Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Le dernier volume d'"Interventions 2020" de Michel Houellebecq est une addition de textes. Il ne pretend pas au recit. La discontinuite ne laisse pas de repit.  Figure un aricle paru dans Harper's Magazine en janvier 2019, donc apres que le monde ait eu le temps de prendre conscience du cote infrequentable de Trump.

Apres une entree en fanfare ,"Donald Trump est un bon president ", Hoellebecq developpe une pensee qui peut se defendre, mais le point de depart est tendencieux, voir meme etrangement provincial.  La proposition etant que dans une Amerique reduite a sa plus simple expression de "Reduit chretien" (genre" The Sound of Music") le choix des Americains devient presque indifferent. Ils ont le droit d'elire qui ils veulent a l'instar d'autres pays meme si leur choix s'est arrete sur un "type peu honorable et moral".

En realite Hoellebecq avance que les Etats-Unis ne sont plus la premiere puissance mondiale. Son argument conduit cependant a suggerer qu'un renvoi a une categorie inferieure, genre serie B,  libere les Americains  des qualites morales et militaires qui datent de la Seonde  guerre Mondiale. Puisque l'Amerique se compare desormais a l'Inde ou a la Federation Russe, il importe moins que leur president fasse un tabac positif a la Kennedy ou Obama.

Affirmer que les Etats-Unis ne sont plus les premiers de classe est un point de vue.  A contrario il est facile de pretendre  le contraire. Dire que Trump est un bon president tient de la provocation mais apres tout, la liberte d'expression existe!

A peu pres n'importe qui part en ce momentpour Mars ou d'autres lieux infrequentables, mais personne n'a envie d'etre Chinois ou d'habiter le Golfe pour autant . Au demeurant ces visiteurs du soir risquent de trouver Elon Musk a l'entree.

Il serait interessant d'entendre le point de vue de Houellebecq aujourd'hui, apres l'attaque du Capitole par les Gardes rouges de Trump. Si le pas de deux avec le Nord Coreen semble l'avoir epate, je doute que le triste final de cette odieuse presidence ne l'ait pas ebranle.

Donald Trump etait le plus mauvais president de l'histoire americaine.

Sunday, February 14, 2021


Joseph Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief met on February 5  with Sergey Lavrov, Russia's formidable minister of foreign affairs. The meeting flopped, as Borrell looked unprepared and almost pathetic.

Lavrov knows how to wring the unfathomable out of his interlocutors. Suffice to remember how he made Trump act like a fool in the inner sanctum of the Oval Office. He is a master diplomat and he is truely Putin's Talleyrand.

Meeting Russians is never easy. Napoleon understood the risks. Great personnalities like Stalin, Molotov, Doubinine only continued a grand tradition of pride and shrewed power-play. Their counterparts never had it easy. Too often they bungled their performances badly.

It is too easy to attack Borrell.  After all, Kennedy's performance in Vienna didn't match his ambitions. He was perceived as weak but then the Russian overplayed his hand too.

The EU has to address its own faultlines before it can hope to be taken seriously. Brexit was the UK's loss but did not become the EU's win. The EU is a family too divided to reclaim the high moral ground, while accomodating partners like Poland  & Co. in its midst. The handling of the Corona crisis is another trademark for non-visionnary policy-making.  The Russian Federation rolls out vaccines and can play medical largesse for all to see.

The WunderEU from Jacques Delors belongs to the past. The personnalities in the Commission are no longer the best and the brightest. Member states look like tired Bridge players competing for playing dummy. Obviously the pandemic continues to further weaken creativity and consensus. A chance for a European strategy was missed, yet again.

The new US administration might give the EU a wake-up call. After four years of neglect, President Biden might rescue Europe from becoming irrelevant. The Paris Agreement, trade, Iran, the Middle East and most of all China could create an  urgency, wherein the Europeans will be forced to become pro-active again.  Russia can still play a constructive role, but it needs to feel that it is not wasting its time with "underlings". Napoleon (again) met the Tsar on a raft en tete a tete, confident in the powers of his own argument and personality. When his judgement failed him, Russia swallowed him mercilessly. Hitler followed suit. Reagan might not have been the brightest but his confident arrogance won the day. The Russian bear only falls for honey after all. In Western Europe it is in short supply.

Borrell might look like a curate but he was wrong to talk like one.

Friday, February 12, 2021


The Arab Spring was an arc which covered most if not all of the Arab world, from the Atlantic to the Gulf. The events in Egypt were the most dramatic, also because the country always occupied a privileged place in the world's collective memory.

The "gift from the Nile" mesmerized Europeans but they kept their eyes shut for too long to the resentment and inequalities which existed in the shadow of some of civilisation's greatest achievements. Western imagination fell prey to antiquities and also to its own selfish rivalries, while oblivious to the expoitation and savage industrialisation imposed by (imported) rulers and their cliques.

Egyptology was a mania and cover for French/British rivalry with, at the end, the ownership of the Suez Canal (created by the French) as goal. The British won, taking ownership of both the canal and Champollion's heritage. One had to wait for Nasser to return ownership and pride to Egypt.

The recent history is familiar. Mubarak was a benign despot. His fall from power and the interregnum until al-Sisi's coup are well known. He did not see the Arab Spring coming at him with a vengeance. Most observers were actually taken by surprise. Egyptians are for the most part smart, tolerant, with a wicked sense of humor. One tends to forget that they also have the memory of political pluralism which simmered until World War II. Different political strands existed until the fall of King Farouk. Nasser's one-man rule was forgiven after he gave Egypt back its dignity, nationalizing the canal and the humiliating the UK, France and Israel, with the tacit support of no other than the United States.

Sadat added to Egypt's  new-found prestige. Mubarak's dull, pedestrian personality didn't click with Egyptians who got tired of his permanent ego trip, with little regard for their living conditions. He surronded himself with a coterie which couldn't shield him any longer from scrutiny and impatience. After his fall, the Muslim Brotherhood found in President Morsi a man with good intentions but no management skills.  His then minister of defense al-Sissi stole the power and made the army his own. 

The Arab Spring which preceeded Mubarak's fall was generous but too over- intellectual maybe in a socio/economic environment wherein corruption and immense disparities required more empathy than just political reform. The students did not speak the language of the people.

Egyptians see themselves always as different from Africa and distant versus their Arab brethren. They still look at Europe as "close" and tend to consider other Arabs as a different strand. They have their own contradictions, navigating the pharaonic past and the islamic DNA. They are both religious and cynical, generous and mendacious.

The many students and intellectuals in Tahrir Square who spoke so eloquently about human rights and reforms did not always realize that the ones they tried to convince were to grasp the ambitious intention beyond the message.

Egypt is stuck for now in the usual scenario wherein the sole leader builds a new capital somewhere that is more made to serve his prestige (tanzim) than to host the needs of the people.  Sounds like Burma...and looks like it!  Autumn is coming!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


Here they go again. The Democrats, stepping from House to Senate, in some form of absurd funeral procession. The Republicans clueless about anything, but political survival at any cost.

The Senate was given an unedited rendering of the assault on the Capitol. The demented crowd on full view gave a perfect insight into the minds and hearts of Trumpism. The images had a ressemblance with other past aberrations in China when Mao unleashed the Cultural Revolution. Only the dresscode then was more sober than the parade of dressed-up lunatics seen on last January 6.  Actually, the storming of the US Embassy in Teheran and the taking of the hostages is maybe a better reference.

The impeachment is dead on arrival. Republicans--with few exceptions--will hesitate to speak out against their former Fuhrer. Future elections again (in 2024) could still be overshadowed by Trump who can count on a vast segment of hard- core believers who will not hesitate to punish the liberal minded.

President Biden wisely does not interfere with the workings of the American constitutional system. In this period of bruced egos, ignorance is bliss. The outcome is certain and the monster in the Mar-a-Lago  lagoon is just killing time with golf and illusions of  revenge. He will be around but he is no Deng Xiao Ping after Mao. It is too early to predict what the future of the new administration will look like.  It looks as if Yellen, Blinken and Buttigieg might become the trademarks of the next four years. The vice-president is a great personnality but she is shrewd enough to take her time and to let the president first heal the wounded institution he inherited. For four years the Reichstag was burning. The flames are still smoldering and after less than one month the remains of this permanent arson are everywhere. The United States are booby-trapped and the previous administration made sure to poison the well. Biden's historical majority still has to deal with an opposition which is guided by a devious compass. The fake news/Qanon hordes lie low for now but they just wait for the call to war to take up their guns and Bibles to attack again the fabric of democracy.

The past election didn't heal.  The losers do not accept the outcome since any form of acquiescence would deprive them of their more outrageous weaponry. The winners are too busy clearing the mine fields they find on their path to be able to claim that the country is safe again. America has work to do before the world will see for itself that the change there is structural. Many countries will rejoice entering into a new partnership with the United States, on condition that Trumpism, in all its forms and personae, is a thing of a unsavory past.