Israël: Des mythes et mensonges qui ont décidément la vie dure (Israel’s worst enemy: Lies and myths)

15 avril, 2014
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There is no such country as Palestine. ‘Palestine’ is a country the Zionists invented. ‘Palestine’ is alien to us. Auni Abdel Hadi (Arab Higher Committee Secretary, 1937)
It is perfectly clear that the Arab nations do not want to solve the Arab refugee problem. They want to keep it an open sore, as an affront against the United Nations, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die. Alexander Galloway (UNRWA, 1952)
Le peuple palestinien n’existe pas. La création d’un État palestinien n’est qu’un moyen pour continuer la lutte contre l’Etat d’Israël afin de créer l’unité arabe. En réalité, aujourd’hui, il n’y a aucune différence entre les Jordaniens, les Palestiniens, les Syriens et les Libanais. C’est uniquement pour des raisons politiques et tactiques, que nous parlons aujourd’hui de l’existence d’un peuple palestinien, étant donné que les intérêts arabes demandent que nous établissions l’existence d’un peuple palestinien distinct, afin d’opposer le sionisme. Pour des raisons tactiques, la Jordanie qui est un Etat souverain avec des frontières bien définies, ne peut pas présenter de demande sur Haifa et Jaffa, tandis qu’en tant que palestinien, je peux sans aucun doute réclamer Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheba et Jérusalem. Toutefois, le moment où nous réclamerons notre droit sur l’ensemble de la Palestine, nous n’attendrons pas même une minute pour unir la Palestine à la Jordanie.  Zahir Muhsein (membre du comité exécutif du PLO, 1977)
C’est la "Transjordanie" (créée en 1922 par l’empire britannique) qui a occupé et annexé les territoires de Judée et Samarie et Jérusalem-Est lors d’une guerre de conquête en 1947-1948. Elle devint alors la "Jordanie" et les territoires occupés, la "Cisjordanie". Aucun mouvement de libération palestinien ne se leva contre cette occupation, ni contre celle de la bande de Gaza par l’Egypte. La "Palestine" n’était pas encore née. (…) L’existence d’Israël pose le problème du droit de vivre en sujets libre et souverains des nations non musulmanes dans l’aire musulmane. L’extermination des Arméniens, d’abord par l’empire ottoman, puis par le nouvel Etat turc a représenté la première répression d’une population dhimmie en quête d’indépendance nationale. Il n’y a quasiment plus de Juifs aujourd’hui dans le monde arabo-islamique et les chrétiens y sont en voie de disparition. Shmuel Trigano
The state of Israel came into being by the same legitimate process that created the other new states in the region, the consequence of the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Consistent with the traditional practice of victorious states, the Allied powers France and England created Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, and of course Israel, to consolidate and protect their national interests. This legitimate right to rewrite the map may have been badly done and shortsighted––regions containing many different sects and ethnic groups were bad candidates for becoming a nation-state, as the history of Iraq and Lebanon proves, while prime candidates for nationhood like the Kurds were left out. But the right to do so was bestowed by the Allied victory and the Central Powers’ loss, the time-honored wages of starting a war and losing it. Likewise in Europe, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismantled, and the new states of Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia were created. And arch-aggressor Germany was punished with a substantial loss of territory, leaving some 10 million Germans stranded outside the fatherland. Israel’s title to its country is as legitimate as Jordan’s, Syria’s and Lebanon’s. Bruce Thornton

Les mythes et mensonges sur la Palestine ont décidément la vie dure !

Création illégitime, déplacement forcé des "Palestiniens", "peuple palestinien" …

A l’heure où, en cette nouvelle Pâque(s), un groupe du Hamas semble avoir investi le Mont du Temple en empêchant l’entrée aux visiteurs …

Et où, paralysés par l’impérialisme russe et du secrétaire d’Etat Kerry au New York Times, tout le monde semble s’être donné le mot pour attribuer au seul gouvernement israélien l’évident refus de toute négociation sérieuse de la part de la prétendue Autorité palestinienne …

Pendant qu’entre deux guerres ou attaques terroristes, un petit Etat soumis à la vindicte planétaire et au boycott est en passe de rattraper en PIB per capita nombre de vieux pays européens comme la France …

Remise des pendules  à l’heure de l’éditorialiste américain Bruce Thornton …

Rappelant notamment derrière l’ensemble des mythes et mensonges sur lesquels se fondent nombre de ces analyses anti-israéliennes …

Qu’à l’instar de la plupart des états de la région voire d’Europe, Israël n’est que le produit du démembrement de l’Empire ottoman et donc pas moins légitime que nombre d’états européens eux-mêmes produits de l’effondrement d’un autre empire, celui justement de leurs alliés et partenaires austro-hongrois du camp des vaincus  …

Que, contrairement aux centaines de milliers de juifs expulsés des pays arabes,  les prétendus "réfugiés" palestiniens sont pour une bonne part partis de leur plein gré …

Et que, contrairement au peuple juif multimillénaire,  le prétendu "peuple palestinien" n’existe que depuis 45 ans …

Israel’s Worst Enemy: Lies and Myths
Bruce S. Thornton
FrontPage Magazine
April 8, 2014

The Washington Post reports that some members of Secretary of State John Kerry’s senior staff think it’s time to say “enough” of Kerry’s futile and delusional attempts to broker peace between the Israelis and Arabs and implement the “two-state solution.” That’s a revelation one would think the chief diplomat of the greatest power in history would have experienced decades ago. Since the failed 1993 Oslo Accords, it has been obvious to all except the duplicitous, the ignorant, and the Jew-hater that the Arabs do not want a “Palestinian state living in peace side-by-side with Israel,” something they could have had many times in the past. On the contrary, as they serially prove in word and deed, they want Israel destroyed.

As Caroline Glick documents in her new book The Israeli Solution, the “two-state solution” is a diplomatic chimera for the West, and a tactic for revanchist Arabs who cannot achieve their eliminationist aims by military means. But the “Palestinian state” is merely one of many myths, half-truths, and outright lies that befuddle Western diplomats and leaders, and put the security and possibly the existence of Israel at risk.

First there is the canard that Israel is somehow an illegitimate state, a neo-imperialist outpost that Westerners created to protect their economic and geopolitical interests. In this popular myth, invading Jewish colonists “stole” the land and ethnically cleansed the region of its true possessors, the indigenous “Palestinian people.” This crime was repeated after 1967 Six Day War, when Israel seized the “West Bank,” occupying it as a colonial power and subjecting its inhabitants to a brutally discriminatory regime. The continuing power of this lie can be seen in the frequent comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa. And this false historical analogy in turn drives the “Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions” movement, which is attempting to make Israel even more of a pariah state in order to duplicate the success of those tactics in dismantling white rule in South Africa.

Every dimension of this narrative is false. The state of Israel came into being by the same legitimate process that created the other new states in the region, the consequence of the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Consistent with the traditional practice of victorious states, the Allied powers France and England created Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, and of course Israel, to consolidate and protect their national interests. This legitimate right to rewrite the map may have been badly done and shortsighted––regions containing many different sects and ethnic groups were bad candidates for becoming a nation-state, as the history of Iraq and Lebanon proves, while prime candidates for nationhood like the Kurds were left out. But the right to do so was bestowed by the Allied victory and the Central Powers’ loss, the time-honored wages of starting a war and losing it. Likewise in Europe, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismantled, and the new states of Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia were created. And arch-aggressor Germany was punished with a substantial loss of territory, leaving some 10 million Germans stranded outside the fatherland. Israel’s title to its country is as legitimate as Jordan’s, Syria’s and Lebanon’s.

Then there is the melodrama of the “displacement” of the “Palestinians,” who have been condemned to live as stateless “refugees” because of Israel’s aggression. This narrative of course ignores the fact that most of the Arabs fleeing Palestine left voluntarily, the first wave, mainly the Arab elite, beginning in November 1947 with the U.N. vote for partition. At the time it was clear to observers that most of the Arabs chose to flee their supposed ancestral homeland. In September 1948 Time magazine, no friend of Israel, wrote, “There is but little doubt that the most potent of the factors [explaining the Arab flight] were the announcements made over the air by the Arab Higher Committee urging the Arabs to quit.” These were followed in 1948 by 300,000 others, who either were avoiding the conflict, or were induced by the Arab Higher Committee with the promise that after victory they could return and find, as Arab League Secretary-General Azza Pasham said in May 1948, “that all the millions the Jews had spent on land and economic development would be easy booty, for it would be a simple matter to throw Jews into the Mediterranean.” Indeed, the withdrawal of Israelis from Gaza in 2005 confirmed the prediction that failed in 1948. The Gaza greenhouse industry, which American Jewish donors purchased for $14 million and gave to the Palestinian Authority in order to help Gaza’s economy, was instead destroyed by looters.

But from a historical perspective, it is irrelevant how the Arabs became refugees. When in 1922 the Greeks lost their war they fought against the Turks in order to regain their sovereignty over lands their ancestors had lived in for nearly 3000 years, 1.5 million Greeks were transferred out of Turkey in exchange for half a million Turks from Europe. After World War II, 12 million Germans either fled or were driven from Eastern Europe, with at least half a million dying. In both cases, whether justly or not, the wages of starting a war and losing included the displacement of the losers. Yet only in the case of the Palestinian Arabs has this perennial cost of aggression been reversed, and those who prevailed in a war they didn’t start been demonized for the suffering of refugees created by the aggression of their ethnic and religious fellows.

In still another historical anomaly, in no other conflict have refugees failed to be integrated into countries with which they share an ethnic, religious, and cultural identity. Most of the some 800,000 Jews, for example, driven from lands like Egypt and Iraq in which their ancestors had lived for centuries, were welcomed into Israel, which footed the bill for their maintenance and integration into society. The Arab states, on the other hand, kept their brother Arabs and Muslims in squalid camps that have evolved into squalid cities, their keep paid for by the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the only U.N. agency dedicated to only one group of refugees. Thus the international community has enabled the revanchist policy of the Arab states, as Alexander Galloway, head of the UNRWA, said in 1952: “It is perfectly clear that the Arab nations do not want to solve the Arab refugee problem. They want to keep it an open sore, as an affront against the United Nations, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.”

This brings us to the chief myth: that there exists a distinct Palestinian “people,” the original possessors of the land who have been unjustly denied a national homeland. In the quotes above notice that no Arab ever refers to these people as “Palestinians,” but as “Arabs,” which is what most of them are, sharing the same religion, language, and culture of their Arab neighbors in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. In fact, as Sha’i ben-Tekoa documents in hisbook Phantom Nation, the first U.N. resolution referencing “Palestinians” instead of “Arabs” occurred 3 years after the Six Day War, marking international recognition of a “Palestinian people” and nation as yet another Arab tactic in gaining support in the West by exploiting an idea alien to traditional Islam. Before then “Palestinian” was a geographical designation, more typically applied to Jews. Numerous quotations from Arab leaders reveal not a single reference to a Palestinian people, but numerous one identifying the inhabitants of the geographical entity Palestine as “Arabs.”

For example, in 1937, Arab Higher Committee Secretary Auni Abdel Hadi said, “There is no such country as Palestine. ‘Palestine’ is a country the Zionists invented. ‘Palestine’ is alien to us.” The Christian Arab George Antonius, author of the influential The Arab Awakening, told David Ben-Gurion, “There was no natural barrier between Palestine and Syria and there was no difference between their inhabitants.” Later in his book he defined Syria as including Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. In testimony to the U.N. in 1947, the Arab Higher Committee said, “Politically the Arabs of Palestine are not independent in the sense of forming a separate political identity.” Thirty years later Farouk Kaddoumi, then head of the PLO Political Department, toldNewsweek, “Jordanians and Palestinians are considered by the PLO as one people.” After the Six-Day War a member of the Executive Council of the PLO, Zouhair Muhsin, was even more explicit: “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity… Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”

Such examples can be multiplied, which makes all the talk of a separate Palestinian “people” deserving of their own nation nothing but propaganda supported by a bogus history that claims the Arabs who came to Palestine in the 7th century A.D as conquerors and occupiers, or later as migrant workers and immigrants, are the “indigenous” inhabitants descended from Biblical peoples like the Canaanites or the shadowy Jebusites––a claim unsupported by any written or archaeological evidence. Meanwhile, of course, abundant evidence exists showing that the Jews have continuously inhabited the region since 1300 B.C. Once more the logic of history is turned on its head, with the descendants of the original inhabitants deemed alien invaders, while the descendants of conquerors and occupiers are sanctified as victims.

Such an inversion is worthy of Orwell’s 1984. Yet these lies and myths––and there are many more–– have shaped and defined the conflict between Israel and the Arabs, and set the parameters of diplomatic solutions. But we should heed the Biblical injunction about the liberating power of truth. And the truth is, for a century fanatics filled with genocidal hatred have violently and viciously attacked a liberal-democratic nation legitimately established in the ancient homeland of its people. Until our diplomacy and foreign relations in the region are predicated on this truth, the “two-state solution” will continue to be a dangerous farce.

Voir aussi:

No, Israel Isn’t About to Turn Into a Theocracy
A misleading New York Times op-ed distorts the entire Israeli political scene
Yair Rosenberg
Tablet magazine
April 11, 2014

Today, the New York Times published an op-ed that attempts to demonstrate that Israel is drifting towards an Orthodox Jewish theocracy. Unfortunately for the paper, the piece instead demonstrates its authors’ profound ignorance of both Israeli domestic politics and Orthodox Judaism. The entire argument of the op-ed, written by the otherwise excellent Iranian scholar Abbas Milani and University of Haifa’s Israel Waismel-Manor, hinges on one key point:

While the Orthodox Jewish parties are currently not part of the government, together with Mr. Bennett’s Jewish Home, a right-wing religious party, they hold about 25 percent of seats in the Knesset. The Orthodox parties aspire to transform Israel into a theocracy.

As will be apparent to anyone with a passing familiarity with Israeli politics or Orthodox Judaism, this claim is demonstrably false. Not all Orthodox Jews are the same, not all Orthodox parties are the same, and not all Orthodox Jews seeks to turn Israel into a theocracy. In fact, many of them vigorously oppose such a move. The authors conveniently combine the ultra-Orthodox parties (currently in opposition) and the Modern Orthodox—or religious Zionist—Jewish Home party (currently in the coalition). Suggesting that these deeply disparate communities are ideologically identical is a dubious step , but it is necessary for the authors’ thesis, because Jewish Home holds 12 Knesset seats, a little less than half of the writers’ purported theocratic bloc. Without Jewish Home working with the ultra-Orthodox to impose Orthodox Jewish law on the masses, the op-ed’s entire scheme falls apart.

How inconvenient, then, that Jewish Home and its leader Naftali Bennett have been working assiduously to weaken the country’s chief rabbinate, and to break the political stranglehold of the ultra-Orthodox over Israel’s religious life. Back in May 2013, Bennett became the first religious affairs minister in Israeli history to order the government to fund non-Orthodox rabbis, not just Orthodox ones. (Until then, Israel had been subsidizing all religious communities except non-Orthodox Jews.) Jewish Home has also backed legislation stripping the powers of conversion and marriage from the ultra-Orthodox chief rabbinate, and giving them instead to local (and typically more liberal) rabbis.

These developments should not be surprising: Bennett is a Modern Orthodox Jew who served in the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit, made millions in the tech industry, and is married to a non-Orthodox woman. His longtime deputy, and the Jewish Home’s number five seat, is Ayelet Shaked , herself a proud secular Jew. Not exactly the stereotypical bearded fanatics of a theocratic revolution.

But the Times‘s distortion of Israel goes deeper than a simple misunderstanding of a single party. The op-ed fundamentally misapprehends the entire Israeli political scene, which in recent years has turned against religious entanglement in politics. After the 2013 elections, the arguably theocratic ultra-Orthodox parties were kept out of the government coalition, for only the second time in 35 years. Why? Because Jewish Home joined with the secular Yesh Atid party and demanded Netanyahu leave them in opposition. This has enabled the current coalition to pass not only the anti-rabbinate reforms described above, but a law that for the first time drafts the ultra-Orthodox into national service, in an attempt to integrate them into the fabric of the modern state. All of these reforms have been boosted by Modern Orthodox Jewish lawmakers in other parties–like Yesh Atid’s Rabbi Shai Piron (also Israel’s education minister) and Rabbi Dov Lipman , and Hatnua’s Elazar Stern –none of whom support theocracy.

In other words, the idea that the ultra-Orthodox parties would suddenly join forces with their religious Zionist counterparts to impose Jewish law isn’t just risible–it’s exactly the opposite of what has actually been happening.

Now, none of this is news. In fact, the alliance between Israel’s secular population and its modern Orthodox contingent against the ultra-Orthodox–rather than some fantastical pan-Orthodox push towards theocracy–has been well-documented by none other than the New York Times. Just last month, Isabel Kershner wrote about the “culture war between the secular and modern Orthodox Jews and the ultra-Orthodox,” and how it was reflected in the popular push to conscript ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military.

If only the authors of the op-ed–and their fact-checkers–had been reading their own paper.

Voir également:

Are Iran and Israel Trading Places?

ABbbas Milani and Israel Waismel-Manor

The New York Times

April 11, 2014

STANFORD, Calif. — Although the Israeli and Iranian governments have been virtually at war with each other for decades, the two countries have much in common.

Both are home to some of the oldest civilizations on earth, and both are primarily non-Arab states in a mostly Arab region. In the 1950s, David Ben-Gurion’s Israel and Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s Iran were bastions of secular nationalism; the shah pushed authoritarian modernization, while Ben-Gurion advanced a form of nonreligious Zionism. Only after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran did radical Islam all but eclipse this secular brand of politics. It held on for much longer in Israel but is now under threat.

Both Iran and Israel are now entering potentially challenging new stages in their relations with the outside world, and particularly with the United States. Over the last seven years, United Nations Security Council resolutions have imposed sanctions on Iran with the aim of halting its nuclear program. For years, Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad railed against the “Great Satan.” But even if Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is still opposed to reforms, it appears that some officials inside Iran have finally realized that continued intransigence and bellicosity will beget only more sanctions and catastrophic economic consequences.

As the winds of change blow across Iran, secular democrats in Israel have been losing ground to religious and right-wing extremists who feel comfortable openly attacking the United States, Israel’s strongest ally. In recent months, Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, called Secretary of State John Kerry “obsessive and messianic,” while Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, labeled Mr. Kerry a “mouthpiece” for anti-Semitic elements attempting to boycott Israel.

Israel’s secular democrats are growing increasingly worried that Israel’s future may bear an uncomfortable resemblance to Iran’s recent past.

For more than three decades, Iran’s oil wealth has allowed its religious leaders to stay in power. But sanctions have taken a serious economic toll, with devastating effects on the Iranian people. The public, tired of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s bombastic and costly rhetoric, has replaced him with Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who has promised to fix the economy and restore relations with the West.

But Mr. Rouhani’s rise is in reality the consequence of a critical cultural and demographic shift in Iran — away from theocracy and confrontation, and toward moderation and pragmatism. Recent tensions between America and Russia have emboldened some of Iran’s radicals, but the government on the whole seems still intent on continuing the nuclear negotiations with the West.

Iran is a land of many paradoxes. The ruling elite is disproportionately made up of aged clerics — all men — while 64 percent of the country’s science and engineering degrees are held by women. In spite of the government’s concentrated efforts to create what some have called gender apartheid in Iran, more and more women are asserting themselves in fields from cinema to publishing to entrepreneurship.

Many prominent intellectuals and artists who three decades ago advocated some form of religious government in Iran are today arguing for popular sovereignty and openly challenging the antiquated arguments of regime stalwarts who claim that concepts of human rights and religious tolerance are Western concoctions and inimical to Islam. More than 60 percent of Iranians are under age 30, and they overwhelmingly believe in individual liberty. It’s no wonder that last month Ayatollah Khamenei told the clerical leadership that what worried him most was a non-Islamic “cultural invasion” of the country.

As moderate Iranians and some of the country’s leaders cautiously shift toward pragmatism and the West, it seems that many Israelis are moving away from these attitudes. In its 66 years, Israel has seen its share of ideological shifts from dovish to hawkish. These were natural fluctuations driven mainly by the country’s security situation and prospects for peace.

But the current shift is being accelerated by religion and demography, and is therefore qualitatively different. While the Orthodox Jewish parties are currently not part of the government, together with Mr. Bennett’s Jewish Home, a right-wing religious party, they hold about 25 percent of seats in the Knesset. The Orthodox parties aspire to transform Israel into a theocracy. And with an average birthrate of 6.5 children per family among Orthodox Jews (compared with 2.6 for the rest of the Jewish population), their dream might not be too far away.

By contrast, Iran has a falling birthrate — a clear indication of growing secularism, and the sort of thing that keeps Ayatollah Khamenei awake at night.

The long-term power of these demographic trends will, in our view, override Iran’s current theocratic intransigence and might eclipse any fleeting victories for liberalism in Israel.

Israel’s shift toward orthodoxy is not merely a religious one. Since the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are also against any agreement with the Palestinians, with each passing day, the chances of reaching a peace deal diminish. Nor is time on the side of those who want to keep seeing a democratic Israel.

If Israel continues the expansion of settlements, and peace talks serve no purpose but the extension of the status quo, the real existential threat to Israel will not be Iran’s nuclear program but rather a surging tide of economic sanctions.

What began a few years ago with individual efforts to get supermarket shoppers in Western countries to boycott Israeli oranges and hummus has turned into an orchestrated international campaign, calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli companies and institutions.

From academic boycotts to calls for divestment on American university campuses to the unwillingness of more and more European financial institutions to invest in or partner with Israeli companies and banks that operate in the West Bank, the “B.D.S.” movement is gaining momentum. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently called B.D.S. advocates “classical anti-Semites in modern garb.”

In the past, Israel could rely on Western nations and especially the United States to halt such initiatives, but as the fabric of Israel’s population changes, and Jewish populations in the West become less religious and less uncritically pro-Israel, the reflex to stand by the Jewish state, regardless of its policies, is weakening.

Moreover, as Western countries shift toward greater respect for human rights, the occupation is perceived as a violation of Western liberal norms. A new generation of American Jews sees a fundamental tension between their own liberal values and many Israeli policies.

This, coupled with the passing of the older generation and a high rate of interfaith marriage among American Jews, means the pro-Israel lobby will no longer be as large or as united as it used to be. While American presidents from Lyndon B. Johnson to Barack Obama have declared that the United States’ commitment to Israel flows from strategic interests and shared values, in a generation or two, interests may be all that’s left.

An opposite shift is occurring in Iran’s diaspora. An estimated five to seven million Iranians live in exile. Their economic, scientific, scholarly and cultural achievements are now well known in the United States thanks to people like the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. They are increasingly establishing themselves as a powerful force advocating a more democratic Iran and better relations with the United States. Just as a united Jewish diaspora once helped the new state of Israel join the ranks of prosperous, industrialized states, Iran’s diaspora could one day play a similar role for a post-theocratic Iran.

One of Israel’s most popular singers, the Iranian-born Rita Jahanforuz, laments on her recent album, “In this world, I am alone and abandoned, like wild grass in the middle of the desert.”

If Iran’s moderates fail to push the country toward reform, and if secular Israelis can’t halt the country’s drift from democracy to theocracy, both Iranians and Israelis will increasingly find themselves fulfilling her sad prophecy.

Abbas Milani heads the Iranian studies program at Stanford and is co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution. Israel Waismel-Manor is a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa and a visiting associate professor of political science at Stanford.

Voir encore:

Israel to Phase Out Religious Exemptions

Isabel Kershner

The NYT

March 12, 2014

Ultra-Orthodox Israelis protest plans to include their community in the military draft, arguing that the study of the Torah is as important to defending Israel as carrying a weapon in the Army.

JERUSALEM — After years of heated public debate and political wrangling, Israel’s Parliament on Wednesday approved landmark legislation that will eventually eliminate exemptions from compulsory military service for many ultra-Orthodox students enrolled in seminaries.

The issue has become a social and political lightning rod in a country where most Jewish 18-year-olds are subjected to compulsory military service for up to three years. Many Israelis, who see conscription as part of a deeper culture war between the secular and modern Orthodox Jews and the ultra-Orthodox, have been demanding a more equitable sharing of the responsibilities of citizenship and voted in last year’s elections on that basis.

Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, one of the parties that promoted the new legislation in the governing coalition, wrote on his Facebook page soon after the vote, “To the 543,458 citizens of Israel who elected Yesh Atid: Today you have passed the equal sharing of the burden.”
Photo
On March 2, hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox brought much of Jerusalem to a standstill with a mass prayer gathering to protest the legislation. Credit Oded Balilty/Associated Press

But the law, approved by 65-to-1, is unlikely to allay the acrimony over ultra-Orthodox recruitment and might even exacerbate tensions. The opposition in the 120-seat Parliament, the Knesset, boycotted the vote in an uproar over what it has called unfair political dealing within the coalition as it moved to pass military service legislation and two other contentious bills this week.

Ultra-Orthodox leaders have reacted with fury and are threatening to roll back the slow, voluntary trend that was already underway in their community toward military and national service. And nongovernmental monitoring groups immediately petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the new law on grounds that it does not go far enough in enforcing the principle of equality.

For one thing, the law includes an adjustment period of three years in which increased service will be encouraged but not mandatory. It also gives the ultra-Orthodox, known as Haredim, or those who fear God, a choice between military service and civilian national service, unlike ordinary recruits, and it allows students at seminaries, or yeshivas, to defer service for several years beyond the age of 18.

“The whole idea that the law promotes equality is not really convincing,” said Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, vice president of research at the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent research organization here, and former dean of the law faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

By the end of the three-year period, Professor Kremnitzer said, there will be new elections and a new government, possibly including Haredi parties, “and the whole law would become thin air.” Given the delay, he said, “It is questionable whether the Knesset accomplished anything.”

Although the law stops far short of enforcing conscription for all Haredi young men, ultra-Orthodox leaders are outraged over its more symbolic aspects. They argue that Torah study should be a priority in Israel, a country that defines itself as the Jewish state, and that the yeshiva students perform a spiritual duty that is crucial for protecting the country. On March 2 hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox paralyzed much of Jerusalem with a mass prayer gathering to protest the legislation. Tens of thousands of Haredim held a similar gathering in Lower Manhattan on Sunday.

Moshe Gafni of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, said, “Today Israel lost the right to be called a Jewish state,” according to the Ynet Hebrew news site. He said the Haredim “will not forget or forgive” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his associates for what he called the affront to the Haredi public and to Torah study.

Until a year ago Mr. Netanyahu and the Haredi parties were political allies. Those parties are not in the current coalition after years of having wielded disproportionate political power as coalition linchpins.

In the streets and at the ballot box, mainstream Israelis have displayed growing resentment over benefits granted for decades to members of the ultra-Orthodox community who chose full-time Torah study. Many Israelis view the enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox minority and its integration into the work force as crucial for the country’s economy and viability. The ultra-Orthodox sector now makes up about 10 percent of the population of 8 million, but favoring large families, it is expanding rapidly.

The law sets modest annual quotas for the drafting of yeshiva students for military or national service and holds open the threat of criminal penalties against those who evade the draft if the quotas are not met voluntarily by mid-2017 — an unlikely possibility that has nonetheless enraged ultra-Orthodox opponents.

The roots of the tensions date to the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister, granted full-time yeshiva students state financing and exemption from army service to refill the ranks of Torah scholarship decimated in the Holocaust. At the time 400 students were of draftable age. Today there are tens of thousands.

In 2012, Israel’s Supreme Court invalidated a law that formalized exemptions for yeshiva students, ruling that it contradicted the principle of equality. The new legislation will face a similar test, though the court deliberations could proceed for at least a year.

Israel’s parliamentary opposition, led by Isaac Herzog, leader of the Labor Party, was not uniformly against the new law. But the opposition took the unusual measure of boycotting the discussions in the full assembly and the votes on this and two other bills. Opposition members argued that democratic debate had been stifled because the coalition parties made a pact that all their members would vote for all three pieces of legislation. On their own, none of the bills would have garnered a majority.

One of the bills, which passed into law on Tuesday, raises the electoral threshold for political parties from two percent to 3.25 percent — a move that could harm the electoral chances of small parties, including those that represent the politically fragmented Arab minority. Another bill, which passed later Thursday, calls for a national referendum on any withdrawal from sovereign Israeli territory as part of a future peace treaty with Israel’s Arab neighbors.

Voir enfin:

The President’s Foreign Policy Paradox
Walter Russell Mead
Updated March 28, 2014

More than five years into his presidency, Barack Obama still wrestles with the foreign-policy contradiction that has dogged his administration from the beginning: The president has extremely ambitious goals but is unusually parsimonious when it comes to engagement.

Commendably, President Obama is not satisfied with the global status quo and wants a world fundamentally different than the one we live in. He wants a world in which poverty is on the wane, international law is respected, and the U.S., if it must lead, can do so on the cheap, and from behind.

To get to this world, Mr. Obama wants nuclear proliferation stopped, new arms-control agreements ratified, and the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons. He wants a tough global climate treaty that will keep carbon emissions at levels low enough to prevent further global warming. He wants the Arab-Israeli dispute settled and a new relationship with Iran. He wants terrorism to be contained and Afghanistan to be stable when the Americans leave. He wants to reassert U.S. power in the Pacific, and to see China accept the territorial status quo. He wants democracy advanced, human rights protected, poverty reduced, women empowered, and lesbians and gays treated better world-wide.

This is a transformative agenda that would resonate with visionary American presidents like the two Roosevelts and Woodrow Wilson. But while Mr. Obama embraces a powerful and compelling global vision, he also seeks reduced American commitments and engagements overseas. He wants substantial cuts in military spending and wants to reduce America’s profile in Europe and the Middle East.

This is a paradox, but it is understandable. Mr. Obama is channeling the voters. Just as Americans want to eliminate the federal budget deficit without cutting Social Security or Medicare, they want a more peaceful and democratic world with less heavy lifting from the U.S. Who wouldn’t want an easier life in a nicer world?

Unfortunately, it’s hard to transform and democratize the world while saving money and reducing overseas commitments. A world based more on the rule of law and less on the law of the jungle requires an engaged, forward-looking, and, alas, expensive foreign policy. If, for example, you want to put the world on the road to abolishing nuclear weapons, you have to make sure that nonnuclear states like Ukraine don’t have to worry about land-grabs from nuke-wielding neighbors like Russia.

When Ukraine agreed to give up its "legacy" nuclear weapons—missiles and warheads placed on Ukrainian territory when it was part of the Soviet Union—the U.S., U.K. and Russia pledged to protect its territorial integrity. That promise is clearly a dead letter, and it just became much harder to persuade countries that beautifully phrased treaties signed by great powers can replace nuclear weapons as instruments of self-defense.

Even more troubling is the belief that a peaceful world can be painlessly built without political heavy lifting at home or abroad. Two of the five veto-wielding Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council—China and Russia—are aggressive, undemocratic countries with significant territorial claims against neighbors. They also consider reducing American power and prestige as one of their most important national interests.

The authority and legitimacy that come from U.N. mandates won’t exist where Russian and Chinese interests are engaged, and so the U.S. will have to choose between disengaging on issues like the occupation of Crimea (and future territorial moves by Russia and China) and taking action outside the U.N. system.

Mr. Obama is unintentionally making it harder for himself and future American presidents. His appealing vision of an easy, cheap and beautiful world order helps build expectations that no real world president can achieve. The disillusionment that follows when those expectations aren’t met reinforces the cynicism that makes it hard for all presidents to build public support for national efforts abroad.

Successful American foreign policy not only demands sacrifice and risk, but it also inevitably brings failures and setbacks. The values and interests that Americans care most strongly about can’t be defended without a foreign policy that sometimes taxes our wallets and tests our will. But engagement isn’t guaranteed to make things work out. The world is complicated, foreign policy is hard, and Americans even at our best are neither omniscient nor omnipotent.

The White House is shocked by the Russian campaign against Ukraine and the administration’s inability to predict or counter Vladimir Putin’s moves. Mr. Obama is experiencing what the president in other contexts has called a "teachable moment." Perhaps it will bring about a more sustainable approach to foreign policy. But President Obama created unrealistic expectations for himself in happier times—democracy in the Middle East, destruction of al Qaeda, victory in Afghanistan, greater American popularity abroad, a reset with Russia, pivoting to Asia—all while making deep cuts to defense budgets. This will weigh on him now.

Mr. Obama came into office telling voters what they badly wanted to hear, which was that on foreign policy, they could have it all. No risks to be run, no adversarial great powers to oppose, and no boots on the ground. Now he must tell them that he, and they, were wrong, and he must choose. Does he give up on some of his dreams for improving the world, or does he begin to urge the country to pay a higher price and run greater risks to make the world better and safer?

The truth is that he—and we—will have to do some of both. As a country we are going to be working harder than we wanted in a world that is more frustrating than we hoped.

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

President Obama’s foreign policy paradox

Robert Kagan

The WSJ

March 27

Robert Kagan is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He writes a monthly foreign affairs column for The Post.

Whether one likes President Obama’s conduct of foreign policy or not, the common assumption is that the administration is at least giving the American people the foreign policy they want. The majority of Americans have opposed any meaningful U.S. role in Syria, have wanted to lessen U.S. involvement in the Middle East generally, are eager to see the “tide of war” recede and would like to focus on “nation-building at home.” Until now, the president generally has catered to and encouraged this public mood, so one presumes that he has succeeded, if nothing else, in gaining the public’s approval.

Yet, surprisingly, he hasn’t. The president’s approval ratings on foreign policy are dismal. According to the most recent CBS News poll, only 36 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing on foreign policy, while 49 percent disapprove. This was consistent with other polls over the past year. A November poll by the Pew Research Center showed 34 percent approval on foreign policy vs. 56 percent disapproval. The CBS poll showed a higher percentage of Americans approving of Obama’s economic policies (39 percent) and a higher percentage approving his handling of health care (41 percent). Foreign policy is the most unpopular thing Obama is doing right now. And lest one think that foreign policy is never a winner, Bill Clinton’s foreign policy ratings at roughly the same point in his second term were quite good — 57 percent approval; 34 percent disapproval — and Ronald Reagan’s rating was more than 50 percent at a similar point in his presidency. That leaves Obama in the company of George W. Bush — not the first-term Bush whose ratings were consistently high but the second-term Bush mired in the worst phase of the Iraq war.

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Nor are Obama’s numbers on foreign policy simply being dragged down by his overall job approval ratings. The public is capable of drawing distinctions. When George H.W. Bush’s overall approval ratings were tanking in the last year of his presidency, his ratings on economic policy led the downward trend, but his foreign policy ratings stayed above 50 percent. According to the CBS poll, Obama’s overall approval rating is 40 percent, four points higher than his foreign policy rating.

So we return to the paradox: President Obama is supposedly conducting a foreign policy in tune with popular opinion, yet his foreign policy is not popular. What’s the explanation? I await further investigation by pollsters, but until then I offer one hypothesis:

A majority of Americans may not want to intervene in Syria, do anything serious about Iran or care what happens in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt or Ukraine. They may prefer a minimalist foreign policy in which the United States no longer plays a leading role in the world and leaves others to deal with their own miserable problems. They may want a more narrowly self-interested American policy. In short, they may want what Obama so far has been giving them. But they’re not proud of it, and they’re not grateful to him for giving them what they want.

For many decades Americans thought of their nation as special. They were the self-proclaimed “leader of the free world,” the “indispensable nation,” the No. 1 superpower. It was a source of pride. Now, pundits and prognosticators are telling them that those days are over, that it is time for the United States to seek more modest goals commensurate with its declining power. And they have a president committed to this task. He has shown little nostalgia for the days of U.S. leadership and at times seems to conceive it as his job to deal with the “reality” of decline.

Perhaps this is what they want from him. But it is not something they will thank him for. To follow a leader to triumph inspires loyalty, gratitude and affection. Following a leader in retreat inspires no such emotions.

Presidents are not always rewarded for doing what the public says it wants. Sometimes they are rewarded for doing just the opposite. Bill Clinton enjoyed higher approval ratings after intervening in Bosnia and Kosovo, even though majorities of Americans had opposed both interventions before he launched them. Who knows what the public might have thought of Obama had he gone through with his planned attack on Syria last August? As Col. Henry Stimson observed, until a president leads, he can’t expect the people to “voluntarily take the initiative in letting him know whether or not they would follow him if he did take the lead.” Obama’s speech in Europe Wednesday shows that he may understand that the time has come to offer leadership. Whether or not he does in his remaining time in office, perhaps his would-be successors can take note.


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
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 ?

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.

——-


Printemps arabe: L’Egypte vote à nouveau pour Noël (Like turkeys voting for Christmas)

4 juillet, 2013
http://www.frontrowgrunt.co.za/wp-content/uploads/turkeys-UKIP-VOTING-FOR-CHRISTMAS.jpgFeminists, Christians, Professors for Academic Freedom and Gays have only one country in the middle east that recognizes their human rights and respects their right to live openly as the people they are. That country is Israel.: Dry Bones cartoon.The Arab Spring was an exercise in irony, nowhere more so than in Egypt. On the surface, it appeared to be the Arab equivalent of 1989 in Eastern Europe. There, the Soviet occupation suppressed a broad, if not universal desire for constitutional democracy modeled on Western Europe. The year 1989 shaped a generation’s thinking in the West, and when they saw the crowds in the Arab streets, they assumed that they were seeing Eastern Europe once again. There were certainly constitutional democrats in the Arab streets in 2011, but they were not the main thrust. Looking back on the Arab Spring, it is striking how few personalities were replaced, how few regimes fell, and how much chaos was left in its wake. The uprising in Libya resulted in a Western military intervention that deposed former leader Moammar Gadhafi and replaced him with massive uncertainty. The uprising in Syria has not replaced Syrian President Bashar al Assad but instead sparked a war between him and an Islamist-dominated opposition. Elsewhere, revolts have been contained with relative ease. The irony of the Arab Spring was that in opening the door for popular discontent, it demonstrated that while the discontent was real, it was neither decisive nor clearly inclined toward constitutional democracy. The Egyptian uprising has always been the most ambiguous even while being cited as the most decisive. It is true that former President Hosni Mubarak fell in 2011. It is also true that elections were held in 2012, when a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s election as president highlighted the reality that a democratic election is not guaranteed to produce a liberal democratic result. (…) But the real issue in Egypt has always been something else. Though a general was forced out of office in 2011, it was not clear that the military regime did not remain, if not in power, then certainly the ultimate arbiter of power in Egyptian politics. Over the past year, so long as Morsi remained the elected president, the argument could be made that the military had lost its power. But just as we argued that the fall of Hosni Mubarak had been engineered by the military in order to force a succession that the aging Mubarak resisted, we can also argue that while the military had faded into the background, it remained the decisive force in Egypt. Stratfor
It’s a sign of how atrophied U.S. influence in Egypt has become under Mr. Obama that his views count for so little—assuming he has views at all. For the rest of us, the lesson from Egypt is that democracy may be a blessing for people capable of self-government, but it’s a curse for those who are not. There is a reason that Egypt has been governed by pharaohs, caliphs, pashas and strongmen for 6,000 years. The best outcome for Egypt would be early elections, leading to the Brotherhood’s defeat at the hands of a reformist, technocratic government with military support. The second-best outcome would be a bloodless military coup, followed by the installment of a reformist government. The chances for either outcome are slight. But the Brotherhood will not go quietly. Get ready for a bloody road ahead. Bret Stephens
For all his magnificent indignation against modern-day anti-Semitism, Mr. Nasr dismisses Israel as a colonialist error—an uncharacteristic concession to fashionable opinion on his part. But it is hard to see how a Muslim liberalism can advance without arriving at a deeper and more sympathetic understanding of Jewish history and Zionism. Political theory is another weak point: Mr. Nasr counts himself a libertarian and never explains why. This sort of thing, the offhand quality of Mr. Nasr’s opinions, may be OK for a blogger, and doubly OK for a student. But what will happen if, as Mr. Nasr expects, the Arab Spring arrives at still another phase, and liberals like him are given another chance? I hope they will be prepared. Paul Berman
Sadly, Egypt has been here before, in 1952. Political order had given way, the political parties of the constitutional monarchy were riddled with corruption, and the Muslim Brotherhood stood ready to feed on the chaos. In January of that year, mobs set to the torch much of modern Cairo. The army stepped in, "reluctantly" of course, to offer a reprieve. Egyptians had looked to the army for redemption and got dictatorship in return. It was to rule for six decades. More recently, in the aftermath of the 2011 fall of the Mubarak dictatorship, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had the run of the country for 16 months. Its reign was an unhappy one, and the protesters who took to Tahrir Square wanted them back in their barracks. Liberals later gave Mr. Morsi, elected to the presidency in June 2012, no small measure of credit for reining in the power of the officer corps and for sacking Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the de facto strongman of the transitional period. In a note of supreme irony, the secular crowd now proclaims that "the people and the army and the police are one hand." Yet the revolt that swept the old order in early 2011 had been motivated by a consuming hatred of the police. The police under Mubarak had been lawless, cruel and corrupt. They were seen by secularists and Islamists alike as thugs in uniform; torture and perversity ran rampant in their detention centers. Yet unlike its approach with the military, the Morsi government chose not to take on the police. Indeed, it gave them new weapons and financial concessions in the hope of pacifying them. They did not return the favor: Policemen have been out in the streets demonstrating against the government, and they have steadfastly refused to maintain public order. It is not a pretty bargain that the secularists strike with the army—and the police. The assumption is that this cynicism is warranted if it gets rid of the Muslim Brotherhood. But a larger price will be paid down the road. Fouad Ajami

L’Egypte serait-elle condamnée, à l’instar de la proverbiale dinde, à voter pour Noël ?

A l’heure, en ce 237e anniversaire de la démocratie américaine, où la place Tahrir s’enthousiasme à nouveau pour la mise au pas, par l’armée jusque là tant honnie, de sa première expérience démocratique …

Et où, de la Tunisie à la Libye et à la Syrie sans parler du Yémen et du Bahrein et le tout attisé par les frères ennemis qataris, saoudiens ou iraniens, le tant célébré "printemps arabe" tourne à l’hiver islamique voire au cauchemar …

Pendant qu’en Occident nos propres pères Noël nous refont le coup de la surprise devant l’échec largement prévisible du mariage de la carpe islamiste aussi tyrannique qu’incompétente et du lapin démocrate aussi dénué de programme que de leaders  …

Et qu’à l’instar de nos féministes, universitaires ou artistes qui n’ont que le boycott à la bouche, nos militants pro-homosexuels dénoncent pour cause de pinkwashing la "capitale homosexuelle du Moyen-Orient"

Comment ne pas voir, de coups d’état en dictatures avec ou sans uniforme à la pakistanaise, la réalité d’un pouvoir qui, depuis 60 ans, n’a finalement cessé de dépendre de la force militaire ?

Egypt on the Brink—With No Clear Way Back

It is not a pretty bargain that the secularists have struck with the military.

Fouad Ajami

The WSJ

In the mythology of Egypt, the Nile was the steady river, one that gave life but also one to be watched carefully. Too little water and the earth is scorched, the crops perish and civic order is undone. Too much water and havoc ensues, the granaries are destroyed and the people lose faith in their deities. The myth of a stable "hydraulic society" where the rulers were deities is at a great variance with the history of a land that has known ferocious rebellions, and that has so often fallen short of its expectations of deliverance.

There is no deliverance within sight for the untold numbers out in Egypt’s public squares today. The "street" shall not deliver order, adjudicate fundamental struggles between Egyptians keen to live in a secular state and those who have been biding their time to impose an Islamic order.

The world beyond the Nile River Valley is witnessing a standoff in the latest battle for the soul of the Arab Spring: the secularists, the modernists, call them what you will, who have flooded Cairo’s Tahrir Square, arrayed against the throngs gathered in support of the Muslim Brotherhood in the shadow of Rab’ah al-Adawiyah Mosque in Cairo’s Nasr district.

The mayadin (the squares) can’t say how Egypt ought to be ruled, yet this is what the country is left with. Coups, assassinations and the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak robbed the country of the political vitality, and parliamentary practice, it had known for 30 years beginning in 1922 under a functioning constitutional monarchy. In the decades since the military coup of 1952, the country has been served an antimodernist fare by corrupt and nepotistic rulers. Egypt fell behind in the race of nations, grew poorer, more embittered, its ideas of its own specialness battered by harsh economic and social verdicts.

It is hard to remember now that this country was once on the Grand Tour, sought by travelers and literati the world over. The green spaces in its cities were eaten up by sprawl and numbers. That great Cairene, the Nobel laureate in literature, Naguib Mahfouz, once spoke of his city as though describing some place from antiquity: He had been born in 1911, Cairo had 700,000 inhabitants, Egypt as a whole less than 11 million people. No one is quite sure of the numbers now, the figure of 90 million is thrown around, and what grace Cairo once had can only by glimpsed in the newsreels and old movies of decades past.

Egyptians pride themselves on their country’s civility and good manners. Egypt is not Syria, they say, it is not riven by sectarian fault-lines and hatreds, its armed forces are not killer brigades fighting for a barbarous ruler. Nor is it Libya or Iraq. Egyptians console themselves that slaughter is not part of the nation’s tradition. They point to the final days of Mubarak, brought to court on a stretcher, and contrast it with the gruesome end of Moammar Gadhafi next door in Libya.

There is no end to the consolations. Egypt is not Iran, or the Wahhabi realm in the Arabian Peninsula: Faith is light and forgiving here, it was said. Islam came to an ancient country and had to reach an accommodation with a Coptic church indigenous to the land. Pharaonic, Coptic, Greco- Roman, and Islamic ideas and loyalties mixed in a country at the crossroads of continents. All of this is true, but the country is bereft, and may have exhausted its myths.

The turn to the army as a deus ex machina for a great, secular-Islamist split is the desperate recourse of a population in trouble. The Egyptian army’s proclamation on Monday that it would give President Mohammed Morsi 48 hours to "meet the demands" of the people would have been laughable had Egypt’s public life at the moment allowed for humor. On Tuesday, Mr. Morsi and his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party rejected the military’s ultimatum. Senior Brotherhood leader Muhammad al-Biltaji called on supporters to defend Mr. Morsi’s "legitimacy," saying a coup would only succeed "over our dead bodies."

Sadly, Egypt has been here before, in 1952. Political order had given way, the political parties of the constitutional monarchy were riddled with corruption, and the Muslim Brotherhood stood ready to feed on the chaos. In January of that year, mobs set to the torch much of modern Cairo. The army stepped in, "reluctantly" of course, to offer a reprieve. Egyptians had looked to the army for redemption and got dictatorship in return. It was to rule for six decades.

More recently, in the aftermath of the 2011 fall of the Mubarak dictatorship, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had the run of the country for 16 months. Its reign was an unhappy one, and the protesters who took to Tahrir Square wanted them back in their barracks. Liberals later gave Mr. Morsi, elected to the presidency in June 2012, no small measure of credit for reining in the power of the officer corps and for sacking Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the de facto strongman of the transitional period.

In a note of supreme irony, the secular crowd now proclaims that "the people and the army and the police are one hand." Yet the revolt that swept the old order in early 2011 had been motivated by a consuming hatred of the police. The police under Mubarak had been lawless, cruel and corrupt. They were seen by secularists and Islamists alike as thugs in uniform; torture and perversity ran rampant in their detention centers.

Yet unlike its approach with the military, the Morsi government chose not to take on the police. Indeed, it gave them new weapons and financial concessions in the hope of pacifying them. They did not return the favor: Policemen have been out in the streets demonstrating against the government, and they have steadfastly refused to maintain public order. It is not a pretty bargain that the secularists strike with the army—and the police. The assumption is that this cynicism is warranted if it gets rid of the Muslim Brotherhood. But a larger price will be paid down the road.

A young Egyptian engineer trained in Canada, a lyricist about his homeland, wrote to me a few days ago from Cairo about the standoff in the streets. He had gone to see the Tahrir Square crowd, and then the adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood. Tahrir Square, he wrote, was "technically weaker but had the momentum." He sensed no fear there. The Muslim Brotherhood crowd had the power, but was nervous. "I guess we have reached the worst situation possible, two parties sure of winning."

There is no iron law of stability and social peace in this former land of pharaohs. Pressed to the limit by an economy struggling to keep afloat, the Egyptian people have reached a reckoning. The chronicles telling of their country’s knack for survival, and for pulling back from the brink, will have to be read with caution.

E.M. Forster once memorably wrote of Egypt as a country accustomed to harmonizing contending assertions. In the days to come, and in the battle of the mayadin, that proposition will meet an unforgiving test.

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:

Ozymandias Returns

Will Mohammed Morsi join the pharaohs, caliphs, pashas and strongmen that came before him?

Bret Stephens

The WSJ

July 1, 2013

On Sunday millions of Egyptians poured into the squares and streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities to register intense dissatisfaction with their first freely elected government and demand President Mohammed Morsi’s resignation. On Monday the Egyptian military gave Mr. Morsi 48 hours to clean up his act, or else.

Democracy in Egypt has not been fun while it’s lasted.

Where do things go from here? The good news is that the political bloom is off the Islamist rose. The Muslim Brotherhood, so sure-footed when it came to seizing power, proved surprisingly ham-fisted when it came to consolidating it. Islam is the answer, goes the Brotherhood’s famous slogan—but not, as Egyptians are learning with each passing day, to the questions of how to shorten gas lines, or maintain public security, or attract foreign investment, or build foreign-exchange reserves.

There’s also good news in that the army remains a willing and viable check on the Brotherhood’s political power and street muscle. There were reasons to wonder about that after the military squandered much of its support with its long interregnum (and constitutional shenanigans) following Hosni Mubarak’s downfall, and then again after Mr. Morsi sacked Mubarak-era Defense Minister Mohamed Tantawi and replaced him with Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.

Yet Gen. Sisi proved he was his own man on Monday when he issued the ultimatum to his presumptive boss, warning that "if the people’s demands are not met [by Wednesday], the armed forces will announce a road map for the future and take a set of procedures and . . . oversee its implementation with the participation of all political forces."

Sounds lovely. But then, as Napoleon told one of his generals, "if you start to take Vienna, take Vienna." On Monday a spokesman for Gen. Sisi insisted the army was not threatening a coup, but what happens if Mr. Morsi calls his bluff?

In fact, Mr. Morsi must call the general’s bluff if he’s to retain the prerogatives of his office. And Gen. Sisi must make good on his threat—or else go to prison for gross insubordination. Perhaps there’s a face-saving compromise, like calling for a referendum on whether to hold early elections. But that would take months to arrange, and Egyptians are a people who have run out of patience. One side or the other will have to back down, humiliated, or there will be a confrontation.

If it’s the latter, it could be along the lines of Algeria’s savage civil war in the 1990s, also the result of a military coup after an Islamist electoral victory. Egypt today is awash in small arms, mainly from Libya and Sudan. The conscript army is not well-disciplined, as it showed in its brutal assault on Coptic protesters in Cairo in October 2011. Police forces are a power unto themselves. And the Brotherhood, willful and accustomed to operating as a secret organization, can call on the support of millions of Egyptians.

Nobody should want this outcome: The blood orgies of Syria are agony enough for the Middle East. What about the other choices?

There will be a temptation in the West to support Mr. Morsi on grounds that, for all of his political misjudgments, he is a legitimately elected leader trying to stand his ground against street mobs abetted by army generals. So far Mr. Obama has said little more about Egypt than to call for "restraint" on both sides. But he had flattering things to say about Mr. Morsi during last November’s Gaza crisis, and the default position in American diplomacy is always to support whoever is in power.

Then again, to support Mr. Morsi is to repeat the mistake Mr. Obama made in the first two years of his presidency, when U.S. policy amounted to flattering Hosni Mubarak. (Hillary Clinton, genius diplomat, went so far as to call the dictator a family friend in 2009.) At least the Mubarak regime could be described as secular and pro-American, and reasonably committed to peace with Israel. That doesn’t exactly describe Mr. Morsi, who showed he had all of Mr. Mubarak’s contempt for civil liberties with none of his talents for governance.

It’s a sign of how atrophied U.S. influence in Egypt has become under Mr. Obama that his views count for so little—assuming he has views at all. For the rest of us, the lesson from Egypt is that democracy may be a blessing for people capable of self-government, but it’s a curse for those who are not. There is a reason that Egypt has been governed by pharaohs, caliphs, pashas and strongmen for 6,000 years.

The best outcome for Egypt would be early elections, leading to the Brotherhood’s defeat at the hands of a reformist, technocratic government with military support. The second-best outcome would be a bloodless military coup, followed by the installment of a reformist government. The chances for either outcome are slight. But the Brotherhood will not go quietly. Get ready for a bloody road ahead.

Voir également:

The Next Phase of the Arab Spring

Analysis

Stratfor

July 3, 2013

The Arab Spring was an exercise in irony, nowhere more so than in Egypt. On the surface, it appeared to be the Arab equivalent of 1989 in Eastern Europe. There, the Soviet occupation suppressed a broad, if not universal desire for constitutional democracy modeled on Western Europe. The year 1989 shaped a generation’s thinking in the West, and when they saw the crowds in the Arab streets, they assumed that they were seeing Eastern Europe once again.

There were certainly constitutional democrats in the Arab streets in 2011, but they were not the main thrust. Looking back on the Arab Spring, it is striking how few personalities were replaced, how few regimes fell, and how much chaos was left in its wake. The uprising in Libya resulted in a Western military intervention that deposed former leader Moammar Gadhafi and replaced him with massive uncertainty. The uprising in Syria has not replaced Syrian President Bashar al Assad but instead sparked a war between him and an Islamist-dominated opposition. Elsewhere, revolts have been contained with relative ease. The irony of the Arab Spring was that in opening the door for popular discontent, it demonstrated that while the discontent was real, it was neither decisive nor clearly inclined toward constitutional democracy.

This is what makes Egypt so interesting. The Egyptian uprising has always been the most ambiguous even while being cited as the most decisive. It is true that former President Hosni Mubarak fell in 2011. It is also true that elections were held in 2012, when a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s election as president highlighted the reality that a democratic election is not guaranteed to produce a liberal democratic result. In any case, the now-deposed president, Mohammed Morsi, won by only a slim margin and he was severely constrained as to what he could do.

But the real issue in Egypt has always been something else. Though a general was forced out of office in 2011, it was not clear that the military regime did not remain, if not in power, then certainly the ultimate arbiter of power in Egyptian politics. Over the past year, so long as Morsi remained the elected president, the argument could be made that the military had lost its power. But just as we argued that the fall of Hosni Mubarak had been engineered by the military in order to force a succession that the aging Mubarak resisted, we can also argue that while the military had faded into the background, it remained the decisive force in Egypt.

Modern Egypt was founded in 1952 in a military coup by Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser was committed to modernizing Egypt, and he saw the army as the only real instrument of modernization. He was a secularist committed to the idea that Arab nations ought to be united, but not Islamist by any means. He was a socialist, but not a communist. Above all else, he was an Egyptian army officer committed to the principle that the military guaranteed the stability of the Egyptian nation.

When the uprisings of the Arab Spring came, Nasser’s successors used the unrest to force Mubarak out, and then they stepped back. It is interesting to consider whether they would have been content to retain their institutional position under a Muslim Brotherhood-led government. However, Morsi never really took control of the machinery of government, partly because he was politically weak, partly because the Muslim Brotherhood was not ready to govern, and partly because the military never quite let go.

This dynamic culminated in the demonstrations of this "Egyptian Summer." The opposition leadership appears to support constitutional democracy. Whether the masses in the streets do as well or whether they simply dislike the Muslim Brotherhood is difficult to tell, but we suspect their interests are about food and jobs more than about the principles of liberalism. Still, there was an uprising, and once again the military put it to use.

In part, the military did not want to see chaos, and it saw itself as responsible for averting it. In part, the military distrusted the Muslim Brotherhood and was happy to see it forced out of office. As in 2011, the army acted overtly to maintain order and simultaneously to shape the Egyptian political order. They deposed Morsi, effectively replacing him with a more secular and overtly liberal leadership.

But what must be kept in mind is that, just as in 2011, when the military was willing to pave the way for Morsi, so too is it now paving the way for his opposition. And this is the crucial point — while Egypt is increasingly unstable, the army is shaping what order might come out of it. The military is less interested in the ideology of the government than in containing chaos. Given this mission, it does not see itself as doing more than stepping back. It does not see itself as letting go.

The irony of the Egyptian Arab Spring is that while it brought forth new players, it has not changed the regime or the fundamental architecture of Egyptian politics. The military remains the dominant force, and while it is prepared to shape Egypt cleverly, what matters is that it will continue to shape Egypt.

Therefore, while it is legitimate to discuss a military coup, it is barely legitimate to do so. What is going on is that there is broad unhappiness in Egypt that is now free to announce its presence. This unhappiness takes many ideological paths, as well as many that have nothing to do with ideology. Standing on stage with the unhappiness is the military, manipulating, managing and containing it. Everyone else, all of the politicians, come and go, playing a short role and moving on — the military and the crowd caught in a long, complex and barely comprehensible dance.

Voir encore:

From Islamist to Freethinker

At age 19, Amir Ahmad Nasr was perched awkwardly between a politicized religious culture and modern skeptical rationalism.

Paul Berman

The WSJ

July 1, 2013

Amir Ahmad Nasr was born in 1986 in Sudan, but when he was still a little child his father’s career brought the family to Qatar and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and young Mr. Nasr began his education at Islamic schools in those places. Memorization of the Quran was the core curriculum. His teachers taught him that Jews drink the blood of children and conspire against Islam. On Fridays he said "amen" to prayers calling for the destruction of the Jews. He dreamed of heroism: "I wished I could die and martyr myself for Islam and occupied Palestine."

He also learned English and, as a teenager in Kuala Lumpur, he took to roaming the Internet, where he came across blogs by liberal-minded young Muslims a few years older than himself. His Internet explorations offered an alternative education, which meant that, after a while, he hardly knew where he stood in regard to Islam, the Jews, the U.S. and the world in general. Nor did he know what culture was his own.

In a vivid passage in his coming-of-age memoir, "My Isl@m," he confesses to a friend that he is losing faith in Islam, to which the friend responds: "I understand you’ve got your issues with all those idiotic bearded monkeys who belong in a zoo. Even I hate them and think they’re giving Islam a bad name, but what about the Book, dude?" The Book is the Quran, and the dialogue makes it clear that Mr. Nasr and his friend, while pondering theology in Malaysia, have adopted personalities drawn from American popular culture, and they are dude and dude, or bro and bro, and life is a rap song.

By the age of 19, Mr. Nasr was, in short, a young man perched awkwardly on the world’s largest tectonic fault line, which is the conflict between a traditional and sometimes politicized religious culture and the modern culture of skeptical rationalism, fatefully tinged with American ideas and American slang. Mr. Nasr came up with a brilliant way of coping with the awkward circumstance. He started a blog of his own, called "The Sudanese Thinker," which allowed him to conduct his interior debate in public. "I ventured into the virtual desert to contemplate some truths and discuss the meaning of things," he writes.

My Isl@m

By Amir Ahmad Nasr

(St. Martin’s, 322 pages, $26.99)

His memoir records the stages of his contemplation—his worried thoughts about Islam and anti-Semitism; his excited discovery of contemporary British and American atheist authors, especially Sam Harris; his resentful indignation at the hostility to Islam that seemed to him endemic on right-wing American blogs; his discovery of still other American writers who argued for flexible interpretations of religion, including his own religion; his joy at discovering a liberal philosophical school among the august thinkers of Sudanese Islam; and his resolve to make his own future contributions to a modernized and science-friendly Islam.

He looks into Sufi Islam, which, for all its spirit of tolerance, seems to him "nowhere near intellectually satisfying as I had hoped it would be," not to mention marred by "blind guru-worship." And then, upon further reflection, he finds himself thinking, "The Sufis, Islam’s mystics, were right. They were right!"—though he still doesn’t go for the guru-worship.

Meanwhile, as "The Sudanese Thinker," he chatted with readers around the world and participated in online activist campaigns. Fame brought him invitations to Washington, D.C., Beirut and other glamorous places, where he met, as he says, "the crème de la crème of the Arab blogosphere." And then, early in 2011, the Arab Spring went into bloom across the Middle East and North Africa, and, in the glorious early phase of the uprisings, his own little posse of sharp-tongued liberal bloggers turned out to be the revolutionary vanguard. From Malaysia, he even managed to play a useful role. The old Egyptian dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak tried to fend off the revolution by turning off the Internet. Mr. Nasr responded: "I loaded up my Internet browser, and readied my humble digital tools." And the digital tools allowed him to circumvent the censorship.

As for the Arab Spring’s subsequent, less glorious phases—the rise of anti-liberal Islamist parties across much of the region—well, he takes a long view of revolutions, which I think is wise. He figures that today’s Muslim Brotherhood-dominated era won’t last forever. "Yes, there are challenges, but I think the fear barrier has been broken and that’s why we should be optimistic."

"My Isl@m" displays the charm of a good blog—irreverent, nonchalant, open to fresh ideas, generous to other writers, ostentatiously unpretentious and secretly grandiose. Mr. Nasr appears to be convinced that his own intellectual trajectory—from medieval-style Quran-memorizing to thoughtful dude, digitally loquacious—reflects a deep trend in world history, with the Internet as prime mover. He never openly states this conviction. And yet it animates the book, and the possibility that he may be right imparts to his pages an electric glow, as if from an LCD screen.

Then again, a blogger’s frenetic life doesn’t lend itself to mastering the best which has been thought and said. Mr. Nasr’s ruminations on science and religion have led him to a pro-Darwin Christian evangelist in the U.S. named Michael Dowd, whose help he graciously acknowledges. Only, I wonder if Mr. Nasr is aware of how vast and profound is the literature on science-and-religion themes, and how varied are its currents.

For all his magnificent indignation against modern-day anti-Semitism, Mr. Nasr dismisses Israel as a colonialist error—an uncharacteristic concession to fashionable opinion on his part. But it is hard to see how a Muslim liberalism can advance without arriving at a deeper and more sympathetic understanding of Jewish history and Zionism. Political theory is another weak point: Mr. Nasr counts himself a libertarian and never explains why. This sort of thing, the offhand quality of Mr. Nasr’s opinions, may be OK for a blogger, and doubly OK for a student.

But what will happen if, as Mr. Nasr expects, the Arab Spring arrives at still another phase, and liberals like him are given another chance? I hope they will be prepared.

Mr. Berman is a senior editor of the New Republic and the author, most recently, of "The Flight of the Intellectuals."

Voir par ailleurs:

Tamarod, la rébellion qui veut chasser les Frères musulmans du pouvoir

Sophie Anmuth

Slate Afrique

25/06/2013

La campagne cherche à faire démissionner le président islamiste Morsi à l’occasion des manifestations prévues le 30 juin prochain.

Elle se vante d’avoir recueilli 15 millions de signatures pour demander le démission du président Mohamed Morsi. Autrement dit plus que le total des voix qui a permis la victoire du candidat des Frères musulmans.

La campagne «Tamarod» ( rébellion) appelle les Egyptiens à «retirer leur confiance» au président issu des Frères musulmans, Mohamed Morsi, et à le forcer ainsi à démissionner, comme si le peuple était le parlement et pouvait voter contre le chef de l’Etat. La campagne reproche aux Frères musulmans d’avoir «augmenté le nombre des martyrs du peuple égyptien»: en effet depuis l’élection de Morsi des dizaines de personnes ont trouvé la mort dans des manifestations ou affrontements de nature politique ou sociale.

Indépendance

Elle les accuse aussi essayer d’intimider les figures de l’opposition avec des procès ou des campagnes dans les médias (contre par exemple Baradei ou Bassem Youssef). D’autres accusations sont plus tendancieuses, comme celle qui reproche au gouvernement de chercher à vendre l’Egypte à ses protecteurs (ici c’est le Qatar et son aide généreuse qui sont visés – sans davantage de preuves, il faut bien le dire).

La campagne «Tamarod» (Rébellion) a reçu le soutien du Front de Salut national, qui est une coalition de partis et figures de l’opposition, du parti du Dostour, par exemple (parti de l’ancien directeur de l’Agence internationale pour l’énergie atomique et opposant à Moubarak, Mohamed El Baradei), du groupe d’activistes du 6 avril (fondé en 2008), mais aussi des salafistes.

La Gamaa islamiya, elle, a lancé une contre-initative, incitant à l’«impartialité» et à la stabilité. «Tamarod» reçoit ces soutiens politiques plusieurs semaines après le début de ses activités, et se déclare indépendante de toute tendance politique.

Al’occasion de l’anniversaire de l’investiture de Mohamed Morsi, «Rébellion» a l’intention d’organiser une marche sur le palais présidentiel et de soumettre la pétition au procureur-général, afin d’exiger la démission du président. Des élections présidentielles anticipées —un an seulement après l’élection de Mohamed Morsi— pourraient alors avoir lieu.

Ecueils

Juridiquement, l’initiative n’est pourtant pas très viable. Les porte-paroles du parti des Frères musulmans, Liberté et Justice, nient toute importance à cette pétition et rappellent que seule vaut la légitimité des élections.

Le 16 mai dernier, une plainte a été déposée contre les organisateurs de la campagne: ils chercheraient à faire plonger le pays dans le chaos, détruire l’unité nationale. Un peu d’exagération. L’autre chef d’accusation, par contre, ne semble pas illégitime: chercher à renverser le gouvernement. Des campagnes de désobéissance civile ont été lancées régulièrement dans plusieurs villes d’Egypte notamment celles du Canal de Suez. Ici c’est à l’échelle nationale que le mouvement essaie de prendre forme.

Voir enfin:

Les Occidentaux pris de court par les évènements en Égypte

Renaud Girard

03/07/2013

Personne en Europe et aux États-Unis n’avait prévu la chute de Moubarak et la victoire électorale des Frères musulmans. Leur chute est également une surprise, compliquant encore les stratégies diplomatiques au Moyen-Orient.

Quand l’Égypte passa, dans les années 1950, d’un régime monarchique bon enfant à une dictature militaire nationaliste, les Occidentaux eurent déjà le plus grand mal à bien gérer le tournant. Comme s’il y avait une malédiction diplomatique propre au delta du Nil, soixante ans plus tard, les puissances occidentales sont à nouveau prises de court par les événements du Caire.

En 2011, personne, dans les Chancelleries et dans les universités américaines et européennes, n’avait prévu la chute de Moubarak, dans une révolution de rue que l’armée laissait faire. Ensuite, personne n’avait prévu une victoire électorale aussi massive des Frères musulmans, lesquels, après tout, n’avaient pris qu’en route la révolution. Enfin, à peine l’Amérique s’était-elle persuadée que les Frères musulmans, islamistes mais procapitalistes, étaient la bonne solution pour le monde arabo-musulman, à peine Washington avait-il persuadé ses alliés qu’il fallait partout au Moyen-Orient soutenir les Frères sunnites contre l’axe chiite présidé par l’Iran, que ce modèle se mettait à s’effriter dangereusement, en Tunisie d’abord, puis en Turquie, et maintenant en Égypte.

Quand les tentatives de prospective des ministères, des think-tanks et des médias se trouvent régulièrement démenties par les faits, le pilotage stratégique devient extrêmement difficile au Moyen-Orient, même si les Occidentaux ont renoncé au rêve néoconservateur d’y imposer l’État de droit par la force.

L’armée égyptienne formée, équipée et financée par les Américains

Ils ne manquent pas pour autant de leviers. Le premier est celui de l’armée égyptienne, formée, équipée et financée par les Américains, qui lui conseillent la modération et le «maintien d’une dynamique démocratique» dans le pays. Le secrétaire d’État John Kerry suit personnellement le dossier, lui qui a décidé de consacrer sa mandature à «l’arc de crise» en général et au Levant en particulier. Quand le Quai d’Orsay appelle de ses vœux un «signe démocratique fort» venant du Caire, il est en plein accord avec le département d’État américain et le Foreign Office britannique. Il s’agit de constituer un gouvernement d’union nationale, où entreraient des technocrates compétents et des personnalités de l’opposition anti-islamiste.

L’opposition n’a ni leader, ni programme

Les Occidentaux ne peuvent aller plus loin dans leurs initiatives, car ils ont constaté l’aporie devant laquelle se trouve l’opposition. Cette dernière est la simple addition des anti-islamistes classiques et des déçus de Morsi, qui avaient cru aux promesses de restauration économique et sociale du président Frère musulman. Les foules sont nombreuses dans la rue, mais l’opposition n’a ni leader, ni programme, ni ciment idéologique. Les Occidentaux le regrettent, mais elle n’est pas pour le moment une solution de remplacement!

Paris, Londres et Washington ne veulent pas d’élections immédiates dans une atmosphère aussi chaude. Mais ils sont conscients qu’il est devenu presque impossible à Morsi de finir tranquillement son mandat.


Elections iraniennes: Attention, une surprise peut en cacher une autre (We are all competitors and friends who serve the regime well)

19 juin, 2013
http://media.cagle.com/176/2013/06/12/133099_600.jpg
Dry Bones,cartoon, Israel, Iran, Islamist, islamic state, Ayatollah, Ayatollahs, Elections, Rebels, theological, theocracy, Dictator, supreme leader, Shia, Shi'ite, Okay, on va voter. Combien de personnes ici voudraient être braquées par ce groupe? Et maintenant combien de personnes voudraient être braquées par notre groupe? Virgil Starkwell ("Prends l’oseille et tais-toi", Woody Allen, 1969)
N’oubliez pas qu’Ahmadinejad n’est que le représentant d’un régime de nature totalitaire, qui ne peut se réformer et évoluer, quelle que soit la personne qui le représente. (…) le problème ne vient pas de l’idée de se doter de l’énergie nucléaire; il provient de la nature du régime islamique (…) Si le régime veut survivre, il doit absolument mettre en échec le monde libre, combattre ses valeurs. La République islamique ne peut pas perdurer dans un monde où l’on parle des droits de l’homme ou de la démocratie. Tous ces principes sont du cyanure pour les islamistes. Comment voulez-vous que les successeurs de Khomeini, dont le but reste l’exportation de la révolution, puissent s’asseoir un jour à la même table que le président Sarkozy ou le président Obama? Reza Pahlavi
Le fond du problème est que ce régime ne veut pas reprendre ses négociations avec les Occidentaux car au bout de compte, il devrait accepter des compromis contraires à ses intérêts. Ces intérêts résident dans le fait d’être l’adversaire idéologique de l’Occident pour demeurer dans le rôle intéressant d’agitateur régional arbitre du conflit israélo-arabe. Pour cela, il doit séduire la rue arabe avec des slogans anxiogènes et disposer de milices armées. S’il faisait le moindre geste d’apaisement, il perdrait l’appui de la rue arabe et de ces milices qui peuvent aller proposer leurs services à d’autres protecteurs qui souhaitent contrôler cette force de nuisance (Syrie, Russie ou Chine). Iran Resist
Nous sommes tous des concurrents et des amis qui servent bien le régime. Ali Akbar Velayati
Pendant que nous parlions avec les Européens à Téhéran, nous installions le matériel dans certaines parties de l’installation de [conversion nucléaire] à Ispahan. En créant un environnement calme, nous avons pu achever les travaux. Rowhani (2004)
Iran made most of its key nuclear strides under Mr. Ahmadinejad, who also showed just how far Iran could test the West’s patience without incurring regime- threatening penalties. Supply IEDs to Iraqi insurgents to kill American GIs? Check. Enrich uranium to near-bomb grade levels? Check. Steal an election and imprison the opposition? Check. Take Royal Marines and American backpackers hostage? Check. Fight to save Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria? That, too. Even now, the diplomatic option remains a viable one as far as the Obama administration is concerned. Now the West is supposed to be grateful that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s scowling face will be replaced by Mr. Rohani’s smiling one—a bad-cop, good-cop routine that Iran has played before. Western concessions will no doubt follow if Mr. Rohani can convince his boss, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to play along. It shouldn’t be a hard sell: Iran is now just a head-fake away from becoming a nuclear state and Mr. Khamenei has shown he’s not averse to pragmatism when it suits him. The capacity for self-deception is a coping mechanism in both life and diplomacy, but it comes at a price. As the West cheers the moderate and pragmatic and centrist Mr. Rohani, it will come to discover just how high a price it will pay. Bret Stephens
Rohani (…) ne s’est jamais lui-même qualifié de réformiste. Mais il utilise une rhétorique qui est moins violente que celle d’Ahmadinejad et parle plus modérément, y compris sur la question des négociations nucléaires. Je ne peux interpréter son élection que dans un seul sens: le régime voulait sa victoire. S’ils avaient voulu la victoire d’un conservateur, ils se seraient arrangés pour obtenir l’abandon de quatre des cinq conservateurs, ouvrant la voie à la victoire de Ghalibaf [maire de Téhéran]. Mais ils ne l’ont pas fait. En outre, c’est le régime qui a approuvé la candidature de Rouhani aux côtés de seulement sept autres. C’est la preuve évidente que Khamenei voulait que Rouhani gagne, intérieurement et extérieurement. La victoire d’un candidat qui est perçu comme plus modéré mais a toujours la confiance de Khamenei sert le régime de la meilleure des façons. Extérieurement, l’Iran est aujourd’hui dans une situation très difficile en ce qui concerne les sanctions et sa réputation internationale. Un président conservateur n’aurait fait qu’aggraver l’isolement de Téhéran dans le monde. La victoire d’un membre du ‘mouvement modéré’ amènera en revanche immédiatement certains pays de la communauté internationale à appeler à "donner une chance au dialogue avec les Iraniens modérés". Ils vont demander plus de temps afin d’encourager cesdits "modérés" et cela réduira d’autant la pression sur le régime. Et donc, nous voyons que dans la non-disqualification de Rouhani et surtout dans le non-abandon de quatre des cinq candidats conservateurs il y a bien plus qu’une indication que c’est le résultat que souhaitait le régime.  Dr Soli Shahvar (Centre Ezri des études pour l’Iran et le golfe, Université de Haïfa)
Rowhani a non seulement été soigneuesement par le régime comme l’un des seuls huit candidats, tandis que des centaines d’autres étaient disqualifiés, mais la liste des candidats a été ouvertement conçue pour s’assurer qu’il arrive en tête: celle-ci opposait cinq conservateurs (deux candidats ayant abandonné avant le vote), assurant ainsi la division du vote conservateur face à un seul "modéré". "S’ils avaient voulu la victoire d"un des conservateurs, ils auraient demandé à quatre des cinq conservateurs d’abandonner (…). Et  c’est précisément ce qui s’est passé du côté "modéré". Au départ, il y avait deux "modérés", mais l’ancien président iranien Mohammad Khatami en a persuadé un, Mohammad Reza Aref, de se retirer de manière à ne pas diviser le vote modéré. Il est incroyable que Khamenei n’ai pu concevoir quelque chose de similaire du côté conservateur s’il l’ avait voulu. Il est également intéressant de noter que tout au long de la campagne, Khamenei a soigneusement évité de donner la moindre indication quant au candidat qu’il préférait. (…) Mais l’argument le plus convaincant, selon moi, est (…) le décompte des voix final. Selon les résultats officiels, Rowhani a gagné dès le premier tour en remportant 50,7 % des voix. Mais pour un régime largement soupçonné d’avoir commis une fraude électorale massive pour assurer la réélection de Mahmoud Ahmadinejad en 2009, cela aurait été un jeu d’enfant de modifier le décompte des voix de l’infime fraction nécessaire pour mettre Rowhani à moins de 50 pour cent et de forcer ainsi un second tour. En outre, il aurait été parfaitement sûr, parce qu’aucun des commentaires pré-électoraux n’avait prévu que Rowhani ait même une chance de l’emporter. Ainsi s’il avait été annoncé à, disons, 49 pour cent, il n’y n’aurait aucun soupçons de fraude ; au contraire, tout le monde aurait été étonné de sa forte prestation. Et puis, avec les conservateurs mettant en commun leurs forces derrière un candidat unique au second tour, une petite défaite de Rowhani aurait été tout aussi insoupçonnable. Il n’est pas difficile de comprendre pourquoi Khamenei voulait la victoire de Rowhani: il avait désespérément besoin de quelqu’un qui pouvait alléger les sanctions internationales et conjurer la menace d’une frappe militaire sans concéder quoi que ce soit sur le programme nucléaire. Et la performance de Rowhani comme principal négociateur nucléaire iranien en 2003-2005 avait prouvé sa compétence à cet égard. Dont il s’était d’ailleurs vanté: "Pendant que nous parlions avec les Européens à Téhéran, nous installions le matériel dans certaines parties de l’installation de [conversion nucléaire] à Ispahan", avait déclaré Rowhani en 2004. En créant un environnement calme, nous avons pu achever les travaux." Au lendemain de la victoire de Rowhani, des responsables américains et européens en sont déjà à envisager avec enthousiasme un nouveau cycle de négociations, tandis que les analystes israéliens affirment que l’élection a presque certainement retardé toute possibilité d’une action militaire contre le programme nucléaire de l’Iran à 2014. Ainsi, Khamenei a obtenu exactement ce qu’il voulait. La seule question est pourquoi tous les "experts" dépeignent encore cela comme une défaite pour le régime. Evelyn Gordon

Comment dit-on "tireur de ficelles" en persan ?

Réduisez votre nombre de candidats à huit (dont bien sûr le candidat que vous souhaitez voir gagner) après en avoir disqualifié des centaines; réduisez encore le nombre des candidats à six en demandant à deux "conservateurs" de se retirer tout en vous assurant de la division dudit camp conservateur en maintenant cinq d’entre eux en lice tout en renforçant le camp modéré en obtenant l’abandon d’un des deux "modérés; évitez soigneusement tout au long de la campagne de montrer la moindre préférence pour aucun candidat; fixez la victoire finale de votre candidat à quelques fractions de pourcentages au-dessus de 50% de façon à ce qu’il n’y ait pas de second tour et voilà: vous avez la victoire d’un candidat "modéré" que personne n’attendait mais qui réjouit tout le monde – vous compris !

Alors qu’au lendemain d’une énième élection-bidon, nos prétendus "experts" nous bassinent à longueur de page et d’antenne sur la prétendue "divine surprise" de l’élection d’un "modéré" à la présidence iranienne …

Comment ne pas voir, avec la revue Commentary, l’aveuglante évidence d’un énième coup monté ?

Mais surtout la vraie surprise (?) d’une communauté internationale et de ses prétendus "experts" si pressés de présenter comme une défaite du régime au moment précisément où se rapprochait dangereusement la fenêtre de tir pour la destruction des installations nucléaires iraniennes …

La victoire d’un candidat s’étant explicitement vanté, la dernière fois qu’il dirigeait les négociations nucléaires, d’avoir endormi les Européens et permis ainsi l’achèvement des travaux ?

Rowhani’s Win Is a Victory for the Regime

Evelyn Gordon

Commentary

06.18.2013

Despite widespread disagreement about how Hassan Rowhani’s election as president affects the chances of a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program, just about everyone appears to agree on one thing: The victory of a “relative moderate” came as a complete and unwelcome surprise to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. I’d been wondering whether anyone was ever going to challenge this blatantly irrational consensus, but finally, someone has. “I interpret his election in one way only: The regime wanted him to win,” said Dr. Soli Shahvar, head of Haifa University’s Ezri Center for Iran and Gulf Studies, in an interview with the Tower.

Shahvar pointed out that not only was Rowhani handpicked by the regime to be one of only eight candidates, while hundreds of others were disqualified, but the candidate list was blatantly tilted to ensure that he would place first: It pitted a single “moderate” against five conservatives (two candidates dropped out before the vote), thereby ensuring that the conservative vote would fragment. “If they had wanted one of the conservatives to win, they would have gotten four of the five conservatives to drop out of the race,” Shahvar said.

Indeed, though Shahvar didn’t mention it, that’s precisely what happened on the “moderate” side. Initially, there were two “moderates,” but former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami persuaded one, Mohammad Reza Aref, to withdraw so as not to split the moderate vote. It beggars belief that Khamenei couldn’t have engineered something similar on the conservative side had he so desired.

It’s also worth noting that throughout the campaign, Khamenei carefully avoided giving any hint as to which candidate he preferred. The widespread assumption that he preferred a conservative is unsupported by any evidence.

But the most convincing argument, to my mind, is one Shahvar didn’t make: the final vote tally. According to the official results, Rowhani clinched the contest in the first round by winning 50.7 percent of the vote. But for a regime widely suspected of committing massive electoral fraud to ensure Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection in 2009, it would have been child’s play to alter the vote count by the tiny fraction necessary to put Rowhani under 50 percent and force a second round. Moreover, it would have been perfectly safe, because none of the pre-election commentary foresaw Rowhani coming anywhere near victory. Thus had his tally been announced at, say, 49 percent instead, there would have been no suspicions of fraud; rather, everyone would have been amazed at his strong showing. And then, with conservatives pooling their forces behind a single candidate in the run-off, a narrow loss for Rowhani would have been equally unsuspicious.

It’s not hard to figure out why Khamenei would have wanted Rowhani to win: He desperately needed someone who could ease the international sanctions and stave off the threat of a military strike without actually conceding anything on the nuclear program. And Rowhani’s performance as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in 2003-05 proved his skill in this regard. Indeed, he boasted of it: “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the [nuclear conversion] facility in Isfahan,” Rowhani said in 2004. “By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work there.”

In the aftermath of Rowhani’s victory, American and European officials are already talking enthusiastically about a new round of negotiations, while Israeli analysts say the election has almost certainly delayed any possibility of military action against Iran’s nuclear program until 2014. Thus Khamenei has gotten exactly what he wanted. The only question is why all the “experts” are still portraying this as a defeat for the regime.

Voir aussi:

“The Regime Wanted Him to Win”

Avi Issacharoff

The Tower

June 16, 2013

Soon after it became clear to Ali Akbar Velayati that he had no chance of winning this week’s presidential election in Iran, he quickly congratulated the rest of the candidates and wished them success. “We are all competitors and friends who serve the regime well,” he said.

And indeed, putting aside how quickly the winner Hassan Rouhani was branded a “reformist” by Western and even Israeli outlets, Velayati had described him most accurately: a servant of the regime.

The incoming president of Iran was never a reformist. It is doubtful that his achievement was even a victory for the moderate camp in Iran, which on the face of it wants to replace the regime and to stop the nuclear weapons race. Rouhani, as opposed to the image that has been fashioned, was until recently known as part of the conservative camp in Iran. He is not one of those challenging the Islamist regime, and certainly not challenging Khamenei’s rule.

Rouhani’s win election should not be seen as a dramatic sign that Iran will change its line regarding either its nuclear policy or its involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts. Despite Rouhani’s declarations in the past that may suggest he seeks flexibility in the nuclear project, the reality in Iran is that these matters will remain in the hands of Khamenei and the men of the Revolutionary Guard.

Politicall Rouhani’s victory reflects power struggles within the Iranian leadership. It marks a kind of political comeback for former president President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was Rouhani’s political godfather. Moreover, Rouhani is the breath of fresh air, a new face at the top of the Iranian leadership compared to the outgoing president, Muhamad Ahmedinejad. He was the only cleric allowed to run in the race, and will now try to bring the public, including the Tehran elites, closer to the regime of the Ayatollahs – of which he is one of the most outstanding products.

So how did a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts and Supreme National Security Council – and a confidant of Khamenei – become the “great hope” of the moderate camp? It may be the embrace he received from the two former presidents, Khatami and Rafsanjani, rivals to Khamenei, that put him into the reformist category.

“He never called himself a reformist,” explains Dr. Soli Shahvar, who heads the Ezri Center for Iran and Gulf Studies at Haifa University. “But he uses rhetoric that is less blustery than that of Ahmedinejad, and speaks more moderately, including on the subject of nuclear negotiations.” Shahvar’s conclusion with respect to Rouhani’s win is unambiguous. “I interpret his election in one way only: The regime wanted him to win. If they had wanted one of the conservatives to win, they would have gotten four of the five conservatives to drop out of the race, paving the way for [eventual runner-up, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Bagher] Ghalibaf to win. But they didn’t do that. Moreover, it was the regime that approved the candidacy of Rouhani alongside only seven others. This is striking evidence that Khamenei wanted Rouhani to win, both internally and externally.”

According to Shahvar, from the internal perspective, a victory for another candidate like Ahmedinejad risked provoking a renewal of the demonstrations like those of 2009. “Victory for a candidate who is perceived as more moderate yet still has the confidence of Khamenei, serves the regime in the best way. Externally, Iran today is in a very difficult situation with regard to sanctions and its international standing. A conservative president would only have increased Tehran’s isolation in the world. A victory for someone from the ‘moderate stream,’ however, will immediately bring certain countries in the international community to call for ‘giving a chance to dialogue with the Iranian moderates.’ They will ask for more time in order to encourage this stream, and it will take pressure off the regime. And so we see that in the non-disqualification of Rouhani and especially in the non-dropping-out of four of the five conservative candidates there is more than just an indication that this is the result the regime desired.”

Rouhani, in his new position as president of the country, will first of all have to bring relief in the economic crisis facing the citizens of Iran. Yet this is a nearly impossible task in light of the international sanctions which themselves are the result of the nuclear policy that has been set by the supreme leader Khamenei.

In a few months the public’s anger may well be turned against the man on whom so many Iranians, as of now, seem to have pinned their hopes.

Voir également:

Behind Iran’s ‘Moderate’ New Leader

Hassan Rohani unleashed attacks on pro-democracy student protesters in 1999.

Sohrab Ahmari

WSJ

June 16, 2013

So this is what democracy looks like in a theocratic dictatorship. Iran’s presidential campaign season kicked off last month when an unelected body of 12 Islamic jurists disqualified more than 600 candidates. Women were automatically out; so were Iranian Christians, Jews and even Sunni Muslims. The rest, including a former president, were purged for possessing insufficient revolutionary zeal. Eight regime loyalists made it onto the ballots. One emerged victorious on Saturday.

That man is Hassan Rohani, a 64-year-old cleric, former nuclear negotiator and security apparatchik. Western journalists quickly hailed the "moderate" and "reformist" Mr. Rohani. The New York Times’s Tehran correspondent couldn’t repress his election-night euphoria on Twitter: "Tonight the Islamic Republic rocks Rohani style." A BBC correspondent gushed: "The reaction of the people showed how much they trusted the electoral system." Just hours earlier the broadcaster had condemned Iranian security forces for threatening to assassinate a BBC Persian journalist in London, but such is the Western media’s hunger for good news from Tehran.

Turnout was high, with more than 70% of eligible voters casting ballots. That figure should be taken with a grain of salt, since voting is obligatory for many sectors of Iranian society. Still, some of the victory parties in Tehran and other cities did seem genuine, with voters taking to the streets to celebrate the end of a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad era that saw a rise in repression and in economic hardship caused by the regime’s mounting international isolation.

But disillusionment with seemingly heroic new leaders promising change is a centuries-old theme in Iranian history. The current regime’s theocratic structure—with a supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, and numerous unaccountable bodies lording over popularly elected officials—will soon remind voters that this latest hero has little room to maneuver.

That is, if he’s inclined to seek change in the first place. The new Iranian president was born Hassan Feridon in 1948 in Iran’s Semnan province. He entered religious studies in Qom as a child but went on to earn a secular law degree from Tehran University in 1969.

Mr. Rohani spent Iran’s revolutionary days as a close companion of the Ayatollah Khomeini and would go on to hold top posts during the Islamic Republic’s first two decades in power. For 16 years starting in 1989, Mr. Rohani served as secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. During his tenure on the council, Mr. Rohani led the crackdown on a 1999 student uprising and helped the regime evade Western scrutiny of its nuclear-weapons program.

As Mr. Rohani said at a pro-regime rally in July 1999: "At dusk yesterday we received a decisive revolutionary order to crush mercilessly and monumentally any move of these opportunist elements wherever it may occur. From today our people shall witness how in the arena our law enforcement force . . . shall deal with these opportunists and riotous elements, if they simply dare to show their faces."

The "opportunists and riotous elements" Mr. Rohani referred to were university students staging pro-democracy protests. His words at the time were widely viewed as a declaration of war, authorizing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the basij militia to unleash hell on Tehran’s campuses.

Reza Mohajerinejad was one of those students. A founder of the National Union of Iranian Students and Graduates in the 1990s, he resides today in the San Francisco Bay area. Speaking in a phone interview on Saturday, Mr. Mohajerinejad recalled how after Mr. Rohani’s statement in 1999 security forces "poured into the dorm rooms and murdered students right in front of our eyes."

Mr. Mohajerinejad was arrested and detained for six months. Among other torture methods they used, his captors during this era of "reform" would tie him to a bed and whip his feet to a pulp. In between flogging sessions, the imprisoned students would be forced to run laps on their bloody feet or be suspended from their wrists for hours at a time.

"If we’re ever going to get freedom and democracy," Mr. Mohajerinejad now says, "we’re not going to get them from Rouhani."

Beyond Iran’s borders, Mr. Rohani has largely favored "resistance" and nuclear defiance. During the campaign, he boasted of how during his tenure as negotiator Iran didn’t suspend enrichment—on the contrary, "we completed the program." And on Syria, expect Mr. Rohani to back the ruling establishment’s pro-Assad policy. "Syria has constantly been on the front line of fighting Zionism and this resistance must not be weakened," he declared in January, according to the state-run Press TV.

These inconvenient facts from the Rohani dossier should give pause to those in Washington and Brussels eager to embrace this smiling mullah.

Mr. Ahmari is an assistant books editor at the Journal.

Voir encore:

A ‘Pragmatic’ Mullah

Iran’s new president Hassan Rohani is no moderate.

Bret Stephens

WSJ

June 17, 2013

‘There’s a sucker born every minute" is one of those great American phrases, fondly and frequently repeated by Americans, who tend to forget that it was said mainly about Americans. In the election of Hassan Rohani as Iran’s president, we are watching the point being demonstrated again by someone who has demonstrated it before.

Who is Mr. Rohani? If all you did over the weekend was read headlines, you would have gleaned that he is a "moderate" (Financial Times), a "pragmatic victor" (New York Times) and a "reformist" (Bloomberg). Reading a little further, you would also learn that his election is being welcomed by the White House as a "potentially hopeful sign" that Iran is ready to strike a nuclear bargain.

All this for a man who, as my colleague Sohrab Ahmari noted in these pages Monday, called on the regime’s basij militia to suppress the student protests of July 1999 "mercilessly and monumentally." More than a dozen students were killed in those protests, more than 1,000 were arrested, hundreds were tortured, and 70 simply "disappeared." In 2004 Mr. Rohani defended Iran’s human-rights record, insisting there was "not one person in prison in Iran except when there is a judgment by a judge following a trial."

Mr. Rohani is also the man who chaired Iran’s National Security Council between 1989 and 2005, meaning he was at the top table when Iran masterminded the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people, and of the Khobar Towers in 1996, killing 19 U.S. airmen. He would also have been intimately familiar with the secret construction of Iran’s illicit nuclear facilities in Arak, Natanz and Isfahan, which weren’t publicly exposed until 2002.

In 2003 Mr. Rohani took charge as Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, a period now warmly remembered in the West for Tehran’s short-lived agreement with Britain, France and Germany to suspend its nuclear-enrichment work. That was also the year in which Iran supposedly halted its illicit nuclear-weapons’ work, although the suspension proved fleeting, according to subsequent U.N. reports.

Then again, what looked to the credulous as evidence of Iranian moderation was, to Iranian insiders, an exercise in diplomatic cunning. "Negotiations provided time for Isfahan’s uranium conversion project to be finished and commissioned, the number of centrifuges at Natanz increased from 150 to 1,000 and software and hardware for Iran’s nuclear infrastructure to be further developed," Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Mr. Rohani’s spokesman at the time, argues in a recent memoir. "The heavy water reactor project in Arak came into operation and was not suspended at all."

Nor was that the only advantage of Mr. Rohani’s strategy of making nice and playing for time, according to Mr. Mousavian.

"Tehran showed that it was possible to exploit the gap between Europe and the United States to achieve Iranian objectives." "The world’s understanding of ‘suspension’ was changed from a legally binding obligation . . . to a voluntary and short-term undertaking aimed at confidence building." "The world gradually came close to believing that Iran’s nuclear activities posed no security or military threat. . . . Public opinion in the West, which was totally against Tehran’s nuclear program in September 2003, softened a good deal." "Efforts were made to attract global attention to the need for WMD disarmament by Israel."

And best of all: "Iran would be able to attain agreements for the transfer of advanced nuclear technology to Iran for medical, agricultural, power plant, and other applications, in a departure from the nuclear sanctions of the preceding 27 years."

Mr. Mousavian laments that much of this good work was undone by the nuclear hard line Iran took when the incendiary Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005.

But that’s true only up to a point. Iran made most of its key nuclear strides under Mr. Ahmadinejad, who also showed just how far Iran could test the West’s patience without incurring regime- threatening penalties. Supply IEDs to Iraqi insurgents to kill American GIs? Check. Enrich uranium to near-bomb grade levels? Check. Steal an election and imprison the opposition? Check. Take Royal Marines and American backpackers hostage? Check. Fight to save Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria? That, too. Even now, the diplomatic option remains a viable one as far as the Obama administration is concerned.

Now the West is supposed to be grateful that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s scowling face will be replaced by Mr. Rohani’s smiling one—a bad-cop, good-cop routine that Iran has played before. Western concessions will no doubt follow if Mr. Rohani can convince his boss, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to play along. It shouldn’t be a hard sell: Iran is now just a head-fake away from becoming a nuclear state and Mr. Khamenei has shown he’s not averse to pragmatism when it suits him.

The capacity for self-deception is a coping mechanism in both life and diplomacy, but it comes at a price. As the West cheers the moderate and pragmatic and centrist Mr. Rohani, it will come to discover just how high a price it will pay.

Voir par ailleurs:

Iran : toutes les clefs du scrutin

Le Point

14/06/2013

Théoriquement, le président de la République islamique est élu au suffrage universel. Mais dans les faits, l’élection se déroule sous étroite surveillance.

Contrairement aux monarchies arabes du Golfe, tels l’Arabie saoudite ou le Qatar, l’Iran offre la possibilité à ses citoyens de choisir leur président et leur Parlement. Quoi de plus normal pour une République dont la Constitution repose en partie sur la souveraineté populaire. Sauf que ce texte, adopté en 1979 après la révolution, se fonde surtout sur la volonté divine. Ainsi, à la tête de l’État iranien règne un guide suprême, représentant de Dieu sur terre, qui possède le dernier mot sur toutes les décisions du pays, surpassant la volonté du président, et donc celle du peuple qui l’a élu.

Qui peut voter ?

50,5 millions d’électeurs iraniens (sur 75 millions d’habitants) sont appelés à élire ce vendredi 14 juin le président de la République islamique, soit le chef du gouvernement depuis la suppression du poste de Premier ministre en 1989. Peut voter tout citoyen iranien résidant en Iran, ou même à l’étranger, à condition qu’il soit âgé d’au moins 18 ans.

Qui peut se présenter ?

Première limite du scrutin. Si tout Iranien peut officiellement se porter candidat, il doit passer par le filtre du puissant Conseil des gardiens de la Constitution. Cet organe, composé de six clercs et de six juristes (généralement aussi des clercs), doit vérifier la compatibilité des candidatures avec la Constitution iranienne. Sont alors pris en compte le sérieux du candidat (celui-ci doit être une personnalité politique ou religieuse reconnue), ses antécédents judiciaires et surtout sa loyauté au principe fondamental de la République islamique : le Velayat-e faqih (la primauté du religieux sur le politique). Exit donc tous les laïques, monarchistes et autres communistes. Surtout, derrière les choix du Conseil des gardiens de la Constitution se profile la main du guide suprême, l’ayatollah Khamenei, qui nomme la moitié de ses membres et peut influencer les six autres.

Qui sont les favoris ?

Sur les 686 candidats qui se sont officiellement présentés au scrutin, seuls huit ont été retenus par le Conseil des gardiens de la Constitution. Parmi les recalés figurent deux candidats de poids. Si la mise à l’écart d’Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, le bras droit d’Ahmadinejad, n’est pas une surprise tant ses positions nationalistes étaient haïes du clergé chiite, l’élimination de l’ancien président conservateur modéré Akbar Hachemi Rafsandjani a fait l’effet d’une bombe. En disqualifiant l’un des pères fondateurs de la République islamique, en raison de sa proximité avec les réformateurs iraniens, le guide a profondément ébranlé la légitimité de son propre régime.

Après les désistements de deux candidats qualifiés, il ne reste plus que six prétendants, dont quatre conservateurs proches du guide :

En voici les favoris :

- Saïd Jalili, 47 ans et favori du guide. Actuel secrétaire du Conseil suprême de la sécurité nationale, il est le représentant direct de l’ayatollah Khamenei dans les négociations sur le programme nucléaire iranien. Vétéran de la guerre Iran-Irak, ce diplomate extrêmement pieux bénéficie de l’appui des ultraconservateurs qui louent son intransigeance face à l’Occident.

- Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, 51 ans, l’efficace maire de Téhéran. Ancien commandant des Gardiens de la révolution, l’armée idéologique du régime, puis à la tête de la police, où son professionnalisme a fait forte impression, ce technocrate peut également se prévaloir de son bilan positif durant ses huit années à la tête de la mairie de la capitale, qui l’ont rendu populaire. Il est néanmoins soupçonné d’avoir été impliqué dans la répression des manifestants de juin 2009 (le Mouvement vert). Cela ne l’empêche pas d’être actuellement en tête du peu de sondages organisés par les médias officiels.

- Ali-Akbar Velayati, 67 ans, la carte "ouverture" du guide. Ministre des Affaires étrangères durant 16 ans, et désormais conseiller diplomatique du guide, ce pédiatre de formation prône plus de souplesse vis-à-vis de l’Occident dans l’épineux dossier nucléaire afin d’atténuer les sanctions internationales frappant le pays. Il ne remet toutefois pas en cause le droit de l’Iran au nucléaire civil.

- Hassan Rohani, 64 ans, le réformateur par défaut. Ce religieux conservateur modéré a reçu l’appui de l’ex-président Rafsandjani, mais surtout celui de l’ex-président réformateur Mohammad Khatami, ce qui pourrait lui assurer le ralliement d’une partie des voix du Mouvement vert et des déçus d’Ahmadinejad. Connu pour avoir dirigé les négociations nucléaires sous la présidence de Khatami, il avait accepté une suspension provisoire de l’enrichissement d’uranium, ce qui lui a valu de nombreuses critiques au sein de l’establishment iranien. Il sera remercié de son poste dès l’arrivée au pouvoir d’Ahmadinejad en 2005.

Comment s’organise le vote ?

Si une majorité simple n’est pas acquise au premier tour le 14 juin, un second tour sera organisé le 21 juin. Une hypothèse rendue plausible par l’éclatement probable des voix au premier tour entre les quatre candidats conservateurs, et cela alors que les voix réformatrices et les mécontents qui souhaitent voter reporteront à coup sûr leur choix sur l’unique candidat modéré, Hassan Rohani.

Comment s’est déroulée la campagne ?

Lancée le 23 mai dernier, la campagne, qui s’est achevée le 13 juin au matin, s’est révélée bien morne. La plupart des candidats ont opté pour des déplacements limités, et les autorités ont interdit les rassemblements dans les rues. Le maître mot a été l’économie, dont l’état s’avère catastrophique en Iran. En raison de la gestion calamiteuse des gouvernements successifs d’Ahmadinejad, mais aussi des sanctions internationales, l’Iran a connu un effondrement de sa monnaie (70 %) et une explosion de l’inflation (supérieure à 30 %). Pourtant, lors des trois débats organisés par la télévision officielle, aucun candidat n’a trouvé de recette miracle à ce fléau. Seule la question du nucléaire, liée toutefois aux sanctions économiques, a donné lieu à une passe d’armes sans précédent entre conservateurs, Ali Velayati s’étant directement attaqué au négociateur iranien Saïd Jalili, en dénonçant ses méthodes "problématiques".

Des fraudes sont-elles possibles ?

Beaucoup estiment qu’une première étape a déjà été franchie, avec l’élimination de la course de l’ex-président Rafsandjani, le seul candidat modéré qui pouvait réellement l’emporter. Mais cela n’écarte nullement la possibilité de véritables fraudes organisées si l’élu du guide ne se retrouve pas en tête à l’issue du scrutin. Des cas de fraudes (bourrage ou déplacement d’urnes, passeports votant à plusieurs reprises) ont été dénoncés en 2005 et surtout en 2009, permettant à chaque fois l’élection de Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Pourtant, en 1997 et en 2001, c’est un candidat réformateur, Mohammad Khatami, qui l’a à chaque fois emporté, avec respectivement 70 et 78 % des suffrages. Une époque où le régime avait besoin de s’ouvrir au monde. Dans tous les cas, l’appareil sécuritaire du régime, les 100 000 Gardiens de la révolution et les quelque quatre millions de bassidjis (miliciens mobilisés par le régime) se tiennent prêts à toute éventualité.

Quel sera le poids réel du président ?

On l’a vu avec Ahmadinejad. Lorsqu’un président bénéficie du soutien entier du guide suprême, ce qui fut le cas de l’ultraconservateur Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lors de son premier mandat, il a davantage les coudées franches pour mener sa politique gouvernementale. Et même lorsque le chef de l’exécutif n’est pas le favori de l’ayatollah Khamenei, comme ce fut le cas pour le réformateur Khatami, ce dernier peut décider de mesures limitées en faveur de la liberté d’expression ou tenter une ouverture sur l’Occident. Étant aujourd’hui isolée sur la scène internationale et frappée de plein fouet par les sanctions, la République islamique a cruellement besoin d’assouplir sa position sur le nucléaire pour sauver son économie et pérenniser le régime. Un tel rôle pourrait être joué par le nouvel élu. Mais bien sûr, le dernier mot appartient au guide.

Voir enfin:

Iran : premières réactions à l’élection de Rohani

Le Point

15/06/2013

De Londres à Berlin en passant par l’ONU et la Syrie, les réactions se multiplient pour saluer l’élection du nouveau président iranien.

Le secrétaire général de l’ONU, Ban Ki-moon, "félicite chaleureusement" le nouveau président iranien Hassan Rohani et "continuera d’encourager l’Iran à jouer un rôle constructif dans les affaires régionales et internationales", a indiqué son porte-parole, Martin Nesirky. Ban Ki-moon "a l’intention de continuer à travailler avec les autorités iraniennes et avec le président élu sur les dossiers d’importance pour la communauté internationale et pour le bien-être du peuple iranien", poursuit le porte-parole en notant "avec satisfaction le fort taux de participation" au scrutin.

Depuis plusieurs années, l’ONU et les Occidentaux imposent un arsenal de sanctions à l’Iran pour tenter de dissuader Téhéran de se doter de l’arme atomique sous le couvert d’un programme nucléaire civil, ce dont la République islamique se défend. Samedi soir, le nouveau président a salué "la victoire de la modération sur l’extrémisme", mais a insisté pour que la communauté internationale "reconnaisse les droits" de l’Iran en matière nucléaire.

Religieux modéré, Hassan Rohani a créé la surprise samedi en remportant l’élection présidentielle iranienne dès le premier tour, avec 50,68% des voix, face à cinq candidats conservateurs. Cette victoire marque le retour des modérés et réformateurs au gouvernement.

La question nucléaire

La chef de la diplomatie européenne, Catherine Ashton, a réagi samedi à la victoire-surprise du modéré Hassan Rohani à la présidentielle iranienne en se disant "déterminée" à travailler avec son gouvernement sur la question nucléaire. "J’adresse mes voeux de réussite à M. Rohani dans la formation d’un nouveau gouvernement et dans ses nouvelles responsabilités. Je reste fermement déterminée à travailler avec les nouveaux dirigeants iraniens en vue d’une solution diplomatique rapide à la question nucléaire", écrit Catherine Ashton dans un communiqué.

Le ministre allemand des Affaires étrangères, Guido Westerwelle, a salué samedi "un vote en Iran pour des réformes et une politique étrangère constructive". Le ministre allemand réagissait ainsi, dans un communiqué, à la victoire-surprise du modéré Hassan Rohani à la présidentielle iranienne. "Il est à espérer que la nouvelle direction du pays collabore en ce sens pour arriver à des solutions sur les questions internationales et régionales", a-t-il ajouté, selon le communiqué du ministère.

L’Iran sur un "nouveau chemin", selon Londres

Le Royaume-Uni a appelé samedi le nouveau président iranien Hassan Rohani à "mettre l’Iran sur un nouveau chemin", notamment en "s’attelant aux inquiétudes de la communauté internationale sur le programme nucléaire iranien". "Nous prenons note qu’Hassan Rohani a remporté l’élection présidentielle" iranienne, a déclaré le ministère britannique des Affaires étrangères dans un communiqué. "Nous l’appelons à mettre l’Iran sur un nouveau chemin pour l’avenir en s’attelant aux inquiétudes de la communauté internationale sur le programme nucléaire iranien, en faisant avancer une relation constructive avec la communauté internationale et en améliorant la situation politique et des droits de l’homme", a ajouté le ministère.

La Coalition de l’opposition syrienne a également rapidement réagi en appelant dans un communiqué le religieux modéré de 64 ans à revoir la position de son pays qui soutient fermement le régime de Bachar el-Assad. "La Coalition nationale syrienne estime qu’il est de son devoir d’appeler le nouveau président de l’Iran à rectifier les erreurs commises par la direction iranienne", affirme le texte, faisant allusion à l’appui de poids apporté par Téhéran à son allié régional.

Félicitations de l’ayatollah Khamenei

En Iran, le Guide suprême iranien, l’ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a salué samedi l’élection à la présidence de la République du religieux modéré Hassan Rohani, sur son site officiel khamenei.ir. "Je félicite le peuple et le président élu", a écrit le numéro un iranien, en affirmant que "tout le monde devait aider le nouveau président et son gouvernement". Le numéro un iranien a également demandé à tout le monde d’éviter les "comportements inappropriés" de ceux qui veulent montrer "leur joie ou leur mécontentement", faisant allusion aux partisans et adversaires du nouveau président.


Election américaine/2012: Vers un retour aux années Carter? (Can we really afford another Jimmy Hussein Carter term?)

13 septembre, 2012
Le pacifisme est objectivement pro-fasciste. C’est du bon sens élémentaire. George Orwell
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)
Les démocrates, voici trois décennies, ont réussi à faire élire Jimmy Carter après avoir organisé une débâcle au Vietnam. On pourrait voir survenir, je n’ai pas été le seul à le dire, le second mandat de Jimmy Carter – voire pire encore, car Obama est nettement plus à gauche que Carter : la débâcle que souhaitaient ardemment les démocrates cette année pour parvenir à leurs fins n’a pas eu lieu en Irak, mais au New York Stock Exchange. La brève ère Carter avait apporté la stagflation, les files d’attente devant les stations services, la plus grande avancée soviétique sur la planète depuis 1945, et l’arrivée au pouvoir de Khomeyni. Que réserveraient de nouvelles années Carter ? Je préfère n’y pas songer… Guy Millière (octobre 2008)
L’ambassade des Etats-Unis au Caire condamne les efforts déployés par des individus malavisés consistant à blesser les sentiments religieux des musulmans, comme nous condamnons les efforts visant à offenser les croyants de toutes les religions.(…) Nous rejetons fermement les actions de ceux qui abusent de la liberté d’expression pour blesser les convictions religieuses d’autrui. Communiqué de l’ambassade américaine au Caire
Je condamne fermement cette attaque scandaleuse contre notre mission diplomatique à Benghazi qui a coûté la vie à quatre Américains, dont l’ambassadeur Chris Stevens [...] Les Etats-Unis rejettent les efforts visant à dénigrer les croyances religieuses des autres, et nous devons tous, de façon non équivoque, nous opposer à ce genre de violence insensée qui coûte la vie à des fonctionnaires. Barack Obama
Je suis scandalisé par les attaques contre les missions diplomatiques américaines en Libye et en Egypte et par la mort d’un agent du consulat américain à Benghazi. (…) Il est scandaleux que la première réponse de l’administration Obama n’ait pas consisté à condamner les attaques mais plutôt à sympathiser avec ceux qui ont les ont menés. (…) S’excuser des valeurs américaines n’est jamais la chose à faire. Mitt Romney
La déclaration de l’ambassade américaine du Caire n’avait pas reçu l’agrément de Washington et ne reflétait pas l’opinion du gouvernement américain. Membre de l’Administration Obama
Cela montre les signaux ambigus que cette administration envoie au monde (…) Il n’est jamais trop tôt pour l’administration américaine de condamner des attaques menées contre des Américains et de défendre nos valeurs. Mitt Romney
Il y a une leçon à tirer de cette affaire : on dirait que le gouverneur Romney a tendance à tirer d’abord et viser ensuite. En tant que président, l’une des choses que j’ai apprises est que l’on ne peut pas faire cela. Il est important de s’assurer que les déclarations que vous effectuez sont soutenues par les faits, et que vous avez pensé à toutes les conséquences avant de les prononcer. Président Obama
It’s a make believe world. A world of good guys and bad guys, where some politicians shoot first and ask questions later. No hard choices. No sacrifice. No tough decisions. It sounds too good to be true – and it is. The path of fantasy leads to irresponsibility. The path of reality leads to hope and peace. President Jimmy Carter (about Reagan, Democratic National Convention, 1980)
Pour la Fondation Quilliam, un cercle de réflexion londonien présidé par Noman Benotman, ex-chef de file d’un mouvement islamiste armé qui combattait le régime de Kadhafi, l’opération pourrait avoir été organisée pour venger la mort du numéro deux d’Al-Qaida, Abou Yahya Al-Libi, tué par un drone américain au Pakistan. La veille de l’attaque de Benghazi, une vidéo dans laquelle Ayman Al-Zaouahri, chef de file du mouvement, confirme sa mort et invite les Libyens à la venger avait été diffusée sur internet. Noman Benotman précise que, d’après ses sources, une vingtaine d’activistes ont pris part aux préparatifs de l’attaque. Le Monde

Détention pendant neufs mois de membres d’ONG occidentaux dont 16 Américains et le fils du Secrétaire américain aux transports au Caire, profanation d’un cimetière militaire britannique en mars, attaque à la bombe artisanale contre la mission diplomatique américaine et tir de roquette sur  le convoi de l’ambassadeur britannique en juin à Benghazi …

 A l’heure où, avec la commémoration musclée (avec  lance-roquettes et mortiers, s’il vous plait!) des attentats du 11 septembre qui a vu, sous prétexte d’un film anti-islam d’origine apparemment plutôt douteuse, le sac de l’ambassade américaine au Caire et l’assassinat de quatre diplomates américains dont l’ambassadeur à Benghazi …

Et les habituelles réactions d’auto-flagellation de l’Administration Obama qui, après avoir aidé les islamistes libyens à se débarrasser de Khaddafi, continue à plus d’un milliard de dollars par an à financer un gouvernement islamique toujours plus radical au Caire …

Nos médias à la mémoire courte se réjouissent déjà, à deux mois de la présidentielle de novembre, du "nouveau faux pas" du candidat républicain Mitt Romney qui a eu le malheur de vouloir pointer l’évidence …

Remise des pendules à l’heure, avec l’analyste militaire Victor Davis Hanson, qui rappelle que l’actuelle administration américaine ne fait en fait que récolter les fruits d’une politique systématique d’apaisement face à la violence islamique …

Ressemblant étrangement, à une trentaine d’années de distan

ce, à celle qui avait marqué la fin du mandat d’un certain Jimmy Carter

Storming Embassies, Killing Ambassadors, and ‘Smart’ Diplomacy

Victor Davis Hanson

National Review

September 12, 2012

The attacks on the U.S. embassy yesterday in Cairo and the storming of the American consulate in Libya, where the U.S. ambassador was murdered along with three staff members — and the initial official American reaction to the mayhem — are all reprehensible, each in their own way. Let us sort out this terrible chain of events.

Timing: The assaults came exactly on the eleventh anniversary of bin Laden’s and al-Qaeda’s attack on America. If there was any doubt about the intent of the timing, the appearance of black al-Qaedist flags among the mobs removed it. The chanting of Osama bin Laden’s name made it doubly clear who were the heroes of the Egyptian mob. Why should we be surprised by the lackluster response of the Egyptian and Libyan “authorities” to protect diplomatic sanctuaries, given the nature of the “governments” in both countries? One of the Egyptian demonstration’s organizers was Mohamed al-Zawahiri, the brother of the top deputy to Osama bin Laden, and a planner of the 9/11 attacks, which were led by Mohamed Atta, an Egyptian citizen. In Libya, the sick violence is reminding the world that the problem in the Middle East is not dictators propped up by the U.S. — Qaddafi was an archenemy of the U.S. — but the proverbial Arab Street that can blame everything and everyone, from a cartoon to a video, for the wages of its own self-induced pathologies. So far, all the Arab Spring is accomplishing is removing the dictatorial props and authoritarian excuses for grass roots Middle East madness.

Ingratitude: Egypt is currently a beneficiary of more than $1 billion in annual American aid, and its new Muslim Brotherhood–led government is negotiating to have much of its sizable U.S. debt forgiven. Libya, remember, was the recipient of the Obama administration’s “lead from behind” intervention that led to the removal of Moammar Qaddafi — and apparently gave the present demonstrators the freedom to kill Americans. This is all called “smart” diplomacy.

Appeasement: Here are a few sentences from the statement issued by the Cairo embassy before it was attacked: “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. . . .We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

The Problem? The embassy was condemning not those zealots who then stormed their own grounds, but some eccentric private citizens back home who made a movie.

One would have thought that the Obama administration had learned something from the Rushdie fatwa and prophet cartoon incidents. This initial official American diplomatic reaction — to condemn the supposed excess of free speech in the United States, as if the government is responsible for the constitutionally-protected expression of a few private American citizens, while the Egyptian government is not responsible for a mass demonstration and violence against an embassy of the United States — is not just shameful, but absurd. The author of this American diplomatic statement should be fired immediately — as well as any diplomatic personnel who approved it. Obviously our official representatives overseas do not understand, or have not read, the U.S. Constitution. And if the administration claims the embassy that issued the appeasing statement did so without authority, then we have a larger problem with freelancing diplomats who across the globe weigh in with statements that supposedly do not reflect official policy. Note, however, that the initial diplomatic communiqué is the logical extension of this administration’s rhetoric (see below).

Shame: As gratitude for our overthrowing a cruel despot in Libya, Libyan extremists have murdered the American ambassador and his staffers. The Libyan government, such as it is there, either cannot or will not protect U.S. diplomatic personnel. And the world wonders why last year the U.S. bombed one group of Libyan cutthroats only to aid another.

The attacks in Egypt come a little over three years after the embarrassing Obama Cairo speech, in which the president created an entire mythology about the history of Islam, in vain hopes of appeasing his Egyptian hosts. The violence also follows ongoing comical efforts of the administration to assure us that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is not an extremist Islamic organization bent on turning Egypt into a theocratic state. And the attacks are simultaneous with President Obama’s ongoing and crude efforts to embarrass Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The future. Expect more violence. The Libyan murderers are now empowered, and, like the infamous Iranian hostage-takers, feel their government either supports them or can’t stop them. The crowd in Egypt knew what it was doing when it chanted Obama’s name juxtaposed to Osama’s.

Obama’s effort to appease Islam is an utter failure, as we see in various polls that show no change in anti-American attitudes in the Middle East — despite the president’s initial al Arabiya interview (“We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect.”); the rantings of National Intelligence Director James Clapper (e.g., “The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ . . . is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”); and the absurdities of our NASA director (“When I became the NASA administrator . . . perhaps foremost, he [President Obama] wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science.”) — to cite only a few examples from many.

At some point, someone in the administration is going to fathom that the more one seeks to appease radical Islam, the more the latter despises the appeaser.

These terrible attacks on the anniversary of 9/11 are extremely significant. They come right at a time when we are considering an aggregate $1 trillion cutback in defense over the next decade. They should give make us cautious about proposed intervention in Syria. They leave our Arab Spring policy in tatters, and the whole “reset” approach to the Middle East incoherent. They embarrass any who continue to contextualize radical Islamic violence. The juxtaposed chants of “Osama” and “Obama” in Egypt make a mockery of the recent “We killed Osama” spiking the football at the Democratic convention. And they remind us why 2012 is sadly looking a lot like 1980 — when in a similar election year, in a similarly minded administration, the proverbial chickens of four years of “smart” diplomacy tragically came home to roost.

Voir aussi:

1980 Redux

Victor Davis Hanson

National Review

September 12, 2012

We are in scary times. The horrific photos of Ambassador Stevens bring to mind memories of Mogadishu or Fallujah, and make us ask why were there not dozens, if not vastly more, Marines around him in his hour of need. By preemptively caving into radical Islam and not defending the U.S. Constitution and our traditions of protecting even uncouth expression, the Cairo embassy’s shameful communiqué only invited greater hostility by such manifest appeasement.

I’m afraid that a number of hostile entities abroad will be reviewing all this in the context of the last four years and surmising that this may be the best time, as in 1979–1980 (e.g., Russians in Afghanistan, Communist take-overs in Central America, the Chinese invading Vietnam, hostages in Tehran, etc.), to cash in their chips. Radical Islamists knew that their governments in Egypt and Libya either would not, or could not, do anything when they went after Americans; talk of radical defense cuts and American financial implosion may encourage others to take chances when in the past they would not have; there is trouble brewing in Asian waters over disputed territories and perceptions that the U.S., whether conventionally or even in the nuclear sense, is not quite the strong ally of Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Philippines that it once was; when we snub the Israeli prime minister, after a long series of earlier slights, the message goes out to Tehran that the U.S. is not entirely sure that it will aid Israel in its coming time of crisis. And by now we have heard enough Cairo-like speeches, al Arabiya interviews, and seen enough bows to know that we can always find yet a new way to be culpable even for self-induced Middle East pathologies.

Note the recurrent theme: We always blame the wrong entities. We fault Netanyahu for making a supposed pest of himself for reminding us of Tehran’s nuclear progress. We go after the nuts who made the anti-Muslim movie rather than the far greater danger of bloodthirsty Islamists who would murder to deny all free speech. When a Major Hasan goes on his rampage, our chief of staff of the army immediately laments the danger to our diversity program. We fret that KSM might not get his civil trial, or a Mutallab his Miranda rights. As Coptics are targeted, we assure ourselves that the Muslim Brotherhood is secular, and on and on.

Voir encore:

Libye: l’examen manqué de Romney en politique étrangère

Hélène Sallon

Le Monde

12.09.2012

Le candidat républicain a-t-il fait un nouveau faux pas en s’attaquant directement au président Obama sur sa gestion des incidents meurtriers en Libye ? Mitt Romney n’a-t-il pas pris un trop grand risque en sortant de sa réserve et en quittant son terrain favori, l’économie, pour s’engouffrer tête baissée sur celui de la politique étrangère ? C’est ce que tend à croire une majorité de la presse américaine qui, mercredi 12 septembre, titrait de concert sur "l’isolement" de Romney.

"Après une flambée de critiques, la plupart des républicains à Washington, même parmi les critiques les plus virulents de Barack Obama, se sont joints aux démocrates pour dénoncer les violentes attaques contre les ambassades américaines en Egypte et en Libye, tout en résistant à la tentation de critiquer la réponse qu’y a apportée l’administration Obama", rapporte le New York Times. A l’instar du sénateur républicain du Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, qui a déclaré mercredi : "Nous rendons hommage aux Américains qui ont perdu la vie en Libye et affichons notre unité dans la réponse qu’il faut y apporter."

Ce message d’unité qu’est venu délivrer un parterre de républicains au Sénat est apparu en parfait contraste avec la ligne adoptée par leur candidat à la présidentielle, Mitt Romney. Dès mardi soir, sans attendre la fin de la trêve partisane imposée par les commémorations du 11-Septembre, le candidat républicain a qualifié de "honteuse" la réaction du gouvernement de Barack Obama aux attaques anti-américaines en Egypte et en Libye et l’a accusé de sympathies pour les extrémistes musulmans. "S’excuser des valeurs américaines n’est jamais la chose à faire", a-t-il ajouté, en référence à la condamnation par l’ambassade américaine au Caire du film à l’origine de ces violences. Sans se formaliser toutefois que le communiqué ait été publié avant même l’irruption des violences pour apaiser la rue égyptienne.

A lire en anglais sur la BBC, les réactions aux attaques des ambassades américaines au Caire et à Benghazi.

"DES ATTAQUES POLITICIENNES"

L’équipe de campagne de M. Obama a rapidement riposté aux critiques de M. Romney, son porte-parole Ben LaBolt lui reprochant de lancer des "attaques politiciennes" le jour d’un pareil drame, rapporte le site Politico. Le sénateur démocrate du Massachusetts, John Kerry, a appelé Mitt Romney à s’excuser pour ses commentaires qu’il a qualifiés d’irresponsables et insensibles. Pourtant, dans un nouveau message mercredi, le candidat républicain a réitéré ses attaques contre l’administration Obama, tout en se défendant des critiques exprimées par les démocrates. "La Maison Blanche a pris ses distances hier soir avec le communiqué [publié par l'ambassade américaine au Caire], assurant qu’il n’avait pas été validé à Washington. Cela montre les signaux ambigus que cette administration envoie au monde", a jugé M. Romney.

Lire : Aux Etats-Unis, les républicains exploitent l’attaque de Benghazi

La critique faite à Mitt Romney par les démocrates a été largement partagée par la presse américaine, qui a tiré à boulets rouges sur le candidat républicain, indique le Huffington Post. Sur la chaîne de télévision NBC, le journaliste Chuck Todd a qualifié ses déclarations d""irresponsables" et d’"erreur", rapporte le site Internet The Raw Story. Un autre journaliste de la chaîne, Lawrence O’Donnell, avait plus tôt estimé que le camp Romney aurait mieux fait de "ne rien dire car dans ces cas-là (…), la seule chose qui va attirer l’attention est de dire une chose stupide, ce qu’ils ont réussi à faire". Le journaliste du National Journal Ron Fournier a également qualifié ces attaques de "maladroites" et "inexactes". L’expert conservateur Erick Ericson, bien qu’en désaccord avec la réponse de Chuck Tood, a lui aussi appelé Mitt Romney à la prudence. Aux yeux de tous, le candidat Romney a parlé un peu trop vite.

"LE TEST DU CHEF DES ARMÉES"

"Le va-et-vient entre les camps Obama et Romney a constitué un rare échange partisan sur une crise de politique étrangère sur fond d’événements en cours et a mis en lumière l’intensité et les enjeux de la campagne à moins de deux mois du jour de l’élection", commente le New York Times. Cette crise intervient, en effet, à brule-pourpoint pour Mitt Romney, qui s’évertue à défendre son programme de politique étrangère, sérieusement attaqué par le camp démocrate, note encore le quotidien américain.

Il avait fait l’objet de virulentes critiques dans le camp démocrate, mais aussi de certains dans son camp, pour n’avoir pas fait mention de la guerre en Afghanistan ou des troupes américaines à l’étranger durant son discours à la convention républicaine de Tampa. Une occasion qu’avait saisie le camp Obama pour le présenter comme un candidat inexpérimenté et mal préparé pour devenir chef des armées.

"TIRER D’ABORD ET VISER ENSUITE"

Le candidat démocrate a d’ailleurs rapidement profité de la situation, estimant mercredi qu’"il y a une leçon à tirer de cette affaire : on dirait que le gouverneur Romney a tendance à tirer d’abord et viser ensuite". "En tant que président, l’une des choses que j’ai apprises est que l’on ne peut pas faire cela. Il est important de s’assurer que les déclarations que vous effectuez sont soutenues par les faits, et que vous avez pensé à toutes les conséquences avant de les prononcer", a poursuivi M. Obama dans un entretien à la chaîne CBS.

Pour le camp Obama, les attaques de Mitt Romney sont une nouvelle occasion de lui faire passer "le test du chef des armées", indique le Washington Post. Même si cette joute verbale en matière de politique étrangère ne devrait pas changer fondamentalement la donne d’une élection qui se joue sur le terrain économique. "Si les gens ne s’intéressent pas à la politique étrangère en tant que telle, ils veulent/ont besoin de voir que la personne qu’ils mettent à la Maison Blanche a le leadership pour représenter son pays sur la scène internationale", indique le quotidien.

Or, par ses attaques "empressées" et "hors-propos", Mitt Romney vient de se tirer une balle dans le pied, estime le site Buzzfeed. Les pontes républicains de la politique étrangère ont multiplié les critiques, rapporte le site américain. "C’est un désastre absolu, a ainsi commenté l’un d’entre eux. Nous voyons maintenant que c’est parce qu’ils sont incapables de parler efficacement de politique étrangère. C’est incroyable : quand ils décident de jouer sur ce terrain, ils bousillent tout."

Ne reste plus au camp Obama qu’à faire en sorte que tous gardent en mémoire une réaction qui n’a rien de "présidentielle", ajoute le Washington Post. Et de démontrer que, sur cette affaire comme en politique étrangère, Barack Obama demeure la personne la mieux placée. Comme le pensent déjà 51 % des électeurs sondés récemment par le Washington Post-ABC News.

Voir de même:

What Happened to Obama?

Drew Westen

 The New York Times

August 6, 2011

Drew Westen is a professor of psychology at Emory University and the author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.”

Atlanta

It was a blustery day in Washington on Jan. 20, 2009, as it often seems to be on the day of a presidential inauguration. As I stood with my 8-year-old daughter, watching the president deliver his inaugural address, I had a feeling of unease. It wasn’t just that the man who could be so eloquent had seemingly chosen not to be on this auspicious occasion, although that turned out to be a troubling harbinger of things to come. It was that there was a story the American people were waiting to hear — and needed to hear — but he didn’t tell it. And in the ensuing months he continued not to tell it, no matter how outrageous the slings and arrows his opponents threw at him.

The stories our leaders tell us matter, probably almost as much as the stories our parents tell us as children, because they orient us to what is, what could be, and what should be; to the worldviews they hold and to the values they hold sacred. Our brains evolved to “expect” stories with a particular structure, with protagonists and villains, a hill to be climbed or a battle to be fought. Our species existed for more than 100,000 years before the earliest signs of literacy, and another 5,000 years would pass before the majority of humans would know how to read and write.

Stories were the primary way our ancestors transmitted knowledge and values. Today we seek movies, novels and “news stories” that put the events of the day in a form that our brains evolved to find compelling and memorable. Children crave bedtime stories; the holy books of the three great monotheistic religions are written in parables; and as research in cognitive science has shown, lawyers whose closing arguments tell a story win jury trials against their legal adversaries who just lay out “the facts of the case.”

When Barack Obama rose to the lectern on Inauguration Day, the nation was in tatters. Americans were scared and angry. The economy was spinning in reverse. Three-quarters of a million people lost their jobs that month. Many had lost their homes, and with them the only nest eggs they had. Even the usually impervious upper middle class had seen a decade of stagnant or declining investment, with the stock market dropping in value with no end in sight. Hope was as scarce as credit.

In that context, Americans needed their president to tell them a story that made sense of what they had just been through, what caused it, and how it was going to end. They needed to hear that he understood what they were feeling, that he would track down those responsible for their pain and suffering, and that he would restore order and safety. What they were waiting for, in broad strokes, was a story something like this:

“I know you’re scared and angry. Many of you have lost your jobs, your homes, your hope. This was a disaster, but it was not a natural disaster. It was made by Wall Street gamblers who speculated with your lives and futures. It was made by conservative extremists who told us that if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. But it didn’t work out. And it didn’t work out 80 years ago, when the same people sold our grandparents the same bill of goods, with the same results. But we learned something from our grandparents about how to fix it, and we will draw on their wisdom. We will restore business confidence the old-fashioned way: by putting money back in the pockets of working Americans by putting them back to work, and by restoring integrity to our financial markets and demanding it of those who want to run them. I can’t promise that we won’t make mistakes along the way. But I can promise you that they will be honest mistakes, and that your government has your back again.” A story isn’t a policy. But that simple narrative — and the policies that would naturally have flowed from it — would have inoculated against much of what was to come in the intervening two and a half years of failed government, idled factories and idled hands. That story would have made clear that the president understood that the American people had given Democrats the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress to fix the mess the Republicans and Wall Street had made of the country, and that this would not be a power-sharing arrangement. It would have made clear that the problem wasn’t tax-and-spend liberalism or the deficit — a deficit that didn’t exist until George W. Bush gave nearly $2 trillion in tax breaks largely to the wealthiest Americans and squandered $1 trillion in two wars.

And perhaps most important, it would have offered a clear, compelling alternative to the dominant narrative of the right, that our problem is not due to spending on things like the pensions of firefighters, but to the fact that those who can afford to buy influence are rewriting the rules so they can cut themselves progressively larger slices of the American pie while paying less of their fair share for it.

But there was no story — and there has been none since.

In similar circumstances, Franklin D. Roosevelt offered Americans a promise to use the power of his office to make their lives better and to keep trying until he got it right. Beginning in his first inaugural address, and in the fireside chats that followed, he explained how the crash had happened, and he minced no words about those who had caused it. He promised to do something no president had done before: to use the resources of the United States to put Americans directly to work, building the infrastructure we still rely on today. He swore to keep the people who had caused the crisis out of the halls of power, and he made good on that promise. In a 1936 speech at Madison Square Garden, he thundered, “Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”

When Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office, he stepped into a cycle of American history, best exemplified by F.D.R. and his distant cousin, Teddy. After a great technological revolution or a major economic transition, as when America changed from a nation of farmers to an urban industrial one, there is often a period of great concentration of wealth, and with it, a concentration of power in the wealthy. That’s what we saw in 1928, and that’s what we see today. At some point that power is exercised so injudiciously, and the lives of so many become so unbearable, that a period of reform ensues — and a charismatic reformer emerges to lead that renewal. In that sense, Teddy Roosevelt started the cycle of reform his cousin picked up 30 years later, as he began efforts to bust the trusts and regulate the railroads, exercise federal power over the banks and the nation’s food supply, and protect America’s land and wildlife, creating the modern environmental movement.

Those were the shoes — that was the historic role — that Americans elected Barack Obama to fill. The president is fond of referring to “the arc of history,” paraphrasing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous statement that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But with his deep-seated aversion to conflict and his profound failure to understand bully dynamics — in which conciliation is always the wrong course of action, because bullies perceive it as weakness and just punch harder the next time — he has broken that arc and has likely bent it backward for at least a generation.

When Dr. King spoke of the great arc bending toward justice, he did not mean that we should wait for it to bend. He exhorted others to put their full weight behind it, and he gave his life speaking with a voice that cut through the blistering force of water cannons and the gnashing teeth of police dogs. He preached the gospel of nonviolence, but he knew that whether a bully hid behind a club or a poll tax, the only effective response was to face the bully down, and to make the bully show his true and repugnant face in public.

In contrast, when faced with the greatest economic crisis, the greatest levels of economic inequality, and the greatest levels of corporate influence on politics since the Depression, Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze. Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, he put them in charge of it. He never explained that decision to the public — a failure in storytelling as extraordinary as the failure in judgment behind it. Had the president chosen to bend the arc of history, he would have told the public the story of the destruction wrought by the dismantling of the New Deal regulations that had protected them for more than half a century. He would have offered them a counternarrative of how to fix the problem other than the politics of appeasement, one that emphasized creating economic demand and consumer confidence by putting consumers back to work. He would have had to stare down those who had wrecked the economy, and he would have had to tolerate their hatred if not welcome it. But the arc of his temperament just didn’t bend that far.

The truly decisive move that broke the arc of history was his handling of the stimulus. The public was desperate for a leader who would speak with confidence, and they were ready to follow wherever the president led. Yet instead of indicting the economic policies and principles that had just eliminated eight million jobs, in the most damaging of the tic-like gestures of compromise that have become the hallmark of his presidency — and against the advice of multiple Nobel-Prize-winning economists — he backed away from his advisers who proposed a big stimulus, and then diluted it with tax cuts that had already been shown to be inert. The result, as predicted in advance, was a half-stimulus that half-stimulated the economy. That, in turn, led the White House to feel rightly unappreciated for having saved the country from another Great Depression but in the unenviable position of having to argue a counterfactual — that something terrible might have happened had it not half-acted.

To the average American, who was still staring into the abyss, the half-stimulus did nothing but prove that Ronald Reagan was right, that government is the problem. In fact, the average American had no idea what Democrats were trying to accomplish by deficit spending because no one bothered to explain it to them with the repetition and evocative imagery that our brains require to make an idea, particularly a paradoxical one, “stick.” Nor did anyone explain what health care reform was supposed to accomplish (other than the unbelievable and even more uninspiring claim that it would “bend the cost curve”), or why “credit card reform” had led to an increase in the interest rates they were already struggling to pay. Nor did anyone explain why saving the banks was such a priority, when saving the homes the banks were foreclosing didn’t seem to be. All Americans knew, and all they know today, is that they’re still unemployed, they’re still worried about how they’re going to pay their bills at the end of the month and their kids still can’t get a job. And now the Republicans are chipping away at unemployment insurance, and the president is making his usual impotent verbal exhortations after bargaining it away.

What makes the “deficit debate” we just experienced seem so surreal is how divorced the conversation in Washington has been from conversations around the kitchen table everywhere else in America. Although I am a scientist by training, over the last several years, as a messaging consultant to nonprofit groups and Democratic leaders, I have studied the way voters think and feel, talking to them in plain language. At this point, I have interacted in person or virtually with more than 50,000 Americans on a range of issues, from taxes and deficits to abortion and immigration.

The average voter is far more worried about jobs than about the deficit, which few were talking about while Bush and the Republican Congress were running it up. The conventional wisdom is that Americans hate government, and if you ask the question in the abstract, people will certainly give you an earful about what government does wrong. But if you give them the choice between cutting the deficit and putting Americans back to work, it isn’t even close. But it’s not just jobs. Americans don’t share the priorities of either party on taxes, budgets or any of the things Congress and the president have just agreed to slash — or failed to slash, like subsidies to oil companies. When it comes to tax cuts for the wealthy, Americans are united across the political spectrum, supporting a message that says, “In times like these, millionaires ought to be giving to charity, not getting it.”

When pitted against a tough budget-cutting message straight from the mouth of its strongest advocates, swing voters vastly preferred a message that began, “The best way to reduce the deficit is to put Americans back to work.” This statement is far more consistent with what many economists are saying publicly — and what investors apparently believe, as evident in the nosedive the stock market took after the president and Congress “saved” the economy.

So where does that leave us?

Like most Americans, at this point, I have no idea what Barack Obama — and by extension the party he leads — believes on virtually any issue. The president tells us he prefers a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction, one that weds “revenue enhancements” (a weak way of describing popular taxes on the rich and big corporations that are evading them) with “entitlement cuts” (an equally poor choice of words that implies that people who’ve worked their whole lives are looking for handouts). But the law he just signed includes only the cuts. This pattern of presenting inconsistent positions with no apparent recognition of their incoherence is another hallmark of this president’s storytelling. He announces in a speech on energy and climate change that we need to expand offshore oil drilling and coal production — two methods of obtaining fuels that contribute to the extreme weather Americans are now seeing. He supports a health care law that will use Medicaid to insure about 15 million more Americans and then endorses a budget plan that, through cuts to state budgets, will most likely decimate Medicaid and other essential programs for children, senior citizens and people who are vulnerable by virtue of disabilities or an economy that is getting weaker by the day. He gives a major speech on immigration reform after deporting more than 700,000 immigrants in two years, a pace faster than nearly any other period in American history.

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.

A somewhat less charitable explanation is that we are a nation that is being held hostage not just by an extremist Republican Party but also by a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election. Perhaps those of us who were so enthralled with the magnificent story he told in “Dreams From My Father” appended a chapter at the end that wasn’t there — the chapter in which he resolves his identity and comes to know who he is and what he believes in.

Or perhaps, like so many politicians who come to Washington, he has already been consciously or unconsciously corrupted by a system that tests the souls even of people of tremendous integrity, by forcing them to dial for dollars — in the case of the modern presidency, for hundreds of millions of dollars. When he wants to be, the president is a brilliant and moving speaker, but his stories virtually always lack one element: the villain who caused the problem, who is always left out, described in impersonal terms, or described in passive voice, as if the cause of others’ misery has no agency and hence no culpability. Whether that reflects his aversion to conflict, an aversion to conflict with potential campaign donors that today cripples both parties’ ability to govern and threatens our democracy, or both, is unclear.

A final explanation is that he ran for president on two contradictory platforms: as a reformer who would clean up the system, and as a unity candidate who would transcend the lines of red and blue. He has pursued the one with which he is most comfortable given the constraints of his character, consistently choosing the message of bipartisanship over the message of confrontation.

But the arc of history does not bend toward justice through capitulation cast as compromise. It does not bend when 400 people control more of the wealth than 150 million of their fellow Americans. It does not bend when the average middle-class family has seen its income stagnate over the last 30 years while the richest 1 percent has seen its income rise astronomically. It does not bend when we cut the fixed incomes of our parents and grandparents so hedge fund managers can keep their 15 percent tax rates. It does not bend when only one side in negotiations between workers and their bosses is allowed representation. And it does not bend when, as political scientists have shown, it is not public opinion but the opinions of the wealthy that predict the votes of the Senate. The arc of history can bend only so far before it breaks.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 14, 2011

An opinion essay on Aug. 7 about President Obama’s leadership and principles referred incorrectly to the number of deportations under his presidency. More than 700,000 immigrants were deported during Mr. Obama’s first two years in office; it is not the case that a million immigrants were deported in 2010, the year Mr. Obama gave a speech on immigration reform. Also, a larger number of deportations occurred over the two terms of George W. Bush, Mr. Obama’s predecessor; Mr. Obama has not overseen more deportations than any other president.

Voir enfin:

Pacifism and the War

 George Orwell

Partisan Review

August-September 1942

About a year ago I and a number of others were engaged in broadcasting literary programmes to India, and among other things we broadcast a good deal of verse by contemporary and near-contemporary English writers — for example, Eliot, Herbert Read, Auden, Spender, Dylan Thomas, Henry Treece, Alex Comfort, Robert Bridges, Edmund Blunden, D. H. Lawrence. Whenever it was possible we had poems broadcast by the people who wrote them. Just why these particular programmes (a small and remote out-flanking movement in the radio war) were instituted there is no need to explain here, but I should add that the fact that we were broadcasting to an Indian audience dictated our technique to some extent. The essential point was that our literary broadcasts were aimed at the Indian university students, a small and hostile audience, unapproachable by anything that could be described as British propaganda. It was known in advance that we could not hope for more than a few thousand listeners at the most, and this gave us an excuse to be more ‘highbrow’ than is generally possible on the air.

Since I don’t suppose you want to fill an entire number of P.R. (Partisan Review) with squalid controversies imported from across the Atlantic, I will lump together the various letters you have sent on to me (from Messrs Savage, Woodcock and Comfort), as the central issue in all of them is the same. But I must afterwards deal separately with some points of fact raised in various of the letters.

Pacifism. Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’. The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security. Mr Savage remarks that ‘according to this type of reasoning, a German or Japanese pacifist would be “objectively pro-British”.’ But of course he would be! That is why pacifist activities are not permitted in those countries (in both of them the penalty is, or can be, beheading) while both the Germans and the Japanese do all they can to encourage the spread of pacifism in British and American territories. The Germans even run a spurious ‘freedom’ station which serves out pacifist propaganda indistinguishable from that of the P.P.U. They would stimulate pacifism in Russia as well if they could, but in that case they have tougher babies to deal with. In so far as it takes effect at all, pacifist propaganda can only be effective against those countries where a certain amount of freedom of speech is still permitted; in other words it is helpful to totalitarianism.

I am not interested in pacifism as a ‘moral phenomenon’. If Mr Savage and others imagine that one can somehow ‘overcome’ the German army by lying on one’s back, let them go on imagining it, but let them also wonder occasionally whether this is not an illusion due to security, too much money and a simple ignorance of the way in which things actually happen. As an ex-Indian civil servant, it always makes me shout with laughter to hear, for instance, Gandhi named as an example of the success of non-violence. As long as twenty years ago it was cynically admitted in Anglo-Indian circles that Gandhi was very useful to the British government. So he will be to the Japanese if they get there. Despotic governments can stand ‘moral force’ till the cows come home; what they fear is physical force. But though not much interested in the ‘theory’ of pacifism, I am interested in the psychological processes by which pacifists who have started out with an alleged horror of violence end up with a marked tendency to be fascinated by the success and power of Nazism. Even pacifists who wouldn’t own to any such fascination are beginning to claim that a Nazi victory is desirable in itself. In the letter you sent on to me, Mr Comfort considers that an artist in occupied territory ought to ‘protest against such evils as he sees’, but considers that this is best done by ‘temporarily accepting the status quo’ (like Déat or Bergery, for instance?). a few weeks back he was hoping for a Nazi victory because of the stimulating effect it would have upon the arts:

As far as I can see, no therapy short of complete military defeat has any chance of re-establishing the common stability of literature and of the man in the street. One can imagine the greater the adversity the greater the sudden realization of a stream of imaginative work, and the greater the sudden katharsis of poetry, from the isolated interpretation of war as calamity to the realization of the imaginative and actual tragedy of Man. When we have access again to the literature of the war years in France, Poland and Czechoslovakia, I am confident that that is what we shall fined. (From a letter to Horizon.)

I pass over the money-sheltered ignorance capable of believing that literary life is still going on in, for instance, Poland, and remark merely that statements like this justify me in saying that our English pacifists are tending towards active pro-Fascism. But I don’t particularly object to that. What I object to is the intellectual cowardice of people who are objectively and to some extent emotionally pro-Fascist, but who don’t care to say so and take refuge behind the formula ‘I am just as anti-fascist as anyone, but—’. The result of this is that so-called peace propaganda is just as dishonest and intellectually disgusting as war propaganda. Like war propaganda, it concentrates on putting forward a ‘case’, obscuring the opponent’s point of view and avoiding awkward questions. The line normally followed is ‘Those who fight against Fascism go Fascist themselves.’ In order to evade the quite obvious objections that can be raised to this, the following propaganda-tricks are used:

The Fascizing processes occurring in Britain as a result of war are systematically exaggerated.

The actual record of Fascism, especially its pre-war history, is ignored or pooh-poohed as ‘propaganda’. Discussion of what the world would actually be like if the Axis dominated it is evaded.

Those who want to struggle against Fascism are accused of being wholehearted defenders of capitalist ‘democracy’. The fact that the rich everywhere tend to be pro-Fascist and the working class are nearly always anti-Fascist is hushed up.

It is tacitly pretended that the war is only between Britain and Germany. Mention of Russia and China, and their fate if Fascism is permitted to win, is avoided. (You won’t find one word about Russia or China in the three letters you sent to me.)

Now as to one or two points of fact which I must deal with if your correspondents’ letters are to be printed in full.

My past and present. Mr Woodcock tries to discredit me by saying that (a) I once served in the Indian Imperial Police, (b) I have written article for the Adelphi and was mixed up with the Trotskyists in Spain, and (c) that I am at the B.B.C. ‘conducting British propaganda to fox the Indian masses’. With regard to (a), it is quite true that I served five years in the Indian Police. It is also true that I gave up that job, partly because it didn’t suit me but mainly because I would not any longer be a servant of imperialism. I am against imperialism because I know something about it from the inside. The whole history of this is to be found in my writings, including a novel (Burmese Days) which I think I can claim was a kind of prophecy of what happened this year in Burma. (b) Of course I have written for the Adelphi. Why not? I once wrote an article for a vegetarian paper. Does that make me a vegetarian? I was associated with the Trotskyists in Spain. It was chance that I was serving in the P.O.U.M. militia and not another, and I largely disagreed with the P.O.U. M. ‘line’ and told its leaders so freely, but when they were afterwards accused of pro-Fascist activities I defended them as best it could. How does this contradict my present anti-Hitler attitude? It is news to me that Trotskyists are either pacifists or pro-Fascists. (c) Does Mr Woodcock really know what kind of stuff I put out in the Indian broadcasts? He does not — though I would be quite glad to tell him about it. He is careful not to mention what other people are associated with these Indian broadcasts. One for instance is Herbert Read, whom he mentions with approval. Others are T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Reginald Reynolds, Stephen Spender, J. B. S. Haldane, Tom Wintringham. Most of our broadcasters are Indian left-wing intellectual, from Liberals to Trotskyists, some of them bitterly anti-British. They don’t do it to ‘fox the Indian masses’ but because they know what a Fascist victory would mean to the chances of India’s independence. Why not try to find out what I am doing before accusing my good faith?

‘Mr Orwell is intellectual-hunting again’ (Mr Comfort). I have never attacked ‘the intellectuals’ or ‘the intelligentsia’ en bloc. I have used a lot of ink and done myself a lot of harm by attacking the successive literary cliques which have infested this country, not because they were intellectuals but precisely because they were not what I mean by true intellectuals. The life of a clique is about five years and I have been writing long enough to see three of them come and two go — the Catholic gang, the Stalinist gang, and the present pacifist or, as they are sometimes nicknamed, Fascifist gang. My case against all of them is that they write mentally dishonest propaganda and degrade literary criticism to mutual arse-licking. But even with these various schools I would differentiate between individuals. I would never think of coupling Christopher Dawson with Arnold Lunn, or Malraux with Palme Dutt, or Max Plowman with the Duke of Bedford. And even the work of one individual can exist at very different levels. For instance Mr Comfort himself wrote one poem I value greatly (‘The Atoll in the Mind’), and I wish he would write more of them instead of lifeless propaganda tracts dressed up as novels. But his letter he has chosen to send you is a different matter. Instead of answering what I have said he tries to prejudice an audience to whom I am little known by a misrepresentation of my general line and sneers about my ‘status’ in England. (A writer isn’t judged by his ‘status’, he is judged by his work.) That is on a par with ‘peace’ propaganda which has to avoid mention of Hitler’s invasion of Russian, and it is not what I mean by intellectual honesty. It is just because I do take the function of the intelligentsia seriously that I don’t like the sneers, libels, parrot phrased and financially profitable back-scratching which flourish in our English literary world, and perhaps in yours also.

1942

THE END

____BD____

George Orwell: ‘Pacifism and the War’

First published: Partisan Review. — GB, London. — August-September 1942.

Reprinted:

— ‘The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell’. — 1968.


Printemps arabe: La continuation du jihad par d’autres moyens? (The same jihadi intent only dormant)

6 février, 2012

Après  Damour, Chekka, Karantina, Tell al-Zaatar, Amman et Hama,… Damas? 

Alors que les commentateurs les plus lucides comme Victor Davis Hanson en sont à prier que l’accident industriel qui occupe depuis bientôt quatre ans la Maison Blanche n’ait pas fait trop de dégâts …

Et qu’avec  la réélection d’un président chrétien,  la démocratie jusqu’ici modèle du Nigéria est en train de révéler ses vraies couleurs …

Pendant qu’après avoir laissé massacrer sans compter la majorité sunnite de leur pays, les soutiens alaouïtes (une secte chiite) et chrétiens de la famille Assad  se préparent à subir,  à leur tour et dans l’indifférence générale, un chaque jour un peu plus probable nettoyage ethno-religieux …

Et qu’en attendant leur propre solution finale dû’ment programmée du côté de Téhéran, les habituels méchants israéliens plus au sud pourraient bien se révéler être -  l’Histoire a de ces ironies - la dernière planche  de salut de leurs ennemis syriens …

Retour, avec l’islamologue américain Raymond Ibrahim, sur l’étrange et potentiellement criminel aveuglement de l’Occident face au poker menteur à laquelle sont en train de se livrer sous nos yeux les tenants islamistes du prétendu "Printemps arabe" …

When Elections Fail, Jihad

Raymond Ibrahim

Jihad Watch

January 31, 2012

The Obama administration supports "democracy" and "self determination" in the Middle East — two euphemisms that, in the real world, refer to "mob-rule" and "Islamic radicalization," respectively. Yet, as Jimmy Carter recently put it: "I don’t have any problem with that [an "Islamist victory" in Egypt], and the US government doesn’t have any problem with that either. We want the will of the Egyptian people to be expressed."

Sounds fair enough. The problem, however, is that Muslim clerics openly and unequivocally characterize democracy and elections as tools to be discarded once they empower Sharia law. Thus Dr. Talat Zahran holds that it is "obligatory to cheat at elections — a beautiful thing"; and Sheikh Abdel Shahat insists that democracy is not merely forbidden in Islam, but kufr — a great and terrible sin — this even as he competed in Egypt’s elections.

The Obama administration can overlook such election-exploitation because the majority of Muslims are either indifferent or willing to go along with the gag — with only a minority (secularists, Copts, etc.) in Egypt actually objecting to how elections are being used to empower Sharia-enforcing Muslims.

But what if Muslims do not win elections? What if there are equal amounts of non-Muslims voting—and an "infidel" wins? What then? Then we get situations like Nigeria.

While many are aware that Boko Haram and other Islamic elements are waging jihad against the government of Nigeria, specifically targeting Christians, often overlooked is that the jihad was provoked into full-blown activity because a Christian won fair elections (Nigeria is about evenly split between Christians and Muslims).

According to Peter Run, writing back in April 2011,

The current wave of riots was triggered by the Independent National Election Commission’s (INEC) announcement on Monday [April 18, 2011] that the incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, won in the initial round of ballot counts. That there were riots in the largely Muslim inhabited northern states where the defeat of the Muslim candidate Muhammadu Buhari was intolerable, [but] was unsurprising. Northerners [Muslims] felt they were entitled to the presidency for the declared winner, President Jonathan, [who] assumed leadership after the Muslim president, Umaru Yar’Adua died in office last year and radical groups in the north [Boko Haram] had seen his ascent [Christian president] as a temporary matter to be corrected at this year’s election. Now they are angry despite experts and observers concurring that this is the fairest and most independent election in recent Nigerian history.

Note some key words: Muslims felt "entitled" to the presidency and seek to "correct" the fact that a Christian won elections — which they assumed "a temporary matter."

Of course, had elections empowered a like-minded Muslim, the same jihadis would still be there, would still have the same savage intent for Christians and Westerners — Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden." But there would not be a fullblown jihad, and Obama would be singing praises to Nigerian democracy and elections, and the MSM would be boasting images of Nigerians with ink-stained fingers.

Yet the same jihadi intent would be there, only dormant. Like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — whose ultimate goal is "mastership of the world" — they would not need to expose themselves via jihad, and would be biding their time and consolidating their strength.

Now, back to the Egyptian clerics, specifically Sheikh Yassir al-Burhami — yet another leader in Egypt’s Salafi movement, who teaches that Muslims must preach peace when weak but wage war when strong. Discussing the chances of a fellow Salafi, Burhami asserts:

We say — regardless of the outcome of the elections — whether he [his colleague, the aforementioned al-Shahat] wins or loses, we will not permit an infidel [kafir] to be appointed to a post where he assumes authority over Muslims. This is forbidden. Allah said: "Never will Allah grant to infidels a way [to triumph] over the believers [Koran 4:141]." We are not worried about losing elections or al-Shahat losing votes. We will not flatter or fawn to the people.

What will you and your associates do, Sheikh Burhami — wage jihad? Of course, that will not be necessary: unlike Nigeria, most of Egypt is Muslim; one way or another, "elections" will realize the Islamist agenda.

Thus, whether by word (al-Burhami) or deed (Boko Haram) those who seek to make Islam supreme prove that democracy and elections are acceptable only insofar as they enable Sharia. Conversely, if they lead to something that contradicts Sharia — for instance, by bringing a Christian infidel to power — then the perennial jihad resumes.

 Voir aussi:

The Perils of Obama’s Foreign Policy

Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

January 28, 2012

The mystery remaining about the Obama administration’s foreign policy is not whether it has worked, but whether its failures will matter all that much. That is no rhetorical question, given that it is hard to permanently damage, in just three years, the position abroad of the United States, given its vast military power and enormous economy.

The Obama administration’s policy was predicated on three assumptions. First, world tensions and widespread dislike of the United States were due to George Bush’s wars and his cowboyish style. Therefore, outreach and reset would correct the Bush mistakes — given that unrest did not really antedate, and would not postdate, the strutting Bush. The unique personal narrative and heritage of Obama and his tripartite name, of course, would earn America fides in inverse proportion to Bush’s twang and evangelical way of speaking about God.

Yet most problems really did transcend Bush, and so reset accomplished little. Hugo Chávez is more hostile to America than ever, whether symbolically by accusing the Obama administration of spreading cancer among Latin American leaders or concretely by entertaining Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There is no new warmth from Cuba or Nicaragua — as there never could have been from their Stalinist heads of state.

Putin has as much contempt for Obama as he did for Bush. Our policies remain the same: trying to encourage Russian reform without causing a war or neo-Soviet adventurism.

The decision to reach out to Assad with recognition and an embassy failed; Syria became more unhinged and violent, not less. The verdict is still out on the Arab Spring; the Obama administration stopped taking credit for it once the illiberal Muslim Brotherhood began its ascendance. The Palestinians are now talking of a third intifada, and they hope that, when the shooting starts, their new friend the United States will hector Israel in a way it did not under Bush.

Outreach to Iran was a disaster; the serial face-to-face talks and the quiet neglect of the Iranian dissidents did not work. Now we are reduced to the sort of catch-up sanctions that would have earned Bush the charge of warmongering from the Left. Unofficial US policy seems to be a silent hope that tiny Israel does the unthinkable that a huge United States would not, while Saudi Arabia expands its pipelines to nullify the value of the Strait of Hormuz in a way we are refusing to do at home with Keystone.

Obama likes Prime Minister Erdogan even more than he hates Prime Minister Netanyahu. But what he thinks the Israelis have done to the Palestinians pales in comparison to what he must know the Turks have done to the Kurds, Greeks, and Armenians. It is open to question whether Erdogan will be calmed by such affability or will find it useful should he wish to settle old scores with the Kurds, on Cyprus, or in the Aegean.

Lecturing China while borrowing ever more money from it does not work.

I don’t think Japan and South Korea feel any safer with Obama in office — despite claims of a new focus on Asia at the expense of old Europe. The more Obama talks of eliminating nuclear weapons, the more both these neighbors of North Korea will probably consider acquiring them.

There is no need to review the reset flip side of estrangement from the Czech Republic, Britain, Israel, and now Canada — allies who believe in staid things like democracy, human rights, and alliances in times of peril. It is hard to calibrate US policy toward the EU, since the entire enterprise is unraveling, and the Europeans seem puzzled that we are emulating the very failure they are learning from. Mexico is more violent and unstable than ever before, and more emboldened to sue US states in American courts of law. Fast and Furious promises not to deport any more illegal aliens, and the administration’s lawsuit against the state of Arizona did not have a warming effect on our relationship.

The second Obama idea was the dream of reenergizing the United Nations and working to eliminate all nuclear weapons. But the likelihood is that the atomic club will be larger, not smaller, when Obama leaves office. The madness of North Korea transcends the US presidency, although for now it is playing out in ridiculous matters of succession.

Obama claimed he was doing UN work in Libya; but in truth he exceeded a UN mandate for humanitarian help and no-fly zones by stealthily bombing “from behind.” How odd that by ignoring the US Congress and the War Powers Act and instead championing but not obeying the United Nations, Obama snubbed both in a way his cowboyish predecessor never had. Restricting oil leases on federal lands by 40 percent and stopping the Keystone pipeline did not translate into a gas-guzzling America’s doing its fair share to lower world oil prices and protect the global environment from careless new Third World exploration and exploitation.

Third, Obama promised to win the good war in Afghanistan, and to end the bad war in Iraq, in addition to junking or amending the supposedly unconstitutional and counterproductive war on terror. Here there is some confusion. He got out of Iraq, but on the Bush-Petraeus timetable long ago negotiated with the Iraqi government. In Afghanistan no one believes the situation is better — four commanders and three years after Bush left office. Obama tweaked the war on terror in cynical fashion, mixing euphemism and realpolitik. Rhetorically, we learned of overseas contingency operations and man-caused disasters, while mention of Islamic terrorism became taboo.

Yet Obama, in fact, embraced or expanded all of the Bush-Cheney protocols — from Guantanamo and tribunals to renditions and Predator drones — on the apparent tripartite and correct assumption that (1) these measures were both lawful and vital to the security of the United States; (2) opposition to them had been entirely partisan and would evaporate once he put his own brand upon them; and (3) the Republicans would be flummoxed, unsure whether to damn Obama for his blatant hypocrisy and the damage he had done through his earlier opportunistic attacks on the very policies he would come to expand — or to be relieved that a liberal Democrat was continuing the Bush war on terror and employed its tools, which brought such dividends as the end of bin Laden and the Predatorization of top Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders.

Did the Obama setbacks matter all that much? So far, in the very short term, perhaps not.

Few envisioned that the Arab world and the European Union in their own respective ways would implode, quite apart from anything the United States did. The recession has put China on the defensive, and heightened the contradictions between free markets and closed minds. Russia is in serial crises from demography to democracy. The tsunami reminded the world how vulnerable an aging and shrinking Japan really is.

Meanwhile, here in the US, fracking and horizontal drilling redefined our oil and gas outlook, despite, not because of, the Obama administration. The insolvency of Mediterranean Europe has taken attention from the near insolvency of the US Treasury. The EU pact, and styles of governance in China, Russia, and the Arab world, remind us that the US Constitution remains exceptional. And the stagnant American economy has muffled domestic objections to vast cutbacks in defense and our new follow-rather-than-lead foreign policy.

In other words, we are back to the deceptive quiet of a 1913, 1938, or 2000, consumed by internal problems, suspicious of the world abroad, assuming that foreigners’ challenges are worse than ours, and convinced that no one would be so stupid as to start a stupid war.

Let us hope no one does. But if someone should be so crazy, others might follow. Then we would learn that our old allies are now neutrals; our new friends are enemies; and the old deterrence will be as hard to regain as it was once to acquire.

 Voir aussi:

America and the Solitude of the Syrians

Deep down, the Obama administration seems to believe that Assad’s tyranny is preferable to the opposition

Fouad Ajami

The WSJ

January 6, 2012

Nearly a year into Syria’s agony, the Arab League last week dispatched a small group of monitors headed by a man of the Sudanese security services with a brutal record in the killing fields of Darfur. Gen. Mohammed al-Dabi, a trusted aide of Sudan’s notorious ruler, Omar al-Bashir, didn’t see anything "frightening" in the embattled city of Homs, nor did he see the snipers on the rooftops in the southern town of Deraa.

A banner in Homs, held up by a group of women protesters, saw into the heart of the matter: "All doors are closed, except yours, Oh God." Indeed, the solitude of the Syrians, their noble defiance of the most entrenched dictatorship in the Arab world, has played out against the background of a sterile international diplomacy.

Libya had led us all astray. Rescue started for the Libyans weeks into their ordeal. Not so for the Syrians. Don’t look for Bashar al-Assad forewarning the subjects of his kingdom—a veritable North Korea on the Mediterranean—that his forces are on the way to hunt them down and slaughter them like rats, as did Moammar Gadhafi.

There is ice in this ruler’s veins. His people are struck down, thousands of them are kidnapped, killed and even tortured in state hospitals if they turn up for care. Children are brutalized for scribbling graffiti on the walls. And still the man sits down for an interview last month with celebrity journalist Barbara Walters to say these killer forces on the loose are not his.

In a revealing slip, the Syrian dictator told Ms. Walters that he didn’t own the country, that he was merely its president. But the truth is that the House of Assad and the intelligence barons around them are owners of a tormented country. Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, was a wicked genius. He rose from poverty and destitution through the ranks of the Syrian army to absolute power. He took a tumultuous country apart, reduced it to submission, died a natural death in 2000, and bequeathed his son a kingdom in all but name.

Thirty years ago, Assad the father rode out a ferocious rebellion by the Muslim Brotherhood, devastated the city of Hama in Syrian’s central plains, and came to rule a frightened population that accepted the bargain he offered—political servitude in return for a drab, cruel stability.

Now the son retraces the father’s arc: Overwhelm the rebellion in Homs, recreate the kingdom of fear, and the world will forgive and make its way back to Damascus.

A legend has taken hold regarding the strategic importance of Syria— bordered by Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq—and the Assad regime has made the best of it. Last October, the Syrian ruler, with a mix of cunning and bluster, played off this theme: "Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake. Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans? Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region."

There is no denying the effectiveness of this argument. The two big autocracies in the world—Russia and China—have given this regime cover and sustenance at the United Nations. A toothless resolution brought to the Security Council last October was turned back, courtesy of these two authoritarian states, and with the aid and acquiescence of Brazil, India and South Africa. (So much for the moral sway of the "emerging" powers.)

For its part, the Arab world treated the Syrian despotism rather gingerly. For months, the Arab League ducked for cover and averted its gaze from the barbarisms. Shamed by the spectacle of the shabiha (the vigilantes of the regime) desecrating mosques, beating and killing worshippers, the Arab League finally suspended Syria’s membership.

An Arab League "Peace Plan" was signed on Dec. 19, but still the slaughter continued. The Damascus dictatorship offered the Arab League the concession of allowing a team of monitors into the country. Bravely, the Syrians came out in large numbers last week to greet them and demonstrate the depth of their opposition to the regime. Some 250,000 people reportedly greeted them in the northern city of Idlib; 70,000 defied the regime in Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus. Nevertheless, the killings went on.

The Western democracies have been hoping for deliverance. There is talk in Paris of "humanitarian corridors" to supply the embattled Syrian cities with food and water and fuel. There has been a muted discussion of the imposition of a no-fly zone that would embolden and protect the defectors who compose the Free Syrian Army.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a true cynic throughout. An erstwhile ally and patron of Assad, he finally broke with the Syrian ruler last fall, saying "You can remain in power with tanks and cannons only up to a certain point." But the help Ankara can give is always a day away. The Syrian exiles and defectors need Turkey, and its sanctuary, but they have despaired of the false promises given by Mr. Erdogan.

The U.S. response has been similarly shameful. From the outset of the Syrian rebellion, the Obama administration has shown remarkable timidity. After all, the Assad dictatorship was a regime that President Obama had set out to "engage" (the theocracy in Tehran being the other). The American response to the struggle for Syria was glacial. To be sure, we had a remarkable and courageous envoy to Damascus, Ambassador Robert Ford. He had braved regime bullies, made his way to funerals and restive cities. In the bloodied streets, he found the not-so-surprising faith in American power and benevolence.

But at the highest levels of the administration—the president, the secretary of state—the animating drive toward Syria is one of paralyzing caution. Deep down, the Obama administration seems to subscribe to the belief that Assad’s tyranny is preferable to the alternative held out by the opposition. With no faith in freedom’s possibilities and power, U.S. diplomacy has operated on the unstated assumption that the regime is likely to ride out the storm.

The tenacity of this rebellion surprised Washington, and due deference had to be paid to it. Last month, Frederic Hof, the State Department’s point man on Syria, described the Damascus regime as a "dead man walking." There was political analysis in that statement, but also a desire that the Syrian struggle would end well without Washington having to make any hard choices.

Syrian rulers and protesters alike ought to be able to read the wind: An American president ceding strategic ground in the Greater Middle East is no threat to the Damascus regime. With an eye on his bid for re-election, President Obama will boast that he brought the Iraq war to an end, as he promised he would. That applause line precludes taking on Syrian burdens. In Obamaland, foreign policy is full of false choices: either boots on the ground or utter abdication.

Libya showed the defect of that choice, yet this remains the worldview of the current steward of American power.

Hafez al-Assad bequeathed power to his son, Bashar. Now Bashar, in turn, has a son named Hafez. From this bondage, the Syrian people are determined to release themselves. As of now, they are on their own.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and co-chair of Hoover’s Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.

Voir également:

Against Syrian anger, Assad’s sect feels fear

Feb 2 2012

Mariam Karouny

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – A year ago, Ali was enjoying university in Damascus, looking forward to a career in dentistry and paying little heed to politics in a country controlled by a single family for over 40 years.

That all changed, not so much when other Syrians took to the streets to demand President Bashar al-Assad step down, but when a mysterious message popped up on his Facebook page; it told him to get out of town, or die – because he was the wrong religion.

"You Alawite," read a text on the social networking site, widely hailed by pro-democracy activists for enabling the Arab Spring uprisings. "We don’t want to see your face in Barzeh."

Now, long dormant religious bigotries have thrust politics on Ali, who was born into the minority Alawite sect and still lives in the Damascus suburb of Barzeh, where most of his neighbours are Sunni Muslims. The 25-year-old student is now a firm supporter of Assad, not from any admiration for the wealthy elite that has run the country with an iron – and often bloody – fist for four decades, but because they too are Alawites.

"They sent me the threat just because I am an Alawite living in Barzeh," Ali said during a series of interviews Reuters conducted in the Syrian capital last week with a variety of Alawite residents who asked that their identities be concealed.

If Assad falls, they fear a bloodbath for fellow Alawites, outnumbered six to one by the Sunnis in a Syrian population of 23 million, which also includes large minorities of Christians and ethic Kurds.

"We will go to the palace to protect him with our lives," said Mahmoud, an Alawite student at another Damascus university, who spoke to Reuters among a group of friends.

"If Assad goes," added another in the group, also called Ali, "I’m sure I’ll either end up dead or I’ll leave the country."

ANGER AT CRACKDOWN

Opposition leaders, some of whom have taken up arms in an increasingly violent confrontation that has killed more than 5,000 people in 11 months, mostly dismiss suggestions the revolt is destined to divide Syrians along ethnic and religious lines.

But millions are incensed by the killing, arrests and torture unleashed last year by the Alawite-led authorities against demonstrators, including women and children, who confronted them in mainly Sunni cities like Deraa.

In a country which has seen refugees stream in from the sectarian blood-letting in Iraq in recent years, and where Assad and his late father are widely perceived by much of the 75-percent Sunni majority to have heavily favoured the once scorned Alawites, the language of religious hatred is growing louder. Stories of reciprocal atrocity are gaining currency.

Typical of such tales is that of Ali, the dental student. He said he took the threat on Facebook seriously because one of his uncles had been killed. His body parts were delivered in a bag to his home village in the Alawites’ western mountain heartland.

Mahmoud, who hails originally from Rabia in rural Hama province, said 39 people from his village had been killed since March: "If someone leaves the village, is stopped at a checkpoint and they know he is an Alawite, they kill him."

Like accounts from Homs last month of a massacre of 14 members of a Sunni family by suspected pro-government Alawite militiamen, or ‘shabbiha’, the report is impossible to check in a country where reporting is heavily restricted.

For the Alawites, who identify their faith as a variant of the Shi’ite Islam practised in Iran, long a close ally of Assad, the rise in the ranks of the opposition of the Sunni Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood and other conservative Sunnis who accuse Alawites of heresy is a particular cause of anxiety.

"If Bashar loses power, then definitely a non-Alawite will rule," said Fadi, a harassed-looking man in his 30s who runs a clothes store in Damascus. "The new regime will be tough on us Alawites and it will discriminate against us."

Fadi admitted that some of his acquaintances had put their resistance to change into action, driven by fear to attack and beat up some of the demonstrators who have dared to protest against Assad and his Alawite-dominated security forces.

Others are just keeping their heads down, trying to conceal any sign of their affiliations. That can range from accent – many Alawites hail from mountain villages near Lebanon whose Arabic is distinctive – to their names, since some given names are more common among either Alawites or Sunnis.

"These days I am scared to give my name," said Ali, the student from the mainly Sunni suburb of Barzeh. "Sometimes I say it is Omar. Sometimes I use something else."

HISTORICAL GRIEVANCES

Communal support for Assad invokes not only the fear of reprisal, but the historic marginalisation of Alawites from the centuries of Sunni Ottoman rule down to the emergence of Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad. He took power in 1970 and died in 2000.

Before the Assads, Alawites say, they were treated routinely as second-class citizens, discriminated against and deprived of holding senior posts in the government.

"My father used to walk 20 km to get to school, because schools in our area were scarce," said Abdullah, a government employee in Damascus recalling his father’s childhood in the Alawite mountain villages in the 1950s and 60s. "Now we’re allowed proper education, and this is thanks to Hafez."

Assad’s opponents, for their part, recount decades of fear and oppression under the Assads, not just for Sunni Islamists but secular liberals, communists, Kurds and pretty much anyone who dared question the family’s monopoly on power.

Islamists take their historical bearings from the bloodiest moment of Assad rule when, 30 years ago this week, the father unleashed his forces, with Alawites at the spearhead, on Hama.

At least 10,000 people were killed, possibly two or three times as many, as artillery and tanks pounded the stronghold of the rebellious Muslim Brotherhood, levelling much of the old city in the process. It is an experience some Syrian Islamists recount as the profanation of sacred territory by heretics.

Adnan Arour, a Sunni cleric who fled Syria during Assad’s reprisals against the Brotherhood, now wages a campaign of sectarian invective against the younger Assad from Sunni-led Saudi Arabia – which has backed calls for the end of his rule.

"As for those Alawites who violate what is sacred, when the Muslims rule and are the majority of 85 percent, we will chop you up and feed you to the dogs," Arour said in June.

Though he does not speak for a majority in Syria, for fundamentalist Sunnis, Alawites’ beliefs and practices place them outside the bounds of Islam altogether.

ALAWITES’ DEFENCE

Alawites dominate senior positions in the security apparatus. But many others say they see few of the privileges that have accrued to Assad’s inner circle over four decades.

Many of the two million or so Alawites live still in rural villages, while those who have migrated to Damascus say they are no better off than the substantial Sunni middle class which has also so far generally stood behind Assad and against upheaval.

Yara, a government employee in her 30s, was, like many Alawites, at pains to stress that their community did not feel especially favoured under the Assads and that, in her view, Sunnis benefited more from public sector employment: "Most of us Alawites are small traders," she told Reuters in the capital.

"The Sunnis get the government jobs, so we don’t get our due from the state," said Yara, who was sporting a bracelet adorned with the red, black and white Syrian flag adopted after Assad’s Baath Party seized power in the 1960s. It stands in contrast to the older green, black and white tricolour used by opponents.

"The Alawites live in the mountains, with no electricity or water," Yara said of the continuing hardships for many of her community. "And now they say we should be kicked out?"

Though many Syrians would scoff at the notion, other Alawites insist that the president is a secular leader, blind to sectarian concerns, whose wife is Sunni.

As well as sharpening sectarian frictions, the violence of recent months has opened up differences within the Alawite community. Some prominent Alawite political activists have taken a stand against Assad. Aref Dalila and Najati Tayara have both been jailed for their opposition, while noted actress Fadwa Suleiman has led protests in the opposition stronghold of Homs.

But the Alawite students who spoke in Damascus dismissed them as self-serving attention-seekers, careless of the threat facing the minority as a group. "They don’t represent us," said the student Mahmoud. "They’re just hypocrites looking for fame."

Some also call naive those Alawites who push for reform, citing the example of Egypt’s Christian minority, who embraced the revolution in Cairo alongside their Muslim compatriots but now fear a new rule dominated by conservative Sunnis.

"ALL MURDERERS"

At bottom, Mahmoud and other Syrian Alawites argue, it will not matter whether an individual opposes Assad or not – in the final accounting, if he is overthrown by a movement dominated by Sunni Islamists, all Alawites will be marked for revenge.

As one opposition activist put it in a private conversation recently: "Every Alawite between the age of 16 to 40 is a murderer, whether he likes it or not.

"The regime has recruited them, either as shabbiha in the capital or in the regular army, to kill us."

Disdain for the Alawites as a group is not limited to the firebrand preachers broadcasting from the Gulf. At a polite, middle-class dinner party last week in Damascus, one educated professional, a Sunni though not a pious one, spoke with casual disparagement that betrays each sect’s ignorance of the other.

"The Alawites do not have mosques," the man said. "They do not pray like us. Nobody knows what they are."

The prospect of life without the Assads – a prospect many world and Arab leaders see as all but inevitable – is driving many Alawites to desperate extremes. Rallies in support of the president and his family were, in the early days of the rising, relatively staid affairs, where loyalists bussed in from Alawite strongholds ran through a routine playlist of Baathist chanting.

Now, there is real anger, passion and fear on the streets, with some crowds howling devotion to the president’s younger brother Maher, commander of a military unit in the vanguard of the crackdown on opposition bastions.

Screaming for him to "finish off" the rebels, demonstrators have chanted: "Get on with it, Maher. For God’s sake!"

Mahmoud, the Damascus student from Rabia, was keeping his calm when he spoke to a foreign reporter. But his voice betrayed a grim determination that sends a chilling signal for Syria’s future: "For me, it’s an eye for an eye," he said.

"If someone wants to kill me and my family I won’t just stand and watch. If this is how they want it, then so be it."

(Reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

 Voir enfin:

Israel readies for Alawite refugees if Asssad falls

January 10, 2012

Israel is making preparations to house refugees from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite sect should his government fall, Israel’s military chief told a parliamentary committee today.

"On the day that the regime falls, it is expected to result in a blow to the Alawite sect. We are preparing to take in Alawite refugees on the Golan Heights," a committee spokesman quoted Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz as saying.

Assad has faced 10 months of popular revolt in which more than 5,000 people have been killed, according to United Nations figures. Israeli officials have said they do not expect his government to last more than a few months.

In a speech today, Assad again blamed the unrest on a foreign conspiracy against Syria.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said last week that Assad "is weakening" and will fall this year.

"In my opinion … he won’t see the end of the year. I don’t think he will even see the middle of this year. It doesn’t matter if it will take six weeks or 12 weeks, he will be toppled and disappear," Barak said.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel rarely censured the Assad government for its domestic crackdowns and has said little about the crisis that erupted last March. Successive Israeli governments have sought peace with Assad, seeing his government as a possible anchor for wider Israeli-Arab accommodation.

But in May last year, Israel accused Syria of orchestrating deadly confrontations on the ceasefire line between the two countries as a distraction from Assad’s bloody crackdown.

At least 23 people were killed and scores were wounded when Israeli troops fired on Palestinian protesters who surged against the fortified boundary fence.

The United States, Russia and the United Nations voiced deep concern about the flare-up, but it proved to be brief and was not repeated. Israeli sources note that Assad has not tried since then to turn the Golan into a "second front" in a bid to externalize his crisis.

Although Israel and Syria are technically at war, and Syria is home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war of Israel’s foundation, the Golan Heights had long been quiet.

A United Nations force patrols the demarcation line between the Golan Heights and Syria.

Barak said Syrian weapons could be transferred to the militant Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, "something we view with great gravity. Syria is believed to possess chemical weapons."

The defence minister said that "when central authority weakens (in Damascus) all kinds of factors can create friction to try and act in the Golan Heights, and there are enough bad people in the region."


Printemps arabe/Médias français: C’est à la fois un événement et un non-événement (Behind Antoine Sfeir’s supposed pen for hire crime, the very real common practice of ghostwritten books)

4 février, 2012
C’est à la fois un événement et un non-événement. Le non-événement c’est que dans ces pays-là, beaucoup de matches se terminent par des pugilats. L’événement c’est le nombre de morts. C’est le nombre de morts qui fait qu’on en parle. Dans tous les événements qui secouent le Proche-Orient, on peut voir une manipulation. Que l’armée ou la police n’ait pas fouillé les gens, ils ne fouillent pas toutes les personnes au stade. Que l’armée soit restée l’arme au pied, ils n’ont pas reçu d’ordre, c’est ça le drame. C’est trop facile derrière de se cacher derrière les supporters de Moubarak. Les frères musulmans sont aux affaires et responsables devant la population qui les a élus. Si le peuple n’a pas de pain pour manger, ils seront tenus pour responsables et n’auront pas 37% aux élections. L’armée a été et veut rester l’ossature du pouvoir. Il faut voir dans cet événement quelque chose de sociétal. Près d’un an après le renversement de Moubarak, on est à la recherche d’un autre Raïs. Le peuple lui-même est perdu. Il se retrouve dans une bipolarité entre les frères musulmans ou l’armée islamiste alors que ce sont les jeunes, qui ont lancé la révolution et qui ne sont dans aucun de ces camps. Aujourd’hui, ils sont paumés et à la recherche d’autre chose. Il y a un vide qui s’est créé et qu’il faut remplir d’une manière ou d’une autre.  Antoine Sfeir (sur les 74 morts des émeutes post-match de Port-Said, RMC, 02.02.12)
Ce n’est pas toujours en allant de mal en pis que l’on tombe en révolution. Il arrive le plus souvent qu’un peuple qui avait supporté sans se plaindre, et comme s’il ne les sentait pas, les lois les plus accablantes, les rejette violemment dès que le poids s’en allège. Le régime qu’une révolution détruit vaut presque toujours mieux que celui qui l’avait immédiatement précédé, et l’expérience apprend que le moment le plus dangereux pour un mauvais gouvernement est d’ordinaire celui où il commence à se réformer. Il n’y a qu’un grand génie qui puisse sauver un prince qui entreprend de soulager ses sujets après une oppression longue. Le Mal qu’on souffrait patiemment comme inévitable semble insupportable dès qu’on conçoit l’idée de s’y soustraire. Tocqueville (L’ancien régime et la révolution, 1856)
Que voulez-vous attendre de gens qui passent leurs vacances dans leur riad à Marrakech ou dans des palaces en Tunisie ou en Égypte ? […] Ils sont tétanisés parce qu’ils ont une trouille bleue de l’islamisme et qu’ils ne savent pas quoi penser de mouvements populaires qui, tôt ou tard, risquent de se retourner contre Israël. Régis Debray
Il faut, hélas, dire ce qui est : beaucoup d’intellectuels pensent au fond d’eux-mêmes que les peuples arabes sont des arriérés congénitaux à qui ne convient que la politique du bâton. (…) Beaucoup peinent à sortir de la séquence ouverte en 2001 et marquée par le credo néoconservateur qui veut que l’islam soit le terreau du terrorisme. Obsédés par la peur de la charia, ils sont pris au dépourvu, comme s’ils n’étaient pas équipés du logiciel leur permettant de comprendre que ce qui se passe, en particulier en Tunisie, est tout simplement un «printemps des peuples». Daniel Lindenberg
Si les intellectuels médiatiques n’ont pas grand-chose à dire, c’est parce que la plupart d’entre eux continuent de raisonner avec des catégories issues de la guerre froide : ils analysent le totalitarisme islamiste comme ils analysaient le totalitarisme soviétique. (…) Le monde arabe est un secteur très bien quadrillé par la recherche française. Mais il est vrai que les «academics», tout en étant ultracompétents dans leurs domaines, sont réticents à prendre position sur des aires géographiques qu’ils ne connaissent pas sur le bout des doigts. Ce sont des gens qui s’expriment de façon généralement nuancée et qui sont donc moins audibles que les «grands» intellectuels prompts à lancer des oukases à tout bout de champ. Henry Laurens
La Tunisie a clairement choisi son camp dans la lutte contre l’intégrisme religieux. Le régime est intransigeant vis-à-vis de tout embryon de prosélytisme islamiste, mais mène parallèlement à sa politique répressive une vaste campagne de pédagogie, appuyée sur une pratique sereine et modérée de la religion. C’est pour cette raison que le pays constitue véritablement un rempart contre la déferlante intégriste dans la région ; c’est pour cette raison également que la Tunisie est un enjeu crucial, et une cible de choix pour l’islamisme et le terrorisme. Si elle venait à tomber, il faudrait craindre à nouveau pour l’Algérie, mais également le Maroc, la Libye et peut-être même l’Égypte, tous menacés par un effet de dominos. Antoine Sfeir
Comment un pays qui accueille plus de 6 millions de touristes par an, la plupart sans visa, peut-il être qualifié de régime policier ?
Y a-t-il donc lieu de penser que la Tunisie est un pays corrompu ? Objectivement, non.
Les islamistes ont gravement troublé l’ordre public. Peut-on aujourd’hui imaginer l’existence légale d’un parti nazi en France ? Peut-on rejeter l’existence de l’holocauste sans subir de sanctions ? En Tunisie comme ailleurs, les idées des islamistes sont jugées dangereuses.
En “omettant” de mentionner les avancées de la Tunisie dans le domaine socioéconomique et en insistant lourdement sur la moindre chose qui ne va pas, en “omettant” également de mentionner que l’écrasante majorité de ces prisonniers que l’on utilise pour salir l’image d’un des meilleurs régimes du monde arabe, est en fait une bande d’islamistes illégaux, les organisations des droits de l’homme et les médias deviennent les complices de ces islamistes.
La situation de la “maison Tunisie” s’améliore et on ne modifie pas une manière de travailler lorsqu’elle donne de bons résultats.  Antoine Sfeir
Force est de reconnaître que le pays progresse régulièrement depuis l’arrivée au pouvoir de Ben Ali. C’est un fait dont tous les organismes internationaux font état dans leurs rapports. C’est cette ouverture et cet assainissement progressifs de la vie publique que je souhaite évoquer aujourd’hui, sans pour autant me voiler la face sur les problèmes qu’il reste à résoudre. Antoine Sfeir
Il peut paraître complaisant, il peut paraître flatteur  C’était plus un coup de gueule qu’autre chose. Je trouvais très facile de tomber sur la Tunisie à ce moment là, alors qu’on ne critiquait jamais le roi d’Arabie saoudite ni les chefs des pétromonarchies.  Mais je ne veux pas rejeter la faute sur eux. J’assume. Je n’avais pas pris la mesure des conséquences de la corruption des Trabelsi. Je l’avoue sans problème : je me suis trompé lourdement sur la Tunisie. Antoine Sfeir
Mais ce style, si différent de sa production habituelle ? L’essayiste finit par reconnaître, "en gros", qu’il s’est fait "aider" (comme on dit pudiquement) par des "collaborateurs" puis qu’il a "affiné le tout". Rue 89

Attention: un non-évènement peut en cacher un autre!

A l’heure où, à moins de trois mois d’une présidentielle apparemment déjà "pliée" car réduite au choix de l’ampleur de la défaite que l’on voudra infliger au sortant ou de la victoire que l’on réservera à l’entrant, vouloir regarder la réalité en face vous range automatiquement dans la case extrême-droite

Et au premier anniversaire d’un "printemps arabe" qui confirme chaque jour un peu plus les réserves qu’on avait pu avoir sur lui …

Retour, avec un entretien de l’an dernier du site d’information Rue 89, sur le cas particulièrement éclairant de l’indéboulonnable et dument enrubanné expert muticartes du "Monde arabe" Antoine Sfeir …

Où l’on découvre …

Derrière le mea culpa arraché sur l’erreur d’appréciation supposée sur la situation tunisienne (qui avait voulu pointer – le malheureux!- à la fois la menace que l’on voit à l’oeuvre aujourd’hui et les améliorations sans lesquelles ledit printemps n’aurait justement pu avoir lieu!)…

Et en toute fin d’entretien et au détour d’une phrase …

L’ordinaire des pratiques plus ou moins occultes de financement et de rémunération mais aussi d’écriture journalistiques …

Auteur d’une apologie de Ben Ali, Antoine Sfeir fait son mea culpa

Mathieu Deslandes

Rue 89

18/02/2011

Dans la bibliographie d’Antoine Sfeir, il y a un intrus à 19,95 euros. Un mauvais livre, bourré de lourdeurs, d’arguments d’autorité et de raisonnements par l’absurde, qui ne sont pas du niveau du directeur des Cahiers de l’Orient.

Il a été publié en 2006 aux éditions de l’Archipel sous un titre un peu hypocrite : « Tunisie, terre de paradoxes ». Quelque chose comme « Défense et illustration de la Tunisie de Ben Ali » aurait été plus fidèle au contenu.

« Salir l’image d’un des meilleurs régimes du monde arabe »

Le livre d’Antoine Sfeir, « Tunisie, terre de paradoxes ».

Morceaux choisis :

« Comment un pays qui accueille plus de 6 millions de touristes par an, la plupart sans visa, peut-il être qualifié de régime policier ? »

« Y a-t-il donc lieu de penser que la Tunisie est un pays corrompu ? Objectivement, non. »

« Les islamistes ont gravement troublé l’ordre public. Peut-on aujourd’hui imaginer l’existence légale d’un parti nazi en France ? Peut-on rejeter l’existence de l’holocauste sans subir de sanctions ? En Tunisie comme ailleurs, les idées des islamistes sont jugées dangereuses.

En “omettant” de mentionner les avancées de la Tunisie dans le domaine socioéconomique et en insistant lourdement sur la moindre chose qui ne va pas, en “omettant” également de mentionner que l’écrasante majorité de ces prisonniers que l’on utilise pour salir l’image d’un des meilleurs régimes du monde arabe, est en fait une bande d’islamistes illégaux, les organisations des droits de l’homme et les médias deviennent les complices de ces islamistes. »

« La situation de la “maison Tunisie” s’améliore et on ne modifie pas une manière de travailler lorsqu’elle donne de bons résultats. »

Comment ce spécialiste autoproclamé du Moyen-Orient a-t-il pu écrire de telles lignes ?

Depuis 2006, pour l’ancienne opposition tunisienne, une seule explication était envisageable : Antoine Sfeir s’était forcément fait payer par le régime de Ben Ali via l’ATCE (Agence tunisienne de communication extérieure), l’organe officiel de promotion du pays. Des documents portent d’ailleurs la trace de plusieurs transactions financières entre l’ATCE et les Cahiers de l’Orient.

Quand on appelle Antoine Sfeir à ce sujet, il lâche :

« Je suis un peu étonné… Enfin, non, je m’y attendais. »

Livraisons à l’ambassade de Tunisie

Puis il s’explique sur les sommes perçues. Selon lui, « elles ne sont pas liées au livre ». Il sait que l’ATCE a acheté quelques centaines d’exemplaires de « Tunisie, terre de paradoxes » directement auprès de l’éditeur. Il assure ne s’en être pas « mêlé ». L’ouvrage s’est vendu au total à 2 500 exemplaires.

En revanche, Antoine Sfeir révèle que depuis sa création, en 1990, l’ATCE (« très contente du contenu » des Cahiers de l’Orient, dixit un ancien dirigeant, renversé dans la foulée de la révolution de janvier) commandait de nombreux exemplaires de chaque numéro consacré à la Tunisie : « 500 exemplaires la première fois, 1 000 les fois suivantes » – des quantités importantes pour une publication tirée à 4 000 exemplaires environ.

Il se rappelle avoir assuré lui-même les livraisons à l’ambassade de Tunisie « à la demande du directeur de l’ATCE ». Il précise que les revues ont été réglées « au prix public » (tarif actuel : 18 euros).

« Vendre mon âme aux Saoudiens »

Son livre était-il un moyen d’entretenir ces bonnes relations avec le régime de Carthage ? Ce soupçon fait s’indigner Sfeir :

« Je n’ai jamais écrit quoi que ce soit contre rémunération. Je vous propose de venir à la banque où je suis depuis 24 ans, le Crédit Lyonnais, et de voir tous mes comptes.

Si je voulais faire fortune, cher confrère, j’aurais accepté de vendre mon âme aux Saoudiens. Ils payent beaucoup plus. Des officiels du régime saoudien m’ont proposé des sommes à sept chiffres pour un numéro des Cahiers ou un livre sur l’Arabie.

J’ai répondu – et on m’a traité d’idiot – que venant d’un village à 1 200 mètres d’altitude, j’étais plus proche du ciel qu’eux et que je coûtais donc trop cher pour eux. »

« Je me suis trompé lourdement sur la Tunisie »

Reste ce livre étrange. « Il peut paraître complaisant, il peut paraître flatteur », admet-il :

« C’était plus un coup de gueule qu’autre chose. Je trouvais très facile de tomber sur la Tunisie à ce moment là, alors qu’on ne critiquait jamais le roi d’Arabie saoudite ni les chefs des pétromonarchies. »

Certes. Mais ce style, si différent de sa production habituelle ? L’essayiste finit par reconnaître, « en gros », qu’il s’est fait « aider » (comme on dit pudiquement) par des « collaborateurs », puis qu’il a « affiné le tout » :

« Mais je ne veux pas rejeter la faute sur eux. J’assume. Je n’avais pas pris la mesure des conséquences de la corruption des Trabelsi. Je l’avoue sans problème : je me suis trompé lourdement sur la Tunisie. »

Voir aussi:

Le Sfeir à repasser de Ben Ali

Laurent Macabies

Backchich

22/01/2011

L’ami Sfeir perd-il la boule ? Invité depuis quelques jours à réagir au soulèvement de la population tunisienne, le directeur des Cahiers de l’Orient se met enfin à critiquer les agissements néfastes de Ben Ali et de sa clique. Le journaliste a pu ainsi apporter sur France Inter, France Soir ou Le Télégramme son analyse éclairée de "spécialiste du monde arabo-musulman". Avec beaucoup de courage, puisqu’il y a, entres autres, fustigé la corruption et le "racket" du régime de Ben Ali… après son départ. Quelques mois avant "la révolte de Jasmin", c’était une autre paire de manches…

Le "pari" économique gagnant du président

Lors de la sortie en juin 2006 du bouquin du sieur Sfeir Tunisie, terre de paradoxes (éditions Archipel), Bakchich avait raillé ce « livre de propagande encensé -comme il se doit- par la « critique » tunisienne ». « Notre auteur s’évertue à lécher les bottes du gouvernement de Ben Ali », considérait-on.

Dans l’ouvrage, repris allègrement par le site d’information pro-gouvernemental http://www.infotunisie.com, Antoine Sfeir diagnostiquait une économie florissante : « Ben Ali a fait émerger un pays nouveau, bâti sur cette vieille tradition d’ouverture et de progrès (…). Peu dotée par la nature de ressources minières (la Tunisie) avance quand même, parce que son Président a parié sur les capacités et la volonté des Tunisiens, et non sur une hausse des cours du pétrole ».

« La réunion des compétences en un seul homme »

« Des responsables politiques du monde entier, mais aussi des hommes de lettres et de culture, se sont associés pour rendre hommage à l’œuvre de Zine El Abidine Ben Ali », écrivait aussi le flagorneur. « Personne ne les a obligés à le faire. S’ils ont trouvé que leur démarche est justifiée, c’est parce qu’en Tunisie on trouve autre chose que ce que les médias veulent montrer ». Le Monde Diplo (20/09/2006) relevait lors de la sortie du livre d’autres jolis fayotages à l’égard de Ben Ali, décrit comme réunissant « en sa personne toutes ces compétences. D’une part, elles lui permettent de se montrer plus efficaces, et les résultats obtenus plaident en sa faveur ; d’autre part, la réunion de ces compétences en un seul homme évite de les voir entrer en conflit. »

Prolongement de son bouquin, Antoine Sfeir a sorti un numéro spécial des Cahiers de L’Orient en hiver 2010 intitulé "L’exception tunisienne". Avec des chapitres tels que « un rempart contre l’intégrisme », "Patrimoine archéologique et renouveau culturel" ou "Des succès économiques confirmés" ou des parties comme "Pourquoi les Tunisiens votent-ils Ben Ali ?" (« Ben Ali est crédible, et son bilan est positif sur les plans social, économique et politique »), "Une politique de sécurité musclée mais préventive" ou "La Tunisie face à la crise : anticipations et réformes"…

La caricature des "ennemis de la Tunisie

À l’occasion de la sortie du numéro, Antoine Sfeir s’est fait inviter par le Club de la presse à Genève en compagnie du journaliste à L’Alsace François Bécet. Ce dernier, auteur de "Tunisie, porte ouverte sur la modernité" (Le Cherche Midi) que Sfeir a préfacé, estimait, que le pays de Ben Ali était l’« objet de désinformation, victime de l’hostilité de quelques pseudo défenseurs de la démocratie, qui, se cachant sous de fausses apparences, travestissent la réalité », rapportait La Tribune de Genève.

Hasard malencontreux du calendrier, François Bécet a d’ailleurs sorti le 14 janvier 2011 un autre livre "Ben Ali et ses faux démocrates" ! Le "speech" de cet autre "spécialiste", consultable sur le site des Éditions Publisud, est hilarant :

« Avec l’élection du 24 octobre, les " ennemis " de la Tunisie se déchaînent en affirmant critiquer le pays parce qu’ils l’aiment. Si c’était vrai, ils reconnaîtraient l’immense travail de redressement accompli par le président Ben Ali, depuis le 7 novembre 1987. D’un pays en perdition, il a fait un " petit dragon " et a redonné fierté à tous les Tunisiens. Tout n’est pas parfait, l’ouverture politique demande sans doute à être accélérée. Toutefois, le débat sur le rythme de cette ouverture est maintenant lancé. Les partis d’opposition, au lieu de se battre entre eux et de ne rien proposer aux citoyens, devraient faire leur mea culpa et se tourner enfin vers les Tunisiens. Quant à l’opposition radicale, elle frise le ridicule ! La Tunisie de Ben Ali, elle, est sur la bonne voie. » Clap, clap, clap !

Avec ses 89,62%, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali n’avait pas besoin de Sfeir pour se faire élire une cinquième fois le 25 octobre 2009. Mais le président du Centre d’études et de réflexions sur le Proche-Orient a tenu à commettre une tribune dans Le Figaro de l’avant-veille. À cette occasion, Antoine Sfeir se plaint de « nos intellectuels et nos médias (qui) ne vont pas manquer de fustiger à cette occasion (du vote) le régime du président Ben Ali, qu’ils présentent invariablement comme une caricature d’autocrate oriental ». Tout en concédant du bout de la plume que « la Tunisie a certainement un long chemin devant elle », le fin analyste insiste : « force est de reconnaître que le pays progresse régulièrement depuis l’arrivée au pouvoir de Ben Ali. C’est un fait dont tous les organismes internationaux font état dans leurs rapports ». Et Sfeir de louer « cette ouverture et cet assainissement progressifs de la vie publique »…

Prospère, youpla boum !

Alors que depuis le départ de Ben Ali, Antoine Sfeir répète à qui veut l’entendre que chacun connaissait les affaires de corruptions du président tunisien, le coquin préférait s’en prendre à certains médias étrangers. Les démocraties « peuvent sans doute se prévaloir d’une presse libre qui, en révélant au grand jour les scandales, se pose en mauvaise conscience, voire en accusateur public des dirigeants ; fonction prestigieuse qui exige de celui qui l’exerce une vertu toute romaine. Mais il arrive parfois que cette même presse, si prompte à dénoncer, omette de reconnaître qu’elle a accusé abusivement. »

Au moins, Sfeir s’en est-il pris à l’époque au financement occulte de nombreuses entreprises qu’il se met à dénoncer avec vigueur depuis une semaine (voir vidéo)… Que nenni ! En 2009, le directeur des "Cahiers de l’Orient" préférait ronchonner contre « ceux qui sont toujours les premiers à véhiculer les idées reçues sur la Tunisie » et « préfèrent passer sous silence (la chute de la pauvreté) pour ne pas avoir à réviser leurs anathèmes ». Car dans son publi-reportage de 2009, Sfeir vantait encore le modèle économique du système de Ben Ali :

« Plus remarquable encore, la société tunisienne ne se contente pas d’appliquer le mot d’ordre de Guizot et de s’enrichir. Incitée par le régime, elle contribue avec lui à la mise en place et au fonctionnement de structures de solidarité comme le Fonds de solidarité nationale. Directement géré par le pouvoir, il est habilité à recevoir des dons internationaux, de la part de simples citoyens, d’entreprises publiques ou d’entreprises privées. Une loi de finances de 1996 stipule en outre que certaines taxes doivent être reversées à ce fond, et des mesures incitatives pour les entreprises tunisiennes ont également été instituées par le biais de crédits d’impôts. De sorte que, entre 1996 et 2006, 1,2 million de Tunisiens ont bénéficié de cette aide, qui redonne tout son sens à la notion de citoyenneté, si galvaudée ailleurs. » Aucune trace des 13% de taux de chômage ou du marché noir qui représente entre 15 et 20% de l’économie tunisienne. Pas une mention sur la corruption.

Modèle tunisien et "non-fracture sociale"

Août 2009. Avant de rentrer d’un séjour sous le beau soleil de Tunis, Antoine Sfeir accorde un entretien à « La Presse de Tunisie », quotidien dont le rédacteur en chef, nommé par l’ex-parti au pouvoir (RCD) vient d’être viré après des années de censure. Dans cet interview (repris en intégralité sur le site tunizien.com ; celui de « La Presse de Tunisie » étant fermé depuis la révolte), Antoine Sfeir ne se fait pas prier pour juger avec bienveillance le Président Ben Ali qui « a eu le mérite de privilégier, plutôt, l’être sur le paraître. » « Il y a une reconnaissance, à la fois, des opinions publiques et des gouvernements qui voient en la Tunisie un modèle à tous les niveaux, à savoir du Chef de l’Etat, du gouvernement et du peuple tunisien dans son ensemble », croit-il bon d’ajouter…

Attachez vos ceintures, Antoine Sfeir passe à la vitesse supérieure : « Je tiens à souligner que le modèle tunisien n’est pas uniquement celui de passerelle, mais aussi un modèle de non-fracture sociale au sein de la société tunisienne. Cette fracture qui ébranle, aujourd’hui, les sociétés européennes dans les pays les plus avancés et les plus riches. Or, sans richesse, la Tunisie a réussi à réduire ladite fracture grâce à des programmes adéquats et à des initiatives répétées du Chef de l’Etat. » Sacré modèle de "non-fracture sociale" !

Autre passage cyniquement cocasse lorsqu’on le relit un an et demi plus tard, celui dans lequel Antoine Sfeir décrit le monde des Bisounours : « Les visiteurs de la Tunisie, notamment les personnes âgées, viennent d’Europe admirer le climat de quiétude, de paix, de stabilité et de sécurité, et par voie de conséquence, y passer des jours paisibles ». Ou encore celui dans lequel les intellectuels voient dans la Tunisie « un exemple de réussite » notamment grâce à son système d’éducation. Pas mal pour un pays qui compte plus de 20% de jeunes diplômés au chômage. Tout en critiquant « les irréductibles dogmatiques ne veulent pas reconnaître qu’ils ont eu et ont tort », il rapporte « les résultats tangibles » en matière de droits de l’Homme.

« Il est naturel qu’après la révolution vienne le temps du règlement de compte », vient de soutenir Antoine Sfeir sur Europe 1 alors qu’on lui demandait comment il observait la chasse aux sorcières après le départ de Ben Ali. « Mais l’Histoire nous a montré que ce n’était pas la bonne solution. Il faut laisser se faire la période de transition, pour que vienne ensuite le temps des procès », a-t-il quand même ajouté. Ne battons pas le Sfeir tant qu’il est chaud.

Voir de même:

La Tunisie, rempart contre la déferlante intégriste dans la région

Antoine Sfeir

23/10/2009

Le Figaro

TRIBUNE – À la veille des élections présidentielle et législatives en Tunisie, qui se tiennent dimanche, Antoine Sfeir, directeur des «Cahiers de l’Orient» et président du Centre d’études et de réflexions sur le Proche-Orient, analyse la situation du pays.

Les Tunisiens sont appelés aux urnes le 25 octobre pour élire leurs députés et leur président de la République. Nos intellectuels et nos médias ne vont pas manquer de fustiger à cette occasion le régime du président Ben Ali, qu’ils présentent invariablement comme une caricature d’autocrate oriental. Depuis quelques années déjà, il est en effet de bon ton dans la presse et certains cercles parisiens de critiquer la Tunisie : c’est facile !

Outre le fait que nous aimerions voir des critiques similaires adressées à certaines pétromonarchies, on doit reconnaître que ce qui est reproché à la Tunisie de Ben Ali – un régime fort, la corruption -, est encore, à ce jour, la chose du monde la mieux partagée, jusque et y compris dans nos belles démocraties. Ces dernières peuvent sans doute se prévaloir d’une presse libre qui, en révélant au grand jour les scandales, se pose en mauvaise conscience, voire en accusateur public des dirigeants ; fonction prestigieuse qui exige de celui qui l’exerce une vertu toute romaine. Mais il arrive parfois que cette même presse, si prompte à dénoncer, omette de reconnaître qu’elle a accusé abusivement. C’est oublier que le corollaire de la liberté est la responsabilité.

La Tunisie a certainement un long chemin devant elle, personne le conteste. Pourtant, force est de reconnaître que le pays progresse régulièrement depuis l’arrivée au pouvoir de Ben Ali. C’est un fait dont tous les organismes internationaux font état dans leurs rapports. C’est cette ouverture et cet assainissement progressifs de la vie publique que je souhaite évoquer aujourd’hui, sans pour autant me voiler la face sur les problèmes qu’il reste à résoudre.

Ceux qui sont toujours les premiers à véhiculer les idées reçues sur la Tunisie ne se doutent pas que la classe moyenne représente dans ce pays un peu plus de 70 % de la population, et que la pauvreté est tombée de 35 % à 4 % depuis la fin des années 1980. Ou alors ils le savent et préfèrent le passer sous silence pour ne pas avoir à réviser leurs anathèmes. Plus remarquable encore, la société tunisienne ne se contente pas d’appliquer le mot d’ordre de Guizot et de s’enrichir. Incitée par le régime, elle contribue avec lui à la mise en place et au fonctionnement de structures de solidarité comme le Fonds de solidarité nationale. Directement géré par le pouvoir, il est habilité à recevoir des dons internationaux, de la part de simples citoyens, d’entreprises publiques ou d’entreprises privées. Une loi de finances de 1996 stipule en outre que certaines taxes doivent être reversées à ce fond, et des mesures incitatives pour les entreprises tunisiennes ont également été instituées par le biais de crédits d’impôts. De sorte que, entre 1996 et 2006, 1,2 million de Tunisiens ont bénéficié de cette aide, qui redonne tout son sens à la notion de citoyenneté, si galvaudée ailleurs.

La condition des femmes est également à mettre au crédit du président sortant : avec 25 % de femmes au Parlement, la Tunisie fait mieux que la France. Comme autrefois la Turquie, qui avait accordé aux femmes le droit de vote dix ans avant la France…

En outre, la Tunisie a clairement choisi son camp dans la lutte contre l’intégrisme religieux. Le régime est intransigeant vis-à-vis de tout embryon de prosélytisme islamiste, mais mène parallèlement à sa politique répressive une vaste campagne de pédagogie, appuyée sur une pratique sereine et modérée de la religion. C’est pour cette raison que le pays constitue véritablement un rempart contre la déferlante intégriste dans la région ; c’est pour cette raison également que la Tunisie est un enjeu crucial, et une cible de choix pour l’islamisme et le terrorisme. Si elle venait à tomber, il faudrait craindre à nouveau pour l’Algérie, mais également le Maroc, la Libye et peut-être même l’Égypte, tous menacés par un effet de dominos.

Plutôt que de pointer sans cesse ce qui ne va pas, les esprits chagrins devraient voir que la Tunisie est un exemple pour toute la région. Malgré les défis encore nombreux, elle a en effet déjà réussi le pari de la modernisation et de l’intégration régionale, comme le prouvent l’initiative « 5 + 5 » ou son rôle dynamique dans le cadre de l’Union pour la Méditerranée. C’est autant d’occasions de consolider la détermination de la Tunisie à avancer, mais également de persuader d’autres pays voisins de la suivre dans cette voie.

Arrêtons-nous un moment de parler de la Tunisie pour regarder les Tunisiens, qui, eux, agissent.

Voir enfin:

A Paris, l’intelligentsia du silence

Thomas Wieder

Le Monde

6 février 2011

Obnubilés par l’islamisme, incapables de penser une démocratie arabe, ou juste ignorants, les intellectuels se font discrets sur les révoltes actuelles

Applaudir, bien sûr. Se réjouir, évidemment. Mais éviter de s’emballer. Et surtout rester prudent. Face à la contestation qui gronde dans le monde arabo-musulman, les intellectuels français semblent tiraillés entre ces deux injonctions contradictoires. D’habitude si prompts à s’enflammer quand un peuple se dresse contre la tyrannie, les voilà qui se font étonnamment discrets. « Cet assourdissant silence n’est pas habituel, convient le sociologue Rémy Rieffel, auteur d’une étude consacrée aux Intellectuels sous la Ve République (Hachette, 1995). Cela dit, il s’explique par le fait que beaucoup de nos intellectuels sont gênés aux entournures. »

La gêne, donc. Voilà ce qui rendrait nos clercs aujourd’hui si peu diserts. Pour le philosophe Régis Debray, l’explication est toute trouvée : « Que voulez-vous attendre de gens qui passent leurs vacances dans leur riad à Marrakech ou dans des palaces en Tunisie ou en Egypte ? » A cet argument, le pourfendeur du Pouvoir intellectuel en France (Ramsay, 1979) en ajoute un second : « Ils sont tétanisés parce qu’ils ont une trouille bleue de l’islamisme et qu’ils ne savent pas quoi penser de mouvements populaires qui, tôt ou tard, risquent de se retourner contre Israël. »

Souvent en désaccord avec Régis Debray, notamment sur la question israélo-palestinienne, Alain Finkielkraut le rejoint sur ce point : « Je dis «admiration», mais je dis aussi «vigilance», car ce qu’on sait surtout aujourd’hui, c’est qu’on ne sait pas comment tout ça va tourner. » Le philosophe prend soin, toutefois, de distinguer les cas tunisien et égyptien : « En Tunisie, vu le rôle des femmes et la retenue des manifestants, tout laisse penser que c’est un vrai mouvement démocratique qui a chassé Ben Ali du pouvoir. En Egypte, c’est plus compliqué : quand on voit les attaques dont les coptes sont victimes, quand on sait que le pays vit depuis des années dans un état de surchauffe anti-israélienne et antisémite, quand on lit des slogans du type «Moubarak sioniste», et quand on apprend que l’Iran se réjouit de ce qui se passe, je ne dis pas que le pire est certain, mais juste qu’il y a de quoi être inquiet, et qu’il faut éviter tout jugement définitif. »

Bannir les « slogans simples », c’est aussi ce que prône Bernard-Henri Lévy. Mais pour le philosophe (membre du conseil de surveillance du Monde), cette « indispensable prise en compte de la complexité de la situation » ne saurait être un frein à l’engagement. Au contraire. « Nous avons deux devoirs, explique le directeur de la revue La Règle du jeu. Le premier est d’aider les démocrates à aller au bout de leur pari politique, et ce, en les encourageant à prendre quelques engagements clairs : pour la liberté d’expression, par exemple ; pour le respect du pluralisme ; et aussi, car c’est aussi ça la démocratie, pour le respect du traité de paix israélo-égyptien de 1979. Le deuxième est de souhaiter l’extension des mouvements démocratiques à l’ensemble du monde arabo-musulman. »

Une légitime « timidité » liée, comme le résume l’historien Jean Lacouture, à une forme d’« incertitude quant à la tournure que vont prendre les événements » et à la « peur de voir les intégristes triompher » : voilà pour l’explication positive, celle du moins qui honore, en les parant de la vertu de prudence, les intellectuels d’aujourd’hui. Mais d’autres explications, moins flatteuses, méritent aussi d’être avancées.

Les unes renvoient à l’« aveuglement » dont d’aucuns se sont rendus coupables face aux régimes aujourd’hui conspués. C’est la thèse d’Olivier Mongin. « En répétant «mieux vaut Ben Ali que Ben Laden», et «plutôt Moubarak que les Frères musulmans», beaucoup se sont empêtrés dans une contradiction : les mêmes qui défendaient les droits de l’homme en Europe de l’Est soutenaient les dictateurs du monde arabe sous prétexte qu’ils étaient des remparts contre l’islamisme. Toute la difficulté, pour les intellectuels, est de concevoir l’inscription des valeurs démocratiques dans des cultures politiques différenciées », explique le directeur de la revue Esprit.

Au fondement de ce moralisme à géométrie variable, Daniel Lindenberg identifie ce qu’il n’hésite pas à qualifier de « préjugé raciste ». Auteur d’un essai consacré à la dérive « néoconservatrice » d’une partie de l’intelligentsia (Le Rappel à l’ordre, Seuil, 2002), ce spécialiste d’histoire des idées n’y va pas par quatre chemins. « Il faut, hélas, dire ce qui est : beaucoup d’intellectuels pensent au fond d’eux-mêmes que les peuples arabes sont des arriérés congénitaux à qui ne convient que la politique du bâton. »

Hérité de la période coloniale, ce préjugé s’est renforcé après le 11-Septembre. « Beaucoup peinent à sortir de la séquence ouverte en 2001 et marquée par le credo néoconservateur qui veut que l’islam soit le terreau du terrorisme, explique Daniel Lindenberg. Obsédés par la peur de la charia, ils sont pris au dépourvu, comme s’ils n’étaient pas équipés du logiciel leur permettant de comprendre que ce qui se passe, en particulier en Tunisie, est tout simplement un «printemps des peuples». »

Cet état de « confusion mentale », André Glucksmann le perçoit également. Pour le philosophe, la « surprise » qu’éprouvent, comme lui, beaucoup d’intellectuels ne tient pas seulement au fait que « toutes les révolutions, par nature, prennent les gens de court ». Elle repose, plus fondamentalement, sur « l’idée qu’un tel souffle de liberté semblait impossible dans ce qu’il est convenu d’appeler «le monde arabe» ».

Pour André Glucksmann, cependant, les événements actuels doivent surtout nous conduire à « définitivement nous débarrasser des deux grandes théories en vogue au lendemain de la chute du mur de Berlin ». La première, dite de la « fin de l’histoire » et théorisée en 1989 par le politologue américain Francis Fukuyama, veut que « la modernisation économique amène la démocratisation ». La seconde, dite du « choc des civilisations » et défendue en 1996 par le politologue américain Samuel Huntington, tend à faire du monde islamique un bloc monolithique par nature hostile aux valeurs occidentales. « Ce qui se passe aujourd’hui en Egypte rappelle, d’une part, qu’un régime qui se développe économiquement ne se démocratise pas nécessairement, et, d’autre part, que les Arabes ne sont pas condamnés par naissance ou par culture au despotisme », explique André Glucksmann.

Des intellectuels prisonniers de schémas de pensée qui les rendent peu aptes à penser la nouveauté ? Pour Henry Laurens, titulaire de la chaire d’histoire contemporaine du monde arabe au Collège de France, le problème est en fait antérieur à la chute du mur de Berlin. « Si les intellectuels médiatiques n’ont pas grand-chose à dire, c’est parce que la plupart d’entre eux continuent de raisonner avec des catégories issues de la guerre froide : ils analysent le totalitarisme islamiste comme ils analysaient le totalitarisme soviétique. »

Soulignant que « beaucoup, comme Raymond Aron, ont su penser la démocratie libérale mais ont été incapables de penser le tiers-monde », l’historien note toutefois que la « discrétion des intellectuels dits généralistes » ne doit pas faire oublier la « montée en force des experts », autrement dit des chercheurs spécialisés. « Le monde arabe, explique-t-il, est un secteur très bien quadrillé par la recherche française. Mais il est vrai que les «academics», tout en étant ultracompétents dans leurs domaines, sont réticents à prendre position sur des aires géographiques qu’ils ne connaissent pas sur le bout des doigts. Ce sont des gens qui s’expriment de façon généralement nuancée et qui sont donc moins audibles que les «grands» intellectuels prompts à lancer des oukases à tout bout de champ. »

Une façon de dire que ce sont aussi les mutations mêmes de la scène intellectuelle, et pas seulement leur louable circonspection ou leurs coupables oeillères liées à l’enjeu du moment, qui incitent les maîtres à penser à se faire si discrets.

Voir enfin:

Intellectuals and dictatorships: the case of Antoine Sfeir

Issandr El Amrani

In the long history of public intellectuals using their pulpits to defend the indefensible (more often than not, for direct personal gain rather than any error in judgement), Arab intellectuals of the second half of the twentieth century will occupy a special place. Arab dictators — as well as their foreign supporters — have spent a considerable amount of money in buying favorable views from opinion-makers, columnists, activist-intellectuals and others over the years. Saddam Hussein was perhaps most notorious for doing this, but he is joined with more discreet dictators such as Morocco’s kings, Algeria’s generals, Libya’s Muammar Qadhafi and countless others. And then you have the Saudi media machine, a huge formation indeed that goes through the heart of what passes as quality journalism in the Arab world (and one that is influential even inside non-Gulf countries: just ask Al Ahram’s Ibrahim Nafie how well he gets on with this or that Emir.) A more interesting sideshow is the growing Saudi-Qatari media battle, with Al Jazeera walking an unpredictable line between total subservience to the Emir of Qatar, a fair amount of editorial independence by any Western corporate standard, and at least two wide intellectuals schools of thoughts among its key staff (Arab nationalism and Islamism, in various forms.)

This an enormously complicated subject, but one thing that has always enraged me is those intellectuals and journalists that defend Tunisia’s Ben Ali, a police state that takes the worst aspect of police culture (corruption, violence, mediocrity) as the motus operandi of the state. In his interesting Middle East-centered blog on the Monde Diplomatique website, Alain Gresh rips a new one in Antoine Sfeir, a France-based Lebanese author who passes as respectable in most of the region and contributes for some prestigious magazines. For me, no longer:

Le régime tunisien dispose, depuis de longues années, de nombreux thuriféraires en France. Le premier est sans aucun doute le président de la République Jacques Chirac – ainsi déclarait-il au cours de sa visite officielle en Tunisie, début décembre 2003 que « le premier des droits de l’homme c’est manger, être soigné, recevoir une éducation et avoir un habitat, ajoutant que de ce point de vue, il faut bien reconnaître que la Tunisie est très en avance sur beaucoup de pays » (Lire la réaction de la Ligue des droits de l’homme à ces propos). Jacques Chirac n’a pas le monopole de cette complaisance et des responsables politiques, de gauche comme de droite, n’hésitent pas à chanter les louanges du régime de Zine Abidin Ben Ali.

C’est le cas aussi de certains « intellectuels », comme le prouve un des derniers ouvrages d’Antoine Sfeir, intitulé Tunisie, terre des paradoxes, qui vient de paraître aux éditions de l’Archipel. Le degré de flagornerie à l’égard du chef de l’Etat tunisien y est assez exceptionnel. Ben Ali est ainsi décrit comme réunissant « en sa personne toutes ces compétences. D’une part, elles lui permettent de se montrer plus efficaces, et les résultats obtenus plaident en sa faveur ; d’autre part, la réunion de ces compétences en un seul homme évite de les voir entrer en conflit. » (p. 213)

Le régime est-il policier ? Citant un rapport du département d’Etat, l’auteur affirme que la Tunisie compterait entre 450 et 1000 prisonniers, dont très peu ont été condamnés pour des actes de violence. « On peut le déplorer, certes », précise-t-il. « Mais que penser du Patriot Act ? Faudrait-il accepter que les Etats-Unis se protègent contre l’islamisme et non la Tunisie, où le danger est pourtant bien plus réel et pressant : tentatives de coup d’Etat, assassinats, attentats – dont celui de la synagogue de Djerba – et volonté affichée de renverser le régime pour y instaurer, par la force et la terreur, un Etat dépourvu de toute liberte ? » Etrange raisonnement, puisque l’auteur lui-même affirme que les prisonniers ne sont pas inculpés pour des actes de violence… D’autre part, qui approuve le Patriot Act ? (lire p. 13)

« Autre accusation, poursuit Sfeir : le régime tunisien est un régime policier. Actuellement, il ne l’est pas plus que les Etats-Unis, la Grande-Bretagne, ou même la France » Il suffit de lire n’importe quel rapport d’Amnesty International, de Human Rights Watch, ou de savoir que, depuis l’arrivée de Ben Ali au pouvoir le nombre de policiers a quadruplé, pour mesurer le sérieux de cette affirmation.

I’ll just translate that last line so you get the flavor:

"Another accusation," continues Sfeir, "is that the Tunisian regime is police state. In fact, it is no more a police state than the United States, Great Britain, or even France." It is enough to read any Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch report to know that since Ben Ali’s rise to power the number of police officers has quadrupled, and measure the seriousness of [Sfeir's] commentary.

It is incredible how many defenders of the Tunisian regime — which has bought off many Arab and European newspapers of note (the Americans just don’t care) — there still are in French policy and intellectual circles. I can hardly go to a French diplomatic function without getting into an argument about Tunisia — which like Morocco’s kings and Lebanon’s late Rafiq Hariri have a long history of bankrolling the presidential campaigns of Jacques Chirac. Antoine Sfeir now joins the ranks of the defenders of some of the world’s most odious dictatorships. I hope his payoff was worth it.


Diplomatie française: Ne vous inquiétez pas de ma vie, j’irai droit au ciel (For France’s diplomacy Jerusalem is well worth a mass)

10 août, 2011
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Old_Jerusalem_Saint-Anne_church_french_flag.jpghttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Old_Jerusalem_Domaine_National_Fran%C3%A7ais_de_Saint-Anne_sign.jpgErrare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum. Proverbe médiéval
On ne saurait comprendre l’obsession constante d’une instrumentalisation des sionistes par le Royaume-uni (jusqu’à la naissance de l’Etat d’Israël) développée par le Quai d’Orsay sans prendre en compte l’élément catholique. Comme l’écrit l’ambassadeur Puaux : « Tandis que nous nous complaisions dans le rôle d’héritiers des croisés obscurément remués par la conscience de je ne sais quel devoir envers la chrétienté, les Britanniques ne songeaient qu’à occuper des bastions pour protéger l’Egypte, le canal et les Indes." David Pryce-Jones
Il faut rompre avec cette hypocrisie qui consiste à croire que la France a une quelconque sympathie pour İsraël, cela nous gêne dans notre raisonnement. Nous sommes, il faut le savoir, un pays allié aux pays arabes qui est hostile à la politique d’İsraël et qui la combat l’action de ses agents diplomatiques. Alexandre Adler (information juive, 2002)
Pour de nombreux diplomates français, ne pas accabler Israël, c’est déjà faire le jeu des Etats-Unis et s’aliéner le monde arabe. La « politique arabe » du Quai d’Orsay , bien avant d’être anti-israélienne, est antiaméricaine. David Pryce-Jones
Ne vous inquiétez pas de ma vie, j’irai droit au ciel. Chirac (au service de sécurité israélien, Jérusalem, 22.10.96)
Le président Chirac a dû subir ce que la population palestinienne subit tous les jours depuis 29 ans. Leila Chahid (déléguée générale de la Palestine)
Ce protectorat chrétien fait, en quelque sorte, partie de notre domaine méditerranéen (…) une tradition sérieuse, une puissance morale. Jules Ferry
D’après l’Apocalypse, la reconstitution du royaume de Jérusalem sera le signal de la fin du monde. Paul Cambon (1919)
Il serait inadmissible que le « pays du Christ » devienne la proie de l’hérésie juive et anglosaonne. Il doit demeurer l’héritage inviolable de la France et de l’Eglise. L’Oeuvre d’orient (journal catholique)
Nos communautés (…) fondent (…) maintenant tout leur espoir sur le maintien du protectorat catholique français pour sauvegarder le catholicisme appelé à être battu en brèche par l’élément juif ou protestant. Consul de France (Haïfa, 1921)
Nous devrions sans aucun doute profiter des circonstances pour accroitre la portée de ce protectorat et l’étendre aux musulmans que nous ne pouvons laisser seuls et sans armes face aux sionistes. Henri Gouraud (1920)
Notre auto a été portée par la population criant « Vive la France ! » « A bas les Juifs »! Durieux (consul de Haïfa, suite à des émeutes antijuives, 1921)
Se basant sur des conceptions plus raciales que religieuses, les Juifs aspirent à instaurer sur les deux rives du Jourdain un Etat juif conçu sur le modèle fasciste. Jules Laroche (ambassadeur de France en Pologne, 1935)
Antisioniste quand je suis arrivé en Orient, je suis devenu sioniste, ou plutôt jaloux du haut-commissaire britannique en Palestine de ce que lui apportent les sionistes. Henry de Jouvenel (haut-commissaire en Syrie, après une visite à Jérusalem, 1926)
Le nationalisme juif est une erreur et Israël ne peut trouver la paix que dans l’assimilation. Louis Canet (Quai d’Orsay, après un entretien avec Chaim Weismann, 1927)
Nous autres chrétiens ne pourront jamais pardonner aux Juifs la crucifixion de Jésus. Clémenceau (à Chaïm Weizmann, 1919)
Le bec de l’aigle allemand , c’est notre nez. Personnage juif d’une œuvre de Jean Giraudoux (commissaire de l’information sous Vichy)
Et nous sommes d’accord avec Hitler pour proclamer qu’une politique avec Hitler pour proclamer qu’une politique n’atteint sa forme supérieure que si elle est raciale. Jean Giraudoux (De pleins pouvoirs à sans pouvoirs, 1950)
Je comprends difficilement que vous niiez l’action de la juiverie dans cette affaire. J’ai vécu dans tous les pays du monde et et partout j’ai vu les journaux et l’opinion dans les mains des Juifs. J’étais à Jérusalem en décembre 1899 et j’ai vu, au moment de la seconde condamnation us], la rage de ces punaises à face humaine qui vivent en palesine des azzias que leurs congénères opèrent sur la chrétienté. Paul Claudel (lettre à Charles Péguy, 1910)
Me voici qui représente la République française dans cette capitale de la juiverie internationale. Claudel (consul, Francfort, 1910)
L’horrible Israël des cosmopolites, des banquiers sans patrie, qui se sont servis de l’impérialisme anglo-saxon (Sassoon, sir Herbert Samuel, lord Reading, lord Rothschild, Schiff, etc.), vous ronge jusqu’aux os. Louis Massignon (membre de la mission Georges Picot à Jérusalem, 1920)
Ce sont des Ashkenazim germanisés qui on pris en main l’affaire palestinienne, avec la technique parfaite et implacable du plus exaspérant  des colonialismes : refoulant les « indigène » arabes vers le désert. Massignon (1939)
Ma patrie, c’est le monde arabe. Massignon
C’est en arabe, sans doute, qu’Il lui plait que je Le serve. Massigon (lettre à Claudel)
Le monde n’aura pas de paix dans la justice tant qu’Israël ne révisera pas le procès de la mère de Jésus. Massignon
Le grand mufti a certainement trahi la cause des Alliés, mais il a surtout trahi celle de l’Angleterre sans nous atteindre directement. Rien ne nous oblige donc – semble-t-il – à entreprendre nous mêmes une action à son encontre qui ne pourrait que nous nuire dans les pays arabes. Jean Lécuyer (ambassadeur de France, Le Caire, 1945)
[Les villes de Saint Jean d'Acre et de Nazareh] ne sont que rien que deux camps de concentration pour les Arabes et ême les étrangers. Pierre Landy
Israël, démocrate chez les autres, est chez lui le plus raciste et le plus totalitaire des gouvernants. René Neuville (1948)
Est-ce que tenter de remettre les pieds chez soi constitue une agression imprévue ? Michel Jobert («3 jours après le déclenchement de la guerre du Kippour, 1973)
Chacun ses choix, je n’irai jamais à Jérusalem. Michel Jobert
Idi Amin est un chef d’état souverain et Israël n’avait pas le droit de violer son territoire. Jean-François-Poncet (ministre des affaires étrangères, après l’opération israélienne de libération des pasagers d’un avion d’Air France détourné par le groupe teroriste palestinien FPLP sur l’aéroport d’Entebee, 1976)
Cet attentat odieux a voulu frapper les israélites qui se rendaient à la synagogue, il a frappé des Français innocents qui traversaient la rue Copernic. Raymond Barre (le 3 octobre 1980, TFI, suite à l’attentat de la synagogue parisienne de la rue Copernic, 4 morts, 20 blessés)
La situation est tragique mais les forces en présence au Moyen-Orient font qu’au long terme, Israël, comme autrefois les Royaumes francs, finira par disparaître. Cette région a toujours rejeté les corps étrangers. Dominique de Villepin (Paris, automne 2001)
Israël est un petit pays de merde … Pourquoi accepterions-nous une troisième guerre mondiale à cause de ces gens? Daniel Bernard (ambassadeur de France, ancien porte-parole du Quai d’Orasy et directeur de cabinet de Roland Dumas,  à l ‘épouse du magnat de la presse Conrad Black, Londres, décembre 2001)
C’est un moment génial de l’histoire de France. Toute la communauté issue de l’immigration adhère complètement à la position de la France. Tout d’un coup, il y a une espèce de ferment. Profitons de cet espace de francitude nouvelle. Jean-Louis Borloo (ministre délégué à la Ville, au moment où nos chères têtes blondes communiaient en défilant dans les rues contre la guerre en Irak aux cris de "Mort aux Juifs!", avril 2003)
Les Israéliens se sont surarmés et en faisant cela, ils font la même faute que les Américains, celle de ne pas avoir compris les leçons de la deuxième guerre mondiale, car il n’y a jamais rien de bon à attendre d’une guerre. Et la force peut détruire, elle ne peut jamais rien construire, surtout pas la paix. Le fait d’être ivre de puissance et d’être seul à l’avoir, si vous n’êtes pas très cultivé, enfant d’une longue histoire et grande pratique, vous allez toujours croire que vous pouvez imposer votre vision. Israël vit encore cette illusion, les Israéliens sont probablement dans la période où ils sont en train de comprendre leurs limites. C’était Sharon le premier général qui s’est retiré de la bande de Gaza car il ne pouvait plus la tenir. Nous défendons absolument le droit à l’existence d’Israël et à sa sécurité, mais nous ne défendons pas son droit à se conduire en puissance occupante, cynique et brutale … Michel Rocard (Al Ahram, 2006)
A l’encontre des annonces claironnées depuis trois ans, l’Europe est impuissante, l’Afrique nous échappe, la Méditerranée nous boude, la Chine nous a domptés et Washington nous ignore ! Dans le même temps, nos avions Rafale et notre industrie nucléaire, loin des triomphes annoncés, restent sur l’étagère. Plus grave, la voix de la ance a disparu dans le monde. Notre suivisme à l’égard des Etats-Unis déroute beaucoup de nos partenaires. Pendant la guerre froide, nous étions dans le camp occidental, mais nous pesions sur la position des deux camps par une attitude originale. Aujourd’hui, ralliés aux Etats-Unis comme l’a manifesté notre retour dans l’OTAN, nous n’intéressons plus grand monde car nous avons perdu notre visibilité et notre capacité de manœuvre diplomatique. Collectif de diplomates français
Nous sommes inquiets des conséquences pour la France d’un affaiblissement sans précédent de ses réseaux diplomatiques et culturels. (…) l’instrument est sur le point d’être cassé, cela se voit dans le monde entier. Tous nos partenaires s’en rendent compte. Pourtant, dans la compétition multipolaire, où tout se négocie en permanence avec un grand nombre d’interlocuteurs qu’il faut connaître avec précision, la France a plus que jamais besoin de moyens d’information et d’analyse. (…) Les autres grands pays ne détruisent pas leur outil diplomatique: les effectifs du département d’Etat américain augmentent de 4 % à 5 % par an. Ceux du Foreign Office sont désormais supérieurs aux nôtres. Les pays émergents, pour leur part, construisent et consolident rapidement leur réseau: le Brésil, sous le président Lula, a ainsi ouvert une trentaine d’ambassades. Alain Juppé et Hubert Védrine (anciens ministres des affaires étrangères d’un pays qui, avec 267 représentations diplomatiques dans le monde, ne dispose en effet que de 8 postes de moins qu’une première puissance mondiale 17 fois plus grande et près de 5 fois plus peuplée)
Le Quai d’Orsay gère au début du XXIe siècle 267 ambassades et consulats, soit huit postes de moins seulement que les Etats-Unis – un chiffre qui indique l’importance donnée à sa recherche d’une influence internationale, au Moyen-Orient en particulier. Comme le notent deux jornalistes incisifs: "Outre le coût financier, cette présence a une conséquence néfaste: elle entretient l’illusion. Puisque la Franc est présente partout, c’est donc qu’elle doit être importante …" David Pryce-Jones (citant R. Gubert et E Saint Martin, "L’Arrogance française", 2003)

Jérusalem vaut bien une messe!

A la veille du dépôt, par des Palestiniens dont les chartes appellent toujours à l’élimination d’Israël, de leur demande de reconnaissance pour un Etat indépendant le mois prochain à une ONU qui disposera pour l’occasion d’une double présidence arabe (le Liban à la présidence du Conseil de sécurité et le Qatar à celui de l’Assemblée générale) …

Comme peut-être d’une nouvelle intifada prétendument pacifique via les marches de soutien annoncées de la demande palestinienne à l’ONU aussi bien en Cisjordanie et à Jérusalem-Est que probablement aux frontières avec le Liban et la Syrie voire l’Egypte …

Alors que, remis de leur coup de blues du printemps (arabe), nos ambassadeurs se réjouissent du retour au Quai d’Orsay du chiraquien Juppé qui vient d’annoncer que la France allait désormais discuter avec les courants islamiques qui ne prônent pas la violence dans les pays arabes et imposer la reconnaissance d’Israël comme préalable à la reconnaissance de l’Etat palestinien …

Pendant que, neuf ans après le tristement célèbre scandale du programme "Pétrole contre nouriture", la justice fait enfin mine de s’occuper du cas certains de leurs ex-collègues au plus haut niveau

Comment ne pas repenser, devant une telle persévérance dans l’erreur et cette sorte d’ "attraction fatale" pour les leaders du Moyen-Orient les plus délétères (grand moufti de Jérusalem, Khomeyni, Saddam, Arafat, Assad, Khadafi, Abbas, le Hamas), à la lumineuse analyse de David Pryce-Jones de la diplomatie française depuis un siècle ("Un siècle de trahison. La diplomatie française et les Juifs, 1894-2007", 2006) ?

Qui, contre ceux qui faisaient remonter la politique arabophile de la France au Général de Gaulle, en démontrait brillamment l’antériorité dès le Second Empire avec l’idée d’une France "destinée à accomplir le destin des musulmans" ou le rêve d’un "empire franco-arabe".

Mais qui surtout, en en rappelant aussi la dimension souvent négligée de la religion (catholique jusqu’à la création de l’Etat d’Israël ou son succédané tiers-mondiste plus tard), permettait de comprendre, au-delà d’un certain antisémitisme résiduel et incompressible d’une partie de son personnel diplomatique ou des profits plus terre à terre de certains en popularité ou en enrichissement personnel, des gestes aussi aberrants que le tristement célèbre incident du souk mis en scène par le président Chirac dans la vieille ville de Jérusalem un an à peine après le début de son premier mandat en octobre 1996 pour s’imposer définitivement aux yeux du monde comme le défenseur attitré des Arabes en général et des Palestiniens en particulier .

Car comment comprendre autrement en effet cette sorte de démonstration par l’action de la violence supposée des forces de sécurité israéliennes contre les Palestiniens à laquelle s’était alors livré le président français devant les caméras de télévision que ses services avaient pris soin de faire venir, faisant vivre au public en direct et via sa propre personne (une véritable Via Dolorosa! – "Ne vous inquiétez pas de ma vie, j’irai droit au ciel", se serait-il un moment écrié avant de menacer de rentrer immédiatement en France) ce que, selon les mots de la déléguée générale de la Palestine Leila Chahid dont il n’avait pas manqué de se faire accompagner, "la population palestinienne subit tous les jours depuis 29 ans"?

Puis peu après lors de la visite, apparemment non-prévue au programme et d’ailleurs jamais montrée à la télévision, de l’Eglise Sainte-Anne, cette invraisemblable démonstration à la fois du rôle de la France comme protecteur historique des "Lieux saints" et du statut hors norme de cette véritable petite enclave française en plein Jérusalem reçue (comme il nous a tout récemment été donné de le découvrir, intrigué que nous étions par le drapeau français – le seul endroit du monde probablement où le 14 juillet se fête avec une messe, mais imagine-t-on le tollé que soulèverait, flottant en plein Paris sur le toit de la synagogue de la place de la Victoire par exemple, un drapeau israélien? - et la plaque "Domaine National Français République Française" apposée à l’entrée) des mains mêmes du Sultan Abd-al-Majid après la guerre de Crimée en 1856 en remerciement de l’aide de la France à la Turquie, en refusant de rentrer pendant 10 longues minutes tant que les soldats israéliens ne l’auraient pas quittée  et contraignant au bout du compte le gouvernement Netanyahou, ultime cerise sur le gâteau pendant que lui-même engrangeait les félicitations de l’ensemble du Monde arabe mais aussi de l’opinion publique française et mondiale, à se confondre en excuses pour un comportement qui avait en fait largement dépassé les limites de la goujaterie?

Comme une sorte d’écho fossile de la problématique proprement religieuse (mais que l’on qualifierait aujourd’hui d’idéologique, voir son indifférence pour la situation actuellement désespérée des chrétiens en "terre d’Islam"), si bien décrite par Pryce-Jones mais souvent oubliée, sans laquelle on ne peut comprendre "l’obsession d’une France républicaine (mais travaillée de surcroit aujourd’hui de l’intérieur par une population croissante issue de l’immigration musulmane) pour la protection des Lieux saints" …

Cette inconsolable nostalgie pour le temps béni  d’avant le funeste mandat britannique et surtout la plaie apparemment jamais refermée de la création d’Israël  où "la Fille aînée de l’Eglise" s’affrontait entre deux querelles de sacristie sur ce "poste avancé de la France en Orient" avec les autres puissances européennes prises à leur tour dans l’emballement mimétique (voir l’entrée en grande pompe de Guillaume II dans la vieille ville de Jérusalem en 1898 qui se verra offrir pour l’occasion le démontage d’une partie du mur de la Porte de Jaffa) à coup de fondations, constructions religieuses, communautés, hôpitaux, dispensaires, écoles et instituts de recherche …

D’où l’on comprend mieux cette autrement incompréhensible propension à l’échec et à l’aveuglement, comme ce véritable acharnement, jusqu’à s’allier systématiquement avec ceux qui en prônent la disparition, contre la seule démocratie pluraliste du Moyen-Orient qualifiée au sein même du Quai d’Orsay de "parenthèse" mais aussi de "faux nez de l’impérialisme anglo-saxon".

Et ce, comme le montre bien Pryce-Jones, bien avant le fameux renversement d’alliances du Général De Gaulle de 1967 qui, à l’instar de l’alliance de revers de François Ier avec Soliman le magnifique contre Charles Quint au XVIe siècle, avait tant choqué l’Occident …

Un livre à découvrir : « Un siècle de trahison, La diplomatie française et les Juifs, 1894-2007 » de David Pryce-Jones

Pierre Itshak Lurçat

Israel magazine n° 86

2008

« La Politique arabe de la France » : cette expression désigne une ligne constante de la diplomatie française depuis plusieurs décennies, qui se traduit par un soutien appuyé aux régimes les plus rétrogrades du monde arabo-musulman et par une hostilité presque permanente envers Israël et le sionisme. A quand remonte cette politique ? Certains font de la guerre des Six Jours le grand « tournant » de la politique française envers l’Etat juif, autrefois considéré comme l’ami et l’allié de la France, et soudainement devenu l’empêcheur de tourner en rond… Depuis la fameuse déclaration du général De Gaulle sur le « peuple .sûr de lui et dominateur », jusqu’aux propos de table d’un ambassadeur de France sur le « petit Etat de m…», l’opposition à Israël est devenue un élément central de la politique étrangère française. Pourquoi ? Le livre de David Pryce-Jones apporte un éclairage inédit et passionnant sur cette question qui taraude de nombreux Juifs et amis d’Israël. Il montre que la «politique arabe de la France» est bien antérieure à la création de l’Etat juif, et qu’elle s’inscrit dans une tradition anti-juive profondément ancrée chez les acteurs de la diplomatie française. Historien, né à Vienne en 1936, Pryce-Jones a en effet choisi d’aborder ce thème sous un angle nouveau : celui des relations entre le Quai d’Orsay et les Juifs. Comme il l’explique dans son introduction, « la notion de politique arabe de la France a pris une importance démesurée dans la conduite de la diplomatie française depuis De Gaulle », mais « rien n’a été écrit sur la manière don! les diplomates français ont perçu les Juifs en tant que Juifs ». C’est cette lacune étonnante que comble le livre de Pryce-Jones : au-delà des considérations de « Realpolitik » et des intérêts économiques de la France dans le monde arabe, il montre que la politique française dans notre région obéit aussi – et peut-être surtout – à des choix dictés par l’image négative que les hommes du Quai d’Orsay ont des Juifs et du peuple d’Israël. L’auteur dresse ainsi des portraits stupéfiants (et peu flatteurs) des hommes qui font la politique étrangère de la France depuis un siècle.

Les préjugés anti-juifs de l’élite française

On reste abasourdi en lisant les descriptions des Juifs sous la plume des plus illustres diplomates français, qui «aiment à se piquer de littérature» -comme fait remarquer Pryce-Jones avec ironie – mais dont le ton évoque plus celui de Gringoire et de la presse vichyste que les classiques des Lettres françaises. Ainsi, Jules Laroche, ambassadeur de France à Varsovie dans les années 1930, parle des « Juifs malpropres » qui « grouillent dans chaquee bourg polonais », et affirme qu’en Pologne. « le seul moyen contre les Juifs parait être le pogrome »… On pourrait multiplier les citations de ce genre. Cette prose nauséabonde n’est pas, précisons-le, l’œuvre de sous-fifres ou d’employés subalternes, mais celle d’éminents représentants du Quai d’Orsay, qui occupent des postes clés et se considèrent comme l’élite de la France.

Le tour de force de l’auteur – qui confère à son livre la valeur d’un document exceptionnel – est de montrer comment les préjugés antijuifs des hommes du « Quai » ont joué un rôle essentiel dans la fixation des grandes lignes de la politique française au Moyen-Orient, depuis la fin du 19e siècle et jusqu’à nos jours. On pourrait croire en effet que les ministres des Affaires étrangères savent mettre de côté leurs préjugés et leurs opinions personnelles, lorsqu’il est question des intérêts supérieurs de la France… Or il n’en est rien : ces préjugés anti-juifs entrent en ligne de compte de manière déterminante dans la prise de décisions qui vont souvent à l’encontre des intérêts bien compris de la France. Pryce-Jones démontre notamment comment cette hostilité aux Juifs explique l’attitude de la diplomatie française à l’égard du mouvement sioniste, considéré avec circonspection, sinon avec mépris, alors même que l’Angleterre parvient à jouer un rôle important dans la région, en utilisant son soutien – très éphémère – au sionisme, lors de la Déclaration Balfour. Aveuglés par leurs sentiments et par la piètre opinion qu’ils ont des Juifs, les diplomates français privent la France de sa place légitime dans les affaires du Moyen-Orient. Cette remarque reste valable après la création de l’Etat d’Israël, que la France – après une brève « lune de miel » – considérera toujours comme un Etat voué à disparaître, rejoignant ainsi la conception arabe et islamiste de l’Etat croisé.

La lecture de ce livre est indispensable pour comprendre la politique française à l’endroit d’Israël et du sionisme, et pour apprécier les motivations de ceux qui ont toujours soutenu les pires ennemis de l’Etat juif, du Mufti pronazi AI-Husseini à Arafat et Abou Mazen.

Voir aussi:

Une messe pour la République !

Catherine Dupeyron

27 juillet 2009

La tradition est immuable. A Jérusalem, le consul fête le 14 juillet dans la magnifique église Sainte-Anne au cœur de la vieille ville, un édifice croisé qui fait partie du domaine national français. Après tout la République vaut bien une messe ! Après tout la Fête Nationale, qui commémore la Révolution de 1789 contre la noblesse et le clergé, vaut bien une célébration eucharistique ! C’est là, dans le paisible jardin où se déroule la garden-party de la Fête Nationale, qu’avait eu lieu l’incident entre le Président de la République Jacques Chirac et les forces de l’ordre israéliennes en 1996.

La nef de Sainte-Anne est toujours pleine le 14 juillet ! Il y a des rendez-vous qui ne se manquent pas. Cette année n’a pas fait exception. Les fidèles rassemblés sont essentiellement des Français expatriés et des religieux catholiques appartenant aux communautés de Terre Sainte. Au premier rang, le Consul de France à Jérusalem, Alain Rémy et son épouse, assis dans de larges fauteuils Louis XV. L’office, qui fait partie d’un programme annuel de vingt deux messes consulaires, est l’un des vestiges de la longue et influente présence française en Terre Sainte. Pour certains diplomates, c’est un plaisir, pour d’autres c’est une corvée, mais quelles que soient les convictions personnelles il est impossible aux consuls d’échapper à cette tâche républicaine baignée d’encens !

Monseigneur Michel Sabbah, ancien Patriarche Latin de Jérusalem, parfait francophone, dirigeait l’office de ce cru 2009. A l’issue de la messe, empruntant l’allée centrale, il a salué tous ces visages qu’il n’avait pas vu depuis longtemps. L’évêque, patriarche pendant 21 ans, déclare être désormais « en retrait du monde » installé entre Jérusalem et Taybe, un village palestinien totalement chrétien au nord-est de la ville sainte.

La France, "la Fille aînée de l’Eglise"

Dans son sillage, un cortège de religieux représentant les différentes communautés catholiques dont la France est officiellement la puissance protectrice depuis plusieurs siècles. Franciscains, Dominicains, Bénédictins, Pères Blancs, … ils étaient tous là. Tout ce petit monde, religieux et laïcs, s’est retrouvé dans le jardin de Sainte-Anne à l’ombre des cyprès pour boire à la santé de la République française qui est aussi la Fille aînée de l’Eglise même si le terme n’est plus guère revendiqué par les représentants de la France laïque et républicaine.

« Une messe pour le 14 juillet c’est surprenant ! Mais de toute façon, ici tout est étonnant », remarque en souriant Hervé Ponsot, directeur de l’Ecole biblique de Jérusalem. Vêtu de sa bure blanche, le Dominicain, originaire de la région de Toulouse et ancien HEC, sait de quoi il parle. L’Ecole Biblique créée en 1890 et devenue l’Ecole archéologique française en 1922 dont il a la charge depuis l’été 2008 est installée au couvent Saint-Etienne et elle est subventionnée par le Ministère des Affaires étrangères. Amusé de ce paradoxe, il commente : « Une école religieuse à la charge de la république, cela n’est pas banal non plus ! »

Sainte-Anne : domaine national français

Quant à Sainte-Anne, son sort est lui aussi hors du commun. La magnifique église croisée transformée en madrasa (école religieuse musulmane) par Saladin au 12ème siècle, retombe dans le giron de la France en 1856. C’est un cadeau du Sultan pour remercier Paris de son soutien pendant la Guerre de Crimée contre les Russes. Dès lors, Sainte-Anne devient un ‘domaine national français’ ce qu’elle reste jusqu’à aujourd’hui – statut réservé à trois autres lieux (le Tombeau des Rois et l’Eléona à Jérusalem, plus connu sous le nom du Pater ainsi que l’abbaye bénédictine à Abou Gosh) – mais qui n’a pas pour autant le statut d’extra-territorialité d’une représentation diplomatique. Depuis la fin du 19ème siècle, elle a été confiée à la communauté des Pères Blancs.

C’est dans les jardins de Sainte-Anne que Jacques Chirac avait eu, en 1996, une altercation avec les services de sécurité israéliens trop présents au goût du Président, soucieux de préserver les privilèges de la France. Car la France laïque conserve en Terre Sainte quelques traditions aussi vivaces que surprenantes de sa grandeur catholique passée. Ainsi, chaque Consul de France de Jérusalem lorsqu’il prend ses fonctions est accueilli par le Custode de Terre Sainte devant le Tombeau du Christ dans la basilique du Saint-Sépulcre. Cette « entrée au Saint-Sépulcre » marque formellement la prise de fonctions du fonctionnaire de la République à Jérusalem ! Pas très laïc tout ça ! Un nouveau Consul étant attendu à la fin de l’été, cette cérémonie étonnante ne saurait plus tarder …

Voir enfin:

FRANCE AND THE JEWISH HERITAGE IN JERUSALEM

Elliott A. Green

THINK-ISRAEL

Nov-Dec 2005

A brass plaque rested for many years on the wall of an imposing stone building just inside the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. Israeli troops came through this gate when they recaptured the Old City in the 1967 Six Day War. The plaque read "Domaine National Français République Française," French National Domain, French Republic. In other words, the French state has been claiming that certain real estate within Jerusalem is part of France. The label National Domain asserts that this is French sovereign territory. Un morceau de notre pays en Terre Sainte (a piece of our country in the Holy Land), as Jacques Chirac put it when he addressed an audience at the location, known as Saint Anne’s Church, during his visit in 1996 (22 October).[1]

Lionel Jospin, the socialist prime minister, met local Arab leader Faisal Husseini there in 2000 (25 February). He was meeting Husseini and other prominent Arabs on French soil — in French eyes at least — rather than at Husseini’s Orient House headquarters, which might be considered a victory for Israeli diplomacy. On the other hand, Chirac had wanted to show Israel "that France was mistress ‘in her own country’ when … on his official visit to Jerusalem," he "demanded that Israeli troops" guarding him at Saint Anne’s "evacuate this national domain during his meeting with the Latin Patriarch."[2] The site is not a consulate or embassy, and thus should not have diplomatic exterritoriality, if that was in anyone’s mind. According to Christian tradition, Mary’s parents’ home was here, and this is where Mary was born. Be that as it may, the monks who administer the site on behalf of the French state have conscientiously excavated, so it seems, what were two massive pools built by Jews in Second Temple times, together called Beit Hisda (Bethesda). Now, Saint Anne’s is only one of four sites in and around Jerusalem claimed as French. Each one has its story of how it became Domaine National. Saint Anne’s was a Crusader church 850 years ago, then a Muslim school. After the Crimean War (1854) in which Britain and France defended the Ottoman Empire against Russia, the sultan of the day gave the ruined Saint Anne’s site as a reward to his European ally (1856).

Tomb of the Kings, where Queen Helene is buried.

Another site, however, has no Christian associations. And it came into the hands of the French state in a different manner. This is the Tombeau des Rois (Tomb of the Kings), believed by archeologists to be the tomb of Queen Helen of Adiabene in Kurdistan, and her family, converts to Judaism in the first century. The Talmud describes them as generous benefactors of the Temple and the Jerusalem poor. The tomb and the surrounding construction are impressive. Stone beautifully carved in floral and vegetal patterns — like that below the surface of the Temple Mount, and on some remnants outside the Mount — adorns the stage-like entryway to the tomb. The tomb is unique too in its engineering. In fact, identification of the tomb as Helen’s was made through a match between the hydraulic system for moving the round stone block that closed the entrance (not working today) and that described by the second century Greek Pausanias: "The Hebrews have a grave, that of Helen… in the city of Jerusalem, which the Roman Emperor razed to the ground.

Entrance stone to Tomb of the Kings

There is a contrivance in the grave whereby … the mechanism, unaided, opens the door…" (Description of Greece, Loeb ed., 8:16:4-5). The tomb’s beauty was recognized long ago and has been depicted in eighteenth century etchings and often since. Regrettably, the sharpness and beauty of the stone carving is less today than then. The tomb goes down two levels below ground and contains dozens of burial niches.

Whereas Jerusalem Jews called the site Kalba Savua after the father-in-law of Rabbi Akiba, the traditional Arabic name was Qubur al-Mulk, meaning graves of the kings. Some investigators thought that the kings referred to were the House of David, increasing the site’s importance in their eyes. The French archeologist, Félicien de Saulcy, held this view. He was able to get the agreement of the Sultan and the Arab real estate owner to his excavating the site and removing his findings. It was on this aspect that De Saulcy ran into opposition from the local Jews. They objected to his removal of Jewish sarcophagi from the site.

Significantly, if we judge by our own time, the local Jews won the support of the local Muslim leaders for their position, much to the annoyance of De Saulcy. The governing pasha arrived at the location, "accompanied by the mufti, the qadi, and a rabbi" representing the Jews.[3]

In other words, Muslim political and religious leaders recognized the tomb as a Jewish site. Today, few Muslim clergy anywhere would recognize any Jerusalem site as Jewish. It may be that the Muslims at that time saw the Jews as allies against encroaching European Christian powers, whose influence in the Holy City had dramatically increased after the Crimean War, as above. Indeed, Chirac pointed out in his speech at Saint Anne’s that France, whether under a monarchy or empire or republic, had "an age-old tradition of active participation in the life of this part of the world," protecting the holy places, etc. This goes back to the medieval Charlemagne and through the Crusades and France’s Capitulations agreements with the Ottoman Empire starting in 1535, which made France the protector of Roman Catholic persons in Ottoman lands and of Catholic interests in the Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

De Saulcy called his Jewish opponents "scoundrels" and other pejoratives. Especially since they were blocking his schemes. Nevertheless, he extracted several ornate sarcophagi from the tomb, sending them to the Louvre in Paris, where they are to this day. One intact sarcophagus bore similar inscriptions in two scripts, Hebrew and Palmyrene, both in the Aramaic language, which strengthen the link of the tomb to Helen for several reasons. The inscription says: "TSada the Queen," presumably Helen’s non-Greek, Aramaic name.

De Saulcy decided to use the natural Jewish interest in the site to his own advantage. He came back to France and persuaded the Jewish banking family, the Péreires, to buy the site from the Arab real estate owner. The purchase was made in 1874.

Several years after the Péreires bought the site, they were apparently persuaded that they could not care for and protect it from their home in France. They agreed to transfer it to the French state. Nevertheless, the transfer was made contingent on several stipulations. It was of utmost importance to the Péreires that reverence be shown for "the faithful of Israel." In fact, a brass plaque at the site proclaims this purpose. The deed of assignment (1886) states: "Article B. The French government commits itself hereby to a) not bring about in the future any change in the present purpose of this memorial monument… c) to maintain forever the abovementioned inscription, the text of which will be in French, Hebrew, and Arabic: ‘Tombs of the Kings of Judah’ and underneath this text will be written: ‘This site was purchased… for the sake of science, for the sacred memory of those perfect in the faith of Israel, Amiel and Isaac Péreire"[4]

The transfer of possession to the French state was a conditional one.

How has France kept its commitments to the Péreire family? In recent years, France has used the site to promote — Arab nationalism, obviously violating the conditions of the transfer. In this endeavor, the Arab group enjoying the French consulate’s favor disregarded any Jewish connection to Kings’ Tomb — indeed to anywhere in Jerusalem. The group’s director told Le Monde that Jerusalem had an "Arab and international heritage."[5]

No Jewish heritage in Jerusalem was acknowledged. This stance is in line with PLO/Palestinian Authority practice of course. On the other hand, the consulate states on its own website: "Tomb of… Helen of Adiabene… Converted to Judaism 30 years after J.C."[6]

Yet the Tomb of the Kings has been used to promote Arab nationalism by allowing an Arab body, apparently associated with the PLO and PA, to hold an "Arab Music Festival" every summer starting in 1997 at this ancient Jewish tomb and archeological site. The festival (renamed "Jerusalem Festival") has enjoyed broad support over the years, not only from France, but from the European Union, various European governmental agencies, international organizations, "non-governmental" bodies, etc. The 2002 festival brochure lists funding support from Swedish International Development Agency, UN Development Program, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, South African Representative Office, Ford Foundation, Pontifical Mission for Palestine, etc.

The festival brochures that I have seen avoid any explicit mention of Jews or Israel. Thus, the 2002 brochure writes as follows: "The history of the Tombs of the Kings goes back to 45 AD when Queen Helen, Queen of Adiabin [sic!] or Mesopotamia, came to this region accompanied by her children. She chose the site 500 meters north of the the Old City and ordered the digging of the tombs so that she could bury her son…" Helen is presented as coming to Jerusalem for no particular reason, nor is her Judaism disclosed in any way. Note that the queen’s Kurdistan origin is not specified either, also in keeping with Arab nationalist sentiment.

To be sure, the brochures and web site of the festival are shot through with hostile remarks about Israel, although it is not mentioned by name — only by insinuation — nor is the presence of Jews in Jerusalem at any time in history acknowledged. The Jewish majority in Jerusalem in Helen’s time as now, just as when the Péreires bought the site in 1874, cannot be mentioned.

Indeed, one-sided complaints suffuse the material written by the festival’s organizers and supporters. One complaint, made by an Arab public relations man, is that Israeli checkposts made it difficult for Arabs to come to Jerusalem for the festival.[7]

Of course, between 1948 and 1967, Jews could not get to the Tomb of the Kings (or the Temple Mount/Western Wall or other Jewish religious and archeological sites under Jordanian control) because Arabs excluded Jews in principle, not merely blocking them according to the security situation. This obviously cannot be mentioned.

Further, the glossy covered 1998 brochure states: "The difficult situation of Jerusalem envisaged in dispossession and usurpation…" The gripe about "dispossession and usurpation" stands reality on its head, particularly in the historical and geographical context of this tomb.

This context includes three nearby Jewish residential quarters whence the Jewish residents were driven out in the early months of the War of Independence when the Arabs had the upper hand. Of course, the festival organizers do not mention these neighborhoods, and they are regularly forgotten even by Israeli historians, so a brief review is relevant. Mere hours after the UN General Assembly Partition Plan recommendation (29 November 1947), Arab irregular forces began shooting at Jewish civilian targets in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere in the country. Automobile travelers were murdered in Sh’khem (Nablus) that night; and an ambulance was shot at on its way to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. Throughout December 1947, the Shimon haTsadiq and Nahalat Shimon neighborhoods, close to the Tomb, on the way to Mount Scopus, came under attack, as did south Tel Aviv and elsewhere in the country.

The Tomb is located in what became "East Jerusalem" after Israel’s War of Independence. It is about 40 meters west of the Orient House compound, the erstwhile PLO headquarters in Jerusalem. The American Colony Hotel is some 60 meters to the north, whereas Nahalat Shimon is about 160 meters north of the Tomb, and Shimon haTsadiq less than a kilometer to the northeast. They are also in the area from which the Jews were driven out by Jordan early in the 1948 war, becoming Jewish refugees before there were Arab refugees. The Arab "squatters" who dispossessed the Jews and usurped their homes in 1948 have continued to live in them even though Israel took control of the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967.

Only about 50 meters to the west were the Siebenbergen Houses (where three new hotels are now located) along the Mt Scopus route. On their ruins to the west was built the later Mandelbaum Gate, the famous passage between Israeli Jerusalem and the Jordanian-held eastern sector in the armistice period between 1949 and 1967.

Residents fled or were compelled by Arab and British forces to evacuate all three Jewish neighborhoods early in the war. Arab attacks with knives and guns were assisted, in the case of Nahalat Shimon, by British troops who forced the Jews to give up their weapons after the Jews had repelled an Arab attack. All but one of the Jewish families fled Shimon haTsadiq on the night of 29 December 1947. The remaining family fled on 7 or 8 January 1948 (exactly which day is missing from a diary shown to me by a family member). The British evacuated the now defenseless Jews from Nahalat Shimon on 17 January. Shimon haTsadiq became the first neighborhood in the country from which the population was driven out and did not return after the War. Jews had likewise fled south Tel Aviv in December 1947, but returned after the War, whereas Shimon haTsadiq remained under Arab control, as did Nahalat Shimon and the Siebenbergen Houses. Hence, precisely in the surroundings of the Tomb, Arabs and British dispossessed Jews from their homes in late 1947 and early 1948. This history does not appear among the suffering featured in the publicity of Yabous Productions, the Arab body organizing the music festival.

Rather, advocating political militancy, if not violence by insinuation, the 2002 brochure exhorts in somewhat Stalinist tones: "Let Art & Culture be a weapon for the future!" Consider too: "The fight for the freedom of a country…" and "…this international event, where the music and songs ring out the messages of love and hate, fear and strength…"

Now, holding any entertainment at a tomb seems offensive — violating the dignity of the dead — as well as somewhat macabre. But the music festival at Kings’ Tomb is all the more repugnant. It is clearly an Arab nationalist celebration at a Jewish tomb of much historical interest. A Jewish site is used for an anti-Jewish call to arms, thus violating the site’s deed of transfer to France. Moreover, France (and other Western states and agencies) have tolerated or collaborated with — if not sponsored — several Arab falsifications of history in the Festival publicity, even if not agreeing with these falsifications.

Furthermore, the French state has caused damage to antiquities on its self-proclaimed National Domain sites, thus violating the Israeli Antiquities Law. Jon Seligman, Jerusalem Regional Archeologist of the Antiquities Authority, notified Israel’s Foreign Ministry (22 January 2001): "The French Consulate has conducted works at these sites, causing irreversible damage to antiquities and contravening the provisions of the law governing the right to conduct archeological work, using the claim that the sites are under French ‘sovereign’ control." A consular representative told Seligman that "the decision to restart the works without documenting the damaged ancient remains had been taken in the Foreign Ministry in Paris." Concerning Kings’ Tomb, Seligman had complained directly to the consulate on 4 August 1996, about incorrect installation of a lighting system (perhaps for the purpose of the Festival) that had "damaged the rock" and might cause "progressive but intensive deterioration of the rock over time."

He again complained to the consulate about work at Kings’ Tomb on 4 September 2000. "The ancient tombs and miqva’ot (ritual baths) excavated by de Saulcy in 1863 are some of the most significant tombs found in the city of Jerusalem. Careful preservation and maintenance of these finds is important for the conservation of a site which clearly is of universal significance…" He mentioned the "severe damage" to the tombs caused by the electrical work in 1996. This scoffing at the antiquities law by the French consulate occurred not only at Kings’ Tomb, St. Anne’s, and the Pater Noster (Eleona) Church on the Mount of Olives — all under Jordanian control from 1948 to 1967 — but at a monastery in Abu Ghosh within the Green Line, under Israel’s jurisdiction since 1948, and also claimed as French National Domain.

On the other hand, the French consulate has not always been hostile to Jews, and this too should be remembered. In 1948, Arab forces — local Arab irregulars, Transjordan’s Arab Legion, and Iraqi troops (Iraq then ruled by a Hashemite, like Transjordan) joined later by Egyptians — besieged the Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Food could not be brought in by road. Hunger was increasing. During the first truce (June 11 to July 9, 1948), "the Arabs prevented the flow of fresh water to Jerusalem," in violation of the truce.[8]

As to the amount of food to be allowed through the Arab blockade for Jerusalem Jews, "Jewish representatives had to conduct weary negotiations with Count Bernadotte and the Consular Truce Commission (made up of the US, French and Belgian consuls in the city), who wished to ensure at all costs that Jerusalem would be no stronger at the end of the truce than at its beginning."[9]

In this spirit, the US consul considered that 2,800 calories per day per Jewish inhabitant would be sufficient. On this issue, the French consul (and the Belgian) agreed with Dov Joseph, the Jewish Agency delegate to the Commission, that each Jewish inhabitant was entitled to 3,400 calories per day. Conversely, the US consul, John MacDonald, justified his position by pointing out that millions of Chinese were living on the verge of starvation. MacDonald’s demand for only 2,800 calories won over the Frenchman and Belgian in the end (June 25). However, after protests, the daily ration permitted the Jews was raised to 3,100 calories per day a week later (July 1).[10]

In this instance, the French consul momentarily supported the Jews against representatives of other powers. One sometimes wonders if the French since De Gaulle have been trying to live down this episode in Arab eyes

On the issue of respecting archeological sites, France today is clearly hypocritical. The French government finances Patrimoine sans Frontières (Heritage without Borders), a body whose objective is "to perform operations to save the international cultural heritage, material or immaterial, and in particular, neglected, even forgotten, buildings, objects, skills, [and] sites."[11]

In fulfilling its purpose, this agency has undertaken salvage projects in Albania, Lebanon, Belarus, and Afghanistan. Yet sites under French government control have been abused, particularly the Tomb of the Kings.

France has claimed a special status in Jerusalem going back to rights granted to Emperor Charlemagne by Caliph Harun al-Rashid. Today it claims four sites in and around the Holy City, on both sides of the Green Line, as National Domain, that is, French sovereign territory. This tells us that France has symbolic interests embodied in territory — albeit token — in Jerusalem where "our roots are deep," as Chirac remarked at St Anne’s. These roots are felt as part of France’s national identity, That attitude might interfere with Israel’s needs and interests even without the Arab element. Further, at Kings’ Tomb, France seems to again pander to Arab prejudices, as in the 1840 Damascus Affair, whether because of interests — realpolitik or intangible — or its own prejudices.

We learn several lessons from France’s treatment of the Tomb. France has interests in the Holy City other than "peace" between Jews and Arabs. It too makes territorial claims in Jerusalem. Now, by encouraging Arabs who demonstrate a refusal to make peace with Israel by denying any Jewish heritage in Jerusalem, the EU (which has also collaborated in the Arab Festivals at Kings’ Tomb) shows that it too is driven by interests beyond bringing peace (or human rights, self-determination, etc.). It favors one side at the expense of respect for the dignity of the other side and respect for that side’s history and heritage. Finally, Israel and the Jewish people cannot rely on solemn agreements, as France showed (with EU and other Western help) by its violation of the terms of transfer of Kings’ Tomb to the French state.

Footnotes

1. http://www.elysee.fr/documents/discours/1996/ISRA9607.htm

2. Dominique Trimbur, "Sainte Anne: lieu de mémoire et lieu de vie française à Jérusalem," http://www.univ-lyon3.fr/ihc/publicat/bulletin/2000/trimbur.pdfTrimbur is a researcher at the French Research Center in Jerusalem

3. Félicien de Saulcy, Voyage en Terre Sainte (Paris 1865), pp 190, 364, 394, 401-402, 406-409; Idem., Carnets de Voyage en Orient (Paris: PUF, 1955), pp 163, 165

4. Reuben Kashani, Historic Sites in Source and Tradition throughout the Ages (Jerusalem: BaMa`arakhah, 1968; Heb.) pp 74-75.

5. Rania Elias of Yabous Productions, interviewed in Le Monde, 23 August 2001; p 22.

6. http://www.consulfrance-jerusalem.org/religieux/domaines.ht

7. Daoud Kuttab in Jerusalem Post, 15 July 1999

8. Menahem Kaufman, America’s Jerusalem Policy: 1947-1948 (Jerusalem: Institute of Contemporary Jewry, 1982), p 58.

9. Ibid

10. Kaufman, p 59-60. Dov Joseph, Faithful City: The Siege of Jerusalem, 1948 (London: Hogarth, 1962), pp 228-230

11. Figaro, 6 June 2004; see under "Culture — Patrimoine.

Documentation added after publication in Midstream:

Yehoshu`a ben Arieh, Painting the Holy Land (Jerusalem: Ben Zvi Institute, 1997), Etchings of Tomb of the Kings appear on pp13 & 16, painting of it on p 267.

Yonah Cohen, Hakham Gershon miNahalat Shim`on (Jerusalem: Reuben Mas, 1968).

M. Gabrieli, Gabrieli’s Jerusalem Guide (Jerusalem: Marcus 1978). For Saint Anne’s Church and Kings’ Tombs.

Levi, Yits’haq (Levitsah), Tish`ah Qabin: Yerushalayim b’Qrabot Milhemet ha`Atsma’ut (Jerusalem 1986 or 1987)

Palestine Post [forerunner of Jerusalem Post], read through issues for December 1947 and January 1948 for information on attacks on and flight from Shimon haTsadiq, Nahalat Shimon, Siebenbergen Houses.

Ze’ev Vilna’i, Entsiklopedyat Vilna’i l’Yrushalayim (Jerusalem: Ahiever, 1993; in Heb.), see articles on "Qivrey haM’lakhim," "Knesiyat Sent An," "Shim`on haTsadiq," "Nahalat Shim`on," etc.

Ze’ev Vilnay, Israel Guide (Jerusalem 1984), see on Tombs of the Kings, pp 152-154.

Elliott A Green is a translator, writer, and researcher. His blog

http://ziontruth.blogspot.com/ showcases significant passages from ancient sources relating to ancient Jewish history and from Jewish poets writing about the glory of Zion and their hatred of Arab oppression, etc.

This article was originally published in Midstream (New York) July-August 2005.


Printemps arabe: Repartis pour un tour sur la route de la servitude? (On the road again – to serfdom?)

8 juillet, 2011
Peu de gens sont prêts à reconnaître que l’ascension du fascisme et du nazisme a été non pas une réaction contre les tendances socialistes de la période antérieure, mais un résultat inévitable de ces tendances. C’est une chose que la plupart des gens ont refusé de voir, même au moment où l’on s’est rendu compte de la ressemblance qu’offraient certains traits négatifs des régimes intérieurs de la Russie communiste et de l’Allemagne nazie. Le résultat en est que bien des gens qui se considèrent très au-dessus des aberrations du nazisme et qui en haïssent très sincèrement toutes les manifestations, travaillent en même temps pour des idéaux dont la réalisation mènerait tout droit à cette tyrannie abhorrée. (…) Nous avons refusé de croire que l’ennemi partageait sincèrement certaines de nos convictions. (…) On dirait que nous refusons de comprendre l’évolution qui a mené au totalitarisme, comme si cette compréhension devait anéantir certaines de nos illusions les plus chères. (…)  Il s’agit de déterminer les circonstances qui, au cours des dernières soixante-dix années, ont permis la croissance progressive et enfin la victoire d’une certaine catégorie d’idées, et de savoir pourquoi cette victoire a fini par donner le pouvoir aux plus méchants d’entre eux. Friedrich Hayek (1944)
Le passage par l’islamisme est actuellement incontournable dans le monde arabe. Et il faut admettre cette période où l’islamisme va prendre le pouvoir. Pour combien de temps ? Je ne le sais pas. Sans doute jusqu’à ce que les islamistes démontrent qu’ils sont incapables de gérer les vrais problèmes des pays concernés. Henri Boulad
[Le problème de Gaza] n’est pas un manque de nourriture, mais plutôt une violation du droit à un travail productif digne. Insister sur l’aide humanitaire, comme le font les organisateurs de la flottille et le gouvernement israélien, est à la fois exaspérant et trompeur. Gisha (ONG israélienne dont l’objectif est de protéger la liberté de mouvement des Palestiniens)
Vital to the U.S. economy and military capabilities, tiny Israel’s unparalleled achievements in industry and intellect have conjured up the familiar anti-Semitic frenzies among all the economically and morally failed societies of the socialist and Islamist Third World, from Iran to Venezuela. They all imagine that by delegitimizing, demoralizing, defeating or even destroying Israel, they could take a major step toward bringing down the entire capitalist West. To most sophisticated Westerners, the jihadist focus on Israel seems bizarre and counterproductive. But on the centrality of Israel the jihadists have it right. U.S. policy is crippled by a preoccupation with the claimed grievances of the Palestinians and their supposed right to a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza. But the Palestinian land could not have supported one-tenth as many Palestinians as it does today without the heroic works of reclamation and agricultural development by Jewish settlers beginning in the 1880s, when Arabs in Palestine numbered a few hundred thousand. Actions have consequences. When the Palestinian Liberation Organization launched two murderous Intifadas within a little over a decade, responded to withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza by launching thousands of rockets on Israeli towns, spurned every sacrificial offer of "Land for Peace" from Oslo through Camp David, and reversed the huge economic gains fostered in the Palestinian territories between 1967 and 1990, the die was cast. George Gilder
The sad truth of Arab social and economic development is that the free-market reforms and economic liberalization that remade East Asia and Latin America bypassed the Arab world. This is the great challenge of the Arab Spring and of the forces that brought it about. The marketplace has had few, if any, Arab defenders. If the tremendous upheaval at play in Arab lands is driven by a desire to capture state power—and the economic prerogatives that come with political power—the revolution will reproduce the failures of the past. Fouad Ajami

Alors qu’après l’échec de leur flottille en Grèce et contre toute évidence (mais on a l’habitude), nos idiots utiles  propalestiniens tentent, entre deux menaces de  boycotts ou de mandats d’arrêt internationaux, de nous refaire le coup avec une "flottille aérienne" pour dénoncer une prétendue "crise humanitaire à Gaza" …

Et qu’autour d’un Israël en plein boom technologique et économique,  les pays du prétendu "printemps arabe" peinent à rassurer les touristes comme les investisseurs effrayés par des mois d’instabilité et de chaos …

Retour, avec le politologue libano-américain Fouad Ajami, sur les véritables raisons de la situation actuelle.

A savoir les décennies de mépris du marché et d’accaparement des ressources nationales par une série ininterrompue de despotes et de leurs cliques et de leurs clans.

Avec hélas la tentation pour l’avenir de reproduire les échecs du passé et de repartir sur la même "route de la servitude" qui, par delà les différentes étiquettes comme l’a montré Hayek, mène inévitablement au totalitarisme et finit toujours par "donner le pouvoir aux plus méchants d’entre eux"….

The Road to Serfdom and the Arab Revolt

The dictators who came to power in the 1950s and ’60s were economic levelers who impoverished their countries. Today’s unrest is the result.

Fouad Ajami

The WSJ

July 8, 2011

The late great Austrian economist F.A. Hayek would have seen the Arab Spring for the economic revolt it was right from the start. For generations the Arab populations had bartered away their political freedom for economic protection. They rose in rebellion when it dawned on them that the bargain had not worked, that the system of subsidies, and the promise of equality held out by the autocrats, had proven a colossal failure.

What Hayek would call the Arab world’s "road to serfdom" began when the old order of merchants and landholders was upended in the 1950s and ’60s by a political and military class that assumed supreme power. The officers and ideologues who came to rule Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Algeria and Yemen were men contemptuous of the marketplace and of economic freedom. As a rule, they hailed from the underclass and had no regard for the sanctity of wealth and property. They had come to level the economic order, and they put the merchant classes, and those who were the mainstay of the free market, to flight.

It was in the 1950s that the foreign minorities who had figured prominently in the economic life of Egypt after the cotton boom of the 1860s, and who had drawn that country into the web of the world economy, would be sent packing. The Jews and the Greeks and the Italians would take with them their skills and habits. The military class, and the Fabian socialists around them, distrusted free trade and the marketplace and were determined to rule over them or without them.

The Egyptian way would help tilt the balance against the private sector in other Arab lands as well. In Iraq, the Jews of the country, on its soil for well over two millennia, were dispossessed and banished in 1950-51. They had mastered the retail trade and were the most active community in the commerce of Baghdad. Some Shiite merchants stepped into their role, but this was short-lived. Military officers and ideologues of the Baath Party from the "Sunni triangle"—men with little going for them save their lust for wealth and power—came into possession of the country and its oil wealth. They, like their counterparts in Egypt, were believers in central planning and "social equality." By the 1980s, Saddam Hussein, a Sunni thug born from crushing poverty, would come to think of the wealth of the country as his own.

In Libya, a deranged Moammar Gadhafi did Saddam one better. After his 1969 military coup, he demolished the private sector in 1973 and established what he called "Islamic Socialism." Gadhafi’s so-called popular democracy basically nationalized the entire economy, rendering the Libyan people superfluous by denying them the skills and the social capital necessary for a viable life.

In his 1944 masterpiece, "The Road to Serfdom," Hayek wrote that in freedom-crushing totalitarian societies "the worst get on top." In words that described the Europe of his time but also capture the contemporary Arab condition, he wrote: "To be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state, it is not enough that a man should be prepared to accept specious justification of vile deeds; he must himself be prepared actively to break every moral rule he has ever known if this seems necessary to achieve the end set for him. Since it is the supreme leader who alone determines the ends, his instruments must have no moral convictions of their own."

This well describes the decades-long brutal dictatorship of Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, and now his son Bashar’s rule. It is said that Hafez began his dynasty with little more than a modest officer’s salary. His dominion would beget a family of enormous wealth: The Makhloufs, the in-laws of the House of Assad, came to control crucial sectors of the Syrian economy.

The Alawites, the religious sect to which the Assad clan belongs, had been poor peasants and sharecroppers, but political and military power raised them to new heights. The merchants of Damascus and Aleppo, and the landholders in Homs and Hama, were forced to submit to the new order. They could make their peace with the economy of extortion, cut Alawite officers into long-established businesses, or be swept aside.

But a decade or so ago this ruling bargain—subsidies and economic redistribution in return for popular quiescence— began to unravel. The populations in Arab lands had swelled and it had become virtually impossible to guarantee jobs for the young and poorly educated. Economic nationalism, and the war on the marketplace, had betrayed the Arabs. They had the highest unemployment levels among developing nations, the highest jobless rate among the young, and the lowest rates of economic participation among women. The Arab political order was living on borrowed time, and on fear of official terror.

Attempts at "reform" were made. But in the arc of the Arab economies, the public sector of one regime became the private sector of the next. Sons, sons-in-law and nephews of the rulers made a seamless transition into the rigged marketplace when "privatization" was forced onto stagnant enterprises. Of course, this bore no resemblance to marketdriven economics in a transparent system. This was crony capitalism of the worst kind, and it was recognized as such by Arab populations. Indeed, this economic plunder was what finally severed the bond between Hosni Mubarak and an Egyptian population known for its timeless patience and stoicism.

The sad truth of Arab social and economic development is that the free-market reforms and economic liberalization that remade East Asia and Latin America bypassed the Arab world. This is the great challenge of the Arab Spring and of the forces that brought it about. The marketplace has had few, if any, Arab defenders. If the tremendous upheaval at play in Arab lands is driven by a desire to capture state power—and the economic prerogatives that come with political power—the revolution will reproduce the failures of the past.

In Yemen, a schoolteacher named Amani Ali, worn out by the poverty and anarchy of that poorest of Arab states, recently gave voice to a sentiment that has been the autocrats’ prop: "We don’t want change," he said. "We don’t want freedom. We want food and safety." True wisdom, and an end to their road to serfdom, will only come when the Arab people make the connection between economic and political liberty. David Klein

Mr. Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is co-chairman of Hoover’s Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.

Voir aussi:

The Economic Case for Supporting Israel

America needs the Jewish state’s technology and innovation as much as it needs us. .

America’s enemies understand deeply and intuitively that no U.S. goals or resources in the Middle East are remotely as important as Israel. Why don’t we?

George Gilder

T he WSJ

July 5, 2011

Israel cruised through the recent global slump with scarcely a down quarter and no deficit or stimulus package. It is steadily increasing its global supremacy, behind only the U.S., in an array of leading-edge technologies. It is the global master of microchip design, network algorithms and medical instruments.

During a period of water crises around the globe, Israel is incontestably the world leader in water recycling and desalinization. During an epoch when all the world’s cities, from Seoul to New York, face a threat of terrorist rockets, Israel’s newly battle-tested "Iron Dome" provides a unique answer based on original inventions in microchips that radically reduce the weight and cost of the interceptors.

Israel is also making major advances in longer-range missile defense, robotic warfare, and unmanned aerial vehicles that can stay aloft for days. In the face of a global campaign to boycott its goods, and an ever-ascendant shekel, it raised its exports 19.9% in 2010′s fourth quarter and 27.3% in the first quarter of 2011.

Israelis supply Intel with many of its advanced microprocessors, from the Pentium and Sandbridge, to the Atom and Centrino. Israeli companies endow Cisco with new core router designs and real-time programmable network processors for its next-generation systems. They supply Apple with robust miniaturized solid state memory systems for its iPhones, iPods and iPads, and Microsoft with critical user interface designs for the OS7 product line and the Kinect gaming motion-sensor interface, the fastest rising consumer electronic product in history.

Vital to the U.S. economy and military capabilities, tiny Israel’s unparalleled achievements in industry and intellect have conjured up the familiar anti-Semitic frenzies among all the economically and morally failed societies of the socialist and Islamist Third World, from Iran to Venezuela. They all imagine that by delegitimizing, demoralizing, defeating or even destroying Israel, they could take a major step toward bringing down the entire capitalist West.

To most sophisticated Westerners, the jihadist focus on Israel seems bizarre and counterproductive. But on the centrality of Israel the jihadists have it right.

U.S. policy is crippled by a preoccupation with the claimed grievances of the Palestinians and their supposed right to a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza. But the Palestinian land could not have supported one-tenth as many Palestinians as it does today without the heroic works of reclamation and agricultural development by Jewish settlers beginning in the 1880s, when Arabs in Palestine numbered a few hundred thousand.

Actions have consequences. When the Palestinian Liberation Organization launched two murderous Intifadas within a little over a decade, responded to withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza by launching thousands of rockets on Israeli towns, spurned every sacrificial offer of "Land for Peace" from Oslo through Camp David, and reversed the huge economic gains fostered in the Palestinian territories between 1967 and 1990, the die was cast.

It’s time to move on.

For the U.S., moving on means a sober recognition that Israel is not too large but too small. It boasts a booming economy still absorbing overseas investment and a substantial net inflow of immigrants. Yet it is cramped in a space the size of New Jersey, hemmed in by enemies on three sides, with 60,000 Hezbollah and Hamas rockets at the ready, and Iran lurking with nuclear ambitions and genocidal intent over the horizon.

Clearly, Israel needs every acre it now controls. Still, despite its huge technological advances, its survival continues to rely on peremptory policing of the West Bank, on an ever-advancing shield of antimissile technology, and on the unswerving commitment of the U.S.

But this is no one-way street. At a time of acute recession, debt overhang, suicidal energy policy and venture capitalists who hope to sustain the U.S. economy and defense with Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, U.S. defense and prosperity increasingly depend on the ever-growing economic and technological power of Israel.

If we stand together we can deter or defeat any foe. Failure, however, will doom the U.S. and its allies to a long war against ascendant jihadist barbarians, with demographics and nuclear weapons on their side, and no assurance of victory. We need Israel as much as it needs us.

Mr. Gilder is a founder of the Discovery Institute and author of "The Israel Test" (Richard Vigilante Books, 2009).


Moyen-Orient: Derrière le printemps arabe et l’automne américain, l’hiver iranien (Iranian winter could chill the Arab spring while Washington dithers)

20 avril, 2011
Empty suited ObamaSi l’administration américaine rejette désormais clairement toute idée de maintien du colonel Kadhafi au pouvoir à Tripoli, il n’en n’était pas ainsi début février, c’est-à-dire dix jours seulement avant le début de la fronde contre le régime. « A cette époque, les Américains jouaient encore les fils Kadhafi pour succéder au père », nous affirme un diplomate au fait de la situation à Tripoli. Pour preuve : le 1er février dernier, Khamis, un des fils Kadhafi en pointe aujourd’hui dans la répression des rebelles, partait pour Washington à l’invitation du Pentagone. Khamis est resté plus d’une semaine aux Etats-Unis lors d’une visite préparée par l’attaché de défense américain à Tripoli. Les manifestations contre le régime Kadhafi ont commencé alors que Khamis venait de rentrer en Libye. Il a dirigé ensuite un bataillon d’élite, la 32ème Brigade, plutôt bien équipée, et considéré comme la plus performante des trois « unités de protection du régime », constituées de 10 000 hommes, selon des sources américaines. En mars, les Etats-Unis se sont d’abord opposés à l’adoption par l’ONU de la résolution autorisant le recours à la force en Libye, avant finalement d’accepter de voter un texte, qui a permis à la coalition de protéger les populations civiles contre les exactions perpétrées par le régime libyen. Georges Malbrunot
Of all the current global conflicts where innocents are being massacred, couldn’t the administration at least narrow it down to helping one of the many groups that does not have al-Qaeda ties and was not fighting Americans in Iraq? How about "doing what’s right" in Darfur, where countless non-Muslims have been butchered by the Islamist regime in Khartoum for these many years? How about "doing what’s right" regarding the persecuted, indigenous Christians of the Islamic world? (…) In sum, as he explained it, not only does Obama’s decision to intervene militarily in Libya not serve any tangible American interests; it may directly serve the interests of the Islamist enemy. Raymond Ibrahim
Au Maghreb et au Machrek, les élites prédatrices et meurtrières qui gouvernent depuis cinq décennies les "républiques de la Peur" ou les "États de barbarie" sont désormais taraudées par le doute. Pour qu’elles ne subissent pas le sort des présidents Ben Ali et Moubarak, leurs appareils de sécurité redoublent déjà d’efforts pour étouffer toute velléité de manifestation. C’est ce qu’illustre les vagues d’arrestations opérées dans les rangs de l’opposition et au sein des quelques ilots de société civile en Syrie, en Algérie et également en Iran, État non arabe, mais acteur central dans le système régional du Moyen-Orient. (…) Les nuages ne manquent pas sur le "Printemps arabe", mais, pour la première fois depuis des dizaines d’années, ils se dissipent et ne bouchent plus l’horizon des sociétés du Maghreb et du Moyen-Orient. Mieux, s’émancipant des grands récits et comme éreintées par des décennies de répression et de violences « laïques » et « islamistes », ce sont les sociétés arabes elles-mêmes qui, pacifiquement et quasiment sans encadrement politique, ont tenté de dissiper ces nuages. À ce propos, si l’on n’a pas assisté en 2011 à une réédition des carnages algériens, irakiens et syriens évoqués ci-dessus, c’est peut-être parce que ces régimes brutaux, mais vieillissants et immobiles, ont éprouvé quelque difficulté à appliquer ces modus operandi expéditifs face à des sociétés plus multiformes et mobiles que jadis, notamment via les secteurs mondialisés et « digitaux » de leurs jeunesses. Les mois et les années à venir diront si les mouvements conservateurs les plus importants se réclamant de l’islam politique ont, comme l’assurent de nombreux experts, opéré leur conversion aux principes du pluralisme et de la démocratie parlementaire, sur le modèle désormais prisé de l’AKP turc. L’on saura également si les lourds, prébendiers et pléthoriques appareils sécuritaires se laisseront bousculer et accepteront de rendre des comptes. L’on saura enfin si les plus prêtes à tout parmi les élites militaro-policières contestées et les organisations islamistes armées seront parvenues à torpiller ces processus fragiles par lesquels les sociétés révoltées tentent littéralement de "se constituer" politiquement. Pascal Fenaux (février 2011)
Il pourrait s’avérer que le printemps arabe tourne en un hiver iranien. Ce que nous espérons voir, c’est le printemps européen de 1989. Mais (…) en période de chaos, un groupe islamiste organisé peut s’emparer de l’Etat. C’est arrivé en Iran et cela peut aussi arriver ailleurs. (…) Si on retire son venin à l’Iran ou si son régime est soumis à la même pression que les autres régimes dans la région, alors il y aura une chance de paix et de progrès. (…) L’Iran s’est déjà emparé de la moitié de la société palestinienne par le biais de son intermédiaire, le Hamas. Et si le régime iranien tombe, il ne faudra pas longtemps avant que le Hamas ne tombe à son tour. Netanyahu

Après le printemps arabe et l’automne américain,… l’hiver iranien!

Subversion tous azimuths, renversement au Liban du premier régime démocratique depuis le départ des Syriens, fourniture continue et flagrante d’armes (par bateaux entiers!) à des mouvements terroristes tels que le Hezbollah ou le Hamas, frères musulmans qui se frottent les mains  …

Après, avec l’actuel prétendu « printemps arabe », la magistrale démonstration de la totale absence de responsabilité d’Israël dans un Monde arabe qui apparaît de plus en plus clairement comme un véritable accident industriel …

Et, avec l’actuel fiasco libyen et la chute historique du crédit américain, la confirmation, chaque jour un peu plus convaincante, du bien-fondé comme de la  remarquable qualité d’exécution du renversement de Saddam …

Retour, avec l’ancien représentant américain à l’ONU John Bolton, sur les vrais gagnants derrière les actuelles gesticulations, à savoir les mollahs de Téhéran …

Que la pusillanimité du monde libre derrière son prétendu leader rapproche chaque jour un peu plus de la capacité nucléaire qui, sans compter les risques d’une course aux armements régionale, les rendra alors intouchables …

Iranian Winter Could Chill the Arab Spring

From nukes to terrorist proxies, Tehran’s power grows—and Washington dithers.

John Bolton

The WSJ

April 15, 2011

Since the "Arab Spring" began four months ago in Tunisia, U.S. media have focused constantly and generally optimistically on the turmoil in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the rising threat of an Iranian Winter—nuclear or otherwise—is likely to outlast and overshadow any Arab Spring.

Iran’s hegemonic ambitions are embodied in its rapidly progressing nuclear-weapons program and its continued subversion across the region. In a case that emphasizes the fragility of aspiring democracies, Iranian Winter has already descended upon Lebanon, where Iran’s influence has helped replace a pro-Western government with a coalition dominated by Tehran’s allies, including Hezbollah. Last week, departing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri condemned Iran’s "flagrant intervention" in his country. 

In Syria, despite substantial opposition to the Assad dictatorship, regime change is highly unlikely. Iran will not easily allow its quasi-satellite to be pried from its grasp, and is reportedly helping the Assad regime quell this week’s protests.

Then there’s the Victoria, a ship containing tons of weaponry bound for Hamas that the Israeli navy seized last month. The episode recalls the Karine A, a weapons shipment from Iran to the Palestine Liberation Organization seized by Israel in 2002. Clearly Iran has a penchant for arming Sunni and Shiite terrorists alike.

Iran’s support for Hamas is even more important now that Egypt’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, porous as it sometimes was, has now effectively ended with the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Hamas, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood, is now free to transfer arms and operatives between Gaza and Egypt, sowing trouble in both places.

The real tip of the spear in the Middle East may be Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet. No longer oil-rich, the tiny monarchy is separated from Saudi Arabia only by a causeway. Popular protests in Bahrain, a Sunni monarchy ruling a 70% Shiite population, pose the starkest potential conflict between U.S. principles and strategic interests. Iran would happily welcome a "free" election in Bahrain, which would likely bring to power a pro-Tehran leadership.

Arab states, led by the Saudis, have assisted Bahrain in harshly suppressing Shiite protests. These pro-U.S. monarchies, shaken by Washington’s casual dismissal of longtime ally Hosni Mubarak, also worry about President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq and planned reductions in forces in Afghanistan. And there is no evidence that the president has a strategy to deal with Iran’s continuing threat in the Gulf region—which extends to Yemen, where Iran could use Shiite tribes to gain influence, even as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula also strengthens.

Inside Iran, we now have confirmation—thanks to disclosures this month by an Iranian opposition group, which have been confirmed by Iranian officials—that the regime has the capability to mass-produce critical components for centrifuges used to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels. That news proves again the inefficacy of U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions against a determined adversary.

Thus Iran’s weapons program proceeds full steam ahead, which only emphasizes to would-be proliferators that persistence pays. Moammar Gadhafi surrendered his nuclear weapons program in 2003-04 because he feared becoming the next Saddam Hussein, but he is now undoubtedly cursing his timidity. Had he made seven years of progress toward deliverable nuclear weapons, there would surely be no NATO bombing of his military today.

An Iranian nuclear capability would undoubtedly cause Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and perhaps others to seek their own deliverable nuclear weapons. We would therefore see a region substantially more in Iran’s thrall and far more unstable and dangerous for Washington and its allies.

Moreover, America’s failure to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions—which is certainly how it would be perceived worldwide—would be a substantial blow to U.S. influence in general. Terrorists and their state sponsors would see Iran’s unchallenged role as terrorism’s leading state sponsor and central banker, and would wonder what they have to lose.

The Arab Spring may be fascinating, and may or may not endure. Sadly, Iran’s hegemonic threat looks far more sustainable.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

Voir aussi :

Libya Is Not Iraq

Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

April 18, 2011

 

The Left is terribly embarrassed about the US intervention in Libya. We have preemptively attacked an Arab Muslim nation that posed little threat to the national-security interests of the United States. President Obama did not have majority support among the American people. Nor did he even attempt to gain approval from Congress — especially egregious because he seems to be the first president since Harry Truman who sought and obtained sanction for military action from the United Nations without gaining formal authorization from his own Congress.

The administration offered no rationale for judging, on humanitarian grounds, that Qaddafi was more egregiously murderous than, say, the killers in the Congo or Ivory Coast. Nor, in terms of national security, did the relatively sparsely populated and isolated Libya pose a threat comparable to those posed by either Iran or Syria — concerning which we carefully steered clear when similar domestic unrest threatened both regimes.

Stranger still, the Qaddafi regime of over four decades’ duration had since 2003 courted Western nations, after promising to give up its sizable WMD arsenal in the light of Saddam Hussein’s fate. The Western response, if sometimes cynical and oil-driven, nevertheless was increasingly institutionalized, at least if we can gauge by the number of Western intellectuals who wrote encomia on behalf of Qaddafi, and by the institutions that, perhaps in return for sizable donations, gave degrees to his Westernized son and sponsored exhibitions of his artwork. The nadir of the Western outreach effort was the British release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, in apparent exchange for future oil concessions and intelligence cooperation.

Why, then, did we begin bombing? Apparently, the Obama administration had been stung by criticism of its confused reactions to the protests against the two pro-American authoritarian regimes that quite abruptly crashed in Egypt and Tunisia. After days of calibrating the chances of success of the Libyan rebellion — and weighing the growing criticism of such tardy opportunism — it jumped in, convinced that in a matter of days Tripoli would be the third autocratic Arab regime to fall — now all the better with an eleventh-hour helpful push from high-profile American bombers and cruise missiles. Our landmark adventure in Libya would subordinate US military power to international humanitarian concerns as adjudicated by the UN and the Arab League, prevent the embarrassment of being shown up by the interventionist French and British, and prove a cakewalk, given that Qaddafi was isolated, on the verge of being overthrown, and ruling over a weak country of less than seven million. So the Nobel Peace laureate Obama gave the go-ahead, on the prompting of Samantha Power, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice, turned to the NCAA basketball tournament, golf, and vacationing in Rio — and outsourced the messy details to a reluctant Pentagon.

The Left, as I said, was humiliated, since its former criticism of Iraq had lived on the principle that George Bush had precipitously taken us to war against a Middle East oil-producing nation and now died with the principle that Barack Obama far more precipitously took us to war against a Middle East oil-producing nation. Worse still, Libya occurred amid a series of Obama flip-flops that cemented the notion of a partisan rather than principled Left: as vociferous in its criticism of President Bush’s Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, Predators, Patriot Act, intercepts, wiretaps, Iraq presence, and preventive detention as it was abruptly silent once President Obama embraced, or indeed trumped, all these policies and protocols.

Now, in exasperation, many on the left have suggested that they are no more hypocritical than those on the right, who supported the removal of the dictator Saddam Hussein, but now oppose bombing the dictator Qaddafi, supposedly because a liberal Obama, not a conservative Bush, is commander-in-chief. But here are some reasons why Iraq in 2003 made sense, and Libya in 2011 makes no sense.

1. There was no ambiguity about our mission in Iraq: remove Saddam, and stay on to foster a consensual government. In Libya we have no mission, since we want Qaddafi gone in theory, but apparently can neither synchronize that aim with international sanctions nor pursue it openly by military means.

2. In Iraq, we were taking the lead in setting up a consensual government; in Libya to this day we have no idea who the rebels are, except that a few spoke good English in their impassioned interviews on CNN.

3. Qaddafi had viciously killed perhaps a few thousand rebels to prompt our humanitarian outrage; Saddam had killed perhaps a million at home and abroad before we intervened. Perhaps we were properly anticipatory with Qaddafi and unduly reactive with Saddam — but nevertheless, Qaddafi’s record of genocides simply was not comparable to Saddam’s.

4. The Bush administration made it clear, despite a growing insurgency and Democratic criticism, that it would not leave Iraq in defeat, but was intent on finishing the mission by removing Saddam’s Baath party from power, stabilizing the country, and ensuring an elected government. In Libya, the Obama administration intervened and then in less than two weeks abruptly quit military operations, outsourcing them to Britain and France. The administration apparently was not worried that Qaddafi is still in power and killing his opponents — to prevent which we intervened in the first place. Success in Iraq sent a signal; so did quitting in Libya. Now we can anticipate an endless cycle of horse-trading with a resilient Qaddafi, much as Saddam once made a mockery of UN resolutions.

5. When we went into Iraq, Saddam was in a virtual war with the United States, which was enforcing a twelve-year-long no-fly zone after the full-fledged 1991 Gulf War, and he was still sponsoring terrorism in the post-9/11 climate. Qaddafi was a similar nefarious dictator but, unlike Saddam, the subject of intense and ongoing Western outreach. And there had been no direct American hostilities against him in over 20 years.

6. Libya is a tiny country of less than 7 million people, of far less geostrategic interest to the United States than Iraq. Iraq, a country of 26 million, was central to the stability of the Gulf region, from which 40 percent of the world’s oil was shipped. While Saddam Hussein’s desire, past and present, to sponsor terrorism was arguably matched by Qaddafi’s prior to 2003, his ability to do so, given his more ample resources, larger population, and central location, was far greater.

7. Bush was careful to obtain authorization (on 23 grounds) from both houses of Congress in October 2002, more than five months before he went in. Yet Obama has still not even attempted anything similar.

8. Bush attempted to go to the UN and was rebuffed, and then fell back to the (dubious) position that he was at least enforcing UN resolutions. Obama indeed got UN and Arab League approval for a no-fly zone and for unspecified action to help the rebels, but then de facto exceeded it by bombing ground targets and apparently inserting operatives among the rebels to coordinate air assaults — far in excess of the UN’s notion of no-fly zones or efforts to prevent a humanitarian disaster. The US was immediately put in a box of bragging about having obtained international sanctions, and then discovering that it could not remove Qaddafi without violating the spirit and letter of just those international authorizations.

9. When we went into Iraq, we were already involved in one war, in Afghanistan, but a war that at that point had cost less than 100 American lives in over 18 months of fighting. The United States’ annual deficit was less than $400 billion. When we went into Libya we had nearly 150,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the government, facing an imminent shutdown, was running a $1.6 trillion deficit — four times as large in dollars as in 2003, and almost three times in terms of GDP.

10. When Islamists inevitably tried to hijack the US removal of Saddam, we moved to prevent that; in Libya, if and when the removal of Qaddafi happens, we have no ability to govern events and are far more likely to foster than to prevent Islamic radicalism.

11. In Iraq, we were faulted for being unilateral despite having far more allies than we do at present in Libya, when we are praised for being multilateral.

12. Stabilizing Afghanistan proved far more difficult than the brilliant six-week removal of the Taliban, stabilizing Iraq far more difficult than the brilliant three-week removal of Saddam. Such lessons teach us that Libya would probably follow the same course, or conceivably worse, given that we have not yet brilliantly removed Qaddafi. The United States might be able to stabilize two post-war constitutional governments, but probably not three — and the third attempt could very well endanger the earlier two.

To be fair, in Obama’s defense, it perhaps soon may be said that we suffered greatly in victory in Iraq and, by comparison, far less in defeat in Libya.

Voir également:

Ideals Trump Interests in Obama’s Libya Policy

Raymond Ibrahim

April 15, 2011

Hudson New York

President Obama’s recent explanation for militarily engaging Libya is yet another example of how US leaders increasingly rationalize their policies via sentimental and idealistic platitudes, rather than reality or the long view — or just plain common sense.

In a speech replete with moralizing intonations, Obama did manage to evoke US "interests" — six times — though he never explained what these are. Instead, we were admonished about "our responsibilities to our fellow human beings" and how not assisting them "would have been a betrayal of who we are." Further, by juxtaposing America’s "interests" with its "values" — Obama did so twice in his Libya speech — indicates that he may see the two as near synonymous, though they certainly are not.

The closest thing to a fuzzy "interest" that Obama posited is the need to contain Libyan rebels from fleeing to and disrupting nearby nations, such as Egypt, a country of "democratic impulses" where "change will inspire us and raise hopes" — so an overly optimistic Obama observed. While there certainly are liberal, secular elements in Egypt’s revolution, increasing evidence — from an Islamist-inclined military that opens fire on its Christian minority, to the recent referendum which serves the Muslim Brotherhood — indicates that, left to itself, Egypt is poised to look more like Iran than America.

Of course, the Obama administration is not against Islamists rising to power — so long as it is through the "will" of the people. As the Los Angeles Times put it, the administration "supports a role for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Islamist organization, in a reformed Egyptian government." Even in his speech, Obama said the US must support "the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders"; must support "governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people." The underlying assumption is that people always choose liberal forms of governments — a demonstrably false notion: Nazis, Hamas, the mullahs — all came to power through the "aspirations of the people."

As for Libya’s nebulous opposition, even before Obama decided to support them, the Washington Post had reported that "the administration knows little about Libya’s well-armed rebels, [and] cannot predict the political system that might replace Qaddafi’s bizarre rule." More recent evidence indicates that the US is arming the same jihadists who four years earlier were trying to kill Americans in Iraq.

Yet Obama bypasses all these obstacles by engaging in moral posturing, asserting, for example, that a massacre in eastern Libya’s Benghazi "would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world. It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen." Again, no clarification exactly how an intertribal massacre — regular occurrences the world over — is "not in our national interest." Moreover, as Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer soberly puts it:

Eastern Libya [Benghazi], where the anti-Qaddafi forces are based, is a hotbed of anti-Americanism and jihadist sentiment. A report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center reveals that during the last few years, more jihadists per capita entered Iraq from Libya than from any other Muslim country — and most of them came from the region that is now spearheading the revolt against Qaddafi.

Perhaps Obama simply sees the rebels as "freedom-fighters" — as a recent Examiner headline phrases it: "U.S. supports Al Qaeda ‘freedom fighters’ against Qaddafi in Libyan civil war." If so, it is well to reflect that the US has been down this road before, when it supported Afghanistan’s "freedom-fighting" mujahidin against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, only for Afghanistan to become a terrorist haven and al Qaeda’s headquarters, where the strikes of 9/11 were devised.

As opposed to today, however, it was less evident during the Reagan era that Islamists would become a global headache; plus, the reason for supporting the mujahidin was less idealistic and more to do with actual US interests — containing Soviet expansion and influence.

Conversely, in Obama’s Libyan adventure, we know for a fact that Islamist forces are involved; we know for a fact what happens when Islamists assume power — whether the mullahs in Iran, Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, or the Taliban in Afghanistan: they become anti-American, terrorist breeding grounds. Finally, as Obama explained it, no US interests are being served either way.

Indeed, even Obama’s humanitarian argument for Libyan intervention is full of holes: if the opposition overthrows Qaddafi, it will likely be they, the opposition, who inflict a bloodbath on their countrymen — the usual denouement of intertribal warfare. In this context, whereas US intervention will have saved the lives of eastern Libyans, it will be seen as complicit in the killing of western Libyans — and, as usual, used as fodder to incite further anti-Americanism in the region.

Further, Obama’s point that, though many people around the world are being oppressed by their governments, "that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right," also raises questions: Of all the current global conflicts where innocents are being massacred, couldn’t the administration at least narrow it down to helping one of the many groups that does not have al-Qaeda ties and was not fighting Americans in Iraq?

How about "doing what’s right" in Darfur, where countless non-Muslims have been butchered by the Islamist regime in Khartoum for these many years? How about "doing what’s right" regarding the persecuted, indigenous Christians of the Islamic world? (Whereas one of Obama’s reasons for intervening in Libya was that mosques were unintentionally being destroyed — he has been silent in word and deed regarding the numerous churches intentionally being destroyed in the Muslim world.)

In sum, as he explained it, not only does Obama’s decision to intervene militarily in Libya not serve any tangible American interests; it may directly serve the interests of the Islamist enemy. More ironic, the humanitarian argument is full of holes. One is left hoping that, for strategic purposes, Obama is not being fully transparent, but does have concrete US interests in mind — which, of course, is exactly how practically every Arab interprets US intervention.

Hence, the final irony: While Obama’s fine platitudes to justify war may satisfy some Americans, they are far from achieving their objective: winning over the much coveted Arab "hearts-and-minds," two quantities that — as evinced from the Arabic media to the Arab street — are thoroughly cynical, and thus reject the notion that nations ever militarily intervene out of sheer altruism.

Voir enfin:

Du "Printemps arabe" à son automne ?

Pascal Fenaux

CETRI

18 février 2011

Les manifestations tunisiennes, déclenchées après la tentative de suicide par immolation de Mohammed Bouazizi [1], et l’incapacité des BOP (Brigades de l’ordre public ou Kataëb) à les étouffer ont abouti à la fuite sans gloire du président Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali en Arabie saoudite, le 14 janvier 2011. L’insurrection tunisienne et le renversement de Ben Ali semblaient devoir s’étendre d’abord et avant tout au reste du Maghreb et en particulier à l’Algérie, voire au Maroc.

Contre toute attente, c’est en Égypte que la « Révolution tunisienne » a eu un impact immédiat. En invitant la population à se rassembler le 25 janvier 2011 sur la place de la Libération pour participer à une « Journée de la Colère » (Yôm al-Ghadab), les cyberactivistes ont vu leurs espoirs les plus fous se concrétiser. Le précédent tunisien a, semble-t-il, permis à un nombre croissant et impressionnant d’Égyptiens de surmonter la peur de l’arbitraire brutal des services de sécurité pour exprimer le malaise et les aspirations démocratiques d’une société confrontée à des problèmes sociaux majeurs.

Sommes-nous en train d’assister à un « Printemps des peuples arabes » ? La réponse est positive. Ce « printemps » va-t-il s’installer dans la durée en Égypte et essaimer ailleurs au Maghreb et au Moyen-Orient ? Ou va-t-il céder rapidement la place à un automne précoce et sombre ? Il est bien trop tôt pour le savoir, d’autant qu’à l’heure où ces lignes sont écrites, la transition tunisienne reste chaotique, tandis que nul ne sait quelle tournure va prendre en Égypte la transition promise par le Conseil suprême des forces armées qui exerce désormais directement le pouvoir depuis la démission forcée du président Hosni Moubarak, le 11 février dernier.

Par contre, il existe une certitude. Au Maghreb et au Machrek, les élites prédatrices et meurtrières qui gouvernent depuis cinq décennies les « républiques de la Peur » ou les « États de barbarie [2] » sont désormais taraudées par le doute. Pour qu’elles ne subissent pas le sort des présidents Ben Ali et Moubarak, leurs appareils de sécurité redoublent déjà d’efforts pour étouffer toute velléité de manifestation. C’est ce qu’illustre les vagues d’arrestations opérées dans les rangs de l’opposition et au sein des quelques ilots de société civile en Syrie, en Algérie et également en Iran, État non arabe, mais acteur central dans le système régional du Moyen-Orient.

La première onde de choc de la « révolution tunisienne » a donc touché le plus peuplé des États arabes et, surtout, un rouage essentiel dans le dispositif stratégique et diplomatique des États-Unis [3], notamment depuis le traité de paix conclu avec Israël en 1978 et l’implication des Renseignements égyptiens dans les affaires intérieures palestiniennes. À ce propos, l’Autorité palestinienne est profondément déstabilisée par la crise politique que traverse son allié stratégique égyptien. De son côté, l’État d’Israël, engagé dans un lent processus de pétrification de son espace sociopolitique et persuadé de l’imminence de l’ouverture d’un nouveau front « islamiste » à ses frontières, se montre désorienté par un « Printemps arabe » qui risque de le contraindre à de sérieuses révisions de sa stratégie militaire, voire de le soumettre à de nouvelles pressions américaines.

C’est dire que le choc est violent pour des Occidentaux qui, obnubilés par la Révolution iranienne de 1979 et l’instauration consécutive de la République islamique, se sont laissés convaincre par les « républiques de la Peur » que seules ces dernières pourraient « nous » prémunir contre la « menace islamiste ». Comme le regrettait Antoine Basbous dans les colonnes du Figaro, en intégrant le Partenariat euro-méditerranéen, « la principale préoccupation de ces dirigeants [arabes] n’est pas d’intégrer un club de démocraties méditerranéennes, mais de sanctuariser leurs régimes et de maintenir leurs clans au pouvoir. [...] Donner la liberté à leur peuple, instaurer un État de droit ou offrir à leur jeunesse une véritable perspective, cela n’est pas à l’ordre du jour [4] ».

C’est au nom de cette « menace islamiste » que des régimes dictatoriaux « laïques » ont pu se maintenir si longtemps au pouvoir, détruire leurs espaces politiques et écraser leurs sociétés civiles en Algérie, en Syrie, en Égypte et en Irak (jusqu’en mars 2003), le tout dans l’indifférence ou avec le soutien des États occidentaux (et le soulagement d’Israël) et avec l’assentiment enthousiaste de certains de leurs plus éminents intellectuels et faiseurs d’opinion.

En Syrie, confrontée à une agitation politique (islamiste, nationaliste et gauchiste) en 1981-1982, la dictature militaire baasiste avait ainsi pu profiter de ce que l’Occident avait l’attention détournée par la guerre civile libanaise et était déstabilisé par la Révolution iranienne pour réprimer dans le sang toute contestation, au prix de plusieurs dizaines de milliers de morts [5]. Le comble de l’horreur avait été atteint à Hama, où au moins vingt-mille civils furent assassinés. En Algérie, après avoir écrasé dans le sang les émeutes d’octobre 1988, l’armée avait, en janvier 1992, procédé à un putsch pour mettre fin à un processus électoral qui risquait de la renvoyer dans ses casernes. La conséquence en avait été une répression impitoyable, le déclenchement et le pourrissement d’une guerre civile de dix ans qui allait causer la mort d’au moins cent-mille Algériens au terme d’une « sale guerre » opposant armée, paramilitaires, maquis islamistes et groupes jihadistes [6]. En Irak, après avoir délogé du Koweït l’armée de Saddam Hussein en février 1991, les Occidentaux, encouragés par les régimes égyptien et saoudien, avaient laissé les troupes d’élite du Baas irakien commettre un bain de sang sans précédent pour mater les insurrections anti-baasistes [7]. On estime à cent-mille le nombre de civils irakiens assassinés en mars 1991.

Les nuages ne manquent pas sur le « Printemps arabe », mais, pour la première fois depuis des dizaines d’années, ils se dissipent et ne bouchent plus l’horizon des sociétés du Maghreb et du Moyen-Orient. Mieux, s’émancipant des grands récits et comme éreintées par des décennies de répression et de violences « laïques » et « islamistes », ce sont les sociétés arabes elles-mêmes qui, pacifiquement et quasiment sans encadrement politique, ont tenté de dissiper ces nuages. À ce propos, si l’on n’a pas assisté en 2011 à une réédition des carnages algériens, irakiens et syriens évoqués ci-dessus, c’est peut-être parce que ces régimes brutaux, mais vieillissants et immobiles, ont éprouvé quelque difficulté à appliquer ces modus operandi expéditifs face à des sociétés plus multiformes et mobiles que jadis, notamment via les secteurs mondialisés et « digitaux » de leurs jeunesses.

Les mois et les années à venir diront si les mouvements conservateurs les plus importants se réclamant de l’islam politique ont, comme l’assurent de nombreux experts, opéré leur conversion aux principes du pluralisme et de la démocratie parlementaire, sur le modèle désormais prisé de l’AKP turc. L’on saura également si les lourds, prébendiers et pléthoriques appareils sécuritaires se laisseront bousculer et accepteront de rendre des comptes. L’on saura enfin si les plus prêtes à tout parmi les élites militaro-policières contestées et les organisations islamistes armées seront parvenues à torpiller ces processus fragiles par lesquels les sociétés révoltées tentent littéralement de « se constituer » politiquement [8].

En guise de conclusion provisoire, il n’est pas question ici de céder à la tentation de l’angélisme, ni de la diabolisation. Ce serait être angélique que d’ignorer les défis prométhéens auxquels sont confrontées des sociétés arabes profondément violentées et travaillées à leurs marges par des mouvements extrémistes et violents. Mais il serait insensé d’accepter le chantage faussement moral auxquels certains voudraient soumettre les Européens : la démocratisation arabe est impossible, elle ne peut être que la porte ouverte aux « islamistes » et, plus spécieux encore, « nous » ne pouvons faire courir aux démocrates arabes le risque d’un tel « pari ».

D’une part, la diplomatie européenne semble se satisfaire de la nature ultraconservatrice d’un régime saoudien qui arrose financièrement les mouvements islamistes extrémistes, à l’exception des… Frères musulmans. D’autre part, les Occidentaux seraient autrement plus crédibles dans les préoccupations « démocratiques » qu’ils expriment quant au risque futur (et par définition, hypothétique) de dictatures islamistes, s’ils n’avaient jusqu’ici imposé aux sociétés arabes la certitude présente (et bientôt dépassée ?) de totalitarismes « laïques ».

Ce chantage, La Revue nouvelle s’y est, articles après articles, opposée depuis vingt ans et elle continuera de s’y opposer. Le dossier du numéro d’avril sera d’ailleurs consacré au « printemps arabe ».

Pascal Fenaux (15 février 2011)

[1] Immolé par le feu le 17 décembre 2010, il a succombé à ses blessures le 4 janvier 2011.

[2] Samir al-Khalil, Republic of Fear. The politics of Irak, University of California Press, 1989. Michel Seurat, L’État de barbarie, Seuil, 1989.

[3] Et de l’Union européenne… L’Union pour la Méditerranée (UPM) qui refonde depuis 2008 le processus de Lisbonne est en effet coprésidée par la l’Égypte et la France.

[4] Le Figaro, 17 avril 2008.

[5] Pascal Fenaux, « La Terreur promise », La Revue nouvelle, octobre 2002.

[6] Pascal Fenaux, « Barbarismes algériens », La Revue nouvelle, mars 1998.

[7] Pascal Fenaux, « La Terreur promise », La Revue nouvelle, octobre 2002.

[8] Olivier Mongin, « Pour la Tunisie », Esprit, février 2011.


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