suggere pas de remede. Le politique / medecin en chef est un charlatan vantant une therapie bidon.

Au demerant, l'emotion que l'un et l'autre peuvent engendrer repond a des ordres tout a fait opposes. Si l'ecrivain sait assumer le "suicide occidenntal", le president americain elu n'en est que l'accelerateur involontaire. Peu importe le deficit existentiel. Pour le pyromane, seule compte lincendie.

Un peu partout en Europe et aux Etats Unis s'installe une sorte de resignation lethargique et d'homogeneisation perverse.

Houellebecq est souvent considere comme etant trop pessimiste. Au regard de sa lucidite desabusee, les etats d'ame de l'Ubu Roi Americain peuvent preter a  rire et c'est en cela aussi qu'ils sont dangereux.

Entre Socrate et l'homme du batiment, faites vos jeux.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Every Christmas sees the return of Tony Bennett.  Every Republican major event is equally marked by the usual beatification of President Ronald Reagan, the GOP's nonchalant Fred Astaire.  Since the Donald Trump election, we've gotten closer to sainthood. The Gipper approves Donald's ways from heaven.  No wonder, since the candelabra president-elect shares many threats with the holy one.

He also has a liking for a foreign leader/antecedent/model, who he will try to cozy-up to while oblivious to the fact that he might be used. Mrs.Thatcher used Reagan as Putin would recycle Trump.  The former is equally "xeno-ignorant" and historically clueless.  He might "proliferate", whereas Ronnie almost sunk America's nuclear arsenal in Reykjavik. He brags about the support he receives from the Rust Belt voters in ways not unlike Reagan's "proximity" to the Readers' Digest American.  Both specialize in a cynical tap-dance around issues. Reagan chose to ignore, as long as he could, the genocidal ravage of AIDS.   He was reckless in foreign affairs (Iran/Contra, Beirut barrack bombings, Grenada invasion). Trump might be more dangerous if propelled by the need to make news rather than common sense.

Trump will be shielded by applause from a clique, as much as Reagan was protected by Michael Deaver, the First Lady and her astrologer.  Since the upper tier is occupied, the other floors are bloodied by a civil war.  Under Reagan, his chief of staff Donald Regan lost the war to Nancy; secretaries of state and defense were often at loggerheads, not to mention Alexander Haig's coup, after the attempt on the President's life. In Casa Trump the noise regarding who will be secretary of state risks killing the credibility of the anointed one, ante facto.  And one could go on...

Seldom has one seen a more unprofessional display of decorum and content.  The family penthouse Medusa floors are already too small for Trump & Co.  The "collaterals" have only the elevators and chutes to hang on.  The business "occasionals" come and go amidst the crowd of candidates who never know if they are summoned for humiliation or for the "goodies."  The first lot of chosen ones already sends tremors through the spines of the more enlightened observers.

Existential empathy will be in short supply at the court of this Henry VIII made in the USA. There is already an Anna Boleyn in the choice of Nikki Halley as ambassador to the UN.  The Alt-Right is seeking an investigation into her supposed infidelity!  Speaking of a happy crowd! Trump does not need to hire a Brutus. He is to be found (in plural) among the many ugly personae who rummage through the upper floors of Trump Tower.   His choice!

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Fidel Castro has left the scene. He must have realized that he stood alone now.  He was the symbol of an idea which had its moments of glory, empathy and bluff.  Even when he was wrong he was never "small."  Contrary to past and current "imitators", he struck a chord with his base and avoided the trappings of opportunism. Still, his human rights record is a stain on his more romantic saga.

I remember how when in Mexico he did not have to walk, the street carried him.  Unlike others, he will not be forgotten.  After all, the Cuban mouse tricked the American tomcat !

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Trump, president-elect, is seen by many as very different from Trump the candidate.  The argument could be made for quite the contrary.  True, he has made a U-turn on certain issues (climate change, further inquiry in Secretary Clinton's emails, water-boarding ) but he has made sure to leave an option for reconsideration open. There are more ambiguities than what strikes the eye.

More fundamentally, the familiar behavior remains the same. He craves attention and this presidency could be a marathon against the media which might get tired, obliged to cover the changing patterns, moods of this ballistic personality.  Despite obvious tensions in the transition team, the president-elect controls the news cycle on his terms. His late hour Tweets would fit Lady Macbeth!  He also gives the impression to be totally devoid of doubt regarding his decisions or appointments, made on the spot without the usual endless vetting. This pattern might be dangerous and could lead to remakes of President Reagan's Reykjavik moment which almost gave George Shultz a heart attack. Given his "penchant" for deals, the future meetings with leaders of the Putin, Xi Jinping mode will have to be closely watched and monitored.

Trump is a hurricane. He will not change. He is in love with himself and the narcissism will only grow after the inauguration. He is more entertainer-in-chief than commander-in-chief. He realizes that he can manipulate his base. He knows, too, that the media and the "elites"--begrudgingly--cannot ignore him.  History seems irrelevant to him. The short term is all there is.  I doubt that he will feel the spell of living in the White House in Jefferson's shadow, so to speak. He might be more concerned with the plumbing. The world will have to live with this unusual man. This is going to be a difficult time for Europe which is confronted with a populist wave and disenchantment with existing norms. Putin can count on the rise of a Fifth column in the EU which might further disenfranchise hitherto accepted rules of law. The former Atlantic Charter idea is being overtaken by self-serving conduct patterns. Europe risks exchanging ambition for accommodation.

President Trump might get lost in some big bargain without the Wilsonian vision. History, for those still interested, teaches us that instantaneous moves (Napoleon and Alexander I and Prussia, Hitler and Stalin) only gain time for one of the parties involved without regard for long- term or moral imperatives.  In French they might say:  qui va etre le didon de la farce?, after all, it is Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2016


Already the legend is catching up with the President before he leaves office.  Forgotten and forgiven are his often Hamlet-like mindset, his over-intellectualizing and his distance.
Michelle Obama likewise entered with him into what is becoming a saga of a partnership uniquely equal and supportive.  Compared with the current awful, mostly outrageous transition, the previous eight years look like an exercise in style and graciousness. While there is certainly room for legitimate critical revisiting of the Obama years, it is impossible to find the slightest sign of the pugilistic postures that are for now the trademark of the changes both in personnel and tone under the president-elect.

Rightly, everybody outside of the Trump machine, maintains a wait-and-see attitude. Nevertheless, the choices already made and the style (modus operandi) give ample reason for nervous assessment.   A lot is being said of Trump's predilection for making "deals". The latter indicates that agreements can be considered between "equal options". However we find ourselves in a world wherein unequal realities collide--as in WWII , the Cold War, the fight against terrorism, the unilateral disrespect for borders or for the pacta sunt servanda--and wherein deals become unrealistic if not immoral. The Western "Atlantic" world is still one of shared values and accepted rules of engagement between states who try to live under the rule of law. This concept was never taken hostage by "obscure" incoherent ideologies as might be the case today. It is too early to judge what the role of the extremes might be under a Trump administration but the entree of Breitbart into the White House is an ominous sign.  Steve Bannon & Co. are not known for their skills with nuance and fair-play. They have an agenda and are not prone to compromise.

America's allies are worried and the fear exists that this Right Wing oil spill might also engulf Europe, shaking systems and beliefs.  The Trump administration will have to come up early on with clear answers regarding Article 5 of NATO, trade, globalization, non-proliferation, climate change, all issues of major importance which rest on agreed beliefs which should never be reduced to parts of a deal. There looms a major danger in all this insofar as a conservative bigoted mindset might reverse existing priorities. Perverse idelogy could marginalize strategy and partnership.  If the art of the deal is nothing more than for the president-elect to see Dr. Kissinger and Nigel Farage on the same day, something is rotten in Trump Tower. Two extremes are not always each other's opposites.  President Obama struck a most statesman-like posture in Germany. The form and the content of his message were each other's complement. Enjoy the class act when it still has a short lifetime. 

Monday, November 14, 2016


This outstanding, yet familiar PBS anchor has left us.  In these too dark frustrating times, she reminds us of all what still can be professional, unselfish and positive in American media.
Viewers were looking forward to seeing her because she never attempted to invade one's space. Even while questioning a presidential contender she was able to come up with topics which were pertinent without ever being double-barreled.  Her private "persona" never took over either, not because there was too little to convey, but because there might have been too much!

Friday, November 11, 2016


With every day that passes, the enormity of the new situation in the US becomes clearer. The class of Secretary Clinton (who won the popular vote ) grows in the minds of all, when compared with the crass of the president-elect's entourage.

Yesterday, President Obama received Trump in the White House. The meeting went as such ritually-scripted events do, well. We will never know what was going on in the minds of both parties (Trump was nervous).  It remains ironic that the "unfit one" had to sit next to the person he had accused, for years, of not being born American.  Now, the "losers" have to confront the shallowness of the future president. The "winners" have to come to terms with the obnoxious paradoxes of this accidental  narcissistic avatar in their midst. 

The fear is real. The"used" (mostly) men around and with Trump have a vindictive, reactionary agenda.  His campaign manager is to women what a Nazi is to the Jews. The lack of culture and grace, the absence of real empathy with the "white blue-collar forgotten men in the rust belt" are almost farcical. Given that many achievements of President Obama might be shelved, voters will feel cheated and will have their day of reckoning.  One should feel frightened, imagining President Trump dealing with world leaders of whom he is not aware and regarding issues of which he is not at all cognizant.  This tabula rasa is an open invitation to allow miscalculation, improvisation and impulsive behavior to rule. His Twitter "persona" is already back with a vengeance.

How did it come to this?  Secretary Clinton's "high road" was obviously too principled and abstract for some. American voters do seldom go for philosophical argument. The frustration of many in the US and in Europe is real and raw.  Brexit is not a local phenomenon, it is a structural trans-border wave of discontent for reasons both real or imagined. This situation is an open door which lets in the manipulative mindset of a cynical few. The Far Right was able to play on the hurt feelings of the "deplorables" in the gun, pro-life, often bigoted segments of society. This tactic was widely used in the '30s-Germany, and today in countries as diverse as Russia, Poland, Turkey and China.

Trump risks having a zero honeymoon.  He even might become the victim of his backroom cronies as soon as he is made to believe that no one but him is taking over the commands. It will be ironic that the great demagogue might perish from the same cause--being manipulated--as the one he inflicted on his voters. 

There is grief in the land, there is disbelief.  When seen in time and space, the Trump phenomenon will be viewed as a costly, traumatic mistake.  Democracy can be tricky but in the end, it always recovers!   The hangover remains painful, nevertheless.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


The unthinkable has happened. Secretary Clinton lost. President Obama was rebuked. Donald Trump won by a landslide.  Few saw it coming.  Most comments, including mine, have been overhauled by this Hokusai-style political tsunami.

The angry old men around the nominee will have carte blanche to undo all Obama strove for: the Affordable Care Act, climate change, trade, the Iran deal, non-proliferation, the opening to Cuba and one could go on. Worse is that the Supreme Court will receive a death sentence: it will be degraded to become another political lobby.

How we arrived here will be the topic of books, debates, articles. Lots of people feel shell- shocked, including myself. We are in for four years of possible tectonic changes. Trump's rather low-key acceptance speech should not lead to a sobered resignation of the opposite camp. The former often irresponsible talk became the ice-breaker which left the electoral map of the Democrat it in tatters.

The depth of the American malaise was actually well understood by Trump early on, when he lauded Brexit. He has given the United States a Brexit-Plus. The analogy is clear, a choice between socio-cultural retrenchment or a model of openness and free-trade. Hence, one finds America split between part of the East and the West Coasts and the fly-over middle which becomes a "No-go /Do Not Enter" land. Rural stands against urban, secular stands against evangelical.

One must try to remain composed, but not at the cost of personal integrity. The choice was clear between professionalism, knowledge of world affairs and, on the other side, gross talk and a total disregard for political creativity. Trump's America would fit well in the neighborhood of Poland and Hungary. The coming changes at the top in France and Germany might as well follow this new nefarious American way. 

This election is also an existential affront to President Obama and Secretary Clinton. Both have been insulted in ways not seen since Germany in the late thirties.

In her emotional concession speech Mrs.Clinton, who won a majority of votes, proved yet again her mettle, class and endurance. Her leaving the political scene feels like morning.  Her words were heart-breaking.   I bet that lots of Trump voters feel remorse now.

Democrats reel and half of America looks into the abyss. Women and minorities should feel especially diminished.  This has been a "long night".  Strange days will follow!

Sunday, November 6, 2016


America votes Tuesday. In my opinion, Secretary Clinton will win, albeit with a smaller margin than originally expected.  The Democrats might fall short of wining a majority in the Senate.
The House will remain Republican.  
American democracy would be on life-support under a Trump presidency. One can already foresee how the smear campaign will be waged against a Clinton administration. The hate which has overshadowed the rules of democratic debate is nothing compared to the hit-and-run tactics of tomorrow. 

Despite an orchestrated barrage--almost a coup--Hillary Clinton would be the first woman to accede to the highest office in the United States. This would be a historic event on all accounts. She is too savvy to consider for one moment that the opposite camp would accept the outcome. From day one hell would brake loose. This is no longer a royal battle between Democrats and Republicans. The GOP, as one knows it from the Bush/Romney days, no longer exists. The party has been hijacked by ultra-right Neanderthals and it will have to confront the enemy within. One must still hope that there are enough bona fide Republicans left to save the party from a hostile take-over.  

President Hillary Clinton will have support from Western Europeans and from progressives in America and around the world. She would owe her victory to her resilience and intelligence, but without the support of President Obama and the First Lady, of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, she might not have broken the glass-ceiling once and for all.

The right will try anything--nefarious and pseudo-legal--to undermine her.  Russia, WikiLeaks and the demented clique around Trump will stage a permanent Kristallnacht after November 8.
Recent events indicate that there is a real active, motivated anti-Clinton force in all the layers of power. This ominous development is basically anti-American but it has metastasized by now and must be reckoned with.

A Clinton victory will feel good at the moment but count on the Trump voters to try to plan the road to the scaffold after !

Thursday, November 3, 2016


The US presidential elections are about more than the sum of the contenders.  In this cycle of discontent, full of "sound and fury", serious issues are being overtaken by leaks, innuendos and trivia.  In reality, what is at stake is the future of America in the short-term. Seldom has there been such a frankly alarming moment of choice.

The United States are beleaguered both at home and in the world.  While multiple choices abroad are still in reach, the polarization inside will be much harder to reverse when not remedied. The two candidates are flawed. One is unfit, the other can appear ambiguous. One is structurally flawed in all aspects, the other carries the tension between a public persona and a private "no trespassing" zone of comfort.

There have always been debates between one or the other school of thought: federal power versus the states, and constitutional freedom of choice versus measures rooted in a set of moral and religious values and in political calculus.  The voters now must make up their minds: either they risk derailing the core democratic values, or they reinvest in a complex  more secular paradigm. Both choices are equally perilous insofar as one or the other will have to confront a backlash, with unforeseeable consequences. The losers on either side will certainly feel too frustrated to cooperate and too hurt to let their defeat play out in a gallant way.

The pathological real estate autocrat is irreversibly tainted by his embrace of unsavory characters and by murky business deals, while the reformer appears often not to be able to shelve once and for ever ambiguities of her own making.  The choice has become an existential one. Issues take a back seat while the fabric of the American society receives, rightly so, full attention.  
It would furthermore be ironic if Trump, elected, would be more welcome in Moscow than in Western European countries where he is a pariah. The bluff, the diplomatic ignorance, the nuclear largesse, the Tweet life-span of his attention range might fit the profile of a casino mogul but they make him unqualified for the function he foolishly aspires to. 

Another danger is that Trump is a willing hostage of the Breitbart "Alt Right" which wants to erase all that President Obama stands for. The ultra right has found in this Manchurian candidate the right tool to arrive at defined objectives he does not even care to understand, as long as his ego is taken care of.

At the end only Secretary Clinton fits the profile required for becoming the next Commander in chief / President, but if she wins she better prepare for an ugly aftermath. Her opponents will  stop at nothing, even on the back of America's ethos, reputation, rule of law and civil liberties. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016


The Dreyfus Affair rocked France and the world in the 19th Century. 
Now, in 2016 America, the FBI's director Delphic statement regarding the possible content of a trove of Secretary Clinton's emails found among third party emails has created a shock-wave in the last days of this US election cycle. Director James Comey said too much or too little, letting loose an avalanche of more unwelcome interpretations. The usual Republican gerontocracy and Clinton haters got a silver bullet.  The hordes of Trump fans rally around the slogan "lock her up", in Munich beer hall '30s-mode.  Meanwhile, the rule of law is thrown under the bus.

The Republican candidate is following the Putin handbook for dirty talk and tricks.  Comey's move is suspicious at least in the absence of any rationale until now. This only corroborates the "vast right-wing conspiracy tales", which are nurtured by the psychopathic behavior of the dirty old men around Trump.  The so-called white blue-collar men who feel ignored had a better choice, since they could have voted for Bernie Sanders.  Instead they turned to a penthouse demagogue and his vanity fair (the small print) family.

The difference with the Dreyfus Affair is the outrage of the intelligentsia in France then, under the banner of Emile Zola's J'accuse.   Here, now it feels as if too many are too stunned to find words for their disbelief !

Friday, October 28, 2016


The US presidential elections are probably less relevant or nefarious for what happens on November 8 than for what happens thereafter.  The new email bombshell (?), and Trump's reaction, only underscores the growing fragility of the American political system today. Trump, a so-called Republican, is the mortal enemy of genuine republican (res publica) values.

After its independence, America turned its back on its philosophical origins.  Republicans and Democrats became more made of the same cloth. The differences between them were about praxis rather than about logos, as just a flash in the philosophical pan. Even the choices made in foreign affairs were mostly pragmatic, imposed by circumstance, not by ideology. The USA entered two world wars not as much by choice as by unforeseen pressure. President Wilson's intellectual ambition to rescue a coherent word-view was just a philosophical parenthesis.  The involvement in Europe during and after World War II was also the result of a strategic imperative, the need to protect itself behind a first-in-line European reef...and one can go on. The Roosevelt/Churchill camaraderie was likewise not devoid of deceit, cunning and booby traps.

Europeans always try to maintain a more philosophical narrative or fig leaf for their endeavors. It allows them to brag when they achieve and to be despondent and fatalistic when things go wrong. The Americans regroup more easily since their actions belong more to the behaviorist pattern. They can afford to be pragmatic as long as they feel to be on a path leading to the "shining city on the hill". Hence, they were able to avoid the crisis points as they regularly occur in Europe (May 1968, Brexit, immigration), where change is always doubt's twin.

Today the American consensus is gone. In the absence of any Hegelian mindset the gates are open to let in any form of frustration, which is all the more dangerous since it lacks the coat of an alternative appealing theory. Trump (mostly) and Secretary Clinton are not seen as alternative "concepts". They became interchangeable while being miles apart. Still, both the path and the destination set them apart.

Now that some Spenglerian doom scenario (Decline of the West) has been awakened and nurtured by the Trump camp, which by the way doesn't know what it is talking about. The drum of class warfare mobilizes "white blue-collar men in the rustbelt ( the wrong ZIP code)", who do not realize they are being manipulated. That the narrative is insulting and paternalistic seems to be forgotten. Women, Latinos, African-Americans and the LGBT community know better. If Trump, "the Unfit", were to win he would get stuck in a mass of discontent of his own making. If he loses this same mass might repeat some march on Versailles, with the difference that there are no Danton, Robespierre in the US political disaster.

The United States will enter stormy times. Secretary Clinton, probably victorious notwithstanding the new turbulence, will have to battle for the three branches of power to work normally. Even the Supreme Court is no longer the arbiter of last resort. The justices are reduced to be the spokespersons of prejudice "ante". They have been divested of their ultimate raison d'etre.  Not later than today Trump suggested that the elections could be skipped all together and that he should get the nomination.  Speaking of a "coup", right-wing style!

There are still enough pundits and commentators who lament this descent of too many into this angry mindset, without any claim to legitimacy. Therein also lies the reason for President Obama's melancholic final stretch. Both his persona and his actions belong to a cultural prism which does not appeal to a segment of the population hooked on noise and vitriol. He does not slice society in strata of race, gender or creed. Europe too has its floating, unpredictable mass of discontented individuals. Their more structural beliefs now, right or wrong, can nevertheless still act as a deterrent against primary instinct. If "disenfranchised" Americans cling to a set of religious bigotry, Second Amendment supremacy and naked frustration, the positive mix retreats.

The near future looks increasingly bleak if one of the main actors only legitimizes sound over meaning and insult over reason. His inability to look inwards, his unfamiliarity with emotion or beauty stand in opposition with the spirit of America's Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Vues de l'etranger, les dernieres peripeties Belgo Belges alimentent une nouvelle fois la reputation " non serieuse" du cas Belge.
Cela est injuste mais comprehensible eu egard a la complexite d'un modele politique ou la multiplication des "petits" pouvoirs a remplace toute forme d'efficacite.
Cette sitation encourage des jugements hatifs qui preferent ridiculiser plutot que de comprendre.
Il est vrai que le modele de gouvernance frise l'absurde, mais il semble irreversible, helas.
Le Nord est connu pour etre fort en gueule. Le Sud n'a pas voulu rester l'eternel ignore. Ses arguments a l'egard du CETA etaient valables, encore eut il fallu que le gouvernement federal en ait ete averti en amont pour eviter une situation embarassante en aval. 
Le Canada et l'UE ne sont pas prets d'oublier ce faux pas.
Il parait que les blagues Belges ont conquis le Canada.
Est-il encore possible pour la Belgique de se resaisir  autour d'un projet mobilisateur qui , sans remettre en cause les (mauvais) choix anterieurs, essaye d'en attrenuer les servitudes les plus debilitantes ? 
L'expo 58 ...c'est deja loin !

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


I am not going to get close to the gutter talk of Hannity, Gingrich & Co.  I just wish that someone higher up would start cleaning the Fox News' stable.  The air in there is becoming too toxic. America needs to breathe.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Le monde decouvre la Wallonie.
L'on est en droit de considerer l'opposition de celle-ci a l'accord de libre echange EU - Canada retrograde ( bien que certaines critiques sont pertinentes), mais le veritable enjeu est ailleurs.
Le gouvernement Wallon a tire profit des faiblesses structurelles du systeme Belge et s'est en meme temps comporte comme partenaire a part entiere de la region Flamande , au detriment du gouvernement federal, pris de court.
Cela prouve qu'il n'est pas besoin d'etre le plus fort pour etre gagnant. Le pouvoir central doit encaisser une perte de prestige international tandis que Paul Magnette, Ministre President Wallon, joue impunement sa carte de Macchiavel . Il rappelle une region a l'attention, fut-ce sur le dos de la Belgique et de l'UE.
Eu egard aux negociations en court il est impossible de predire l'avenir. De toute facon, Paul Magnette aura reussi a demontrer que le "snobisme" politique pouvait se retourner contre ses adeptes.
Depuis Georges Simenon la Wallonie avait besoin de notoriete. Elle l'a trouvee !

Monday, October 24, 2016


It is not that often that one can observe the waves of a threatening advancing tsunami close up.
Trump will lose, that is a fact.  What comes after might still be ominous though.  He brought populism into the fray.  Fires are easier to ignite than to extinguish.  He abandoned the right to happiness and replaced it by the rule of the negative and invective.  Jefferson's ideas fit in some painting by Nicolas Poussin or Claude le Lorrain, Trump's world is closer to Goya's nightmares (a compliment not deserved).

The debates were all about fury and contempt. Too bad there was never an opportunity for familiarity with the historical. Imagine Trump having to answer questions regarding Kennan's long telegram, Bosnia, Israel or the South China Sea situation?  The last Economist was all about "Putinism". I bet that one of Trump's underlings will feed him the jest of an analysis, which is too long for his short attention space to apprehend.

The more one sees Trump, the more one is confronted with the psyche of an insecure, heinous, unforgiving, immature personality. Hence, the aftermath of this perverse election might become a nightmare.  A bad loser might well choose a Third Reich-escape route, and try to bring the system to a near breaking point. The "deplorables" and the Republican demented suspects--Giuliani, Sessions, Carson, Palin, Christie, the Fox and Breitbart hordes--who are his Praetorian clique, might as well choose open warfare against a President Hillary Clinton. They inhabit a Bosch world without redemption. They are anti-globalization without argument, anti- big government without alternative, and inhabit Salem without an exit door!

America needs to protect its soul. This election is unique insofar as "fair play" is banned from the Republican (?) candidate's mantra and that the bona fide conservatives are not to be seen or heard. What is at stake now is not the result but the survival of an unique American experiment, initiated in harmony and now beleaguered.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Last night we had to sit through the third rerun of the Clinton/Trump feud.  We got the confirmation that Secretary Clinton can be on automatic pilot and that Trump is a thug in love with himself.  From the mix of personal insults and lies I retain his "Finale", wherein Trump refused to say if he would accept the result of the presidential elections.  He is indeed the undertaker of the democratic principles, which have never been assaulted as was the case yesterday.  

The debate was icy, devoid of any intellectual, personal input. Secretary Clinton's contempt and Trump's gutter vocabulary made any attempt to salvage some form of mutual respect impossible.  Mrs. Clinton won, Trump didn't lose, since he has already made the choice to be tomorrow's curse. His camp will remain solid in the embrace of the "negative".

The Republicans play a vicious game and might end up being the makers of a self-fulfilling prophecy, leaving their party in free-fall. Trump may still have his Warholian short moments of celebrity, since he cannot stay out of the limelight, be it at any cost.  His future is made of bricks, mortar and bad taste. His style is "kitsch", his family is a "human shield" pathetic lot.


Le deces du Ministre d'Etat Roger Lallemand prive la Belgique d'une personnalite hors du commun.
Il etait a la fois homme de conviction et de culture, Cartesien mais sensible.
Non seulement il a fait sauter le cadenas obscurantiste (loi portant sur l'avortement), il etait un humaniste dans un pays ingrat. 
J'ai eu l'honneur de le rencontrer plusieurs fois et je l'imaginais president de la republique Belgique.
Il appartenait a une classe en voie d'extinction, helas.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Voila qu'en Belgique le parlement Wallon s'oppose a la signature du CETA (Traite de Libre Echange EU/Canada). La signature est prevue pour le 27 Octobre.
Une fois de plus les aberrations du systeme Belge sont apparues. Elles alimentent les commentaires internationaux moqueurs.

La police, la securite, le dossier climat, le commerce, la diplomatie, la culture ont ete "delocalises" au detriment de l'etat federal . La gouvernance souffre de cette "deomposition", qui fragilise gestion et efficacite . Au demeurant, qu'un pays abandonne sa politique commerciale a des tiers (regions) est d'autant plus absurde que cela aboutit une nouvelle fois a privilegier le quantitatif bureaucratique au detriment du qualitatif strategique. Il n'est pas etonnant que le courant "socialiste" est le plus vocal dans le dossier CETA. Son ideologie est plus proche de l'economie assistee que du libre marche.

Maintenant le monde decouvre les Wallons, qui meritent mieux que le pilori.
Encore s'il s'agissait d'un debat d'idees sur la globalisation -merites et inconvenients- cela pourrait etre opportun, mais il s'agit d'autre chose, plus proche d'une frustration populiste.
Le gouvernement federal s'est exprime en faveur du CETA, mais eu egard a la (de)construction federale il faut encore negocier avec les regions, qui ont le monopole en ce qui concerne le commerce.
Bref, une fois de plus la Belgique est la demonstration parfaite de ce qu'il ne faut surtout pas faire. La fuite en avant n'est pas un choix, elle est une servitude.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Ian McEwan is an extraordinary goldsmith of the English language and narrative (Amsterdam,
Atonement...). In Nutshell he creates a polyphony with accents of Macbeth, Les Diaboliques and a Zeitgeist as ominous as an el Greco sky.  The atmosphere of this novel is almost musical, a Beethoven- or Schubert-like quatuor.

In the current times this implacable merciless sad story is the more striking because it refutes noise and fury. Movements and gestures can be more expressive than shouts and histrionics.
McEwan is the ultimate chamber music enchanter in literature. His lucid, melancholic observations are not devoid of sardonic humor.  He notarizes the hopelessness while retaining empathy for people's pathetic doomed upstream swimming against denial.

Friday, October 14, 2016


In all the electoral gloom in the USA, the First Lady, Michelle Obama, reinforced the image of a woman on her own, who stands for ideas in a broken landscape.  We knew her as a person, mother, partner, who together with the President confirmed the image of a contemporary family and of performing individuals.  In this current intellectual wasteland she stands out as a reference for moral class and political values. While the voice of the mob is loud, she counteracts with reason, empathy and "indignation". 

Her repulsion regarding these current degrading times stands as a rallying point for all those who continue to believe in plurality, tolerance and progress.  The many who feel that American values are being ignored should rally around a woman who stands for intelligence and inclusion.  She is indeed the perfect counterpoint to her more distant husband and President. He took over our hopes, she took over our need for redemption and believes.  There is no one, in a similar position in the world, who can be compared to her.  She could have chosen to play Antigone or Phaedra, she preferred to be herself.  There lies her strength.  She doesn't need validation!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


The more this horrible presidential election advances, the worse it gets.  Issues are buried under insults...from one side. Women are used as human shields, after having been treated as waste. Lies, misinterpretations and falsehoods rule.
One might have thought that the right-wing media still had occasional moments of correctness, but unfortunately they do not.  The "brown shirts" rule.

As much as Trump is acting like a psychopath right now, there is worse to come.  Admittedly he is clueless about geopolitics, history, macro-economy, institutions or...elementary decent manners, he is dangerous.  He is the ultimate Manchurian candidate.  Not only does he show a taste for "strong" leaders, he collaborates de facto with unsavory handlers of the Wikileaks genre.  The threat he poses is actually more serious in the aftermath of the November 8 outcome.  He might well become the figurehead of some Jacquerie, starting a fight against the American political model.  If he were to mobilize the so-called "disenfranchised" against Washington, this mob might try to break the backbone of the American consensus. Such an uninformed, frustrated minority could create political, financial, and institutional chaos. The Republican Party might fall prey to the ultras or split into a Tory Party and a populist newcomer, ready for isolationism, xenophobia, Second Amendment take-over and constitutional roll back.  Trump is an arsonist, not a statesman.  The personal assaults will multiply and the mob will become Trump's party.  From now on he runs less for the presidency than out of spite.

The world looks on in disbelief as the former indispensable power becomes a talking point for contempt.  This candidate is not of the quitting kind.  If he loses--which is almost certain--he will not go for the dignified exit. He will choose for some Wagnerian (not that he is familiar with the Tetralogy) outcome made for some god forgotten outpost wherein the cheated white blue-collar workers will be invited to play the part of the gods. They want jobs, they will get hell.  Secretary Clinton will win the elections but the hardest part will come later:  owning the moral, philosophical space she will need to save America from the abyss. Trump will do anything to deny her what she so rightly deserves.

Monday, October 10, 2016


The second presidential debate is an ugly stain on the American political saga.  Secretary Clinton held on to a stoic demeanor but had a hard time sticking to issues since her opponent followed a scorched earth strategy, ignoring questions and throwing mud around.  Trump transformed the podium into a scaffold, acting like a stalker, mugger and executioner.  Never has a candidate for the presidency been so incompetent on issues and so pathologically a liar.
The moderators looked on in disbelief, while this F.W. Murnau-type of scenario was unfolding.

After this loathsome performance, Trump's followers will have only themselves to blame for being considered deplorable pariahs. To witness evil is bad enough, to participate and condone it is beyond redemption.  So we will continue to suffer the indignities of this campaign  until November 8.  Unfortunately, Trump's certain loss will not be the end of this American horror story.  This beast is here to stay. When awakened, Godzilla never goes away.

Saturday, October 8, 2016


Trump could be heard yesterday loud (as usual) and clear (as seldom).  Only the fools could have been surprised.  Bouncers are also pimps, after all.  His comments were not those of a man who has an "affair".  His comments came from a real, sexually deranged, serial predator who views women as "raw material".  That this man can still be the candidate of the GOP for the presidency beats me.  The addition of the inept, the uninformed and the vulgar should disqualify him.

So, now you have three Republican camps who look equally pathetic:

--The wife trying to condemn and forgive (Fifth Ave. is better than Slovenia).
--The Republican establishment types who vent their embarrassment while trying to equalize their candidate's non grata persona with some of Secretary Clinton's intellectual triangulations.
--The flock of Evangelicals and so-called white blue-collar "men", under the banner of Trump's vice presidential choice, Governor Mike  Pence, who chooses creationism over Darwin and life over dignity.
The first looks pathetic, the second look elsewhere and the third don't look.

The world watches in disbelief. A Republican nominee talks trailer trash and continues,  until now, to spread his dandruff over his party. He should normally be trashed next November, and if the Republicans continue to choose to be lemmings, their party will implode. There are still enough Republicans with class and knowledge of the world left to make a U-turn in direction of the spirit of Burke and Lincoln. If the hard-core conservatives prefer denial over clarity, they can set up some type of reserve for their brethren. There is room in America, maybe too much of it.

Friday, October 7, 2016


Returning from a short break abroad I feel like living an accelerated "catastrophe" movie.
Things certainly did not improve.  The Syrian nightmare continues.  Most of the political discourse in the West has been taken over by negatives, such as Brexit and by the anti-globalization mob. The US presidential elections defy imagination. Trump became the oecumenical offender in chief. His leaked misogynistic salvo (which came out lately) might even embarrass the likes of Ann Coulter. The EU leaders (of what?) look like a remake of a zombie scenario. Even the weather knocks at the doors of the climate change deniers who will remain deaf nevertheless.  I feel like I'm inhabiting Plato's cavern. We end up looking at the shadow or the projection of a distant reality which exits behind our backs. We remain hooked on cycles which we no longer want to control or correct.

If we were to follow the anti-free trade camp we might as well leave it to the Chinese & Co. to 
control the markets while we end up making obsolete goods which will die off since they no longer compete and might as well be still-born. 

Syria is an other tragedy like Biafra, Rwanda and others, but with the added difference that nobody wants to get burned in this Inferno. Only the likes of Ambassador Holbrooke might have forced an outcome...maybe.  The silence is deafening. The Russians might overplay their deck as the Chinese might risk doing in the South China Sea. The Americans are busy with trivia of their own making. The Europeans meet "to meet".  I am afraid the second US presidentcial debate Sunday will be more panem and circenses than substance. Wait and see!

Monday, September 26, 2016


Evidence does not need many words to be notarized.  We saw an uneven "debate" between a candidate cognizant and a candidate pathologically unfit.  Secretary Clinton is obviously prepared/informed/in control of the issues.  Trump came over as the real estate slum landlord he is.  Too self aggrandizing to leave space for anything which does not fit into his ugly suits and narrow perspective, he looked bewildered... more a "bouncer" than a Republican bona fide presidential nominee.  Secretary Clinton showed some hauteur.   She is familiar with the White House (where she belongs) after all. 

I hope the voters will take notice ! 


Tuesday, September 20, 2016


The death of Phyllis Schlafly reminds me of the death squadrons led by the likes of Anita Bryant, Barry Goldwater, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity & Co.  While the progressives are generally scripted and concentrate on such issues as education, social welfare, climate change, inequality, the Right represents constitutional immobilism and a pro-life, pro-gun rights, climate skeptic, anti-gay-biased current, set in biblical stone.  The Right often shows signs of dementia (Trump/Fox News). The Left often appears to be unable to choose between an international outlook or some form of fatalism. Democrats are equally divided over free-trade and globalization.

The input of the conservatives is mostly negative. They are less occupied with a coherent agenda than they are united, for now, against the "persona" of President Obama. His sarcastic nonchalance regarding i.a. the Tea Party wing in the Republican party drives his opponents crazy. The accumulative contradictions of Trump still do not come close to denting the stoic defense lines of a president who appears to be immune to the mud slinging of an opponent he so vividly despises.

Unfortunately, the reciprocal hate between parties in America appears to have become structural. President Johnson's deals over the heads of the party lines are a thing of the past. The machine is now stuck in the shallow waters of mutual antipathy. A President Hillary Clinton might be seen as an Obama surrogate. A President Trump will have all the wrong impulses after having been called an international pariah by his own. He lacks self-confidence and bites like a wounded animal. Secretary Clinton, for her part, will never be a "sunny/exciting" president...she is too much of a work alcoholic to leave the windows open.

Hence, the choice is one in favor of the possible over the undesirable. The choice is self-evident. 
In his last General Assembly address, President Obama proved again his analytical world vision, brilliant but verging on pessimism.  He is more a philosopher king than a hands-on president. His words lead more to thinking things over and to reconsidering one's         certainties, than to (overhasty) action.  Unfortunately Trump's one-line jabs and serial lies might stick. This house-untrained attack dog is messy.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


After years of stating that President Obama was not legitimate because not born in the US, Trump has now reversed course saying that indeed the President was US born.  The "deplorables" in his flock remain unconvinced though, after years of Trump brainwashing.
It is not the admission which is surreal, but the lack of apologies and the accusation addressed to Secretary Clinton. Trump cannot reverse direction without soiling his footprint. This psychopath is out of reach ...

The Democratic contender, meanwhile, is accused of the trivial, the mundane and frankly unacceptable innuendos.  It is seldom about fact, it is always about misogynistic slander. It is hard to understand how Trump can still find support with the women on his staff or with the voters. The IQ deficit is surprising, or is it the new normal?

Michelle Obama's wit, grace and intelligence becomes a sensation in this brain-dead season of discontent.  Anyway, America is beyond recognition for now. The daily nightmare has become a curse.  It is to be hoped that this journey into night is not beyond redemption.  If Trump were to win, the brain-drain might be hard to stem...for years.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Secretary Clinton's health is yet again another reason for allowing this horrible campaign to reach a "non-return" low.  Her aversion to exhibitionism is perfectly understandable, especially given the relative banality of her ailment.  Unfortunately, indiscretion and travesty caught up, since by now most standards of tact and restraint no longer apply.  She is being accused (yet again) of self-aggrandizing syndrome on all sides. True, she should even be more aware of the reigning vulgar manipulative scrutiny. Refusing to adhere to the Barnum rules comes at a price. Trump's ringmaster tactics have marginalized any form of discretion and style which one would normally expect from a presidential nominee. The media (not only Fox) and some insecure journalists, or plainly unabashed liars, play an immoral role in this very bad play.

I cannot recall any other general election in a Western democracy that comes close to the current travesty of truth-telling or civilized behavior. One hallucinates at the idea of a Trump Supreme Court/nuclear and foreign policy/war on every other category of "dissenters". An inward looking America endangers self-respect and the respect outside. It would weaken innovation and turn its future topsy-turvy. 

Susan Sontag might have come to the conclusion that America's illness is not a metaphor but a potential death sentence. Compared to this larger existential menace, Secretary Clinton's little health non-event amounts to too little to be dwelt upon for too long. She should, nevertheless, not feed the narrative by appearing to be too impervious. "Distance" nowadays has become an endangered species.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


The US presidentials are no longer about issues, they are about pathology.  That this free-fall could happen is also due to the temperament of a president, who, in most things and about most issues, prefers to reign in "rapid response".  His allergy to demagoguery is often mistaken for disdain.  This does not give him a free pass on all issues. His tenure will be seen as uneven, even when rationalization might explain a lot.

Today the "logos" has taken a break, and we are lost in the primary jungle of raw
irresponsibility.  Trump is obviously the main villain in this sordid play. Insults, lies, immature behavior create a toxic brew, which finds few takers where it should count but a large following in a crowd which feels, too often rightly so, snubbed and taken for granted.
Secretary Clinton is obliged to respond in ways that are imposed by the  Republican nominee and which are mostly unfamiliar to a personality who prefers experience over loose talk. Hence she often comes over as "scripted" or hurried, as lately (and which backfired).

The "establishment" Democrats and many Republicans alike can hardly believe their eyes and ears. Many rank and file Republicans are supporting Clinton, not with their heart but with their reason. The former party of the elites becomes nativist, and the Democratic party of yesterday becomes the refuge of the lost republicans and a large "establishment in exile".
Trump might not win but he has set in motion a movement of disenfranchised individuals and frustrated third-tier opinion makers which might survive for awhile after November 8. The Republican nominee surely will not, and by his own choice. He will abandon and betray his flock as he has done during his professional life as a real estate dealer with a total disregard for manners and leader acumen.

The mutual distrust between Trump and Mrs. Clinton is structural by now. I wonder if they could even come to a handshake at the debates. They shouldn't. No bridge can span the abyss created by his vicious attacks and by her contempt.  The real issues will be buried in the mud. In the end, whoever wins, the American psyche will need some recovery therapy.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Since the EU is hors jeu, paying the price for Germany's Willkommenskultur, and after populist nativism is spreading at both sides of the Atlantic, the US president wisely chose to go to Asia for what might have been a last trip abroad.  Unfortunately, his journey was not smooth sailing.
The arrival in China was somewhat chaotic. Everybody familiar with the Chinese knows that "face" is of a crucial importance to them. So it was probably no accident that they decided to deprive the President of the customary red carpet arrival, which they seldom or never forget. The President preferred to gloss over it. In the group photo, he was again "marginalized", while Putin and Erdogan had their happy moment.  The president of the Philippines addressed the US president in course terms. Obama chose to ignore both the man and the chosen wording.
He gave again proof of his "cool" temperament and played on the issues rather than on comprehensible pique.

Compared to Trump, the President looks like a Jeffersonian sage.  He is naturally concerned about his legacy.  Trump accuses the President of being "soft" and chooses his usual path of verbal noise without subtitles.  Like Farage in Europe, he can sell vulgarity as pertinence. Secretary Clinton is right to stick to the high ground, but she is hostage to the e-mail/server saga which often grounds her ambition.

President Obama has entered his last months in what must be a melancholic mood. The Republicans will remain devoid of any elegance until the last hour. The TPP might not pass because of the provincial mindset of free-trade haters (Democrats and Republicans alike).  All intellectual discourse  has become suspect and the populist vernacular is, for now, the voice of too many in the land. The strategic implications of the TPP have gotten lost in a myopic political abyss. The pivot to Asia is a historical choice which should not be derailed.

Trump's latest utterances and banalities during the Commander-in-Chief Forum interview were frightening and hair-raising (what else to expect from Trump?). Matt Lauer, moderator (?) of this bizarre event, should stick with The Today Show.  Americans, however, should watch more of the Republican nominee so they might make up their mind once and for ever and agree that he represents an unacceptable and dangerous choice. His ISIS "plan in the no plan" is surreal.  His Putin hug speaks for itself. His hit-and-run doctrine regarding oil in Iraq or other possible spoils of war goes against every principle of international law.  It starts to be scary!

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Trump has been compared to many.  Most had better remain nameless, all are disreputable.
Actually, his perfect twin is the British Nigel Farage clown, the father of the catastrophic Brexit.  The not so narrow victory of the Brexit league risks reducing the United Kingdom to irrelevance and the European continent to an amusement park with some cultural and gastronomic exceptions.  Without Britain, the former continental demons will have a free ride once the elections in Germany and France take care of what is left of the Salon de l'Horloge spirit.  Farage & Co. are the ultimate arsonists who set Europe on fire.

Trump appeals to the same type of voters and, if elected, might facilitate the same outcome. His support comes from a segment of voters, not unlike in the UK, who feel frustrated, snubbed and ignored.  I haven't seen a cultural, academic or informed lobby applauding the insults of the not-so-great real estate bluffer. His chances are nihil, on condition that no deus ex machina  comes to the rescue. That some individuals feel frustrated is a fact and their alienation from the elites can be easily understood at a time of unreliable economic data. The danger is that here, as in the United Kingdom, the tele-evangelists and political farceurs might take advantage of this latent, not illegitimate negative mood of mostly white male blue-collar workers.

If America were ever to vote Trump and the Nuremberg style, America might as well commit suicide, provoking an internal hemorrhage of history, culture, innovation and democracy. Noise will kill discourse and everyone with manners will choose the Aventine over the Capitol. Fox News will be the law of the land and Breitbart would be the Camelot of the regime. I think that this Ubu Roi nightmare has no chance, but the Democratic presidential nominee better be prepared for what will be more of a carpet bombing assault than a battle of ideas...the Queensberry rules will not apply!

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi stands trial before the International Criminal Court at the Hague. He stands accused of the destruction of Mali's religious monuments in Timbuktu.  He pleads guilty and expresses regret.  For the first time, the Shariah and the instrumentalization of the Quran are on trial in the person of Al Mahdi.  The prosecutor considers this J'accuse as historic because it is about the destruction of collective identity.  In doing so, she lifts the taboo on other similar nihilistic destructions in Afghanistan, Syria and the list grows every day.

Humans are twice victimized, in their own lives and in their memory. The international community has been for too long at fault in dealing with either. The refugees multiply, Syria sinks further into Dante's deeper circles of hell and all traces of former collective memory and continuity are no match for the hatred of Jihadists, and some others!  Every small step to reverse the advance of barbarism helps a least culture has its day in court.


Trump must think:  Veni, Vidi, Vici.  His Mexican day-trip stole the media rug from under the feet of Secretary Clinton.  Besides, in Mexico he "coated" his immigration message; returning to the US, he immediately reversed to the former hard-core core version, without blinking.
Hence, he played up to his base, aided in this by the usual henchmen, on and off screen. As a result, the Mexican president got even smaller than his natural height and looks like a trapped fool hanging onto his Twitter as to a life-vest.

Trump will continue his Barnum policies. He does not care if his fellow elephants become stressed, as long as they continue to give him a free-ride. Most bonafide rational Republicans are leaving this ship of fools for safety and self-respect but he plays to a different audience and has his own brand of claque.

Secretary Clinton, and others must have watched this Mexican show in disbelief.  "Making America great again" is a hollow slogan.  There is no more to it than noise. On the other hand, making America look foolish makes one a de facto collaborator of the Assange/Putin & Co. syndicate. That Ailes, Sessions and Giuliani want to be part of this poisonous strain leaves the more sober observers at a loss for words.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


The  current mood on both sides of the Atlantic is morose.  In the US,  Europe is seen as a failed experiment.  The Nobel Laureate Joseph E Stiglitz has written a highly critical essay about the euro as the mother of most ills.   Added to this, Brexit, terrorism, and debt crises complete a dark picture.  In the US the Republican nominee is a loose canon candidate, unfit to govern, unable to discipline himself, dangerous to come near the nuclear code.  His campaign is now in the hands of an apocalyptic team steered by Ultras Stephen K. Bannon (Breitbart News' Attila) and Roger Ailes (formerly Fox News molester-in-chief ) and the Neanderthal-thinking John Bolton (Dr. Strangelove).  Nothing is off limits in the attack on Secretary Clinton: personal health, the Clinton Foundation, Benghazi, emails. The Democratic nominee has problems coming forward with straight answers, which creates a negative frenzy in the ranks of the ultra-Praetorian squad around Trump.

Both Atlantic partners are undermining their credibility for reasons of populist discontent, which benefits both the irresponsible and the uninformed. America has become a tale of two cities on the east and west coast, with very little in between. The Evangelicals and the unemployed in this center should not feel snubbed by the "elites", nor should they be taken for granted and lied-to by the Right.  The Brexit has left Europe divided. Without the United Kingdom, the EU loses a more emancipated worldview. The German, French and Italian cluster does not compensate for London's unrivalled role and familiarity in and with the larger worldview. It will be interesting to see how the Netherlands will act in the future. This largest of the smaller members has a historic and cultural empathy with the Anglo world and starts to be impatient to consider switching solidarity for management.

Is the Atlantic world a broken one?  In the unlikely hypothesis of a Trump presidency, the Europeans risk becoming distant, afraid of this nuclear warlord without credentials.  On the other hand, the European project is on hold.  It is not a failure (yet). Quoting Voltaire on the Holy Roman Empire:  "It is neither holy, nor Roman nor an empire". The same might apply to the EU.  It needs to rebuild a capital of trust. It needs to show that it is not the monolithic superstate decried by some American media. After all, the member states still need to translate Brussels directives into national law! At the end of the day a Europe of nation-states might be more coherent than a bureaucratic behemoth. The EU could still reinvent itself by actively considering new policies which are too complex to be solely taken over by member states: global warming, terrorism, mass migration, digital revolution, a credible common defense and foreign policy.  Putin seems to like (?) Trump because he might get a freer hand in his near abroad. I doubt that Trump would ever be invited to make a speech in Berlin. Secretary Clinton is obviously the only knowledgeable, prepared candidate, who would be welcomed by Europeans as well as by the more trustworthy world leaders.

Both sides of the Atlantic will need nerves of steel and shouldn't get lost in self-fulfilling wrong prophecies.  A Trump victory is unlikely, but he will be in the daily news for his outlandish, gratuitous one-liners, which have a killing impact. Secretary Clinton needs to consult Descartes and ban her triangulation mode.  The EU cannot let the disparity between northern and southern Europe deepen. The weaker the southern member states become, the more congested and strategically endangered the north and central members become. Putin cannot be allowed to pick what he might be ready to grasp.

America and Europe have yet again to realize their relative interdependence. Churchill and Roosevelt were the best of allies, but they did not refrain from bad-mouthing each other and setting traps, as FDR did in Yalta.  Love is not a pronged honeymoon, it is a long uphill battle.

Friday, August 19, 2016


Some might still remember the image of Aylan Kurdi's small body washed ashore on some anonymous beach. He came to symbolize the "end" of a migrant's personal story.  Now we have the image of little Omran Daqmeesh,  shell-chocked in Aleppo.  He stands for the "beginning" of another personal story.  It seems that world attention needs the shock of a sudden image to entangle itself from the daily horror routine which looms too large and repetitive  to awaken indignation.

Syria is a Sartrian hell wherein everybody has become everybody's enemy. The better ones are dying. The bad ones are talking...or bombing.  Assad & Co. got a free pass, after a red-line was ignored, and the usual handlers of Assad--Russians, Iranians and their acolytes--have had their day since. The West continues talking about talks.  At least a no-fly zone might have helped...a little bit.

For now, the image of little Omran will have its short life span, just as Omran maybe, alas !

Monday, August 15, 2016


Enough of the minutiae of the American current electoral abyss...for now!  Let me just say that a Trump loser might even be even more aggressive than the crazy Trump of now. The Americans think they have seen and heard it all. Well they haven't.

The White House appears on lock-out. After Labor Day this will change for sure and the President will be an active participant in a presidential election unlike any other.  This does not stop problems from piling up both at home and abroad.  In the US, a healthy economy still does not deliver the goods. Abroad, Syria and Ukraine could ignite greater upheaval any time.
Ukraine would be Trump's turf since his campaign manager is at home in Kiev (Ancien Regime).  Syria is more serious.  It is to the Obama legacy what Iraq is to George W. Bush. Both presidents made mistakes of an historical, irreversible importance. The second Iraq war dragged the shaky Arab Sykes-Piquot construction into the abyss.  For syria, a formula should have been negotiated which presented a temporary face-saver for Assad and a path toward a more lasting encompassing governing formula. But now the situation has changed and Assad is no longer under immediate pressure.  Ambassador Holbrooke, who was able to get all the parties in the Bosnian conflict talking, would not have hesitated. After all, Milosevic likewise had his days in Dayton and Rambouillet... before ending up in the Hague !

After the American volte faceRussia saw its chance and seized the opportunity. Assad received a renewal of his life-support and Putin was able to slowly regain influence in the region as a whole. Today, America plays a second role.  Unfortunately, this Russian push continues, far and deep. True, this comes at heavy price for a country in dire financial straits, but Putin's system plays on xenophobia and nationalism.

President Obama's Middle East policy--the same goes for Ukraine--is stuck in a restraining jacket which curtails creative diplomatic or strategic initiative. He has become the unwilling Siamese twin of the Kremlin thugs, a hapless Castor to a cynical Pollux. The Russians have made him an unwilling de facto accomplice of what they do, without any return benefit. Imagining what a President Trump might come up with makes one run for safety.  Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, and further on Afghanistan, are all in the eye of the storm, not to mention America's Sunni allies.

One cannot exclude an October surprise and it looks as if Putin has all the cards:  Mrs. Clinton's repetitive hacked emails, another Ukrainian incursion, some Baltic teasing, Turkish delights, fun with the Shia, and one can go on. Fortunately President Obama, who might regret his strategic blunder, is nevertheless a man of "reason", which is the only thing we can still hope for in times wherein truth is one's latest mood (Thanks Oscar Wilde).