Hong Kong: La montagne est haute et l’empereur est loin (Think local, blame national: countering Beijing’s strategy, Hong Kong protesters blame not the deviant but the too-obedient local servant)

12 novembre, 2014
 L’ordre public doit à tout prix être maintenu, non seulement à Hong Kong mais aussi partout sur la planète. Xi Jinping
Gouverner par la loi est un pilier fondamental pour la stabilité et la prospérité à long terme de Hongkong, a dit le secrétaire général du Parti communiste, cité par l’agence de presse officielle Chine nouvelle. Le gouvernement central soutient entièrement le chef de l’exécutif et son gouvernement pour gouverner, en particulier pour assurer l’autorité de la loi et l’ordre civil.  Xi Jinping
Vous ne montrez pas tant de nouveautés si vous ne voulez pas faire passer un message fort. Je visite des salons d’armement dans le monde entier et vous ne voyez pas ce genre de choses en libre accès. Cela n’arrive pas. Cela ne se passe pas comme ça normalement. (…) C’est comme si nous avions deux réalités – ou une réalité et un spectre. Le sommet de coopération est le spectre, tandis que le salon de Zhuahi est la réalité concrète et matérielle. William Triplett (ancien premier conseiller du Comité américain des relations internationales du Sénat et expert en sécurité nationale)
He wanted to present himself as someone from the grassroots, not linked to the tycoons… but people have been terribly disappointed. Joseph Cheng (City University of Hong Kong)
He is in daily communication with Beijing. C.Y. is a very obedient cadre. (…) Beijing would … lose face if they were to sack Leung in the near future, [but] it’s a foregone conclusion that C.Y. Leung has to go because he is a very divisive and very unpopular figure. Willy Lam (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
One of his nicknames is « 689″ — a sarcastic reference to the number of votes he obtained from the city’s 1,200-strong election committee, a group of people selected from the largely pro-Beijing elite. And Leung, a former surveyor and real estate consultant, has done little to dispel the prevailing view that he is Beijing’s lackey. A day after being elected as chief executive he paid a visit to the central government liaison office, Beijing’s outpost in the city and he was the first leader to make his inauguration speech in Mandarin — rather than the Cantonese that is spoken by most people in this former British colony. Despite this, Leung was not in fact Beijing’s first choice to become chief executive. The early favorite was Henry Tang, a bumbling former financial secretary best known for his penchant for red wine. But revelations that Tang’s home had an enormous basement which hadn’t been approved for planning permission, dubbed an underground palace, derailed his campaign. However, it was later discovered that Leung’s home in the city’s exclusive Peak neighborhood also had an illegal structure. Leung declared ignorance but it undermined trust in the city’s new leader from the get-go and helped earn him another nickname — « wolf. » The moniker sounds similar in Cantonese to his family name but also suggests a cunning political operator.His approval ratings have plummeted since 2012 and a plush toy wolf made by IKEA sold out across the city earlier this year as Hong Kongers, eager to use it as a tongue-in-cheek symbol of protest, snapped it up. A gigantic, enlarged effigy of Leung’s head, replete with lupine fangs, has also been a distinctive sight on the streets during the protests. For all his colorful nicknames, Harry Harrison, political cartoonist at the South China Morning Post, the city’s main English-language newspaper, says Leung is a difficult character to portray.(…) Those that do usually feature Leung sitting in his office with a picture of malevolent panda — symbolizing China — behind him. The reason, says Harrison, is that Leung is rarely out and about and has little public presence, coming across as aloof.(…) Leung has only appeared in public three times; twice for press conferences and once for a National Day flag-raising ceremony attended by dignitaries. Protest leaders have repeatedly called for him to go and refuse to negotiate with him, preferring a meeting with his number two — Carrie Lam. While Leung says he will not resign, many observers feel his days are numbered, with protesters setting up a makeshift tomb at the protest site. « Beijing would … lose face if they were to sack Leung in the near future, » says Lam at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. But « it’s a foregone conclusion that C.Y. Leung has to go because he is a very divisive and very unpopular figure. CNN
The compiled tweets (…) highlight a unique aspect of this protest compared to others across China. Many protests on the mainland condemn local officials for problems — including land seizures, environmental pollution, corruption, and employment discrimination — that citizens may perceive as stemming from noncompliance with central government policies. In contrast, the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong erupted in late September in response to a central government edict circumscribing universal suffrage in the 2017 local elections for chief executive. Not surprisingly, some Hong Kongers view Leung not as a local official improperly implementing Beijing’s directives, but as the opposite: Beijing’s obedient servant. For example, one tweet reads, « We don’t care if [the] thief executive steps down, he is just Xi Jinping’s puppet. » Several tweets referenced a CNN article that cast Leung as « Beijing’s lackey. » This sentiment is further reflected in the graffiti depicted below, which shows Xi, dressed in Mao-era attire, guiding Leung (as represented by the wolf, the Cantonese word for which sounds similar to Leung’s name) on a leash toward a crowd of yellow umbrella-wielding protesters. Thus while netizens call for Leung to step down, their opposition may ultimately be directed toward Beijing. (…) Of course, this comparison of sentiment toward the two leaders explores merely one aspect of the overall discussion surrounding the Hong Kong protests, much of which may not have been captured on Twitter. Moreover, the discussion on Twitter may have omitted or amplified certain voices; it is possible that a few key individuals may have disproportionately driven conversation targeting either Xi or Leung. In addition, the findings may reflect strategic calculations on the part of protesters who may have sought to avoid direct confrontation with Beijing by purposefully refraining from directly criticizing Xi. Still, when Hong Kong netizens took to Twitter to share their ideas and mobilize support, they revealed the profound disconnect that separates elements of Hong Kong society from their mainland counterparts. These netizens turned « think national, blame local » on its head by blaming « local » for appeasing « national. » For Beijing, that’s worrisome. Douglas Yeung, Astrid Stuth Cevallos

Et si, avec sa  culture propre, Hong Kong  arrivait à contrer Pékin sur son propre terrain ?

A l’heure où, Forum Apec oblige et à coup de décrets de jours de congé (pour réduire la pollution) et de déclarations apaisantes envers ses voisins, la Chine a mis temporairement en veilleuse son incroyable volonté de puissance …

Tout en lançant, au nez et à la barbe du prétendu chef du Monde libre, son propre projet de coopération économique régionale et un nouvel avion furtif

Et rappelant, au nom du « respect du droit » s’il vous plait, son soutien à son pantin de Hong Kong …

Faut-il, avec la revue américaine Foreign policy, voir dans l’insistance des manifestants de Hong Kong à dialoguer directement avec le pouvoir central  …

La subversion de la stratégie chinoise, jusqu’ici particulièrement efficace, de « pensez national et de blamez local »?

Où, loin de menacer les autorités de Pékin, la dénonciation des dirigeants locaux sert à les conforter au contraire.

Sauf que face à une région ayant sa culture propre et notamment sa langue et sa cuisine mais aussi son siècle et demi d’acculturation britannique (où nombre d’adultes « n’y parlent que difficilement le mandarin à tel point que les Chinois du continent doivent parfois leur parler en anglais ») …

Et comme le montre l’analyse par Foreign policy des twits émis à Hong Kong lors des récentes manifestations …

Le dirigeant local n’y est cette fois pas montré du doigt pour son non-respect de la loi nationale …

Mais au contraire pour sa trop grande obéissance !

Tea Leaf Nation
The Mountains Are High and the Emperor Is Far Away
Who do Hong Kong’s netizens blame for the city’s distress?
Douglas Yeung , Astrid Stuth Cevallos
Foreign policy
November 11, 2014

Shan gao, huangdi yuan — « The mountains are high, and the emperor is far away. »

This traditional Chinese saying alludes to local officials’ tendency to disregard the wishes of central authorities in distant Beijing. Indeed, many Chinese believe that social unrest in China occurs when corrupt or incompetent local officials fail to implement well-intentioned central government directives. Eager to deflect citizens’ complaints away from the regime and toward local officials, Chinese leaders have exploited this perception, adopting a strategy that Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution calls « think national, blame local. »

Does this conventional wisdom hold for the recent Hong Kong protest movement? Since Sept. 22, tens of thousands of protesters have flooded the streets, calling for universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election and the resignation of current Hong Kong Chief Executive Chun-ying Leung. According to Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the mini-constitution set in place when sovereignty of the former British colony transferred back to mainland China in 1997, Hong Kong must establish « universal suffrage » by 2017. But on Sept. 4, the central government in Beijing, under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s leadership, issued an edict declaring that candidates must be vetted by a Hong Kong committee stacked with pro-Beijing interests — effectively guaranteeing that pro-democracy candidates would not make the ballot. This move ignited the protests that have now roiled the Asian financial center for over six weeks, though Hong Kong authorities now seem to be making plans to clear out the protesters. A court injunction on Nov. 10 granted police the power to arrest protesters who do not cooperate, and on Nov. 11 Hong Kong’s number two Carrie Lam called on demonstrators to end the sit-in. The pro-Beijing Leung’s staunch support of China’s official position, as well as his alternately heavy-handed and evasive approach to the protesters, has vilified him among many of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters.

Which political leader — the local Leung or more distant Xi — appears to be the foremost target of protesters’ discontent?

Measuring sentiment toward these two leaders in netizens’ Twitter posts can help answer this question. Many Hong Kong protesters have used social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to organize demonstrations and mobilize international support. Facebook and Twitter are blocked on the mainland, but these sites can be accessed freely in Hong Kong. (Although Hong Kongers also use Weibo, the mainland equivalent of Twitter, Weibo is less useful as a means of analyzing popular sentiment in this case because Weibo posts, especially those about sensitive topics like the Hong Kong protests, are subject to censorship.)

From Sept. 10 to Oct. 8, 38,000 tweets were tagged with the hashtags #UmbrellaRevolution or #OccupyCentral, and sent by users who either claimed to be located in Hong Kong or whose posts were geotagged within Hong Kong. Tweets were separated according to mentions of Xi or Leung (or Leung’s nickname, 689, a reference to the number of votes he received from Hong Kong’s 1,200 member election committee). This resulted in just fewer than 1,000 tweets mentioning either leader, with seven times as many tweets about Leung as about Xi. Tweets were processed using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), an automated content analysis software designed to link word usage to psychological states.

Nearly five times as many tweets about Leung conveyed negative sentiment as tweets about Xi. However, tweets about Xi were more negative in tone than those about Leung. As a percentage of total tweets about each leader, more tweets about Xi contained words conveying negative emotion (e.g., « angry, » « foolish, » « harm, » « lose, » « protesting, » « stupid, » « resign, » « thief ») than those about Leung. Moreover, compared to tweets about Leung, tweets about Xi on average contained a greater proportion of negative emotion words. In particular, words conveying anger (a subset of negative emotion words that includes swearing and words like « hate, » « liar, » and « suck ») were more prevalent in tweets about Xi than in tweets about Leung. (Note: A few hundred of these tweets were written in Chinese. When analyzed, the results appeared similar to those for tweets in English. Because LIWC was not designed to process Cantonese grammar and vocabulary, this analysis focuses on the English-language tweets.)
Hong Kong Twitter users discussing the protests may also have felt more distressed when writing about Leung and more disconnected when writing about Xi. Psychological research has found that use of first-person singular pronouns (e.g., « I, » « my ») is related to self-reflection, while use of third-person pronouns (e.g., « he, » « she, » « they ») suggests that those being referred to are somehow separate or different from oneself and one’s group — that is, they are seen as « others. » As shown above, tweets about Leung used higher rates of first-person singular pronouns than tweets about Xi. Along the same lines, tweets about Xi contained proportionally more third-person pronouns than tweets about Leung.

It is intuitive that Hong Kongers would feel more detached when writing about Xi and more personally affected when writing about Leung, who is both geographically and culturally closer to the protesters. Yet while negative opinion towards Xi may be more strongly felt, the disparity in number of posts about each leader suggests that disapproval of Leung is more widespread than disapproval of Xi. The « othering » of Xi in these tweets parallels a tendency among Hong Kongers to identify less as « Chinese » and more with their city.

The compiled tweets also highlight a unique aspect of this protest compared to others across China. Many protests on the mainland condemn local officials for problems — including land seizures, environmental pollution, corruption, and employment discrimination — that citizens may perceive as stemming from noncompliance with central government policies. In contrast, the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong erupted in late September in response to a central government edict circumscribing universal suffrage in the 2017 local elections for chief executive.

Not surprisingly, some Hong Kongers view Leung not as a local official improperly implementing Beijing’s directives, but as the opposite: Beijing’s obedient servant. For example, one tweet reads, « We don’t care if [the] thief executive steps down, he is just Xi Jinping’s puppet. » Several tweets referenced a CNN article that cast Leung as « Beijing’s lackey. » This sentiment is further reflected in the graffiti depicted below, which shows Xi, dressed in Mao-era attire, guiding Leung (as represented by the wolf, the Cantonese word for which sounds similar to Leung’s name) on a leash toward a crowd of yellow umbrella-wielding protesters. Thus while netizens call for Leung to step down, their opposition may ultimately be directed toward Beijing.

Of course, this comparison of sentiment toward the two leaders explores merely one aspect of the overall discussion surrounding the Hong Kong protests, much of which may not have been captured on Twitter. Moreover, the discussion on Twitter may have omitted or amplified certain voices; it is possible that a few key individuals may have disproportionately driven conversation targeting either Xi or Leung. In addition, the findings may reflect strategic calculations on the part of protesters who may have sought to avoid direct confrontation with Beijing by purposefully refraining from directly criticizing Xi.

Still, when Hong Kong netizens took to Twitter to share their ideas and mobilize support, they revealed the profound disconnect that separates elements of Hong Kong society from their mainland counterparts. These netizens turned « think national, blame local » on its head by blaming « local » for appeasing « national. » For Beijing, that’s worrisome.

 Voir aussi:

C.Y. Leung: Hong Kong’s unloved leader
Katie Hunt
CNN
October 3, 2014

Hong Kong (CNN) — Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist?

C.Y. Leung, the Hong Kong leader whose resignation has become a rallying cry for the protesters that have filled the city’s streets this week, was a relative unknown before he took the top job in 2012.

As the son of a policeman who has used the same briefcase since his student days, his supporters said he would improve the lot of ordinary people in a city that has one of the world’s widest wealth gaps.

« He wanted to present himself as someone from the grassroots, not linked to the tycoons… but people have been terribly disappointed, » says Joseph Cheng, a professor of political science at City University of Hong Kong.

Beijing lackey?

One of his nicknames is « 689″ — a sarcastic reference to the number of votes he obtained from the city’s 1,200-strong election committee, a group of people selected from the largely pro-Beijing elite.

And Leung, a former surveyor and real estate consultant, has done little to dispel the prevailing view that he is Beijing’s lackey.

A day after being elected as chief executive he paid a visit to the central government liaison office, Beijing’s outpost in the city and he was the first leader to make his inauguration speech in Mandarin — rather than the Cantonese that is spoken by most people in this former British colony.

« He is in daily communication with Beijing, » says Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. « C.Y. is a very obedient cadre. »

Despite this, Leung was not in fact Beijing’s first choice to become chief executive. The early favorite was Henry Tang, a bumbling former financial secretary best known for his penchant for red wine.

But revelations that Tang’s home had an enormous basement which hadn’t been approved for planning permission, dubbed an underground palace, derailed his campaign.

However, it was later discovered that Leung’s home in the city’s exclusive Peak neighborhood also had an illegal structure.

Leung declared ignorance but it undermined trust in the city’s new leader from the get-go and helped earn him another nickname — « wolf. »

The moniker sounds similar in Cantonese to his family name but also suggests a cunning political operator.

His approval ratings have plummeted since 2012 and a plush toy wolf made by IKEA sold out across the city earlier this year as Hong Kongers, eager to use it as a tongue-in-cheek symbol of protest, snapped it up.

Villain?

For all his colorful nicknames, Harry Harrison, political cartoonist at the South China Morning Post, the city’s main English-language newspaper, says Leung is a difficult character to portray.

« C.Y., despite his pantomime villain appearance, hasn’t really turned out to be all that cartoonable, » he told CNN. « I’ve hardly featured him in any cartoons for months now. »

Those that do usually feature Leung sitting in his office with a picture of malevolent panda — symbolizing China — behind him.

The reason, says Harrison, is that Leung is rarely out and about and has little public presence, coming across as aloof.

His unease with ordinary members of the public has been on display this week.

Leung has only appeared in public three times; twice for press conferences and once for a National Day flag-raising ceremony attended by dignitaries.

Protest leaders have repeatedly called for him to go and refuse to negotiate with him, preferring a meeting with his number two — Carrie Lam.

While Leung says he will not resign, many observers feel his days are numbered, with protesters setting up a makeshift tomb at the protest site.

« Beijing would … lose face if they were to sack Leung in the near future, » says Lam at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

But « it’s a foregone conclusion that C.Y. Leung has to go because he is a very divisive and very unpopular figure. »

Voir également:

Pékin gonfle les muscles en arrière-plan du Sommet de coopération économique
Joshua Philipp

Epoch Times
11.11.2014

10 novembre 2014: le président américain Barack Obama écoute le Premier ministre australien Tony Abbott lors d’une rencontre bilatérale à Pékin. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Enlarge
10 novembre 2014: le président américain Barack Obama écoute le Premier ministre australien Tony Abbott lors d’une rencontre bilatérale à Pékin. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Analyse de l’actualité

Robert Gates, ancien Secrétaire américain à la défense de l’administration Obama,pourrait très certainement analyser pour le Président ce qui est en train de se passer cette semaine à Pékin, tandis que les représentants des armées du monde se sont rassemblés dans la ville méridionale de Zhuhai.

M. Gates avait rencontré les dirigeants militaires en Chine en janvier 2010 pour ce qu’il pensait être un dialogue amical et nécessaire. Près de 6 mois avant son voyage, il avait minimisé la menace de l’avion furtif J-20, en déclarant que la Chine ne le mettrait pas en service avant 2020.

Alors que Robert Gates se trouvait en Chine en 2010, le régime chinois avait procédé au premier vol d’essai du J-20.

La communauté de la défense internationale avait reçu ce geste comme un message à l’agressivité clairement marquée.

Le régime chinois semble vouloir reproduire le même jeu. Alors que l’attention du public et des médias du monde est tournée vers le sommet de Coopération économique de la région Asie Pacifique (CEAP) qui s’est tenu cette année à Pékin, le régime chinois a également organisé son salon aéronautique de Zhuhai qui a attiré tous les dirigeants d’armée et les patrons de la sécurité du monde entier.

Les médias officiels chinois répètent tous la même chanson: ce sommet de Coopération économique représente une étape importante et souligne le plus grand rôle joué par la Chine dans la politique mondiale. De Xinhua au Quotidien du Peuple en passant par le Global Times, le régime chinois est présenté comme un État puissant et pacifique prêt à étendre son influence. Les États-Unis, quant à eux, sont décrits comme un pays trouble-fête essayant d’empêcher la Chine d’atteindre ses objectifs légitimes.

Le régime chinois utilise donc le sommet de la CEAP pour présenter une image de paix mondiale et de prospérité tout en envoyant plus clairement que jamais un message d’agression et de puissance militaire à travers l’édition 2014 du salon aéronautique de Zhuhai.

«Vous ne montrez pas tant de nouveautés si vous ne voulez pas faire passer un message fort,» a commenté lors d’un entretien par téléphone William Triplett, ancien premier conseiller du Comité américain des relations internationales du Sénat et expert en sécurité nationale.

À Zhuhai, le régime chinois semble ne rien vouloir garder pour lui. Il a dévoilé plus d’une douzaine de systèmes d’armes à la pointe de la technologie qui pourraient défier la domination militaire américaine, y compris des armes que les spécialistes de la défense pensaient que la Chine était loin de pouvoir développer.

Parmi ces nouvelles armes se trouvent un missile supersonique anti-navire, des obus d’artillerie guidés par GPS, de nouveaux lasers tactiques, une nouvelle version d’exportation de son avion furtif et ses avions cargo qui pourraient aider le régime à étendre sa portée militaire.

«Je visite des salons d’armement dans le monde entier et vous ne voyez pas ce genre de choses en libre accès», s’est étonné M. Triplett. «Cela n’arrive pas. Cela ne se passe pas comme ça normalement.»

Selon M. Triplett, dans la même perspective que le vol d’essai du J-20 pendant sa visite en Chine en 2010, la présentation de tous ces nouveaux systèmes d’armes pendant que les dirigeants du monde se trouvent au sommet de la CEAP à Pékin envoie un message très clair.

«C’est comme si nous avions deux réalités – ou une réalité et un spectre», a analysé M. Triplett. Le sommet de coopération est le spectre, tandis que le salon de Zhuahi est la réalité concrète et matérielle.»

Comment interpréter Zhuhai

Pour démêler la réalité de la vitrine superficielle, il faudra que les États-Unis souhaitent comprendre le message adressé par le salon de Zhuhai.

Selon Richard Fisher Junior, membre éminent du Centre international de stratégie et d’évaluation, interpréter un événement comme Zhuhai a un certain prix pour le gouvernement américain.

Le Navy Times a révélé il y a quelques jours qu’un éminent dirigeant des renseignements de la Marine américaine avait été démis de ses fonctions pour avoir averti les dirigeants américains d’une menace militaire provenant de Chine. Le Capitaine James Fanell était directeur des opérations de renseignement et d’information de la Flotte américaine dans le Pacifique.

«En résumé, il a été averti que dire la vérité est une erreur», a expliqué M. Fisher, avant d’ajouter que le timing de cette décision a été perçue dans l’armée comme un signe que les pressions exercées par la Chine peuvent atteindre l’armée américaine.

«James Fanell est un analyste très respecté», a poursuivi M. Fisher. «La façon dont il est traité représente les risques auxquels sont exposés tous les Américains portant la responsabilité de dire la vérité au sujet de la Chine. Beaucoup d’entre nous avons souffert professionnellement parce que nous avons dit la vérité au sujet de la Chine.»

Dans l’ensemble, le régime chinois a donc présenté deux visages au cours du sommet de Coopération économique de la région Asie Pacifique qui vient de se dérouler à Pékin – un visage tourné vers le public et l’autre vers la communauté mondiale de la défense.

«Ces événements ne sont pas dus au hasard», a conclu M. Fisher. «Le régime chinois est très habile pour combiner plusieurs messages pour des audiences multiples. Cela est une pratique usitée dans l’histoire de la guerre psychologique.»

Version originale: While World Watches APEC, China Sends a Message

La montagne est haute et l’empereur est loin : introduction au Guangdong
Benoit Geffroy

Cette phrase est la traduction d’une maxime chinoise exprimant ce qu’on pourrait appeler « le paradoxe chinois » – ou au moins « un » paradoxe chinois. Pour dire les choses de manières douces, l’Etat chinois a une longue tradition autoritaire et centralisatrice. Il a toujours cherché à imposer son ordre jusque dans les marches les plus reculées de l’empire. Malgré tout, l’immensité du territoire a permis aux communautés locales de conserver une certaine autonomie. Ce proverbe signifie donc que malgré ses velléités dirigistes, la cour n’a pas toujours le bras assez long pour imposer sa loi sur l’ensemble du territoire. Ne prenez toutefois pas ces mots au pied de la lettre : il ne s’agit pas tant d’échapper à la loi que d’instaurer un équilibre tacite entre les directives nationales et les réalités locales.

Ces considérations sont particulièrement vraies en ce qui concerne le Guangdong. Le Guangdong est la province dans laquelle se trouve Guangzhou, plus connue à l’Ouest sous le nom de Canton. Pour ne pas trop vous dépayser, j’appellerai par la suite la province « cantonais ». De par son statue de Région Administrative Spéciale, Hong Kong n’appartient pas au cantonais. Elle se situe néanmoins sur ses côtes. Le nom de Shenzhen est peut-être familier à certains d’entre vous ; cette ville se situe aussi dans le cantonais. Elle est d’ailleurs collée au territoire hong-kongais.

Bien que d’un point de vue administratif Hong Kong n’appartienne pas au cantonais, elle en est en fait très proche, et ce pour des raisons culturelles. Pour oser une rapprochement hasardeux, on pourrait comparer le cantonais à la Bretagne. Les deux régions possèdent chacune une culture propre, à commencer par la langue et la cuisine. Elles ont enduré une phase de « colonisation » par la « métropole », qui leur a imposé sa langue et son identité nationale. J’arrête ici les frais en même temps que les déclarations discutables, mais l’idée est là.

Au premier rang des particularités de la province se trouve la langue. Je zappe la conférence sur les grandes familles de dialecte chinois, retenez juste que la langue cantonaise est plus éloignée du mandarin, la lingua franca imposée par les communistes, que le français ne l’est de l’espagnol. Parmi les autres différences, on peut noter la cuisine (mais chaque province chinoise a ses spécialités) ou l’architecture (je parle de l’architecture traditionnelle : à Canton comme dans les autres villes chinoises l’immeuble a gagné par K.O.).
La dichotomie qui sépare traditionellement le Nord et le Sud de la Chine joue aussi à plein. Ce sont les clans guerriers du Nord, habitués à un environnement rude, proches des nomades de la steppe mongole, qui ont fait l’unité de la Chine. Les peuples de Chine du Sud, commerçants dans l’âme, à la culture plus raffinée, admettent mal la tutelle du gouvernement central. Ce n’est pas un hasard si toutes les capitales dynastiques de la Chine se sont toujours trouvées dans la moitié nord du pays (à l’exception de celles des Song du Sud, chassés du Nord par les Jurchens puis par les Mongols).

Le cantonais étant la province cotière chinoise la plus méridionale, c’est naturellement là que les navigateurs européens débarquèrent au XVIème siècle. Ils furent accueillis par des commerçants plus qu’enclin au négoce, ce qui ne fit qu’accentuer l’ouverture au monde extérieur de la province. Au XIXème siècle, les Cantonais furent ainsi le fer de lance de l’immigration chinoise aux Etats-Unis. C’est aussi dans cette province qu’est né Sun Yat-Sen, l’homme qui abolit l’empire et proclama la république au début du siècle dernier. Autant de faits qui renforcent la réputation frondeuse de la région.

Retenez donc que le cantonais est une province à part en Chine, et ce par bien des aspects. Certains vont même jusqu’à affirmer qu’en cas de démocratisation de la Chine, un mouvement indépendantiste pourrait apparaître. Sans en arriver jusque là, il est indéniable que le Chinois cantonais n’est pas un Chinois comme les autres. Ces particularités ont été quelque peu nivellées par le régime central de Pékin. Les communistes ayant notamment imposer le mandarin à l’école, tous les Cantonais parlent aujourd’hui la langue commune. Ce qui ne les empêche pas de continuer à communiquer entre eux en cantonais.

C’est beaucoup moins vrai pour Hong Kong, qui n’est soumise aux oukases de Pékin que depuis dix ans : la majorité des adultes n’y parlent que difficilement le mandarin (à tel point que les Chinois du continent doivent parfois leur parler en anglais). Cependant il est difficile de tracer le contour de l’identité cantonaise des Hong Kongais, tant ceux-ci ont le regard tourné vers l’Occident.

Voir enfin:

Think National, Blame Local: Central-Provincial Dynamics in the Hu Era
Cheng Li
Leadership Monitor, No. 17
2007

The alarming statistics on public protests recently released by the Chinese authorities have led some analysts to conclude that the Chinese regime is sitting atop a volcano of mass social unrest. But these statistics can also reaffirm the foresight and wisdom of Hu Jintao, especially his recent policy initiatives that place emphasis on social justice rather than GDP growth. The occurrence of these mass protests could actually consolidate, rather than weaken, Hu’s power in the Chinese political establishment. Although Hu’s populist policy shift seems to be timely and necessary, it may lead to a situation in which the public demand for government accountability undermines the stability of the country. Under this circumstance, Hu’s strategy is to localize the social unrests and blame local leaders. This strategy is particularly evident in the case of Guangdong, which recently experienced some major public protests. An analysis of the formation of the current Chinese provincial leadership, including the backgrounds of 616 senior provincial leaders in the country, reveals both the validity and limitations of this strategy.

The ever-growing number of social protests in China has attracted a great deal of attention from those who study Chinese politics.1 Any comprehensive assessment of the political and socioeconomic conditions in present-day China has usually—and rightly so—cited Chinese official statistics on “mass incidents.” The annual number of these mass incidents in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including protests, riots and group petitioning, rose from 58,000 in 2003 to 74,000 in 2004, and to 87,000 in 2005— almost 240 incidents per day!
These protests were often sparked by local official misdeeds such as uncompensated land seizures, poor response to industrial accidents, arbitrary taxes, and failure to pay wages. The frequency and number of deaths caused by coal mine accidents in the country, for example, were shamefully astonishing. Despite the recent shutdown of a large number of mines by the central government, in 2005 China’s coal-mining industry still suffered 3,341 accidents, which resulted in 5,986 deaths.2 Not surprisingly, these alarming statistics have led some China analysts to conclude that the current Chinese regime is sitting atop a volcano of mass social unrest.3
The issue here is not whether the Chinese government has been beset by mass disturbances and public grievances; it has, of course. The real question is whether thenew administration under the leadership of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao will be able to prevent the country from spinning out of control. Two unusual phenomena have occurred since Hu and Wen assumed the top leadership posts in the spring of 2003. These two developments are extraordinarily important, but have been largely overlooked by overseas China analysts.
The Crisis Mode and the Need for a Policy Shift
The first development relates to the release of these statistics and the resulting crisis mode (weiji yishi). Hu and Wen intend to show both the Chinese public and the political establishment that there exists an urgent need for a major policy shift. It is crucial to note that all of these incidents and statistics made headlines in the Chinese official media during the past two or three years. Issues of governmental accountability, economic equality, and social justice have recently dominated political and intellectual discourse in the country. This was inconceivable only a few years ago when some of these statistics would have been classified as “state secrets.”
In direct contrast to his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, who was more interested in demonstrating achievements than admitting problems, Hu Jintao is willing to address challenging topics. More importantly, Hu has already changed China’s course of development in three significant ways: from obsession with GDP growth to greater concern about social justice; from the single-minded emphasis on coastal development to a more balanced regional development strategy;4 and from a policy in favor of entrepreneurs and other elites to a populist approach that protects the interests of farmers, migrant workers, the urban unemployed, and other vulnerable social groups.

These policy shifts are not just lip service. They have already brought about some important progress. For example, one can reasonably argue that Hu and Wen, more than any other leaders in contemporary China, are implementing the so-called western development strategy (xibu kaifa zhanlue) effectively. During the past five years, 60 major construction projects have been undertaken in the western region with a total investment of 850 billion yuan (US$105.7 billion).5 Additionally, a new industrial renovation project in Chongqing will have a fixed asset investment of 350 billion yuan (US$43.5 billion) in the next five years.6 Meanwhile, the so-called “northeastern rejuvenation” (dongbei zhenxin) and the “take-off of the central provinces” (zhongyuan jueqi), with direct input from Premier Wen, have also made impressive strides.7
During the past few years, Hu and Wen have taken many popular actions: reducing the tax burden on farmers, abolishing discriminatory regulations against migrants, ordering business firms and local governments to pay their debts to migrant workers, restricting land lease for commercial and industrial uses, shaking hands with AIDS patients, visiting the families of coal mine explosion victims, and launching a nationwide donation campaign to help those in need.8 These policy changes and public gestures by Hu and Wen suggest that current top Chinese leaders are not only aware of the tensions and problems confronting the country, but also are willing to respond to them in a timely, and sometimes proactive, fashion.
To a certain extent, the large number of social protests occurring in China today reaffirms the foresight and wisdom of the new leadership, especially its sound policy shift. In an interesting way, the occurrence of these mass protects could actually consolidate, rather than undermine, Hu and Wen’s power in the Chinese political establishment. This, of course, does not mean that the Hu-Wen leadership is interested in enhancing social tensions in the country. On the contrary, their basic strategy is to promote a “harmonious society.” In their judgment, the Chinese public awareness of the frequency of mass unrest and the potential for a national crisis actually highlights the pressing need for social stability in this rapidly changing country.
Localization of Social Protests and the Blame Game
The second interesting new phenomenon in the Hu era is that a majority, if not all, of these mass protests were made against local officials, government agencies, or business firms rather than the central government. During the past few years, there has been an absence of unified nationwide protests against the central authorities.9 This does not mean that the country has been immune from major crises on a national scale. In the spring of 2003, for example, China experienced a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic, a devastating health crisis that paralyzed the urban life and economic state of the country for several months. The regime survived this “China’s Chernobyl” largely because new top leaders like Hu, Wen, and Vice Premier Wu Yi effectively took charge and confronted the challenge.
It is not a coincidence that protesters often state that their petitions are very much in line with Hu and Wen’s appeal for social justice and governmental accountability. The Chinese public, including public intellectuals, believe that the new national leadership has made an important policy shift to improve the lives of weaker social groups.10 In the eyes of the public, mass protests against local officials are well justified because these local officials refused to implement policy changes made in Zhongnanhai. In Heilongjiang’s Jixi City, for example, the municipal government delayed payment to a construction company for years; consequently, migrant workers employed by the company did not receive their wages. When Premier Wen learned of the situation in Jixi, he requested that the municipal government solve the problem immediately. However, the local officials sent a false report to the State Council, claiming the issue was resolved even though migrant workers remained unpaid. Only after both the Jixi protests and Wen’s request were widely reported by the Chinese media did the municipal government begin to pay migrant workers.11 A recent article published in China Youth Daily used the term “policies decided at Zhongnanhai not making it out of Zhongnanhai” to characterize this prevalent phenomenon of local resistance to the directives of the central government.12
In recent years, the Chinese public, especially vulnerable social groups, seem to hold the assumption that the “bad local officials” often refuse to carry out the right policies of the “good national leaders.” Apparently due to this assumption, mass protests often occur shortly after top leaders visit a region; protesters frequently demand the implementation of the socioeconomic policies initiated by the central government.13 To a great extent, the increasing number of protests in China today can be seen as a result of the growing public consciousness about protecting the rights and interests of vulnerable social groups. Additionally, a multitude of Chinese lawyers who devote their careers to protecting the interests of such groups have recently emerged in the country. They have earned themselves a new Chinese name, “the lawyers of human rights protection” (weiquan lushi).14
Chinese journalists have also become increasingly bold in revealing various economic, sociopolitical, and environmental problems in the country. To a certain extent, the Chinese central authorities encourage the official media to serve as a watchdog over various lower levels of governments. For over a decade, local officials have been anxious when reporters from China’s leading investigative television news programs such as Focus (Jiaodian fangtan) visited their localities. Many local leaders were fired because the media revealed either serious problems in their jurisdiction or outrageous wrongdoings by the officials themselves.
The Hu-Wen leadership’s appeal for transparency of information has provided an opportunity for liberal Chinese journalists to search for real progress in media freedom throughout the country. The Chinese regime under Hu Jintao is apparently not ready to lift the ban on freedom of the press just yet. In recent years, several editors of newspapers and magazines have been fired, their media outlets banned, and several journalists have been jailed.15 But at the same time, some Chinese scholars and journalists such as Jiao Guobiao, a journalism professor at Beijing University, and Li Datong, an editor of China Youth Daily, continue to voice their dissent, and have even sued the top officials of the Propaganda Department of the CCP Central Committee.16
An interesting recent phenomenon in the Chinese media is that some media outlets based in one city or province are often inclined to report the problems and misconducts of leaders in other cities or provinces. Some local officials have banned the media’s negative coverage of their own jurisdiction. But meanwhile, they have actually encouraged the practice of “cross-region media supervision” (meiti yidi jiandu). It isin their interest to have their potential rivals in other regions being criticized by the media, because any damage to their potential rivals’ career could enhance their own chance for promotion. This practice evidently damaged the interests of too many provincial leaders. In the fall of 2005, the authorities of 17 provinces, including Hebei and Guangdong, jointly submitted a petition to the central government, asking to ban the “cross-region media supervision.”17
The dilemma for Hu and his colleagues in the central leadership is that their populist policy shift seems to be timely and necessary on the one hand, but on the other hand it can lead to public demand for social justice, economic equality, and government accountability, all of which can undermine the political stability of the regime. Because of this dilemma, Hu’s strategy has been to localize the social unrest. For the sake of maintaining the vital national interest of political stability, local governments should assume responsibility and accountability for the problems in their jurisdictions. If there is social unrest or other crises, local leaders will be blamed. One may call this strategy of the Chinese central leadership “think national, blame local.”
An important component of this scheme is the new regulations on complaint letters and petition visits that were adopted by the State Council in May 2005. The new regulations emphasize “territorial jurisdiction” and the “responsibility of the departments in charge.”18 Chinese citizens who have complaints and petitions are not encouraged to come to the central government in Beijing. Instead, they are told to go through a step-bystep procedure, submitting their complaints and petitions to the appropriate local government level. In the words of an official of the State Letters and Visits Bureau, the new regulations aim to not only protect “the lawful rights of people with legitimate complaints,” but also to make “local authorities more accountable.”19 This new procedure will place political pressure on local leaders while enabling the central leadership to avoid blame.
The central leadership’s “blame game” has also been facilitated by an allocation of non-economic quotas for provincial governments. In February 2006, Li Yizhong, chair of the State Administration of Work Safety, announced that in order to reduce the number of coal mine explosions and other industrial incidents in the country, the central government would evaluate the performance of provincial governments not only by economic growth, but by four additional indicators: the industrial death rate per 100 million yuan of the GDP, the death rate of work accidents per 100,000 employees in commercial businesses, the death rate per 10,000 automobiles, and the death rate per one million tons produced by coal mines.20
The populist approach of the Hu-Wen leadership has generated or reinforced the public assumption that social protests occurred because local leaders did not comply with the policies of the central government, some officials were notoriously corrupt, and/or these local bosses were incompetent. In the eyes of many people in China, “blaming local” is well justified. Some local governments have constantly resisted the directives of the central government and violated national laws and regulations.
This phenomenon of local resistance to the central authorities is certainly not new to China. The Chinese saying, “The mountain is high and the Emperor is far away,” vividly epitomizes this enduring Chinese trend of local administration. However, the abuse of power by local officials for economic gain has increased during China’s market transition, especially since the mid-1990s when the land lease for commercial and industrial uses spread throughout the country.
A “Wicked Coalition” between Real Estate Firms and Local Governments
It has been widely reported in the Chinese media that business interest groups have routinely bribed local officials and formed a “wicked coalition” (hei tongmeng) with local governments.21 Some Chinese observers believe that various players associated with the property development have emerged as one of the most powerful interest groups in present-day China.22 According to Sun Liping, a sociology professor at Qinghua University, the real estate interest group has accumulated tremendous economic and social capital during the past decade.23 Ever since the real estate bubble in Hainan in the early 1990s, this interest group has consistently attempted to influence governmental policy and public opinion. The group includes not only property developers, real estate agents, bankers, and housing market speculators, but also some local officials and public intellectuals (economists and journalists) who behave or speak in the interest of that group.

24
This explains why the central government’s macroeconomic control policy (hongguan tiaokong) has failed to achieve its intended objectives. A survey of 200 Chinese officials and scholars conducted in 2005 showed that 50 percent believed that China’s socioeconomic reforms have been constrained by “some elite groups with vested economic interests” (jide liyi jituan).25 In the first 10 months of 2005, for example, the real estate sector remained overheated with a 20% increase in the rate of investment despite the central government’s repeated call for cooling investment in this area.26 In the same year, the State Council sent four inspection teams to eight provinces and cities to evaluate the implementation of the central government’s macroeconomic control policy in the real estate sector. According to the Chinese media, most of these provincial and municipal governments did nothing but organize study sessions of the State Council’s policy initiatives.27
In 2004, the central government ordered a reduction in land leases for commercial and industrial uses as well as a reduction in the number of special economic zones that were particularly favorable to land leases. As a result, a total of 4,735 special economic zones were abolished, reducing by 70.2 percent the total number of special economic zones in the country.28 But some local officials violated the orders and regulations of the central government pertaining to land leases. According to one Chinese study conducted in 2004, about 80 percent of illegal land use cases were attributed to the wrongdoings of local governments.29 According to an official of the Ministry of Land Resources, about 50 percent of commercial land lease cases (xieyi churang tudi) contracted by the Beijing municipal government and business firms in 2003 were deemed violations of the central government regulations.30
Not surprisingly, a large number of corruption cases are related to land leases and real estate development. For example, among the 13 total provincial and ministerial level leaders who were arrested in 2003, 11 were primarily accused of illegal pursuits in landrelated decisions.31 Meanwhile, a large portion of mass protests directly resulted from inappropriate compensation for land confiscations and other disputes associated with commercial and industrial land use. According to a recent study by the Institute of Rural Development of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, two-thirds of peasant protests since 2004 were caused by local officials’ misdeeds in the handling of land leases.32
It is of course unfair to assume that the local governments’ enthusiasm for property development in their localities is purely driven by the personal interests of corrupt officials. Conflicting views regarding the issue of land leases between the central authorities and local governments are largely a product of asymmetrical priorities and concerns. As a Chinese analyst recently asserted, “the interests of the local governments are not aligned with [those of] the central government.”33 At present, the central government is apparently more concerned about the “overheat” of the Chinese economy, especially the financial bubble of real estate in coastal cities. In contrast, local governments are more worried about the “coldness” in local investment, foreign trade, consumption, and domestic demand—this is what Zhao Xiao, a scholar at the Research Center of the Chinese Economy of Beijing University, calls the “four coldnesses,” which can be devastating for local economies.34
Since 1994, China has adopted a tax-sharing system (fenshuizhi) in which tax revenue is divided by both the central and local governments. This tax-sharing system is supposed to better define fiscal relations between the central and local governments, promote market competition among various players, stabilize the regular income of the local authorities, and provide an incentive for local governments to collect taxes.35 As a result of this taxation reform, 65 percent of state expenditure now comes from local governments. The economic status of China’s provinces differs enormously from one to the next. Generally, local governments, especially at their lower levels, have been delegated more obligations and responsibilities and less power in allocating economic resources than in the early years of the reform era.
The heavy financial burden on local governments has inevitably driven local leaders to place priority on GDP growth and other methods of creating revenue. The best short cut for local governments to make up for this fiscal deficiency, as some Chinese scholars observe, is to sell or lease land.36 Although local governments’ reservations about the macroeconomic control policy and other regulations adopted by the Hu-Wen leadership may be valid, top local officials are expected to demonstrate their ability to handle various kinds of crises on their own turf. The central authorities’ strategy of “blaming local,” the growing public awareness of rights and interests, and the increasing transparency of media coverage of disasters (both natural and man-made) all place the local leaders on the spot.
Troubled Guangdong in the Spotlight: Blaming Zheng Dejiang?
Perhaps the most noticeable case of the growing central-provincial tension is Guangdong under the leadership of Zhang Dejiang. Zhang, a native of Liaoning, was a protégé of Jiang Zemin and is currently a member of the 25-member Politburo. Born in 1946, he worked as a “sent-down youth” in the countryside of Wangqing County in Jilin Province between 1968 and 1970. He joined the CCP in 1971 and attended Yanbian University to study the Korean language in the early 1970s. After graduation he remained at the university as a party official. In 1978, Zhang was sent by the Chinese government to study in the economics department at Kim Il Sung University in North Korea. He returned to China in 1980 and served as vice president of Yanbian University. He later served as deputy party secretary of Yanji City, Jilin from 1983 to 1986, and vice minister of social welfare in the central government from 1986 to 1990.
According to some China analysts, Zhang Dejiang made a very favorable impression on Jiang Zemin when Zhang escorted him on a visit to North Korea in 1990.37 Two years later, at the age of 44, Zhang became an alternate member of the CCP Central Committee. Since the early 1990s, he has served as the party boss in three provinces, first in Jilin, then Zhejiang, and now Guangdong. As the second youngest member of the current Politburo, Zhang seems poised to play an even more important role in the years to come, especially counterbalancing the growing power of Hu Jintao. However, Zhang’s poor performance in Guangdong may jeopardize his chance for a membership in the standing committee of the next Politburo.
Ever since he assumed the post of Guangdong party secretary in the fall of 2002, what was once the wealthiest province in the country and the frontier of China’s economic reform has turned into a disaster area. When SARS erupted in Guangdong in the fall of 2002, Zhang and his colleagues in the Guangdong government denied its occurrence and thereby enabled the epidemic to spread throughout the public. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of the 8,422 cases and 916 deaths in 29 countries (excluding those in the PRC) can be traced to one infected Guangdong doctor who traveled to Hong Kong.38
Additionally, several major episodes of social unrest and contentious events in Guangdong received national or international attention during the past four years. The police brutality that led to the death of a migrant worker named Sun Zhigang in Guangzhou in the spring of 2003 caused outrage among China’s legal scholars and its public. As a result, the State Council abolished the urban detention regulations that discriminated against migrants.
Prior to Zhang’s 2002 arrival in Guangdong, the province hosted several of the most liberal and outspoken newspapers in the country, including the famous Southern Metropolis Daily, which later courageously broke the SARS cover-up in Guangdong and the police brutality case of Sun Zhigang. Four years later, these outstanding editors and journalists were either in jail or moved elsewhere. Under Zhang Dejiang’s watch, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Cheng Yizhong, and its general manager, Yu Huafeng, were arrested on corruption charges. Guangdong Province has become notorious for governmental crackdown on media freedom.
In 2005, Guangdong’s disasters frequently made headlines in China and/or abroad. Examples include two coal mine explosions in Meizhou that killed 139 miners, and an excessive discharge of hazardous chemicals from a state firm that contaminated the Beijiang River. The public was not promptly informed about the water contamination. Most seriously, peasant protests in Taishi Village in Guangzhou and Dongzhou Village in Shanwei resulted in violent conflicts between armed police and villagers. Local government officials sent hundreds of armed police to crack down on protesters during the Dongzhou riot. The police fired at the protesters and killed at least three people, injuring at least eight others.39
All these incidents and crises apparently damaged the public image of the Guangdong government, especially that of party boss Zhang Dejiang. It was widely reported in the Hong Kong and overseas media that Zhang admitted his mistakes and took responsibility in his report on the shootings of the Dongzhou riot and other incidents in Guangdong at a recent Politburo meeting.40 In addition, Zhang made a well-publicized speech in a provincial party committee meeting in January 2006, outlining the so-called three red lines.41 According to Zhang, three types of wrongdoing in the acquisition of rural land for construction are usually the triggering factors for social unrests. He requested that no construction could start if: it has not completely fulfilled the central government’s regulation, it has not reached an agreement with peasants on their compensation, or the compensation has not been delivered to the peasants. Any officials who crossed any one of these “three red lines” should be fired, according to Zhang.
Despite these policy prescriptions, social unrest and riots continued to occur in Guangdong in 2006. As an example, in early February, several hundred residents of two opposing villages in Zhanjiang used homemade guns and other weapons to fight against each other because of a land dispute. The local government sent one hundred armed police to crack down on the violent riot. Twenty-nine villagers were reportedly injured.42 According to some Hong Kong and overseas media sources, the frequency of the disasters in the province has led people in Guangdong to engage in a “campaign to cast out Zhang.”43 They argued that lower-level local officials as well as provincial chief Zhang should be held responsible and accountable for these incidents.
Some other Hong Kong–based Chinese newspapers, however, reported that it was unfair to place all the blame on Zhang’s shoulders. According to these newspapers, socioeconomic development in Guangdong under the leadership of Zhang has been very much in line with the policies of the central government. During his visits to Guangdong in 2004 and 2005, Hu Jintao endorsed both the development plan of Guangdong and the performance of Zhang.44 Although it is difficult to verify these rumors and speculations, conflicting reports highlight the tensions between various political players who have a stake in this important province. The complicated nature of central-provincial relations in the case of Guangdong has further clouded the situation.
Politics and Leadership in Guangdong: Past and Present
Guangdong Province has long been known for its demands for autonomy, which are based on its strong economic status and dialectic distinction. During the Nationalist era, Guangdong produced a significant number of political and military elites. However, since the founding of the PRC, there have been only a handful of national leaders who are native Cantonese. Furthermore, to prevent the formation of a “Cantonese separatist movement,” the central government often appointed non-Cantonese leaders to head the province. If a Cantonese leader became too powerful, the central authorities likely “promoted” that leader to the central government in order to constrain local power. For instance, Ye Xuanping, son of the late marshal Ye Jianying, built a solid power base in Guangdong when he served as the party boss in the 1980s. The growing economic and cultural autonomy of Guangdong made the central authorities nervous. After some negotiation, the central authorities promoted Ye to senior vice chair of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
It was also reported that in preliminary meetings before the 15th Party Congress in 1997, central authorities intended to replace the sitting party secretary Xie Fei, a Cantonese native, with a non-Cantonese Politburo member as the new party secretary of Guangdong. Local officials in Guangdong rejected that proposal. They insisted that top officials in Guangdong should be Cantonese even if they lost their representation in the Politburo.45 As a result of their stand, Xie Fei has remained in both Guangdong and the Politburo. It took almost a year for local officials to accept Li Changchun, a native of Liaoning and a Politburo member. Their eventual acceptance was largely the result of pressure from the central authorities as well as negotiation between the local and central governments. While serving as provincial leaders in Guangdong, Li Changchun and other non-Cantonese officials such as Wang Qishan (then executive vice governor of Guangdong), repeatedly claimed that they would continue to rely on local officials rather than bringing a large group of leaders from other regions to replace them.46
The fact that Zhang’s predecessor Li Changchun later moved to Beijing where he became a standing committee member of the Politburo seems to suggest that Zhang might also have a chance for further promotion. This, however, depends on whether Zhang will be able to control the province as effectively as his predecessor did.47 One of the most important tasks for Zhang as party boss of Guangdong, as Jiang Zemin told him bluntly, was to prevent Cantonese localism.48 The factional politics in the provincial leadership of Guangdong at present are arguably far more complicated than in the Li Changchun era. This further undermines Zhang’s power and authority in running the province.
Table 1 shows the backgrounds of the 24 most important provincial leaders currently in Guangdong. They include 1) all the Guangdong-based leaders who also hold membership on the 16th Central Committee of the CCP or the 16th Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CMDI), 2) all the standing members of the Guangdong provincial party committee, and 3) all vice governors. Table 1 demonstrates that all of them were appointed to their current positions within the last eight years, and 19 (79 percent) of them were appointed after 2002. All of these leaders are now between 50 and 61 years old.
Of these 24 leaders, 12 are native Cantonese, while four others began to work in Guangdong over three decades ago and can thus be considered locals (among them Head of Propaganda Department Zhu Xiaodan and Vice Governor You Ningfeng). Some of the remaining eight provincial leaders who were transferred from elsewhere have worked in the province for over a decade. As an example, Shenzhen Party Secretary Li Hongzhong, a native of Shandong who grew up in Liaoning, began to serve as a vice mayor of Huizhou, Guangdong, in 1988. Similarly, Chair of Guangdong Provincial Congress Huang Liman, a native of Liaoning, started to work as deputy chief of staff of the Shenzhen Party Committee in 1992.
Li, China Leadership Monitor, No. 17

Table 1
Backgrounds of the Provincial Leaders of Guangdong (as of February 2006)

Name
Current Position
Since
Born
Birthplace
Previous Position
16th CCM
Local/Transfer
Factional Network
Zhang Dejiang Huang Huahua Wang Huayuan Ou Guangyuan Liu Yupu Cai Dongshi Huang Liman Chen Shaoji Zhong Yangsheng Huang Longyun Li Hongzhong Hu Zejun Liang Guoju Lin Shusen Zhu Xiaodan Xiao Zhiheng Xin Rongguo Tang Bingquan Xu Deli You Ningfeng Li Ronggen Xie Qianghua Lei Yulan Song Hai
Party Secretary Governor Disciplinary Sec. Dep. Party Sec. Dep. Party Sec. Dep. Party Sec. Chair, Prov. Congress Chair, Prov. PPCC Exec. Vice Governor Foshan Party Sec. Shenzhen Party Sec, Head, Org. Dept. Head, Pub. Security Bur. Guangzhou Party Sec. Head, Propaganda Dept. Chief of staff, Party Com. Commander, Military Dist. Exe. Vice Governor Vice Governor Vice Governor Vice Governor Vice Governor Vice Governor Vice Governor
2002 2003 2002 2002 2004 2004 2005 2004 2003 2002 2005 2004 2000 2002 2004 2001 2005 2003 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003 2003
1946 1946 1948 1948 1949 1947 1945 1945 1948 1951 1956 1955 1947 1946 1953 1953 ? 1949 1945 1945 1950 1950 1952 1951


Obama: Nous n’avons pas encore de stratégie (Inaction also has its price)

7 septembre, 2014

C’est un terrible avantage de n’avoir rien fait, mais il ne faut pas en abuser. Rivarol
The truth of the matter is that it’s a big world out there, and that as indispensable as we are to try to lead it, there’s still going to be tragedies out there, and there are going to be conflicts, and our job is to make sure to project what’s right, what’s just, and, you know, that we’re building coalitions of like-minded countries and partners in order to advance not only our core security interests, but also the interests of the world as a whole. Obama
Nous n’avons pas encore de stratégie. Obama
Il faut que je revienne sur un aspect de la conférence d’hier qui a attiré l’attention. Le président assume pleinement sa décision prise hier… de porter son costume d’été à la conférence de presse. Josh Earnes (porte-parole de la Maison Blanche)
Barack Obama est un amateur L’économie est une catastrophe (…) Les États-Unis ont perdu leur triple  A. (…) Il ne sait pas ce que c’est que d’être président. (…) C’est un incompétent. Bill Clinton
Les grandes nations ont besoin de principes directeurs, et  »ne pas faire des choses idiotes » n’est pas un principe directeur. Hillary Clinton
To announce he had no plan, even if he had a plan, to announce he had no plan does not help the United States of America against ISIS and terrorism throughout the globe. My father . . . didn’t announce what he was going to do. He just, in the middle of the night, sent a couple of planes into Tripoli, took out a couple of the homes real quick and Gadhafi stayed quiet for 20-plus years. Michael Reagan
The real conundrum is why the president seems so compelled to take both sides of every issue, encouraging voters to project whatever they want on him, and hoping they won’t realize which hand is holding the rabbit. That a large section of the country views him as a socialist while many in his own party are concluding that he does not share their values speaks volumes — but not the volumes his advisers are selling: that if you make both the right and left mad, you must be doing something right. As a practicing psychologist with more than 25 years of experience, I will resist the temptation to diagnose at a distance, but as a scientist and strategic consultant I will venture some hypotheses. The most charitable explanation is that he and his advisers have succumbed to a view of electoral success to which many Democrats succumb — that “centrist” voters like “centrist” politicians. Unfortunately, reality is more complicated. Centrist voters prefer honest politicians who help them solve their problems. A second possibility is that he is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted « present » (instead of « yea » or « nay ») 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues. Drew Westen (Emory university, Aug. 2011)
Le manque de soutien des Américains aux Français est, en vérité, la marque de fabrique de Barack Obama (…) Le Président américain avait trouvé une stratégie d’évitement pour ne pas intervenir, à condition que le gouvernement syrien renonce à son arsenal chimique : toutes les autres formes d’assassinat de masse restaient donc tolérées par le Président américain. Un million de morts et deux millions de réfugiés plus tard n’empêchent apparemment pas Barack Obama de dormir la nuit : il a d’autres priorités, tel lutter contre un hypothétique déréglement du climat ou faire fonctionner une assurance maladie, moralement juste et pratiquement dysfonctionnelle. On connaît les arguments pour ne pas intervenir en Syrie : il serait difficile de distinguer les bons et les mauvais Syriens, les démocrates authentiques et les islamistes cachés. Mais ce n’est pas l’analyse du sénateur John Mc Cain, plus compétent qu’Obama sur le sujet : lui réclame, en vain, que les États-Unis arment décemment les milices qui se battent sur les deux fronts, hostiles au régime de Assad et aux Islamistes soutenus par l’Iran. Par ailleurs, se laver les mains face au massacre des civils, comme les Occidentaux le firent naguère au Rwanda – et longtemps en Bosnie et au Kosovo – n’est jamais défendable. Il est parfaitement possible, aujourd’hui encore en Syrie, d’interdire le ciel aux avions de Assad qui bombardent les civils, de créer des couloirs humanitaires pour évacuer les civils, d’instaurer des zones de sécurité humanitaire. C’est ce que Obama refuse obstinément à Hollande. Comment expliquer cette obstination et cette indifférence d’Obama : ne regarde-t-il pas la télévision ? Il faut en conclure qu’il s’est installé dans un personnage, celui du Président pacifiste, celui qui aura retiré l’armée américaine d’Irak, bientôt d’Afghanistan et ne l’engagera sur aucun autre terrain d’opérations. Obama ignorerait-il qu’il existe des « guerres justes » ? Des guerres que l’on ne choisit pas et qu’il faut tout de même livrer, parce que le pacifisme, passé un certain seuil, devient meurtrier. « À quoi sert-il d’entretenir une si grande armée, si ce n’est pas pour s’en servir ? », avait demandé Madeleine Albright, Secrétaire d’État de Bill Clinton, au Général Colin Powell, un militaire notoirement frileux. Les États-Unis sont le gendarme du monde, la seule puissance qui compte : les armées russes et chinoises, par comparaison, sont des nains. On posera donc à Obama – si on le pouvait – la même question que celle de Madeleine Albright : « À quoi sert l’armée américaine et à quoi sert le Président Obama ? ». Il est tout de même paradoxal que Hollande, un désastre en politique intérieure, pourrait passer dans l’Histoire comme celui qui aura dit Non à la barbarie et Barack Obama, Prix Nobel de la Paix, pour celui qui se sera couché devant les Barbares. Guy Sorman
Le Président Barack Obama est désormais plus populaire en Europe qu’aux États-Unis. De ce côté-ci de l’Atlantique, nous restons fascinés par l’élégance, le cool et l’aura du premier couple Noir à la Maison Blanche, mais nous n’en subissons pas, pas directement, les retombées politiques. Le désamour des Américains ne s’explique pas que par l’usure du pouvoir – après six ans de mandat – mais par une déception certaine, un écart béant entre la promesse initiale et des résultats insaisissables. (…) Quand le Président n’est pas modeste – et Obama n’est pas modeste, contrairement à Ronald Reagan qui le fut – les Américains et le reste du monde comprennent d’autant plus  mal le gouffre entre des annonces tonitruantes et des résultats insignifiants. L’extension de l’assurance maladie obligatoire à tous les Américains qui devait être une révolution sociale, a ainsi accouché d’une souris bureaucratique parce qu’Obama avait promis à tous ce qu’il ne pouvait pas garantir : les Américains à revenus modestes sont un peu moins inégaux face à la maladie, mais ils le restent néanmoins. La sortie de crise, après le krach financier de 2008, était l’autre priorité intérieure de Barack Obama : la croissance est restaurée, le plein emploi l’est quasiment, mais les Américains n’en sont pas trop reconnaissants au Président. De fait, le mérite en revient aux entrepreneurs innovants, à la politique monétaire de la Banque fédérale (peut-être) mais Obama a plutôt retardé la reprise par des augmentations d’impôts, par des réglementations nouvelles (pour protéger la Nature), par ses tergiversations sur l’exploitation des ressources énergétiques, du gaz de schiste en particulier. Peu versé en économie, Barack Obama est certainement le plus anti-capitaliste de tous les présidents américains dans une société dont le capitalisme reste le moteur incontesté sauf par quelques universitaires socialistes et marginaux. Il reste la politique étrangère où le Président dispose, au contraire de l’économie et des affaires sociales (qui sont plutôt de compétence locale), d’une grande latitude. Élu, il le rappelle incessamment, pour terminer deux guerres et ramener les troupes « à la maison », il a tenu parole. Il a également reflété le sentiment qui régnait au début de son mandat, d’une lassitude des Américains envers les aventures extérieures. Mais en six ans, les circonstances ont profondément changé, en Mer de Chine, au Proche-Orient, en Ukraine, Obama n’en a tenu aucun compte, comme prisonnier de son image pacifiste, et décidé à le rester alors même que son pacifisme est interprété par tous les ennemis de la démocratie comme un aveu de pusillanimité. Du pacifisme, Obama aura basculé dans l’irréalisme, dénoncé par Hillary Clinton : l’incapacité idéologique d’Obama de reconnaître que l’armée américaine, nolens volens, est le policier du monde. Le policier peut s’avérer maladroit – George Bush le fut – habile comme l’avait démontré Ronald Reagan, médiocre comme le fut Bill Clinton, mais il ne peut pas s’abstenir. S’il renonce, à la Obama, le Djihad conquiert, la Russie annexe, la Chine menace. La majorité des Américains, les déçus de l’Obamania ont aujourd’hui compris que le pacifiste avait les mains blanches mais qu’il n’avait pas de mains. (…) Obama, au total, n’est peut-être qu’une image virtuelle : il a été élu sur une photo retouchée, la sienne, sur un slogan (Yes we can), sur un mythe (la réconciliation des peuples, des civilisations), sur une absence de doctrine caractéristique de sa génération pour qui tout est l’équivalent de rien, et grâce à l’influence décisive des réseaux sociaux. Barack Obama est de notre temps, un reflet de l’époque : ce qui le condamne à l’insuffisance. Guy Sorman
With Obama, there was always more than a whiff of the overconfident dilettante, so sure of his powers that he could remain supremely comfortable with his own ignorance. His express-elevator ascent from Illinois state senator to U.S. president in the space of just four years didn’t allow much time for maturation or reflection, either. Obama really is, as Bill Clinton is supposed to have said of him, “an amateur.” When it comes to the execution of policy, it shows. And yet this view also sells Obama short. It should be obvious, but bears repeating, that it is no mean feat to be elected, and reelected, president, whatever other advantages Obama might have enjoyed in his races. In interviews and press conferences, Obama is often verbose and generally self-serving, but he’s also, for the most part, conversant with the issues. (…) The myth of Obama’s brilliance paradoxically obscures the fact that he’s no fool. The point is especially important to note because the failure of Obama’s foreign policy is not, ultimately, a reflection of his character or IQ. It is the consequence of an ideology. That ideology is what now goes by the name of progressivism, which has effectively been the dominant (if often disavowed) view of the Democratic Party since George McGovern ran on a “Come Home, America” platform in 1972—and got 37.5 percent of the popular vote. Progressivism believes that the United States must lead internationally by example (especially when it comes to nuclear-arms control); that the U.S. is as much the sinner as it is the sinned against when it comes to our adversaries (remember Mosaddegh?); and that the American interest is best served when it is merged with, or subsumed by, the global interest (ideally in the form of a UN resolution).  (…) Above all, progressivism believes that the United States is a country that, in nearly every respect, treads too heavily on the Earth: environmentally, ideologically, militarily, and geopolitically. The goal, therefore, is to reduce America’s footprint; to “retrench,” as the administration would like to think of it, or to retreat, as it might more accurately be called. (…)  Little wonder that leaders in Tehran, Beijing, and Moscow quickly understood that, with Obama in the White House, they had a rare opportunity to reshape and revise regional arrangements in a manner more to their liking. Iran is doing so today in southern Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. Beijing is extending its reach in the South and East China Sea. Russia is intervening in Ukraine. It’s no accident that, while acting independently from one another, they are all acting now. The next American president might not be so cavalier about challenges to the global status quo, or about enforcing his (or her) own red lines. Better to move while they can. (…) In a prescient 2004 essay in Foreign Policy, the historian Niall Ferguson warned that “the alternative to [American] unipolarity” would not be some kind of reasonably tolerable world order. It would, he said, “be apolarity—a global vacuum of power.” “If the United States retreats from global hegemony—its fragile self-image dented by minor setbacks on the imperial frontier—its critics at home and abroad must not pretend that they are ushering in a new era of multipolar harmony, or even a return to the good old balance of power. Be careful what you wish for.” (…) Two years ago, Obama was considered a foreign-policy success story. Not many people entertain that illusion now; the tide of public opinion, until recently so dull and vociferous in its opposition to “neocons,” is beginning to shift as Americans understand that a policy of inaction also has its price. Bret Stephens

Attention: une incompétence peut en cacher une autre !

Alors que, des deux côtés de l’Atlantique et chacun à sa manière, ceux qui nous servent de gouvernants semblent rivaliser de vacuité …

Que ce soit un président français dont l’interventionnisme militaire contre le djihadisme africain est salué de partout mais qui, après avoir plongé en seulement deux ans et sans compter ses délires sociétaux et ses frasques personnelles, son économie dans la plus grave des crises, pourrait réussir l’exploit historique de descendre sous la barre fatidique des 10% de popularité

Ou un président américain dont l’économie semble contre tous ses efforts finalement repartie mais qui, face à la menace djihadiste et après six ans au pouvoir, reconnait qu’il n’a « pas encore de stratégie  » …

Comment ne pas repenser à l’incroyable décalage avec les espoirs soulevés par leurs élections après des prédécesseurs tant honnis et critiqués mais dont ils ont fini par reprendre la plupart des mesures ?

Mais surtout résister à la tentation de n’y voir que l’effet de l’amateurisme et de l’incompétence ?

Alors que, comme le rappelle l’éditorialiste Bret Stephens pour le cas américain, on a là le résultat le plus pur d’une idéologie …

A savoir, face à un monde qui a plus que jamais besoin de souplesse au niveau économique mais de fermeté au niveau international, l’idéologie progressiste de l’interventionnisme forcené en politique intérieure et du retrait et des bons sentiments en politique extérieure …

The Meltdown
Bret Stephens
Commentary
09.01.14

In July, after Germany trounced Brazil 7–1 in the semifinal match of the World Cup—including a first-half stretch in which the Brazilian soccer squad gave up an astonishing five goals in 19 minutes—a sports commentator wrote: “This was not a team losing. It was a dream dying.” These words could equally describe what has become of Barack Obama’s foreign policy since his second inauguration. The president, according to the infatuated view of his political aides and media flatterers, was supposed to be playing o jogo bonito, the beautiful game—ending wars, pressing resets, pursuing pivots, and restoring America’s good name abroad.
Instead, he crumbled.
As I write, the foreign policy of the United States is in a state of unprecedented disarray. In some cases, failed policy has given way to an absence of policy. So it is in Libya, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and, at least until recently, Ukraine. In other cases the president has doubled down on failed policy—extending nuclear negotiations with Iran; announcing the full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
Sometimes the administration has been the victim of events, such as Edward Snowden’s espionage, it made worse through bureaucratic fumbling and feckless administrative fixes. At other times the wounds have been self-inflicted: the espionage scandal in Germany (when it was learned that the United States had continued to spy on our ally despite prior revelations of the NSA’s eavesdropping on Chancellor Angela Merkel); the repeated declaration that “core al-Qaeda” was “on a path to defeat”; the prisoner swap with the Taliban that obtained Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s release.
Often the damage has been vivid, as in the collapse of the Israel–Palestinian talks in April followed by the war in Gaza. More frequently it can be heard in the whispered remarks of our allies. “The Polish-American alliance is worthless, even harmful, as it gives Poland a false sense of security,” Radek Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister and once one of its most reliably pro-American politicians, was overheard saying in June. “It’s bullshit.”
This is far from an exhaustive list. But it’s one that, at last, people have begun to notice. Foreign policy, considered a political strength of the president in his first term, has become a liability. In June, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that Americans disapproved of his handling of foreign affairs by a 57-to-37 percent ratio. Overseas, dismay with Obama mounts. Among Germans, who greeted the future president as a near-messiah when he spoke in Berlin in the summer of 2008, his approval rating fell to 43 percent in late 2013, from 88 percent in 2010. In Egypt, another country the president went out of his way to woo, he has accomplished the unlikely feat of making himself more unpopular than George W. Bush. In Israel, political leaders and commentators from across the political spectrum are united in their disdain for the administration. “The Obama administration proved once again that it is the best friend of its enemies, and the biggest enemy of its friends,” the center-left Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit noted in late July. It’s an observation being echoed by policymakers from Tokyo to Taipei to Tallinn.
But perhaps the most telling indicator is the collapsing confidence in the president among the Democratic-leaning foreign-policy elite in the United States. “Under Obama, the United States has suffered some real reputational damage,” admitted Washington Post columnist David Ignatius in May, adding: “I say this as someone who sympathizes with many of Obama’s foreign-policy goals.” Hillary Clinton, the president’s once loyal secretary of state, offered in early August that “great nations need organizing principles, and ‘don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, warned in July that “we are losing control of our ability at the highest levels of dealing with challenges that, increasingly, many of us recognize as fundamental to our well-being.” The United States, he added, was “increasingly devoid of strategic will and a sense of direction.”
And there was this: “What kind of figure will Obama cut at Omaha?” Roger Cohen, the reliably liberal New York Times columnist, wondered on the eve of the 70th D-Day commemoration at Omaha Beach in June. “I wish I could say he will cut a convincing figure.” But, he continued:

Obama at bloody Omaha, in the sixth year of his presidency, falls short at a time when his aides have been defining the cornerstone of his foreign policy as: “Don’t do stupid stuff.”… He falls short at a time when Syria bleeds more than three years into the uprising… Obama falls short at a time when Vladimir Putin, emboldened by that Syrian retreat and the perception of American weakness, has annexed Crimea… Obama falls short as Putin’s Russian surrogates in eastern Ukraine wreak havoc… He falls short, also, when the Egyptian dreams of liberty and pluralism that arose in Tahrir square have given way to the landslide victory of a former general in an “election” only a little less grotesque than Assad’s in Syria.

Are we all neoconservatives again? Not quite—or at least not yet. Even as the evidence of the failure of Obama’s foreign policy abounds, the causes of that failure remain in dispute. Has the world simply become an impossibly complex place, beyond the reach of any American president to shape or master? Is the problem the president himself, a man who seems to have lost interest in the responsibilities (though not yet the perquisites) of his office? Or are we witnessing the consequences of foreign-policy progressivism, the worldview Obama brought with him to the White House and that he has, for the most part, consistently and even conscientiously championed?

Not surprisingly, many of the president’s supporters are attracted to the first explanation.
In this reading, the U.S. no longer enjoys its previous geopolitical advantages over militarily dependent and diplomatically pliant allies, or against inherently weaker and relatively predictable adversaries. On the contrary, our economic supremacy is fading and we may be in long-term decline. Our adversaries are increasingly able to confront us asymmetrically, imposing high costs on us without incurring significant costs for themselves. Limited budgetary resources require us to make “hard choices” about the balance between international and domestic priorities. What’s more, the sour experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan—another bad Bush legacy—limit Obama’s options, because Americans have made it plain that they are in no mood to intervene in places such as Syria or over conflicts such as the one in Ukraine. As the president told an interviewer in 2013,“I am more mindful probably than most of not only our incredible strengths and capabilities but also our limitations.”
It would be wrong to dismiss this argument out of hand. Can Obama fairly be blamed for the quarter-century of misgovernance in Kiev that created conditions in which Russian separatists in Crimea and Donetsk would flourish? Was there anything he could realistically have done to prevent Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, or to steer Egyptian politics in the tumultuous years that followed? Is it his fault that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pursued vendettas against Iraq’s Sunni leaders, creating the political conditions for al-Qaeda’s resurgence, or that Hamid Karzai has proved to be such a disappointing leader for Afghanistan? If the price of better relations with Pakistan was ending the program of drone strikes, was that a price worth paying?
Then again, every president confronts his share of apparently intractable dilemmas. The test of a successful presidency is whether it can avoid being trapped and defined by them. Did Obama inherit anything worse than what Franklin Roosevelt got from Herbert Hoover (the Great Depression) or Richard Nixon from Lyndon Johnson (the war in Vietnam and the social meltdown of the late ’60s) or Ronald Reagan from Jimmy Carter (stagflation, the ayatollahs, the Soviet Union on the march)?
If anything, the international situation Obama faced when he assumed the presidency was, in many respects, relatively auspicious. Despite the financial crisis and the recession that followed, never since John F. Kennedy has an American president assumed high office with so much global goodwill. The war in Iraq, which had done so much to bedevil Bush’s presidency, had been won thanks to a military strategy Obama had, as a senator, flatly opposed. For the war in Afghanistan, there was broad bipartisan support for large troop increases. Not even six months into his presidency, Obama was handed a potential strategic game changer when a stolen election in Iran led to a massive popular uprising that, had it succeeded, could have simultaneously ended the Islamic Republic and resolved the nuclear crisis. He was handed another would-be game changer in early 2011, when the initially peaceful uprising in Syria offered an opportunity, at relatively little cost to the U.S., to depose an anti-American dictator and sever the main link between Iran and its terrorist proxies in Lebanon and Gaza.
Incredibly, Obama squandered every single one of these opportunities. An early and telling turning point came in 2009, when, as part of the Russian reset, the administration abruptly cancelled plans—laboriously negotiated by the Bush administration, and agreed to at considerable political risk by governments in Warsaw and Prague—to deploy ballistic-missile defenses to Poland and the Czech Republic. “We heard through the media,” was how Witold Waszczykowski, the deputy head of Poland’s national-security team, described the administration’s consultation process. Adding unwitting insult to gratuitous injury, the announcement came on the 70th anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet pact, a stark reminder that Poland could never entrust its security to the guarantees of great powers.
And this was just the beginning. Relations would soon sour with France, as then-President Nicolas Sarkozy openly mocked Obama’s fantasies of nuclear disarmament. “Est-il faible?”—“Is he weak?”—the French president was reported to have wondered aloud after witnessing Obama’s performance at his first G20 summit in April 2009. Then relations would sour with Germany: A biography of Angela Merkel by Stefan Kornelius quotes her as telling then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that she found Obama “so peculiar, so unapproachable, so lacking in warmth.” Next was Saudi Arabia: U.S. policy toward Syria, the Kingdom’s Prince Turki al-Faisal would tell an audience in London, “would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious, and designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down, but also to help Assad butcher his people.” Canada—Canada!—would be disappointed. “We can’t continue in this state of limbo,” complained foreign minister John Baird about the administration’s endless delays and prevarications over approving the Keystone XL pipeline.
And there was Israel: “We thought it would be the United States that would lead the campaign against Iran,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon noted in March in a speech at Tel Aviv University. Instead, Obama was “showing weakness,” he added. “Therefore, on this matter, we have to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves.”
This was quite a list of falling-outs. Still, most such differences can usually be finessed or patched up with a bit of diplomacy. Not so Obama’s failures when it came to consolidating America’s hard-won gains in Iraq, or advocating America’s democratic values in Iran, or pursuing his own oft-stated goal in Afghanistan—“the war that has to be won,” as he was fond of saying when he was running for the presidency in 2008. As for Syria, perhaps the most devastating assessment was offered by Robert Ford, who had been Obama’s man in Damascus in the days when Bashar al-Assad was dining with John Kerry and being touted by Hillary Clinton as a “reformer.”
“I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy,” Ford told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in June, explaining his decision to resign from government. “There really is nothing we can point to that’s been very successful in our policy except the removal of about 93 percent of some of Assad’s chemical materials. But now he’s using chlorine gas against his opponents.”
None of these fiascos— for brevity’s sake, I’m deliberately setting to one side the illusory pivot to Asia, the misbegotten Russian Reset, the mishandled Palestinian–Israeli talks, the stillborn Geneva conferences on Syria, the catastrophic interim agreement with Iran, the de facto death of the U.S. free-trade agenda, the overhyped opening to Burma, the orphaned victory in Libya, the poisoned relationship with Egypt, and the disastrous cuts to the Defense budget—can be explained away as a matter of tough geopolitical luck. Where, then, does the source of failure lie?
For those disposed to be ideologically sympathetic to the administration, it comes down to the personality of the president. He is, they say, too distant, not enough of a schmoozer, doesn’t forge the close personal relationships of the kind that Bush had with Tony Blair, or Clinton with Helmut Kohl, or Reagan with Margaret Thatcher. Also, he’s too professorial, too rational, too prudent: He thinks that foreign-policy success is a matter of hitting “singles and doubles,” as he put it on a recent visit to Asia, when what Americans want is for the president to hit home runs (or at least point toward the lights).
Alternatively, perhaps he’s too political: “The president had a truly disturbing habit of funneling major foreign-policy decisions through a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisers whose turf was strictly politics,” recalled Vali Nasr, the academic who served as a State Department aide early in Obama’s first term. “Their primary concern was how any action in Afghanistan or the Middle East would play out on the nightly news.”
Another theory: The president is simply disconnected from events, indifferent to the details of governance, incompetent in the execution of policy. Last fall, following the disastrous rollout of the ObamaCare website, it emerged that the president had not had a single private meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for more than three years—an indicator, given that this was his highest political priority, of the quality of attention he was giving lesser issues. It also turned out that the president had gone for nearly five years without knowing that the National Security Agency was bugging the phones of foreign leaders. In a revealing portrait from October 2013 in the New York Times, the president was described as “impatient and disengaged” during White House debates about Syria, “sometimes scrolling through messages on his BlackBerry or slouching and chewing gum.” The president is also known to have complained to aides about what he called “decision fatigue,” demanding memos where he can check “agree,” “disagree,” or “let’s discuss.”
The most devastating testimony of all came from Obama himself. Prepping for an interview on 60 Minutes after a late-night dinner in Italy, Politico reported, the president complained about his hard lot: “Just last night I was talking about life and art, big interesting things, and now we’re back to the minuscule things on politics”—those “minuscule things” being the crisis in Ukraine and his own health-care plan. Then there was this detail, about a presidential excursion in March as the crisis in Crimea was unfolding:

At a leisurely dinner with friends on that Saturday night, Obama expressed no regrets about the mini-vacation at the lush Ocean Reef Club resort or the publicity surrounding the trip, which reportedly required planes, five helicopters, more than 50 Secret Service agents and airspace restrictions over South Florida. After a difficult few weeks dealing with an international crisis, he relished the break, which included two rounds of golf.

Even allowing that presidents can get work done on the fairway and make executive decisions between fundraising events (Obama did 321 of them in his first term, according to the Washington Post, as compared with 173 for George W. Bush’s first four years and 80 for Reagan’s), there is still the reality that the American presidency remains a full-time job that requires something more than glancing attention. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Germany’s former defense minister, described Obama as “probably the most detached President [in] decades.” William Galston, my (liberal) fellow columnist at the Wall Street Journal and a former aide to Bill Clinton, has noted that “this president doesn’t seem to be as curious about the processes of government—whether the legislative process or the implementation process or the administrative or bureaucratic process.”

Even the ordinarily sympathetic Washington press corps has cottoned to the truth about Obama’s style of management. “Former Obama administration officials,” the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson reported last year, “said the president’s inattention to detail has been a frequent source of frustration, leading in some cases to reversals of diplomatic initiatives and other efforts that had been underway for months.”
Should any of this have come as a surprise? Probably not: With Obama, there was always more than a whiff of the overconfident dilettante, so sure of his powers that he could remain supremely comfortable with his own ignorance. His express-elevator ascent from Illinois state senator to U.S. president in the space of just four years didn’t allow much time for maturation or reflection, either. Obama really is, as Bill Clinton is supposed to have said of him, “an amateur.” When it comes to the execution of policy, it shows.
And yet this view also sells Obama short. It should be obvious, but bears repeating, that it is no mean feat to be elected, and reelected, president, whatever other advantages Obama might have enjoyed in his races. In interviews and press conferences, Obama is often verbose and generally self-serving, but he’s also, for the most part, conversant with the issues. He may not be the second coming of Lincoln that groupies like historians Michael Beschloss (who called Obama “probably the smartest guy ever to become president”) or Robert Dallek (who said Obama’s “political mastery is on par with FDR and LBJ”) made him out to be. But neither is he a Sarah Palin, mouthing artless banalities about this great nation of ours, or a Rick Perry, trying, like Otto from A Fish Called Wanda, to remember the middle part. The myth of Obama’s brilliance paradoxically obscures the fact that he’s no fool. The point is especially important to note because the failure of Obama’s foreign policy is not, ultimately, a reflection of his character or IQ. It is the consequence of an ideology.
That ideology is what now goes by the name of progressivism, which has effectively been the dominant (if often disavowed) view of the Democratic Party since George McGovern ran on a “Come Home, America” platform in 1972—and got 37.5 percent of the popular vote. Progressivism believes that the United States must lead internationally by example (especially when it comes to nuclear-arms control); that the U.S. is as much the sinner as it is the sinned against when it comes to our adversaries (remember Mosaddegh?); and that the American interest is best served when it is merged with, or subsumed by, the global interest (ideally in the form of a UN resolution).
“The truth of the matter is that it’s a big world out there, and that as indispensable as we are to try to lead it, there’s still going to be tragedies out there, and there are going to be conflicts, and our job is to make sure to project what’s right, what’s just, and, you know, that we’re building coalitions of like-minded countries and partners in order to advance not only our core security interests, but also the interests of the world as a whole.” Thus did Obama describe his global outlook in an August 2014 press conference.
Above all, progressivism believes that the United States is a country that, in nearly every respect, treads too heavily on the Earth: environmentally, ideologically, militarily, and geopolitically. The goal, therefore, is to reduce America’s footprint; to “retrench,” as the administration would like to think of it, or to retreat, as it might more accurately be called.
To what end? “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” Obama said on the eve of his election in 2008. If Obama-Care is anything to go by, that fundamental transformation involves a vast expansion of the entitlement state; the growth of federal administrative power at the expense of Congress and the states; the further subordination of private enterprise to government regulation—and, crucially, the end of Pax Americana in favor of some new global dispensation, perhaps UN-led, in which America would cease to be the natural leader and would become instead the largest net contributor. The phrase “nation-building at home” captures the totality of the progressive ambition. Not only does it mean an end to nation-building exercises abroad, but it suggests that an exercise typically attempted on failed states must be put to use on what progressives sometimes see as the biggest failed state of all: the United States.
That, at any rate, is the theory. Practice has proved to be a different story. If the United States were to go into retreat, to turn inward for the sake of building some new social democracy, just what would take the place of Pax Americana abroad? On this point, Obama has struggled to give an answer. “People are anxious,” he acknowledged at a fundraiser in Seattle in July:

Now, some of that has to do with some big challenges overseas…Part of people’s concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn’t holding and we’re not quite yet to where we need to be in terms of a new order that’s based on a different set of principles, that’s based on a sense of common humanity, that’s based on economies that work for all people.

A new order that’s based on a different set of principles: Just what could that new order be? In the absence of a single dominant power, capable and willing to protect its friends and deter its foes, there are three conceivable models of global organization. First, a traditional balance-of-power system of the kind that briefly flourished in Europe in the 19th century. Second, “collective security” under the supervision of an organization like the League of Nations or the United Nations. Third, the liberal-democratic peace advocated, or predicted, by the likes of Immanuel Kant, Norman Angell, and Francis Fukuyama.

Yet, with the qualified exception of the liberal-democratic model, each of these systems wound up collapsing of its own weight—precisely the reason Dean Acheson, Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and the other postwar statesmen “present at the creation” understood the necessity of the Truman Doctrine, the Atlantic Alliance, containment, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and all the rest of the institutional and ideological architecture of America’s post–World War II leadership. These were men who knew that isolationism, global-disarmament pledges, international law, or any other principle based on “common humanity” could provide no lasting security against ambitious dictatorships and conniving upstarts. The only check against disorder and anarchy was order and power. The only hope that order and power would be put to the right use was to make sure that a preponderance of power lay in safe, benign, and confident hands.
In 1945 the only hands that fit that description were American. It remains true today—even more so, given the slow-motion economic and strategic collapse of Europe. Yet here was Obama, blithely proposing to substitute Pax Americana with an as-yet-unnamed and undefined formula for the maintenance of global order. Little wonder that leaders in Tehran, Beijing, and Moscow quickly understood that, with Obama in the White House, they had a rare opportunity to reshape and revise regional arrangements in a manner more to their liking. Iran is doing so today in southern Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. Beijing is extending its reach in the South and East China Sea. Russia is intervening in Ukraine. It’s no accident that, while acting independently from one another, they are all acting now. The next American president might not be so cavalier about challenges to the global status quo, or about enforcing his (or her) own red lines. Better to move while they can.
Then again, the next American president might not have options of the sort that Obama enjoyed when he took office in 2009. By 2017, the U.S. military will be an increasingly hollow force, with the Army as small as it was in 1940, before conscription; a Navy the size it was in 1917, before our entry into World War I; an Air Force flying the oldest—and smallest—fleet of planes in its history; and a nuclear arsenal no larger than it was during the Truman administration.
By 2017, too, the Middle East is likely to have been remade, though exactly how is difficult to say. As I write, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which had seized eastern Syria and most of Anbar Province in Iraq in June, is now encroaching simultaneously into Lebanon and Iraq’s Kurdish regions. It is too soon to tell what kind of nuclear deal the West will strike with Iran—assuming it strikes any deal at all. But after years of prevarication on one side and self-deceit on the other, the likeliest outcomes are that a) Iran will get a bomb; b) Iran will be allowed to remain within a screw’s twist of a bomb; or c) Israel will be forced, at great risk to itself, to go to war to prevent a) or b) because the United States would not do the job. As for Asia and our supposed pivot, a comment this spring by Assistant Secretary of Defense Katrina McFarland could not have been lost on Chinese—or, for that matter, Japanese—ears. “Right now,” she said, “the ‘pivot’ is being looked at again because candidly it can’t happen.” There just aren’t enough ships.
And these are just the predictable consequences of the path we’ve been taking under Obama. What happens if there’s more bad news in store? If Vladimir Putin were to invade one, or all, of the Baltic states tomorrow, there is little short of nuclear war that NATO could do to stop him, and the alliance would stand exposed as the shell it has already become. Or, to take another no-longer-implausible scenario, is it inconceivable that Saudi Arabia, unhappy as it is over the Obama administration’s outreach toward Tehran, might choose to pursue its own nuclear options? The Saudis are already widely believed to own a piece of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal; why not test one of the weapons somewhere in the Saudi desert as a warning shot to Tehran, and perhaps to Washington also?
Or how about this: What if inflation in the United States prompts the Federal Reserve finally to raise interest rates in a major way? What effect would that have on commodity-dependent emerging markets? And what if the crisis in the Eurozone isn’t over at all, and a second deep recession brings a neo-fascist such as Marine Le Pen to power in France? The depressions of the 1920s and ’30s were caused, not least, by America’s original retreat from the world after it soured on international politics and the promise of global democracy. Now Obama is sounding the same retreat, for many of the same reasons, and probably with the same consequences.
In a prescient 2004 essay in Foreign Policy, the historian Niall Ferguson warned that “the alternative to [American] unipolarity” would not be some kind of reasonably tolerable world order. It would, he said, “be apolarity—a global vacuum of power.” “If the United States retreats from global hegemony—its fragile self-image dented by minor setbacks on the imperial frontier—its critics at home and abroad must not pretend that they are ushering in a new era of multipolar harmony, or even a return to the good old balance of power. Be careful what you wish for.”
For nearly 250 years it has been America’s great fortune to have always found just the right leadership in the nick of time. Or perhaps that’s not quite accurate: It has, rather, been our way first to sleepwalk toward crisis and catastrophe, then to rouse ourselves when it is almost too late. As things stand now, by 2017 it will be nearly too late. Who sees a Lincoln, or a Truman, or a Reagan on the horizon?
Still, we should not lose hope. We may be foolish, but our enemies, however aggressive and ill-intended, are objectively weak. We may be a nation in deliberate retreat, but at least we are not—at least not yet—in inexorable decline. Two years ago, Obama was considered a foreign-policy success story. Not many people entertain that illusion now; the tide of public opinion, until recently so dull and vociferous in its opposition to “neocons,” is beginning to shift as Americans understand that a policy of inaction also has its price. Americans are once again prepared to hear the case against retreat. What’s needed are the spokesmen, and spokeswomen, who will make it.
Since I am writing these words on the centenary of the First World War, it seems appropriate to close with a line from the era. At the battle of the Marne, with Germany advancing on Paris, General Ferdinand Foch sent the message that would rally the French army to hold its ground. “My center is yielding. My right is retreating. Situation excellent. I am attacking.” Words to remember and live by in this new era of headlong American retreat.

About the Author

Bret Stephens is the foreign-affairs columnist and deputy editorial-page editor of the Wall Street Journal. In 2013 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. His first book, America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder will be published by Sentinel in November.

class= »ecxp1″ style= »text-align: justify; »>Voir aussi:

Obama’s Endless Vacation
In the 1990s, America had a holiday from history. Today, it has a president on holiday
Matthew Continetti
National Review
August 23, 2014

The headline was brutal. “Bam’s Golf War: Prez tees off as Foley’s parents grieve,” read the cover of Thursday’s New York Daily News. Obama’s gaffe was this: He had denounced the beheading of James Foley from a vacation spot in Martha’s Vineyard, then went to the golf course. Seems like he had a great time. Such a great time that he returned to the Farm Neck Golf Club — sorry, membership is full — the next day.

Technically, Obama’s vacation began on August 9. It is scheduled to end on Sunday, August 24. With the exception of a two-day interlude in D.C., it has been two weeks of golf, jazz, biking, beach going, dining out, celebrating, and sniping from critics, not all of them conservative, who are unnerved by the president’s taking time off at a moment of peril.

Attacking the president for vacation is usually the job of the out party. But these days it is the job of all parties. Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, the Islamic State, Ebola, child migrants on the border, racial strife in Ferguson, an American murdered by the caliphate — critics say the president who danced to every song at Ann Jordan’s birthday partyseems remote and aloof from, and even mildly annoyed by, such concerns.

I disagree. Not with the judgment that Obama is detached, dialing it in, contemptuous of events that interfere with his plans. I disagree with the idea that this August has been different, in any meaningful way, from the rest of Obama’s second term. For this president, the distinction between “time off” and “time on” is meaningless. For this president, every day is a vacation. And has been for some time. He is like Cosmo Kramer of Seinfeld. “His whole life is a fantasy camp,” George Costanza says of his friend. “People should plunk down $2,000 to live like him for a week.” Imagine what they would pay to live like Obama.

Uncomfortable with all of the golf on Martha’s Vineyard? It is but a fraction of Obama’s habit. Since 2009, the president has played more than 185 rounds, typically with Wall Street cronies such as Robert Wolf and sports celebrities such as Alonzo Mourning, Tony Kornheiser, and Michael Wilbon. So devoted to golf is Obama that he wears Game Golf, which tracks how well a golfer shoots. Game Golf is not something you wear as a lark. You use it to study and hone your game. The hours on the course are just the start; there are also the hours spent analyzing results at home. Obama is not golfing like an amateur. He’s golfing like a man who wants to join the PGA tour.

While on vacation, the Obamas dined at Atria, where the cioppino costs $42 and sides include olive-oil-whipped potatoes and truffle parmesan fries. But fine dining is not something the Obamas limit to the beach. They are foodies, patronizing the best restaurants in Chicago, D.C., Old Town, New York, Key Largo, and Los Angeles. I have been to some of these restaurants; the president has great taste. Recently, as part of his “bear is loose” shtick, he has visited sandwich places, bars, and coffee shops. He meets the public, he becomes associated with a fashionable locale, and he spends a few dollars on small businesses. It’s a good thing. Here, at last, is an Obama initiative that does not harm the economy.

Good food is not a luxury for Obama. It is a staple. Before the president departed for Martha’s Vineyard, he shared a limo ride with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. The general explained to the president the situation in Iraq. He warned of horrible consequences for the Yazidis, for Iraq, and for the United States if the jihadists conquered Mount Sinjar and took Erbil. Obama decided to meet with his national-security team. The presidential limo was diverted. Guess where it had been going. “The Italian dinner in Georgetown with Michelle Obama would have to wait,” Politico reported.

Think two weeks in Martha’s Vineyard sends the wrong message? On July 31, Katy Perry performed at the White House. She was there to celebrate the Special Olympics — a worthy cause. But the same standard applies. If cutting loose in Martha’s Vineyard while the Islamic State is rampaging abroad is “bad optics,” so is hosting a teenage dream while, in the words of Chuck Hagel, the “Middle East is blowing up.” “Propriety” is not a word one associates with Katy Perry. The refrain of her latest hit: “So let me get you in your birthday suit / It’s time to bring out the big balloons.” She’s not talking about party favors.

Voir également:

Is Obama Still President?
His cadences soar on, through scandal after fiasco after disaster
Victor Davis Hanson
October 29, 2013

We are currently learning whether the United States really needs a president. Barack Obama has become a mere figurehead, who gives speeches few listen to any more, issues threats that scare fewer, and makes promises that almost no one believes he will keep. Yet America continues on, despite the fact that the foreign and domestic policies of Barack Obama are unraveling, in a manner unusual even for star-crossed presidential second terms.

Abroad, American policy in the Middle East is leaderless and in shambles after the Arab Spring — we’ve had the Syrian fiasco and bloodbath, leading from behind in Libya all the way to Benghazi, and the non-coup, non-junta in Egypt. This administration has managed to unite existential Shiite and Sunni enemies in a shared dislike of the United States. While Iran follows the Putin script from Syria, Israel seems ready to preempt its nuclear program, and Obama still mumbles empty “game changers” and “red line” threats of years past.

We have gone from reset with Russia to Putin as the playmaker of the Middle East. The Persian Gulf sheikhdoms are now mostly anti-American. The leaders of Germany and the people of France resent having their private communications tapped by Barack Obama — the constitutional lawyer and champion of universal human rights. Angela Merkel long ago grasped that President Obama would rather fly across the Atlantic to lobby for a Chicago Olympic Games — or tap her phone — than sit through a 20th-anniversary commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are beginning to see that the U.S. is more a neutral than a friend, as Obama negotiates with Putin about reducing the nuclear umbrella that protects America’s key non-nuclear allies. Perhaps they will soon make the necessary adjustments. China, Brazil, and India care little that Barack Obama still insists he is not George W. Bush, or that he seems to be trying to do to America what they seek to undo in their own countries.

The world’s leaders do not any longer seem much impressed by the president’s cat-like walk down the steps of Air Force One, or the soaring cadences that rechannel hope-and=change themes onto the world scene. They acknowledge that their own publics may like the American president, and especially his equivocation about the traditional role of American power in the world. But otherwise, for the next three years, the world is in a holding pattern, wondering whether there is a president of the United States to reckon with or a mere teleprompted functionary. Certainly, the Obama Nobel Peace Prize is now the stuff of comedy.

At home, the signature Affordable Care Act is proving its sternest critics prescient. The mess can best be summed up by Republicans’ being demonized for trying to delay or defund Obamacare — after the president himself chose not to implement elements of his own law — followed immediately by congressional Democrats’ seeking to parrot the Republicans. So are the Democrats followers of Ted Cruz or Barack Obama? Is Obama himself following Ted Cruz?

The problem is not just that all the president’s serial assurances about Obamacare proved untrue — premiums and deductibles will go up, many will lose their coverage and their doctors, new taxes will be needed, care will be curtailed, signups are nearly impossible, and businesses will be less, not more, competitive — but that no one should ever have believed they could possibly be true unless in our daily lives we usually get more and better stuff at lower cost.

More gun control is dead. Comprehensive immigration legislation depends on Republicans’ trusting a president who for two weeks smeared his House opponents as hostage-takers and house-breakers. Moreover, just as no one really read the complete text of the Obamacare legislation, so too no one quite knows what is in the immigration bill. There are few assurances that the border will be first secured under an administration with a record of nullifying “settled law” — or that those who have been convicted of crimes or have been long-time recipients of state or federal assistance will not be eligible for eventual citizenship. If the employer mandate was jettisoned, why would not border security be dropped once a comprehensive immigration bill passed? Or for that matter, if it is not passed, will the president just issue a blanket amnesty anyway?

 Voir encore:

Obama’s Made-for-TV Worldview
In real life, Mr. President, the good guys don’t automatically win.
Jonah Goldberg
National review
August 22, 2014

Does the president think the world is a TV show?

One of the things you learn watching television as a kid is that the hero wins. No matter how dire things look, the star is going to be okay. MacGyver always defuses the bomb with some saltwater taffy before the timer reaches zero. There was no way Fonzie was going to mess up his water-ski jump and get devoured by sharks.

Life doesn’t actually work like that. That’s one reason HBO’s Game of Thrones is so compelling. Despite being set in an absurd fantasy world of giants, dragons, and ice zombies, it’s more realistic than a lot of dramas set in a more plausible universe in at least one regard. Heroes die. The good guys get beaten by more committed and ruthless bad guys. No one is safe, nothing is guaranteed. There is no iron law of the universe that says good will ultimately triumph.

President Obama often says otherwise.

In his mostly admirable remarks about the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the jihadists of the so-called “Islamic State,” Obama returned to two of his favorite rhetorical themes: 1) the idea that in the end the good guys win simply because they are good, and 2) that world opinion is a wellspring of great moral authority.

Obama invokes the “right side of history” constantly, not only that such a thing exists but that he knows what it is and actually speaks for it as well. Perhaps his favorite quote comes from Martin Luther King Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

As for world opinion, particularly in the form of that global shmoo the “international community,” there’s apparently nothing it can’t do. It is the secret to “leading from behind.” Behind what, you ask? The international community. What is the international community? The thing we’re leading from behind. From Russia to Syria, Iran to North Korea, the president is constantly calling on the international community to do something he is unwilling to do. When Russia was carving Crimea away from Ukraine, Obama vowed that “the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.” After pro-Russian forces shot down a civilian plane over Ukraine, and as Russia lined up troops for a possible invasion, Obama sternly warned that Russia “will only further isolate itself from the international community.”

Taken together, these two ideas — that everything will work out in the long run, and that there’s some entity other than the U.S. that will take care of things — provide a license to do, well, if not nothing, then certainly nothing that might detract from your golf game.

“One thing we can all agree on,” the president said in his statement Wednesday, “is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.” The jihadists will “ultimately fail . . . because the future is won by those who build and not destroy. The world is shaped by people like Jim Foley and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him.”

It’s a very nice thought. But is it actually true? The jihadists are building something. They call it the Caliphate, and in a remarkably short amount of time they’ve made enormous progress. If I had to bet, I’d guess that they will ultimately fail, but it will be because someone actually takes the initiative and destroys — as in kills — those trying to build it. Until that happens, there will be more beheadings, more enslaved girls, more mass graves. Obama has been very slow to learn this lesson.

Perhaps this is because there’s a deep-seated faith within progressivism that holds that the mere passage of time drives moral evolution. As if simply tearing pages from your calendar improves the world. It is as faith-based as saying evil will not stand because God will not let it, and far, far less effective at rallying men of goodwill to fight. No doubt some people will face death to defend an arbitrary date, but not many.

Sometimes lazy TV writers will resort to what is called a deus ex machina, a godlike intervention or stroke of luck that saves the day and ensures a happy ending. But in real life, as in Game of Thrones, that doesn’t happen. The good guys get beheaded while scanning the horizon for a savior more concrete than world opinion and more powerful than a date on the calendar.

— Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and editor-at-large of National Review Online. You can write to him by e-mail at goldbergcolumn@gmail.com or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2014 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Voir enfin:

Obama, un si mauvais Président ?
Guy Sorman
Le futur, c’est tout de suite
L’Hebdo
22.08.2014

Le Président Barack Obama est désormais plus populaire en Europe qu’aux États-Unis. De ce côté-ci de l’Atlantique, nous restons fascinés par l’élégance, le cool et l’aura du premier couple Noir à la Maison Blanche, mais nous n’en subissons pas, pas directement, les retombées politiques. Le désamour des Américains ne s’explique pas que par l’usure du pouvoir – après six ans de mandat – mais par une déception certaine, un écart béant entre la promesse initiale et des résultats insaisissables. À quelques semaines du renouvellement du Congrès où Barack Obama devrait perdre sa majorité au Sénat après l’avoir perdue, il y a deux ans, à la Chambre des représentants, il est remarquable que les candidats Démocrates ne se réclament surtout pas d’Obama et ne sollicitent pas son soutien. Hillary Clinton, candidate à la succession après six ans de fidélité inconditionnelle, vient de marquer ses distances en dénonçant la vacuité de la diplomatie américaine. Nul doute qu’Obama restera, quoi qu’il fasse, le premier Président noir – mais pas véritablement afro-américain – des États-Unis : il est envisageable qu’il n’en restera pas grand-chose de plus. Ce jugement commun aux États-Unis, est-il injuste ? Probablement oui parce qu’il repose sur une surestimation de ce que peut véritablement tout Président. La Constitution américaine a été délibérément conçue pour ficeler le pouvoir exécutif dans mille liens qui cantonnent sa liberté d’agir. Ce décalage entre l’image de l’homme le plus puissant de la planète et sa faculté d’agir ne peut que frustrer les attentes : exactement ce que souhaitent les pères fondateurs des États-Unis. Quand le Président n’est pas modeste – et Obama n’est pas modeste, contrairement à Ronald Reagan qui le fut – les Américains et le reste du monde comprennent d’autant plus  mal le gouffre entre des annonces tonitruantes et des résultats insignifiants. L’extension de l’assurance maladie obligatoire à tous les Américains qui devait être une révolution sociale, a ainsi accouché d’une souris bureaucratique parce qu’Obama avait promis à tous ce qu’il ne pouvait pas garantir : les Américains à revenus modestes sont un peu moins inégaux face à la maladie, mais ils le restent néanmoins.

La sortie de crise, après le krach financier de 2008, était l’autre priorité intérieure de Barack Obama : la croissance est restaurée, le plein emploi l’est quasiment, mais les Américains n’en sont pas trop reconnaissants au Président. De fait, le mérite en revient aux entrepreneurs innovants, à la politique monétaire de la Banque fédérale (peut-être) mais Obama a plutôt retardé la reprise par des augmentations d’impôts, par des réglementations nouvelles (pour protéger la Nature), par ses tergiversations sur l’exploitation des ressources énergétiques, du gaz de schiste en particulier. Peu versé en économie, Barack Obama est certainement le plus anti-capitaliste de tous les présidents américains dans une société dont le capitalisme reste le moteur incontesté sauf par quelques universitaires socialistes et marginaux.

Il reste la politique étrangère où le Président dispose, au contraire de l’économie et des affaires sociales (qui sont plutôt de compétence locale), d’une grande latitude. Élu, il le rappelle incessamment, pour terminer deux guerres et ramener les troupes « à la maison », il a tenu parole. Il a également reflété le sentiment qui régnait au début de son mandat, d’une lassitude des Américains envers les aventures extérieures. Mais en six ans, les circonstances ont profondément changé, en Mer de Chine, au Proche-Orient, en Ukraine, Obama n’en a tenu aucun compte, comme prisonnier de son image pacifiste, et décidé à le rester alors même que son pacifisme est interprété par tous les ennemis de la démocratie comme un aveu de pusillanimité. Du pacifisme, Obama aura basculé dans l’irréalisme, dénoncé par Hillary Clinton : l’incapacité idéologique d’Obama de reconnaître que l’armée américaine, nolens volens, est le policier du monde. Le policier peut s’avérer maladroit – George Bush le fut – habile comme l’avait démontré Ronald Reagan, médiocre comme le fut Bill Clinton, mais il ne peut pas s’abstenir. S’il renonce, à la Obama, le Djihad conquiert, la Russie annexe, la Chine menace. La majorité des Américains, les déçus de l’Obamania ont aujourd’hui compris que le pacifiste avait les mains blanches mais qu’il n’avait pas de mains.

Le Président Truman se moquait des juristes qui le conseillaient en pesant le pour et le contre : « on one hand, on the other hand ». Il était heureux, commentait Truman, que ces juristes n’avaient pas trois mains. Il ne pouvait imaginer qu’Obama aurait cette troisième main, une remarquable capacité d’analyser et une tout aussi remarquable faculté de ne rien décider. Obama, au total, n’est peut-être qu’une image virtuelle : il a été élu sur une photo retouchée, la sienne, sur un slogan (Yes we can), sur un mythe (la réconciliation des peuples, des civilisations), sur une absence de doctrine caractéristique de sa génération pour qui tout est l’équivalent de rien, et grâce à l’influence décisive des réseaux sociaux. Barack Obama est de notre temps, un reflet de l’époque : ce qui le condamne à l’insuffisance.


Obama/Ukraine: Quand le pacifisme devient meurtrier (As always in history, timidity invites the aggression it purports to prevent)

25 février, 2014
http://wordwarriorsandiego.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/obama-playing-nuclear-golf-77907740145_xlarge.jpg?w=450&h=379https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/t1/s526x296/1959218_4008407105623_2113883908_n.jpg‘Avoir la paix’, le grand mot de toutes les lâchetés civiques et intellectuelles. Charles Péguy
Le pacifisme est objectivement pro-fasciste. C’est du bon sens élémentaire. George Orwell
Il est parfaitement normal que la Russie veuille défendre ses intérêts ainsi que ceux des Russes en Russie et des russophones à l’extérieur de la Russie. Il est normal également que la communauté internationale veuille garantir l’intégrité, la souveraineté et l’indépendance de la Géorgie. Nicolas Sarkozy (Entretien avec son homologue Dmitri Medvedev au Kremlin, 11 août, 2008)
C’est ma dernière élection. Après mon élection, j’aurai davantage de flexibilité. Obama
Je comprends. Je transmettrai l’information à Vladimir. Medvedev
The real conundrum is why the president seems so compelled to take both sides of every issue, encouraging voters to project whatever they want on him, and hoping they won’t realize which hand is holding the rabbit. That a large section of the country views him as a socialist while many in his own party are concluding that he does not share their values speaks volumes — but not the volumes his advisers are selling: that if you make both the right and left mad, you must be doing something right. As a practicing psychologist with more than 25 years of experience, I will resist the temptation to diagnose at a distance, but as a scientist and strategic consultant I will venture some hypotheses. The most charitable explanation is that he and his advisers have succumbed to a view of electoral success to which many Democrats succumb — that “centrist” voters like “centrist” politicians. Unfortunately, reality is more complicated. Centrist voters prefer honest politicians who help them solve their problems. A second possibility is that he is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted « present » (instead of « yea » or « nay ») 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues. Drew Westen (Emory university, Aug. 2011)
First and foremost, stop “expressing deep concern”. All protestors on the Maidan have an allergy to this phrase, which in these circumstances has become senseless especially as all of the gangsters in the Ukrainian governmental gang enjoy mocking the helplessness of the EU. Apply sanctions. Don’t waste time in searching for their Achilles’ heel: it is the money deposited in your banks. Execute your own laws and stop money laundering. The Europe we want to be part of can never degrade the absolute value of human lives in favor of an absolute importance of money. Also cancel Western visas for all governmental gangsters and their families. It is a scandal that ordinary Ukrainians, living their simple lives, have to provide their ancestors’ family trees to obtain a visa, while ruling criminals guilty of murder, “disappearances”, and fraud in the eyes of the whole world, enjoy virtually free-entry status in Europe. Myroslav Marynovych
There are many things that Vladimir Putin doesn’t understand, but geopolitics isn’t one of them. His ability to identify and exploit the difference between the West’s rhetoric and its capabilities and intentions has allowed him to stop NATO expansion, split Georgia, subject Washington to serial humiliations in Syria and, now, to bring chaos to Ukraine. Mr. Putin is a master of a game that the West doesn’t want to play, and as a result he’s won game after game with weak cards. He cannot use smoke and mirrors to elevate Russia back into superpower rank, and bringing a peaceful Ukraine back into the Kremlin’s tight embrace is also probably beyond him. But as long as the West, beguiled by dreams of win-win solutions, fails to grapple effectively in the muddy, zero-sum world of classic geopolitics, Mr. Putin and his fellow revisionists in Beijing and Tehran will continue to wreak havoc with Western designs.  Walter Russel Meade
Mr. Putin’s agenda in Ukraine is part of his larger plans to solidify his own authoritarian control and revive Greater Russia. Without Ukraine, the most important of the former Soviet satellites, a new Russian empire is impossible. With Ukraine, Greater Russia sits on the border of the EU. If Ukraine moves toward Europe with a president who isn’t a Russian satrap, it also sets a democratic example for Russians. The world is seeing that Mr. Putin will do what it takes to stop such an event, even if it risks a civil war in Ukraine. The Russian is willing to play this rough because he sees Western weakness. The EU is hopeless, led by a Germany so comfortable in its pacifism that it won’t risk even a diplomatic confrontation. As for the U.S., it’s no coincidence that Mr. Putin asserted himself in Ukraine not long after Mr. Obama retreated in humiliating fashion from his « red line » in Syria. As always in history, such timidity invites the aggression it purports to prevent. If this American President won’t even bomb Damascus airfields to stop the use of chemical weapons, why would Mr. Putin think Mr. Obama would do anything for eastern Europe? The WSJ
How does a nation become self-governing when so much of « self » is so rotten? Run-of-the-mill analyses that Ukraine is a « young democracy » with corrupt elites, an ethnic divide and a bullying neighbor don’t suffice. Ukraine is what it is because Ukrainians are what they are. The former doesn’t change until the latter does. (…) that’s what people said about Ukraine during the so-called Orange Revolution in 2004, or about Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution in 2005, or about the Arab Spring in 2011. The revolution will be televised—and then it will be squandered. (…) The homo Sovieticus Ukrainians should fear the most may not be Vladimir Putin after all. Bret Stephens
Le gaz russe, le pétrole saoudien ou iranien, le soja argentin (justement surnommé « pétrole vert ») confèrent une richesse provisoire, et plus encore l’illusion de la richesse. Cette illusion et l’argent facile que génère la rente minérale, dissuadent gouvernements et entrepreneurs d’innover et de se diversifier. En Russie, depuis que le prix du gaz monte, le pays ne cesse de se désindustrialiser : au pays de Poutine, il ne reste que des oligarques branchés sur les matières premières et de vastes supermarchés où tous les produits de consommation sont importés. La rente conduit aussi à des effets politiques notoires : en concentrant la richesse au sommet, elle perpétue les régimes autoritaires. Ceux qui sont assez astucieux pour redistribuer une partie de la rente (Poutine, la monarchie saoudienne, Chavez naguère, au Vénézuela, Nestor Kirchner, puis Cristina Fernandez en Argentine) se constituent une clientèle populaire qui soutient le despotisme redistributeur. Jusqu’au jour où les prix se retournent : ce qui, en ce moment même, est le cas sur le marché du soja et du gaz. Soudain, les gouvernements brésilien et argentin, privés de suffisamment de ressources à redistribuer, n’ont d’autres expédients que de fabriquer de la monnaie : avec l’inflation qui en résulte, leur chute est imminente. Un sort identique guette Poutine. La raison en est que les États-Unis, grâce à la technique de fracturation, mise au point par des entrepreneurs américains, sont en passe de devenir le premier producteur de gaz au monde. Partout, les prix commencent à baisser et ils baisseront plus encore quand les Américains exporteront ce gaz vers l’Europe. En Europe même, la Pologne, la Grande-Bretagne, la France (quand son gouvernement aura fait taire ses écologistes) deviendront des producteurs majeurs au détriment, là encore, de Gasprom. La « malédiction des ressources naturelles » est cependant une théorie ambigüe : elle laisserait supposer que leur absence est une bénédiction. S’il est vrai que la Corée du Sud ou Israël, par exemple, sont des succès économiques entièrement fondés sur l’absence de ressources naturelles, la Norvège, les États-Unis ou la Grande-Bretagne combinent habilement ressources naturelles et esprit d’entreprise. C’est donc l’esprit d’entreprise et la bonne gestion de l’État qui transforment les ressources naturelles soit en malédiction, soit en vitamines. S’il fallait parier sur l’avenir du modèle russo-poutinien, il me paraît condamné en moins de dix ans : Sotchi, à terme, apparaîtra comme la dernière fête avant l’extinction des feux et l’Histoire russe disqualifiera probablement Poutine pour dopage. Guy Sorman
Le manque de soutien des Américains aux Français est, en vérité, la marque de fabrique de Barack Obama (…) Le Président américain avait trouvé une stratégie d’évitement pour ne pas intervenir, à condition que le gouvernement syrien renonce à son arsenal chimique : toutes les autres formes d’assassinat de masse restaient donc tolérées par le Président américain. Un million de morts et deux millions de réfugiés plus tard n’empêchent apparemment pas Barack Obama de dormir la nuit : il a d’autres priorités, tel lutter contre un hypothétique déréglement du climat ou faire fonctionner une assurance maladie, moralement juste et pratiquement dysfonctionnelle. On connaît les arguments pour ne pas intervenir en Syrie : il serait difficile de distinguer les bons et les mauvais Syriens, les démocrates authentiques et les islamistes cachés. Mais ce n’est pas l’analyse du sénateur John Mc Cain, plus compétent qu’Obama sur le sujet : lui réclame, en vain, que les États-Unis arment décemment les milices qui se battent sur les deux fronts, hostiles au régime de Assad et aux Islamistes soutenus par l’Iran. Par ailleurs, se laver les mains face au massacre des civils, comme les Occidentaux le firent naguère au Rwanda – et longtemps en Bosnie et au Kosovo – n’est jamais défendable. Il est parfaitement possible, aujourd’hui encore en Syrie, d’interdire le ciel aux avions de Assad qui bombardent les civils, de créer des couloirs humanitaires pour évacuer les civils, d’instaurer des zones de sécurité humanitaire. C’est ce que Obama refuse obstinément à Hollande. Comment expliquer cette obstination et cette indifférence d’Obama : ne regarde-t-il pas la télévision ? Il faut en conclure qu’il s’est installé dans un personnage, celui du Président pacifiste, celui qui aura retiré l’armée américaine d’Irak, bientôt d’Afghanistan et ne l’engagera sur aucun autre terrain d’opérations. Obama ignorerait-il qu’il existe des « guerres justes » ? Des guerres que l’on ne choisit pas et qu’il faut tout de même livrer, parce que le pacifisme, passé un certain seuil, devient meurtrier. « À quoi sert-il d’entretenir une si grande armée, si ce n’est pas pour s’en servir ? », avait demandé Madeleine Albright, Secrétaire d’État de Bill Clinton, au Général Colin Powell, un militaire notoirement frileux. Les États-Unis sont le gendarme du monde, la seule puissance qui compte : les armées russes et chinoises, par comparaison, sont des nains. On posera donc à Obama – si on le pouvait – la même question que celle de Madeleine Albright : « À quoi sert l’armée américaine et à quoi sert le Président Obama ? ». Il est tout de même paradoxal que Hollande, un désastre en politique intérieure, pourrait passer dans l’Histoire comme celui qui aura dit Non à la barbarie et Barack Obama, Prix Nobel de la Paix, pour celui qui se sera couché devant les Barbares. Guy Sorman

Quand le pacifisme devient meurtrier …

Alors que, profitant des Jeux de Sotchi et au prix d’on ne sait encore combien de victimes et, sans compter la généralisation de la corruption ambiante, pour combien de temps …

L’Ukraine semble avoir réussi à reprendre sa liberté face au Big brother russe « dopé au gaz »

Et découvre, toutes proportions gardées, le Nerverland ceausescuien de leur ex-président …

Comment ne pas voir avec l’essayiste Guy Sorman …

Et après les manifestants iraniens de juin 2009, les Libyens et les Syriens depuis trois ans et maintenant l’Ukraine …

Sans compter, lâchement abandonnés à leur sort, les Irakiens et les Afghans  …

Cette forme potentiellement meurtrière du pacifisme …

Que semble avoir adopté pour marque de fabrique derrière ses liquidations ciblées et  ses grandes oreilles

Le plus rapide prix Nobel de la paix de l’histoire ?

Hollande, Obama et le pacifisme meurtrier

Guy Sorman

Le futur, c’est tout de suite

20.02.2014

Le chef de l’État français n’est pas le meilleur économiste de son temps ; il n’est ni Don Juan ni Casanova ; mais nul ne contestera sa détermination guerrière. Quand le Mali faillit tomber aux mains de bandes se réclamant de l’Islamisme, il n’hésita pas un instant à dépêcher l’armée française. L’opération était risquée, improvisée, appuyée par une logistique américaine insignifiante : mais ce fut un succès. De nouveau, en République Centre africaine, François Hollande a dépêché, sans tergiverser, des militaires français qui ont interdit un génocide des musulmans par des chrétiens. Les gouvernements européens furent spectateurs et Barack Obama, pesant le pour et le contre, restait l’indécis permanent.

L’Afrique serait-elle l’arrière-cour de l’armée française au point que les Américains considèrent qu’il lui appartient d’y maintenir l’ordre pour l’éternité ? Cette analyse passéiste n’est pas tenable parce que l’armée américaine, qu’on le veuille ou non, est seule au monde à disposer de la logistique nécessaire pour intervenir massivement, en tout lieu. Et l’armée américaine est déjà fort infiltrée en Afrique, au Sénégal en particulier, profitant d’un recul des moyens de la France.

Le manque de soutien des Américains aux Français est, en vérité, la marque de fabrique de Barack Obama : lui seul décide. Son comportement laisse plus pantois encore face au massacre des Syriens. On rappellera que, le 25 août 2013, François Hollande annonçait que l’armée française était au seuil d’une intervention en Syrie pour stopper les massacres. Il avait, à ce moment-là, l’aval de la Maison Blanche et les états-majors français et américains s’étaient concertés, les rôles étaient distribués. Hélas, une semaine plus tard, Barack Obama trahissait François Hollande – ce qui est commun dans les relations internationales – mais, bien pire, abandonnait le peuple syrien. Le Président américain avait trouvé une stratégie d’évitement pour ne pas intervenir, à condition que le gouvernement syrien renonce à son arsenal chimique : toutes les autres formes d’assassinat de masse restaient donc tolérées par le Président américain. Un million de morts et deux millions de réfugiés plus tard n’empêchent apparemment pas Barack Obama de dormir la nuit : il a d’autres priorités, tel lutter contre un hypothétique déréglement du climat ou faire fonctionner une assurance maladie, moralement juste et pratiquement dysfonctionnelle.

On connaît les arguments pour ne pas intervenir en Syrie : il serait difficile de distinguer les bons et les mauvais Syriens, les démocrates authentiques et les islamistes cachés. Mais ce n’est pas l’analyse du sénateur John Mc Cain, plus compétent qu’Obama sur le sujet : lui réclame, en vain, que les États-Unis arment décemment les milices qui se battent sur les deux fronts, hostiles au régime de Assad et aux Islamistes soutenus par l’Iran. Par ailleurs, se laver les mains face au massacre des civils, comme les Occidentaux le firent naguère au Rwanda – et longtemps en Bosnie et au Kosovo – n’est jamais défendable. Il est parfaitement possible, aujourd’hui encore en Syrie, d’interdire le ciel aux avions de Assad qui bombardent les civils, de créer des couloirs humanitaires pour évacuer les civils, d’instaurer des zones de sécurité humanitaire. C’est ce que Obama refuse obstinément à Hollande. Comment expliquer cette obstination et cette indifférence d’Obama : ne regarde-t-il pas la télévision ? Il faut en conclure qu’il s’est installé dans un personnage, celui du Président pacifiste, celui qui aura retiré l’armée américaine d’Irak, bientôt d’Afghanistan et ne l’engagera sur aucun autre terrain d’opérations. Obama ignorerait-il qu’il existe des « guerres justes » ? Des guerres que l’on ne choisit pas et qu’il faut tout de même livrer, parce que le pacifisme, passé un certain seuil, devient meurtrier. « À quoi sert-il d’entretenir une si grande armée, si ce n’est pas pour s’en servir ? », avait demandé Madeleine Albright, Secrétaire d’État de Bill Clinton, au Général Colin Powell, un militaire notoirement frileux. Les États-Unis sont le gendarme du monde, la seule puissance qui compte : les armées russes et chinoises, par comparaison, sont des nains. On posera donc à Obama – si on le pouvait – la même question que celle de Madeleine Albright : « À quoi sert l’armée américaine et à quoi sert le Président Obama ? ». Il est tout de même paradoxal que Hollande, un désastre en politique intérieure, pourrait passer dans l’Histoire comme celui qui aura dit Non à la barbarie et Barack Obama, Prix Nobel de la Paix, pour celui qui se sera couché devant les Barbares.

Voir aussi:

Poutine, dopé au gaz

Guy Sorman

24.02.2014

Au long des Jeux Olympiques de Sotchi, seuls les athlètes auront été contrôlés pour dopage. Les chefs d’État ne devraient-ils pas également l’être ? Certains Jeux ne coutèrent rien au pays d’accueil, comme ceux d’Atlanta en 1996 ou de Salt Lake City en 2002, car entièrement autofinancés par le secteur privé. À l’inverse, des nations peu fortunées comme la Chine en 2008, la Grèce en 2004 et la Russie cette fois-ci, auront pulvérisé le record de la dépense publique pour épater le monde : 50 milliards de dollars pour Sotchi. Ne devrait-on pas fixer aux États les mêmes règles de bonne conduite qu’aux sportifs ? Car, un athlète qui se dope nuit peu, tandis qu’un Poutine appauvrit des millions de Russes ; de même que le gouvernement grec avait déclenché la faillite publique de son pays.

Déduire du succès logistique des Jeux de Sotchi, comme le souhaiterait Poutine, que la Russie a renoué avec la puissance et la prospérité, serait une grave erreur de jugement. Le financement de ces Jeux comme la croissance soutenue de l’économie russe depuis quinze ans, reposent entièrement sur une aubaine : une constante hausse du prix du gaz au bénéfice du Gasprom, une entreprise qui se confond avec l’État. Poutine est dopé au gaz. La Russie bénéficie d’une rente gazière, accessoirement pétrolière, à la manière de l’Arabie saoudite, du Qatar ou du Vénézuela. On rappellera d’ailleurs – ce fait reste peu connu – que la relative prospérité de l’Union soviétique dans les années 1960, dérivait aussi de cette rente minérale : quand, dans les années 1980, les prix des matières premières et de l’énergie exportée déclinèrent, ne permettant plus à l’URSS d’importer suffisamment pour nourrir le peuple, l’URSS s’effondra. Vladimir Poutine et nous tous, devrions nous souvenir de ce passé si proche et, plus généralement, nous remémorer ce que les économistes appellent la « malédiction des ressources naturelles ».

Le gaz russe, le pétrole saoudien ou iranien, le soja argentin (justement surnommé « pétrole vert ») confèrent une richesse provisoire, et plus encore l’illusion de la richesse. Cette illusion et l’argent facile que génère la rente minérale, dissuadent gouvernements et entrepreneurs d’innover et de se diversifier. En Russie, depuis que le prix du gaz monte, le pays ne cesse de se désindustrialiser : au pays de Poutine, il ne reste que des oligarques branchés sur les matières premières et de vastes supermarchés où tous les produits de consommation sont importés. La rente conduit aussi à des effets politiques notoires : en concentrant la richesse au sommet, elle perpétue les régimes autoritaires. Ceux qui sont assez astucieux pour redistribuer une partie de la rente (Poutine, la monarchie saoudienne, Chavez naguère, au Vénézuela, Nestor Kirchner, puis Cristina Fernandez en Argentine) se constituent une clientèle populaire qui soutient le despotisme redistributeur. Jusqu’au jour où les prix se retournent : ce qui, en ce moment même, est le cas sur le marché du soja et du gaz. Soudain, les gouvernements brésilien et argentin, privés de suffisamment de ressources à redistribuer, n’ont d’autres expédients que de fabriquer de la monnaie : avec l’inflation qui en résulte, leur chute est imminente. Un sort identique guette Poutine. La raison en est que les États-Unis, grâce à la technique de fracturation, mise au point par des entrepreneurs américains, sont en passe de devenir le premier producteur de gaz au monde. Partout, les prix commencent à baisser et ils baisseront plus encore quand les Américains exporteront ce gaz vers l’Europe. En Europe même, la Pologne, la Grande-Bretagne, la France (quand son gouvernement aura fait taire ses écologistes) deviendront des producteurs majeurs au détriment, là encore, de Gasprom.

La « malédiction des ressources naturelles » est cependant une théorie ambigue : elle laisserait supposer que leur absence est une bénédiction. S’il est vrai que la Corée du Sud ou Israël, par exemple, sont des succès économiques entièrement fondés sur l’absence de ressources naturelles, la Norvège, les États-Unis ou la Grande-Bretagne combinent habilement ressources naturelles et esprit d’entreprise. C’est donc l’esprit d’entreprise et la bonne gestion de l’État qui transforment les ressources naturelles soit en malédiction, soit en vitamines. S’il fallait parier sur l’avenir du modèle russo-poutinien, il me paraît condamné en moins de dix ans : Sotchi, à terme, apparaîtra comme la dernière fête avant l’extinction des feux et l’Histoire russe disqualifiera probablement Poutine pour dopage.

Voir également:

What can Ukraine expect from the West now?

Ukrainian Time

What can Ukraine expect from the West now?

Myroslav Marynovych

I write to you as a former prisoner of conscience of the Brezhnev era. All other titles are rapidly losing sense in light of the bleeding Ukrainian Maidan.

All my life I admired Western civilization as the realm of values. Now I am close to rephrasing Byron’s words: “Frailty, thy name is Europe!” But the strength of bitterness here is matched by the strength of our love for Europe.

If it still concerns anybody in decision-making circles, I will answer the question in the title.

First and foremost, stop “expressing deep concern”. All protestors on the Maidan have an allergy to this phrase, which in these circumstances has become senseless especially as all of the gangsters in the Ukrainian governmental gang enjoy mocking the helplessness of the EU.

Apply sanctions. Don’t waste time in searching for their Achilles’ heel: it is the money deposited in your banks. Execute your own laws and stop money laundering. The Europe we want to be part of can never degrade the absolute value of human lives in favor of an absolute importance of money.

Also cancel Western visas for all governmental gangsters and their families. It is a scandal that ordinary Ukrainians, living their simple lives, have to provide their ancestors’ family trees to obtain a visa, while ruling criminals guilty of murder, “disappearances”, and fraud in the eyes of the whole world, enjoy virtually free-entry status in Europe.

Do not listen to Yanukovych’s and Putin’s propagandistic sirens. Just put cotton in your ears. Be able to decode their lies; otherwise they will decode your ability to defend yourself.

Listen instead to the Ukrainian media sacrificing their journalists’ lives to get credible information. Do not rely so much upon the information provided by your special correspondents from other countries who come to Ukraine for a day or two. Hire Ukrainians who live in this country to translate the Ukrainian cry of pain. Secure money for that right now instead of waiting for funds from next year’s budget.

Come to Ukrainian hospitals and talk to the so-called “extremists” who want to “subvert the legitimately elected government,” those who have allegedly “cruelly beaten” policemen and “deliberately” blasted explosives to wound themselves. Yes, the face of war is cruel. But, arriving at the Maidan, these people repeated almost literally what King George VI said to his people on September 3, 1939: “We have been forced into a conflict, for we are called … to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world.”

Go out of your comfort zones! Just recall the coddled ancient Romans who refused to do that in time. Politely cajoling Putin won’t bring you security. Letting him take control over Ukraine could make world peace even more vulnerable. A Ukraine divided by force won’t bring the world peace, just as a Poland and Germany divided by force didn’t bring peace to the world.

Let us conclude in solidarity with the King and the Ukrainian people: “The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield, but we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God. If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then with God’s help, we shall prevail.”

Voir encore:

Putin Knows History Hasn’t Ended

Obama might like to pretend that geopolitics don’t matter, but the slaughter in Kiev shows how mistaken he is.

Walter Russel Meade

The WSJ

Feb. 20, 2014

The Ukrainian government’s assault on protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square over the past 48 hours shocked Europe and the world. The turmoil is also forcing both the European Union and the United States to re-examine some of their deepest assumptions about foreign policy in the post Cold War environment.

The Ukrainian crisis started last fall, when EU ministers thought Ukraine was about to sign an Association Agreement that would have begun the process of economic integration between Europe’s second-largest country and the European Union. This would have been a decisive step for Ukraine. Long hesitating between Moscow and Brussels, Ukraine would have seen the Association Agreement put it firmly on a Western path. That Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political support is rooted in the Russia-leaning half of the country, seemed prepared to take this step was particularly significant. It looked as if both halves of Ukraine had reached a consensus that the future lay with the West.

But the diplomats in Brussels and Washington forgot to factor one man into their calculations. For Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the prospect that a united Ukraine might desert Russia and join Europe is completely unacceptable. Mr. Putin saw the West’s overtures to Ukraine as an existential threat to Russia’s great power status and his own political position. Sensing that the West was unprepared and unfocused, he moved quickly and effectively to block the wedding by offering Mr. Yanukovych $15 billion to leave the Europeans standing at the altar.

European diplomats were flummoxed. Far from anticipating Putin’s intervention, they thought Mr. Yanukovych was hungry enough for an EU agreement that they could force him to free his imprisoned political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, as the price of the trade deal. These days, nothing much is heard about Ms. Tymoshenko—who was jailed in 2011 on charges of abusing power and embezzlement, after what many observers say was a politicized process—and the Europeans are scrambling, in their slow and bureaucratic way, to sweeten their offer and lure Ukraine back to the wedding chapel.

Washington was no better prepared. Between pivoting to Asia and coping with various crises in the Middle East, the Obama administration hadn’t deigned to engage seriously until Mr. Putin knocked the EU plan off course.

Inside Ukraine, Mr. Yanukovych’s reversal on Europe broke the fragile national consensus. Few countries had as wretched a 20th century as Ukraine. World War I, the Russian Civil War, the mass starvation and political purges of the Stalin era, the genocidal violence of World War II: wave after wave of mass death rolled over the land. The western half of the country sees Moscow as a hostile, rapacious power and believes—correctly—that Mr. Putin’s vision for their country will involve the loss of democratic freedoms and destroy any hope of establishing the rule of law and transparent institutions, or of joining the EU.

The eastern half is not so sure. Trade and cultural connections with Russia are stronger than they are with Europe, and while the EU is a good market for Ukrainian raw materials, Russia is willing to buy Ukrainian manufactured and consumer goods that Europe doesn’t much want.

Meanwhile, given Ukraine’s tormented history and the post-Soviet legacy of criminal oligarchs and corruption, the country’s weak institutions lack the legitimacy and perhaps the competence to manage deep conflicts like the one now shaking the nation. Political movements in both halves of the country have ties to shady figures, and the horrors of the past have left a residue of ethnic hatreds and conspiracy theories on both sides of the current divide.

For Mr. Putin, this is of little moment. With Ukraine, Russia can at least aspire to great power status and can hope to build a power center between the EU and China that can stand on something approaching equal terms with both. If, on the other hand, the verdict of 1989 and the Soviet collapse becomes final, Russia must come to terms with the same kind of loss of empire and stature that Britain, France and Spain have faced. Mr. Putin’s standing at home will be sharply, and perhaps decisively, diminished.

Both the EU and the U.S. made a historic blunder by underestimating Russia’s reaction to the Ukrainian trade agreement. Mr. Putin cannot let Ukraine slip out of Russia’s sphere without throwing everything he has into the fight. As I wrote last fall, the EU brought a baguette to a knife fight, and the bloody result is on the streets of Kiev.

The policy of detaching Ukraine from Russia should either have been pursued with enormous determination and focus—and an irresistible array of economic and political instruments of persuasion—or it should not have been pursued at all. While Mr. Putin and the Ukrainian government have turned a problem into a crisis, some responsibility for the deaths in Ukraine lies at the doors of those who blithely embarked on a dangerous journey without assessing the risks.

Neither the American policy makers nor the European ones who stumbled into this bear trap are stupid, but this episode is confirmation that the problem that has haunted Western statesmanship since 1989 is still with us. Both President Obama and the many-headed collection of committees that constitutes the decision-making apparatus of the EU believe that the end of the Cold War meant an end to geopolitics.

This helps explain why American diplomacy these days is about order and norms. The objectives are global: an environmental climate treaty, the abolition of nuclear weapons, the creation of new global governance mechanisms like the G-20, the further expansion of free trade agreements, and so on. When the U.S. voices its objections—to Bashar Assad’s slaughter in Syria, say, or to the Ukrainian crackdown this week—they are stated in terms of global norms. And so U.S. diplomacy with Russia has focused on order-building questions like nonproliferation, while gravely underestimating the degree to which Russia’s geopolitical interests conflict with those of the U.S.

This is not so much an intellectual error as a political miscalculation. For American and European policy makers, the 1989 geopolitical settlement of the Cold War seemed both desirable and irreversible. Powers like Russia, China and Iran, who might be dissatisfied with either the boundaries or the legal and moral norms that characterized the post-Cold War world, lacked the power to do anything about it. This outlook is Francis Fukuyama’s « The End of History » on steroids: Humanity had not only discovered the forms of government and economic organization under which it would proceed from here on out, it had found the national boundaries and the hierarchy of states that would last indefinitely.

There are many things that Vladimir Putin doesn’t understand, but geopolitics isn’t one of them. His ability to identify and exploit the difference between the West’s rhetoric and its capabilities and intentions has allowed him to stop NATO expansion, split Georgia, subject Washington to serial humiliations in Syria and, now, to bring chaos to Ukraine.

Mr. Putin is a master of a game that the West doesn’t want to play, and as a result he’s won game after game with weak cards. He cannot use smoke and mirrors to elevate Russia back into superpower rank, and bringing a peaceful Ukraine back into the Kremlin’s tight embrace is also probably beyond him.

But as long as the West, beguiled by dreams of win-win solutions, fails to grapple effectively in the muddy, zero-sum world of classic geopolitics, Mr. Putin and his fellow revisionists in Beijing and Tehran will continue to wreak havoc with Western designs.

Mr. Mead is a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and editor at large of the American Interest.

 Voir de même:

Why Putin Wants Ukraine

He sees a timid West and the chance to rebuild Greater Russia.

The WSJ

Feb. 21, 2014

The Sochi Olympics have showcased the face of Russia that President Vladimir Putin wants the world to see—spanking new, an international crossroads, and a revived global power. This is a comely veneer. The real Russia is on display this week in Kiev, where Ukraine’s government prodded by the Kremlin is attacking peaceful protestors with guns and truncheons. This is the Russia that the West needs to understand and resist.

The central fact of the Ukraine crisis is that it has been created and stoked from Moscow. Last autumn Russia’s President leaned on Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych to reject a trade association with the European Union in favor of one with Russia. After protests broke out in response, Mr. Putin offered the Ukraine government a $15 billion bailout. Russia then prodded the pro-Russian parliament in Kiev to pass antiprotest laws.

As the protests escalated and Mr. Yanukovych wavered, Russia froze its aid. Last week Mr. Yanukovych met Mr. Putin in Sochi, Russia released $2 billion on Monday, and Ukrainian forces began their violent crackdown on the protestors in Independence Square on Tuesday. Mr. Putin’s response was to blame the opposition for « an attempt to carry out a coup » and encourage the regime.

None of this Russian behavior should be a surprise. Mr. Putin’s regional ambitions have been apparent since the middle of the last decade. Yet Western leaders have refused to face this reality, offering displays of pleading and pliancy that have only encouraged Mr. Putin to press his agenda.

President George W. Bush looked into Mr. Putin’s soul and tried to charm him into mutual cooperation. In 2008 the West bent to Moscow by letting NATO shelve its « membership action plan » for Ukraine and Georgia. Mr. Bush and Europe were rewarded with Russia’s invasion of pro-Western Georgia and the confiscation of part of Georgian territory that it still hasn’t returned.

President Obama entered office blaming Mr. Putin’s behavior on Mr. Bush and pushing his famous « reset » of U.S.-Russian relations. A short era of forced good feeling led to an arms-control deal that failed to address Russia’s short-range tactical missiles, even as Russia began to cheat on the medium-range missile accord from the Reagan years.

Mr. Putin’s foreign policy goal has been to undermine U.S. interests at every turn. He has sought to stop missile defenses in Europe that are aimed at Iran. He has blocked United Nations action against Syria, armed Bashar Assad, and then leapt on Mr. Obama’s political panic over bombing Damascus to guarantee no U.S. attack in return for a promise to remove Assad’s chemical weapons. The chemical weapons are still there, and Assad has accelerated his military offensive.

Mr. Putin’s agenda in Ukraine is part of his larger plans to solidify his own authoritarian control and revive Greater Russia. Without Ukraine, the most important of the former Soviet satellites, a new Russian empire is impossible. With Ukraine, Greater Russia sits on the border of the EU. If Ukraine moves toward Europe with a president who isn’t a Russian satrap, it also sets a democratic example for Russians. The world is seeing that Mr. Putin will do what it takes to stop such an event, even if it risks a civil war in Ukraine.

The Russian is willing to play this rough because he sees Western weakness. The EU is hopeless, led by a Germany so comfortable in its pacifism that it won’t risk even a diplomatic confrontation. As for the U.S., it’s no coincidence that Mr. Putin asserted himself in Ukraine not long after Mr. Obama retreated in humiliating fashion from his « red line » in Syria. As always in history, such timidity invites the aggression it purports to prevent. If this American President won’t even bomb Damascus airfields to stop the use of chemical weapons, why would Mr. Putin think Mr. Obama would do anything for eastern Europe?

Perhaps the Moscow veil is now falling from White House eyes, with Mr. Obama’s vow on Wednesday of « consequences » if Ukraine continues its crackdown. That was a day before at least 50 more were killed as a truce collapsed. The U.S. has revoked the visas of 20 Ukrainian officials without releasing the names. But this will not deter the Kremlin.

The U.S. also needs to freeze the assets of Ukraine’s regime and of its oligarch supporters. Even a month ago it might have been possible to wait until elections scheduled for 2015, but at this stage early elections are also needed to resolve the standoff and restore legitimacy to the Ukraine government.

The point is to make the regime’s supporters choose. Side with Russia and your prospects in the West will be limited. Push for free elections and the opening to Europe, and greater prosperity will be possible.

No one wants a new Cold War, but no one should want a civil war in Eastern Europe either. Yet that is where Mr. Putin’s intervention and Western passivity are leading. Mr. Obama may still be able to stop it if he finally admits Vladimir Putin’s deep hostility to a free and democratic Europe and clearly tells protesting Ukrainians that we’re on their side.

Voir aussi:

Obama’s Foreign Policy: Enemy Action

Bruce S. Thornton

FrontPage Magazine

February 18, 2014

It’s often hard to determine whether a series of bad policies results from stupidity or malicious intent. Occam’s razor suggests that the former is the more likely explanation, as conspiracies assume a high degree of intelligence, complex organization, and secrecy among a large number of people, qualities that usually are much less frequent than the simple stupidity, disorganization, and inability to keep a secret more typical of our species. Yet surveying the nearly 6 years of Obama’s disastrous foreign policy blunders, I’m starting to lean towards Goldfinger’s Chicago mob-wisdom: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action.”

Obama’s ineptitude started with his general foreign policy philosophy. George Bush, so the narrative went, was a trigger-happy, unilateralist, blundering, “dead or alive” cowboy who rushed into an unnecessary war in Iraq after alienating our allies and insulting the Muslim world. Obama pledged to be different. As a Los Angeles Times editorial advised him in January 2009, “The Bush years, defined by ultimatums and unilateral actions around the world, must be brought to a swift close with a renewed emphasis on diplomacy, consultation and the forging of broad international coalitions.” Obama eagerly took this advice, reaching out not just to our allies, but also to sworn enemies like Syria, Venezuela, and Iran, and serially bowing to various potentates around the globe. He went on the apology tour, in which he confessed America’s “arrogant, dismissive, derisive” behavior and the “darker periods in our history.” And he followed up by initiating America’s retreat from international affairs, “leading from behind,” appeasing our enemies, and using rhetorical bluster as a substitute for coherent, forceful action. Here follow 3 of the many mistakes that suggest something other than inexperience and a lack of knowledge is driving Obama’s policies.

Russia

Remember the “reset” button Obama offered to Russia? In September 2009 he made a down payment on this policy by reversing George Bush’s plan to station a radar facility in the Czech Republic and 10 ground-based missile interceptors in Poland. Russia had complained about these defensive installations, even though they didn’t threaten Russian territory. So to appease the Russians, Obama abandoned Poland and the Czech Republic, who still live in the dark shadow of their more powerful former oppressors, while Russia’s Iranian clients were emboldened by their patron’s ability to make the superpower Americans back down. As George Marshall Fund fellow David J. Kramer prophesized at the time, Obama’s caving “to Russian pressure . . . will encourage leaders in Moscow to engage in more loud complaining and bully tactics (such as threatening Iskander missiles against the Poles and Czechs) because such behavior gets desired results.”

Obama followed up this blunder with the New START arms reduction treaty with Russia signed in 2010. This agreement didn’t include tactical nuclear weapons, leaving the Russians with a 10-1 advantage. Multiple warheads deployed on a missile were counted as one for purposes of the treaty, which meant that the Russians could exceed the 1550 limit. Numerous other problems plague this treaty, but the worst is the dependence on Russian honesty to comply with its terms. Yet as Keith B. Payne and Mark B. Schneider have written recently, for years Russia has serially violated the terms of every arms-control treaty it has signed, for obvious reasons: “These Russian actions demonstrate the importance the Kremlin attaches to its new nuclear-strike capabilities. They also show how little importance the Putin regime attaches to complying with agreements that interfere with those capabilities. Russia not only seems intent on creating new nuclear- and conventional-strike capabilities against U.S. allies and friends. It has made explicit threats against some of them in recent years.” Busy pushing the reset button, Obama has ignored all this cheating. Nor did Obama’s 2012 appeasing pledge to outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev–– that after the election he would “have more flexibility” about the proposed European-based anti-missile defense system angering Russia––could convince Vladimir Putin to play ball with the U.S. on Iran and Syria. Obama’s groveling “reset” outreach has merely emboldened Russia to expand its influence and that of its satellites like Iran and Syria, at the expense of the interests and security of America and its allies.

Syria

Syria is another American enemy Obama thought his charm offensive could win over. To do so he had to ignore Syria’s long history of supporting terrorists outfits like Hezbollah, murdering its sectarian and political rivals, assassinating Lebanon’s anti-Syrian Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, and facilitating the transit of jihadists–– during one period over 90% of foreign fighters–– into Iraq to kill Americans. Yet Obama sent diplomatic officials on 6 trips to Syria in an attempt to make strongman Bashar al Assad play nice. In return, in 2010 Assad hosted a cozy conference with Hezbollah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah and the genocidal Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, where they discussed “a Middle East without Zionists and without colonialists.” Despite such rhetoric, even as the uprising against Assad was unfolding in March 2011, Secretary of State Clinton said, “There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”

In response to the growing resistance against the “reformer” Assad, Obama once again relied on blustering rhetoric rather than timely action to bring down an enemy of the U.S. Sanctions and Executive Orders flew thick and fast, but no military aid was provided to Assad’s opponents, the moderates soon to be marginalized by foreign terrorists armed by Iran. As time passed, more Syrians died and more terrorists filtered into Syria, while Obama responded with toothless tough rhetoric, proclaiming, “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Equally ineffective was Obama’s talk in 2012 of a “red line” and “game-changer” if Assad used chemical weapons. Assad, obviously undeterred by threats from the world’s greatest military power, proceeded to use chemical weapons. Obama threatened military action, only to back down on the excuse that he needed the permission of Congress. Instead, partnering with the Russian wolf his own weakness had empowered, he brokered a deal that in effect gave Assad a free hand to bomb cities and kill civilians at the price of promising to surrender his chemical stockpiles. The butcher Assad magically changed from a pariah who had to go, into a legitimate partner of the United States, one whose cooperation we depend on for implementing the agreement. Given such cover, he has continued to slaughter his enemies and provide invaluable battlefield experience to tens of thousands of terrorist fighters.

Of course, without the threat of military punishment for violating the terms of the agreement­­––punishment vetoed by new regional player Russia––the treaty is worthless. Sure enough, this month we learned that Assad is dragging his feet, missing a deadline for turning over his weapons, while surrendering so far just 5% of his stockpiles. And those are just the weapons he has acknowledged possessing. In response, Secretary of State John Kerry has blustered, “Bashar al-Assad is not, in our judgment, fully in compliance because of the timing and the delays that have taken place contrary to the [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]’s judgment that this could move faster. So the options are all the options that originally existed. No option has been taken off the table.” You can hear Assad, Rouhani, Nasrallah, and Putin rolling on the ground laughing their you-know-what’s off over that empty threat.

Iran

Now we come to the biggest piece of evidence for divining Obama’s motives, Iran. The Islamic Republic has been an inveterate enemy of this country since the revolution in 1979, with 35 years of American blood on its hands to prove it. Even today Iranian agents are facilitating with training and materiel the killing of Americans in Afghanistan. The regime is the biggest and most lethal state sponsor of terrorism, and proclaims proudly a genocidal, anti-Semitic ideology against Israel, our most loyal ally in the region. And it regularly reminds us that we are its enemy against whom it has repeatedly declared war, most recently in February when demonstrations celebrated the anniversary of the revolution with signs reading, “Hey, America!! Be angry with us and die due to your anger! Down with U.S.A.” At the same time, two Iranian warships crowded our maritime borders in the Atlantic, and state television broadcast a documentary simulating attacks on U.S. aircraft carriers.

Despite that long record of murder and hatred, when he first came into office, Obama made Iran a particular object of his diplomatic “outreach.” He “bent over backwards,” as he put it, “extending his hand” to the mullahs “without preconditions,” going so far as to keep silent in June 2009 as they brutally suppressed protests against the stolen presidential election. But the mullahs contemptuously dismissed all these overtures. In response, Obama issued a series of “deadlines” for Iran to come clean on its weapons programs, more bluster the regime ignored, while Obama assured them that “We remain committed to serious, meaningful engagement with Iran.” Just as with Russia and Syria, still more big talk about “all options are on the table” for preventing the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons has been scorned by the regime.

Doubling down on this failed policy, Obama along with the Europeans gambled that sanctions would bring Iran to its knees before it reached breakout capability for producing a weapon. Odds of success were questionable, but just as the sanctions appeared to be pushing the Iranian economy, and perhaps the regime, to collapse, in November of last year Obama entered into negotiations that resulted in a disastrous agreement that trades sanction relief for empty promises. This deal ensures that Iran will become a nuclear power, since the agreement allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium in violation of numerous U.N. Security Council Resolutions. Finally, in an act of criminal incoherence, Obama threatened to veto any Congressional legislation imposing meaningful economic punishment for future Iranian cheating and intransigence.

Given this “abject surrender,” as former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton called it, it’s no surprise that the Iranians are trumpeting the agreement as a victory: “In this agreement, the right of Iranian nation to enrich uranium was accepted by world powers,” the “moderate reformer” Iranian president Hassan Rouhani bragged. “With this agreement … the architecture of sanctions will begin to break down.” Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, agreed: “None of the enrichment centers will be closed and Fordow and Natanz will continue their work and the Arak heavy water program will continue in its present form and no material (enriched uranium stockpiles) will be taken out of the country and all the enriched materials will remain inside the country. The current sanctions will move towards decrease, no sanctions will be imposed and Iran’s financial resources will return.” Memo to Mr. Obama: when the adversary loudly brags that the agreement benefits him, you’d better reexamine the terms of the deal.

As it stands today, the sanction regime is unraveling even as we speak, while the Iranians are within months of nuclear breakout capacity. Meanwhile the economic pain that was starting to change Iranian behavior is receding. According to the International Monetary Fund, Iran’s economy is projected to grow 2% in fiscal year 2014-15, compared to a 2% contraction this year. Inflation has dropped over 10 points since last year. Global businesses are flocking to Tehran to cut deals, while Obama blusters that “we will come down on [sanctions violators] like a ton of bricks.” Add that dull cliché to “red line,” “game-changer,” and the other empty threats that comprise the whole of Obama’s foreign policy.

These foreign policy blunders and numerous others––especially the loss of critical ally Egypt–– reflect ideological delusions that go beyond Obama. The notion that aggressors can be tamed and managed with diplomatic engagement has long been a convenient cover for a political unwillingness to take military action with all its dangers and risks. Crypto-pacifist Democrats are particularly fond of the magical thinking that international organizations, summits, “shuttle diplomacy,” conferences, and other photogenic confabs can substitute for force.

But progressive talk of “multilateralism” and “diplomatic engagement” hides something else: the Oliver Stone/Howard Zinn/Noam Chomsky/Richard Falk self-loathing narrative that the United States is a force of evil in the world, a neo-colonialist, neo-imperialist, predatory capitalist oppressor responsible for the misery and tyranny afflicting the globe. Given that America’s power is corrupt, we need a foreign policy of withdrawal, retreat, and apologetic humility, with our national sovereignty subjected to transnational institutions like the U.N., the International Court of Justice, and the European Court of Human Rights ––exactly the program that Obama has been working on for the last 5 years. Given the damage such policies are serially inflicting on our security and interests, it starts to make sense that inexperience or stupidity is not as cogent an explanation as enemy action.

Voir enfin:

Game of Thrones

Sotchi, retour de la Russie : 25 ans après la chute du mur de Berlin, l’ancien empire soviétique a-t-il vraiment retrouvé sa puissance ?

Les Jeux Olympiques de Sotchi inaugurés le 7 février se veulent une démonstration de puissance pour la Russie, qui déploie aussi sa force sur le plan diplomatique. Mais, entre démographie en déclin, économie fragile et crise sociale, la Russie a-t-elle vraiment les moyens de son ambition ?

Atlantico

10 février 2014

Atlantico : Les jeux olympiques de Sotchi, suivis par la coupe de monde de football de 2018 en Russie marquent-ils le retour de l’ancien empire soviétique sur le devant de la scène internationale ? Après l’effondrement de l’URSS, l’ancien empire russe a-t-il vraiment retrouvé sa puissance ?

Alexandre Melnik : Relativisons les choses. Je vais inscrire votre question dans un large contexte géopolitique, en ce début du XXIe siècle.

Ces deux événements sportifs à résonance planétaire, dont l’organisation a été attribuée par ce qu’on appelle la « communauté internationale » à la Russie – au même titre que la Coupe du monde de football de l’été prochain et les JO de 2016 qui se dérouleront au Brésil – marquent, avant tout, un bouleversement des équilibres globaux dans un monde, où l’Occident perd son « monopole de l’Histoire » (qu’il détenait depuis la Renaissance de la fin XVe siècle), et cela, à la faveur des nouveaux « pôles d’excellence ». Oublions le vocable, déjà obsolète, « pays émergents », et apprenons à utiliser, en anticipant le cours des événements, l’expression qui correspond mieux à la réalité – « nouveau leadership du XXIe siècle ». Au fond, il s’agit des nouvelles puissances montantes (Brésil, Russie, Inde, Chine, Afrique du Sud, etc.) qui, assoiffées de succès après une longue période de bridage de leurs moteurs économiques et géopolitiques, dotées d’un fort potentiel de développement, s’installent graduellement aux manettes décisionnelles de la globalisation en cours, sans pour autant adopter les modes de pensée et de fonctionnement, ainsi que des valeurs, propres aux pays occidentaux, en perte de vitesse. C’est une nouvelle tendance lourde de l’évolution du monde, dont profite la Russie actuelle – nationaliste, volontariste, alliant une certaine opulence économique et l’évidente indigence démocratique. Deux décennies après la chute du communisme, elle revient en force sur l’arène internationale, en profitant du reflux de l’Occident et de la mollesse de ses dirigeants politiques.

Dans cette optique, les JO de Sotchi ne font que confirmer son rôle d’un incontournable global player – une évidence déjà éclatée au grand jour au cours de l’année passée – sur les dossiers internationaux majeurs : la Syrie, l’Iran, l’Ukraine. Et ce, à un moment où le sport, ce traditionnel vecteur de rassemblement de l’Humanité à l’occasion des Olympiades, devient un langage universel, dont parle en direct toute notre planète, de plus en plus interconnectée et aplatie par les nouvelles technologies qui effacent les frontières. La réunion des meilleurs sportifs au bord de la Mer Noire s’apparente donc aujourd’hui à une caméra loupe braquée sur les nouvelles métamorphoses géopolitiques, favorables à la Russie. Un phénomène tout récent, à ne pas confondre avec le « retour de l’empire soviétique », car l’idéologie communiste, qui cimentait cet empire, appartient déjà aux archives d’une époque définitivement révolue, avec son vocabulaire archaïque, qui ne correspond plus aux nouveaux enjeux.

Jean-Sylvestre Mongrenier : Je commencerai par deux remarques préalables. Quand bien même l’URSS avait-elle recouvré, à l’issue de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, l’enveloppe spatiale de la Russie des tsars, elle ne constituait pas pour autant un empire stricto sensu. Au sens traditionnel du terme, l’Empire désigne une forme d’autorité spirituelle qui transcende les souverainetés temporelles (voir le Saint Empire), l’Empereur étant un « roi des rois ». Or, l’URSS était une idéocratie fondée sur la négation de toute vraie spiritualité, le marxisme-léninisme prétendant que les activités humaines d’ordre supérieur ne sont que le simple reflet des rapports de production au sein des sociétés humaines. D’autre part, s’il y a bien des éléments de continuité entre la « Russie-Soviétie » d’avant 1991 et la « Russie-Eurasie » de Vladimir Poutine, cette dernière n’est pas continuatrice pure et simple de l’ex-URSS. Au total, quinze Etats sont issus de la dislocation de l’URSS et chacun d’entre eux a sa légitimité propre. Quant à la Russie, si elle est effectivement marquée par une forme d’« ostalgie » et de dangereuses rémanences soviétiques, elle n’est pas l’URSS.

Retour sur le plan international ? En fait, la Russie des années 1990 n’avait pas disparu de la scène. Ne serait-ce que par l’ampleur des défis soulevés par la dislocation de l’URSS, les rebondissements de la vie politique russe et le pouvoir d’empêchement de Moscou, sur le plan international, la Russie conservait une visibilité certaine. La « transition » de la Russie post-soviétique vers la démocratie libérale et l’économie de marché était un thème important de l’époque dans les rubriques internationales et les négociations entre Moscou et le FMI étaient attentivement suivies par les médias. Au milieu des années 1990, Boris Eltsine avait même obtenu que la Russie soit associée au G-7, celui-ci devenant alors le G-8. Des partenariats spécifiques avaient été négociés avec l’UE et l’OTAN. C’est aussi dès le début des années 1990 que les dirigeants russes mettent en avant la notion d’« étranger proche » (1992) et sur ce thème, Eltsine admonestait son ministre des Affaires étrangères. Il ne faut donc pas exagérer l’effacement de la Russie des années Eltsine.

De fait, les Jeux olympiques de Moscou ont été pensés comme la mise en scène du retour de la Russie sur la scène internationale. Le thème est martelé par Poutine depuis le milieu des années 2000, alors que l’unité avec l’Occident sur la question du terrorisme international s’efface derrière d’autres enjeux, plus prégnants pour la direction russe : la guerre en Irak, l’élargissement à l’Europe centrale et orientale des instances euro-atlantiques (UE et OTAN), les « révolutions de couleur » en Géorgie puis en Ukraine… Les « révolutions de couleur » ont été essentielles dans le processus. De ces mouvements de contestation civique contre les manipulations électorales des pouvoirs en place en Géorgie et en Ukraine, certains officiels russes ont pu dire que c’était leur « 11 septembre » !

C’est à la suite du discours de Munich (février 2007) et de la guerre russo-géorgienne (août 2008) que ce « retour » s’est fait offensif. Ces derniers mois, l’accord américano-russe sur le désarmement chimique de la Syrie (septembre 2013), puis la volte-face de Ianoukovitch et la signature d’un « partenariat stratégique » entre l’Ukraine et la Russie (décembre 2013) ont même été à l’origine de discours sur le « triomphe » de Poutine. Si l’on va au-delà des apparences (Obama hésitant, Poutine impassible), ce n’est guère évident. Au Proche-Orient, on peut se demander si la diplomatie Obama, guère empressée d’intervenir en Syrie, ne s’appuie pas sur la Russie pour « geler » cette question et se concentrer sur des défis d’une autre ampleur. Quant à l’Ukraine, il suffit de considérer la situation du pays : pressions occultes, manœuvres et coups tactiques ne font pas une victoire stratégique et politique. Le cas de l’Ukraine montre qu’il sera difficile de restaurer une domination russe sur l’« étranger proche ».

Alexandre Del Valle : Je ne pense pas que les Jeux Olympiques marquent en soi le retour d’un pays sur la scène internationale, mais cela constitue sans aucun doute un passage obligé dans le monde hyperconnecté qui est le nôtre pour tout pays qui tente d’améliorer son image et de prouver qu’il fait partie des puissances de poids. Dans le cas russe, le fait d’organiser les Jeux olympiques les plus chers du monde est bien entendu pour Poutine, qui a été très sévèrement critiqué depuis le début de son règne et surtout depuis l’affaire syrienne, une façon de montrer que le monde doit tenir compte de la Russie, qu’elle renaît de ses cendres et que son leader est un homme incontournable, comme on l’a bien vu dans le cas de la crise syrienne. De plus, le fait d’accueillir les jeux est toujours une occasion unique pour promouvoir son pays, quel qu’il soit et pour profiter d’une tribune “universelle”, planétaire, unique. Une occasion à ne pas manquer, qui explique que le Président Poutine ait tout fait pour que son pays soit élu.

La Russie a-t-elle vraiment les moyens de son ambition ? D’un point de vue économique ? Du point de vue de sa production industrielle ? Du point de vue militaire ? Diplomatique ? De sa démographie en déclin ? De l’espérance de vie de sa population ?

Jean-Sylvestre Mongrenier : Dopés par l’affolement des marchés pendant les années 2000, les revenus provenant des exportations de pétrole et de gaz ont permis une forte augmentation du PIB global et du revenu per capita. Cette rente a été mise à profit pour désendetter le pays, ce qui est bien avisé et méritoire. Cependant, les réformes structurelles requises pour assurer un développement durable et se projeter dans le nouveau siècle n’ont pas été menées. Pour parler comme les marxistes des années 1960-1970, le système économique russe est une forme de « capitalisme monopolistique d’Etat » dans lequel la richesse et la puissance sont confisquées par les clans qui gravitent autour du Kremlin. Cet « autoritarisme patrimonial » est animé par une logique de prédation qui nuit à l’efficacité économique et les caractéristiques de ce système de pouvoir excluent toute réforme un tant soit peu ambitieuse (les hommes au pouvoir ne vont pas scier la branche sur laquelle ils sont assis). Le peu de consistance des droits de propriété dans ce système, la corruption et le déplorable climat des affaires entraînent la fuite des capitaux hors de Russie. L’an passé, la crise financière de Chypre a mis en évidence ce phénomène.

Au total, la Russie n’est donc pas une « puissance émergente » et son économie ne repose guère que sur l’exportation des produits de base, auxquels il faut toutefois ajouter les ventes d’armes et le nucléaire civil. Alors que le baril de pétrole reste à des niveaux élevés, la croissance économique russe est tombée à 1,3 % en 2013 (7 à 8 % l’an dans les années qui précèdent 2008). La situation pourrait s’aggraver avec la crise des devises des pays dits « émergents », la restriction des liquidités injectées par la Fed (la banque centrale des Etats-Unis) et ses effets révélant les faiblesses des modèles de croissance de ces pays. Dans le cas russe, cela pourrait avoir un impact sur la vie politique. En effet, l’apathie politique russe s’explique par un contrat tacite entre la population et le système de pouvoir : les Russes acceptent le pouvoir de Poutine, pour autant que la croissance économique assure l’amélioration du niveau de vie et l’accès à la « société d’abondance ». Sur le plan de la puissance, le « système russe » repose sur une sorte de triangle entre l’énergie, l’armée et le statut international : les pétro-dollars financent les dépenses militaires qui contribuent à restaurer le rôle international de la Russie et son prestige. Aussi le fort ralentissement de la croissance économique pourrait-il menacer ce « système ». Enfin, la démographie et l’état sanitaire du pays révèlent l’ampleur des défis à relever, mais il a été décidé de baisser ce type de dépenses, au bénéfice du budget militaire.

Sur le plan militaire, précédemment évoqué, Poutine a lancé une réforme des armées, en 2008, avec pour objectifs la professionnalisation des personnels et la restauration des capacités d’intervention. En 2011, il a tranché entre les « civilniki » et les « siloviki », au bénéfice des seconds, et il a décidé un vaste programme de réarmement censé mobiliser 600 milliards de dollars d’ici 2020. L’enjeu est tout à la fois de renouveler l’arsenal nucléaire stratégique et de moderniser l’appareil militaire classique (conventionnel). Cet appareil militaire est dimensionné pour permettre des interventions dans l’ « étranger proche », en cohérence avec le projet politique d’Union eurasienne. Notons à ce propos que les sites militaires russes à l’étranger sont tous situés dans l’aire post-soviétique, à l’exception du port syrien de Tartous, seule empreinte militaire permanente dans l’« étranger lointain » (ladite base navale se résume à un bateau-atelier avec quelque 100-200 militaires et techniciens russes). Le budget militaire russe (près de 80 milliards d’euros en 2013) est conséquent et il dépasse largement celui de la France (la loi de programmation militaire prévoit 31,4 milliards d’euros par an pour la période 2014-2020). S’il faut être vigilant sur la reconstitution d’une certaine puissance militaire russe, il est nécessaire d’avoir en tête l’immensité du territoire et l’extrême longueur des frontières (plus de 20. 000 km de frontières terrestres, auxquels il faut ajouter les délimitations maritimes). Dans notre âge global et hyper-technologique, l’espace géographique peut aussi être un réducteur de puissance.

Alexandre Melnik : Dans la suite de mon raisonnement, qui vise à transcender le diktat de l’immédiat et à tracer une perspective à long terme, je pense que, pour imprimer de son empreinte le XXIe siècle, à la (de)mesure de son ambition quasi-messianique, la Russie doit affronter, en toute lucidité et sans plus tarder, sept défis clés.

1. Inverser la courbe démographique défavorable, car, malgré quelques signes d’amélioration observés ces deux dernières années dans les villes les plus dynamiques (Moscou, Saint-Pétersbourg, Samara, Ekaterinbourg), la Russie, bien que devenue un pays d’immigration (et non d’émigration), continue à perdre une partie importante de sa population, à l’échelle nationale. Alors qu’aucun pays ne peut réussir sans avoir une démographie saine et équilibrée.

2. Sortir de son auto-isolement international, dans lequel l’enfonce son actuel mode de gouvernance, en proie à une mentalité de la forteresse assiégée qui confine à la psychose obsidionale. La Russie n’avancera pas tant elle restera crispée dans sa diabolisation de l’Occident et sa virulente rhétorique anti-américaine, à la limite de la provocation ; les esprits du leadership politique russe sont pollués par la théorie d’un complot d’un autre âge.

3. Dissiper le brouillard de la confusion identitaire qui handicape la visibilité de son avenir, depuis des siècles : la Russie est-elle occidentale ou orientale ? Européenne ou Asiatique ? Eurasienne ? Ou… « unique », se complaisant dans sa prétendue « exception » ? Ces dichotomies, lancinantes, de la Russie, qualifiée de « torn country » (pays à identité déchirée) par Samuel Huntington dans son livre culte « Choc des civilisations », n’ont jamais été clairement tranchées au fil de son histoire plus que millénaire, ce qui inhibe constamment l’évolution russe.

4. Diversifier son économie « unijambiste », addicte aux exportations d’hydrocarbures. Comprendre que la seule matière première qui ne s’épuise pas en s’utilisant, c’est la matière grise, le cerveau humain. Privé d’innovation, le secteur industriel russe se délite.

Dans le même ordre d’idée, la Russie a besoin de s’ouvrir résolument au management moderne, qui repose sur le seul modèle qui fonctionne actuellement, à savoir le « bottom – up », en tirant la leçon du contre-exemple de Skolkovo, un « cluster » aux environs de Moscou, qui était censé devenir le pôle le plus avancé des technologies de pointe russes, à l’exemple de Silicon Valley en Californie, mais qui s’est vite mué, en réalité, en un repaire « top-down » d’apparatchiks « new look » et en un nouveau foyer de corruption. Est-il normal que les dépenses dans le R&D d’un pays qui dégage un taux de croissance avoisinant les 5% par an, depuis une dizaine d’année, plafonnent à hauteur de 1% de son PIB, soit un quinzième de celles des Etats-Unis et un quart de la Chine ? Faut-il alors s’étonner que la fuite de cerveaux frappe de plus en plus la Russie, vidée de ses meilleurs talents ?

5. A travers la réforme radicale du système éducatif, qui, à l’heure actuelle, continue, globalement, à fonctionner « à la soviétique », en faisant fi des changements intervenus dans le monde, donner l’envie de réussite (« race to the top ») aux jeunes générations russes, leur ouvrir un nouvel horizon global, grâce au mérite, à l’ambition individuelle, à un travail libre et créatif qui tire vers le haut. A titre d’exemple : la Chine consacre actuellement 13% de son budget à l’éducation, donc 21% aux études supérieures, contre 6% en Russie, un pays pourtant connu et reconnu pour sa tradition universitaire. De même, la Chine est déjà en deuxième position, après les Etats-Unis, dans le classement de Shanghai, qui note les meilleures universités du monde, et 42 institutions chinoises figurent dans le top 500, tandis que la Russie, elle, n’en compte que deux.

6. Mettre en valeur l’immense potentiel de la Sibérie et de l’Extrême-Orient, actuellement dormant dans cet immense pays qui s’étend sur 9 fuseaux horaires. Climat trop rude ? Conditions météorologiques insupportables ? Mais pourquoi la ville norvégienne Kirkenes, située sur la même latitude, à une centaine de kilomètres de Mourmansk, étale une prospérité et une qualité des infrastructures qui sont inimaginables pour son proche voisin russe ?

7. Moderniser son système politique non-adapté aux impératifs de la globalisation. Les trois piliers du système Poutine (Etat – patriotisme – orthodoxie), introduits dès 2011, se sont transformés, en 2014, au contraire de leur vocation initiale :

- l’Etat, proclamé « fort », est devenu obèse, inopérant, premier corrupteur et pillard des richesses naturelles (selon un récent classement de Transparency International, la Russie se trouve, en termes de corruption, en 143-ème place sur 178, en talonnant le Nigeria) ;

- le patriotisme, véhiculé, via des événements à grand renfort de propagande, comme les rituelles commémorations de la « Grande Victoire » soviétique en 1945, ou encore les fastes ostentatoires de Sotchi, vire souvent au panslavisme menaçant, à la haine d’un étranger qui n’est pas doté de faciès slave, ou, d’une façon plus générale, au rejet de l’Autre qui est construit différemment ;

- enfin, l’orthodoxie « vendue » comme la base de l’identité nationale, anéantit la capacité des Russes à agir et érige le fatalisme en vertu.

En conclusion, pour réussir pleinement dans le XXIe siècle, la Russie doit s’ouvrir au monde, en bâtissant l’avenir, au lieu de s’arc-bouter sur son modèle ultra-protectionniste, en ressassant la nostalgie de son passé. Les Jeux de Sotchi sont donc révélateurs de son potentiel, considérable et incontestable, plutôt que de son résultat, déjà obtenu, qui reste en deçà de ses capacités. Dans ce contexte, le président Poutine, prisonnier de sa vision atavique du monde, n’est plus une solution, mais un problème pour la Russie de demain, qui piétine dans l’antichambre de la globalisation, alors que la Chine rythme déjà son tempo.

Alexandre Del Valle : La Russie a sans aucun doute les moyens de son ambition. Mais sa plus grande vulnérabilité, selon moi, est le caractère non suffisamment libéral et non assez transparent de son économie et de ses structures économiques, pas assez ouvertes aux investissements extérieurs et trop étroitement contrôlées par des oligarchies opaques liées au pouvoir politique, puis , bien sûr, la trop grande dépendance de l’économie envers les énergies hydrocarbures. Le problème de pétro ou gazostratégie de Vladimir Poutine est de ne compter que sur l’énergie dont la Russie recèle, sans investir dans la diversification.

Du point de vue militaire, il est clair que la Russie demeure une grande puissance détenant le feu nucléaire, des milliers d’ogives nucléaires, de très bons systèmes anti-missiles et une industrie aéronautique assez performante, quoi que en retard vis-à-vis des Etats-Unis, mais les moyens de l’armée russe sont insignifiants par rapport à ceux des Etats-Unis avec qui Moscou feint de vouloir jouer à armes égales. Donc la Russie est un acteur géostratégique majeur, certes, doté d’un immense territoire, d’énergies, de savoir-faire technologique et de matières premières, mais elle n’a pas les moyens de briguer la première place, contrairement à son allié et ex-ennemi voisin chinois qui aura dans quelques décennies les moyens de concurrencer les Etats-Unis dans tous les domaines de la puissance.

A peine arrivés à Sotchi, les journalistes ont pu constater que seuls quatre des cinq anneaux olympiques se sont allumés lors de la cérémonie d’ouverture. Les médias s’en sont donné à cœur joie pour fustiger le manque d’hygiène et de confort des hôtels, l’opacité de l’eau du robinet… Ces critiques sont-elles seulement le reflet des préjugés des médias occidentaux, ou dénotent-elles un réel écart entre les prétentions de la Russie et ses moyens véritables ?

Jean-Sylvestre Mongrenier : La question géopolitique russe requiert une analyse de type géographique qui distingue méthodiquement les ordres de grandeur et les niveaux d’analyse. Cet Etat-continent, le plus vaste à la surface de la Terre, a des ambitions mondiales. Le discours de la multipolarité tient surtout de la « polémique » anti-occidentale et les dirigeants russes raisonnent dans les termes d’un monde tripartite (dans un monde à trois, il faut être l’un des deux). Ils voient la Russie comme une puissance tierce, entre les Etats-Unis et l’Occident d’une part, la République populaire de Chine d’autre part. Ils redoutent l’écartèlement du territoire russe et de l’aire post-soviétique entre les champs d’attraction de ces deux systèmes de puissance. La possession du deuxième arsenal nucléaire mondial et leur rôle diplomatique permettent aux dirigeants russes de poser la Russie tout à la fois en rivale et en alter ego des Etats-Unis. Pourtant, l’activisme diplomatique (surtout marqué par des pratiques d’obstruction) et la « surface » nucléaire ne doivent pas occulter le fait que la Russie n’est pas une puissance globale d’envergure planétaire, soit une puissance première. Le budget militaire chinois est une fois et demie supérieur à la Russie et cela aura des conséquences sur le plan opérationnel.

Au niveau de l’Ancien Monde, la Russie est présentée par un certain nombre d’idéologues russes comme le « Heartland », un concept emprunté à MacKinder et à aux théories géopolitiques du début du XXe siècle, pour combler le vide idéologique résultant de la déroute du marxisme-léninisme. Cette représentation géopolitique est faussement exposée comme une loi du monde, la géopolitique étant ramenée à une sorte de scientisme mêlé de géomancie (un cocktail très « dix-neuvième »). L’idée de manœuvre, selon certains discours tenus au sommet du pouvoir russe, est de jouer l’Asie contre l’Europe. Concrètement, il s’agirait de sanctionner l’UE et ses Etats membres – ceux-ci refusant le monopole de Gazprom et son instrumentalisation politique ainsi que la satellisation de l’Est européen et du Sud-Caucase -, en détournant les flux de pétrole et de gaz russes vers l’Asie-Pacifique. Pourtant, les volumes exportés ne sont en rien comparables. Aussi et surtout, le développement d’une politique active en Asie-Pacifique est limité par la faible présence humaine et économique russe à l’est de l’Oural. Enfin, les ambitions russes dans la région se heurtent à celles de la Chine, qui dispose d’une base de puissance autrement plus consistante, et aux positions solidement constituées des Etats-Unis dans le bassin du Pacifique.

In fine, l’aire privilégiée de la puissance russe demeure l’aire post-soviétique, considérée à Moscou comme son « étranger proche ». Le néo-eurasisme n’est jamais que la projection idéologique des ambitions russes dans la région et de sa volonté de regrouper autour de Moscou la plus grande partie de l’URSS. C’est la raison d’être de l’Union douanière Russie-Biélorussie-Kazakhstan, une structure censée être élargie et transmutée en une Union eurasienne. Le projet est parfois présenté comme le cadre institutionnel à visée économique et commerciale, mais il est éminemment géopolitique. Poutine veut passer à la postérité comme le restaurateur d’une sorte d’union post-soviétique, centrée sur la Russie. Pourtant, le cas de l’Ukraine montre que ce « réunionisme » ne sera pas aisé. L’aire post-soviétique est un pluriversum géopolitique et, si certains des hommes au pouvoir dans les Etats successeurs de l’URSS sont intéressés par des garanties de sécurité, ils n’entendent pas redevenir des commissaires politiques aux ordres du « centre » moscovite. Il sera difficile d’aller au-delà du « club » de régimes autoritaires-patrimoniaux. Jusque dans l’aire post-soviétique, la Russie souffre d’une certaine solitude stratégique, ce que la reconnaissance unilatérale de l’Abkhazie et de l’Ossétie du Sud, en août 2008, a bien montré, aucun Etat de la CEI (Communauté des Etats indépendants) ou de l’OCS (Organisation de coopération de Shanghaï) ne la suivant sur ce chemin. Au vrai, les dirigeants russes en sont conscients et ils en tirent la conclusion suivante : puisqu’ils ne nous aimeront jamais, il faut leur faire peur.

Alexandre Del Valle : Je pense que globalement, on n’observe pas plus de dysfonctionnements dans l’organisation logistique des jeux en Russie qu’ailleurs, car nombre de pays ont eu bien plus de difficultés que la Russie dans le passé, mais ce qui extraordinaire dans la presse occidentale et dans la façon dont les intellectuels, les politiques et les journalistes des pays atlantiques perçoivent et décrivent la Russie de Poutine, est toujours l’absence totale de nuance, le parti-pris, l’a priori systématiquement sceptique ou moqueur, la critique exacerbée. En matière de moyens, il est difficile de dire que la Russie n’a pas eu les moyens de son ambition puisque ces jeux sont les plus chers de l’histoire. Aussi la Russie est-elle dans une situation économique à bien des égards plus favorable que nombre de pays occidentaux, notamment européens, non seulement appauvris par la dette et le chômage mais même à certains égards en voie de tiersmondisation…

Alexandre Melnik : Je comprends qu’en notre époque, noyée dans l’océan des informations instantanées, les médias sont enclins à un tropisme compulsif qui les amène à « zoomer » sur les détails, faciles à visualiser immédiatement, qui peuvent faire le buzz sur les réseaux sociaux. Ce ne sont pas des « préjugés des médias occidentaux » que vous évoquez, mais un nouveau logiciel de fonctionnement de l’ensemble des producteurs et diffuseurs de nouvelles et de commentaires, à l’échelle globale. Dans ce contexte où les flux d’informations s’accélèrent et se télescopent, un anneau qui ne s’allume pas ou l’eau jaunâtre qui coule dans le robinet d’une chambre d’hôtel éclipsent, logiquement, toute réflexion qui exige un recul conceptuel. Or celui-ci est indispensable pour mieux comprendre l’ensemble de la situation ! Car pour s’en forger une idée, il est important de distinguer l’accessoire, qui saute souvent aux yeux, de l’essentiel, plus difficile à décrypter. En l’occurrence, il faut rappeler que l’organisation d’aucun événement d’une ampleur comparable aux Jeux Olympiques, n’est jamais exempte de couacs. La perfection zéro, à ce niveau, n’existe pas. Tous les JO précédents le prouvent. En revanche, ce qui compte, en dernier ressort, c’est le ratio des points forts et faibles, qui doit nous servir de critère final. D’où deux conclusions concernant les jeux de Sotchi.

Primo, le début de ses compétitions démontre un haut niveau des infrastructures sportives, construites en un laps d’un temps historiquement court, avec un évident effort de modernité, au diapason des attentes des athlètes. Sans oublier que la cérémonie d’ouverture, calibrée au millimètre, a réussi à sublimer le temps, l’espace et les aléas idéologiques trop prononcés, en s’inscrivant dans l’esprit de la Russie éternelle, dotée d’une âme, particulièrement colorée et exubérante.

Secundo, il serait erroné, à partir d’une manifestation sportive, d’extrapoler que la Russie d’aujourd’hui possède tous les moyens technologiques de ses ambitions – gigantesques et démesurées, à mon avis – dans la course à la performance globalisée, engagée dans le monde moderne. Ainsi, je note que la quasi-totalité des installations sportives à Sotchi a été réalisée sur la base des technologies occidentales, avec l’implication décisive des architectes et designers étrangers. Ce qui place la Russie devant un défi crucial, somme toute, similaire à celui, auquel sont actuellement confrontés les autres nouveaux challengers de la globalisation (Chine, Brésil, Inde, Turquie, Corée du Sud, etc.), à savoir – comment passer du stade d’imitation des recettes occidentales à celui de réelle innovation, gisement d’une valeur ajoutée radicalement nouvelle. Cette disruptive innovation, la seule qui vaille, est-elle possible dans un pays autoritaire, comme la Russie, qui réduit les libertés publiques et bride l’individu dans son élan créateur ? La réponse à cette question reste ouverte.


Obama: Pire président du siècle ? (Worst president in a hundred years ? – even Carter and Nixon did better !)

29 novembre, 2013
Photo : OBAMA: WORST IN A HUNDRED YEARS ? (even Carter and Nixon did better !)Rankings released by YouGov/Economist show that Ronald Reagan is viewed as the greatest president of the last 100 years, while Obama is viewed as the "biggest failure."The poll asked respondents "to rate each president [since Theodore Roosevelt] in six categories: great, near great, average, below average, failure, and don't know."Results showed that Reagan bested Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and John F. Kennedy (JFK) in a tight race for the top spot. 32 percent of the respondents categorized Reagan as "great," while 31 percent labeled FDR "great" and 30 percent chose JFK.When it came to ranking presidents viewed to be a "failure," Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon fared better than Obama. Of those polled, 22 percent of respondents rated Carter a "failure," while 30 percent gave that same ranking to Nixon. But Obama took first place at the bottom of the list, with 37 percent of respondents choosing him as the biggest "failure" of all. http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/11/26/Presidential-Poll-Reagan-The-Best-Obama-The-Worst-In-Last-100-Yearshttp://today.yougov.com/news/2013/11/22/poll-results-presidents/I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.MLKIf Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.Geraldine Ferraro http://jcdurbant.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/presidence-obama-le-droit-detre-aussi-nuls-que-certains-blancs-he-had-a-dream-we-got-a-nightmare/http://jcdurbant.wordpress.com/2008/11/04/presidentielle-americaine-pas-la-couleur-de-leur-peau-mais-la-nature-de-leur-caractere-judged-not-by-the-color-of-their-skin-but-by-the-content-of-their-character/http://www.la-croix.com/var/bayard/storage/images/lacroix/actualite/france/la-france-va-t-elle-si-mal-2013-11-18-1062460/francois_hollande_record_d_impopularite_23823_hd/36462839-1-fre-FR/francois_hollande_record_d_impopularite_23823_hd_lacroix_large.jpghttp://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/510E0uz5dRL.jpgCe qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. Mais les tours détruites occupaient autant d’étrangers que d’Américains. Et par leur efficacité, par la sophistication des moyens employés, par la connaissance qu’ils avaient des Etats-Unis, par leurs conditions d’entraînement, les auteurs des attentats n’étaient-ils pas un peu américains ? On est en plein mimétisme. René Girard
Le problème n’est pas la sécurité d’Israël, la souveraineté du Liban ou les ingérences de la Syrie ou du Hezbollah : Le problème est centré sur l’effort de l’Iran à obtenir le Droit d’Abolir l’Exclusivité de la Dissuasion. La prolifération sauvage, le concept de «tous nucléaires» sera la fin de la Guerre Froide et le retour à la période précédant la Dissuasion. Les mollahs et leurs alliés, le Venezuela, l’Algérie, la Syrie, la Corée du Nord et la Russie…, se militarisent à une très grande échelle sachant qu’ils vont bientôt neutraliser le parapluie protecteur de la dissuasion et alors ils pourront faire parler la poudre. Chacun visera à dominer sa région et sans que les affrontements se déroulent en Europe, l’Europe sera dépouillée de ses intérêts en Afrique ou en Amérique du Sud et sans combattre, elle devra déposer les armes. Ce qui est incroyable c’est la myopie de la diplomatie française et de ses experts. (…) Aucun d’entre eux ne se doute que la république islamique a des alliés qui ont un objectif commun: mettre un terme à une discrimination qui dure depuis 50 ans, la dissuasion nucléaire ! Cette discrimination assure à la France une position que beaucoup d’états lui envient. Ils attendent avec impatience de pouvoir se mesurer avec cette ancienne puissance coloniale que beaucoup jugent arrogante, suffisante et gourmande. Iran-Resist
Le gouvernement est autorisé de manière unilatérale à empêcher tout élément, qu’il soit spirituel ou matériel, qui constituerait une menace à ses intérêts (…) pour l’islam, les exigences du gouvernement remplacent tous les autres aspects, y compris même la prière, le jeûne et le pèlerinage à la Mecque. Khomeini (1988)
La République islamique sera fondée sur la liberté d’expression et luttera contre toute forme de censure. Khomeyni (Entretien avec Reuters, le 26 octobre 1978.)
Tout ce que vous avez entendu concernant la condition féminine dans la République islamique n’est qu’une propagande hostile. (Dans le futur gouvernement), les femmes seront complètement libres, dans leur éducation et dans tout ce qu’elles feront, tout comme les hommes. Khomeyni (Entretien accordé à un groupe de reporters allemands à Paris, le 12 novembre 1978.)
En 1978, Foucault trouva de telles forces transgressives dans le personnage révolutionnaire de l’ayatollah Khomeiny et des millions de gens qui risquaient la mort en le suivant dans sa Révolution. Il savait que des expériences aussi «limites» pouvaient conduire à de nouvelles formes de créativité et il lui donna son soutien avec ardeur. Janet Afary et Kevin B. Anderson
La révolution iranienne fut en quelque sorte la version islamique et tiers-mondiste de la contre-culture occidentale. Il serait intéressant de mettre en exergue les analogies et les ressemblances que l’on retrouve dans le discours anti-consommateur, anti-technologique et anti-moderne des dirigeants islamiques de celui que l’on découvre chez les protagonistes les plus exaltés de la contre-culture occidentale. Daryiush Shayegan (Les Illusions de l’identité, 1992)
Je rêve que mes quatre petits enfants vivront un jour dans un pays où on ne les jugera pas à la couleur de leur peau mais à la nature de leur caractère. Martin Luther King
Si Obama était blanc, il ne serait pas dans cette position. Et s’il était une femme, il ne serait pas dans cette position. Il a beaucoup de chance d’être ce qu’il est. Et le pays est pris par le concept. Geraldine Ferraro
Ce qui rendait Obama unique, c’est qu’il était le politicien charismatique par excellence – le plus total inconnu à jamais accéder à la présidence aux Etats-Unis. Personne ne savait qui il était, il sortait de nulle part, il avait cette figure incroyable qui l’a catapulté au-dessus de la mêlée, il a annihilé Hillary, pris le contrôle du parti Démocrate et est devenu président. C’est vraiment sans précédent : un jeune inconnu sans histoire, dossiers, associés bien connus, auto-créé. Il y avait une bonne volonté énorme, même moi j’étais aux anges le jour de l’élection, quoique j’aie voté contre lui et me sois opposé à son élection. C’était rédempteur pour un pays qui a commencé dans le péché de l’esclavage de voir le jour, je ne croyais pas personnellement le voir jamais de mon vivant, quand un président noir serait élu. Certes, il n’était pas mon candidat. J’aurais préféré que le premier président noir soit quelqu’un d’idéologiquement plus à mon goût, comme par exemple Colin Powell (que j’ai encouragé à se présenter en 2000) ou Condoleezza Rice. Mais j’étais vraiment fier d’être Américain à la prestation de serment. Je reste fier de ce succès historique. (…) il s’avère qu’il est de gauche, non du centre-droit à la manière de Bill Clinton. L’analogie que je donne est qu’en Amérique nous jouons le jeu entre les lignes des 40 yards, en Europe vous jouez tout le terrain d’une ligne de but à l’autre. Vous avez les partis communistes, vous avez les partis fascistes, nous, on n’a pas ça, on a des partis très centristes. Alors qu’ Obama veut nous pousser aux 30 yards, ce qui pour l’Amérique est vraiment loin. Juste après son élection, il s’est adressé au Congrès et a promis en gros de refaire les piliers de la société américaine — éducation, énergie et soins de santé. Tout ceci déplacerait l’Amérique vers un Etat de type social-démocrate européen, ce qui est en dehors de la norme pour l’Amérique. (…) Obama a mal interprété son mandat. Il a été élu six semaines après un effondrement financier comme il n’y en avait jamais eu en 60 ans ; après huit ans d’une présidence qui avait fatigué le pays; au milieu de deux guerres qui ont fait que le pays s’est opposé au gouvernement républicain qui nous avait lancé dans ces guerres; et contre un adversaire complètement inepte, John McCain. Et pourtant, Obama n’a gagné que par 7 points. Mais il a cru que c’était un grand mandat général et qu’il pourrait mettre en application son ordre du jour social-démocrate. (…) sa vision du monde me semble si naïve que je ne suis même pas sûr qu’il est capable de développer une doctrine. Il a la vision d’un monde régulé par des normes internationales auto-suffisantes, où la paix est gardée par un certain genre de consensus international vague, quelque chose appelé la communauté internationale, qui pour moi est une fiction, via des agences internationales évidemment insatisfaisantes et sans valeur. Je n’éleverais pas ce genre de pensée au niveau d’ une doctrine parce que j’ai trop de respect pour le mot de doctrine. (…) Peut-être que quand il aboutira à rien sur l’Iran, rien sur la Corée du Nord, quand il n’obtiendra rien des Russes en échange de ce qu’il a fait aux Polonais et aux Tchèques, rien dans les négociations de paix au Moyen-Orient – peut-être qu’à ce moment-là, il commencera à se demander si le monde fonctionne vraiment selon des normes internationales, le consensus et la douceur et la lumière ou s’il repose sur la base de la puissance américaine et occidentale qui, au bout du compte, garantit la paix. (…) Henry Kissinger a dit une fois que la paix peut être réalisée seulement de deux manières : l’hégémonie ou l’équilibre des forces. Ca, c’est du vrai réalisme. Ce que l’administration Obama prétend être du réalisme est du non-sens naïf. Charles Krauthammer (oct. 2009)
Selon un sondage publié par YouGov/économiste, Ronald Reagan est perçu comme le plus grand président des 100 dernières années, même si Obama est considéré comme le « plus grand échec ». Le sondage demandait aux répondants « de coter chaque Président [depuis Theodore Roosevelt] dans six catégories : grand, près de grand, moyen, inférieur à la moyenne, échec et ne sais pas. » Les résultats ont montré que Reagan a battu Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) et John F. Kennedy (JFK) dans une course serrée pour la première place. 32 % des répondants catégorisé Reagan comme « grand », tandis que 31 pour cent étiqueté FDR « grand » et 30 % ont choisi JFK. Quant aux classement des présidents perçus comme des « échecs », Jimmy Carter et Richard Nixon ont fait mieux qu’ Obama. Pour 22% des répondants,  Carter était un « échec », tandis que 30% attribuait le même qualificatif à Nixon. Mais c’est Obama qui a pris la première place au bas de la liste, avec 37 % des personnes interrogées le choisissant comme le plus grand « échec » de tous. Charles Breitbart
Jamais un président de la République n’avait suscité autant de mécontentements. Avec 20 % de satisfaits et 79 % de mécontents dans le dernier baromètre Ifop-JDD, François Hollande bat le record d’impopularité d’un chef de l’État détenu jusque-là par François Mitterrand. La Croix
The current troubles of the Obama presidency can be read back into its beginnings. Rule by personal charisma has met its proper fate. The spell has been broken, and the magician stands exposed. We need no pollsters to tell us of the loss of faith in Mr. Obama’s policies—and, more significantly, in the man himself. Charisma is like that. Crowds come together and they project their needs onto an imagined redeemer. The redeemer leaves the crowd to its imagination: For as long as the charismatic moment lasts — a year, an era — the redeemer is above and beyond judgment. He glides through crises, he knits together groups of varied, often clashing, interests. Always there is that magical moment, and its beauty, as a reference point. Mr. Obama gave voice to this sentiment in a speech on Nov. 6 in Dallas: « Sometimes I worry because everybody had such a fun experience in ’08, at least that’s how it seemed in retrospect. And, ‘yes we can,’ and the slogans and the posters, et cetera, sometimes I worry that people forget change in this country has always been hard. » It’s a pity we can’t stay in that moment, says the redeemer: The fault lies in the country itself — everywhere, that is, except in the magician’s performance. (…) Five years on, we can still recall how the Obama coalition was formed. There were the African-Americans justifiably proud of one of their own. There were upper-class white professionals who were drawn to the candidate’s « cool. » There were Latinos swayed by the promise of immigration reform. The white working class in the Rust Belt was the last bloc to embrace Mr. Obama—he wasn’t one of them, but they put their reservations aside during an economic storm and voted for the redistributive state and its protections. There were no economic or cultural bonds among this coalition. There was the new leader, all things to all people. A nemesis awaited the promise of this new presidency: Mr. Obama would turn out to be among the most polarizing of American leaders. No, it wasn’t his race, as Harry Reid would contend, that stirred up the opposition to him. It was his exalted views of himself, and his mission. The sharp lines were sharp between those who raised his banners and those who objected to his policies. (…) A leader who set out to remake the health-care system in the country, a sixth of the national economy, on a razor-thin majority with no support whatsoever from the opposition party, misunderstood the nature of democratic politics. An election victory is the beginning of things, not the culmination. With Air Force One and the other prerogatives of office come the need for compromise, and for the disputations of democracy. A president who sought consensus would have never left his agenda on Capitol Hill in the hands of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Mr. Obama has shown scant regard for precedent in American history. To him, and to the coterie around him, his presidency was a radical discontinuity in American politics. There is no evidence in the record that Mr. Obama read, with discernment and appreciation, of the ordeal and struggles of his predecessors. At best there was a willful reading of that history. Early on, he was Abraham Lincoln resurrected (the new president, who hailed from Illinois, took the oath of office on the Lincoln Bible). He had been sworn in during an economic crisis, and thus he was FDR restored to the White House. He was stylish with two young children, so the Kennedy precedent was on offer. In the oddest of twists, Mr. Obama claimed that his foreign policy was in the mold of Dwight Eisenhower’s. But Eisenhower knew war and peace, and the foreign world held him in high regard. During his first campaign, Mr. Obama had paid tribute to Ronald Reagan as a « transformational » president and hinted that he aspired to a presidency of that kind. But the Reagan presidency was about America, and never about Ronald Reagan. Reagan was never a scold or a narcissist. He stood in awe of America, and of its capacity for renewal. There was forgiveness in Reagan, right alongside the belief in the things that mattered about America—free people charting their own path. If Barack Obama seems like a man alone, with nervous Democrats up for re-election next year running for cover, and away from him, this was the world he made. No advisers of stature can question his policies; the price of access in the Obama court is quiescence before the leader’s will. The imperial presidency is in full bloom. There are no stars in the Obama cabinet today, men and women of independent stature and outlook. It was after a walk on the White House grounds with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, that Mr. Obama called off the attacks on the Syrian regime that he had threatened. If he had taken that walk with Henry Kissinger or George Shultz, one of those skilled statesmen might have explained to him the consequences of so abject a retreat. But Mr. Obama needs no sage advice, he rules through political handlers. Valerie Jarrett, the president’s most trusted, probably most powerful, aide, once said in admiration that Mr. Obama has been bored his whole life. The implication was that he is above things, a man alone, and anointed. Perhaps this moment—a presidency coming apart, the incompetent social engineering of an entire health-care system—will now claim Mr. Obama’s attention. Fouad Ajami
Les lamentations sur ce qui est advenu de la politique étrangère américaine au Moyen-Orient passent à côté de l’essentiel.  Le plus remarquable concernant la diplomatie du président Obama dans la région, c’est qu’elle est revenue au point de départ – jusqu’au début de sa présidence. La promesse d’ « ouverture »  vers l’Iran, l’indulgence envers la tyrannie de Bashar Assad en Syrie, l’abandon des gains américains en Irak et le malaise systématique à l’égard d’Israël — tels étaient les traits distinctifs de l’approche du nouveau président en politique étrangère. A présent, nous ne faisons qu’assister aux conséquences alarmantes d’une perspective aussi malavisée que naïve. Fouad Ajami

Pire président du siècle ?

Alors qu’après un an à peine de sa réélection et au lendemain d’un prétendu accord, digne de Münich, avec les autocrates iraniens …

Un sondage place le Kennedy noir (qui a certes encore 100 ans pour se racheter – Reagan lui-même actuellement au pinacle de la popularité était loin de l’être à la fin de son deuxième mandat) …

Au rang de plus mauvais président américain du siècle (même Clinton et Nixon font mieux !) ..

Pendant qu’en comparaison, au 50e anniversaire de son assassinat, le vrai président Kennedy apparait plus que jamais pour le centriste qu’il était réellement …

Et qu’en France notre Obama blanc à nous en rajoute chaque jour un peu plus (jusqu’à, crise en début de mandat oblige, être réélu en 2017?) dans son incroyable gémellité

Comment ne pas être frappé avec le politologue libano-américain Fouad Ajami …

Tant de la remarquable cohérence de l’approche même qui avait dès le départ fait son charme et son élection …

Que, face à la redoutable sophistication de l’islamisme actuel, l’incroyable naïveté de ladite approche ?

When the Obama Magic Died
There were no economic or cultural bonds among his coalition. He was all things to all people. Charisma ruled.
Fouad Ajami
The WSJ
Nov. 14, 2013

The current troubles of the Obama presidency can be read back into its beginnings. Rule by personal charisma has met its proper fate. The spell has been broken, and the magician stands exposed. We need no pollsters to tell us of the loss of faith in Mr. Obama’s policies—and, more significantly, in the man himself. Charisma is like that. Crowds come together and they project their needs onto an imagined redeemer. The redeemer leaves the crowd to its imagination: For as long as the charismatic moment lasts—a year, an era—the redeemer is above and beyond judgment. He glides through crises, he knits together groups of varied, often clashing, interests. Always there is that magical moment, and its beauty, as a reference point.

Mr. Obama gave voice to this sentiment in a speech on Nov. 6 in Dallas: « Sometimes I worry because everybody had such a fun experience in ’08, at least that’s how it seemed in retrospect. And, ‘yes we can,’ and the slogans and the posters, et cetera, sometimes I worry that people forget change in this country has always been hard. » It’s a pity we can’t stay in that moment, says the redeemer: The fault lies in the country itself—everywhere, that is, except in the magician’s performance.

Forgive the personal reference, but from the very beginning of Mr. Obama’s astonishing rise, I felt that I was witnessing something old and familiar. My advantage owed nothing to any mastery of American political history. I was guided by my immersion in the political history of the Arab world and of a life studying Third World societies.

In 2008, seeing the Obama crowds in Portland, Denver and St. Louis spurred memories of the spectacles that had attended the rise and fall of Arab political pretenders. I had lived through the era of the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser. He had emerged from a military cabal to become a demigod, immune to judgment. His followers clung to him even as he led the Arabs to a catastrophic military defeat in the Six Day War of 1967. He issued a kind of apology for his performance. But his reign was never about policies and performance. It was about political magic.

In trying to grapple with, and write about, the Obama phenomenon, I found guidance in a book of breathtaking erudition, « Crowds and Power » (1962) by the Nobel laureate Elias Canetti. Born in Bulgaria in 1905 and educated in Vienna and Britain, Canetti was unmatched in his understanding of the passions, and the delusions, of crowds. The crowd is a « mysterious and universal phenomenon, » he writes. It forms where there was nothing before. There comes a moment when « all who belong to the crowd get rid of their difference and feel equal. » Density gives the illusion of equality, a blessed moment when « no one is greater or better than another. » But the crowd also has a presentiment of its own disintegration, a time when those who belong to the crowd « creep back under their private burdens. »

Five years on, we can still recall how the Obama coalition was formed. There were the African-Americans justifiably proud of one of their own. There were upper-class white professionals who were drawn to the candidate’s « cool. » There were Latinos swayed by the promise of immigration reform. The white working class in the Rust Belt was the last bloc to embrace Mr. Obama—he wasn’t one of them, but they put their reservations aside during an economic storm and voted for the redistributive state and its protections. There were no economic or cultural bonds among this coalition. There was the new leader, all things to all people.

A nemesis awaited the promise of this new presidency: Mr. Obama would turn out to be among the most polarizing of American leaders. No, it wasn’t his race, as Harry Reid would contend, that stirred up the opposition to him. It was his exalted views of himself, and his mission. The sharp lines were sharp between those who raised his banners and those who objected to his policies.

America holds presidential elections, we know. But Mr. Obama took his victory as a plebiscite on his reading of the American social contract. A president who constantly reminded his critics that he had won at the ballot box was bound to deepen the opposition of his critics.

A leader who set out to remake the health-care system in the country, a sixth of the national economy, on a razor-thin majority with no support whatsoever from the opposition party, misunderstood the nature of democratic politics. An election victory is the beginning of things, not the culmination. With Air Force One and the other prerogatives of office come the need for compromise, and for the disputations of democracy. A president who sought consensus would have never left his agenda on Capitol Hill in the hands of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Mr. Obama has shown scant regard for precedent in American history. To him, and to the coterie around him, his presidency was a radical discontinuity in American politics. There is no evidence in the record that Mr. Obama read, with discernment and appreciation, of the ordeal and struggles of his predecessors. At best there was a willful reading of that history. Early on, he was Abraham Lincoln resurrected (the new president, who hailed from Illinois, took the oath of office on the Lincoln Bible). He had been sworn in during an economic crisis, and thus he was FDR restored to the White House. He was stylish with two young children, so the Kennedy precedent was on offer.

In the oddest of twists, Mr. Obama claimed that his foreign policy was in the mold of Dwight Eisenhower’s . But Eisenhower knew war and peace, and the foreign world held him in high regard.

During his first campaign, Mr. Obama had paid tribute to Ronald Reagan as a « transformational » president and hinted that he aspired to a presidency of that kind. But the Reagan presidency was about America, and never about Ronald Reagan. Reagan was never a scold or a narcissist. He stood in awe of America, and of its capacity for renewal. There was forgiveness in Reagan, right alongside the belief in the things that mattered about America—free people charting their own path.

If Barack Obama seems like a man alone, with nervous Democrats up for re-election next year running for cover, and away from him, this was the world he made. No advisers of stature can question his policies; the price of access in the Obama court is quiescence before the leader’s will. The imperial presidency is in full bloom.

There are no stars in the Obama cabinet today, men and women of independent stature and outlook. It was after a walk on the White House grounds with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, that Mr. Obama called off the attacks on the Syrian regime that he had threatened. If he had taken that walk with Henry Kissinger or George Shultz, one of those skilled statesmen might have explained to him the consequences of so abject a retreat. But Mr. Obama needs no sage advice, he rules through political handlers.

Valerie Jarrett, the president’s most trusted, probably most powerful, aide, once said in admiration that Mr. Obama has been bored his whole life. The implication was that he is above things, a man alone, and anointed. Perhaps this moment—a presidency coming apart, the incompetent social engineering of an entire health-care system—will now claim Mr. Obama’s attention.

— Mr. Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, is the author, most recently, of « The Syrian Rebellion » (Hoover Press, 2012).

Voir aussi:

A Lawyer Lost in a Region of Thugs

Obama’s foreign policy has been consistent from its first day: Let us reason together.

Fouad Ajami

The Wall Street Journal

Oct. 23, 2013

Lamentations about what has become of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East miss the point. The remarkable thing about President Obama’s diplomacy in the region is that it has come full circle—to the very beginning of his presidency. The promised « opening » to Iran, the pass given to Bashar Assad’s tyranny in Syria, the abdication of the American gains in Iraq and a reflexive unease with Israel—these were hallmarks of the new president’s approach to foreign policy.

Now we are simply witnessing the alarming consequences of such a misguided, naïve outlook.

Consider this bit of euphoria from a senior Obama administration official after the Oct. 16-17 negotiations in Geneva with the Iranians over their nuclear program: « I’ve been doing this now for about two years, and I have never had such intense, detailed, straightforward, candid conversations with the Iranian delegation before. »

In Iran, especially, Mr. Obama believed that he would work his unique diplomatic magic. If Tehran was hostile to U.S. interests, if Iran had done its best to frustrate the war in Iraq, to proclaim a fierce ideological war against Israel’s place in the region and its very legitimacy as a state, the fault lay, Mr. Obama seemed to believe, with the policies of his predecessors.

When antiregime protests roiled Iran in Mr. Obama’s first summer as president, he stood locked in the vacuum of his own ideas. He remained aloof as the Green Movement defied prohibitive odds to challenge the theocracy. The protesters had no friend in Mr. Obama. He was dismissive, vainly hoping that the cruel rulers would accept the olive branch he had extended to them.

No one asked the fledgling American president to dispatch U.S. forces into the streets of Tehran, but the indifference he displayed to the cause of Iranian freedom was a strategic and moral failure. Iran’s theocrats gave nothing in return for that favor. They pushed on with their nuclear program, they kept up the proxy war against U.S. forces in Iraq, they pushed deeper into Arab affairs, positioning themselves, through their proxies, as a power of the Mediterranean. This should have been Mr. Obama’s Persian tutorial. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had no interest in a thaw with the Great Satan.

Yet last month at the United Nations Mr. Obama hailed Khamenei for issuing a « fatwa » against his country’s development of nuclear weapons. Even though there is no evidence that any such fatwa exists, the notion that the Iranian regime is governed by religious edict is naïve in the extreme. Muslims know—unlike the president, apparently—that fatwas can be issued and abandoned at the whim of those who pronounce them. In any event, Khamenei is not a religious scholar sitting atop Iran’s theocracy. He is an apparatchik. As the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself put it in 1988, when his regime was reeling from a drawn-out war with Iraq: « Our government has priority over all other Islamic tenets, even over prayer, fasting and the pilgrimage to Mecca. »

We must not underestimate the tenacity of this regime and its will to rule. We should see through the rosy Twitter messages of President Hasan Rouhani, and the PowerPoint presentations of his foreign minister, Mohammed Jawad Zarif. These men carry out the writ of the supreme leader and can only go as far as the limit drawn by the Revolutionary Guard.

In a lawyerly way, the Obama administration has isolated the nuclear issue from the broader context of Iran’s behavior in the region. A new dawn in the history of the theocracy has been proclaimed, but we will ultimately discover that Iran’s rulers are hellbent on pursuing a nuclear-weapons program while trying to rid themselves of economic sanctions.

True, the sanctions have had their own power, but they haven’t stopped Iran from aiding the murderous Assad regime in Syria, or subsidizing Hezbollah in Beirut. And they will not dissuade this regime from its pursuit of nuclear weapons. In dictatorial regimes, the pain of sanctions is passed onto the underclass and the vulnerable.

Just as he has with Iran, President Obama now takes a lawyerly approach to Syria, isolating Assad’s use of chemical weapons from his slaughter of his own people by more conventional means. The president’s fecklessness regarding Syria—the weakness displayed when he disregarded his own « red line » on Assad’s use of chemical weapons—was a gift to the Iranian regime. The mullahs now know that their nuclear program, a quarter-century in the making, will not have to be surrendered in any set of negotiations. No American demand will be backed by force or even by force of will.

The gullibility of Mr. Obama’s pursuit of an opening with Iran has unsettled America’s allies in the region. In Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates there is a powerful feeling of abandonment. In Israel, there is the bitter realization that America’s strongest ally in the region is now made to look like the final holdout against a blissful era of compromise that will calm a turbulent region. A sound U.S. diplomatic course with Iran would never have run so far ahead of Israel’s interests and of the region’s moderate anti- Iranian Arab coalition.

In Washington, the threats represented by Tehran’s theocrats are forgotten in this time of undue optimism, as is the Assad regime’s continued barbarity. With the Russian-brokered « deal » on Syria’s chemical weapons, Mr. Obama has merely draped American abdication in the garb of reason and prudence.

Those who run the Islamic Republic of Iran and its nuclear program, like most others in the region, have taken the full measure of this American president. They sense his desperate need for a victory—or anything that can be passed off as one.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and the author most recently of « The Syrian Rebellion » (Hoover Press, 2012).

Voir aussi:

Presidential Poll: Reagan Best, Obama Worst in Last 100 Years

AWR Hawkins

27 Nov 2013

Rankings released by YouGov/Economist show that Ronald Reagan is viewed as the greatest president of the last 100 years, while Obama is viewed as the « biggest failure. »

The poll asked respondents « to rate each president [since Theodore Roosevelt] in six categories: great, near great, average, below average, failure, and don’t know. »

Results showed that Reagan bested Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and John F. Kennedy (JFK) in a tight race for the top spot. 32 percent of the respondents categorized Reagan as « great, » while 31 percent labeled FDR « great » and 30 percent chose JFK.

When it came to ranking presidents viewed to be a « failure, » Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon fared better than Obama.

Of those polled, 22 percent of respondents rated Carter a « failure, » while 30 percent gave that same ranking to Nixon. But Obama took first place at the bottom of the list, with 37 percent of respondents choosing him as the biggest « failure » of all.

Rankings released by YouGov/Economist show that Ronald Reagan is viewed as the greatest president of the last 100 years, while Obama is viewed as the « biggest failure. »

The poll asked respondents « to rate each president [since Theodore Roosevelt] in six categories: great, near great, average, below average, failure, and don’t know. »

Results showed that Reagan bested Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and John F. Kennedy (JFK) in a tight race for the top spot. 32 percent of the respondents categorized Reagan as « great, » while 31 percent labeled FDR « great » and 30 percent chose JFK.

When it came to ranking presidents viewed to be a « failure, » Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon fared better than Obama.

Of those polled, 22 percent of respondents rated Carter a « failure, » while 30 percent gave that same ranking to Nixon. But Obama took first place at the bottom of the list, with 37 percent of respondents choosing him as the biggest « failure » of all.

Voir également:

JFK Museum Updates Exhibit Following Complaints by Conservative Author

Author: JFK was ‘tax-cutting, pro-growth politician’

October 18, 2013

The John F. Kennedy museum in Dallas told the Washington Free Beacon that it is planning to “completely update and revise” its permanent exhibit after a historian accused it of falsely depicting the 35th president as a big-government liberal.

Ira Stoll, author of JFK, Conservative, called on the Sixth Floor Museum last month to revise alleged “inaccuracies” in its exhibit regarding Kennedy’s views on social programs, the federal deficit, and tax policy.

The Sixth Floor Museum chronicles Kennedy’s legacy and his assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Nicola Longford, executive director of the Sixth Floor Museum, said the permanent exhibit is 25 years old and in need of updating. She said the institution is planning a major overhaul after the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination next month.

“While Mr. Stoll has taken issues with the content of a few exhibit text panels, and encouraged priority attention for substantial updating and revision, it bears stating that this exhibit text is almost 25 years old,” said Longford. “Clearly the world has changed dramatically during this quarter century and now half century since the assassination.”

She added that the museum’s “intent has always been to completely update and revise our core exhibit post fiftieth anniversary (November 2013) and it is at this time that we will carefully review and consider all comments and recommendations.”

Stoll wrote in a letter to Longford that he was “troubled by some passages of the permanent exhibit text about Kennedy and his administration that struck me as inaccurate or misleading.”

He disputed the exhibit’s claim that “massive new social programs were central to Kennedy’s New Frontier philosophy,” calling it “just not true.”

“Kennedy was against ‘massive new social programs,’” wrote Stoll. “Kennedy described his own Medicare plan, accurately, not as ‘massive’ but rather as ‘a very modest proposal.’ And, as [Arthur] Schlesinger [Jr.] noted, he chose not to fight for even that.”

Stoll also took issue with a passage that refers to Kennedy’s “philosophy of using induced deficits to encourage domestic fiscal growth became a mainstay of American government under later administrations, both Democratic and Republican.”

According to Stoll, “Kennedy’s recipe for growth was not a deficit; it was a tax cut that, both by changing incentives and by putting more money in the hands of the private sector, would yield growth that would ultimately narrow the deficit by increasing federal revenues.”

Additionally, the exhibit discusses the positions of one of Kennedy’s liberal economic advisors, Walter Heller, without mentioning the views of Kennedy’s “more conservative Treasury Secretary, Douglas Dillon,” wrote Stoll.

He said Kennedy’s own statements and actual policies hewed closer to the conservative view.

“As for the idea that Kennedy’s deficits were a ‘radical departure’ from [President Dwight] Eisenhower’s balanced budgets, that is not supported by the evidence,” wrote Stoll. “Kennedy’s annual deficits—$3.3 billion in 1961, $7.1 billion in 1962, and $4.8 billion in 1963—were modest by modern standards and as a percentage of GDP.”

When contacted by the Free Beacon on Friday, Stoll praised the museum’s response to his letter.

“I’m thrilled to learn that, after receiving my letter based on the research in my book, JFK, Conservative, calling inaccuracies to their attention, the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas has announced plans to revise its exhibit text panels,” he said. “I hope the new exhibit text portrays JFK as closer to the real JFK I describe in my book—a tax-cutting, pro-growth politician who favored welfare reform, free trade, domestic spending restraint, and a balanced budget over the course of the business cycle.”

Stoll’s book, JFK, Conservative, was released on Oct. 15. It argues that the 35th president, idolized by liberal Democrats, was actually a conservative on economic and national security issues.

Voir encore:

John Fitzgerald Bush

The New York Sun

January 20, 2005

As President Bush prepared for his second inaugural, we settled down with an illuminating new book called « Ask Not, » written by a historian, Thurston Clark, about the inaugural address of President Kennedy. That is the speech in which the 35th president declared the most fundamental belief of his tenure, one for which the 43rd president has been mocked for reiterating so often – that, as JFK put it, « the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. »

One of the points that Mr. Clark makes in the book, and that was reiterated in an op-ed article in Saturday’s number of the Times, is that part of the power of Kennedy’s speech came from its autobiographical nature. When he spoke of the torch being passed « to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, » he was speaking of his own life in a literal way.

That passage was followed by the new president’s most famous vow: « Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. » This is the phrasing that inspired our expedition in Vietnam and that has stuck in the minds of millions over the years. It is against that declaration that American politics seems to be at such an ironical pass.

For in the election just ended, it was the Republican who, while so different in style, carried the substance of these sentiments to the voters, while it was the Democrat, Senator Kerry, who, while affecting so many similarities of the Kennedy style, campaigned to repudiate these sentiments. It was President Bush who fought for and won the $87 billion in funding for our troops in Iraq that became the symbol of this issue, and it was Senator Kerry, another Massachusetts Democrat, who voted against it and, incidentally, who went on to argue for a more pragmatic, less idealistic foreign policy.

When did this happen? When was the moment at which the Democrats relinquished the mantle of leadership in the struggle for the success of liberty? When, and how? Some say it was relinquished at the Bay of Pigs or, later, during the Cuban missile crisis, when, it turns out, Kennedy signaled he would pull American missiles out of Turkey if the Russians retreated in Cuba. Others reckon Kennedy relinquished the mantle when he authorized the coup that led to the murder of President Diem in South Vietnam.

Others might say that the default came the year President Johnson ran against Senator Goldwater, when LBJ mocked the conservative with the famous advertisement showing a little girl plucking petals from a daisy until an atomic bomb went off. It ushered in an era when the Democrats sought to be perceived as less likely to risk all in the war with the Soviet Union. Still others might suggest the tipping point came when Johnson chose not to run, rather than to see out the fight in Vietnam.

Nixon failed to pick up the mantle. His presidency was marked by retreat in Vietnam and detente with the Soviet Union. He truckled to the Red Chinese. President Carter sounded some of the noblest themes ever uttered by a president, such as his Notre Dame speech, where he marked the point that the great democracies of the world were not free because they were rich but rich because they were free. He engaged, through proxies, the Soviets in Afghanistan. But he kissed Brezhnev and turned his human rights rhetoric against America and the flaws of our allies.

It fell onto Reagan’s shoulders to pick up the mantle of leadership in the global fight for freedom. He abandoned the idea of peaceful coexistence and initiated the rollback that brought the defeat of Soviet Russia, the unification of Germany, and the expansion of democracy in Central America and Africa. It was a vast and sophisticated leadership, involving a rebuilding of the defense budget, the backing of the twilight wars, a brilliant fight against the Sandinistas and other communistic regimes in Central America and the Caribbean, and the greatest presidential act of the 20th century, walking away from the brink of appeasement at Reykjavik.

President Bush turned out to be a transitional figure, and President Clinton lacked the biography that Professor Clark teaches was so important to Kennedy’s inaugural. He was a child of the peace movement, who, in the most desperate hours of the fight for freedom in Southeast Asia, failed to report. As president, he was prepared to use force, at least from the air, as he showed in the Balkans. But he was not a master of it, and he was by instinct a conciliator. He failed to enforce United Nations sanctions in Iraq. Toward the end of his presidency, he made a trip to Vietnam and, en route, told the Associated Press that he had a better grasp now than he once did of what Johnson faced.

It was not until war was brought to our shores on September 11 that America was confronted with a test that a president could not dodge, which is how George W. Bush came to prove the point JFK was making when he said, « In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. » The energy, the faith, the devotion which Americans bring to this endeavor would, Kennedy said, light our country and all who serve it and light the world. And he issued his exhortation to his fellow Americans: « Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. »

JFK Museum Updates Exhibit Following Complaints by Conservative Author

Author: JFK was ‘tax-cutting, pro-growth politician’

BY: Alana Goodman Follow @alanagoodman

October 18, 2013 5:10 pm

The John F. Kennedy museum in Dallas told the Washington Free Beacon that it is planning to “completely update and revise” its permanent exhibit after a historian accused it of falsely depicting the 35th president as a big-government liberal.

Ira Stoll, author of JFK, Conservative, called on the Sixth Floor Museum last month to revise alleged “inaccuracies” in its exhibit regarding Kennedy’s views on social programs, the federal deficit, and tax policy.

The Sixth Floor Museum chronicles Kennedy’s legacy and his assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Nicola Longford, executive director of the Sixth Floor Museum, said the permanent exhibit is 25 years old and in need of updating. She said the institution is planning a major overhaul after the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination next Tuesday.

“While Mr. Stoll has taken issues with the content of a few exhibit text panels, and encouraged priority attention for substantial updating and revision, it bears stating that this exhibit text is almost 25 years old,” said Longford. “Clearly the world has changed dramatically during this quarter century and now half century since the assassination.”

She added that the museum’s “intent has always been to completely update and revise our core exhibit post fiftieth anniversary (November 2013) and it is at this time that we will carefully review and consider all comments and recommendations.”

Stoll wrote in a letter to Longford that he was “troubled by some passages of the permanent exhibit text about Kennedy and his administration that struck me as inaccurate or misleading.”

He disputed the exhibit’s claim that “massive new social programs were central to Kennedy’s New Frontier philosophy,” calling it “just not true.”

“Kennedy was against ‘massive new social programs,’” wrote Stoll. “Kennedy described his own Medicare plan, accurately, not as ‘massive’ but rather as ‘a very modest proposal.’ And, as [Arthur] Schlesinger [Jr.] noted, he chose not to fight for even that.”

Stoll also took issue with a passage that refers to Kennedy’s “philosophy of using induced deficits to encourage domestic fiscal growth became a mainstay of American government under later administrations, both Democratic and Republican.”

According to Stoll, “Kennedy’s recipe for growth was not a deficit; it was a tax cut that, both by changing incentives and by putting more money in the hands of the private sector, would yield growth that would ultimately narrow the deficit by increasing federal revenues.”

Additionally, the exhibit discusses the positions of one of Kennedy’s liberal economic advisors, Walter Heller, without mentioning the views of Kennedy’s “more conservative Treasury Secretary, Douglas Dillon,” wrote Stoll.

He said Kennedy’s own statements and actual policies hewed closer to the conservative view.

“As for the idea that Kennedy’s deficits were a ‘radical departure’ from [President Dwight] Eisenhower’s balanced budgets, that is not supported by the evidence,” wrote Stoll. “Kennedy’s annual deficits—$3.3 billion in 1961, $7.1 billion in 1962, and $4.8 billion in 1963—were modest by modern standards and as a percentage of GDP.”

When contacted by the Free Beacon on Friday, Stoll praised the museum’s response to his letter.

“I’m thrilled to learn that, after receiving my letter based on the research in my book, JFK, Conservative, calling inaccuracies to their attention, the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas has announced plans to revise its exhibit text panels,” he said. “I hope the new exhibit text portrays JFK as closer to the real JFK I describe in my book—a tax-cutting, pro-growth politician who favored welfare reform, free trade, domestic spending restraint, and a balanced budget over the course of the business cycle.”

Stoll’s book, JFK, Conservative, was released on Oct. 15. It argues that the 35th president, idolized by liberal Democrats, was actually a conservative on economic and national security issues.

——

JFK Conservative

By Ira Stoll from the October 2013 issue

It’s time to re-evaluate the legacy of our 35th president.

“I’d be very happy to tell them I’m not a liberal at all.” — John F. Kennedy, 1953

THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF John Fitzgerald Kennedy after the July 4, 1946, speech at Boston’s Faneuil Hall caution of the hazards of drawing too many conclusions from a single talk. His mother, Rose Kennedy, in pearls and a floral print dress, clings to his left arm. His grandmother, Mary Fitzgerald, clings to his right arm. His speech is rolled up in his hand like a baton. His grandfather, John Francis “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, a former congressman and mayor of Boston who had been the principal speaker on the same platform exactly 50 years earlier, looks dapper in a bow tie. As for Kennedy himself, the broad white smile is unmistakable, but the skinny young man in a jacket and tie, surrounded by proud and doting elderly relatives, looks less like a fully formed professional politician than like a high school valedictorian on graduation day.

So if, to contemporary ears, the language—his references to “Christian morality” and the “right of the individual against the state,” or his attack on the “cynical philosophy of many of our intellectuals”—seems off-key for a president who has become an icon of liberalism, there is no shortage of possible explanations. Perhaps it was the immature speech of a twenty-something who changed his views as he got older. Perhaps the young politician was led astray by a speechwriter with strong views of his own. This, though, is unlikely. Kennedy’s White House spokesman, Pierre Salinger, recalled, “Actually, speeches were not written for the president but with him. He knew what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. The role of the speech writer was to organize JFK’s thoughts into a rough draft, on which he himself would put the final touches. His revisions would often change it dramatically.” Kennedy’s secretary in the Senate and in the White House, Evelyn Lincoln, remembered, “He usually dictated a rough draft of his speeches.” Though Salinger and Lincoln joined Kennedy’s staff some years after 1946, marks on drafts of his speeches from this earlier period show a Kennedy who was more than capable of editing either speechwriters’ or his own drafts.

Kennedy’s secretary from 1947 to 1952, Mary Davis, in an oral history interview that at times is quite negative about Kennedy (“a spoiled young man”), recalls:

When he wanted to write a speech he did it, most of it. I would say 99 percent of that was done by JFK himself. I can remember first time he ever called me in—I even forget what the speech was going to be on, but it was going to be a major speech, one of his first major speeches. And I thought, “Oh, oh, this young, green congressman. What’s he going to do?” No preparation. He called me in and he says, “I think we’d better get to work on the speech.” And I said “Okay, fine.” And I thought he was going to stumble around, and he’ll er, ah, um.

I was never so startled in my life. He sat back in his chair, and it just flowed right out.

Salinger, Lincoln, and other Kennedy aides from the presidential years may have had an interest in inflating the late president’s reputation so as to enhance, by association, their own. But here their testimony seems to match that of Davis, who quit working for Kennedy following a dispute over her salary.

Was Kennedy’s July 4, 1946, speech simply a case of political pandering? Probably not. Less than a month before, Kennedy had won the Democratic primary for Massachusetts’ 11th Congressional District. It was a reliably Democratic district, and if the candidate was trying to appeal to independent or Republican crossover voters, a speech on a holiday weekend, months before the November election, would have been an odd vehicle. Perhaps Kennedy’s words were just rhetoric from a hypocritical politician who, once in office, would, in his public actions and private behavior, disregard them. Maybe the stress on religion was convenient Cold War shorthand for anticommunism, a way of drawing a contrast between the United States and the atheistic Soviet Union, or a way for an ambitious Catholic to reassure and win the trust of Protestant voters.

Maybe, just maybe—and here is the most dramatic and intriguing possibility of them all—Kennedy actually, deeply believed what he said, and would go on to serve as a congressman and senator and president of the United States according to those principles. He would take a hard line against communism in China, the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Cuba, Vietnam, and even in America’s own labor unions, weathering protests and criticisms from academia, European intellectuals, and left-wing journalists. He would be supported personally in this struggle by his own strong religious faith, and he would often refer publicly to God and to America’s religious history in his most powerful and important speeches. On the home front, Kennedy cut taxes and restrained government spending in marked contrast with Lyndon Johnson’s subsequent War on Poverty.

Another aide to Kennedy, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., reports that one night Kennedy remarked to him, “Liberalism and conservatism are categories of the thirties, and they don’t apply any more.” But of course they did, and they still do. The liberalism and conservatism of our two chief political parties have shifted over time, and it is hard for us to remember liberal Republicans or truly conservative Democrats. Yet Kennedy’s actions—his tax cuts, his domestic spending restraint, his military buildup, his pro-growth economic policy, his emphasis on free trade and a strong dollar, and his foreign policy driven by the idea that America had a God-given mission to defend freedom—make him, by the standards of both his time and our own, a conservative.

WHAT I TAKE to be the truth about John Kennedy and his conservatism has, in the years since he died, been forgotten. This is partly because of the work of liberal historians and partly due to changes in America’s major political parties. Yet calling Kennedy a conservative was hardly controversial during his lifetime. “A Kennedy Runs for Congress: The Boston-bred scion of a former ambassador is a fighting-Irish conservative,”Look headlined an article in June 1946. “When young, wealthy and conservative John Fitzgerald Kennedy announced for Congress, many people wondered why,” the story began. “Hardly a liberal even by his own standards, Kennedy is mainly concerned by what appears to him as the coming struggle between collectivism and capitalism. In speech after speech he charges his audience ‘to battle for the old ideas with the same enthusiasm that people have for new ideas.’”

The Chicago Tribune reported Kennedy’s election to the U.S. Senate in 1952 by describing him as a “fighting conservative.” In a June 1953 Saturday Evening Post article, Kennedy said, “I’d be very happy to tell them I’m not a liberal at all,” adding, speaking of liberals, “I’m not comfortable with those people.” In 1958, Eleanor Roosevelt was asked in a television interview what she would do if she had to choose between a “conservative Democrat like Kennedy and a liberal Republican [like] Rockefeller.” She said she would do all she possibly could to make sure the Democrats did not nominate a candidate like Kennedy.

On the campaign trail before the 1960 election, Kennedy spoke about economics: “We should seek a balanced budget over the course of the business cycle with surpluses during good times more than offsetting the deficits which may be incurred during slumps. I submit that this is not a radical fiscal policy. It is a conservative policy.” This wasn’t just campaign rhetoric—Kennedy kept his distance from liberalism right up until his assassination. “Why are some ‘liberals’ cool to the Kennedy Administration?” Newsweek asked in April 1962. The article went on to explain: “the liberal credentials of young Senator Kennedy never were impeccable…He never was really one of the visceral liberals…many liberal thinkers never felt close to him.”

Even after Kennedy’s death, the “conservative” label was used to describe the late president and his policies by some of those who knew him best. One campaign staffer and congressional aide, William Sutton, described Kennedy’s political stance in the 1946 campaign as “almost ultraconservative.” “He was more conservative than anything else,” said a Navy friend of Kennedy’s, James Reed, who went on to serve Kennedy’s assistant Treasury secretary and who had talked for “many hours” with the young Kennedy about fiscal and economic matters. Another of Kennedy’s friends, the Washington columnist Joseph Alsop, echoed these sentiments in a 1964 interview:

The thing that’s very important to remember about the president was that he was not, in the most marked way, he was not a member of the modern, Democratic, liberal group. He had real—contempt I’m afraid is the right word—for the members of that group in the Senate, or most of them…What he disliked—and here again we’ve often talked about it—was the sort of posturing, attitude-striking, never getting anything done liberalism…This viewpoint was completely foreign to Kennedy, and he regarded it with genuine contempt. Genuine contempt. He really was—contemptuous is the right word for it. He was contemptuous of that attitude in American life.

Alsop went on to emphasize “the great success that the Kennedy administration had with an intelligent, active, but (in my opinion) conservative fiscal-economic policy.”

In January 1981, in the early days of the Reagan presidency, a group of Kennedy administration veterans gathered at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston for a private conversation. One of the participants, Ted Sorensen, said, “Kennedy was a fiscal conservative. Most of us and the press and historians have, for one reason or another, treated Kennedy as being much more liberal than he so regarded himself at the time…In fiscal matters, he was extremely conservative, very cautious about the size of the budget.” Sorensen made a similar point in a November 1983 Newsweek article, saying, “He never identified himself as a liberal…On fiscal matters he was more conservative than any president we’ve had since.” In a 1993 speech, Kennedy’s Treasury secretary, Douglas Dillon, described the president as “financially conservative.” Combine that position with hawkish anticommunism, and it is hard to find much overlap with liberals.

EVIDENCE OF IT notwithstanding, Kennedy’s conservatism was no more a settled point during his lifetime than it is today. In January 1962, a columnist for National Review wrote that Kennedy’s latest speech had given “further proof of his dedication to doctrinaire liberalism.” In 2011, the editorial page editor of the Boston Globe, Peter Canellos, wrote of the Kennedy family, “For five decades, they advanced liberal causes.” The same year, at a conference marking the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy administration, the historian Ellen Fitzpatrick spoke of “the liberalism that he did stand four-squarely behind.” In 2012, Columbia University history professor Alan Brinkley wrote that John Kennedy “seemed to many people a passionate and idealistic liberal,” though he allowed that such a perception was perhaps “surprising.” Lyndon Johnson’s biographer Robert Caro has written, almost in passing, as if no further explanation were needed, that Johnson’s assignment of holding the South for Kennedy in 1960 was a tough one because of “Kennedy’s liberalism.”

Categorizing Kennedy is made more complicated by the difficulty of defining exactly what a “conservative” or a “liberal” was at the time he lived, and by the shifting definitions of the terms over time, in both foreign and domestic policy. The Political Science Quarterly once published a 25-page article trying to answer the question “What Was Liberalism in the 1950s?” The author finally punted: “Above all, we must resist the temptation to reduce 1950s liberalism” to “a simple idea.” If it is a frustrating point, it is nonetheless a fair one, and so too for the 1960s, when liberalism existed not only in tension with conservatism, but also in contrast to radicalism. Yet my point is not primarily about political theory, but about the policies, principles, and legacy of a person, John F. Kennedy, whose devotion to the traditional American values he spoke of on July 4, 1946, was sufficiently strong that it was said, “If you talk with a thousand people evenly divided between liberals and conservatives, you find that five hundred conservatives think that Jack is a conservative.”

If, after Kennedy’s death, there has been confusion about the reality of his politics and principles, it is certainly not the only aspect of his life on which, in spite of all the words written and spoken about it— maybebecause of all the words written and spoken about it—there are widely divergent views.

Take subjects as seemingly simple and straightforward as how Kennedy dressed or what he drank. The biographer Robert Dallek describes Kennedy in “khaki pants and a rumpled seersucker jacket with a shirttail dangling below his coat,” and quotes a secretary as saying, “He wore the most godawful suits…Horrible looking, hanging from his frame.” By contrast, the journalist Ben Bradlee remembers his friend as “immaculately dressed” in “well-tailored suits” and “custom-made shoes and shirts,” and fastidious to the point of castigating Bradlee for the fashion foul of wearing dark brown shoes with a blue suit. According to Garry Wills, Kennedy was more or less a teetotaler, a man who pawned off his liquor coupons while stationed in the Solomon Islands during World War II. By contrast, Sorensen writes of Kennedy, “When relaxing, he enjoyed a daiquiri, a scotch and water or a vodka and tomato juice before dinner and a brandy stinger afterward.” Kennedy “never had brandy in his life,” insisted his wife Jacqueline.

Some of these differences may be explained by changes in Kennedy’s behavior over time. But there is a deeper issue too. Kennedy himself once said that “what makes journalism so fascinating and biography so interesting” is “the struggle to answer that single question: ‘What’s he like?’” He grappled with this in his own historical writing: The last chapter of his book Profiles in Courage begins with the observation that, “However detailed may have been our study of his life, each man remains something of an enigma…shadowed by a veil which cannot be torn away…Something always seems to elude us.”

THE QUESTION OF Kennedy’s ultimate political convictions is more than a matter of mere historical curiosity. Kennedy consistently ranks near the top of public polls asking about the greatness of past presidents. His popularity suggests that the American people think his record is a model worth emulating. Simply to ape Kennedy would be impossible, of course. The Soviet Union is gone, tax rates now are lower than when Kennedy wanted to cut them, and the state universities of the South have been racially integrated. But if the contours of the foreign policy, tax, and education fights have shifted, Kennedy’s course in them may nonetheless inform our choices today, as it has since his death. And other issues of Kennedy’s time are still with us, including economic growth, government spending, inflation, and, as he put it, “Christian morality,” the “cynical philosophy of many of our intellectuals,” and “the right of the individual against the state.”

Calling Kennedy a political conservative may make liberals uncomfortable—perish the thought!—by crowning conservatism with the halo of Camelot. And it could make conservatives uncomfortable too. Many have long despised the entire Kennedy family, especially John’s younger brother Ted. But conservatives need not always trust received wisdom, especially when it comes to conservatism. Better, then, to forge ahead, to try to understand both the 29-year-old Navy veteran speaking at Faneuil Hall and the president he became.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ira Stoll is editor of FutureofCapitalism.com and author of the new book JFK, Conservative (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), from which this essay is adapted.

——

cf. :

Updated September 12, 2012, 6:48 p.m. ET

The Obama Democrats

This isn’t the party of FDR, Truman, JFK or Clinton. They’re different.

Daniel Henninger

It is no accident that the Chicago teachers union would walk off the job, seeking a 29%, two-year wage settlement, days after the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C. The Chicago teachers union and the podium speakers in Charlotte are part of the seamless political fabric that has been created by Barack Obama and the modern Democratic Party. They’ve got goals, and what they want from the people of Chicago or America is compliance.

The speakers in Charlotte fastened the party to a theme: We’re all in it together. This claim is false. The modern Democratic Party, the party of Obama, is about permanent division and permanent opposition. You’d never have guessed they were speaking on behalf of an incumbent and historic presidency. One speaker after another ranted that the America system remains fundamentally unfair.

Despite seven Democratic presidencies since FDR, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Harvard still grieves, « The system is rigged! » Jennifer Granholm, who seems to have summered in Argentina, shouted that for Mitt Romney, « year after year, it was profit before people. » The economics of San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro (Stanford, Harvard Law): « It’s a choice between a country where the middle class pays more so that millionaires can pay less. » Sandra Fluke: « Six months from now, we’ll all be living in one [future], or the other. But only one. »

How is it that this generation of Democrats, nearly 225 years after the Constitutional Convention, sees 21st century America at the precipice of tooth and claw?

Recall all the talk about Bill Clinton’s politically « generous » speech. His speech was an outlier. Set against the furious voices roaring off that stage, Bill Clinton was a figure from the Democrats’ crypt.

The Obama Democrats are no longer the party of FDR, Truman, JFK or Clinton. All were combative partisans, but their view of the American system was fundamentally positive. The older Democratic Party grew out of the American labor experience of the early 20th century, which recognized its inevitable ties to the private sector. The systemically alienated Obama party more resembles the ancient anticapitalist syndicalist movements of continental Europe.

In its 2008 primaries, the Democratic Party made a historic pivot. The center-left party of Bill and Hillary Clinton was overthrown by Barack Obama and the party’s « progressives, » the redesigned logo of the vestigial Democratic left.

The internal tension between the party’s liberals and the left blasted to the surface at the Chicago convention in 1968, when the famous Days of Rage street protesters vilified the party of LBJ and Hubert Humphrey. The « San Francisco Democrats » dominated the 1984 convention, but the party still nominated the establishment liberal Walter Mondale.

While liberals owned the party apparatus, the left took control of its ideas. By 1990, liberal Harvard Law School was torn apart by a left-wing theory called critical legal studies, which condemned the American legal and economic system as . . . rigged.

What binds Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Sandra Fluke and the rest of the Charlotte roster is the belief, learned early on, that their politics has made them a perpetual band of American outsiders.

It’s an irony now that one of their touchstone ideological works has been Richard Hofstadter’s « The Paranoid Style in American Politics » (1964), which was about the American political right back then. Today it’s the Obama Democrats who insist that something like voter-identification statutes are a racist conspiracy. Barack Obama in his grave acceptance speech fears that « this nation’s promise is reserved for the few. » And so out on the plains, the Obama Democrats will assemble a voter army from that vast proletariat, the U.S. middle class, to pull down « the wealthiest. »

This is a party whose agenda is avenging slights, wrongs and the systemic theft of « our democracy. » For all this injustice, someone must be made to pay. How far all this is from the America called for in Lincoln’s first inaugural: « We must not be enemies. »

The Obama administration’s battle with the Catholic Church over contraceptive services is symbolic and important. The tradition of religious independence, which even liberal Catholics thought legitimate, has no standing with the do-the-right-thing politics of the Democratic left. Kathleen Sebelius to American Catholics: Get out of our way.

An Obama victory wouldn’t be just a defeat of the GOP. It would be a defeat of the post-World War II Democratic Party. And they know it. The progressive left has wanted to push Democratic liberalism over the cliff for decades. This is their best shot to get it done.

Mitt Romney—whose own political conversation is remarkably bereft of history—ought to be explaining to Democrats-turned-independent how far Mr. Obama has moved their party from its traditions. FDR’s Social Security and LBJ’s Medicare asked all to buy in to supporting it. ObamaCare doesn’t; Mr. Obama revels in explaining how « they » will pay for « you. » Left unanswered, demagoguery can win elections. And take a generation to undo.

——

It’s Not Your Father’s Democratic Party: How the Party has Changed for the Worse since Clinton’s era

September 3, 2012 – 8:52 am – by Ron Radosh

On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, one thing is clear: it’s not your father’s Democratic Party any longer. Readers of Jay Cost’s important new book, Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, already know this. Cost gives us the analysis that shows the slow but unmistakable transformation of the once broad-based political party to a machine operation controlled by the new elites and the public sector unions, beholden not to the American public but to the narrow interests that dominate its machinery. As the publisher’s description of the book says:

No longer able to govern for the vast majority of the country, the Democratic party simply taxes Middle America to pay off its clients while hiding its true nature behind a smoke screen of idealistic rhetoric. Thus, the Obama health care, stimulus, and auto bailout health care bill were created not to help all Americans but to secure contributions and votes. Average Americans need to see that whatever the Democratic party claims it is doing for the country, it is in fact governing simply for its base.

Use that description as the guide when you watch the convention the next three days. Cost making this argument is one thing — after all, he writes for the Weekly Standard, and some will thus write him off as a conservative and simply ignore what he has to say. But Newsweek making the same argument is another thing. Following Niall Ferguson’s much-discussed cover story of two weeks ago, Tina Brown has done it again. This week features an analysis of Bill Clinton’s apparent reconciliation with Barack Obama, and the meaning of his featured prime-time speech at the DNC.

Written by Peter J. Boyer, the article is not really about Clinton, but rather is a sharp analysis of how the Democrats have changed since the era of Clinton’s presidency. Clinton may have accepted the difficult task of trying to save the Obama presidency and speaking on the president’s behalf to satisfy his large ego, but everyone knows the truth. Obama and Clinton have had what Boyer calls an “uneasy” relationship since 2008, due to the bitter primary fight with his wife that “inflicted real wounds” that in fact have not healed.

More to the point is that the party and the politics Bill Clinton represents are far removed from our current president’s lurch to the left. After Republicans gained strength and Clinton saw the handwriting on the wall, he moved to the center, reflecting his own origins as head of the moderate and centrist so-called New Democrats. They were aligned with the now defunct Democratic Leadership Council, which sought to reflect the concerns of blue-dog Democrats, centrists, and the business community. When Clinton won re-election, he worked with Republicans to institute real welfare reform, and he abandoned his ill-conceived experiment in universal health care. Earlier, he got NAFTA passed despite union opposition and with Republican votes.

So while Clinton will speak in Charlotte, as Boyer writes, “that brand of centrist New Democrat politics that helped make him the first president of his party to win reelection since FDR … will be mostly missing. Conservative and centrist Democrats, so critical to Clinton’s efforts to reform welfare, balance the budget, and erase the image of the party as being reflexively anti-business, have nearly vanished.”

Today’s Democratic Party is an institution beholden to its public-sector union clients, academics, Eastern elites, and the crony capitalists who give it funding and benefit from the White House’s largesse when it gives them contracts — such as those for the failed energy companies like Solyndra.

Its base is the anti-business and anti-war Left, symbolized by the likely-to-fail campaign for Senate in Massachusetts waged by Elizabeth Warren. Hers, like that of the president, is that of a party that has taken “an ever-more-stridently leftward turn.” Gone is the emphasis of the DLC for private-sector growth, government efficiency, personal responsibility, and what Boyer writes is “an affirmation of mainstream values.” And one should add that also gone is a tough foreign policy against very real enemies, replaced by Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy. This has left the U.S. without influence to stop the slaughter in Syria, to defend Israel from ever growing attacks, and, most importantly, to force Iran to stop preparing the enrichment of uranium.

Boyer highlights the very real differences:

Obama’s presidency has seemed, in key regards, a repudiation of the New Democrat idea. Clinton Democrats embraced business; Obama attacked private equity. A New Democrat would have championed the Keystone XL Pipeline; Obama, yielding to environmentalists, has resisted it. Although Obama campaigned in coal country in 2008 as a friend of the industry (and of all those blue-collar jobs associated with it), his Environmental Protection Agency has established regulations so severe that one administration official admitted, “if you want to build a coal plant you got a big problem.” Many of the workers affected by such policies are swing-state voters, who are also keenly sensitive to values issues. Obama’s health-care mandates on contraception may help him with single women and urban voters, but it might hurt him among Catholics in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act; Obama stopped enforcing it, and then declared himself a supporter of gay marriage — the day after North Carolinians voted a traditional definition of marriage into the state’s constitution.

Pollster Doug Schoen says Obama has “substituted class warfare for Clintonism.”

“I think the New Democrat movement can be saved,” says Al From, founder of the Democratic Leadership Council. “We do go through cycles. But it would have been a lot better if we had had a second New Democrat president to cement it.”

From, speaking to Boyer, ties the change to those he calls the “cultural liberals,” reflected in the press, academia, New York’s Upper West Side and Brooklyn’s Park Slope, and, of course, most of the film academy and big Hollywood boosters of Obama like George Clooney. The rest of the party’s base is made up of those who get government checks and those in the business community who get what From calls “corporate welfare.” In other words, the party has become “the party of elites and dependents.”

Given this reality, it is not a surprise that during the Republican National Convention — as I said in my previous column — the media did not highlight the speech by Jane Edmonds or even let most people know of the defection to the Republican side of former Alabama Congressman Arthur Davis, the man who seconded Obama’s nomination at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Davis is an African-American who must have taken great pride in the symbolic importance of a black man receiving the nomination of one of America’s major political parties. But Davis found that Obama had taken a different path than that which allowed Democrats in the South to gain electoral victories. Rather than trying to get those who had voted for Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan to vote for him, Obama, Davis points out, “was figuring out how to rally the Democratic base around him,” and he never “had to do what Clinton had to do …which was to figure out how to construct some kind of other political case that appealed to conservative-leaning voters.”

The other point made by Boyer, who favorably cites Democratic pollster and analyst Doug Schoen, is that Obama has “substituted class-based politics — resentment of the rich, taxing the rich — for fiscal discipline, and prudence.” That was most validated when the nation saw Obama simply ignore any of the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson commission. As Davis tellingly says, the Democratic Party is “slipping in the direction of becoming a self-conscious vehicle of the left, that is more concerned about developing a righteous leftist platform than one that has a particular project to govern.”

And yes, Ed Rendell is right in his observation that one of the problems is that while Newt Gingrich could bring along his base and get them to accept compromises and work with Clinton to implement them, the current congressional Republican leadership is stymied because many of the new Tea Party-elected officials owe no loyalty to them, and can’t be budged to accept any suggestions the Boehner-Cantor leadership might suggest that they disapprove of. But, one should note, when Obama had a majority in both houses of Congress, he still could not get his own Democrats to move one inch and to accept any compromise with Republicans. Nancy Pelosi and her followers ran the show, rather than the White House.

So will Clinton turn the day, making those independent and moderate swing voters decide to vote for Obama? Doug Schoen tells Boyer that he doubts it, and sees Clinton’s coming speech as mere “political artifice.” It is meant, Schoen thinks, to “achieve a short-term political result,” and not a “change in philosophy.”

So the reasons Ronald Reagan asserted as to why he became a Republican still stand. “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party,” Reagan said. “It left me.” Now, many Clinton Democrats, reflecting on the four years of Barack Obama and the party he represents, will join Artur Davis and others in making that same statement. The time and moment for the Democrats to change their philosophy has long passed.

For Democrats who really want to move forward, they too have to abandon a liberalism that has become both obsolete and reactionary, and join conservatives, libertarians, and moderates in voting this November for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Lieberman: This is not your father’s Democratic Party

http://www.amazon.com/This-Your-Fathers-Democratic-Party/dp/1477600957

——–

JFK and the Death of Liberalism

By Jeffrey Lord on 5.31.12 @ 6:11AM

John F. Kennedy, the father of the Reagan Democrats, would have been 95 this week.

May 29th of this week marked John F. Kennedy’s 95th birthday.

Had he never gone to Dallas, had he the blessings of long years like his 105 year old mother Rose, the man immutably fixed in the American memory as a vigorous 40-something surely would be seen in an entirely different light.

If JFK were alive today?

Presuming his 1964 re-election, we would know for a fact what he did in Vietnam. We would know for a fact what a second-term Kennedy domestic program produced. And yes, yes, all those torrent of womanizing tales that finally gushed into headlines in the post-Watergate era (and still keep coming, the tale of White House intern Mimi Alford recently added to the long list) would surely have had a more scathing effect on his historical reputation had he been alive to answer them.

But he wasn’t.

As the world knows, those fateful few seconds in Dallas on November 22, 1963 not only transformed American and world history. They transformed JFK himself into an iconic American martyr, forever young, handsome and idealistic. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of his assassination—and in spite of all the womanizing tales, in spite of the passage of now almost half a century—John F. Kennedy is still repeatedlyranked by Americans as among the country’s greatest presidents. In the American imagination, JFK is historically invincible

All of this comes to mind not simply as JFK’s 95th birthday came and went this week with remarkably little fanfare.

As readers of The American Spectator are well familiar, TAS founder and Editor-in-chief R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. has a new book out in which he details The Death of Liberalism.

Once upon a time — in 1950 — Bob Tyrrell notes that the liberal intellectual Lionel Trilling could honestly open his book The Liberal Imagination with this sentence:

In the United States at this time Liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.

It was true in 1950 — and it was still true on the day John F. Kennedy’s motorcade began to make its way through the streets of Dallas.

It was still true a year later, when Kennedy’s successor Lyndon Johnson swamped the GOP’s conservative nominee Barry Goldwater.

But something had happened by 1964. Something Big. And it’s fair to wonder on the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s 95th birthday if in fact that Something Big would ever have happened at all if Kennedy had not been in Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun sight that sunny November day almost 49 years ago.

In short, one wonders. Did the bullets that killed JFK hit another target — liberalism itself? Unlike JFK, not killing liberalism instantly but inflicting something else infinitely more damaging than sudden death? Or, as Tyrrell puts it, inflicting “a slow, but steady decline of which the Liberals have been steadfastly oblivious.”

While LBJ would ride herd on American liberalism for another year, in fact the dominant status of liberalism in both politics and culture that Trilling had observed in 1950 had, after JFK’s murder, curiously begun to simply fade. Not unlike Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat, leaving nothing behind but a grin. Writes Tyrrell:

Yet Liberals, who began as the rightful heirs to the New Deal, have carried on as a kind of landed aristocracy, gifted but doomed.

The new book in Robert Caro’s biographical series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power has received considerable attention for Caro’s detailed depiction of LBJ’s transition from powerful Senate Majority Leader to a virtual impotence as Kennedy’s vice president. But there’s a clue in this book as to the future decline of liberalism that is completely overlooked (and wasn’t published until after Tyrrell’s). A clue that revolves around the treatment of Vice President Johnson by Kennedy insiders and JFK’s Washington admirers — a treatment, it is important to note, that was never ever exhibited by JFK himself.

While Kennedy gave strict orders that LBJ was to be treated at all times with the respect due his office — and this was in an era when vice presidents customarily went unused by presidents, a fate that had befallen all vice presidential occupants from the nation’s first, John Adams, to Johnson — there was something else bubbling just below the surface in the Washington that was the Kennedy era.

Robert Caro describes it this way:

Washington had in many ways always been a small town, and in small towns gossip can be cruel, and the New Frontiersmen — casual, elegant, understated, in love with their own sophistication (“Such an in-group, and they let you know they were in, and you were not”, recalls Ashton Gonella) — were a witty bunch, and wit does better when it has a target to aim at, and the huge, lumbering figure of Lyndon Johnson, with his carefully buttoned-up suits and slicked-down hair, his bellowing speeches and extravagant, awkward gestures, made an inevitable target. “One can feel the hot breath of the crowd at the bullfight exulting as the sword flashes into the bull,” one historian wrote. In the Georgetown townhouses that were the New Frontier’s social stronghold “there were a lot of small parties, informal kinds, dinners that were given by Kennedy people for other Kennedy people. You know, twelve people in for dinner, all part of the Administration,” says United States Treasurer Elizabeth Gatov. “Really, it was brutal, the stories that they were passing, and the jokes and the inside nasty stuff about Lyndon.” When he mispronounced “hors d’oeuvres” as “whore doves,” the mistake was all over Georgetown in what seemed an instant.

Johnson’s Texas accent was mocked. His proclivity for saying “Ah reckon,” “Ah believe,” and saying the word “Negro” as “nigrah.” On one occasion of a white tie event at the White House, Caro writes of LBJ that “he wore, to the Kennedy people’s endless amusement, not the customary black tailcoat but a slate-gray model especially sent up by Dallas’ Neiman-Marcus department store.” The liberals populating the Kennedy administration and Washington itself were people with an affinity for words, and they began to bestow on Johnson — behind his back — nicknames such as “Uncle Cornpone” or “Rufus Cornpone.” Lady Bird Johnson was added to the game, and the Johnsons as a couple were nicknamed “Uncle Cornpone and his Little Pork Chop.”

None of this, Caro notes, was done by John Kennedy himself. JFK had an instinctive appreciation for Johnson’s sense of dignity, and he thought Lady Bird “neat.” This is, in retrospect, notable.

Why?

Let’s rocket ahead now to what Bob Tyrrell calls The Death of Liberalism. In particular the numbers — polling data. Tyrrell spends an entire chapter discussing polling data, as well he should. His findings are the ultimate teachable moment as we settle into the 2012 Obama-Romney race.

By 1968 — five years after the death of JFK and in the last of the five years of the Johnson presidency — the number of “self-identified” conservatives began to climb. Sharply. The Liberal dominance Lionel Trilling had written about had gone, never to this moment to return. Routinely now in poll after poll that Tyrrell cites — and there are plenty of others he doesn’t have room to cite — self-identified liberals hover at about 20% of the American body politic. Outnumbered more than two-to-one by conservatives, with moderates bringing up the remainder in the middle.

What happened in those five years after JFK’s death?

One very compelling thing.

The attitude toward Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson that was evidenced by Kennedy’s liberal leaning staff, by the Washington Georgetown set, by Washington journalists — slowly seeped into the sinews of liberalism itself.

Recall Caro’s descriptions of people who were “in love with their own sophistication,” who were “such an in-group, and they let you know they were in, and you were not.” Think of the snotty arrogance displayed as these people laughed at LBJ’s accent, his mispronunciations, his clothes, his wife (“Uncle Cornpone and his Little Pork Chop”).

Slowly, and then not so slowly, these elitist, arrogant and if not outright snotty attitudes sought out a new target during the years when LBJ was sitting in the White House — when, in the view of these people, “Uncle Cornpone and his Little Pork Chop” had replaced the King and Queen of Camelot.

That new target?

The American people themselves. They had, after all, elected LBJ in a landslide in 1964. Now Uncle Cornpone was the elected President of the United States. To make matters more unbearable, LBJ was using his newfound power and popularity to actually pass the liberal agenda of the day, which Johnson labeled “The Great Society.” Uncle Cornpone, it seemed, wasn’t such a ridiculous figure after all when it came to getting the liberal wish list through the Congress.

No one better than JFK would have known instantly what a huge mistake this elitist attitude would be. Discussing the relationship of a presidential candidate with the American people, JFK had told historian and friend Theodore H. White, author of The Making of the President series, that, in White’s re-telling, “a man running for the Presidency must talk up, way up there.” It was a principle Kennedy surely would have applied to his own party — and did so while he was president. Not from JFK was there a drop of elitist contempt — from a man who unarguably could claim the title in a blink — for his fellow countrymen.

But in a horrifying flash, JFK was gone. And the elitist tide spread.

Slowly this contempt for the American people spread to institutions that were not government, manifesting itself in a thousand different ways. It infected the media, academe and Hollywood, where stars identified with middle-America like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball were eclipsed in the spotlight by leftists like Warren Beatty and Jane Fonda.

The arms-linked peaceful civil rights protests led by Christian ministers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gave way to bombings and violent demonstrations against the Vietnam War led by snooty, well-educated white left-wing kids like Bill Ayers. The great American middle class — from which many of these educated kids had sprung — was trashed in precisely the fashion LBJ had been trashed. For accents, clothing styles, housing choices (suburbs and rural life were out) food, music, the love of guns, choice of cars, colleges, hair styles and more. Religion itself could not escape, Christianity to be mocked, made into a derisive laughingstock. The part of America between New York and California became known sneeringly as “flyover country.

As time moved on, these attitudes hardened, taking on colors, colors derived from election night maps where red represented conservative, Republican or traditional candidates and blue became symbolic of homes to Liberalism.

Red States. Blue States.

Liberal candidates hoping to carry Red States or even Purple States had to hide the contempt they felt for their own constituents. When Governor Bill Clinton’s wife Hillary snapped in a 60 Minutes interview over her husband’s infidelities that:

You know, I’m not sitting here — some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.

— the Clinton campaign quickly swung into damage control mode, an apology as quickly forthcoming.

Sixteen years later it was Barack Obama’s turn, the candidate caught on audio tape describing Pennsylvania voters to a fundraising audience of rich, fashionable San Francisco liberals as:

bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

The Obama and Hillary Clinton expressions were about as far as one could get from JFK’s conception that when running for president one has to talk “way up there” to the American people.

By now, millions of Americans have come to see the elitism that once was directed privately at LBJ in Georgetown salons as an ingrained characteristic of Liberalism. Even NBC’s Tom Brokaw is getting antsy at the insiderdom on televised display at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Think of the treatment of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin versus that afforded Hillary Clinton. The treatment of Clarence Thomas — versus Barack Obama.

Self-identify with that kind of treatment? Of course not. Compounding the problem for liberals is that this attitude is linked to what Tyrrell accurately calls Obama’s “Stealth Socialism.” And the combination of the two is proving to be politically deadly.

Here’s a JFK-Obama contrast.

In 1960, JFK determined that if he were to win the Democratic nomination he would in fact have to win the West Virginia primary. Why West Virginia? Because Kennedy was Catholic, no Catholic had ever been elected president — and West Virginia was heavily Protestant. It was a knock-down, drag-out fight — a furious battle against Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey. In an upset, a legend in West Virginia politics to this day, JFK won. By emphasizing his PT-109 heroism in World War II and his support of coal mining — and coal miners.

What happened the other day in the West Virginia Democratic primaries? That’s right. A Texas prison inmate named Keith Judd paid the $2,500 filing fee to get his name on the ballot opposing Obama — getting 40% of the vote. Why this particular humiliation? Right again. The President’s “Stealth Socialism” — specifically in West Virginia his energy and environmental policies — are seen by West Virginians as savaging the state’s coal industry. A world away from the JFK approach.

And let’s not forget the double standard that elitist liberals in the media love when it comes to their fellow countrymen.

What was one of the most notable stylistic aspects of the Kennedy presidency that had Georgetown parlors and the liberal media of the day swooning with admiration?

Exactly. They loved Jackie Kennedy — specifically they absolutely adored that the First Lady was an accomplished horsewoman. Scenes like this video of Jackie riding with her children in the Virginia hunt country – as JFK watched from nearby — were staples of the liberal media, the only media, of the day. If one grew up in the Kennedy era it is recognized instantly, particularly the scene where Caroline’s horse “Macaroni” is nibbling on JFK as the President laughs. Horseback riding as Mrs. Kennedy pursued it was an expensive hobby then — as now. And this fact was lavishly presented to the American public as a sign of class — both financial class and as in “classy.”

What was the big story about Ann Romney the other day? Take a look at Breitbart.com where they have neatly caught onto the sneering elitism that is falsely ascribed to Ann Romney because — yes indeed — just like Jackie Kennedy, Ann Romney rides horses. With one very big difference. In Mrs. Romney’s case horseback riding was prescribed as therapy for her multiple sclerosis. Now, however, as was true with a big front pagestory in the New York Times, Republican Ann Romney is involved with a “rarified sport.” Translation: Mrs. Romney is a snob. What’s fabulous for Jackie is snooty for Ann.

Which leads us back to where we began.

Had John F. Kennedy been alive and well this week, celebrating his 95th birthday, one can only wonder whether liberalism would have survived with him.

This is, after all, the president who said in cutting taxes that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” Becoming The favorite presidential example (along with Calvin Coolidge) of no less than Ronald Reagan on tax policy. This is, after all, the president who ran to the right of Richard Nixon in 1960 on issues of national security.

In fact, many of those who voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960 would twenty years later vote for Ronald Reagan. One famous study of Macomb County, Michigan found 63% of Democrats in that unionized section of autoworker country voting for JFK in 1960. In 1980, same county, essentially the same Democrats — 66% voted for Reagan. The difference? Liberalism was dying.

There is a term of political art for these millions of onetime JFK voters — a term used still today: Reagan Democrats. It is not too strong a statement to say that in point of political fact John F. Kennedy was the father of the Reagan Democrats.

Would JFK have let the arrogant liberal elitism that was bubbling under the surface of his own administration metastasize to so many American institutions — including his own party — had he lived?

Would he have sat silently as the liberal culture turned against the vast American middle and working blue collar class and its values, sending JFK voters into the arms of Republicans in seven out of twelve of the elections following his own?

Would he have fought the subtle but distinct change of his famous inaugural challenge from “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” to what it has now become: “ask not what you can do for your country, ask what service your government can provide you?”

We will never know.

But there is every reason to believe, after all these decades, that, to use the title of JFK biographer William Manchester’s famous book, The Death of a President, brought another, quite unexpected death in its wake.

The Death of Liberalism.

——–

JFK: Democrats’ role model ?

September 04, 2008

The John F. Kennedy legacy came up repeatedly during the Democratic National Convention. But today, would JFK even be a Democrat?

Kennedy supported, in today’s lexicon, a George W. Bush-like « belligerent » approach to fighting the Cold War, and told CBS’ Walter Cronkite it would be « a great mistake » to withdraw the American presence from Vietnam. In his 1961 inaugural speech, Kennedy said, « Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. »

How would such a man feel about fighting today’s global peril – Islamo-fascism?

Barack Obama likes to point to the 1961 Kennedy-Khrushchev summit to support his desire for meetings « without preconditions » with enemies such as Iran and North Korea.

But Kennedy’s secretary of state, Dean Rusk, urged against such a non-conditions-based summit. And later, Kennedy called the summit meeting the « roughest thing in my life. (Khrushchev) just beat the hell out of me. I’ve got a terrible problem if he thinks I’m inexperienced and have no guts. » Indeed, Khrushchev thought Kennedy a weak amateur. Following the summit, Khrushchev built the Berlin Wall and placed missiles in Cuba, an action that led the world to the brink of nuclear conflict.

Kennedy believed in cutting taxes – deeply and dramatically. Before Kennedy’s tax cuts, the top marginal tax rate stood at over 90 percent, and Kennedy – albeit after his assassination – got it reduced to 70 percent, a much greater percentage reduction than did Bush. Kennedy, in a 1962 speech before the Economic Club of New York said, « It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low, and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now. The experience of a number of European countries and Japan have borne this out. This country’s own experience with tax reduction in 1954 has borne this out. And the reason is that only full employment can balance the budget, and tax reduction can pave the way to that employment. The purpose of cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy, which can bring a budget surplus. »

In January 1963, Kennedy addressed Congress: « Lower rates of taxation will stimulate economic activity and so raise the levels of personal and corporate income as to yield within a few years an increased – not a reduced – flow of revenues to the federal government. » Several days later, JFK sent another message to Congress: « Our tax system still siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power and reduces the incentive for risk, investment and effort – thereby aborting our recoveries and stifling our national growth rate. »

In a televised national address just two months before his assassination, Kennedy broke it down: « A tax cut means higher family income and higher business profits and a balanced federal budget. Every taxpayer and his family will have more money left over after taxes for a new car, a new home, new conveniences, education and investment. Every businessman can keep a higher percentage of his profits in his cash register or put it to work expanding or improving his business, and as the national income grows, the federal government will ultimately end up with more revenues. »

Kennedy, unlike Obama, opposed race-based preferences. In a 1963 interview, Kennedy expected blacks to resist a call for preferential treatment: « The Negro community did not want job quotas to compensate for past discrimination. What I think they would like is to see their children well educated, so that they could hold jobs … and have themselves accepted as equal members of the community. … I don’t think we can undo the past. In fact, the past is going to be with us for a good many years in uneducated men and women who lost their chance for a decent education. We have to do the best we can now. That is what we are trying to do. »

Kennedy also objected to assigning positions or granting promotions based on what today’s advocates call under-representation: « I think it is a mistake to begin to assign quotas on the basis of religion or race – color – nationality. … On the other hand, I do think that we ought to make an effort to give a fair chance to everyone who is qualified – not through a quota – but just look over our employment rolls, look over our areas where we are hiring people and at least make sure we are giving everyone a fair chance. But not hard and fast quotas. … We are too mixed, this society of ours, to begin to divide ourselves on the basis of race or color. »

So when the haze disappears, what remains? A man of limited government, low taxes and strong national defense who rejected a government-led redistribution of wealth.

In other words, someone who would today fit very comfortably in the party – the Republican Party.

———

John F. Kennedy on taxes

July 19, 2004

By William J. Federer

Editor’s note: The following quotes are published in the book, « The Interesting History of Income Tax, » by William J. Federer (Amerisearch, Inc., P.O. Box 20163, St. Louis, MO 63123, 1-888-USA-WORD)

« It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now … Cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus. »

– John F. Kennedy, Nov. 20, 1962, president’s news conference

« Lower rates of taxation will stimulate economic activity and so raise the levels of personal and corporate income as to yield within a few years an increased – not a reduced – flow of revenues to the federal government. »

– John F. Kennedy, Jan. 17, 1963, annual budget message to the Congress, fiscal year 1964

« In today’s economy, fiscal prudence and responsibility call for tax reduction even if it temporarily enlarges the federal deficit – why reducing taxes is the best way open to us to increase revenues. »

– John F. Kennedy, Jan. 21, 1963, annual message to the Congress: « The Economic Report Of The President »

« It is no contradiction – the most important single thing we can do to stimulate investment in today’s economy is to raise consumption by major reduction of individual income tax rates. »

– John F. Kennedy, Jan. 21, 1963, annual message to the Congress: « The Economic Report Of The President »

« Our tax system still siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power and reduces the incentive for risk, investment and effort – thereby aborting our recoveries and stifling our national growth rate. »

– John F. Kennedy, Jan. 24, 1963, message to Congress on tax reduction and reform, House Doc. 43, 88th Congress, 1st Session.

« A tax cut means higher family income and higher business profits and a balanced federal budget. Every taxpayer and his family will have more money left over after taxes for a new car, a new home, new conveniences, education and investment. Every businessman can keep a higher percentage of his profits in his cash register or put it to work expanding or improving his business, and as the national income grows, the federal government will ultimately end up with more revenues. »

– John F. Kennedy, Sept. 18, 1963, radio and television address to the nation on tax-reduction bill

« I have asked the secretary of the treasury to report by April 1 on whether present tax laws may be stimulating in undue amounts the flow of American capital to the industrial countries abroad through special preferential treatment. »

– John F. Kennedy, Feb. 6, 1961, message to Congress on gold and the balalnce of payments deficit

« In those countries where income taxes are lower than in the United States, the ability to defer the payment of U.S. tax by retaining income in the subsidiary companies provides a tax advantage for companies operating through overseas subsidiaries that is not available to companies operating solely in the United States. Many American investors properly made use of this deferral in the conduct of their foreign investment. »

– John F. Kennedy, April 20, 1961, message to Congress on taxation

« Our present tax system … exerts too heavy a drag on growth … It reduces the financial incentives for personal effort, investment, and risk-taking … The present tax load … distorts economic judgments and channels an undue amount of energy into efforts to avoid tax liabilities. »

– John F. Kennedy, Nov. 20, 1962, press conference

« The present tax codes … inhibit the mobility and formation of capital, add complexities and inequities which undermine the morale of the taxpayer, and make tax avoidance rather than market factors a prime consideration in too many economic decisions. »

– John F. Kennedy, Jan. 23, 1963, special message to Congress on tax reduction and reform

« In short, it is a paradoxical truth that … the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now. The experience of a number of European countries and Japan have borne this out. This country’s own experience with tax reduction in 1954 has borne this out. And the reason is that only full employment can balance the budget, and tax reduction can pave the way to that employment. The purpose of cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus. »

– John F. Kennedy, Nov. 20, 1962, news conference

« The largest single barrier to full employment of our manpower and resources and to a higher rate of economic growth is the unrealistically heavy drag of federal income taxes on private purchasing power, initiative and incentive. »

– John F. Kennedy, Jan. 24, 1963, special message to Congress on tax reduction and reform

« Expansion and modernization of the nation’s productive plant is essential to accelerate economic growth and to improve the international competitive position of American industry … An early stimulus to business investment will promote recovery and increase employment. »

– John F. Kennedy, Feb. 2, 1961, message on economic recovery

« We must start now to provide additional stimulus to the modernization of American industrial plants … I shall propose to the Congress a new tax incentive for businesses to expand their normal investment in plant and equipment. »

– John F. Kennedy, Feb. 13, 1961, National Industrial Conference Board

« A bill will be presented to the Congress for action next year. It will include an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in both corporate and personal income taxes. It will include long-needed tax reform that logic and equity demand … The billions of dollars this bill will place in the hands of the consumer and our businessmen will have both immediate and permanent benefits to our economy. Every dollar released from taxation that is spent or invested will help create a new job and a new salary. And these new jobs and new salaries can create other jobs and other salaries and more customers and more growth for an expanding American economy. »

– John F. Kennedy, Aug. 13, 1962, radio and television report on the state of the national economy

 « This administration pledged itself last summer to an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in personal and corporate income taxes … Next year’s tax bill should reduce personal as well as corporate income taxes, for those in the lower brackets, who are certain to spend their additional take-home pay, and for those in the middle and upper brackets, who can thereby be encouraged to undertake additional efforts and enabled to invest more capital … I am confident that the enactment of the right bill next year will in due course increase our gross national product by several times the amount of taxes actually cut. »

– John F. Kennedy, Nov. 20, 1962, news conference

William J. Federer, is a best-selling author and the president of Amerisearch Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America’s noble heritage.

——-


Iran: La paix pour notre temps (Peace for our time and a new Chamberlain for America)

26 novembre, 2013
http://newsbusters.org/static/2009/11/Chris%20Matthews%20Compares%20Obama%20To%20Neville%20Chamberlain.jpgMes bons amis, voici la seconde fois que nous rentrons d’Allemagne à Downing Street avec une paix honorable. Je crois qu’il s’agit de la paix pour notre temps. Nous vous remercions du fond du cœur. À présent, je vous conseille de rentrer chez vous, et dormez en paix. Chamberlain
A l’époque, pendant que nous étions en train de discuter avec les Européens à Téhéran, nous installions des équipements dans certaines parties d’Ispahan, et le projet était sur le point d’être complété. En réalité, c’est en créant un climat de sérénité, que nous avons pu achever Ispahan. Hassan Rohani (03.11.03)
What has been released by the website of the White House as a fact sheet is a one-sided interpretation of the agreed text in Geneva and some of the explanations and words in the sheet contradict the text of the Joint Plan of Action (the title of the Iran-powers deal), and this fact sheet has unfortunately been translated and released in the name of the Geneva agreement by certain media, which is not true. Marziyeh Afkham (Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman)
Un haut responsable israélien a révélé au quotidien Haaretz qu’Israël avait connaissance des entretiens secrets depuis le début de l’été 2013, bien avant avoir été averti officiellement par l’administration américaine. Les contacts secrets entre les Etats-Unis et l’Iran auraient débuté avant l’élection de Hassan Rohani à la présidence de la République islamique, plus précisément à partir de mars 2013, alors que Mahmoud Ahmadinejad était encore en fonction. Depuis l’accession au pouvoir de Rohani, il y aurait encore eu quatre rencontres, deux en août et deux en octobre, la plupart s’étant tenues dans le sultanat d’Oman. (…) Selon le Haaretz, Netanyahou aurait été avisé par M. Obama, un jour avant son discours à l’ONU début octobre, des deux réunions du mois d’août, mais pas de celles qui s’étaient tenues avant l’élection présidentielle iranienne. I24news
Iran is already in violation of a number of Security Council resolutions demanding it cease all uranium enrichment and heavy water activity – a process used to create weapons-grade plutonium. Furthermore, none of this activity is even remotely necessary if Iran, as it claims, only wants a peaceful nuclear program. There are many countries that have nuclear power that do not have the capability to enrich their own fuel. They buy it from abroad and that’s what Iran could do. And that’s what the media are neglecting to tell you. There are over thirty countries around the world that have nuclear power programs but according to the World Nuclear Association, only eleven have the capacity to enrich their own fuel. Here are some of the countries that have nuclear energy but don’t enrich their own nuclear fuel: Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Bulgaria Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, South Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine. The fact is that, of countries that have enrichment capabilities, the majority also possess nuclear weapons. Countries that enrich nuclear materials but do not have nuclear weapons include Germany, Japan and the Netherlands. Countries that enrich and do have nuclear weapons include Pakistan, Russia and China. When you think of Iran, do you think it fits in with Germany, Japan and the Netherlands? Or, does it fit better with Pakistan, Russia and China? If that isn’t enough to make you uncomfortable, in a speech to the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council in 2005, Rouhani himself said: A county that could enrich uranium to about 3.5 percent will also have the capability to enrich it to about 90 percent. Having fuel cycle capability virtually means that a country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons. Since Argentina, Armenia, Sweden and Spain can buy nuclear fuel from abroad, why can’t Iran? Since our neighbors Canada and Mexico can pursue this policy, why can’t Iran? Camera
Les faucons affirment (…) que le président Ahmadinejad a déclaré vouloir “rayer Israël de la carte”. Mais cet argument repose sur une mauvaise traduction de ses propos. La traduction juste est qu’Israël “devrait disparaître de la page du temps”. Cette expression (empruntée à un discours de l’ayatollah Khomeiny) n’est pas un appel à la destruction physique d’Israël. Bien que très choquant, son propos n’était pas un appel à lancer une attaque, encore moins une attaque nucléaire, contre Israël. Aucun État sensé ne peut partir en guerre sur la foi d’une mauvaise traduction. John J. Mearsheimer et Stephen M. Walt
Le problème n’est pas la sécurité d’Israël, la souveraineté du Liban ou les ingérences de la Syrie ou du Hezbollah : Le problème est centré sur l’effort de l’Iran à obtenir le Droit d’Abolir l’Exclusivité de la Dissuasion. La prolifération sauvage, le concept de «tous nucléaires» sera la fin de la Guerre Froide et le retour à la période précédant la Dissuasion. Les mollahs et leurs alliés, le Venezuela, l’Algérie, la Syrie, la Corée du Nord et la Russie…, se militarisent à une très grande échelle sachant qu’ils vont bientôt neutraliser le parapluie protecteur de la dissuasion et alors ils pourront faire parler la poudre. Chacun visera à dominer sa région et sans que les affrontements se déroulent en Europe, l’Europe sera dépouillée de ses intérêts en Afrique ou en Amérique du Sud et sans combattre, elle devra déposer les armes. Ce qui est incroyable c’est la myopie de la diplomatie française et de ses experts. (…) Aucun d’entre eux ne se doute que la république islamique a des alliés qui ont un objectif commun: mettre un terme à une discrimination qui dure depuis 50 ans, la dissuasion nucléaire ! Cette discrimination assure à la France une position que beaucoup d’états lui envient. Ils attendent avec impatience de pouvoir se mesurer avec cette ancienne puissance coloniale que beaucoup jugent arrogante, suffisante et gourmande. Iran-Resist
L’équilibre de la terreur était en fait d’une grande fragilité, comme de nombreux incidents, mais surtout une crise majeure, la crise des missiles de Cuba, l’a révélé en 1962. Le problème a moins concerné la relation entre les Etats-Unis et l’Union soviétique que la présence d’un troisième acteur, Fidel Castro, qui a failli faire basculer le « système bipolaire » dans la guerre nucléaire. Cette crise mérite qu’on y revienne, non seulement parce que, si elle se reproduit, nous n’aurons probablement pas la même chance, mais aussi parce que le monde contemporain a désormais plusieurs acteurs nucléaires de type Fidel Castro, qui, à la différence de Kennedy ou de Khrouchtchev, partisans de la dissuasion, n’hésiteront pas à recourir à l’arme nucléaire comme à un moyen de coercition. Thérèse Delpech
La Corée du Nord a appris au monde qu’au poker nucléaire la folie feinte vous vaut de l’aide étrangère ou l’attention planétaire — du fait que même la certitude qu’on a affaire à un bluff à 99% reste suffisante pour effrayer les opinions publiques occidentales. La Corée du nord est le proverbial envieux psychopathe du quartier qui agresse constamment ses voisins prospères d’à côté, en partant du principe que les voisins ne pourront manquer de prendre en compte ses menaces aussi sauvages qu’absurdes parce qu’il n’a rien et qu’ils ont tout à perdre. (…) L’Iran pourrait reprendre à l’infini le modèle de Kim — menaçant une semaine de rayer Israël de la carte, faisant machine arrière la semaine d’après sous prétexte de problèmes de traduction. L’objectif ne serait pas nécessairement de détruire Israël (ce qui vaudrait à l’Iran la destruction de la culture persane pour un siècle), mais d’imposer une telle atmosphère d’inquiétude et de pessimisme à l’Etat juif que son économie en serait affaiblie, son émigration en serait encouragée et sa réputation géostratégique en serait érodée. La Corée du nord est passée maître dans de telles tactiques de chantage nucléaire. A certains moments, Pyongyang a même réussi à réduire les deux géants asiatiques – Japon et Corée du Sud – à la quasi-paralysie.(…) Un Iran nucléaire n’aurait à s’inquiéter ni d’un ennemi existentiel avec une population d’un milliard d’habitants à côté tel que l’Inde ni d’un mécène tout aussi peuplé comme la Chine susceptible d’imposer des lignes rouges à ses crises de folie périodiques. Téhéran serait libre au contraire de faire et de dire ce qu’il veut. Et son statut de puissance nucléaire deviendrait un multiplicateur de force pour son énorme richesse pétrolière et son statut auto-proclamé de leader mondial des musulmans chiites. Si la Corée du Nord est un danger, alors un Iran nucléaire plus gros, plus riche et sans dissuasion serait un cauchemar. Victor Davis Hanson
One of the best peace speeches I ever read was one delivered back in the 1930s — by Adolf Hitler. He knew that peace speeches would keep the Western democracies from matching his military buildup with their own, or attacking him to prevent his buildup from continuing. Peace speeches by Iran today serve the same purpose of buying time — until they can create a nuclear bomb. Thomas Sowell
The Iranian agreement comes not in isolation, unfortunately. The Syrian debacle instructed the Iranians that the Obama administration was more interested in announcing a peaceful breakthrough than actually achieving it. The timing is convenient for both sides: The Obama administration needed an offset abroad to the Obamacare disaster, and the Iranians want a breathing space to rebuild their finances and ensure that Assad can salvage the Iranian-Hezbollah-Assad axis. The agreement is a de facto acknowledgement that containing, not ending, Iran’s nuclear program is now U.S. policy. After all, to what degree would an Iranian freeze really retard development of a bomb, or simply put it on hold? In other words, has Iran already met some of its requirements for weaponization, and now simply wishes to take a breather, rebuild its economy, and strengthen its image in the West — before the final and rather easy development of a deliverable bomb? If the sanctions are not only lifted, but incentives are added in place of them, why then would Iran not agree to dismantle completely elements of its program that exceed domestic energy purposes? (Or for that matter, why would a nation with among the world’s largest reserves of gas and oil feel the need to fund an expensive nuclear energy program in the first place?) (…) Collate reset, lead from behind, “redlines,” “game-changers,” ”deadlines,” the Arab Spring confusion, the skedaddle from Iraq, Benghazi, the Eastern European missile pullback, and the atmosphere is comparable to the 1979–80 Carter landscape, in which after three years of observation, the opportunists at last decided to act while the acting was good, from Afghanistan to Central America to Tehran. There is not a good record, from Philip of Macedon to Hitler to Stalin in the 1940s to Carter and the Soviets in the 1970s to radical Islamists in the 1990s, of expecting authoritarians and thugs to listen to reason, cool their aggression, and appreciate democracies’ sober and judicious appeal to logic — once they sense in the West greater eagerness to announce new, rather than to enforce old, agreements. Victor Davis Hanson
Iran will gradually shake free of sanctions and glide into a zone of nuclear ambiguity that will keep its adversaries guessing until it opts to make its capabilities known. Saudi Arabia will move swiftly to acquire a nuclear deterrent from its clients in Islamabad; Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal made that clear to the Journal last week when he indiscreetly discussed « the arrangement with Pakistan. » Egypt is beginning to ponder a nuclear option of its own while drawing closer to a security alliance with Russia. As for Israel, it cannot afford to live in a neighborhood where Iran becomes nuclear, Assad remains in power, and Hezbollah—Israel’s most immediate military threat—gains strength, clout and battlefield experience. The chances that Israel will hazard a strike on Iran’s nuclear sites greatly increased since Geneva. More so the chances of another war with Hezbollah. Bret Stephens
After World War II the U.S. created a global system of security alliances to prevent the kind of foreign policy freelancing that is again becoming rampant in the Middle East. It worked until President Obama decided in his wisdom to throw it away. If you hear echoes of the 1930s in the capitulation at Geneva, it’s because the West is being led by the same sort of menIf the parties do not even agree to what they’ve just signed in the 18 hours after inking a document, how well is verification going to go? Mohammed Zarif, Iran’s chief negotiator, asserted that the agreement takes the threat of force off the table, and enshrines Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium. Kerry flatly denies both. Nice start. (…) Iran controls the world’s fourth largest supply of oil and second largest reserve of natural gas. Are we to believe that Iran is pursuing nuclear power because of concern about climate change? How exactly would Iran’s active research on nuclear-weapons design and development of ballistic-missile technology suit that explanation? It has been obvious for more than two decades that Iran is determined to join the nuclear club — a goal America’s allies in the region and right-thinking people the world over view with horror and dread. Five Security Council resolutions have demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment of uranium. The Obama administration itself has repeatedly and starkly declared that Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons is “unacceptable.” (…) Nor is it correct that the only alternative to this capitulation was war. The sanctions that this agreement supersedes were working well to force the Iranian regime to come to terms. Their nation is struggling with high prices, shortages, and a collapsing currency due to sanctions. This should have been a moment of maximum leverage for the United States and other powers. Yet the deal they’ve achieved does next to nothing to reverse Iran’s march to a bomb and does a great deal to undermine the fragile, painfully achieved world consensus to impose sanctions. Mona Charen
On compare souvent Rouhani à Mikhaïl Gorbatchev. Quand celui-ci a lancé sa perestroika en 1986 et décidé de mettre fin à la guerre froide, beaucoup d’Occidentaux ont cru à une ruse et refusé de lui faire confiance – sauf, curieusement, les deux leaders occidentaux les plus anticommunistes, l’Américain Ronald Reagan et la Britannique Margaret Thatcher. Mais Rouhani n’est pas à l’Iran actuel ce que Gorbatchev était à l’URSS des années 1980. Gorbatchev était le maître absolu, le « tsar rouge », de son pays : chef de l’Etat et du parti, commandant en chef des armées, chef suprême des services secrets. Rouhani, en dépit de son titre de chef d’Etat, n’est qu’un rouage relativement secondaire d’un régime théocratique dirigé par l’ayatollah Khamenei et la technostructure des Gardiens de la Révolution. Tout laisse donc à penser que son « ouverture » n’est – ne peut être – qu’une manœuvre permettant à l’Iran de desserrer l’étau des sanctions internationales, de gagner du temps sur le plan du nucléaire et de sauvegarder, avec la complicité active de la Russie, ses alliés syrien (Assad) et libanais (le Hezbollah). Michel Gurfinkiel

Après les printemps arabes, Benghazi et Damas, le nouveau Carter (ou Chamberlain ?) noir pouvait-il résister à un nouveau fiasco, iranien cette fois ?

A l’heure où, se félicitant d’un prétendu accord historique (aussitôt dénoncé, à la nord-corénne, par les intéressés eux-mêmes!), ceux qui nous tiennent lieu de gouvernants et d’informateurs  …

Nous proposent de desserrer, au moment même où elles commencent à porter leurs fruits, des sanctions qu’on avait mis tant de temps à mettre en place …

Concernant un programme nucléaire officiellement non-existent …

Et avec un régime dont l’actuel pantin de service se vantait il y a dix ans d’avoir floué l’Occident et dont le véritable homme fort appelait à nouveau il y a quelques jours à peine à la disparition (« de la page du temps », s’il vous plait!) d’un de ses voisins …

Comment ne pas voir, avec les quelques voix encore lucides comme celle de Michel Gurfinkiel, l’évidence d’une énième et longuement préparée manoeuvre dilatoire ?

Entretien/ Obama entre échecs et fantasmes

Pour l’Iran, la « détente » avec les Etats-Unis est une brillante manœuvre diplomatique, préparée avant même l’élection de Rouhani. Une interview accordée à l’hebdomadaire Hamodia.

Michel Gurfinkiel

October 3 2013

HAMODIA. Pourquoi cette soudaine cette idylle entre les Etats-Unis et l’Iran ?

MICHEL GURFINKIEL. Il faut distinguer entre deux niveaux. D’une part, sur le long terme, Obama et son entourage ont toujours fantasmé sur une réconciliation globale entre les Etats-Unis et l’islamisme, qu’il s’agisse de l’islamisme sunnite des Frères musulmans ou de l’islamisme chiite iranien. C’était le sens, dès 2009, du discours-manifeste du Caire, prononcé, il ne faut pas l’oublier, au moment même où le pouvoir des mollahs écrasait dans le sang un « printemps iranien ».

Cela a été également le sens, par la suite, de la temporisation d’Obama sur la question du nucléaire iranien : Washington s’est prononcé en faveur de sanctions économiques de plus en plus lourdes, mais n’a pas envisagé sérieusement une action militaire contre l’Iran ni accordé de feu vert à une éventuelle action militaire israélienne.

L’élection à la présidence iranienne, le 15 juin dernier, de Hassan Rouhani, un homme qui, dans le contexte du régime khomeiniste, peut passer pour un modéré et sait user de cette image, a évidemment relancé ce fantasme. Des négociations discrètes ont été menées au début de l’été entre Washington et Téhéran, et elles avaient suffisamment abouti dès le mois d’août – quand Rouhani a pris officiellement ses fonctions – pour que plusieurs revues américaines influentes diffusent presque immédiatement des articles préparant l’opinion à cette « détente », sinon à ce renversement d’alliance.

La New York Review of Books publie dans sa livraison datée du 15 août un long article en faveur d’un « nouvelle approche envers l’Iran » cosigné, de manière significative – l’union sacrée, pourrait-on dire -, par un universitaire pro-iranien, William Luers, un ancien ambassadeur aux Nations Unies, Thomas Pickering et un homme politique républicain, Jim Walsh. Quant à Foreign Affairs, elle consacre sa couverture de septembre-octobre au chef véritable du régime iranien, l’ayatollah et Guide spirituel Ali Khamenei. Akbar Ganji, un journaliste prestigieux, souvent présenté comme le « Soljénitsyne iranien », y affirme à la fois que Rouhani ne peut se rapprocher des Etats-Unis sans l’accord préalable et l’appui de Khamenei, ce qui est vrai ; et que les Etats-Unis doivent saisir cette « chance », ce qui est plus discutable.

HAMODIA. Et à autre niveau ?

MG. A un autre niveau, à plus court terme, Obama a sans doute vu dans un rapprochement avec l’Iran le moyen d’effacer ou de faire oublier ses échecs répétés au Moyen-Orient : en Libye, en Egypte et finalement en Syrie. Une Grande Puissance, c’est un pays qui peut faire la guerre et qui, par voie de conséquence, est en mesure d’imposer sa volonté à d’autres pays. Et « pouvoir faire la guerre », en amont, cela suppose à la fois des moyens techniques (une armée, des armements, des technologies), et des moyens politiques ou moraux (une vision du monde, des objectifs, une détermination). L’Amérique d’Obama a toujours les moyens techniques d’une Très Grande Puissance, mais elle s’est comportée en Syrie, à travers ses tergiversations et finalement sa capitulation diplomatique devant la Russie de Poutine, comme si elle n’en avait plus les moyens politiques ou moraux. Ce que les alliés traditionnels des Etats-Unis ne sont pas près de pardonner au président sur le plan international (des Etats du Golfe à la France de Hollande), ni les Américains eux-mêmes en politique intérieure.

HAMODIA. Mais que pouvait faire Obama en Syrie ? Son opinion ne s’opposait-elle pas nettement à une intervention militaire ?

MG. En règle générale, les Américains font bloc derrière leur président quand celui-ci décide de mener une opération militaire à l’extérieur – quitte à critiquer par la suite la gestion de l’opération. C’est là un réflexe démocratique et patriotique ancré dans leur culture : un réflexe au moins aussi puissant que la tentation récurrente de l’isolationnisme, du repli sur soi. Mais sur la Syrie, ce réflexe n’a pas joué : l’Amérique n’avait plus confiance en Obama sur les questions du Moyen-Orient. Ni sur le fond (l’analyse des situations et des enjeux), ni sur la forme (la mise en place de politiques).

HAMODIA. Imaginons que sur l’Iran, Obama gagne tout de même son pari…

On compare souvent Rouhani à Mikhaïl Gorbatchev. Quand celui-ci a lancé sa perestroika en 1986 et décidé de mettre fin à la guerre froide, beaucoup d’Occidentaux ont cru à une ruse et refusé de lui faire confiance – sauf, curieusement, les deux leaders occidentaux les plus anticommunistes, l’Américain Ronald Reagan et la Britannique Margaret Thatcher. Mais Rouhani n’est pas à l’Iran actuel ce que Gorbatchev était à l’URSS des années 1980. Gorbatchev était le maître absolu, le « tsar rouge », de son pays : chef de l’Etat et du parti, commandant en chef des armées, chef suprême des services secrets. Rouhani, en dépit de son titre de chef d’Etat, n’est qu’un rouage relativement secondaire d’un régime théocratique dirigé par l’ayatollah Khamenei et la technostructure des Gardiens de la Révolution. Tout laisse donc à penser que son « ouverture » n’est – ne peut être – qu’une manœuvre permettant à l’Iran de desserrer l’étau des sanctions internationales, de gagner du temps sur le plan du nucléaire et de sauvegarder, avec la complicité active de la Russie, ses alliés syrien (Assad) et libanais (le Hezbollah). Dans son article de Foreign Affairs, Akbar Ganji note que Khamenei a laissé entendre publiquement dès mars 2013 – quatre mois avant l’élection présidentielle – qu’un arrangement avec les Etats-Unis était possible et donc souhaitable. Il y a lieu de penser que Rouhani a été choisi dès ce moment pour mener cette nouvelle politique. Et que les comités qui, dans le régime iranien, sélectionnent les candidats à la présidentielle, ont reçu l’ordre de le favoriser – en le faisant apparaître comme un « libéral ».

HAMODIA. Qui profite de la désagrégation de la position américaine au Moyen-Orient ? La Russie ?

MG. Poutine a manœuvré brillamment face à un président américain faible et incompétent. Mais la Russie de 2013, ce n’est pas grand chose. Son PNB ne représente que le huitième du PNB américain et ne repose que sur des ventes d’armes, d’énergie et de matières premières. Son budget militaire ne représente qu’un peu plus du septième du budget militaire américain. Elle est moitié moins peuplée que l’Amérique et semble engagée de surcroit dans un effritement démographique irréversible : de 149 millions d’habitants en 1990 à 143 millions aujourd’hui. A terme, le véritable rival, c’est la Chine qui, à la différence de la Russie, a su se doter depuis trente ans d’une base économique, technologique et militaire moderne. C’est vers elle que les déçus de l’Amérique seront tentés de se tourner. Sauf si un président fort et compétent – un nouveau Reagan – remplace Obama en 2017, ce qui n’aurait rien d’impossible.

HAMODIA. Vous mentionniez le « fantasme islamique » d’Obama. A quoi tient-il ?

MG. Les clés d’Obama se trouvent dans son livre autobiographique, Les Rêves de mon père. Deux faits, qu’il rapporte avec beaucoup de franchise : d’abord, un drame intime : il n’a pratiquement pas connu son père ; ensuite, un drame identitaire : l’Amérique traditionnelle – anglo-saxonne, judéo-chrétienne, blanche – est pour lui une sorte de pays étranger. Il est certes né aux Etats-Unis, mais il n’y a pas passé son enfance. Il n’a pas été élevé dans la foi chrétienne, mais dans un mélange d’humanisme athée et d’islam libéral. Et bien que sa mère soit blanche, il a toujours été considéré comme un Noir.

Comment surmonte-t-il ces deux drames ? A travers l’action politique en vue d’une Amérique nouvelle, multiraciale, multireligieuse, multiculturelle. En fait, il veut enfanter cette nouvelle Amérique qui lui ressemblerait, être à la fois son propre père et celui d’une nation remodelée à son image. Ce qui passe, entre autre choses, par une réconciliation – fusionnelle – avec un islam qui est le contraire même de l’Amérique traditionnelle.

Ce n’est là qu’un fantasme. La politique rationnelle d’Obama se réfère à d’autres considérations, d’autres raisonnements. Mais les fantasmes sont souvent aussi puissants ou plus puissants que la rationalité. Et qui plus est, les fantasmes personnels du président actuel recoupent ceux d’une bonne partie de la société américaine : les Noirs, les non-Blancs en général, mais aussi les milieux blancs d’extrême-gauche, une partie des élites intellectuelles…

HAMODIA. Comment Nethanyahu va-t-il réagir ? Son discours sur la persistance du danger iranien, à l’Onu, était-il à la hauteur ?

MG. Benjalin Nethanyahu est un leader prudent. Il a toujours su éviter un affrontement direct avec Obama. Son discours, à l’Onu, s’adressait avant tout, media voce, à une opinion publique américaine qui se méfie à la fois d’Obama et de Rouhani. Et aux réalistes arabes.

HAMODIA. Obama a lié le dossier iranien au processus de paix israélo-arabe…

Qui peut encore soutenir sérieusement qu’Israël est au cœur de tous les problèmes du Proche Orient et que tout passe, dans cette région, par la « résolution » du « problème palestinien » ? Depuis près de quatre ans, le monde arabe et islamique n’en finit pas de se décomposer et de se recomposer sous nos yeux, entraîné par ses pesanteurs propres. Une analyste géopolitique, Robin Wright, vient même de prédire dans le New York Times, le quotidien le plus pro-Obama des Etats-Unis, le remplacement de cinq Etats moyen-orientaux (la Syrie, l’Irak, l’Arabie Saoudite, la Libye, le Yemen) par quinze nouveaux Etats à caractère ethnoreligieux. Voilà qui merite au moins autant d’attention que les articles promouvant le « nouvel Iran » du président Rouhani. Et qui relativise le « processus de paix » Jérusalem-Ramallah.

(Propos recueillis par Daniel Haïk)

Voir aussi:

A Victory for Iran

The Obama administration’s “interim” agreement is an exercise in wishful thinking.

Mona Charen

National Review on line

November 26, 2013

Ninety percent of the American opinion elite will fall for the old “historic breakthrough” conceit every time. The appeal of getting enemies in a room together where they will shed their animosity and “reason together” is so profound that nothing as tiresome as experience can diminish its allure.

Don’t talk to Secretary Kerry or President Obama about the League of Nations (which enjoyed such success ensuring world peace) or the Kellogg–Briand Pact, the 1928 treaty that outlawed war as an instrument of national policy. Fifty-four countries, including all of the major belligerents of World War II, signed the pact. Don’t mention the series of “breakthrough agreements” between the United States and North Korea, in which we thrice (1994, 2005, 2007) offered security guarantees, food aid, diplomatic concessions, and cash in exchange for North Korea’s promise to discontinue its nuclear program. The very same person who handled negotiations with North Korea for the Clinton administration, Wendy Sherman, is now heading up the U.S. team stroking the Iranians. (The Bush administration, more immune than most to the siren call of diplomatic breakthroughs, did fall into the trap with North Korea.)

Secretary Kerry, denying that the Geneva accord is a naïve exercise in wishful thinking, pleads that we need to “put to the test Iran’s words and intentions.” Any contract requires a meeting of the minds. Kerry keeps saying that we don’t need to trust the Iranians because we will be checking them at every stage. But if the parties do not even agree to what they’ve just signed in the 18 hours after inking a document, how well is verification going to go? Mohammed Zarif, Iran’s chief negotiator, asserted that the agreement takes the threat of force off the table, and enshrines Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium. Kerry flatly denies both. Nice start.

Secretary Kerry also challenged Iran to “prove” to the world that its nuclear program is only for “peaceful purposes.” Is that a question an adult, far less America’s chief diplomat, should pose? Iran controls the world’s fourth largest supply of oil and second largest reserve of natural gas. Are we to believe that Iran is pursuing nuclear power because of concern about climate change? How exactly would Iran’s active research on nuclear-weapons design and development of ballistic-missile technology suit that explanation?

It has been obvious for more than two decades that Iran is determined to join the nuclear club — a goal America’s allies in the region and right-thinking people the world over view with horror and dread. Five Security Council resolutions have demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment of uranium. The Obama administration itself has repeatedly and starkly declared that Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons is “unacceptable.”

As with so many things President Obama has said, though, this pronouncement is nothing more than a windsock — it shows which way the wind is blowing, but doesn’t hold anything. Like the “red line” about Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the stentorian injunctions against Iran’s nuclear pursuit are also just so much wind.

Both Kerry and Obama have repeatedly argued that negotiation is the only alternative to war. By blurting this in an attempt to dissuade Congress from passing further sanctions they completely neuter any implied threat of military force. Iran certainly notices the Obama administration’s eagerness for a deal as well as its rejection of military action.

Nor is it correct that the only alternative to this capitulation was war. The sanctions that this agreement supersedes were working well to force the Iranian regime to come to terms. Their nation is struggling with high prices, shortages, and a collapsing currency due to sanctions. This should have been a moment of maximum leverage for the United States and other powers. Yet the deal they’ve achieved does next to nothing to reverse Iran’s march to a bomb and does a great deal to undermine the fragile, painfully achieved world consensus to impose sanctions.

“For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program,” Mr. Obama intoned. But we’ve seen this story unfold many times before, most recently with North Korea. Our eagerness for pieces of paper that can be brandished as “peace” trumps cold reality every time. Iran has slipped the sanctions noose. It will soon become a nuclear power — not despite our best efforts, but with our tacit acquiescence. We will look back on this agreement with bitterness in the very near future.

Voir également:

Peace for Our Time

Victor Davis Hanson

National review on line

November 24, 2013

The Iranian agreement comes not in isolation, unfortunately. The Syrian debacle instructed the Iranians that the Obama administration was more interested in announcing a peaceful breakthrough than actually achieving it. The timing is convenient for both sides: The Obama administration needed an offset abroad to the Obamacare disaster, and the Iranians want a breathing space to rebuild their finances and ensure that Assad can salvage the Iranian-Hezbollah-Assad axis. The agreement is a de facto acknowledgement that containing, not ending, Iran’s nuclear program is now U.S. policy.

After all, to what degree would an Iranian freeze really retard development of a bomb, or simply put it on hold? In other words, has Iran already met some of its requirements for weaponization, and now simply wishes to take a breather, rebuild its economy, and strengthen its image in the West — before the final and rather easy development of a deliverable bomb? If the sanctions are not only lifted, but incentives are added in place of them, why then would Iran not agree to dismantle completely elements of its program that exceed domestic energy purposes? (Or for that matter, why would a nation with among the world’s largest reserves of gas and oil feel the need to fund an expensive nuclear energy program in the first place?)

Aside from the details of this new Sword of Damocles pact, one wonders about the following: In the case of violations, will it be easier for Iran to return to weaponization or for the U.S. to reassemble allies to reestablish the sanctions? Will Israel now be more or less likely to consider preemption? Will the Sunni states feel some relief or more likely pursue avenues to achieve nuclear deterrence? Will allies like Japan or South Korea feel that the U.S. has reasserted its old global clout, or further worry that their patron might engage in secret talks with, say, China rather than reemphasize their security under the traditional U.S. umbrella?

The president’s dismal polls are only a multiplier of that general perception abroad that foreign policy is an auxiliary to fundamental transformation at home, useful not so much to create international stability per se, as to enhance Obama influence in pursuing his domestic agenda. Collate reset, lead from behind, “redlines,” “game-changers,” ”deadlines,” the Arab Spring confusion, the skedaddle from Iraq, Benghazi, the Eastern European missile pullback, and the atmosphere is comparable to the 1979–80 Carter landscape, in which after three years of observation, the opportunists at last decided to act while the acting was good, from Afghanistan to Central America to Tehran.

There is not a good record, from Philip of Macedon to Hitler to Stalin in the 1940s to Carter and the Soviets in the 1970s to radical Islamists in the 1990s, of expecting authoritarians and thugs to listen to reason, cool their aggression, and appreciate democracies’ sober and judicious appeal to logic — once they sense in the West greater eagerness to announce new, rather than to enforce old, agreements.

Voir encore:

Worse Than Munich

In 1938, Chamberlain bought time to rearm. In 2013, Obama gives Iran time to go nuclear.

Bret Stephens

The WSJ

Nov. 25, 2013

To adapt Churchill : Never in the field of global diplomacy has so much been given away by so many for so little.

Britain and France’s capitulation to Nazi Germany at Munich has long been a byword for ignominy, moral and diplomatic. Yet neither Neville Chamberlain nor Édouard Daladier had the public support or military wherewithal to stand up to Hitler in September 1938. Britain had just 384,000 men in its regular army; the first Spitfire aircraft only entered RAF service that summer. « Peace for our time » it was not, but at least appeasement bought the West a year to rearm.

The signing of the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973 was a betrayal of an embattled U.S. ally and the abandonment of an effort for which 58,000 American troops gave their lives. Yet it did end America’s participation in a peripheral war, which neither Congress nor the public could indefinitely support. « Peace with honor » it was not, as the victims of Cambodia’s Killing Fields or Vietnam’s re-education camps can attest. But, for American purposes at least, it was peace.

By contrast, the interim nuclear agreement signed in Geneva on Sunday by Iran and the six big powers has many of the flaws of Munich and Paris. But it has none of their redeeming or exculpating aspects.

Consider: Britain and France came to Munich as military weaklings. The U.S. and its allies face Iran from a position of overwhelming strength. Britain and France won time to rearm. The U.S. and its allies have given Iran more time to stockpile uranium and develop its nuclear infrastructure. Britain and France had overwhelming domestic constituencies in favor of any deal that would avoid war. The Obama administration is defying broad bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress for the sake of a deal.

As for the Vietnam parallels, the U.S. showed military resolve in the run-up to the Paris Accords with a massive bombing and mining campaign of the North that demonstrated presidential resolve and forced Hanoi to sign the deal. The administration comes to Geneva fresh from worming its way out of its own threat to use force to punish Syria’s Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons against his own people.

The Nixon administration also exited Vietnam in the context of a durable opening to Beijing that helped tilt the global balance of power against Moscow. Now the U.S. is attempting a fleeting opening with Tehran at the expense of a durable alliance of values with Israel and interests with Saudi Arabia. « How to Lose Friends and Alienate People » is the title of a hilarious memoir by British author Toby Young —but it could equally be the history of Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

That’s where the differences end between Geneva and the previous accords. What they have in common is that each deal was a betrayal of small countries—Czechoslovakia, South Vietnam, Israel—that had relied on Western security guarantees. Each was a victory for the dictatorships: « No matter the world wants it or not, » Iranian President Hasan Rouhani said Sunday, « this path will, God willingly, continue to the peak that has been considered by the martyred nuclear scientists. » Each deal increased the contempt of the dictatorships for the democracies: « If ever that silly old man comes interfering here again with his umbrella, » Hitler is reported to have said of Chamberlain after Munich, « I’ll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach. »

And each deal was a prelude to worse. After Munich came the conquest of Czechoslovakia, the Nazi-Soviet pact and World War II. After Paris came the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh and the humiliating exit from the embassy rooftop. After Geneva there will come a new, chaotic Mideast reality in which the United States will lose leverage over enemies and friends alike.

What will that look like? Iran will gradually shake free of sanctions and glide into a zone of nuclear ambiguity that will keep its adversaries guessing until it opts to make its capabilities known. Saudi Arabia will move swiftly to acquire a nuclear deterrent from its clients in Islamabad; Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal made that clear to the Journal last week when he indiscreetly discussed « the arrangement with Pakistan. » Egypt is beginning to ponder a nuclear option of its own while drawing closer to a security alliance with Russia.

As for Israel, it cannot afford to live in a neighborhood where Iran becomes nuclear, Assad remains in power, and Hezbollah—Israel’s most immediate military threat—gains strength, clout and battlefield experience. The chances that Israel will hazard a strike on Iran’s nuclear sites greatly increased since Geneva. More so the chances of another war with Hezbollah.

After World War II the U.S. created a global system of security alliances to prevent the kind of foreign policy freelancing that is again becoming rampant in the Middle East. It worked until President Obama decided in his wisdom to throw it away. If you hear echoes of the 1930s in the capitulation at Geneva, it’s because the West is being led by the same sort of men, minus the umbrellas.

Voir de même:

Hassan Rouhani: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Majid Rafizadeh

FrontPage Magazine

July 24, 2013

In the Western world, the media and political leaders have created a narrative averring that Iran’s seventh president, Hassan Rouhani, will introduce a new chapter to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s history of nuclear defiance. Meanwhile, under Ahmadinejad’s rule, Tehran will continue to spin its centrifuges in attempt to obtain nuclear weapons and arsenals until Rouhani assumes presidency. While the West and other regional countries have suspended all diplomatic initiatives, talks and pressures until Rouhani comes to power, Iranian leaders have taken advantage of this opportunity to speed up their enrichment of uranium so as to sooner reach the critical point of obtaining nuclear weapons.

The “logic” that the Obama administration and other liberal leaders are utilizing to uphold the argument that diplomatic initiatives have to wait until Rouhani comes to power is that Rouhani is a centrist, moderate, realist, and rational Iranian politician who comprehends the concerns and rules of the international community, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations, and P5+1. They argue that Rouhani will comply with rules and halt Iran’s nuclear program in several cities including Bushehr, Qum, Esfahan, Arak and Natanz.

Nevertheless, these arguments do not take into account the ideological nuances, political agenda and structure of the Iranian centrists. In addition, and more fundamentally, these arguments can easily be repudiated not only by the career, personal, ideological, and political background of Hassan Rouhani, but also by the most recent statements that Rouhani has made in Persian media and the state’s outlets.

In a recent interview, Hassan Abedini, the host of one of Iran’s state media channels, IRIB, criticized Rouhani by stating that Iran’s nuclear work had been halted as a result of the negotiations that Rouhani took part in when he was chief nuclear negotiator. Rouhani then immediately interrupted Abedini by exclaiming, “What you said is a lie. You know it’s a lie. This statement is what ignorant people say; you are taught in this….Maybe the person speaking to you in your earpiece doesn’t know, but you know.” After the television host pressured Rouhani further, Rouhani said “We suspended the [nuclear] program? We completed the [nuclear] program. This is unethical act of the IRIB [channel] that has permeated into you. And the person who is talking with you into your earpiece, this unethical act has permeated into him, as well.”

In this interview, Rouhani supported the position that although the West and international community believe that Iran was halting its nuclear program, Rouhani – as the chief nuclear negotiator – was in fact completing it. In addition, at the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, Rouhani further clarified, “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were [simultaneously] installing equipment in parts of the [nuclear] facility in Isfahan, but we still had a long way to go to accomplish the project. In fact, by creating a tranquil environment, we were able to finish the work in Isfahan.”

Furthermore, after Rouhani was elected as the Iran’s seventh president, he publicly declared that the United States must recognize Iran’s nuclear rights and pledge not to interfere in its internal and domestic affairs. Additionally, in his press conference, the president-elect clearly stated, “The era of [enrichment] suspension is gone.”

The critical fact remains that although on one hand the Iranian centrists support using softer and more diplomatic tones on regional and international platforms, on the other hand, they also strongly insist on preserving Tehran’s current political status quo, foreign policy objectives, and continued assistance towards the survival of the Shiite cleric-ruled regime. While Rouhani is nicknamed the diplomatic sheikh and while he calls for employing less hostile language when dealing with the West, it is nevertheless unrealistic to argue that Rouhani will alter Tehran’s nuclear program and foreign policies or challenge the Supreme Leader.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose country would be the most affected if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, responded to Rouhani’s remarks about the era of nuclear suspension being gone. In an interview with CBS News, Netanyahu accurately characterized the political ideology of Rouhani and Iran’s centrist political spectrum by stating, “He [Rouhani] is criticizing his predecessor for being a wolf in wolf’s clothing. His strategy is to be a wolf in a sheep’s clothing. Smile and build a bomb.” Netanyahu also stated previously, “Let us not delude ourselves. The international community must not become caught up in wishful thinking and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program.”

Hassan Rouhani and the centrist party are the founders and beneficiaries of the theocratic political system of Iran’s Ayatollahs. It would be irrational to argue that Rouhani will stand against the current system, which he assisted in creating, and it is illogical to believe that he will risk his power and accumulated wealth by halting the centrifuges from spinning. Rouhani was the chief advisor of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as the head of Iran’s National Security Council. It is thus inevitable that Rouhani will avoid challenging the Supreme Leader so as to preserve all the benefits and powers he has accumulated.

In a very Machiavellian-like approach, the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue spinning its centrifuges under the rule of Rouhani, but in the meanwhile will use a much softer tone when interacting with the international community. This shrewdness will allow Iran to buy time, manipulate the international community, take advantage of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s loopholes, delude the rest of world and ultimately reach their nuclear and hegemonic ambitions.

Voir de plus:

Rohani, bilan d’une modération de façade en Iran

National Council of Resistance of Iran

12 Oct 2013

CNRI – Voilà près de 100 jours que Hassan Rohani a pris ses fonctions de nouveau président du régime iranien. Les médias font une grande place à l’offensive du lobby des mollahs pour donner à la dictature religieuse un vernir de modération via l’image de Rohani, un homme du sérail depuis 30 ans. Le but étant uniquement de desserrer l’étau des sanctions internationales qui l’étranglent. Cependant, on peut déjà se faire une idée de sa véritable identité à travers son bilan.

Avant son accession à la présidence

Hassan Rohani se vantait d’avoir réussi à tromper les Occidentaux dans les négociations sur le nucléaire. Voici son intervention, le 3 novembre 2003, au Conseil suprême de la Révolution culturelle, paru en septembre 2005 dans le semestriel RAHBORD, une publication du Centre de Recherche stratégique du Conseil de Discernement de l’État :

« Durant l’été 2002, des clameurs se sont levées dans les médias occidentaux affirmant que l’Iran s’emploie à construire une bombe atomique (…) Quand nous avons invité les trois ministres (des Affaires étrangères européennes) nous cherchions à savoir comment nous pourrions donner une vue d’ensemble du programme nucléaire et de nos précédentes activités, tout en évitant d’être renvoyés devant le Conseil de sécurité. Si nous avions refusé de déclarer nos activités passées, cela aurait signifié pour l’agence (AIEA) que nous n’avions pas l’intention de coopérer. Car la plupart des activités menées à l’insu de l’agence, lui avait été communiquées par les pays avec lesquels nous avions traité (…) Avec les renseignements venus de la Libye, ils se sont rendus compte que nous avions pu obtenir des choses de notre négociant sans les déclarer. En effet, nous avions déclaré les équipements reçus du négociant, à une exception : la (centrifugeuse) P2 (…)

«Graduellement, les Européens ont conclu que nous n’avions pas accepté la suspension dans les domaines où nous avions des difficultés technologiques, et que la suspension (de l’enrichissement) s’appliquait seulement aux cas où nous n’avions pas de difficultés techniques. C’est une question qu’ils ont soulevée récemment dans les négociations. Ainsi, s’agissant de l’U.C.F et de l’usine d’Ispahan qui transforme le yelow cake en du UF4 et UF6, nous avons réussi à le terminer pendant la période de la suspension. À l’époque, pendant que nous étions en train de discuter avec les Européens à Téhéran, nous installions des équipements dans certaines parties (de l’usine) d’Ispahan, et le projet était sur le point d’être complété. En réalité, c’est en créant un climat de sérénité, que nous avons pu achever Ispahan. Dieu soit loué, Ispahan a été complété et nous pouvons transformer le yellow cake en du UF4 et UF6, et c’est très important (…) Nous avions certaines choses et nous pensions que personne n’en était informé. Mais ces mêmes choses que nous avions dissimulées, avaient malheureusement été publiées dans le passé dans des thèses de doctorat et des articles scientifiques (iraniens). En outre, d’autres faits avaient été communiqués par la Chine et la Russie à l’Agence.»

Discours d’Hassan Rohani, premier vice-président du parlement, dans un rassemblement de la milice du Bassidj, publié le 17 mai 1995 par le quotidien officiel Etela’at:

« Si certains endiablés venaient dire jusqu’à récemment à nos chers jeunes gens que l’antiaméricanisme de la révolution s’est édulcorée, aujourd’hui cependant, il est avéré à la face du monde que ces paroles sont erronées et infondées. Notre système, notre gouvernement, notre parlement, nos responsables, et à leur tête notre vénérable Guide suprême, à l’instar de l’imam (Khomeiny), sont tous des antiaméricains convaincus. Aujourd’hui l’admirable slogan de « mort à l’Amérique » est de plus en plus une source d’unité dans notre pays. Aujourd’hui le slogan « mort à l’Amérique » a fait que notre cheminement est plus clair, plus transparent et plus défini que jamais.» https://khodnevis.org/article/52750#.Uk1VB4bwZpw

Après son arrivée à la présidence

Sur le programme atomique :

« Accepter le droit naturel, légal et inaliénable de l’Iran, comme l’ordonne avec sagesse le guide suprême, est le moyen le plus simple de résoudre le dossier nucléaire atomique. »

« La technologie nucléaire, notamment l’enrichissement de l’uranium, est parvenue au stade de production à grande échelle. Imaginer qu’en faisant obstruction au programme atomique de l’Iran par le biais de pressions illégales, on peut garantir que le programme est pacifique, relève de la fiction totale. »

Discours à l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU, New York, 24 septembre 2013.

– Selon l’AIEA : les réserves d’uranium enrichi à 20% en Iran au mois de février avaient augmenté de 9 %

20 aout 2013, agence Reuters

- 28 aout : Dans son rapport trimestriel, l’AIEA a annoncé : en installant des centaines d’autres centrifugeuses, l’Iran a augmenté sa capacité à enrichir l’uranium. Ces centrifugeuses, qui sont d’un modèle plus avancé (IR-2), se trouvent dans le site nucléaire de Natanz, dans la province d’Ispahan. Le rapport ajoute : l’Iran a aussi commencé la production de combustible pour le réacteur d’eau lourde.

Rapport de l’AEIA, 28 aout

– Dans la visite que nous avons effectuée aujourd’hui au site de Fordo (…) les activités de ce site se poursuivent sans la moindre faille et l’enrichissement se fait à 20%. »

1 octobre, agences de presse officielles iraniennes

Sur les missiles balistiques :

Dans un défilé militaire en Iran en présence de Rohani, « les forces armée iraniennes ont présenté 30 missiles balistique de type Sejil et Ghadr d’une portée annoncée de 2000 km ».

AFP – 22 septembre 2013

Sur Israël :

« Le régime sioniste est depuis des années une plaie sur le corps monde musulman et il faut se débarrasser de cette plaie. » Quelques heures plus tard, la phrase a été corrigée de la manière suivante : « Dans notre région, dans l’ombre occupée du territoire palestinien et de notre chère Qods (Jérusalem), une plaie a été infligée au corps du monde musulman et cela nous rappelle que le peuple musulman n’oubliera pas son droit historique et résistera à l’oppression et à l’agression. »

3 aout 2013 – Discours à la manifestation annuel contre Israël du nom de « Journée Qods »

http://www.president.ir/fa/70000

Sur la Corée du Nord :

« L’Iran et la Corée du nord ont toujours entretenu de bonnes relations et il est certain que le niveau de relation de ces deux pays se développera dans le 11e gouvernement (…) Les relations de la république islamique d’Iran et de la Corée du Nord au fil des ans ont toujours été bonnes et en plein développement. Je suis certain que les relations entre les deux pays vont se poursuivre avec le 11e gouvernement et continueront de se développer plus qu’auparavant. »

3 aout 2013 – Dans une rencontre avec le président nord coréen

http://www.president.ir/fa/70017

Sur la Syrie :

« La république islamique d’Iran est préoccupée par la présence de terroristes et les ingérences étrangères en Syrie et le condamne. » « Le président de la république, adressant ses remerciements pour le message de Bachar Assad, le président syrien, a mis l’accent sur le développement des relations entre les deux pays dans divers domaines. »

4 aout 2013 – Rencontre avec le premier ministre syrien

http://www.president.ir/fa/70427

Sur le guide suprême et la constitution de la dictature religieuse :

« Nous sommes fiers de tous nous trouver en république islamique dont le pilier centrale est le guide suprême. »

19 aout 2013, lors de la présentation du ministre de l’Intérieur

http://www.president.ir/fa/70641

« La constitution est extrêmement progressiste et dynamique, le principe de la constitution peut parfaitement satisfaire les droits civils de la population. »

6 aout 2013, lors de sa première conférence de presse.

http://www.president.ir/fa/70470

Sur la situation économique :

« Deux années consécutives, la croissance économique du pays s’est révélée négative. C’est la première fois qu’après la guerre imposée [contre l’Irak], notre croissance économique est négative. C’est la première fois qu’à côté de la croissance négative, le pays connait une inflation extrêmement élevée, la plus haute inflation de la région, voire du monde. Le pays connait une inflation de 42%, le pays connait le chômage (…) Regardez les chiffres : de 2006 à 2011, quel est le nombre d’emplois ? 14.000 personnes par an ? C’est le nombre d’emplois de ces dernières années dans notre pays. »

3 aout 2013, dans une réunion avec les députés au Majlis.

http://www.president.ir/fa/70004

« La situation actuelle du pays dans tous les domaines est difficile et complexe. Dans le domaine économique, le pays connait une inflation élevée, un taux d’investissements réduit, une réduction des entreprises de production, et beaucoup de liquidités, en autres problèmes économiques.

« Dans le domaine de la politique étrangère, nous sommes confrontés aux sanctions qui nous oppriment, aux défis régionaux et aux tensions politiques aigues au Moyen-Orient. »

15 aout 2013, discours de clôture en défense des ministres présentés au parlement.

http://www.president.ir/fa/70547

Un dossier sur Hassan Rohani

Rohani au pouvoir en Iran quelles sont les conséquences

Voir enfin:

Iran Strongly Rejects Text of Geneva Agreement Released by White House

FARS

Nov 26, 2013

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday called invalid a press release by the White House alleged to be the text of the nuclear agreement struck by Iran and the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) in Geneva on Sunday.

“What has been released by the website of the White House as a fact sheet is a one-sided interpretation of the agreed text in Geneva and some of the explanations and words in the sheet contradict the text of the Joint Plan of Action (the title of the Iran-powers deal), and this fact sheet has unfortunately been translated and released in the name of the Geneva agreement by certain media, which is not true,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said on Tuesday.

She said that the four-page text under the name of the Joint Plan of Action (which has been released by the Iranian foreign ministry) was the result of the agreement reached during the Geneva talks and all of its sentences and words were chosen based on the considerations of all parties to the talks. In fact one of the reasons why negotiations between Iran and the G5+1 took so long pertained to the accuracy which was needed for choosing the words for the text of the agreement, Afkham said, explaining that the Iranian delegation was much rigid and laid much emphasis on the need for this accuracy.

Afkham said that the text of the Joint Plan of Action was provided to the media a few hours after the two sides agreed on it.

After the White House released a modified version of the deal struck by Iran and the six world powers in Geneva early Sunday morning, the Iranian Foreign Ministry released the text of the agreement.

The full text of the deal is as follows:

Geneva, 24 November 2013

Joint Plan of Action

Preamble

The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons. This comprehensive solution would build on these initial measures and result in a final step for a period to be agreed upon and the resolution of concerns. This comprehensive solution would enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the relevant articles of the NPT in conformity with its obligations therein. This comprehensive solution would involve a mutually defined enrichment programme with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the programme. This comprehensive solution would constitute an integrated whole where nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. This comprehensive solution would involve a reciprocal, step-bystep process, and would produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions, as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme.

There would be additional steps in between the initial measures and the final step, including, among other things, addressing the UN Security Council resolutions, with a view toward bringing to a satisfactory conclusion the UN Security Council’s consideration of this matter. The E3+3 and Iran will be responsible for conclusion and implementation of mutual near-term measures and the comprehensive solution in good faith. A Joint Commission of E3/EU+3 and Iran will be established to monitor the implementation of the near-term measures and address issues that may arise, with the IAEA responsible for verification of nuclear-related measures. The Joint Commission will work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern.

Elements of a first step The first step would be time-bound, with a duration of 6 months, and renewable by mutual consent, during which all parties will work to maintain a constructive atmosphere for negotiations in good faith. Iran would undertake the following voluntary measures:

• From the existing uranium enriched to 20%, retain half as working stock of 20% oxide for fabrication of fuel for the TRR. Dilute the remaining 20% UF6 to no more than 5%. No reconversion line.

• Iran announces that it will not enrich uranium over 5% for the duration of the 6 months.

• Iran announces that it will not make any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant1, Fordow2, or the Arak reactor3, designated by the IAEA as IR-40.

• Beginning when the line for conversion of UF6 enriched up to 5% to UO2 is ready, Iran has decided to convert to oxide UF6 newly enriched up to 5% during the 6 month period, as provided in the operational schedule of the conversion plant declared to the IAEA.

• No new locations for the enrichment.

• Iran will continue its safeguarded R&D practices, including its current enrichment R&D practices, which are not designed for accumulation of the enriched uranium.

• No reprocessing or construction of a facility capable of reprocessing.

• Enhanced monitoring:

o Provision of specified information to the IAEA, including information on Iran’s plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material. This information would be provided within three months of the adoption of these measures.

o Submission of an updated DIQ for the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40, to the IAEA.

o Steps to agree with the IAEA on conclusion of the Safeguards Approach for the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40.

o Daily IAEA inspector access when inspectors are not present for the purpose of Design Information Verification, Interim Inventory Verification, Physical Inventory Verification, and unannounced inspections, for the purpose of access to offline surveillance records, at Fordow and Natanz.

o IAEA inspector managed access to:

centrifuge assembly workshops4;

centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities; and, uranium mines and mills.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Footnotes:

1 Namely, during the 6 months, Iran will not feed UF6 into the centrifuges installed but not enriching uranium. Not install additional centrifuges. Iran announces that during the first 6 months, it will replace existing centrifuges with centrifuges of the same type.

2 At Fordow, no further enrichment over 5% at 4 cascades now enriching uranium, and not increase enrichment capacity. Not

feed UF6 into the other 12 cascades, which would remain in a non-operative state. No interconnections between cascades.

Iran announces that during the first 6 months, it will replace existing centrifuges with centrifuges of the same type.

3 Iran announces on concerns related to the construction of the reactor at Arak that for 6 months it will not commission the reactor or transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site and will not test additional fuel or produce more fuel for the reactor or install remaining components.

4 Consistent with its plans, Iran’s centrifuge production during the 6 months will be dedicated to replace damaged machines.

In return, the E3/EU+3 would undertake the following voluntary measures:

• Pause efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales, enabling Iran’s current customers to purchase their current average amounts of crude oil. Enable the repatriation of an agreed amount of revenue held abroad. For such oil sales, suspend the EU and U.S. sanctions on associated insurance and transportation services.

• Suspend U.S. and EU sanctions on:

o Iran’s petrochemical exports, as well as sanctions on associated services.5 o Gold and precious metals, as well as sanctions on associated services.

• Suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran’s auto industry, as well as sanctions on associated services.

• License the supply and installation in Iran of spare parts for safety of flight for Iranian civil aviation and associated services. License safety related inspections and repairs in Iran as well as associated services.6

• No new nuclear-related UN Security Council sanctions.

• No new EU nuclear-related sanctions.

• The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the

Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.

• Establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs using Iranian oil revenues held abroad. Humanitarian trade would be defined as transactions involving food and agricultural products, medicine, medical devices, and medical expenses incurred abroad. This channel would involve specified foreign banks and non-designated Iranian banks to be defined when establishing the channel.

o This channel could also enable:

transactions required to pay Iran’s UN obligations; and, direct tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad, up to an agreed amount for the six month period.

• Increase the EU authorisation thresholds for transactions for non-sanctioned trade to an agreed amount.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Footnotes

5 « Sanctions on associated services » means any service, such as insurance, transportation, or financial, subject to the underlying U.S. or EU sanctions applicable, insofar as each service is related to the underlying sanction and required to facilitate the desired transactions. These services could involve any non-designated Iranian entities.

6 Sanctions relief could involve any non-designated Iranian airlines as well as Iran Air.

Elements of the final step of a comprehensive solution*

The final step of a comprehensive solution, which the parties aim to conclude negotiating and commence implementing no more than one year after the adoption of this document, would:

• Have a specified long-term duration to be agreed upon.

• Reflect the rights and obligations of parties to the NPT and IAEA Safeguards Agreements.

• Comprehensively lift UN Security Council, multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions, including steps on access in areas of trade, technology, finance, and energy, on a schedule to be agreed upon.

• Involve a mutually defined enrichment programme with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon.

• Fully resolve concerns related to the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40.

No reprocessing or construction of a facility capable of reprocessing.

• Fully implement the agreed transparency measures and enhanced monitoring. Ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Majlis (Iranian parliament).

• Include international civil nuclear cooperation, including among others, on acquiring modern light water power and research reactors and associated equipment, and the supply of modern nuclear fuel as well as agreed R&D practices.

Following successful implementation of the final step of the comprehensive solution for its full duration, the Iranian nuclear programme will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT.

* With respect to the final step and any steps in between, the standard principle that « nothing is agreed until everything is agreed » applies.


Ecoutes américaines: Beau comme la rencontre fortuite de l’insigne incompétence et de la plus totalitaire des capacités d’interception (Lamb horns and dragon voice – the most ineffectual drone president and an apparatus that aspires to monitor no less than the entirety of the human race’s electronic communications !)

31 octobre, 2013
Photo : BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING US (Lamb horns and dragon voice - the most ineffectual drone president and an apparatus that aspires to monitor no less than the entirety of the human race's electronic communications !)And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.  And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his nameRevelation 13: 11-17The magnitude of the eavesdropping is what shocked us, Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. The difference is that we don’t have the same means as the United States - which makes us jealous.Bernard KouchnerOf course, Brazil, France, Germany, and Mexico do exactly the same thing. They want their leaders to gain a decision advantage in the give and take between countries. They want to know what U.S. policymakers will do before the Americans do it. And in the case of Brazil and France, they aggressively spy on the United States, on U.S. citizens and politicians, in order to collect that information. The difference lies in the scale of intelligence collection: The U.S. has the most effective, most distributed, most sophisticated intelligence community in the West. It is Goliath. And other countries, rightly in their mind, are envious.Marc Ambiderhttp://theweek.com/article/index/251628/why-the-nsa-spies-on-france-and-germanyBefore his disclosures, most experts already assumed that the United States conducted cyberattacks against China, bugged European institutions, and monitored global Internet communications. Even his most explosive revelation -- that the United States and the United Kingdom have compromised key communications software and encryption systems designed to protect online privacy and security -- merely confirmed what knowledgeable observers have long suspected.The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. ... "Hypocrisy is central to Washington’s soft power—its ability to get other countries to accept the legitimacy of its actions—yet few Americans appreciate its role, The reason the United States has until now suffered few consequences for such hypocrisy is that other states have a strong interest in turning a blind eye. Given how much they benefit from the global public goods Washington provides, they have little interest in calling the hegemon on its bad behavior. Public criticism risks pushing the U.S. government toward self-interested positions that would undermine the larger world order. Moreover, the United States can punish those who point out the inconsistency in its actions by downgrading trade relations or through other forms of direct retaliation. Allies thus usually air their concerns in private.http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/140155/henry-farrell-and-martha-finnemore/the-end-of-hypocrisy#http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/140155/henry-farrell-and-martha-finnemore/the-end-of-hypocrisy#Hypocrisy is crucial because the world order functions through a set of American-built institutions, such as the UN and the World Trade Organisation, which depend on America's commitment to their ideals to hold legitimacy. However, America, like other countries, is in practice often unable to pursue its national interests while adhering to these ideals. Because America is more important to the global order than other countries, its need to practise hypocrisy is greater. And, in general, allies have been willing to abet such hypocrisy:The Economisthttp://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/10/nsa-and-euhttp://www.nationalreview.com/article/362404/obama-still-president-victor-davis-hanson/page/0/1Puis je vis monter de la terre une autre bête, qui avait deux cornes semblables à celles d’un agneau, et qui parlait comme un dragon. Elle exerçait toute l’autorité de la première bête en sa présence, et elle faisait que la terre et ses habitants adoraient la première bête, dont la blessure mortelle avait été guérie. Elle opérait de grands prodiges, même jusqu’à faire descendre du feu du ciel sur la terre, à la vue des hommes.Et elle séduisait les habitants de la terre par les prodiges qu’il lui était donné d’opérer en présence de la bête, disant aux habitants de la terre de faire une image à la bête qui avait la blessure de l’épée et qui vivait. Et il lui fut donné d’animer l’image de la bête, afin que l’image de la bête parlât, et qu’elle fît que tous ceux qui n’adoreraient pas l’image de la bête fussent tués. Et elle fit que tous, petits et grands, riches et pauvres, libres et esclaves, reçussent une marque sur leur main droite ou sur leur front, et que personne ne pût acheter ni vendre, sans avoir la marque, le nom de la bête ou le nombre de son nom.  Apocalypse 13: 11-17
Beau comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d’une machine à coudre et d’un parapluie! Lautréamont
L’Iran devrait probablement atteindre une capacité nucléaire indétectable à la mi-2014 et peut-être même avant. Dennis Ross
C’est l‘importance des écoutes qui nous a choqué, mais soyons honnêtes, nous espionnons aussi. Tout le monde écoute tout le monde. La différence, c’est qu’on n’a pas les moyens des Etats-Unis, ce qui nous rend jaloux.  Bernard Kouchner
Pour ce qui est de l’espionnage par des moyens technologiques, les écoutes précisément ou les interceptions de flux internet, 2001 n’a pas vraiment changé les choses. 2001 a juste donné aux Etats-Unis un motif nouveau pour habiller leurs pratiques d’interception. Ce nouveau motif, c’est la guerre contre le terrorisme. Mais sur le plan des pratiques, depuis les années 1950, en pleine guerre froide, les Etats-Unis ont en permanence intercepté des communications, y compris celles de leurs partenaires et celles de leurs alliés. (…)  La NSA, d’un point de vue très pratique, en matière d’interception en dehors des Etats-Unis, a deux moyens. D’une part, elle se sert dans les grands serveurs des fournisseurs d’accès à internet, c’est une première façon d’aller directement puiser à la source. Ou alors, elle a un accès, je dirais plus pratique encore, qui est de se brancher sur les câbles eux-mêmes, et non pas sur les fermes (serveurs de données) dans lesquelles sont contenues toutes les données. Ensuite, comme d’autres agences, comme l’agence britannique et d’autres agences, toutes ces données ne sont pas exploitées par l’intelligence humaine mais sont exploitées grâce à des algorithmes, par des capacités informatiques, qui essaient de cibler des mots-clés. Alors, c’est tout l’enjeu du débat aujourd’hui. Est-ce que, comme le disent les Etats-Unis dans une défense mezzo voce, ils ne cherchent dans ces données que ce qui a trait à la lutte contre le terrorisme et à la sécurité des Etats-Unis? Ou est-ce que, sans le dire, ils utilisent aussi ces interceptions pour repérer les mots-clés touchant à des pratiques commerciales, à des brevets, à des litiges juridiques ? Ce que l’on peut dire, étant donné ce que l’on sait aujourd’hui du passé, c’est que la capacité d’interception de la NSA a servi, bien sûr, la sécurité des Etats-Unis mais elle a aussi servi les Etats-Unis dans la guerre économique mondiale qui est devenue une réalité plus forte après la fin de la guerre froide. (…) C’est un jeu de dupes, mais comme les relations entre les Etats sont un jeu de dupes. (…) en même temps il faut bien regarder ce qui est en cause, de la part de la NSA c’est quand même à l’égard de ses grands partenaires commerciaux et politiques, le Brésil, la France ou l’Allemagne. Et là, le jeu de dupes, qui est en partie dévoilé, peut avoir des incidences sur ce qui est la base de la relation entre des alliés et des partenaires : cela s’appelle la confiance. Sébastien Laurent
Of course, Brazil, France, Germany, and Mexico do exactly the same thing. They want their leaders to gain a decision advantage in the give and take between countries. They want to know what U.S. policymakers will do before the Americans do it. And in the case of Brazil and France, they aggressively spy on the United States, on U.S. citizens and politicians, in order to collect that information. The difference lies in the scale of intelligence collection: The U.S. has the most effective, most distributed, most sophisticated intelligence community in the West. It is Goliath. And other countries, rightly in their mind, are envious. Marc Ambider
Before his disclosures, most experts already assumed that the United States conducted cyberattacks against China, bugged European institutions, and monitored global Internet communications. Even his most explosive revelation — that the United States and the United Kingdom have compromised key communications software and encryption systems designed to protect online privacy and security — merely confirmed what knowledgeable observers have long suspected. … The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. … « Hypocrisy is central to Washington’s soft power—its ability to get other countries to accept the legitimacy of its actions—yet few Americans appreciate its role, …The reason the United States has until now suffered few consequences for such hypocrisy is that other states have a strong interest in turning a blind eye. Given how much they benefit from the global public goods Washington provides, they have little interest in calling the hegemon on its bad behavior. Public criticism risks pushing the U.S. government toward self-interested positions that would undermine the larger world order. Moreover, the United States can punish those who point out the inconsistency in its actions by downgrading trade relations or through other forms of direct retaliation. Allies thus usually air their concerns in private. Foreign Affairs
Hypocrisy is crucial because the world order functions through a set of American-built institutions, such as the UN and the World Trade Organisation, which depend on America’s commitment to their ideals to hold legitimacy. However, America, like other countries, is in practice often unable to pursue its national interests while adhering to these ideals. Because America is more important to the global order than other countries, its need to practise hypocrisy is greater. And, in general, allies have been willing to abet such hypocrisy … The Economist

Pour ceux qui n’avaient pas encore compris qu’à l’instar de la politique de Clausewitz, l’économie est devenue la continuation de la guerre par d’autres moyens …

Et à l’heure ou, pour donner le change à leurs opinions publiques, nos dirigeants et médias font mine de découvrir le secret de polichinelle des écoutes américaines …

Pendant que derrière son bluff nucléaire, Téhéran pourrait sous peu passer le point de non-retour concernant son insistante promesse de rayer Israel de la carte …

Comment ne pas s’émerveiller, derrière le jeu de dupes officiel, de l’incroyable combinaison qui aurait ravi Lautréamont lui-même ?

A savoir mis à part le droit de vie ou de mort via ses drones sur tout ce que le monde peut compter de terroristes …

Celle du président américain, dument confirmé par Forbes, probablement le plus incompétent depuis Carter …

Et d’un appareillage qui, entre les interceptions téléphoniques, satellitaires et électroniques, prétend surveiller rien moins que la totalité des communications électroniques de la race humaine ?

Is Obama Still President?

His cadences soar on, through scandal after fiasco after disaster.­

Victor Davis Hanson

National review

October 29, 2013

We are currently learning whether the United States really needs a president. Barack Obama has become a mere figurehead, who gives speeches few listen to any more, issues threats that scare fewer, and makes promises that almost no one believes he will keep. Yet America continues on, despite the fact that the foreign and domestic policies of Barack Obama are unraveling, in a manner unusual even for star-crossed presidential second terms.

Abroad, American policy in the Middle East is leaderless and in shambles after the Arab Spring — we’ve had the Syrian fiasco and bloodbath, leading from behind in Libya all the way to Benghazi, and the non-coup, non-junta in Egypt. This administration has managed to unite existential Shiite and Sunni enemies in a shared dislike of the United States. While Iran follows the Putin script from Syria, Israel seems ready to preempt its nuclear program, and Obama still mumbles empty “game changers” and “red line” threats of years past.

We have gone from reset with Russia to Putin as the playmaker of the Middle East. The Persian Gulf sheikhdoms are now mostly anti-American. The leaders of Germany and the people of France resent having their private communications tapped by Barack Obama — the constitutional lawyer and champion of universal human rights. Angela Merkel long ago grasped that President Obama would rather fly across the Atlantic to lobby for a Chicago Olympic Games — or tap her phone — than sit through a 20th-anniversary commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are beginning to see that the U.S. is more a neutral than a friend, as Obama negotiates with Putin about reducing the nuclear umbrella that protects America’s key non-nuclear allies. Perhaps they will soon make the necessary adjustments. China, Brazil, and India care little that Barack Obama still insists he is not George W. Bush, or that he seems to be trying to do to America what they seek to undo in their own countries.

The world’s leaders do not any longer seem much impressed by the president’s cat-like walk down the steps of Air Force One, or the soaring cadences that rechannel hope-and=change themes onto the world scene. They acknowledge that their own publics may like the American president, and especially his equivocation about the traditional role of American power in the world. But otherwise, for the next three years, the world is in a holding pattern, wondering whether there is a president of the United States to reckon with or a mere teleprompted functionary. Certainly, the Obama Nobel Peace Prize is now the stuff of comedy.

At home, the signature Affordable Care Act is proving its sternest critics prescient. The mess can best be summed up by Republicans’ being demonized for trying to delay or defund Obamacare — after the president himself chose not to implement elements of his own law — followed immediately by congressional Democrats’ seeking to parrot the Republicans. So are the Democrats followers of Ted Cruz or Barack Obama? Is Obama himself following Ted Cruz?

The problem is not just that all the president’s serial assurances about Obamacare proved untrue — premiums and deductibles will go up, many will lose their coverage and their doctors, new taxes will be needed, care will be curtailed, signups are nearly impossible, and businesses will be less, not more, competitive — but that no one should ever have believed they could possibly be true unless in our daily lives we usually get more and better stuff at lower cost.

More gun control is dead. Comprehensive immigration legislation depends on Republicans’ trusting a president who for two weeks smeared his House opponents as hostage-takers and house-breakers. Moreover, just as no one really read the complete text of the Obamacare legislation, so too no one quite knows what is in the immigration bill. There are few assurances that the border will be first secured under an administration with a record of nullifying “settled law” — or that those who have been convicted of crimes or have been long-time recipients of state or federal assistance will not be eligible for eventual citizenship. If the employer mandate was jettisoned, why would not border security be dropped once a comprehensive immigration bill passed? Or for that matter, if it is not passed, will the president just issue a blanket amnesty anyway?

In the age of Obama, we just ran up a $700 billion annual deficit and called it restraint, as if success were to be defined as not adding another $1 trillion each year to the national debt. The strange thing is that after the end of the Iraq War and the winding down in Afghanistan, forced sequestration, new taxes on high earners, and a supposedly recovering and revenue-producing economy, we are still running up near-record deficits. Stranger still, Obama is bragging that the deficit has been cut by billions — as if the 400-pound heart patient can be content that he lost 50 pounds in record time and so trimmed down to a manageable 350 pounds.

The Federal Reserve is pretty well stuck with near-zero interest rates. Even a slight rise would make servicing the huge debt nearly unmanageable. Yet continued record low interest, along with Obamacare, is strangling the economy. Millions of older Americans are learning that a mid-level government employee draws more in pension compensation than a private retiree receives in interest on 40 years’ worth of life savings.

“Millions of green jobs,” “cash for clunkers,” and “stimulus” are all now recognized as cruel jokes. Oddly, the more scandals come to light, the more immune the virtual president becomes. After the politicization of the IRS, the snooping on AP reporters, the Benghazi mess, the NSA eavesdropping, Fast and Furious, the multibillion-dollar overpayment in income-tax credits by the IRS, the Lisa Jackson fake e-mail identities, and the Pigford payments, the public has become numb — as if it to say, “Of course the Obama administration is not truthful. So what else is new?”

Three considerations are keeping the U.S. afloat without an active president. First, many working Americans have tuned the president out and simply go on about their business despite rather than because of this administration. If gas and oil leases have been curtailed on federal lands, there is record production on private land. Farmers are producing huge harvests and receiving historically high prices. Wall Street welcomes in capital that can find no return elsewhere. American universities’ science departments and professional schools still rate among the world’s best. There is as yet no French or Chinese Silicon Valley. In other words, after five years of stagnation, half the public more or less ignores the Obama administration and plods on.

Second, the other half of Americans gladly accept that Obama is an iconic rather than a serious president. Given his emblematic status as the nation’s first African-American president and his efforts to craft a vast coalition of those with supposed grievances against the majority, he will always have a strong base of supporters. With huge increases in federal redistributive support programs, and about half the population not paying federal income taxes, Obama is seen as the protector of the noble deserving, who should receive more from a government to which the ignoble undeserving must give far more. And if it is a question of adding another million or so people to the food-stamp or disability rolls, or ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon or that China does not bully Japan, the former wins every time.

Finally, the media accept that Obama represents a rare confluence of forces that promotes a progressive agenda. His youth, his charisma, his background, his exotic nomenclature, and his “cool” all have allowed a traditionally unpopular leftist ideology to enter the mainstream. Why endanger all that with a focus on Benghazi or the disaster of Obamacare? We have had, in the course of our history, plenty of Grants, McKinleys, Hardings, Nixons, and Clintons, but never quite an administration of scandal so exempt from media scrutiny.

As far as his image goes, it does not really matter to what degree Obama actually “fundamentally transforms America.” For the media, that he seeks to do so, and that he drives conservatives crazy trying, is seen as enough reason to surrender their autonomy and become ancillary to the effort. The media believe that once he is out of office, they can regain their credibility by going after the next president with renewed vigor as recompense.

In other words, the presidency has become a virtual office. Almost half the people and most of the media do not mind, and those who do just plod onward.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His latest book is The Savior Generals, published this spring by Bloomsbury Books.

Voir aussi:

The NSA and the EU

Who do I wiretap if I want to wiretap Europe?

M.S.

The Economist

Oct 25th 2013

HENRY KISSINGER never actually asked who he should call when he wanted to call Europe; in fact, Gideon Rachman pointed out a few years ago, he probably didn’t even want there to be such a person, since he generally thought European leaders would be more tractable to American diplomacy if they remained divided. So he may well have been pleased to see, as Charlemagne observes, that European leaders’ reactions to recent spying revelations have been as fractured and tentative as they often were during his own era at the top. Edward Snowden’s revelations of the breadth of NSA spying have certainly damaged America’s reputation among its allies, and they may yet force Barack Obama to finally push back against his intelligence agencies on an issue. But the uproar in Europe seems softer than might have been predicted.

The most interesting explanation of how Mr Snowden’s revelations are likely to affect American foreign policy is the contention by Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore, in an article in Foreign Affairs, that they reduce America’s space for hypocrisy. « Hypocrisy is central to Washington’s soft power—its ability to get other countries to accept the legitimacy of its actions—yet few Americans appreciate its role, » they write. Hypocrisy is crucial because the world order functions through a set of American-built institutions, such as the UN and the World Trade Organisation, which depend on America’s commitment to their ideals to hold legitimacy. However, America, like other countries, is in practice often unable to pursue its national interests while adhering to these ideals. Because America is more important to the global order than other countries, its need to practise hypocrisy is greater. And, in general, allies have been willing to abet such hypocrisy:

The reason the United States has until now suffered few consequences for such hypocrisy is that other states have a strong interest in turning a blind eye. Given how much they benefit from the global public goods Washington provides, they have little interest in calling the hegemon on its bad behavior. Public criticism risks pushing the U.S. government toward self-interested positions that would undermine the larger world order. Moreover, the United States can punish those who point out the inconsistency in its actions by downgrading trade relations or through other forms of direct retaliation. Allies thus usually air their concerns in private.

The problem with Mr Snowden’s revelations is that they bring such hypocrisy into the open, which puts democratic pressure on allies to criticise it.

This, at least, is the theory. In fact, there has been a curiously gleeful tone to much of the European public’s reception of America’s spying on their leaders. Coverage in Le Monde has been divided between editorials demanding that « the work of security agencies be delimited by effective parliamentary or judicial procedures of control », and breathless accounts of communications between French and American security forces over whether the Americans were behind the cyberattacks on the French president’s office in 2012. Mark Ambinder cites a radio interview with Bernard Kouchner, the former French foreign minister: « Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else… [The difference is that] we don’t have the same means as the United States—which makes us jealous. »

Reactions in the Netherlands have been similarly ambiguous. The most aggressive and well-informed Dutch political response on issues of digital freedom tends to come from the left-liberal D66 party. Yesterday on Dutch TV, Sophie in ‘t Veld, who in addition to leading the D66 delegation at the European Parliament has one of the coolest names in international politics, took a sharp line against NSA surveillance and demanded a full explanation from America of whom it is spying on and why. At the same time, she joked in a self-deprecating fashion about how much leverage a Dutch European Parliament member could hope to have over the global superpower, shaking her fist and declaiming with a mock grin: « Ms in ‘t Veld is warning America for the last time! » In the laughs she got from the audience, one could hear a bit of resigned satisfaction, as though they enjoyed confirming the secondary global rank that makes it ill-advised for the Dutch to get too worked up about issues over which they are unlikely to exercise much control. The exchange put me in mind of the great European-American conflict of the post-Kissinger era, over the deployment of short-range nuclear missiles, an issue that served as a mobilising touchstone for the European left for years without any real need to ever affect policy in any noticeable way.

Dutch reactions to the NSA scandal may be atypical for Europe, because the Dutch generally have a higher tolerance for government surveillance than many other countries. And none of this is to say that anyone in Europe is defending NSA wiretapping, or that the revelations have done anything but harm to the public image of America and of Barack Obama personally. It’s just that there is a certain ambiguity in the European public reaction, and for that matter in the American one. In America too, one can often sense an emotional « double-feeling », as the Dutch would call it, between the public’s dread of the government’s all-embracing surveillance capabilities, and the public’s vicarious awe at the perspective afforded by an apparatus that aspires to monitor the entirety of the human race’s electronic communications. Perhaps, to update Walter Benjamin, mankind’s self-alienation has reached such a degree that we can experience our own wiretapping as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.

Voir egalement:

How to negotiate with Iran

A deal struck for its own sake on Tehran’s nuclear program would be worse than no deal at all.

Dennis Ross, Eric Edelman and Michael Makovsky

Los Angeles Times

October 29, 2013

This month in Geneva, at the first negotiations over its nuclear program since the election of President Hassan Rouhani, Iran took an unprecedented step: It negotiated. For the first time, Tehran presented an actual vision of the endgame for the talks with six world powers, and how to get there. However, contrary to expectations, it offered no concessions, leaving serious questions about Iranian purposes. With another round of talks scheduled for next week, U.S. negotiators would do well to follow principles that signify the core interests at stake.

FOR THE RECORD:

Diplomacy: In an Oct. 29 Op-Ed article regarding Iran, the affiliation for Dennis Ross, one of the authors, was incomplete. It is the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The most pressing national security threat facing the United States remains preventing a nuclear-capable Iran. The preferred way to achieve that objective is through a diplomatic agreement. But diplomacy can only be that — a means to an end.

As Secretary of State John F. Kerry has said, a « bad deal is worse than no deal. » A deal struck for its own sake would still allow for a nuclear Iran; undermine the legitimacy of any subsequent U.S. attempts or, much more likely, Israeli attempts to arrest Iran’s progress by military action; discredit and compromise U.S. credibility; and weaken, if not destroy, the decades-old international nonproliferation regime.

Therefore, the United States should only pursue an agreement within certain parameters, to ensure the deal actually furthers the interests of the U.S. and its allies. As we explain in a new JINSA Gemunder Center report, there are six such principles that should guide the negotiations with Iran.

First, Iran must resolve outstanding international concerns. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly complained that Iran has not been forthcoming about its nuclear activities. Indeed, the IAEA in 2011 expressed its « deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions. » Iran must quickly address all outstanding IAEA concerns as part of any deal.

Second, Iran must adhere to international legal requirements. The IAEA’s repeated condemnations of Iran have spurred the U.N. Security Council to pass six resolutions requiring Tehran to « suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities » and « to implement without delay all transparency measures as the IAEA may request in support of its ongoing investigations. »

Iran has repeatedly disputed the legality of these resolutions, claiming the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, grants it a right to enrich uranium. But no such right exists. Iran’s defiance and distortion of international legal demands threatens to unravel the nonproliferation regime. To preserve it, negotiators must reassert the Security Council’s authority and the NPT’s true purpose.

Third, deny Iran nuclear weapons capability. The main concern about Iran’s nuclear program is that it is on the verge of producing enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear device. An acceptable deal must not just freeze but tangibly roll back its ability to do so. This will require limits on size and enrichment level of its uranium stockpile, number and type of operating and installed centrifuges, design of enrichment facilities and possible plutonium production at the Arak heavy-water reactor.

Fourth, impose a strict inspections regime. Just because Iran agrees to a deal does not mean it will stick to it. It has tried to build each of its current enrichment facilities covertly. To prevent it from attempting to do so again, negotiators should require Iran to agree to more rigorous monitoring of its nuclear program.

Fifth, negotiate from a position of strength. Too often, Iran has used negotiations to extract concessions, undermine international resolve and play for time. In the few instances it has compromised, it has been because of the threat of force. The success of these talks will hinge on Iran understanding that there will be very real and damaging consequences if negotiations fail.

This will require at least these U.S. actions: Intensify sanctions and incentivize other countries to do the same, issue more forceful and credible statements that all options are on the table, initiate new military deployments and make clear the support for Israeli military action if conducted.

Finally, do not waste time. Iran will likely attain an undetectable nuclear capability by mid-2014, and perhaps even earlier, leaving scant time to both negotiate and verifiably implement a deal. It appears that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif may have offered a timeline at Geneva for wrapping up negotiations. But given Iranian nuclear progress over the last 18 months and earlier unexplained activities, negotiators ought not accept a schedule that stretches beyond the point when it becomes impossible to prevent a nuclear Iran by other means. Implementing and making known a strict deadline for talks can dissuade Iran from using diplomacy as a cover while sprinting for the bomb, and reassure Israel so it does not feel compelled to act alone.

Negotiators should hew to these principles to avoid mistaking rhetoric for action, and must walk away from any agreement that violates them.

Dennis Ross is counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and was a senior Middle East advisor to President Obama from 2009 to 2011. Eric Edelman was undersecretary of Defense for policy in 2005-09. Michael Makovsky is chief executive of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, or JINSA, and served in the Office of Secretary of Defense in 2002-06. They are members of JINSA’s Gemunder Center Iran Task Force.

Voir encore:

«L’espionnage entre Etats: un jeu de dupes qui, dévoilé, peut avoir des incidences»

Chantal Lorho

RFI

2013-10-24

La NSA, la National Security Agency en anglais, est au coeur de nombreuses polémiques ces derniers mois, de Edward Snowden à l’espionnage supposé de pays de l’Union européenne ou de ses dirigeants, comme Angela Merkel… Comment travaille cette fameuse agence de renseignements américains ? Sébastien Laurent, professeur à l’université de Bordeaux et à Sciences Po, spécialiste des questions de renseignements et de sécurité, propose son analyse.

RFI: Est-ce qu’on peut rappeler comment est née cette fameuse NSA ?

Sébastien Laurent : La NSA, c’est un peu une vieille dame. Elle est née il y a un peu plus de 60 ans et ça a été la réunion, aux Etats-Unis, de toutes les composantes de l’administration américaine qui procédaient à des interceptions téléphoniques puis plus tard, bien plus tard, des interceptions satellitaires, et aujourd’hui des interceptions sur les câbles du réseau internet. Donc aujourd’hui, c’est certes une vieille dame, mais c’est une vieille dame qui se tient toujours à la page, qui actualise en permanence ses compétences techniques, qui sait coopérer avec d’autres pays qui sont parties prenantes de la coopération de la NSA. Et c’est surtout, on le sait aujourd’hui, la plus riche de toutes les agences de renseignements américaines.

Peut-on dire qu’il y a un avant et un après 11-Septembre dans la façon dont les Américains pratiquent l’espionnage ?

Pas vraiment. Pour ce qui est de l’espionnage par des moyens technologiques, les écoutes précisément ou les interceptions de flux internet, 2001 n’a pas vraiment changé les choses. 2001 a juste donné aux Etats-Unis un motif nouveau pour habiller leurs pratiques d’interception. Ce nouveau motif, c’est la guerre contre le terrorisme. Mais sur le plan des pratiques, depuis les années 1950, en pleine guerre froide, les Etats-Unis ont en permanence intercepté des communications, y compris celles de leurs partenaires et celles de leurs alliés.

Très concrètement, comment travaille la NSA, qui surveille-t-elle, quels sont les mots-clés qu’elle utilise pour intercepter telle ou telle communication ?

On pouvait jusqu’alors faire des suppositions, mais maintenant on a les documents publiés par Edward Snowden, et le fait qu’il soit pourchassé par les autorités américaines permet de donner du crédit aux documents que Snowden a diffusé dans différents supports de presse. La NSA, d’un point de vue très pratique, en matière d’interception en dehors des Etats-Unis, a deux moyens. D’une part, elle se sert dans les grands serveurs des fournisseurs d’accès à internet, c’est une première façon d’aller directement puiser à la source. Ou alors, elle a un accès, je dirais plus pratique encore, qui est de se brancher sur les câbles eux-mêmes, et non pas sur les fermes (serveurs de données) dans lesquelles sont contenues toutes les données. Ensuite, comme d’autres agences, comme l’agence britannique et d’autres agences, toutes ces données ne sont pas exploitées par l’intelligence humaine mais sont exploitées grâce à des algorithmes, par des capacités informatiques, qui essaient de cibler des mots-clés. Alors, c’est tout l’enjeu du débat aujourd’hui. Est-ce que, comme le disent les Etats-Unis dans une défense mezzo voce, ils ne cherchent dans ces données que ce qui a trait à la lutte contre le terrorisme et à la sécurité des Etats-Unis? Ou est-ce que, sans le dire, ils utilisent aussi ces interceptions pour repérer les mots-clés touchant à des pratiques commerciales, à des brevets, à des litiges juridiques ? Ce que l’on peut dire, étant donné ce que l’on sait aujourd’hui du passé, c’est que la capacité d’interception de la NSA a servi, bien sûr, la sécurité des Etats-Unis mais elle a aussi servi les Etats-Unis dans la guerre économique mondiale qui est devenue une réalité plus forte après la fin de la guerre froide. Donc la défense qui consiste à dire « la NSA assure la sécurité du monde libre comme au temps de la guerre froide », c’est un argument qui ne tient absolument pas la route.

D’où ce chiffre astronomique qu’on a évoqué à propos de la France. 70 millions de données interceptés par la NSA du 10 décembre 2012 au 8 janvier 2013. C’est ce que vous appelez la « méthode du chalut », on ratisse le plus large possible ?

Exactement, cette comparaison maritime est tout à fait adaptée. C’est du chalutage, on lance les filets au loin, et ensuite on tire les filets vers le navire, en l’occurrence la NSA, et on essaie de trier. Mais il est assez probable que dans l’interception pratiquée « au chalut », on recueille effectivement des éléments qui soient utiles à la sécurité des Etats-Unis. Il est tout aussi probable qu’ensuite d’autres données qui puissent être exploitées commercialement ou juridiquement, ou en termes d’ingénierie, soient aussi prises en compte. La NSA n’est pas un service de renseignement mais un service d’interception. Ensuite, la NSA fournit la « production » – les interceptions – à différentes agences américaines, notamment la CIA mais pas seulement. Donc c’est vraiment une énorme machine d’interception technique qui, en fait, ne procède pas à l’utilisation du renseignement mais qui utilise toute sa production pour la diffuser à différentes agences américaines.

Le Brésil, le Mexique, la France et aujourd’hui l’Allemagne, tous victimes présumées de la NSA, dénoncent publiquement les pratiques américaines. Mais quelqu’un comme Bernard Kouchner, l’ancien chef de la diplomatie française, affirme que nous faisons la même chose, « Nous espionnons, nous écoutons, mais avec moins de moyens ». Est-ce que tout cela n’est pas, selon vous, un jeu de dupes ?

C’est un jeu de dupes, mais comme les relations entre les Etats sont un jeu de dupes. Quand vous regardez la norme internationale qui est le droit international, depuis que les pratiques d’espionnage existent, les Etats ont signé entre eux des traités pour faciliter certaines choses et pour interdire d’autres choses. Du point de vue du droit international, l’espionnage n’est pas interdit. Donc il est licite. Et les Etats se sont, bien sûr, dès la fin du XIXe siècle, bien gardés de s’interdire mutuellement la pratique de l’espionnage à l’extérieur de leur territoire. Donc effectivement, on peut dire que c’est un jeu de dupes, en même temps il faut bien regarder ce qui est en cause, de la part de la NSA c’est quand même à l’égard de ses grands partenaires commerciaux et politiques, le Brésil, la France ou l’Allemagne. Et là, le jeu de dupes, qui est en partie dévoilé, peut avoir des incidences sur ce qui est la base de la relation entre des alliés et des partenaires : cela s’appelle la confiance.

Voir enfin:

Poutine supplante Obama comme la personne la plus puissante du monde

Le Vif

Source: Belga

30 octobre 2013

Le président russe Vladimir Poutine a évincé son homologue américain Barack Obama de la première place du classement Forbes 2013 des personnes les plus puissantes au monde, publié mercredi par le magazine américain.

Le président Obama figure à la deuxième place de cette liste, suivi du président du parti communiste chinois Xi Jinping, et du pape François, qui y fait son apparition pour la première fois.

« Poutine a solidifié son contrôle sur la Russie, et tous ceux qui ont regardé le jeu d’échecs autour de la Syrie ont une idée claire du glissement de pouvoir vers Poutine sur la scène internationale », écrit Forbes pour expliquer sa première place.

La première femme à y figurer est la chancelière allemande Angela Merkel, à la 5e place. Le président français François Hollande, dont Forbes souligne qu’il est au plus bas dans les sondages de popularité, passe de la 14e à la 18e place.

Le pouvoir des 72 personnes – dirigeants politiques, chefs d’entreprise ou philanthropes – qui figurent sur cette liste annuelle consultable sur le site du magazine (www.forbes.com) a été déterminé à partir de quatre critères: le nombre de personnes sur lesquelles elles ont du pouvoir, les ressources financières qu’elles contrôlent, l’étendue de leur influence et comment elles exercent leur pouvoir pour changer le monde.

On y trouve le cofondateur de Microsoft Bill Gates à la 6e place, Ben Bernanke, le président sortant de la réserve fédérale américaine à la 7e, le roi Abdallah d’Arabie saoudite à la 8e, le Premier ministre britannique David Cameron à la 11e.

Les autres Européens de la liste sont notamment l’Italien Mario Draghi, président de la Banque centrale européenne (9e), le président du groupe Volkswagen Martin Winterkorn qui fait son entrée à la 49e place, et Bernard Arnault, le patron du groupe français de luxe LVMH (54e).


Russie: Ce qui reste du communisme quand on a tout oublié (Last refuge of the scoundrel: For Putin’s new robber baron Russia, anti-Americanism is the name of the game)

25 septembre, 2013
http://media.hoover.org/sites/default/files/imagecache/large/images/digest20033_satter1.jpg
Un des grands problèmes de la Russie – et plus encore de la Chine – est que, contrairement aux camps de concentration hitlériens, les leurs n’ont jamais été libérés et qu’il n’y a eu aucun tribunal de Nuremberg pour juger les crimes commis. Thérèse Delpech
La destruction de l’URSS fut la plus grande catastrophe géopolitique du siècle. Poutine (25.04. 05)
Les dirigeants européens et américains espèrent que les tyrans et les autocrates du monde vont disparaître tout seuls. Mais les dinosaures comme Vladimir Poutine, Hugo Chávez et les ayatollahs iraniens ne vont pas s’effacer comme cela. Ils ne doivent leur survie qu’au manque de courage des chefs du Monde libre. Garry Kasparov
Je veux aller porter le témoignage de notre reconnaissance, éternelle, au combat des Russes lors de cette bataille. (…) Je pense que les Russes sont profondément européens. Ils appartiennent pour une très large part à la civilisation européenne, et c’est une raison suffisante pour mettre en œuvre tous les efforts nécessaires afin de faire progresser cette unité du continent européen. L’avenir commun de la Russie et de l’Europe est dans ce partenariat stratégique qui a été proposé. François Fillon
La politique de « redémarrage » des relations russo-américaines proposée par le président Obama a été interprétée à Moscou comme l’indice de la prise de conscience par les Américains de leur faiblesse, et par conséquent comme une invitation à Moscou de pousser ses pions (…) Le contrat d’achat des Mistrals présente un triple avantage: d’abord, la Russie acquiert des armements de haute technologie sans avoir à faire l’effort de les développer elle-même ; deuxièmement, elle réduit à néant la solidarité atlantique et la solidarité européenne ; troisièmement, elle accélère la vassalisation du deuxième grand pays européen après l’Allemagne. Un expert russe a récemment comparé cette politique à celle de la Chine face aux Etats-Unis : selon lui, à Washington le lobby pro-chinois intéressé aux affaires avec la Chine est devenu si puissant que les Etats-Unis sont désormais incapables de s’opposer à Pékin; la même chose est déjà vraie pour l’Allemagne face à la Russie et elle le sera pour la France après la signature du contrat sur les Mistrals. (…) Aujourd’hui, Moscou (…) se pose en rempart de la civilisation « du Nord », ce qui ne manque pas de sel quand on se souvient avec quelle persévérance Moscou a défendu le programme nucléaire iranien, contribuant grandement à l’émergence de cette « menace » du Sud, et avec quel enthousiasme elle célébrait, il y a un an encore, le naufrage de la civilisation occidentale. (…) On l’a vu dans les années 1930, la présence d’un Etat revanchard sur le continent européen peut réduire à néant toutes les tentatives de fonder un ordre international sur le droit et l’arbitrage. Françoise Thom
During the reform period, which witnessed a massive effort to remake Russian society and the Russian economy, Russia once again fell victim to a false idea. The victory over communism was a moral victory. Millions took to the streets not because of shortages but in protest over communism’s attempt to falsify history and change human nature. As a new state began to be built, however, all attention shifted to the building of capitalism and, in particular, to the creation of a group of wealthy private owners whose control over the means of production, it was assumed, would lead automatically to a free market economy and a law-based democracy. This approach, dubious under the best of conditions, could not but be disastrous in the case of Russia. It meant that, in a country with a need for moral values after more than seven decades of spiritual degradation under communism, the introduction of capitalism came to be seen as an end in itself. (…) The decision to transform the economy of a huge country without the benefit of the rule of law led not to a free market democracy but to a kleptocracy with several dangerous economic and psychological features. (…) Perhaps more important than these economic features, however, was the new system’s social psychology, which was characterized by mass moral indifference. If under communism, universal morality was denied in favor of the supposed “interests of the working class,” under the new reform government, people lost the ability to distinguish between legal and criminal activity. (…) The young reformers were lionized in the West, but, as the years passed and the promised rebirth of Russia did not materialize, arguments broke out in Russia over whether progress was being prevented by the resistance of the Duma, inadequate assistance from the West, or the inadequacies of the Russian people themselves. These arguments, however, had a surrealistic quality because they implicitly assumed that, with the right economic combination, it was possible to build a free market democracy without the rule of law. In fact, a market economy presupposes the rule of law because only the rule of law is able to assure the basis of a free market’s existence, which is equivalent exchange. Without law, prices are dictated not by the market but by monopolization and the use of force. The need for a framework of law was particularly pronounced in the case of Russia because socialism for ordinary Russians, in addition to being an economic system, was also a secular religion that lent a powerful, albeit false, sense of meaning to millions of lives. When the Soviet Union fell, it was necessary to replace not only the socialist economic structures but also the “class values” that gave that system its higher sanction. This could only be done by establishing the authority of transcendent, universal values, which, as a practical matter, could only be assured by establishing the rule of law. David Satter
Russian anti-Americanism is likely to intensify. Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia has no universal ideology capable of inspiring loyalties that transcend national boundaries. Anti-Americanism is a kind of substitute. It allows Russia to carve out a prominent role for itself in world affairs that it could never have if it were concerned only with acting positively. At the same time, the regime is threatened by a deteriorating economy. In the second quarter of this year, growth fell to 1.2%. During the 2000s, the rate was 7.2%. Because of its immense corruption, Russia is critically dependent on high oil prices, and these are supported by Middle East instability. Under such circumstances, the U.S. is not only a helpful distraction but a convenient scapegoat. Mr. Putin is losing support in Moscow, but his defense of the Assad regime evokes nostalgia for the Soviet empire and strengthens his support among the conservative and provincial part of the population. As Mr. Putin’s political position weakens further, his antagonism toward the U.S. will almost certainly increase.(…) At the same time, and probably more important, anti-Americanism can be used to distract Russians from the corruption of the Putin regime and the pillaging of the country. Mr. Putin and his associates stand at the apex of a corrupt system and, according to some estimates, control 15% of the national wealth. During protest demonstrations last year over the falsification of elections, Mr. Putin was openly referred to as a « thief, » a serious development in a society where the charge is widely believed but usually not made publicly. David Satter

Quand la Russie redécouvre les vertus de ce qui reste du communisme quand on a tout oublié

Corruption systématisée, violence institutionnalisée, pillage, indifférence morale généralisée …

A l’heure où, face au plus velléitaire des présidents américains et de la Syrie à l’Iran et à l’Affaire Snowden, la Russie de Poutine semble engranger les succès diplomatiques …

Pendant que, fidèle à son habitude, la France de l’Obama corrézien reprend à son compte avec les bonimenteurs de Téhéran (ou de Moscou pour l’opposition) la politique de « redémarrage » dont on a vu l’efficacité avec la Russie …

Remise des pendules à l’heure avec le politologue américain David Slatter sur une kleptocratie russe …

Réduite, face à une économie étouffée par la corruption, à attiser les flammes de l’instabilité au Moyen-Orient pour faire remonter les prix du pétrole qui ont fait sa fortune …

Et contrainte, face à son discrédit intérieur, à jouer la facile diversion de l’anti-américanisme …

Russia’s Anti-American Foreign Policy

Putin needs high oil prices and a distraction from his domestic troubles.

David Satter

The Wall Street Journal

September 22, 2013

Moscow

The difference in values between the U.S. and Russia—and the subordination of Russian foreign policy to the personal interests of the members of a corrupt regime—should have been obvious to the Obama administration from the beginning. But it did nothing to forestall the policy of « reset. » At the 2009 Moscow Summit, Mr. Obama praised the « extraordinary work » that Vladimir Putin, who was then officially the prime minister, had done for Russia. Mr. Obama described Mr. Putin as « sincere, just and deeply interested in the welfare of the Russian people. »

The praise was never reciprocated, in part because Russian leaders fear and distrust their own population, and they understand that Western advocacy of the rule of law and human rights is a potential threat to their rule. In recent years, U.S. officials have often said that it is difficult to solve the world’s problems without Russia. Unfortunately, it is often even harder to solve them with it.

The U.S. needs three things from Russia: understanding in defense matters, assistance in the war on terror, and help in curbing the ambitions of rogue states. In each case, the record of the Putin regime is one of relentless obstruction.

One source of conflict has been Russian objections to U.S. plans to construct an antimissile shield in Europe to protect U.S. allies against an attack from Iran. Russia has treated the shield as a threat to its nuclear deterrent, despite the opinion of Russia’s own experts that the missiles pose no threat to the Russian ICBM force and are intended for a completely different purpose.

In 2009, Mr. Obama canceled plans for antimissile installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, in part to improve U.S.-Russian relations. But the U.S. is now preparing to station interceptors in Romania. In response, Russia is demanding legal guarantees that the missiles will not be used against Russia and is threatening to target U.S. missile-defense sites if there is no agreement.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen described the Russian position as « crazy. » « You can’t in any rational way think that NATO constitutes a threat against Russia, » he told the AP in February 2012. « It’s a complete waste of money to deploy offensive weapons and capabilities against NATO territory. »

Russia has also undermined U.S. efforts to combat terror. Two striking recent examples are the cases of the Boston Marathon bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden.

Tsarnaev spent six months in the Dagestan region of Russia in 2012 before the attack on April 15. Two of his contacts, Mahmud Nigal, a suspected link with the Islamist underground, and William Plotnikov, a Russian-Canadian Islamic radical, were killed by Russian forces while he was there. Yet the Russians insist that Tsarnaev was not under surveillance in Dagestan and never questioned. If this is true, it is in complete contradiction to all known Russian practice. Tsarnaev left Russia freely through Moscow’s Sheremetevo Airport and the Federal Security Service never warned the U.S. about his contacts in Dagestan.

Russia also showed little concern for efforts to protect U.S. civilians in its decision to shelter Edward Snowden. In light of the quantity and quality of what Mr. Snowden stole, an adequate damage assessment depends on getting him back to the U.S. Until that happens, the efforts of the NSA and other agencies to defend the U.S. against terror are going to be crippled.

Aware of this, Mr. Putin seems to be mainly concerned with subjecting the U.S. to ridicule. The Russian media have published articles about Mr. Snowden’s « new life, » « proposals of marriage » and a future career defending human rights. At the same time, although Mr. Putin said that a condition of Mr. Snowden’s asylum was that he « stop harming our American partners, » the leaks of NSA information have continued.

Russian obstruction of the U.S. has had its gravest consequences, however, in interstate relations. Russia has defended Iran against Western economic sanctions, arguing that they are « a violation of international law. » Moscow also has been unswerving in its support for Bashar Assad in Syria, from voting to block three U.N. Security Council resolutions on sanctions against Syria to insisting that the chemical-weapons attack on Aug. 21 that killed more than 1,400 Syrians was carried out by the rebels.

The U.S. will now try to enforce a U.S.-Russian agreement on the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons under conditions in which Russia and Syria can use delay, obfuscation and disinformation to string out the process indefinitely. Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition, which has endured chemical-weapons attacks without seeing a serious response from the civilized world, is likely to continue to radicalize.

Russian anti-Americanism is likely to intensify. Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia has no universal ideology capable of inspiring loyalties that transcend national boundaries. Anti-Americanism is a kind of substitute. It allows Russia to carve out a prominent role for itself in world affairs that it could never have if it were concerned only with acting positively.

At the same time, and probably more important, anti-Americanism can be used to distract Russians from the corruption of the Putin regime and the pillaging of the country. Mr. Putin and his associates stand at the apex of a corrupt system and, according to some estimates, control 15% of the national wealth. During protest demonstrations last year over the falsification of elections, Mr. Putin was openly referred to as a « thief, » a serious development in a society where the charge is widely believed but usually not made publicly.

At the same time, the regime is threatened by a deteriorating economy. In the second quarter of this year, growth fell to 1.2%. During the 2000s, the rate was 7.2%. Because of its immense corruption, Russia is critically dependent on high oil prices, and these are supported by Middle East instability.

Under such circumstances, the U.S. is not only a helpful distraction but a convenient scapegoat. Mr. Putin is losing support in Moscow, but his defense of the Assad regime evokes nostalgia for the Soviet empire and strengthens his support among the conservative and provincial part of the population. As Mr. Putin’s political position weakens further, his antagonism toward the U.S. will almost certainly increase.

In the wake of the Russian initiative over Syria, the U.S. is now much more reliant on Russia than it should ever have permitted itself to be. In our fixation with « deliverables, » we forgot that what really matters in relations between states are intangibles, such as good faith. That’s something Mr. Putin has not shown toward America in the past, and U.S. policy makers would be unwise to rely on it in the future.

Mr. Satter is affiliated with the Hudson Institute, Johns Hopkins University and the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. He is the author, most recently, of « It Was a Long Time Ago and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past » (Yale, 2011).

Voir aussi:

The Rise of the Russian Criminal State

David Satter

Hoover Digest

July 30, 2003

During the decade following the fall of communism, Russia became mired in poverty and crime. Hoover fellow David Satter explains what went wrong.

Few at that time could have foreseen the outlines of what exists today. Many former communist countries, in the intervening years, experienced a rebirth of freedom, but Russia came to be dominated by poverty, intimidation, and crime.

The reason is that, during the reform period, which witnessed a massive effort to remake Russian society and the Russian economy, Russia once again fell victim to a false idea.

The victory over communism was a moral victory. Millions took to the streets not because of shortages but in protest over communism’s attempt to falsify history and change human nature. As a new state began to be built, however, all attention shifted to the building of capitalism and, in particular, to the creation of a group of wealthy private owners whose control over the means of production, it was assumed, would lead automatically to a free market economy and a law-based democracy.

This approach, dubious under the best of conditions, could not but be disastrous in the case of Russia. It meant that, in a country with a need for moral values after more than seven decades of spiritual degradation under communism, the introduction of capitalism came to be seen as an end in itself.

No Questions Asked

The “young reformers” were in a hurry to build capitalism, and they pressed ahead in a manner that paid little attention to anything except the transformation of economic structures.

“The calculation was sober,” said Aliza Dolgova, an expert on organized crime in the office of the general prosecutor. “Create through any means a stratum in Russia that could serve as the support of reform. . . . All capital was laundered and put into circulation. No measures of any kind were enacted to prevent the legalization of criminal income. No one asked at [privatization] auctions: Where did you get the money? Enormous sums were invested in property and there was no register of owners. A policy similar to this did not exist in a single civilized country.”

Kleptocracy in the Guise of Reform

The decision to transform the economy of a huge country without the benefit of the rule of law led not to a free market democracy but to a kleptocracy with several dangerous economic and psychological features.

In the first place, the new system was characterized by bribery. All resources, at first, were in the hands of the state; businessmen thus competed to “buy” critical government officials. The winners were in a position to buy more officials, with the result that the practice of giving bribes grew up with the system.

Besides bribery, the new system was marked by institutionalized violence. Gangsters were treated like normal economic actors, which tacitly legitimized their criminal activities. At the same time, they became the partners of businessmen who used them as guards, enforcers, and debt collectors.

The new system was also characterized by pillage. Money obtained as a result of criminal activities was illegally exported to avoid the possibility of its being confiscated at some point in the future. This outflow deprived Russia of billions of dollars in resources that were needed for its development.

Perhaps more important than these economic features, however, was the new system’s social psychology, which was characterized by mass moral indifference. If under communism, universal morality was denied in favor of the supposed “interests of the working class,” under the new reform government, people lost the ability to distinguish between legal and criminal activity.

Official corruption came to be regarded as “normal,” and it was considered a sign of virtue if the official, in addition to stealing, also made an effort to fulfill his official responsibilities. Extortion also came to be regarded as normal, and vendors, through force of habit, began to regard paying protection money as part of the cost of doing business.

At the same time, officials and businessmen took no responsibility for the consequences of their actions, even if they led to hunger and death. Government officials helped organize pyramid schemes that victimized persons who were already destitute, police officials took bribes from leaders of organized crime to ignore extortion, and factory directors stole funds marked for the salaries of workers who had already gone months without pay.

Lawlessness

The young reformers were lionized in the West, but, as the years passed and the promised rebirth of Russia did not materialize, arguments broke out in Russia over whether progress was being prevented by the resistance of the Duma, inadequate assistance from the West, or the inadequacies of the Russian people themselves. These arguments, however, had a surrealistic quality because they implicitly assumed that, with the right economic combination, it was possible to build a free market democracy without the rule of law.

In fact, a market economy presupposes the rule of law because only the rule of law is able to assure the basis of a free market’s existence, which is equivalent exchange. Without law, prices are dictated not by the market but by monopolization and the use of force.

The need for a framework of law was particularly pronounced in the case of Russia because socialism for ordinary Russians, in addition to being an economic system, was also a secular religion that lent a powerful, albeit false, sense of meaning to millions of lives. When the Soviet Union fell, it was necessary to replace not only the socialist economic structures but also the “class values” that gave that system its higher sanction. This could only be done by establishing the authority of transcendent, universal values, which, as a practical matter, could only be assured by establishing the rule of law.

A Cautionary Tale

On May 10, 1997, the Greek police found in a shallow grave under an olive tree, two miles from the Athenian suburb of Saronida, the dismembered body of Svetlana Kotova, one of Russia’s top models and a former “Miss Russia.” It was learned that she had been the guest of Alexander Solonik (Sasha Makedonsky), Russia’s number one professional killer who had himself been found strangled three months earlier in the Athenian suburb of Baribobi.

Svetlana’s story evoked intense interest in Russia because of her youth and beauty and because there was something about the romance between a 21-year-old beauty queen and a professional killer that was symbolic of the condition of modern Russia.

Svetlana met Solonik in a Moscow nightclub on New Year’s night, 1997, and traveled to Greece on January 25 at his invitation. She was met at the bottom of the staircase from the airplane with armloads of flowers. Waiting for her was a Mercedes with an elegant chauffeur. The rent on the villa where she stayed was about $90,000 a year. There was a swimming pool, gym, basketball court, golf course, and gardens with sculptures. From the 26th on, she called her mother every evening and said that this was not life but a miracle.

In the villa and in Solonik’s car were a large quantity of firearms and other weapons, but it is not known whether Svetlana was aware of them. For five nights, she lived as if in a dream, but on the 30th, gangsters from the Kurgan criminal organization, a supplier of hired killers to the Russian underworld, arrived at the villa. While they were talking to Solonik, someone threw a thin cord around his neck and strangled him from behind. The visitors then came for Svetlana, who was on the second floor.

When word of Svetlana’s murder was released, the Russian newspapers were full of her pictures: Svetlana with flowing black hair in a long black gown with thin shoulder straps, Svetlana in a bathing suit looking out shyly from behind spread fingers, Svetlana with her head cupped in her hands, Svetlana in an evening dress with her hair off her forehead in a bun. From her appearance, it seemed that no one could have been less prepared for the devilish game that she had fallen into.

Yet the fate of Svetlana Kotova had something in common with the fate of her nation, which was freely delivered into the hands of criminals during the period of reform. The rewards were quick and easy. There was a willful desire not to know.

It remains to be seen whether, in the long run, Russia will share Svetlana’s fate.

David Satter was a research fellow at the Hoover Institution from 2003 to 2008.

Adapted from David Satter’s new book Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State. Published by Yale University Press (800.405.1619).


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