Yosemite/150e: Nos arbres valent mieux que vos ruines (When Christ walked the earth: Looking back at America’s first natural park)

19 novembre, 2014
Yosemite Valley (Carleton E Watkins, 1865)
Vernal Falls, Yosemite (Thomas Hill,  1889)
Mother of the Forest, Yosemite ( with bark removed for 1860 Paris Exposition)
http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/big_trees_of_california/images/sherman_tree.jpg
http://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/57c74-generalshermantreecomparison.jpg?w=450&h=253
http://www.jose-corti.fr/Images/photosauteurs/muir-stamps.gifI counted over 4000 rings, which showed that this tree was in its prime, swaying in the Sierra winds, when Christ walked the earth. No other tree in the world, as far as I know, has looked down on so many centuries as the Sequoia, or opens such impressive and suggestive views into history. John Muir
De tout ce dont la Nature a orné la surface de la terre, rien n’éveille plus notre sympathie, ni ne s’adresse plus puissamment à notre imagination, que ces arbres vénérables qui ont résisté à l’usure du temps, témoins silencieux de la succession des générations de l’homme, avec le destin duquel leur propre destinée présente une ressemblance si touchante, par leur naissance, leur maturité et leur déclin. John Muir
It seemed to me I had entered God’s holiest temple, where that assembled all that was most divine in material creation. Lafayette Bunnell
La Mariposa se dresse là comme Dieu l’a créée. Thomas Starr King
I lay for half an hour alone at the root of the most colossal bole (…)  Are you as old as Noah? Do you span the centuries as far as Moses? Can you remember the time of Solomon? Were you planted before the seed of Rome took root in Italy? At any rate, tell me whether or not your birth belongs to the Christian centuries; whether we must write “B. C” or “A. D.” against your infancy. (…) One calculation led Mr. Greeley to believe that the oldest of these trees were of substantial size when David danced before the Ark, when Theseus ruled in Athens, when AEneas fled from the burning wreck of Troy. In an English journal they were estimated by a distinguished botanist at three thousand years. Dr. [Jacob] Bigelow, by counting the rings in a section of the trunk of one of the largest, which had been felled, and computing from that, reduced these pretentions materially. He made it about 1900 years old,—a tender contemporary of Cicero and Julius Caesar. But since then, a merciless savant, Dr. [John] Torrey the botanist, declares that he has counted every ring on the tree that was cut down, and his figures have felled a vast pile of our poetry. Why must there be scientific men, who delight in bothering theologians, and in erecting their chevaux de frise in the path of all galloping romance? He makes our tree about eleven hundred years old. If this calculation be trustworthy, the column at whose root I sat took its first draught of sunshine in the time of Charlemagne. It is three hundred years older than the Norman Conquest and the great Hildebrand. 96 It was a giant in the time of the first Crusade. And it antedates the foundation stone of the oldest Gothic spire of Europe. A genial evening of life to the Methuselahs of the wilderness, who were babies of a century a thousand years ago. Thomas Starr King
L’Amérique du Nord présente, dans sa configuration extérieure, des traits généraux qu’il est facile de discerner au premier coup d’œil. Une sorte d’ordre méthodique y a présidé à la séparation des terres et des eaux, des montagnes et des vallées. Un arrangement simple et majestueux s’y révèle au milieu même de la confusion des objets et parmi l’extrême variété des tableaux. Alexis De Tocqueville
If you delay, your Niagara will have been spoiled for you. Already the forest round about is being cleared…I don’t give the Americans ten years to establish a saw or flour mill at the base of the cataract. Alexis De Tocqueville
They are about to consummate the barbarism by throwing a wire bridge over the river just below the American Fall…what they will not do next in their freaks it is difficult to surmise, but it requires very little to show that patriotism, taste, and self-esteem, are not the leading features in the character of the inhabitants of this part of the world. Sir Richard Bonnycastle (1849)
Je pense que je ne verrai jamais un poème beau comme un arbre. Les poèmes sont créés par des fous comme moi, mais Dieu seul peut créer un arbre. Joyce Kilmer (1913)
Je crois bien que jamais je ne verrai un panneau d’affichage aussi beau qu’un arbre. En fait, je ne verrai pas un seul arbre avant que tous les panneaux soient tombés. Ogden Nash
The “Bridal-Veil” fall in Yosemite “leaps out of a smoother channel, in a clear, symmetrical arch of indescribable beauty; has a larger body of water, and is surrounded by far loftier and grander precipices” than the Staubbach fall in the Swiss Alps. James Hutchings
Despite the best intentions of the preservationists, their cause succumbed to the unassailable American will-to-profit. The last chance to preserve a semblance of an enduring cultural tradition in America needed more than patriotic defense to survive. Contrary to popular memory, the parks were not the result of preservationists’ aims to protect the environment or preserve monuments to the American heritage; rather, the development of a system of National Parks relied almost exclusively on the profit potential of the landscape. The earliest park sites were chosen in part because the sublimity of their rugged beauty expressed a monumental tribute to the American identity, but more significantly because the protected land removed from the public domain was economically worthless. As the early history of the park system demonstrates, sites like Yosemite and Yellowstone were carefully chosen iterations of America. In both places, the high rugged terrain offered the monumentalism appropriate to a symbolic expression of the American character, but conveniently enough, it also prevented profitable activity such as mining, timbering, or farming and were therefore much more justifiably preserved. But both parks, although worthless for traditional industries, became even more valuable when the country discovered that where industry was unable to access the resources, tourism could. The millions of dollars generated by tourist revenues–not a spiritual desire to preserve the landscape–proved in the end to be the winning defense for the park system. Joshua S. Johns
Pour de nombreux Américains de la fin du xixe siècle, la nature sauvage – ou supposée telle – avait le goût du paradis perdu. Les écrits écologistes de Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) ou de John Muir (1838-1914) leur apprenaient que c’est un antidote aux poisons de la société industrielle. Et beaucoup croyaient que le salut du monde passe par la sanctuarisation de son milieu naturel. (…) Si les Américains se sont passionnes pour les séquoias, c’est parce que leur taille phénoménale était le signe d’un destin grandiose dont les racines remontaient à la naissance du monde. Ces vestiges naturels  offrent à la nation américaine un patrimoie propre, bien plus ancien que celui des nations colonisatrices. Ils parlent d’un temps géologique  qui n’a rien à voir avec l’échelle des civilisations européennes. C’est le temps de la nature, celui de l’Amérique, directement hérité du Créateur, sans intervention superflue des prétenitons humaines. (…) Ce qui frappe surtout les observateurs, c’est que la plupart des arbres sont contemporains du Christ. (…) D’oùle véritable culte dont ils peuvent faire l’objet  de la part de tous ceux qui voient dans Yosemité comme le temple naturel de l’Amérique. (…) La réputation de Yosemite doit aussi beaucoup à l’image qu’en ont donnée les photographes et les peintres. Carleton Watkins (…) visite le site en 1861. Il en revient avec des des photograzphies qui, plus encore que les morceaux d’écorce envoyés par Geeorge Gale, frappent ‘imagination des Américains de la côté est. (…) Ainsi, les reproductions, les tableaux, les livres, les reportages, les sermons ont contribué à faire de cette vallée boisée de la Sierra Nevada un lieu de rédmption pour le nouveau peuple élu. La forêt, perçue comme dangereuse du temps des premiers colons, est devenue un havre de paix dans une nation en guerre. pour finir par former l’un des paysages mythiques des Etas-Unis. Bruno Cabanes

The Mother of the Forest, Genesis, Adam, Methuselah, The President, The Senate, The House, WashingtonFranklin, John Adams, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Cleveland, Monroe, General Sherman, General Grant, Robert E. Lee  …

En ce 150e anniversaire de la création du Parc de Yosemite

Où le moindre site naturel est à présent dument viabilisé et doté de sa boutique de souvenirs …

Et dont l’accès, pour les plus courus protection oblige, est non seulement payant mais rationné, nécessitant souvent, quand il n’est pas tenu secret, une réservation plusieurs mois à l’avance …

Comment imaginer ce qu’a pu représenter un site comme  Yosemite lors de sa découverte ?

Le côté phénomène de foire suscité par la prodigieuse grandeur de ces mastodontes de plus de 100 m (redwoods) et de près de 2000  tonnes (sequoias) qui verra leur premier découvreur, un homme d’affaires du nom de George Gale, arracher sur une hauteur de 35 m l’écorce d’un monstre de 30 m de circonférence pour en envoyer, pour qu’ils y soient reconstitués, les lambeaux vers les villes de la côte est, en assurant ainsi la mort quelques années plus tard …

La frénésie marchande de ces forestiers qui abattirent, souvent à perte faute de pouvoir les transporter, tant de ces illustres géants …

La fierté d’avoir enfin, derrière ces troncs bimillénaires, non seulement un héritage propre mais un  patrimoine bien plus ancien que toutes les ruines réunies de ces civilisations européennes qui les avaient toujours regardés de haut …

Ou, comme l’exprimèrent tant de reproductions, tableaux, livres, reportages ou sermons mais aussi les noms mêmes qu’ils leur attribuèrent, la vénération quasi-religieuse devant des vestiges naturels contemporains du Christ et remontant, croyait-on, à la naissance du monde …

Au point qu’en pleine guerre civile, le président Lincoln ait pris la peine de signer un projet de loi qui en ferait, même avant Yellowstone , le premier parc naturel au monde …

Et qui, via l’industrie touristique alors naissante et aujourd’hui si décriée, en assurerait un siècle et demi après la préservation …

Our Trees Are Better Than Your Ruins: National Parks and National Identity in Nineteenth Century America
James Rogers
US history scene
Jul 25th, 2013

On June 30 1864, in the midst of a bloody civil war, President Abraham Lincoln signed “An Act authorizing a Grant to the State of California of the Yo-Semite Valley, and of the Land embracing the Mariposa Big Tree Grove.” For the first time, ideological values implicit in the setting aside of land for public recreation and enjoyment had been given priority over the potential for material and financial advancement. Eight years later, in 1872, Yellowstone became the world’s first national park (the federal government was required to take control of the park, as Wyoming was then only a territory, rather than a state). These unprecedented acts of wilderness preservation laid the foundations for a now global model of national park creation. Everyone who today enjoys the natural wonders of the world owes such enjoyment to these preservation efforts in the early United States.

The artist George Catlin (1796-1872) is widely credited as being the first prominent spokesperson to propose national parks in the 1830s. Over thirty years before the Yosemite State Park Grant, Catlin advocated for a “nation’s park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature’s beauty,” to be accomplished by “some great protecting policy of government.” For Catlin, the park would be a “specimen” for America to “hold up to the view of her refined citizens and the world, in future ages!” ((George Catlin, Letters and Notes on their Manners, Customs, and Conditions, written during eight years’ travel amongst the wildest tribes of Indians in North America, 1832-1839 (Scituate, MA.: Digital Scanning, 2000), 295)) In summary, a national park could become a vital source of national pride.

Lecture by the historian Roderick Nash on the “Meaning of Wilderness” in the United States:

Americans endured ridicule on many fronts following the rampant commercial exploitation of Niagara Falls. The first words of Alexander De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America stated, “North America has striking geographical features which can be appreciated at first glance” and noted the “simple majesty of their design.” ((Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. George Lawrence (New York: Anchor Books, 1969), 23)) He bemoaned the failure to properly protect such wonders: “I don’t give the Americans ten years to establish a saw or flour mill at the base of the cataract [Niagara].” ((John Opie, Nature’s Nation: an Environmental History of the United States (Montana: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1998), 375)) In the first half of the nineteenth century, the United States government failed to preserve potential sources of national pride and identity in the East. Some individuals began searching for a new national icon to deflect derogatory British observations about America’s lack of culture and “civilization.” ((John Shultis, “Improving the Wilderness: Common Factors in Creating National Parks and Equivalent Reserves During the Nineteenth Century,” Forest and Conservation History 36, no. 3, (1995): 122)) This laid the groundwork for a more focussed and ultimately more successful effort in the West, culminating in the creation of national parks.

The official wording of the Congressional acts described each of the proposed parks as a “pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” ((“An Act to set apart a certain Tract of Land lying near the Head-waters of the Yellowstone River as a public Park,” U.S. Statutes at Large vol. 17, 32-33; “An act to set apart a certain tract of land in the State of California as a public park,” U.S. Statutes at Large vol. 26, 478; “An Act authorizing a Grant to the State of California of the Yo-Semite Valley, and of the Land embracing the Mariposa Big Tree Grove,” U.S. Statutes at Large vol. 13, chap. 184)) Specifically, there were three main principles upon which National Parks were built: cultural arguments based on comparisons with Europe; the desire to preserve only the most “wonderful” and curious natural features; and the necessity of proving the material worthlessness of the land and its unsuitability for other potentially more profitable purposes. Each nineteenth century park conformed to this three-component model, and contained essential similarities that conclusively explain how and why preservation of natural areas occurred.

The origins and continuing success of the National Parks has been the subject of a recent documentary series, National Parks: America’s Best Idea, produced by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns (recently interviewed by US History Scene).

Extended preview of the PBS series

Dayton Duncan discussing the creation of National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

New World Nature and Old World History: Comparisons with Europe

Warren Baer, editor of the Mariposa Democrat, published the first detailed and extensive account of the Yosemite Valley in 1856. He bemoaned the desire of the American traveller to obtain a sight of the Alps of Switzerland or valleys of Italy, many of which “possess no wonderful attributes of greatness, save in the mind of the traveler, that will compare with the scenery, separately or in whole, of the Yosemite Valley.” ((Warren Baer, “A Trip to the Yosemite Falls,” Mariposa Democrat 5 August, 1856, accessed 21 May, 2013, http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/a_trip_to_the_yosemite_falls.html.))

Similarly, James Hutchings, a failed businessman who had entered the publishing industry and led one of the earliest expeditions to Yosemite, wrote in a travel guide that the “Bridal-Veil” fall in Yosemite “leaps out of a smoother channel, in a clear, symmetrical arch of indescribable beauty; has a larger body of water, and is surrounded by far loftier and grander precipices” than the Staubbach fall in the Swiss Alps. ((James Hutchings, Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California (San Francisco: J. M. Hutchings, 1862), accessed 14 May, 2013, http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/scenes_of_wonder_and_curiosity/)) This explication of the ways in which the Yosemite Fall was superior to its famous European counterpart demonstrates that the aim of much of this literature was to express the ways in which America’s nature could compete with and surpass European equivalents. Nowhere was this clearer than in a letter in The Times in 1869, in which the English author said of Yosemite: “All the Americans I have seen are very proud of it, and some less well informed than the rest have been almost offended at my saying that much grander mountain views could be found in the Alps.” ((The Times, 30 October, 1869)) Promotional materials for the early parks emphasized that, by travelling to these Western natural sites, Americans would be honouring the pioneering experiences of the early frontiersmen. Visitors could engage with the uniquely American history of westward expansion, and in doing so could achieve some physical and spiritual freedom. ((Elliott West, “Selling the Myth: Western Images in Advertising,” in Montana: The Magazine of Western History 46, no.2: 1996, 36-49))

While the political implications of this desire to match the famous grandeur of Europe’s art and nature through the newly discovered wonders in Yosemite are difficult to prove, the volume of literature that stresses the comparison between the two continents indicates that it was of no small significance. Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of New York’s Central Park) – one of the first people to suggest that natural scenes were favourable in securing the “health,” “vigor,” and “happiness” of men – directly criticized the system in England whereby wealthy land owners created private parks solely for the enjoyment of their own families. For Olmsted, such a system represented a “monopoly” in which the vast majority of the population, including those who would gain most from a period of recreation, were excluded from the physical and psychological benefits offered by such parks. ((Frederick Law Olmsted, Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove: A Preliminary Report, 1865, accessed 19 May, 2013, http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/olmsted/report.html)) Yosemite Park was to be a cultural asset superior to anything in Europe, and a conspicuous example of American democratization.

Olmsted’s argument is evident in a widely repeated incident from the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, to which part of a fallen Sequoia tree (the General Noble Tree) had been sent in order to demonstrate its immense size.

The rejection of the existence of such a tree by many of the visiting English patrons became a ground for dispute for supporters of the Yosemite Park idea, and later became a useful tool to strengthen cultural arguments for preservation. One recital of the incident recalled how one Englishman, after being repeatedly assured by the American “gentlemen” who had transported the tree to Chicago that the object was real, “gave one look of rage at our honest-eyed friend, and bolted from the neighbourhood.” ((Thomas Starr King, A Vacation among the Sierras: Yosemite in 1860 (Book Club of California, 1962), accessed 21 May, 2013, http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/vacation_among_the_sierras/)) The incident did not only appear in much of the Yosemite literature, but was also repeated by Senator Conness during the longest of the debates on the passing of the park bill: “The English who saw it [the tree] declared it to be a Yankee invention” and thought that “it was an utter untruth that such trees grew in the country.” ((Congressional Globe, 1864, 2301)) What may at once have been deemed a trivial incident later became considered worthy of repeated recitation in an effort to justify the preservation of the trees through the creation of the park.

Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views. / United States. / States / California. / Stereoscopic Views of Yosemite Valley, California / by E. & H. T. Anthony & Co.

Age estimates of the park’s trees became another means of comparison with Europe. Many publications, stressing the unique physical attributes of the Yosemite region, highlighted the possibility that the United States possessed trees that out-dated many of Europe’s ancient spectacles. Thomas King, a noted political orator during the Civil War, described how one member of a travelling party to the Sierras believed that “the oldest of these trees were of substantial size when David danced before the Ark, when Theseus ruled in Athens, when Aeneas fled from the burning wreck of Troy.” ((King, A Vacation among the Sierras)) Such comparative thinking entered the official discussions on the park’s creation; one of the first questions to be asked of Senator Conness concerning the trees was, simply, “How old?” ((Congressional Globe, 1864, 2301))

These comparisons played an equally vital role in the creation of Yellowstone Park as it had for Yosemite, influencing both press coverage and official documentation. A report from the Committee on Public Lands was used as a basis for the initial presentation and discussion of the bill. The report observed, “all these springs are adorned with decorations more beautiful than human art ever conceived, and which have required thousands of years for the cunning hand of nature to form,” and that “the geysers of Iceland sink into insignificance in comparison with the hot springs of the Yellowstone and Fire-Hole Basins.” ((“The Yellowstone Park: Report of the Committee on Public Lands,” Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives for the Second Session of the Forty-Second Congress, 1872)) There are detailed similarities between 1872 and 1864 in terms of an emphasis on the superiority of American natural wonders. More specifically, this illustrates a continuation of the desire to not only highlight superior physical attributes, but also the age of the natural features.

The Chicago Tribune, citing a report of the Yellowstone Expedition in 1870, stated that those in the field were “satisfied this wonderful region … needs to become known to attract as much attention as any other on the face of the globe.” ((Chicago Tribune, 11 October, 1870)) The St. Paul Daily Press similarly stressed the extent to which the United States was setting a global precedent: “such a grand national park [Yellowstone] in the heart of the continent, is one of those conceptions that is purely American in their magnificence.” ((St. Paul Daily Press, 6 March, 1872)) The very fact that, within twenty-one years of the creation of Yellowstone, six other countries had designated lands as national parks or equivalent reserves reinforces this point that the United States had constructed a model for the rest of the developed world to follow. ((John Shultis, “Improving the Wilderness: Common Factors in Creating National Parks and Equivalent Reserves During the Nineteenth Century,” Forest and Conservation History 36, no. 3, (1995): 121-22))

Preservation of the Wonderful

Whereas the wonders of Yosemite were effectively advertised by authors and artists, like King, Greeley, Horace, and Watkins, the natural landmarks of the Yellowstone region were brought to a wider audience mainly through published accounts of two expeditions: the 1870 Langford-Washburn expedition, and the 1871 Hayden expedition. ((N. P. Langford, “The Wonders of the Yellowstone,” Scribner’s Monthly 2, no. 1, (1871): 2-17.)) These accounts primarily described the physical attributes of specific natural phenomena, especially concentrating on the uniqueness of the many geysers in the region. Langford, in particularly emotive language, suggested, “the springs themselves were as diabolical in appearance as the witches’ cauldron in Macbeth, and needed but the presence of Hecate and her weird band to realize that horrible creation of poetic fancy.” ((Ibid., p. 10))

The findings of Professor Hayden’s expeditions into the Yellowstone region were reproduced in the illustrated magazine Scribner’s Monthly, where Hayden wrote about the wonders of the area and the necessity of park legislation. Of the Yellowstone Mountains, he noted, “several members of the party, who were familiar with the mountains of Central Europe, were struck at once with the resemblance to the Alps.” The establishment of these parks necessarily included recognition of the pioneering exploration that had uncovered America’s natural wonders. These expeditions, like that of Lewis and Clarke, were evidence not only of American bravery and of the pioneering spirit, but also served as a timely reminder of the huge scale of the American nation. The discovery of wonderful, unique natural phenomena in the darkest recesses of the country created an aura of mystery and wonder.

The increasing use of the natural world as a subject for artistic expression facilitated this cultural transition. Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran, in particular, painted and disseminated images of America’s wilderness, in which man was subservient to his awesome surroundings. Such images conformed to the mid-nineteenth century growth of transcendentalism. Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau reinterpreted the role of nature by suggesting that, in order to become closer to God, one must embrace his natural creations. By preserving God’s greatest creations in perpetuity, for all Americans to enjoy, the creators of the national parks ensured the spiritual well-being of those willing to embrace the wilderness.

Worthless Land

Unsurprisingly, not all motivations for the creation of national parks were purely ideological.

In contrast to the passing of the 1864 bill, proposed legislation for Yellowstone encountered real opposition within Congress. The resulting debates highlight the importance of the “worthless land” component of the park model. Much of the opposition to the park bills in Congress was based on an unwillingness to close off areas of land from private enterprise. Park promoters would be required to emphasize that the parks would not cause financial loss and would be self-funding.

The first of these debates involved Senator Cameron, who questioned the “necessity” of the federal government owning such a large tract of land, especially as the proposed park was to be “several times larger than the district of Colombia.” ((Congressional Globe, 1872, p. 484)) The second debate included the most outspoken opposition to the establishment of public parks at any point in the nineteenth century. Senator Cole of California criticised the legislation based on a two main issues: “I cannot see how the natural curiosities can be interfered with if settlers are allowed to approach them;” “If it cannot be occupied by man, why protect it from occupation?” Senator Trumbull’s answered that federal ownership was necessary in order to prevent an opportunistic group of people planting themselves “across the only path that leads to these wonders, and charge every man that passes along…” ((Ibid., p. 697))

In both debates, defenders of the park bill cited the findings of the Hayden report that indicated the unsuitability of the parklands for agricultural or arable purposes. The altitude of the land meant that it was not available for private occupation, hence the setting aside of the land would inflict no damage on any material interests. ((Ibid., pp. 520, 697))The new phenomena of large public parks were tolerated only after the satisfactory appeasement of economic, as well as ideological and environmental, interests.

Legacy

Despite these economic caveats, the early stages of the national parks system have retained a legacy of romantic cultural thought, grounded in the democratic ideal of making the greatest of America’s wilderness available to all. As a young country, the United States is rarely able to claim to have first discovered or established specific cultural principles. National parks are a notable exception. Now a global institution, the preservation of some of the world’s most unique natural wonders can truly claim to be “America’s Best Idea.” Marrying cultural and social concepts, it represented an antidote to nineteenth century American regionalism. Although primarily located in the West, these natural phenomena belonged to all Americans.

Voir aussi:

The Mother of the Forest and George Gale
A story about the killing of a 2,520 year old Sequoia in 1852 by George Gale for his carnival show.

June 11, 2008

« In the 1850s, Americans learned about California through the pages of newspapers and magazines. A businessman named George Gale and his partners provided the nation with its first big news story from California after the gold rush. In the process, Gale and his companions inadvertently assisted the forces that led to the protection of the natural wonders of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Gale’s vaudevillian stunt, which received press attention in the United States and Europe, has since slipped into the forgotten pages of history, but its byproduct, the national park system, lives on.

The story begins in 1852, when miners looking for another lode in the boom-and-bust cycle of their existence stumbled across a grove of giant trees in a remote mountainous area in Calaveras County in northern California. In a moment of unimaginative nomenclature, the miners named the area the Calaveras Grove of Big Trees. Native American tribes knew of the region, of course, and white hunters saw the Calaveras giant trees in 1850. The Sierra region had received local publicity in 1851, when a battalion under trader James Savage invaded a valley south of Calaveras in Mariposa County, in a skirmish with a tribe of Indians, the Ahwahnechee. Savage accused the tribe of raiding his trading posts and he and his men burned out the Indians, who escaped under the leadership of a brave named Tenaya. A surgeon in the battalion, Lafayette Bunnell, took time from his duties to serve as a diarist for the trip and he remembered the scenery. « It seemed to me I had entered God’s holiest temple, where that assembled all that was most divine in material creation, » he wrote several years later. A second expedition, under John Boling, caught up with Tenaya and his band in May of 1851, killing one of Tenaya’s three sons. The following spring, the Indians attacked a group of miners, killing two. The regular army invaded the valley, killing five captive Indians. Newspaper stories of the battles in the valley, which was called by the Indian name Yo-Semite, did not travel beyond California. Meanwhile, rumors of a second grove of giant trees near Yo-Semite, bigger and more numerous than the Calaveras Big Grove, circulated among the local population.

As word of the huge trees in Calaveras County spread among folks scratching out a living in the region east of San Francisco, among those who rode out for a look was Gale. Some 20 or 30 miles from the mouth of the Klamath River, Gale stumbled into the grove. Among the 92 giant sequoias in the 160-acre valley, Gale saw what he mistakenly thought was a cedar tree — not just a backyard cedar, but a tree measuring 300 feet high, 92 feet in circumference at the ground and perfectly symmetrical from base to top. He called it « the Mother of the Forest, » and sent to town for a team of five men to chop it down.

Gale was not a lumberjack, nor did he own a sawmill or a lumberyard. He was about to become involved in show business, and in the tree he saw the biggest attraction of his career. But the Mother of the Forest did not die easily. After Gale’s men bored holes through the trunk of the giant sequoia with a long auger, they worked saw blades from one hole to the next. The sawyers, cautious of a 300-foot tree falling on them without notice, continued with great care. The five men worked 25 days to complete the task. According to one account of the event, the tree was so « straight and balanced » that it remained upright, even after it was sawed completely through. Wedges were forced into the cut with hammers and sledges; the trunk was smashed by a crude battering ram, fashioned from nearby lumber, but the Mother of the Forest did not topple.

Not until a wicked gale blew up, in the dead of night, did the tree begin to « groan and sway in the storm like an expiring giant and it succumbed at last to the elements… » Sounds of the crash of the giant sequoia carried 15 miles away to a mining camp; the tree buried itself 12 feet deep into the muck of a creekbed. Mud from the creek splashed 100 feet high onto the trunks of nearby trees. Later, forestry experts in the East estimated that the sequoia tree was 2,520 years old.

Gale’s men stripped most of the bark — which was two feet thick in places — in sections, so it could be pieced together like a grainy jigsaw puzzle for display in the sideshow. Reassembled, the bark section was 50 feet high, 30 feet in diameter and 90 feet in circumference. Another portion of the tree was cut across the diameter, showing rings representing forest fires, drought and rainy seasons over the previous two-and-a-half millennia. Stripping of the bark was done « with as much neatness and industry as a troop of jackals would display in cleaning the bones of a dead lion. » The rest was left to rot. The tree was so immense — and stored enough water in its system — that five years passed before its leaves turned brown and died. Gale shipped the bark to Stockton, on its way to San Francisco, then to the Atlantic States and finally London, to be seen « for a trifling admission fee. »

Sadly for Gale and his partners, reaction to the tree was of two kinds, and both doomed the sideshow. Citizens either thought the bark to be a fake, or, more surprisingly, were hostile to the killing of what was billed the largest tree in the world. The editors of Gleason’s Pictorial, a widely read magazine published in Boston, said, « To our mind, it seems a cruel idea, a perfect desecration, to cut down such a splendid tree… what in the world could have possessed any mortal to embark in such a speculation with this mountain of wood? » Europeans cherish such trees, the editors said, and protect them by law. They hoped that two other American natural wonders, Niagara Falls and Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave, would be safe from purchase and exploitation, and wryly asserted that the cave « is comparatively safe, being underground. » New York newspaperman Horace Greeley, after visiting the region a few years later, wrote, « …it is a comfort to know that the vandals who bore down with pump augers the largest of the Calaveras trees, in order to make their fortunes by exhibiting a section of its bark at the east, have been heavy losers by their villainous speculation. »

Economic speculation in the Calaveras Grove did not end with the bark exhibition, however. Another entrepreneur, seeing a tourist opportunity in the rugged hills 240 miles from San Francisco, built a hotel next to Mother of the Forest. The Mammoth Tree Hotel opened for business in 1855, with dances and theatrical performances held on Mother’s stump. Several dozen feet of the fallen tree’s surface were shaved flat; a tavern and two bowling alleys, complete with 81-foot lanes, were built on the leveled area and soon were ready for customers. Tourists also traveled to another, larger tree in the grove called Father of the Forest that had died a natural death many years earlier; its corpse ran along the ground for 450 feet and, after a rain, held a pond in its trunk deep enough to hold a steamboat.

The publicity surely stimulated interest in the natural wonders of California. Historian Hans Huth said vandalism such as the killing of the Mother of the Forest caused Easterners to ponder their duty to protect nature. A more recent environmental historian, Donald Worster, insightfully argued that ecological thought reflected not just discoveries (such as the Mother of the Forest) but the specific cultural conditions in which those discoveries arose. For example, the excitement caused by the felling of the giant tree caught the attention of one of the country’s most popular philosophers and poets, James Russell Lowell. In an article for The Spectator, reprinted in other publications, the well-known social critic called for a society for the protection of trees. « The American seems to have an hereditary antipathy to Indians and trees, both having been the foes he had to first encounter in conquering himself a home here in the West, » he wrote. Lowell, who had succeeded Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as chair of modern languages at Harvard, wanted trees to be left alone, free of the interference of sideshow huckster and government forester alike. « That is the best government for trees which governs least… » he wrote. « Nature knows better than any city forester. » Lowell’s dislike of government foresters prevented him from extending his minimal interference notion to the idea of state protection. The idea had been on the books as early as 1817 in the United States, when the Secretary of Navy was authorized to reserve lands producing oak and cedar for the purpose of supplying lumber for ships.

In 1864, 11 years after Gale felled the Mother of the Forest and seven years after Lowell’s call for a tree protection society, the federal government granted the State of California an area of about eight square miles to be used as a park several miles south of the Calaveras Grove of Big Trees. Ironically, the Calaveras Grove of Big Trees was left out of the protected area, even after all the attention it received in the popular press. The new park was in Yosemite Valley, which was home to more giant trees — the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees, plus spectacular and unusual granite formations, delicate waterfalls and scenery unlike any other in the world. The process of making Yosemite Valley a park, which began with the discovery of the Mother of the Forest, worked its way through the political arena with unusual speed. Yosemite Valley provided a model for a new kind of land use, a state park, which was to be joined by another model — a federal park — at Yellowstone eight years later. »

Voir également:

June 30, 1864, Abraham Lincoln creates Yosemite Park
Andrew Glass

Politico

6/30/09

On this day in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation giving Yosemite Valley and the nearby Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the state of California “upon the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort and recreation.”

Championed by Sen. John Conness (R-Calif.), the Yosemite Grant included the first parkland the federal government ever set aside for preservation and public use. It set a precedent for the creation of Yellowstone as the nation’s first national park in 1872.

The need to preserve the magnificent landscape and the desire to attract tourists soon came into conflict, however. In 1865, Frederick Law Olmsted, a landscape architect who served on the Yosemite board of commissioners, warned that “the slight harm which the few hundred visitors of this year might do, if no care were taken to prevent it, would not be slight, if it should be repeated by millions.”

As Olmsted predicted, the Yosemite Valley soon became a popular vacation destination. When it became apparent that the state could not adequately care for the park, public pressure grew to turn over management of its natural wonders to the federal government. The campaign led to the establishment of Yosemite National Park in 1890.

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt camped in the park with naturalist John Muir for three days. On that trip, Muir persuaded Roosevelt to remove control of the nearby valley and grove from California and return it to the federal government.

Today, the region, under the management of the National Park Service, encompasses nearly 1,200 square miles of the Sierra Nevada range. With elevations as high as 13,000 feet, the park includes a pristine alpine wilderness amid deep valleys, sweeping meadows, groves of ancient giant sequoias, towering cliffs, spectacular waterfalls, wildflowers and iconic rock formations.

Voir encore:

Yosemite celebrates 150th anniversary
In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act on June 30, 1864, paving the way for the national park system. American photographer Charles Leander Weed captured this view of Yosemite Valley that same year.
Katia Hetter
CNN
June 30, 2014

(CNN) — It was during the throes of the Civil War, with lots of bloody and brutal fighting still ahead, when President Abraham Lincoln turned his attention to the Mariposa Grove and the Yosemite Valley areas of California.

Lincoln’s signature on the Yosemite Land Grant bill on June 30, 1864, set a precedent for the preservation of the young country’s wilderness. That act 150 years ago was the first instance of the U.S. government setting aside scenic wilderness for public use and preservation.

The act put both tracts of land in trust for the state of California, and it set the stage for the 1872 establishment of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho as the first national park.

Calling it a « remarkable message of hope for a nation embroiled in a bloody civil war, » National Park Service director Joseph Jarvis suggested Lincoln’s actions may have been « assuring the nation of better times ahead, as if he knew that Americans would need places where they could go and find peace in the perfection of the natural world. »

The land around the grove and the valley became Yosemite National Park in 1890. Both pieces of land were re-acquired by the federal government and combined with the national park in 1906, which created the park much as we know it today.

Yosemite now hosts 3.7 million visitors annually, and the numbers are expected to swell for anniversary events through October. But the glorious groves of ancient sequoias, spectacular waterfalls and 750 miles of trails that are now Yosemite National Park’s 1,200 square miles are a joy for travelers to visit any time of year.

Voir enfin:

“Yosemite: The Story of an Idea” (1948) by Hans Huth

Foreword, by Carl P. Russell; signed by David R. Brower
1. Introduction
2. The American and Nature
3. Origin of the Park Idea
4. The Idea Grows
References
About the Author, Hans Huth
Hans Huth and His Story
“Yosemite: The Story of an Idea” is one of the most important contributions to the history of the national park idea that has been made in recent years.

For one thing, Dr. Huth, in reiterating that Yosemite, not Yellowstone, was the first park of national importance, has made it imperative that future historians abandon the common assumption that the national park idea was born at a campfire in Yellowstone in 1870. Six years before that campfire, Congressional action had already been taken to set aside Yosemite Valley, that it might be enjoyed in perpetuity as a scenic resource for all the people. The proper place of Yosemite in national park chronology is pointed out by Dr. Carl Russell in One Hundred Years in Yosemite. It is of major importance here that Huth traces the course of man’s interest in nature in this country and demonstrates that no other chronology was possible. He shows the importance of Yosemite not only as a birthplace of an idea, but also as a place where the idea could grow.

Perhaps Hans Huth’s insight with respect to our national parks is due to his not having grown up among them. He obtained his Ph.D. in Berlin in 1922 and by 1936 had been a curator in the museums of Munich and Berlin and the former Royal Palaces and Gardens in Prussia. He came to this country in 1938, having been invited to lecture at New York University and collaborate in history with the National Park Service, by which he was later appointed consultant. Now Associate Curator of the Art Institute of Chicago, he has published books on decorative arts, sculpture, and gardens, and has contributed to historical and art periodicals here and abroad.

Germany has respected cultural objects for generations and has interpreted historic relics for students and the average citizens in an organized way. Huth could see readily enough the practicability of using historic objects as teaching materials in the United States; they could also serve as a type of documentary evidence against which the written word could be checked. He has been instrumental in initiating this method in this country. At the same time, he has manifested great interest in nature protection. He has combined his several interests in “Yosemite: The Story of an Idea.” It is important that the results of his objective study of a park he has never seen be published now, when too many others who have not seen our scenic resources are opposing the concepts and attempting to negate the action of the men of vision of whom he writes.

—David R. Brower
Yosemite: The Story of an Idea
By Hans Huth
I. Introduction
Theodore Roosevelt gave status to conservation as national policy by creating, in 1908, the National Conservation Commission. The importance of what he had done did not really engage the public mind until the Dust Bowl catastrophe of the early ’thirties. Only then did the nation learn what it means to have the heavy topsoil of the plains, no longer protected by the original vegetation, carried away by the Mississippi and poured into the Gulf of Mexico. The dramatization in the Dust Bowl of what might be termed a cumulative calamity served to advance the conservation of the nation’s natural resources and the preservation of the educational and recreational values inherent in state and federal parks. The preservation of these values had been initiated at the now famous Conference of Governors in 1908 through the leadership of J. Horace McFarland, at that time President of the American Civic Association. He was the only representative who was farsighted enough to recommend guarding the national domain for its scenic value, which he felt represented “a distinctly important natural resource.” From this time on, the American Civic Association became active in arousing sentiment in favor of establishing a bureau of national parks. Appropriate legislation was finally drafted and passed by Congress in 1916.

In the course of the growth of the National Park System it has been frequently stated that with the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1874, the idea of national parks was born. More specifically, it has been said that members of the Washburn-Doane Expedition of 1870, in a campfire discussion in Yellowstone, laid the foundation for the national park pattern, and that from there on, like apostles, they carried the new gospel to the people.

If things really had happened this way, it would indeed have been something of a miracle. It would have meant that public opinion had been prepared for this supposedly new and unique idea in little more than a year, and that Congress was ready to act favorably “to set apart the vast territory of Yellowstone as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Ideas of such far-reaching consequence do not ripen overnight; they develop slowly. Any attempt to elucidate the evolution of the national park idea must start by exploring two different processes. One is the legal procedure used for transforming an area into a park for public use, as exemplified in the history of the setting up of Yosemite or Yellowstone as segregated areas under state or federal authority. The other is a process which seems more important and has been given little attention—the shaping of public opinion so that it will either demand or suffer conservation measures. Contrary to the usual assumption, it was not the establishment of Yellowstone but rather the setting apart of Yosemite which was preeminent in the basic conditioning of opinion. Yosemite is the point of departure from which a new idea began to gain momentum. Where the idea will lead can hardly be envisaged, but we do know that the manner in which the entire park system developed in this country is specifically American; the system is an institution admirably suited to fill the needs of the people.

II. The American and Nature
What was the attitude of the colonials toward nature, and how did it develop later? To find the answer to this question we could make a detailed study of the treatment of nature in early colonial literature; but it should suffice here to pick out a few significant opinions. Of course we need not stop to inquire about the pioneers’ point of view. They blazed the way and were forced to be uncompromising; they consequently rejected in nature that which was not of immediate and practical use—a philosophy borne out in a little poem published in 1692: In such a wilderness . . .

When we began to clear the Land . . .
Then with the Ax, with Might and Strength,
The trees so thick and strong . . .
We laid them all along . . .
[These] we with Fire, most furiously
To Ashes did confound. 1
We might also mention one Reverend Johannes Megapolensis, who visited the Cohoes Falls in 1644. Taking no delight in the extraordinary sight of nature, he noticed nothing save the obvious consequences brought about by the descending mass of water. To him, the boiling and dashing water made only a horrible noise and the trees looked as if they were standing in the rain. 2 To traveler and settler alike, nature seemed uncouth in the extreme, and they felt that they were in a “most howling wilderness amidst wild men and beasts.” 3 Toward the beginning of the eighteenth century there were occasional changes in this attitude, even in the core of Puritan stock. For example, Jonathan Edwards, the Connecticut minister, who was dismissed from his pulpit for his too strict adherence to the Puritan dogma, rather freely expressed his deep love for the beauties of nature which he considered an emanation of the Son of God. “We behold the fragrant rose and lily . . . the easiness and naturalness of trees and rivers are shadows of His beauty . . . the golden edges of an evening cloud . . . the blue sky . . . the ragged rocks . . . and the brows of mountains.” 4 While such sentiments apparently were admitted in disguised form, a New Englander ordinarily would have frowned on the enjoyment of nature as a pastime, since it would have been neither “useful ” nor “innocent,” but plain wasteful, and therefore vicious and leading to excess and sin. Southerners, of course, were more tolerant, but still contemplations of nature were rare before 1750. Perhaps we may evaluate in this context a statement made by Colonel William Byrd, the owner of Westover, to whom the ideal goal of a Southern gentleman was the possession of “a library, a garden, a grove, and a purling stream.” How far such desires indicate any special addiction to nature is difficult to define. Certainly we do not find one line in Byrd’s History of the Dividing Line (1728-1736) which would prove any special interest in nature. The few such statements we do find in colonial literature are simple and lack expressive power. Only in the second half of the eighteenth century did writers express more clearly defined thoughts about their relations with nature. We must be wary, however, of the à la mode stylists, who cannot be considered as being sincere inasmuch ‘as their conventionalized pastoral sentiments did not spring from any newly won or intimate relations with nature.

What we must study are the writings of such men as William Bartram, Hector St. Jean de Crèvecoeur, Alexander Wilson, and Philip Freneau. All these men came into close contact with nature by profession as well as by avocation, and all of them were conscious of the newness of their adventure on being confronted with virgin woods, savannahs, and lakes, not previously charted by white men. They as well as their readers had been prepared for their fresh experience by the works of English deists, such as Lord Shaftesbury, who had shaped their minds to perceive the possibility of a new kind of relationship between man and nature. At the same time they became acquainted with critics of the type of Edward Burke, whose recognition that a quality like “sublimity” should be coordinated with the beautiful, laid the foundation for a new aesthetic doctrine which was immediately taken up and applied. A little later the English Reverend William Gilpin became known as the erudite who had spent years in search and description of the “Picturesque.” Scarcely any writer on “nature” in the beginning of the nineteenth century failed to follow him and use his vocabulary. Only after the integration of such new definitions were writers properly equipped to furnish more unconventional and precise appraisals of nature. Imbued with this new spirit, William Bartram, 1739-1823, traveling between 1773 and 1777, asked his countrymen to behold “as yet unmodified by the hand of man . . . the unlimited variety and truly astonishing scenes of landscape and perspective.” 5

Bartram’s deeply felt emotions led him through all sensations of “vastness” and he would lose himself completely “amidst sublimely high forests, awful shades.” 6 His travel accounts, first printed in Philadelphia in 1791, did not find widespread recognition among his contemporaries; still it was he who strongly influenced Chateaubriand, and, much later, his view was one of the decisive factors in shaping Thoreau’s ideas. Philip Freneau’s poems (1752-1832) dealing with nature subjects are still well known, and it is unnecessary to single out any of them to show how well suited they were to persuading his fellow countrymen to share his deep devotion to nature. In Alexander Wilson’s (1766-1813) epic poem, “The Foresters, Descriptive of a Pedestrian Tour to the Niagara,” even the title reveals an attitude toward the natural wonders of this country. The poem is not well remembered now and probably was never very popular. But Wilson himself, wandering up and down the seaboard states and penetrating into remote places to peddle subscriptions to his bird publications, was a well-known figure and a most eloquent advocate in the propagation of love for and interest in the beauties of nature. In his time the public knew Wilson far better than they did his competitor, Audubon, who came into public view and gained a certain popularity much later.

Among the scores of travelers who roamed through the country for various purposes, it is easy to pick out some who took real interest in the scenes with which they were confronted. From Andrew Burnaby (traveled in 1759-1760) on, these men displayed increasing amazement at the wonders of natural grandeur which they beheld. St. Jean de Crèvecoeur (1731-1813) hates to dwell in “accumulated and crowded cities” and enjoys “in our woods a substantial happiness which the wonders of art cannot communicate.” 7 To visitors beholding Natural Bridge in Virginia for the first time, it is, according to Thomas Jefferson, impossible for their emotions “arising from the sublime to be felt beyond what they are here . . . the rapture of the spectator is really indescribable.” 8 To understand this praise we must realize that Natural Bridge was one of those objects to which a “curio” value had attached. The appreciation of this value, which has nothing to do with the aesthetic or sentimental merit of an object, was one of long standing. It had interested travelers the world over, ever since they had first set out on pilgrimages. Trenton Falls, Mammoth Cave, and, of course, Niagara Falls were some of the other places in this country regarded as “curious” and “landmarks,” to be seen by every foreign traveler. So in evaluating the “raptures” of travelers, we must be careful to distinguish mere delight in a curio value from the growing appreciation of scenic qualities of nature. In the travel accounts of Timothy Dwight, president of Yale in 1795, we are immediately reassured that the joy he expressed in the sights he beheld was genuine. An untiring traveler of the American countryside, he wandered “with emotions, similar to those with which, when a child, he roamed through the wilderness.” 9

Evaluation of the attitudes toward nature of writers of the early nineteenth century is difficult only because it becomes hard to know whom to select among the many who were taking an increasing interest in the American scene. Above all is of course James Fenimore Cooper, whose Pioneers must be regarded as one of the most significant books in this respect. Here is one of its typical passages in which Natty Bumpo expresses his feelings:

. . . “when I felt lonesome . . . I would go into the Catskills and spend a few days on that hill . . .” “What see you when you get there?” asked Edwards . . . “Creation, lad, all creation,” said Natty. “How should a man who has lived in towns . . . know anything about the wonders of the woods? . . . None know how often the hand of God is seen in the wilderness, but them that rove it for a man’s life.” 10

A study of William Cullen Bryant’s (1794-1878) poems will clearly prove that devotion to nature was one of his outstanding characteristics. This devotion is early expressed in “Thanatopsis,” and it is later confirmed by James Russell Lowell who hailed the dean of American poets on his seventieth birthday:

The voice of the hills did his obey;
The torrents flashed and trembled in his song;
He brought our native fields from far away . . .
While much interest has been shown lately in Thomas Cole’s painting (1801-1848), some attention should also be given to his journals for their warmhearted descriptions of the “sublimity of untamed wilderness, and majesty of the eternal mountains:” 11 But Cole did not confide his thoughts only to his journal; we know at least of one lecture on “American Scenery,” which he gave in 1835 before the New York Lyceum. 12 Though we do not know the contents of this paper, we can well imagine how Cole talked about “primeval forests, virgin lakes and waterfalls,” feasting his eye and being hallowed “to his soul by their freshness from the creation.” 13

Another romantic writer was Charles Fenno Hoffmann (1806-1884), the first editor of Knickerbocker Magazine. In 1834 he set out all alone to travel west on horseback. He too was enchanted by the beauty nature had lavished on the country and asked, “Why are there none to sing her primeval glories in our land?” 14 More important, however, was George Catlin (1796-1872), another untiring explorer and painter, whose particular interest lay in the “looks and customs of the vanishing races of native man in America.” Traveling up the Missouri River into the heart of the Indian country (1832), Catlin beheld the vast forest covering the banks of the river and he, perhaps as the first man in this country to do so, had the imagination to conceive the idea that these realms “might in future be seen (by some great protecting policy of government) preserved in their pristine beauty and wildness, in a magnificent park, where the world could see for ages to come, the native Indian in his classic attire, galloping his wild horse . . . amid the fleeting herds of elks and buffaloes. What a beautiful and thrilling specimen for America to preserve and hold up to the view of her refined citizens and the world, in future ages! A nation’s Park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature’s beauty.” 15 This passage was first published in one of the letters Catlin sent to the New York Daily Commercial Advertiser in 1833 from the Indian Territory. Thus was planted the seed of an idea which, although it took more than three decades to develop, was immediately well circulated in the widely read New York newspaper.

Henry Thoreau’s Walden and the thirty volumes of his journal dedicated to recording observations on nature should be enough to show his interest in our problem. In one of his most pertinent passages he wrote:

Why should not we . . . have our national preserves . . . in which the bear and panther, and some even of the hunter race, may still exist, and not be “civilized off the face of the earth” . . . for inspiration and our true re-creation? Or should we, like villains, grub them all up for poaching on our own national domains? 16

Of Emerson’s many statements concerning either his appreciation or his deep understanding of nature and the intrinsic qualities of his native soil, one might quote a remark he made in his Boston lecture about “The Young American” (1844) as reported in the Dial: “The interminable forests should become graceful parks, for use and delight.” 17 This passage, deleted in later book versions, seems to be the one publicly pronounced which follows Catlin’s postulate of 1833 most closely. Cole took up the same idea by stating that “Americans have a strong desire for excellence . . . a love of nature . . . one cause of it—the wilderness passing away and the necessity of saving and perpetuating its features. 18 All these remarks show that by the middle of the century, growing numbers of people not only had begun to take interest in the outdoors but also had realized that conservation measures were becoming necessary. The art critic, Tuckerman, corroborates this change in public opinion by pointing out how healthful “a lengthened sojourn in the primeval forests would be for refreshment and inspiration.” 19 Now at last the opportunity to enjoy the uncharted wilderness was no longer thought to be the exclusive privilege of the romantically minded traveler or artist.

The efforts of artists to interest the public in the great outdoors began very much later than those of writers. At first the artists were definitely carried away by the romantic movement which came to the fore at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Before that time landscape painting in this country was almost nonexistent, since only portraits or historical paintings were held worthy of the profession. Perhaps some of the landed gentlemen had their country seats depicted, or occasionally some of the harbor towns and other sites of interest were painted and then engraved to show their topography. But “landscapes” as such were not yet generally appreciated and some English landscapists who came to this country to try out the field failed miserably in spite of the fact that one, William Winstanley, had been recognized by George Washington and had been recommended in 1793 to the Commissioner of the District of Columbia to paint “grand objects” such as the Great and Little Falls and Natural Bridge. Washington himself, encouragingly, had bought some of Winstanley’s “Landskips.” 20 Perhaps the first painter who did landscapes in a truly romantic mood, because he was enchanted by the American scene, was John Neagle, of Philadelphia (1796-1865). However, Neagle painted landscapes only as a sideline and never exercised any real influence, nor was he recognized as a landscapist outside his small circle. Only after 1825, when Cole had shown his landscapes in New York, did the public really become interested in the products of this new school of professional landscapists, later to be known as the Hudson River School. As Cole expressed it in 1835, “The painter of American scenery has, indeed, privileges superior to any other. All nature here is new to art.” 21 To understand the sudden turn which public interest took during this period, we must recall such factors as the publication of Irving’s Sketchbook in 1819-1820, Cooper’s Pioneers in 1823, and The Last of the Mohicans in 1826. With such books capturing strong public interest, it seems logical that thereafter paintings representing scenic objects should have been well received. Several series of prints showing landscape paintings were published after 1820; the most important of these, though it proved to be a failure,. was Asher Durand’s The American Landscape in 1830.

In the prospectus of this album, Bryant expressed the feeling that there was no want of taste in the community to ensure the most successful results to an “undertaking [to publish] the most prominent and interesting features of our varied scenery.” 22 In many titles of such publications we find the word “picturesque.” Even Bryant’s monumental book on the American scene, published as late as 1872, carried the title, Picturesque America. By this time, however, the term picturesque, an heirloom from eighteenth-century terminology, no longer was used with discrimination, and artists made fun of it:

To prose it here, to verse it there
And picturesque is everywhere.
Certainly the term was no longer characteristic of the work of American artists picturing their country and so advancing the knowledge of it. In the years following the early romantic period, artists on the one hand endeavored to show realistically what Cooper as early as 1828 had called “the American scene, embracing all that admixture of civilization and of the forest, of the works of man, and of the reign of nature, that one can so easily imagine to belong to this country”; 23 or, on the other hand, and somewhat later, they were out to paint “heroic landscapes.” These “grand style” objects presented by Church, Bierstadt, Kensett, and Moran, might be described with Catlin’s words as “the vast and vacant wilds which lie between the trodden haunts of present savage and civil life—the great and almost boundless garden spots of earth . . . the boundless plains of beauty and Nature’s richest livery.” 24 However varied artistic conceptions may have been, the resulting pictures were important factors in stimulating the public to take an interest in nature beyond its common utilitarian aspect. Aware of the basic facts underlying this gradual educational process, Emerson, apparently somewhat amazed by his own observations, did some explaining in his journal of October 13, 1837: “New Eyes. What is, appears. Go out to walk with a painter, and you shall see for the first time groups, colors, clouds, and keepings, and shall have the pleasure of discovering resources in a hitherto barren ground, of finding as good as a new sense in such skill to use an old one.” 25 But Emerson did not stay content merely to acquire a new aptitude for his eyes, he was willing also to draw a moral implication from this fresh way of considering nature. He adapted Gilpin’s problem of “searching the picturesque” to his own newly won conception and proceeded to apply it: “Our hunting for the picturesque is inseparable from our protest against false society.” 26 Generally speaking this was no new idea, since the litterateurs of the romantic movement had pronounced thoughts which were similar; however, in Emerson’s close study of nature with his “new eyes,” the idea is seen to be a new and consequential one.

We may get an even closer view of what was going on in the minds of Americans by analyzing some statements made around 1850, when writers noticeably began to look beyond the romantic aspect of nature and to grasp the specific esthetic values of the American scene. Undoubtedly this was at first done rather reluctantly. Even Cooper, who we might expect to say that the Rocky Mountains “must possess many noble views,” thought that nevertheless “the accessories are necessarily wanting, for a union of art and nature can alone render scenery perfect.” But then he goes on to admit that “the mountain scenery of the United States, though wanting in grandeur . . . is not without attractions that are singularly its own.” 27 In George William Curtis we find the same cleavage of opinion. In his book, Lotus-Eating: A Summer-Book, devoted to the pleasure of traveling in this country, he compares the beauty of Lake Como and Lake George. Remarking that there is a “positive want of the picturesque in American scenery and life,” Curtis goes on to make the remarkable statement that there should be another level of comparison than the one ordinarily used. Picturesqueness should not be the yardstick; but “space and wildness are the proper praises of American scenery . . . We have only vast and unimproved extent, and the interest with which the possible grandeur of a mysterious future may invest it.” 28

To gauge the progressiveness of such thoughts one should compare them with what John Ruskin, the recognized European arbiter of taste, told his friend, Charles Eliot Norton, in 1856, “I have just been seeing a number of landscapes by an American painter of some repute; and the ugliness of them is wonderful. I see that they are true studies and that the ugliness of the country must be unfathomable.” 29 In 1871, Ruskin supplemented this statement by another seeming equally strange: “I have kind invitations enough to visit America, I could not even for a couple of months live in a country so miserable as to possess no castles.” 30 So much cynicism and candor would be difficult to excuse if there were not Cooper’s or better still Curtis’s explanation by which to judge Ruskin’s dicta. After all, Curtis’s point of view was not so very different from Ruskin’s, since they both agree to the superiority of European scenery in certain respects. But beyond this Curtis recognized that the American landscape had quite specific attributes, such as Ruskin had never experienced and therefore could not realize. Agreeing with Emerson, Curtis felt that the landscape of the Western Hemisphere had very peculiar qualities, not merely of esthetic value but of vast social importance for the future. Altogether, Americans were to be considered as having a great natural advantage over Europeans. Artists were certainly ready to appreciate this and to help prepare the public to use “new eyes,” which through their efforts were gradually to become common property. Going out west to the Rockies and beyond, as well as to the north, painters were “discarding conventionalism . . . [taking] . . . nature in her beautiful American wilderness as their model . . . [making] . . . the woods and fields their studio . . . daring to paint trees green.” 31

It must be admitted that the process of inducing the public to visualize the great outdoors as a pleasure ground was slow, and not only Britons made gross misjudgments. As late as 1864, Tuckerman feared that “the American of education . . . who delights in the life and takes pride in the aspect of his native land, is the exception, not the rule . . . [because] there is too much monotony in the landscape . . . excepting certain shrines of pilgrimage long consecrated to enthusiasm.” 32

The early representatives of romanticism had influenced the public not only through their pictures and writings, but also by their way of living in the regions they had chosen to paint. Cole, by residing in the Catskills even during wintertime, “in search of the wintry picturesque,” 33 had incited other romantically inclined people to do likewise. By 1825 there were enough enthusiasts to patronize a hotel, the Mountain House, put up in the Catskills for no other purpose than to serve these Idealists in the pursuit of their nature cult—and the customers were awakened every morning to enjoy the sunrise. What a change since Dwight’s travels through the Catskills! In 1804 he only “occasionally passed a cottage and heard the distant sound of an axe and of a human voice . . . All else was grandeur, gloom and solitude. The mountains seem to shut out the few inhabitants from the rest of mankind like in Switzerland.” 34 In 1828 the Atlantic Souvenir published an account of a visit to the Catskills in which the American was admonished not to “leave this land for enjoyment, when he can view the rugged wildness of her mountains, admire the beauty of her cultured plains . . .” Theodore Dwight, a Hartford publisher and nephew of the Yale president, visited the Mountain House in 1834 and described the sunrise rites: “As soon as I could perceive the first blush of dawn, I dressed, and hastened to the roof of the hotel, to watch the approach of the day . . . There was more sublimity to be feasted upon every moment that passed, than some people witness in their whole lives.” 35 As if to answer the need for education to make people “see,” a curious book, The Scene-Shower, was published in 1844 by one Warren Burton. He wanted the public to be properly sensitive to landscape beauty. While the “scenery school” he suggested was never established, his book confirms the change in the public attitude. No longer did only the select few indulge in romantic travel and the “Saratoga crowd” take a cure at a spa; we find instead, according to Harper’s Monthly, that by 1854 various resorts had their staple attractions like the Mountain House’s “sunrising,” and just about everybody taking them in. 36

One of the reasons for this change was that traveling along the seaboard states had become easier. As long as the roads had been the main lines of transportation, traveling had been difficult, since horseback riding was not suitable for pleasure trips. For a holiday jaunt to Passaic Falls in 1797, for example, William Dunlap and his friends hired two carriages. Although they apparently were quite alone on their trip, they met many “merrymakers’ wagons, full of rustic beaux and belles” who, hardly interested in “nature” were crowding into public houses 37 But only great people owned carriages; stages were ridden only when they had to be, since they were uncomfortable and roads—even the national roads—were in hideous shape. With the opening of the Erie Canal in 1827, traveling began to be thought of as a pleasure. Canal boats, moving four miles an hour and offering fair sleeping and dining facilities, made trips which were called the “Grand Tour,” up through New York State to Lake Ontario, where passengers could visit Niagara Falls conveniently. What a thrilling experience it must have been to sail through the new and thriving cities of Utica, Palmyra, and Rochester—and just outside town to enjoy “unbroken wildness”! In his essays and novels published after the early ’thirties, N. P. Willis, the fashionable chronicler of his day, described how tourists swarming around Lake George and along the St. Lawrence were eager to discover the “unhackneyed” beauties of silent lakes and vast forests. Theodore Dwight was thankful indeed that “our canals often introduce us to the hearts of the forests; the retreats of wild animals are almost exposed to our view.” But even though “our scenery, history and biography attract more attention than they once did,” many are brought up unfit to enjoy them and “despise those who frequent our wild scenes and select the beauties of nature.” 38

The romance of travel was being discovered by a steadily increasing throng. Sarah J. Hale, the publisher of Godey’s Magazine, felt that “circumstances had almost inevitably designed us as a nation of travellers,” though she felt that many travelers who could be sensitive to natural beauties did not yet take to touring the country for lack of intellectual and poetical associations with the scenery 39 The constantly increasing love of the out-of-doors caused many city dwellers who could afford it to take up summer residence in’ suburbs or even in the country and along the Hudson and Schuylkill. Some inconvenience was caused by the less fortunate who could make only Sunday trips to enjoy a country picnic and who, unmindful of the owners, would swarm ruthlessly across the well-tended lawns of country estates. It was a common sight to behold traveling groups visiting revival meetings, or going out for picnics and camping, as may be seen in Henry Inman’s painting, Picnic in the Catskills (about 1840; Brooklyn Museum). The larger the crowd, the more everybody enjoyed it. Frequently such mass entertainment centered around sporting societies, which had been known since the middle of the eighteenth century. In Philadelphia, for example, there was the “Fishing Company” (founded in 1732), made up of both sexes, which organized excursions on the Schuylkill and to the country in winter as well as in summer. In New York, Fanny Kemble, when she was entertained by the “Pacific Society” enjoyed walks through the woods with magnificent views across The Narrows. The widely read American Farmer recognized the value of outdoor recreation for “liberalizing the mind and invigorating the constitution,” and frequently published articles and poetry to encourage it. 40

May Day was one of the occasions when “hundreds of the refined citizens of Boston . . . witness the glorious spectacle of a rising sun . . . pedaneous excursions are planned and parties made up.” 41 A typical meeting place for such_outings was “Harmony Grove,” near Framingham, Massachusetts, where citizens could enjoy “a day of pleasant recreation among wood land and lake scenery.” 42 It boasted a natural amphitheater, cricket grounds, and all “superior accommodations to parties.” The grounds were easily accessible by the Framingham Branch Railroad. Paintings by W. J. Stillman (Camp of the Adirondacks Club, 1857; Concord Free Public Library), and Worthington Whittredge (Camp Meeting, 1874; Metropolitan Museum, New York), have recorded such meetings and their gay holiday spirit.

With the expansion of railroads in the ’thirties, traveling in some respects was made easier than in the heyday of the canal boats. Davison, the standard traveling guide for the Atlantic states, many times reprinted between 1822 and 1840, informs us that “the recent and gigantic internal improvements in the northern and middle states, and the development of new and highly interesting natural scenery, together with the increased facilities for travelling,” greatly augmented the number of tourists who undertook “what has been usually denominated the Fashionable or Northern Tour.” 43 Although trains, with their speed of two and three miles an hour, did not travel any more rapidly than canal boats, such distant regions as the White Mountains now became more easily accessible, though even in 1857 a trip to such a rugged area was thought of only as “being well for young lovers and romantic fools,” but as for “old gentlemen, they should stay in their comfortable town house.” 44 If the White Mountains were considered impossible for ordinary tourists, one can imagine that places beyond the Alleghenies were even less accessible.

The vanguard of tourists to the West was formed by artists, and John Banvard was one of the pioneers. He had traveled down the whole course of the Mississippi in 1840 and had painted scenes along the banks of the river on a canvas of enormous length especially woven for him at Lowell. Later, turning his flatboat into a show boat and floating down the Wabash, he exhibited his panorama to four thousand paying visitors—an audience which at this date was probably interested primarily in beholding the American scene in a comfortable manner. Other artists managed to go west by traveling with surveying parties. Albert Bierstadt, went along with General F. W. Landers’ expedition which mapped the railroad route across the Platte River and through Wyoming to the Pacific. Bierstadt, on his return, was the first to show the East a representative picture of the Rocky Mountains. When in 1857 he made his first trip to California, he became greatly interested in the Pacific Coast and was one of the first to show paintings of Sierra scenery in the Eastern cities. In time it became apparent that artists were an ever-increasing power in advertising the regions which were newly opened to the public. Recognizing this, the Baltimore and Ohio got some elegant publicity for its “picturesque” route along the Potomac and the Monongahela into West Virginia when, in 1857, the railroad invited twenty artists and photographers to enjoy the facilities of a special train which was fitted out with a kitchen car, dining saloon with piano, and a car “for photo purposes.” To top it all the train would stop wherever the artists wished to make sketches or take photographs. 45

But the West beyond the Rockies was not yet accessible to such leisurely travel. We may conclude, however, that the attitude toward nature had changed enough since colonial days to allow Americans to welcome easier access to the West when it should come.

III. Origin of the Park Idea
Neither the poet’s love of nature and the artist’s interest in its esthetic qualities, nor improvements in transportation and the citizen’s demand for recreational facilities need have produced the scenic park. But if these forces did not produce it, did the park movement, then, originate in Congress?

This could hardly have been expected, for as long as the idea of protecting public lands against usurpation was not urgent or even recognized, the idea of a public park would have seemed utterly futile to the representatives. If Congress did not even acknowledge any duty to further the fine arts with the taxpayers’ money, why should it feel justified in spending money on public lands to be withheld from “proper” use? Even some years after the Yellowstone Act had been approved in 1872, many in Congress expressed concern about this new “asset.” To them it would have been better to have sold the area as other public lands had been sold. After all was it not “a very expensive luxury?” The Federal Government was not supposed to go into “show business” nor was it supposed to “raise wild animals.” With such objections on record we may be rather sure that the park idea did not originate in Congress. Curiously enough, even Frederick Law Olmsted, when he tried to discover the origin of public parks in this country, had to give up—in all likelihood because he had been too close to the problem all his life. He said only that it did not seem to come as the direct “result of any of the great inventions or discoveries of the country,” but that it probably had been “a spontaneous movement of that sort which we conveniently refer to as the ‘genius of civilization’.” 46 This may be; but Olmsted seems not to have considered that type of public park to which most men go eventually.

It remains unknown whether Dr. Jacob Bigelow (1786-1879), of Boston, who became aware of the “impolicy of burials under churches or in churchyards approximating closely to the abodes of the living,” 47 made such observations because he had studied the immense European literature on the subject, or because, as an enlightened hygienist and a public-minded citizen, he was alarmed by the potential danger of the usual burying places’ “sad, neglected state exposed to every sort of intrusion, with scarcely any tree to shelter their barrenness.” 48 He waged a war to do away with the old customs and called a meeting in November, 1825, to advocate the establishing of a cemetery outside the town. Among his friends were such influential people as Joseph Story, John Lowell, Edward Everett, and Daniel Webster. While it took five years to put the plan into effect, a useful preliminary step was the founding of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1829. The members of this society merged with the sympathizers of the rural cemetery, suitable grounds were found at Mount Auburn, and on September 24, 1831, the first scenic cemetery was consecrated. Situated four miles from Boston, Mount Auburn was “the first example in modern times of so large a tract of ground being selected for the processes of landscape gardening to prepare for the reception of the dead.” 49

In the founding of Mount Auburn a chord was struck which was destined to be heard throughout the country. In his consecratory address Judge Joseph Story spoke of how touched he was by the “solemn calm, as if we were in the bosom of a wilderness . . . a spectacle well fit to excite in us a noble emulation.” How far the Père Lachaise in Paris, with its beautiful situation, may have served as an example to Boston, it is difficult to say. It is a fact, however, that a year after Dr. Bigelow initiated his movement, the Atlantic Souvenir of 1826 published an article in which an American visitor to the Père Lachaise described his’ impressions of this vast sanctuary, which presented “the appearance of a wide and variegated garden . . . where trees and shrubs conceal and disclose wild romantic beauty, tombs and temples.” 50 An English traveler visiting Mount Auburn in 1833 remarked that it was laid out in imitation of the Père Lachaise. 51 To a certain degree this was true, but there was at least one clear difference. The Père Lachaise was an old, established park and had been adapted to a new purpose. Mount Auburn was a spot considered to be of natural beauty and it was the intention to keep it that way and to “conserve” it. It was thought then that the necessary changes, such as the appropriate placing of monuments, would not destroy the idea of conservation, but on the contrary, would enhance the area’s natural beauty.

The English traveler added that “parties of pleasure come hither from the city in great numbers every day at the rate of six hundred visitors on some days.” 52 Fanny Kemble also mentions that Mount Auburn was a favorite trysting place 53 and Theodore Dwight even suggested that cemeteries should be planned “with reference to the living as well as the dead, and therefore should be convenient and pleasant to visitors.” 54 The founding of scenic cemeteries at New Haven (1833), New York (1836), Philadelphia (1836), and in many other places shows that the new idea was being rapidly accepted.

To a limited degree there had been “public” parks in this country since the beginning of colonization. When Penn laid out. the original plan of Philadelphia he assigned for public use a number of squares, the largest of which had measured ten acres. These were to be graced with trees and not to be built over, except perhaps with a few public buildings. Likewise there were “commons” such as those in England in most of the New England settlements. Primarily intended to serve as pastures, they were also used as parade grounds or for recreational purposes. But how little effort was spent to protect such lands from encroachment was evident in Washington, where L’Enfant’s grandiose plan providing for an elaborate park system was abandoned very early and only taken up again seriously in 1909 when the original plan was resurrected.

While all these city-bound areas of minor scale cannot be regarded as nuclei for the later park development, the natural burial grounds outside the cities, with their great numbers of visitors who were not mourners, must definitely be regarded as steps in the direction of conservation and the beginning of the park movement. It seems a logical sequence that we should find that William Cullen Bryant was the first to advocate a public park in New York, a park that would be on a scale which up to that time had been unheard of. Although Bryant had discussed the subject privately as early as 1836, his first public plea was published in the New York Evening Post on July 3, 1844. While there is no evidence that Bryant was influenced by the scenic cemetery movement, the author of “Thanatopsis,” “The Burial,” “A Forest Hymn,” and “An Indian at the Burial Place of His Father,” must have been deeply impressed by the rural cemeteries developing throughout the country. Bryant was joined in his efforts by Andrew Jackson Downing, the landscape architect. In his Horticulturist of 1849, Downing asked, “If thirty thousand persons visit a cemetery in a single season, would not a large public garden be especially a matter of curious investigation?” 55 Downing had traveled extensively abroad, and among the parks he had seen when he visited England, France, and Germany, he mentions as particularly beautiful the so-called “English Park” in Munich. Curiously enough, the establishment of this huge city park was due to an American Tory, Benjamin Thompson (later Count Rumford), who had taken up residence in Munich.

With such eloquent advocates as Bryant and Downing behind it, the proposal for a public park in New York was well accepted, and in 1851 the first act was passed authorizing the acquisition of the necessary lands. The appointment of Frederick Law Olmsted as a superintendent of the project initiated a new era in the best possible way. Olmsted had been a friend and pupil of Downing and had also garnered experience in Europe. After some years of fruitful work in establishing the park, Olmsted disagreed with the Park authorities. He gave up his position in May, 1863, and accepted another as superintendent of the mining estates of General Fremont, in Mariposa. In the light of Yosemite’s later role, this shifting of Olmsted’s position from New York to Mariposa must be regarded as a most fortunate coincidence.

IV. The Idea Grows
Even after the first excitement over the California Gold Rush had died down, the East learned little about the beauty spots of the newly acquired territory of California. None but the hardiest traveler, and certainly no “tourists,” would have been willing to stand the overland trek or either of the wearisome routes by sea. It is significant that one of the first big news stories to come out of California that was not concerned with gold was a show-business stunt. In 1852 the Calaveras Grove of Big Trees was discovered. The next year, two unscrupulous businessmen, George Gale and a companion, stripped one of the Big Trees, the “Mother of the Forest,” 315 feet in height and 61 feet in circumference, up to the height of 116 feet, and shipped the bark East for a show in some of the seaboard cities, and then at the Crystal Palace exhibition in Sydenham, London, in 1854. The pamphlet sold in London boasted that the possibility of seeing a forest of such gigantic size would fully repay the toil of a journey to California. The show turned out to be unsuccessful since, “owing to the immensity of the circumference, nobody would believe that the bark had come from one tree, and finally, being branded as a humbug, the exhibition had to be ended.” 56 While this was going on in London, the widely read Gleason’s Pictorial published a protest by a Californian to whom it seemed a “cruel idea, a perfect desecration to cut down such a splendid tree . . . in Europe such a natural production would have been cherished and protected by law; but in this money-making-go-ahead community, thirty or forty thousand dollars are paid for it and the purchaser chops it down and ships it off for a shilling show. We hope that. no one will conceive the idea of purchasing Niagara Falls for the same purpose.” 57 The complainant went on to praise the beauty of the tree when it was still “a single sight worth a pilgrimage to see.” Another strong protest was raised in 1857 by James Russell Lowell, who became editor of the Atlantic Monthly in the same year. His article on “Humanity to Trees” proposed to establish a society for the prevention of cruelty to trees, since “we are wanton in the destruction of trees as we are barbarous in our treatment of them.” 58 In the next year, it was pointed out in Harper’s Weekly that the big tree was now fast decaying, having been peeled “with as much neatness and industry as a troupe of jackals would display in clearing the bones of a dead lion.” 59 In the same year the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table published his book, in which Holmes included a “Talk on Trees” therein professing his passionate fondness for them. However trifling the incident may seem to us now, it aroused a great deal of sentiment in the East, and caused people to ponder their duty of protecting nature against the vandalism of enterprising businessmen. At the same time it undoubtedly stimulated great interest in the wonders of California. The great event in California discoveries, i.e., the opening up of the Yosemite, 60 was publicized with much less fanfare than the Calaveras tree murder. The account in the Daily Alta California about the scenic wonders of the valley discovered by the punitive expeditionary force of 1851 against the “Yosemitos” Indians created no stir outside the state. An article published in the Mariposa Gazette of July 12, 1855, by James M. Hutchings, whose activities from then on were to be dedicated to the valley, was of broader interest. Real recognition in the East came in 1856, when the Country Gentleman 61 republished an article by the California Christian Advocate which declared the “Yo-hem-i-ty” valley to be “the most striking natural wonder on the Pacific” and predicted that it would ultimately become a place of great resort. Hutchings started his California Magazine in the same year and gave Yosemite good publicity in it. In 1855 and 1856 a California pioneer artist, Thomas A. Ayres, made his first sketches at the valley; some of these were lithographed and spread widely over the East. By 1856 Yosemite had become so well known throughout the nation that T. Richardson who published the first illustrated hand book of American travel of general importance, 62 dedicated about 125 words and ore illustration of Mirror Lake to the now celebrated valley of the Yosemite. Here the scenery was called “perhaps the most remarkable in the United States, and perhaps in the world.” With such nation-wide publicity the fame of Yosemite was bound to grow year by year.

As one might have expected, Horace Greeley 63 paid his respects to Yosemite as soon as possible and made the most of it. For reasons unknown, Greeley was in a tremendous hurry and did more horseback riding in the valley than was good for him, especially since he was riding “in torture” with Mexican stirrups that were too small. Being badly disposed, he was disgruntled at the lack of water in Yosemite Falls (it was August) and said so, which afterward caused a furious dispute. But he could not help being overwhelmed by the “grandeur and sublimity of the wonderous chasm”; he considered Yosemite the “greatest marvel of the continent,” and hoped that the State of California would immediately provide for the safety of the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees.

In view of the difficulties of transportation, making photographs in Yosemite was, of course, a major event in the early days. It was done for the first time in 1859 when C. L. Weed and R. H. Vance took photographs and also prepared stereoscopic slides. Their photos were on exhibition at the Fifth Annual Fair of the State Agricultural Society (May 21, 1859) in Sacramento and there earned great applause. At the same time Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion 64 published an illustrated article about Yosemite regretting that it was neither sufficiently known nor appreciated, a criticism not quite justified inasmuch as travel to the West was quite difficult and would remain so for some years to come.

The first really thorough description of the experience of an extended Yosemite trip appeared in a series of eight articles, which Starr King sent to the Boston Evening Transcript from December 1, 1860, to February 9, 1861. 65 Starr King, of course, was an expert in writing such accounts and had published White Mountains shortly before. His much-regretted transfer from Boston to San Francisco at least gave him a chance to explore the West and recount his adventures to the eagerly waiting friends at home. As his friend H. W. Bellows later wrote in an obituary on Starr King, 66 “no one had really seen the Sierra Nevada, Mount Shasta, the Yosemite Valley . . . until his fine eye saw and his cunning brain and hand depicted them . . . you will find the newspapers in which his portraitures of these sublime and charming scenes are found carefully laid away in hundreds of New England homes as permanent sources of delight.” His papers, entirely forgotten today, acquainted the East better than anything else with the fabulous beauties of Yosemite.

The most important photographic records following Weed’s were by C. E. Watkins (1863), which Oliver Wendell Holmes compared with the finest work done in Europe 67 They were constantly on exhibition at Goupil’s art galleries in New York.

With so much interest devoted to Yosemite by travelers, journalists, and writers from the East, it would be fascinating to know who in California was taking active interest in the destiny of the valley. We unfortunately know only very little about this. Certainly Starr King’s enthusiasm made him one of the leaders in the effort to conserve Yosemite, and it was well known that he was planning a book about the Sierra and Yosemite which would have been a sequel to his White Mountains book. Given his love of nature, his position as one of the most prominent and influential citizens of California made him the natural leader in the campaign. Among his friends was Judge Stephen Field, who had visualized the need of having the state make a geological survey. Owing to Field’s effort, Josiah Dwight Whitney had been appointed to carry it out, assisted by William H. Brewer and Clarence King. F. L. Olmsted’s papers 68 show that immediately after his arrival in California, in September, 1863, he became enthusiastic about the valley and tried to work for its conservation. But Whitney, though not his assistants, disliked this activity and tried to obstruct it.

The men who were recommended as the first commissioners of the Yosemite grant are most likely those who helped to prepare the act. They were Professor John F. Morse, Israel Ward Raymond, and Frederick Law Olmsted. Of Morse we know only that he was a well-thought-of physician in San Francisco. About Raymond we are better informed. It was he who addressed the decisive letter to Senator John Conness urging him to present a bill concerning Yosemite to Congress. Raymond was the California representative of the Central American Steamship Transit Company of New York. He was known Ao have been a public-spirited citizen, and certainly did not take this step to further any of his business interests. Altogether, it is quite safe to assume that as a whole the group of men promoting the interests of Yosemite did so for idealistic reasons. This is demonstrated in the measures they recommended and pushed.

The coincidence of Olmsted’s arrival in California at the very moment when he was most needed has curiously enough never been noticed. For once it seems that the right man was in the right spot at the right time. Living in Mariposa, Olmsted was in close touch with Yosemite, and, we can be certain, thoroughly familiar with its problems. Certainly no one was better prepared to take an active part in urging the Yosemite grant and to keep the ball rolling. Preliminary discussions must have taken place, probably with Olmsted and the other potential commissioners, before Raymond addressed the following heretofore unpublished letter to Senator Conness: 69

88 Wall Street
New York, 20th February 1864.

Hon. John Conness
Washington
Dear Sir:

I send by Express some views of the Yosemity Valley to give you some idea of its character. No. 1 is taken from a point on the Mariposa trail and gives a view of about seven miles of the Valley, and the principal part of it. You can see that its sides are abrupt precipices ranging from 2500 feet to 5000 feet high. Indeed there is no access to it but by trails over the debris deposited by the crumbling of the walls.

The summits are mostly bare Granite Rocks in some parts the surface is covered only by pine trees and can never be of much value.

It will be many years before it is worth while for the government to survey these mountains. But I think it important to obtain the proprietorship soon, to prevent occupation and especially to preserve the trees in the valley from destruction and that it may be accepted by the legislation at its present session and laws passed to give the Commissioners power to take control and begin to consider and lay out their plans for the gradual improvement of the properties.

May not this be a sufficient description:

“That cleft or Gorge in the granite peak of the Sierra Nevada Mountains situated in the County of Mariposa, State of California, on the head waters of the Merced River and known as the Yo Semite Valley with its branches or spurs in length fifteen miles and in width one mile back from the main edge of the precipice on each side of the valley the lines to be defined on Sectional lines when surveyed, by the Surveyor General of the United States and in the spirit of this act.”

I take this length and width to secure the approaches from any annoyance. The south end is narrow and filled by the Merced River. The North end leads to Mono, is narrow and filled with rocks, and impassable to a mule.

“Also all those quarter sections in Mariposa County on which stands the grove of Gigantic trees known as the ‘Mariposa Big Trees’ not exceeding in all Four Sections of one mile square each, the lines to be defined in the spirit of this act by the Surveyor General of the United States when surveying the said County of Mariposa.”

I say “quarter” section because the trees are too scattered to be covered by four square miles in compact.

If thought best to have a compact tract it should require six or eight sections.

“The above are granted for public use, resort and recreation and are inalienable forever but leases may be granted for portions not to exceed ten years. All income derived from leases or privileges are to be expended in the preservation and improvement of the prospectus or the roads leading thereto.”

The properties shall be managed by (5.7.9) commissioners who shall not receive any payment for said services. Vacancies for death, removal, or resignation shall be filled by the others subject to confirmation by the State Senate. The first Corns. to be:

The Governor of the State of California, Ex. off.
The Collector of the Port of San Francisco.
Prof. Whitney—State Geologist.
Fred Law Olmsted of Mariposa.
George W. Coulter of Coultersville.
[Added by Conness in space left by writer:]
The Mayor of the City of San Francisco.
Prof. John F. Morse         do.
I. W. Raymond             do.
Full reports to be made annually to the Senate of the State.

If we can obtain this grant, I believe we can get Subscriptions in California to make improvements. Submitting the above,

I am very truly yours,

(Sgd.) I. W. Raymond.

Conness sent this letter to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, accompanying it by the following letter of transmittal:

Washington
March 6, 1864

Hon. J. W. Edmonds
Dear Sir:

Herewith you will find a letter with a description of the land of the Mariposa Big Trees and Yosemite.

Will you have the kindness to prepare a bill and send it to the committee of the Senate or to myself. You might insert in this the springs in a separate section. Leave blanks for the names as commissioners or insert as you find them or insert as I have Prof. John F. Morse, I. W. Raymond, Stephen J. Field. This will make nine commissioners. Let the grant be inalienable, and in regard to the mineral springs take care to insert a provision which shall not confirm any state land warrant or state location made in pursuance of any land of the State of California.

Yours truly,

(Sgd.) John Conness.

The General Land Office furnished the requested data promptly so that Conness was able to introduce the bill on March 28, 1864. There was some discussion on the floor of the Senate in which Conness stated that the bill had come to him from various gentlemen in California “of fortune, of taste and of refinement,” that the General Land Office also took great interest in the bill, and that there was “no other condition of things like this one on earth.” Finally he referred to the sorry incident of the killing of the Calaveras tree in 1853. The bill was passed, and on June 29, 1864, it was signed by President Lincoln.

So far nothing was extraordinary about the Yosemite grant, and national public opinion certainly was not aroused by the federal action; grants to states were given quite frequently. However, there was something peculiar about this grant, and as it happened, it was destined to set a precedent of real importance. The grant was given “upon the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort and recreation, shall be held inalienable for all time.” These terms implied that no profit was to be expected from the new institution. Probably it was assumed that at least all costs of upkeep would be offset by revenue from leases or privileges; at any rate, Congress took no responsibility. What was really new about the grant was the fact that it served a strictly nonutilitarian purpose. It is necessary to stress this point in view of the claims that Yellowstone set this precedent.

On September 28, 1864, Governor F. F. Low of California proclaimed the grant to California and made known the Commissioners he had. appointed: Frederick Law Olmsted, J. D. Whitney, William Ashburner, I. W. Raymond, E. S. Holden, Alexander Deering, George W. Coulter, and Galen Clark. Olmsted became chairman and immediately took the lead in the effort to organize the protected area. At the same time he ordered a survey made and a map drawn by Clarence King. Since Olmsted needed this as soon as possible as a basis for the suggestions he planned to make, he magnanimously paid all expenses himself, with no more than a hope that he might be reimbursed by the California legislature two years later. All through 1865 Olmsted was hard at work preparing a plan of management. In a letter to his father ( July 5) he expressed his feeling that Yosemite was “far the noblest park or pleasure ground in the world.” Just at this time he received the first group of dignitaries from the East who wished to visit the park. They were Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the House, and a group of friends from the East and from San Francisco. Among them were Samuel Bowler, publisher of the Springfield Republican, who had been interested in the Yosemite campaign; Charles Allen, Attorney General of Massachusetts; and Albert Richardson, the distinguished war correspondent of the New York Tribune. Altogether there were seventeen gentlemen and three ladies. The Easterners were proud that they had come across the plains, “simply to see the country and to study its resources.” In the travel account published later, Bowles made this remarkable statement:

“The wise cession and dedication [of Yosemite] by Congress and proposed improvement by California . . . furnishes an admirable example for other objects of natural curiosity and popular interest all over the Union. New York should preserve for popular use both Niagara Falls and its neighborhood, and a generous section of the famous Adirondacks, and Maine, one of her lakes and its surrounding woods.” 70

Here we have in unmistakable language a formula not just for the protection of this or that area of interest to some group or other, but for a systematic approach to an over-all system of protection of areas which illustrate specific features of nature throughout the nation. That is exactly the pattern which was followed many years later after the National Park Service had been established. It is well to note that Bowles made his statement in connection with Yosemite, which he must have considered as the first step in the direction he advised the country to take. Bowles’s; counsel undoubtedly represented the opinion of the distinguished group of men of which he was a member. The fact that Bowles felt that state legislatures should protect the areas is not important in evaluating his plan. One could hardly expect anyone in 1864 to envisage federal legislation for the purpose of conserving state areas. The way Yosemite had been handled made it quite evident that in spite of the fact that the grant was made to the state, the object of the grant was considered to be of nation-wide if not of world-wide importance.

Confirmed in his actions by Colfax and his party, Olmsted happily continued his efforts to organize the park. All his suggestions for improvements were summed up in a report approved by the Yosemite committee and submitted by him to the legislature. Unfortunately this report is lost [Editor’s note: this long-suppressed report was found in 1952—dea] and cannot be traced in the papers of the legislature in Sacramento. We can, however, get a glimpse of the thoughts which directed Olmsted in preparing his report by means of a questionnaire he addressed to three artists:

Yosemite
August 8th, 1865

Messrs. Williams, Hill and Watkins.
Gentlemen:

I address you in behalf of the Commissioners appointed under the Act of Congress, establishing Yo Semite and Mariposa Grove as a ground for recreation. The action of. Congress with regard to the Yo Semite was doubtless taken in view of the peculiar value of its natural scenery, the purpose of its action was to give the public for all future time the greatest practicable advantage of that scenery, and the duty of the Commission is to secure the accomplishment of that purpose. What effects natural scenery favorably or unfavorably to the enjoyment of mankind is the principal study of your lives and as you are at present making a special study of the scenery of the Yo Semite you may find it convenient to give some thought incidentally to two general questions your advise upon which would be of great service to the Commission:

1st. Are there any conditions affecting the scenery of the Yo Semite unfavorably which it would be in the power of the State to remove, or the further and increased effect of which might be prevented?

2nd. What can be done by the State to enhance the enjoyment now afforded by the scenery of the Yo Semite?

The Commission being required by act of Congress to perform its own duties gratuitiously and no provision having been made for meeting any expenses in the premises, I cannot promise the pecuniary remuneration for your advice which it would be your right to demand, but it is hoped that the importance of the Commission’s duty as a field of study for artists and the great interests of the public in having the action by the State well advised present sufficient grounds of apology for requesting your professional assistance as a favor.

I am, Gentlemen, very respectfully

Your obt. servant

Fred Law Olmsted
First Commissioner

Apparently the artists had been commissioned to make a special study of the scenery of the park and the way it might be improved. Virgil Williams (1830-1886), from Massachusetts, had studied in England and came out West in 1862; C. E. Watkins was the photographer mentioned previously; and Thomas Hill (1828-1908), who had studied in Paris, had been living in San Francisco since 1861. Because one of Hill’s Yosemite paintings on exhibition in Boston in 1868 had been acclaimed as the best representation of the great natural wonder of California, it was chromo-lithographed by S. Prang in Boston and became widely known all over the country. Olmsted’s letter is interesting in several respects: first, it shows how eager Olmsted was to get the expert opinions of artists; secondly, it confirms Yosemite’s nation-wide importance; and finally, it shows again the lofty attitude of Olmsted, who expected everybody to work as he did without regard to remuneration. Unfortunately Olmsted could not wait to see his recommendations carried out; soon after his report was dispatched to Sacramento he accepted the appointment as landscape architect for Central Park and returned East in November, 1865.

After 1865 the Yosemite grant was developed normally; the occasional difficulties which arose were chiefly caused by the early settlers in the park who were unwilling to give up certain claims. The fame of Yosemite grew. At the World Exhibition in Paris in 1867 an international audience became acquainted with Yosemite through twenty-eight photographs by Watkins as well as through three hundred stereoscopic views. Copyrighted in 1863, portfolios with lithographs of California, including Yosemite, were published by Edward Vischer in 1870. In 1868 the first carefully prepared guidebook of Yosemite was produced by John S. Hittell, with twenty photos by “Helios,” pseudonym for Edward J. Muybridge, the first motion picture photographer. 71

The year 1868 brought John Muir to California. His profound devotion to the Sierra initiated a new era in spreading the glory of Yosemite. His enthusiasm is well epitomized in his letter inviting Emerson to Yosemite. “I invite you to join me in a month’s worship with Nature in the high temples of the great Sierra Crown beyond our holy Yosemite. It will cost you nothing save the time and very little of that, for you will be mostly in Eternity.” 72 In spite of his age, the sixty-seven year old Emerson accepted the invitation and braved the hardships of a journey to Yosemite. In May, 1871, he arrived in the valley. This is what he jotted down in his journal as his first impression: “In Yosemite, grandeur of these mountains perhaps unmatched in the globe; for here they strip themselves like athletes for exhibition and stand perpendicular granite walls, showing their entire height, and wearing a liberty cap of snow on the head.” 73

With Yosemite ranking so high in national favor, the propagators of projects for other scenic areas of some importance were busy trying to get them nationally recognized and protected. There were, of course, many such areas of more or less doubtful value, and their evaluation and recognition took its due course. One of the major areas was that of Niagara Falls. Claims had been made in 1835 that the falls were “the property of civilized mankind.” Since 1850 the legislature of New York was- lobbied in favor of a bill to protect the falls “against waste and degradation.” Once more Olmsted was among those who supported protective legislation. This was finally passed in 1883.

The Yellowstone case had been settled more than a decade earlier by the act of March 1, 1872, which created Yellowstone National Park as the first area under federal protection, exclusive of Hot Springs, Arkansas, the establishment of which was a history of its own. Much has been made of the belief that Yellowstone was the first federal park. One has become quite accustomed to reading statements that the establishment of Yellowstone “was the first step of any consequence taken to protect our natural resources, and from it our entire conservation program has grown.” 74 In another report we are told that the idea of the national park system was launched at that now historic campfire on Sept. 19, 1870. 75 We read it again in a brief history of the National Park Service published in 1940 as a Government publication by the Department of the Interior.

All these statements are based on Hiram M. Chittenden’s presentation of the events which led to the establishment of Yellowstone 76 Louis C. Cramton has refuted this story completely and says that the early explorer “David E. Folsom’s suggestion to General Henry D. Washburn (in August 1870) was the first recorded idea of a reservation of the Yellowstone area for public benefit . . . the Hedges proposal at the campfire put in train of action the movement to secure such reservation.” 77 Since the campfire story has already been discounted here, it is not necessary to discuss the consequence of giving up the sentimental legend. As we have seen, the “national park idea” has a very respectable pedigree and was anything but new in 1870. But there is one point made by Chittenden which deserves attention. It was mentioned earlier here that George Catlin was the first man in this country to conceive the idea of a national park. Chittenden in the first edition of his Yellowstone book 78 came to the same conclusion. Surprisingly enough he retracted this opinion in the second edition, maintaining that “Catlin’s idea of a National Park was solely [aiming at] . . . a home for the Indians . . . his name cannot be considered in connection with those who originated the idea of the Yellowstone Park.” 79 Undoubtedly Chittenden was correct in assuming that Catlin had in mind some kind of a national park which would form a sort of Indian Habitat. But while such an idea would hardly detract from Catlin’s original hope to conserve a portion of the American heritage for the public good, Chittenden apparently does not reason that way. It was only because Chittenden believed that Catlin had had the Yellowstone area in mind for his project that Chittenden asserted Catlin’s priority for the idea, and after concluding that Catlin’s suggestion had nothing to do with Yellowstone, Chittenden rejected Catlin as the originator of the general idea, as well as of the specific plan. From this it seems that Chittenden crystallized his thoughts solely around Yellowstone as the national park.

The same conception seems to have prevailed throughout the early debates of Congress concerning Yellowstone. It appears that creation of this one park was regarded as the supreme effort in this respect. A typical statement by Senator Vest may illustrate this attitude: “There should be to a nation that will have a hundred million or a hundred and fifty million of people a park like this as a great breathing place for the national lung, as a place to which every American citizen can resort.” 80 Special attention is called to this point of view because it does not show the same clear vision of the needs of the whole country and the possibilities offered by an entire continent as does the program proposed by Samuel Bowles and quoted previously, which represented the idea of a group of distinguished men who had studied the situation in Yosemite. Public opinion as echoed by the New York Tribune appears to have tended toward Bowles’s view. In a review of one of Nathaniel Langford’s talks propagandizing Yellowstone, the paper says that “while we always have our Niagara and Yosemite this new field of wonder . . . should be at once set apart as a public national park.” 81 Apparently Yellowstone was here thought of just as one of the “natural attractions,” to be set aside as Yosemite had been.

One more problem remains to be settled. That is, did the establishment of Yellowstone as a federal park advance the park idea more essentially than the earlier attempt to protect Yosemite? Of course there is no doubt that placing. Yellowstone under federal administration represented a completely new departure and as such this event is certainly worthy of due recognition. Early in the nineteenth century, Congress almost unanimously would have resented such threats to taxpayers’ money. But trends around 1870 were different, and it was no longer unheard of for Congress to pay attention to art, education, or similar, not quite tangible “values.” Therefore, the establishment of a federal park was not exactly a stupendous deviation from undertakings directed by the Zeitgeist of that era.

In the long run federal protection of deserving areas did prove to be the most satisfactory form of protection, and in this respect Yellowstone marks a certain beginning, but hardly a promising one, as beginnings are usually described. Buck as well as Cramton, in their studies concerning the early history of conservation and Yellowstone, have shown that those who urged the creation of the park were for the most part exponents of groups wishing to preserve the area for their own interests. Their lobbying, and not general public support, was influential in getting the bill adopted and we can well understand why the passing of the bill caused no “flurry either in Washington or in the country at large” . . . and “an attitude of indifference prevailed.” 82

The same attitude continued for more than a decade of the so-called formative period of Yellowstone. Travel was light. The park was remote, there were hardly any lodgings and no roads, scarcely any guards or rangers were on hand to advise visitors and the superintendent was usually absent. Tourists could not, therefore, have been expected to use the new “pleasuring ground” in any large numbers. It does not seem strange that in the early years the park “administration,” if this word is at all permissible, was ever close to collapse. More than once Congress was possessed with the urge to rid the federal administration of its incubus. After all, Congress had only been asked to protect Yellowstone because in 1870 it was in a territory and could only be taken care of under federal custody. To encourage Congress to adopt the bill, no appropriations were asked for, nor supposedly were they intended to be asked for in the next years. It could have been anticipated that such a situation would breed difficulties; but because of ‘the lobby’s pressure the bill passed and a trouble spot was created. Yellowstone had to muddle through its formative years rather desperately.

Yosemite, once it was set aside, progressed smoothly, contributing far more than Yellowstone, it would seem, toward advancing the idea of conservation. It makes little difference that one area was under custody of a state and the other of the federal government. Certainly the purpose to which Yellowstone was “dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” in 1872 did not differ from the purpose for which the Yosemite grant had eight years earlier been given in trust to the State of California, “upon the express condition that the premises shall be held for public use, resort and recreation . . . inalienable for all time.” It should be remembered also that the attaching of stipulations to the California grant was no empty gesture. When it was reported in later years that the State of California was not doing so well as a trustee of the grant, a congressional investigating committee inspected the park with the result that, with the consensus of all interested, it was resolved that the park be placed under federal management. These difficulties began to turn up in the ‘nineties; Yosemite in its early years was favored by the gods. Appropriations for improvement were granted by the legislature of California as soon as necessary and possible. From the time on when the Central Pacific touched Stockton (1869), national tourist travel began to invade the valley. Yosemite was soon in a niche in the minds of the American people, who admired their country and took pride in it. Most people could not go out to California, but a chromo by Prang was within the reach of almost every lover of nature; the enormous editions of these lithographs, showing Yosemite, proved how eager people all over the nation were to satisfy their desire to become familiar with the wonderland of California.

Thus it seems certain that although Yellowstone was the first federal venture in the field of protecting areas, this fact alone did not advance the concept of conservation in the first decade and a half of the park’s existence. Had it not been for a group of senators faithful to the cause, the House would gladly have yielded to those who wished to drop the project or sacrifice it to the interests of pressure groups who would have destroyed the purpose of the park. It is questionable if Congress, with the Yellowstone experience alone, would have considered extending the national park system. Quite significantly, when the system was extended in 1890, it was to protect areas around Yosemite as well as those now called Sequoia National Park and General Grant Grove—all of them in California, where the park idea had developed so well.

In the year of the Yosemite grant another milestone was passed in the publication of George P. Marsh’s Man and Nature. This book, frequently reprinted until 1898, was the first to approach the theme of conservation in scholarly fashion. It was widely read and most influential; Bryant, for example, quoted it in his editorial on the “Utility of Trees” in the Evening Post of June 20, 1865. It is most likely that Marsh’s ideas influenced those men who were responsible for the Yosemite grant even before he published them [in 1863 and 1864]. By the time the Yellowstone problem was being discussed, his thoughts had become common property. Marsh recognized how complex conservation problems are; in his chapter, The Instability of American Life, he wrote, “We have now felled forests enough everywhere, in many districts far too much. Let us restore this one element of material life to its normal proportions and devise for maintaining the permanence of its relations to the fields, the meadows and the pastures, to the rain and the dews of heaven . . . . ” 83 In a new edition of Man and Nature he added these words to his chapter, Forests of the United States: “It is desirable that some large and easily accessible region of American soil should remain as far as possible in its primitive condition, at once a museum for the instruction of the students, a garden for the recreation of the lovers of nature, and an asylum where indigenous trees . . . plants . . . beasts may dwell and perpetuate their kind.” 84 Though this was written shortly after the establishment of Yellowstone Park, it certainly must reflect thoughts that Marsh had developed much earlier.

As a logical consequence of these ideas, Theodore Roosevelt inaugurated the conservation program out of which the National Park Service grew. The idea the program represents is based on a series of trends— deeply rooted in the American pattern of life, developing in various strata, ranging over a long period of time—that were finally embodied in park, state, and federal initiative. The idea of keeping intact some of the grand scenery of the New World such as Chateaubriand had celebrated—

there is nothing of age in America but the woods . . . that is well worth monuments and ancestors— 85

was never quite lost sight of, from the day George Catlin conceived it until it matured in the protection of the jewel of all, “holy Yosemite.” With this achieved, other successes were no longer difficult. One pearl after another was collected and strung with the others to form a national park system which is the unrivaled adornment of this hemisphere.

REFERENCES
1 Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, 1630-1707, ed., A. C. Myers (1912), p. 303.

2 Narratives of New Netherland, 1609-1664, ed., J. F. Jameson (1909), p. 170.

3 Letter from Plymouth Colony, 1680, quoted by Seymour Dunbar, History of Travel (1915), p. 15.

4 A. V. G. Allen, Jonathan Edwards (1890), p. 355ff.

5 William Bartram, Travels (London, 1792), pp. 48, 187.

6 Bartram, op. cit., p. 341.

7 St. Jean de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer [1769], ed. W. P. Trent (1904), p. 220.

8 Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on Virginia” [1787], Works, ed., Lippscomb II (1905), pp. 31-32.

9 Timothy Dwight, Travels, IV (1822), p. 59.

10 James F. Cooper, The Pioneers, chapter 26.

11 Louis Noble, The Course of Empire (1853), p. 241.

12 Noble, op. cit., p. 195.

13 Noble, op. cit., p. 202.

14 Charles F. Hoffman, A Winter in the West, II (1835), p. 316.

15 George Catlin, The Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indian, I (London, 1841), p. 262.

16 Henry Thoreau, “Chesuncook,” in Atlantic Monthly, II (1858), p. 317.

17 Dial (1844), p. 489.

18 Noble, op. cit., p. 398.

19 Henry T. Tuckerman, in Home Authors, Home Artists (1852), p. 134.

20 George Washington, Letters, XXXIII (1940), p. 83.

21 Noble, op. cit., p. 202.

22 John Durant, Asher B. Durand (1894), p. 73.

23 James F. Cooper, Notions of the Americans (1828), p. 332.

24 Catlin, op. cit., II, p. 155.

25 Ralph W. Emerson, Journals, IV (1910), p. 321.

26 Ralph W. Emerson, “Nature,” in Complete Works, III (1876), p. 178.

27 James F. Cooper, “American and European Scenery Compared,” in Home Authors, Home Artists (1850), p. 61.

28 George W. Curtis, Lotus-Eating (1850), pp. 137-40.

29 John Ruskin, Letters to C. E. Norton, I (1904), p. 29.

30 John Ruskin, Arrows of the Chase (New York, 1894), p. 148.

31 Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion (Oct. 22, 1859), p. 261.

32 Henry T. Tuckerman, America and Her Commentators (1864), p. 415.

33 Noble [1843], op. cit., p. 343.

34 Tim. Dwight, op. cit., p. 18.

35 Theodore Dwight, Things As They Are (1834), p. 197.

36 Harper’s Monthly, IX (1854), p. 147.

37 William Dunlap, Diary, I, (1931), p. 64.

38 Theodore Dwight, op. cit., pp. 232, 192, 225.

39 Sarah J. Hale, Traits of American Life (1835), p. 187.

40 See American Farmer, VII (1825), p. 148.

41 Horatio Smith, Festival Games and Amusements (1832), p. 325.

42 Gleason’s Weekly, II (1852), p. 384.

43 George M. Davison, The Travellers Guide (1837, 7th ed.), p. xvi.

44 Harper’s Weekly (August 22, 1857), p. 536.

45 Cosmopolitan Art Journal, II (1857-1858), p. 207.

46 Frederick L. Olmsted, Forty Years of Landscape Architecture [1880], II (1928), p. 14.

47 C. W. Walter, Mount Auburn (1847), p. 10.

48 Joseph Story, An Address Delivered on the Dedication of Mount Auburn (1831), p. 12.

49 Walter, op. cit., p. 14.

50 Atlantic Souvenir (1826), p. 56.

51 E. S. Abdy, Journal, I (1835), p. 120.

52 Abdy, op. cit., p. 120.

53 Fanny Kemble, Records of a Girlhood (1879), p. 590.

54 Theodore Dwight, op. cit., p. 102.

55 Andrew J. Downing, Rural Essays (1853), p. 157.

56 Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion (1859), p. 264.

57 Gleason’s Pictorial, V (1853), p. 216.

58 Crayon, LV (1857), p. 96.

59 Harper’s Weekly (1858), p. 357.

60 For the history and bibliography of the Yosemite Valley see: Carl P. Russell, One Hundred Years in Yosemite (1947).

61 The Country Gentleman, Albany (October 8, 1856), p. 243.

62 Illustrated Handbook of American Travel (1857), p. 377. Later known as Appleton’s Handbook.

63 Horace Greeley, An Overland Journey (1860), p. 381.

64 Ballou’s Drawing Room Companion (May 21, 1859), p. 325.

65 Boston Evening Transcript (December 1, 15, 31, 1860; January 12, 19, 26 and February 2, 9, 1861.)

66 H. W. Bellows, In Memory of Starr King (1864), p. 22.

67 Atlantic Monthly, XII (1863), p. 8.

68 I should like to extend my thanks to Frederick Law Olmsted (fils), who kindly permitted me to consult his father’s unpublished papers, and to Francis P. Farquhar and Carl P. Russell for valuable suggestions.

69 The papers quoted are filed in the U.S. National Archives, Washington, D.C., under: General Land Office—Letters Sent Concerning Private Land Claims, Vol. 25 (1862-65), and Miscellaneous Letters Received 033572.

70 Samuel Bowles, Across the Continent (1865), p. 231.

71 John S. Hittell, Yosemite: Its Wonders and Its Beauties (1868).

72 Ralph W. Emerson, Letters, VI (1939), p. 155.

73 Ralph W. Emerson, Journals, X (1914), p. 354.

74 New York Times (March 30, 1947).

75 National Park Supplement of the Annual, published by the American Planning and Civic Association (1936), no. 4, p. 3.

76 Hiram M. Chittenden, The Yellowstone National Park (1905), p. 89. Reprint, with minor changes of text and some notes added, 1940.

77 Louis C. Cramton, Early History of Yellowstone National Park (1930), p. 35.

78 Chittenden, op. cit., (1895), p. 1.

79 Chittenden, op. cit., (1905), p. 96.

80 Paul H. Buck, The Evolution of the U.S. National Park Service (1921, Government reprint, 1941), p. 29.

81 New York Tribune (January 23, 1871).

82 Buck, op. cit., p. 9.

83 George P. Marsh, Man and Nature (1864), pp. 328-9.

84 George P. Marsh, The Earth As Modified by Human Action (1874), p. 327.

85 François René de Chateaubriand, “Voyage en Amerique,” Oeuvres, XII (1836), p. 18.

About the Author
Hans A. Huth was born in Halle/Salle, Germany November 11, 1892. He earned is Ph.D. in Berlin in 1922 and was a curator at the Munich and Berlin museums and the former Royal Palaces and Gardens in Prussia. In 1938 he came to the United States after being invited to lecture at New York University and to collaborate in history with the National Park Service (NPS). During World War II Huth remained in the U.S. as a German refugee. Dr. Huth’s assistance with the NPS brought a new level of professionalism to the NPS museum program. Huth’s “Story of an Idea” is an acccount of changes in the American attitude toward nature that led to the creation of Yosemite National Park and National Parks in general. After Huth wrote the article, Yosemite Superintendent Carl P. Russell urged David Brower, Sierra Club Bulletin editor, to publish it in the Bulletin, which Brower did with a forward written by Russell and signed by Brower. In a 2000 essay, Brower said this “was one of the most important articles the club ever published.”

From the late 1940s to the mid-1960s Huth was curator of decorative arts at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC). Dr. Huth remained interested in National Parks and expanded this article, “Story of an Idea,” to book form as Nature and the American (Three Centuries of Changing Attitude) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957). In the mid-1960s Huth assisted in gettting the Wilderness Act of 1964 passed by Congress.

Dr. Huth died July 1, 1977 in Carmel, California. His wife Marta Huth (born December 25, 1891) died March 1985 in San Francisco, California.
Bibliographical Information
Hans Huth (1892 – 1977), “Yosemite: The Story of an Idea,” Sierra Club Bulletin 33(3):47-78 (March, 1948). Foreword written by Carl P. Russell under signature of David R. Brower. Copyright 1948 by Sierra Club. 22 cm. Library of Congress call number F868.S5 S5 1948. LCCN 09000892. ISSN 0037-4725.

Also reprinted by the Yosemite Natural History Association in 1964.

Converted to HTML by Dan Anderson, August 2007, from a copy at University of California San Diego Geisel Library. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice is left intact.
—Dan Anderson, http://www.yosemite.ca.us

Voir enfin:

Trees

Joyce Kilmer

1913

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Je pense que je ne verrai jamais
Un poème beau comme un arbre.

Un arbre dont la bouche affamée, se presse
Contre le sein nourricier de la douce terre ;

Un arbre qui regarde Dieu tout le jour
Et lève ses bras de feuilles pour prier ;

Les poèmes sont créés par des fous comme moi,
Mais Dieu seul peut créer un arbre.


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

7 septembre, 2014

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

Attention: une incompétence peut en cacher une autre !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Meltdown
Bret Stephens
Commentary
09.01.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir également:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Voir encore:

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

Does the president think the world is a TV show?

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

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

President Obama often says otherwise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voir enfin:

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

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

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

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

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


Gaza: Obama va-t-il continuer à servir de bouclier aux barbares du Hamas à nos portes ? (After Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, will Obama throw Israel to the wolves ?)

13 août, 2014
J’étais optimiste quand Obama a été élu président, parce que je pensais qu’il allait corriger certaines erreurs de Bush. Mais Obama est hypocrite. Il abandonne l’Irak aux loups. Tarek Aziz (05.08. 10)
The  friendships and the bonds of trust that I’ve been able to forge with a whole range of leaders is precisely, or is a big part of, what has allowed us to execute effective diplomacy. I think that if you ask them, Angela Merkel or Prime Minister Singh or President Lee or Prime Minister Erdogan or David Cameron would say, We have a lot of trust and confidence in the President. We believe what he says. We believe that he’ll follow through on his commitments. We think he’s paying attention to our concerns and our interests. And that’s part of the reason we’ve been able to forge these close working relationships and gotten a whole bunch of stuff done. Obama (Time, 19.01.12)
Notre démocratie est uniquement le train dans lequel nous montons jusqu’à ce que nous ayons atteint notre objectif. Les mosquées sont nos casernes, les minarets sont nos baïonnettes, les coupoles nos casques et les croyants nos soldats. Erdogan (1997)
La démocratie et ses fondements jusqu’à aujourd’hui peuvent être perçus à la fois comme une fin en soi ou un moyen. Selon nous la démocratie est seulement un moyen. Si vous voulez entrer dans n’importe quel système, l’élection est un moyen. La démocratie est comme un tramway, il va jusqu’où vous voulez aller, et là vous descendez. Erdogan
Dites-moi, quelle est la différence entre les opérations israéliennes et celles des nazis et d’Hitler. C’est du racisme, du fascisme. Ce qui est fait à Gaza revient à raviver l’esprit du mal et pervers d’Hitler. Erdogan
Ce n’est pas la première fois que nous sommes confrontés à une telle situation. Depuis 1948, tous les jours, tous les mois et surtout pendant le mois sacré du ramadan, nous assistons à une tentative de génocide systématique. Recep Tayyip Erdogan (premier ministre turc)
L’association qui regroupe les journalistes travaillant en Israël et dans les Territoires a accusé, dans un communiqué, le mouvement islamiste palestinien Hamas d’avoir recours à « des méthodes énergiques et peu orthodoxes » à l’encontre des envoyés spéciaux.  « On ne peut pas empêcher les médias internationaux de faire leur travail par la menace ou les pressions et priver leurs lecteurs, auditeurs et téléspectateurs d’une vision objective du terrain », poursuit le texte.  « A plusieurs reprises, des journalistes étrangers travaillant à Gaza ont été harcelés, menacés ou interrogés sur des reportages ou des informations dont ils avaient fait état dans leur média ou sur les réseaux sociaux », a dit l’association. (…) Les journalistes ayant été menacés répugnent à raconter publiquement leur expérience, par crainte des répercussions, a-t-elle dit. (…) L’association accuse aussi le Hamas de chercher à « filtrer » l’entrée des journalistes en réclamant des informations sur leur compte à leur média. Elle craint l’établissement d’une liste noire des journalistes dont le travail aurait déplu au Hamas. Plusieurs médias ont rapporté avoir reçu lundi une demande du Hamas réclamant les noms des journalistes se rendant à Gaza, leur média, leur pays de résidence, leurs coordonnées ainsi que le nom de leur traducteur, pour « faciliter et organiser » leur travail dans l’enclave palestinienne. AFP/L’Express
 Our strategy is also shaped by deeper understanding of al Qaeda’s goals, strategy, and tactics over the past decade. I’m not talking about al Qaeda’s grandiose vision of global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate. That vision is absurd, and we are not going to organize our counter-terrorism policies against a feckless delusion that is never going to happen. We are not going to elevate these thugs and their murderous aspirations into something larger than they are. John Brennen (conseiller pour le contre-terrrorisme, 30.06.11)
In strongly supporting a surge in Afghanistan, Hillary told the president that her opposition in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the primary. She went on to say, ‘The Iraq surge worked.’ The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying. Robert Gates
Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle. (…) I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” she told me. “Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult. (…) [J]ust as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians. (…)  mistakes were made (…) We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are—and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position—that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas. (…)  it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets. And I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and the children and all the rest of that, makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth. There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict. … So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.(…) It is striking … that you have more than 170,000 people dead in Syria. … You have Russia massing battalions—Russia, that actually annexed and is occupying part of a UN member-state—and I fear that it will do even more to prevent the incremental success of the Ukrainian government to take back its own territory, other than Crimea. More than 1,000 people have been killed in Ukraine on both sides, not counting the [Malaysia Airlines] plane, and yet we do see this enormous international reaction against Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself, and the way Israel has to defend itself. This reaction is uncalled for and unfair. You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today. There are more demonstrations against Israel by an exponential amount than there are against Russia seizing part of Ukraine and shooting down a civilian airliner. So there’s something else at work here than what you see on TV. (…) What you see is largely what Hamas invites and permits Western journalists to report on from Gaza. It’s the old PR problem that Israel has. Yes, there are substantive, deep levels of antagonism or anti-Semitism towards Israel, because it’s a powerful state, a really effective military. And Hamas paints itself as the defender of the rights of the Palestinians to have their own state. So the PR battle is one that is historically tilted against Israel. (…) If I were the prime minister of Israel, you’re damn right I would expect to have control over security, because even if I’m dealing with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, who is 79 years old, and other members of Fatah, who are enjoying a better lifestyle and making money on all kinds of things, that does not protect Israel from the influx of Hamas or cross-border attacks from anywhere else. With Syria and Iraq, it is all one big threat. So Netanyahu could not do this in good conscience. (…) I would not put Hamas in the category of people we could work with. I don’t think that is realistic because its whole reason for being is resistance against Israel, destruction of Israel, and it is married to very nasty tactics and ideologies, including virulent anti-Semitism. I do not think they should be in any way treated as a legitimate interlocutor, especially because if you do that, it redounds to the disadvantage of the Palestinian Authority, which has a lot of problems, but historically has changed its charter, moved away from the kind of guerrilla resistance movement of previous decadesHillary Clinton
Les Qataris m’ont affirmé à maintes reprises que le Hamas est une organisation humanitaire. Nancy Pelosi (chef de file de la minorité au Congrès)
Whatever happened to the Hillary Clinton who was an early advocate of diplomatic engagement with Iran, and who praised Bashar Assad as a « reformer » and pointedly refused to call for his ouster six months into the uprising? Wasn’t she the most vocal and enthusiastic advocate for the reset with Russia? Didn’t she deliver White House messages to Benjamin Netanyahu by yelling at him? Didn’t she also once describe former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak as a family friend? And didn’t she characterize her relationship with Mr. Obama—in that cloying « 60 Minutes » exit interview the two of them did with Steve Kroft —as « very warm, very close »? Where’s the love now? There are a few possible answers to that one. One is that the views she expressed in the interview are sincere and long-held and she was always a closet neoconservative; Commentary magazine is delivered to her mailbox in an unmarked brown envelope. Another is that Mrs. Clinton can read a poll: Americans now disapprove of the president’s handling of foreign policy by a 57% to 37% margin, and she belatedly needs to disavow the consequences of the policies she once advocated. A third is that she believes in whatever she says, at least at the time she’s saying it. She is a Clinton, after all. There’s something to all of these theories: The political opportunist always lacks the courage of his, or her, convictions. That’s not necessarily because there aren’t any convictions. It’s because the convictions are always subordinated to the needs of ambition and ingratiation. Then again, who cares who Mrs. Clinton really is? When the question needs to be asked, it means we already know, or should know, how to answer it. The truth about Mrs. Clinton isn’t what’s potentially at stake in the next election. It’s the truth about who we are. Are we prepared to believe anything? We tried that with Barack Obama, the man who promised to be whatever we wanted him to be. Mrs. Clinton’s self-reinvention as a hawk invites us to make the mistake twice. Bret Stephens
Il est indiscutable que le Président Obama a, consciemment ou non, servi de bouclier au Hamas. Ce n’est pas un conflit dans lequel les États-Unis doivent jouer le rôle de médiateurs ou même faire allusion à une équivalence morale. Ce conflit nous a été imposé par un groupe terroriste qui promeut la culture de la mort et du martyre, laquelle s’exprime dans le slogan souvent cité: « Les Juifs veulent la vie alors que nous voulons mourir en martyrs ». Nous avons affaire ici à une entité qui veut l’indépendance. C’est un conflit entre le bien et le mal. On se fût attendu à ce que notre allié impute la responsabilité de la mort des victimes aux marchands de mort du Hamas qui prennent pour cibles des citoyens israéliens et causent des victimes à leur propre peuple qu’ils utilisent comme boucliers humains en les exhibant avec joie devant le monde comme des victimes de la tyrannie israélienne. Au lieu de cela, le Président Obama a pris les devants en soutenant hypocritement notre droit à nous défendre, tout en nous reprochant de réagir de manière disproportionnée en ripostant contre la source des tirs de missiles, et les postes de commandement qui sont délibérément imbriqués dans les bâtiments de l’ONU, les écoles, les hôpitaux et les mosquées. Les scènes sanglantes de victimes palestiniennes, mises en relief par les médias mondiaux auraient dû être présentées dans le contexte de la responsabilité du Hamas qui a délibérément orchestré ce cauchemar. Au lieu de cela, le comportement du Président Obama a tout simplement encouragé le Hamas à poursuivre sa stratégie barbare, persuadé qu’il est que les États-Unis le sauveront des machoires de la défaite et le récompenseront de son engagement dans le terrorisme. Dans ce contexte, les éructations clairement synchronisées de la Maison Blanche, du Département d’État, et même du Pentagone, juste avant l’annonce du cessez-le-feu mort-né de 72 heures, condamnant Israël pour les victimes civiles, et ce compris le bombardement d’une école de l’UNRWA à Gaza, comme « indéfendables » et « totalement inacceptables », avaient clairement pour but d’obtenir le soutien du Qatar et de la Turquie. (…) Le choc public causé par la découverte des tunnels terroristes et celle de l’extension de la portée des missiles qui couvrent désormais tout le pays, a réalisé l’union du peuple d’une manière qui rappelle la Guerre des Six-Jours. (…) Bien que ce ne soit pas perceptible en raison de l’extraordinaire tsunami de l’antisémitisme mondial et de l’attitude des deux poids deux mesures, adoptée par les pays occidentaux, il y a un clair consensus sur le fait que cette guerre nous a été imposée, et une plus grande prise de conscience de la nature terroriste du Hamas et de son mépris de la vie humaine. Il y a aussi le revirement radical dans l’approche de l’Égypte, de l’Arabie Saoudite, de la Jordanie, de l’Autorité Palestinienne et de la majeure partie des membres de la Ligue arabe, qui ont avalisé la proposition égyptienne de cessez-le feu, et dont la peur et le mépris des fondamentalistes islamistes extrémistes dépassent de beaucoup leur traditionnelle haine d’Israël. Les Égyptiens et d’autres États arabes modérés affirment, que depuis son discours initial du Caire en 2009, le Président Obama est apparu comme un supporter des Frères musulmans, créateurs du Hamas, qu’ils considèrent à juste titre comme une organisation fondamentaliste terroriste. Ils considèrent l’atteinte causée aux propositions égyptiennes de cessez-le-feu et le recours au Qatar et à la Turquie, qui soutiennent les Frères Musulmans et le Hamas, comme un exemple de plus du fait que les États-Unis trahissent leurs alliés et font cause commune avec leurs ennemis. (…) Le résultat dépend, dans une large mesure, des États-Unis. S’ils récompensent le Hamas pour son agression en s’efforçant de faire « lever le blocus », ou s’ils lui versent des fonds sans démilitarisation, ce sera une trahison à notre égard. Les États-Unis auront détruit le peu de crédibilité mondiale qu’ils ont encore et seront considérés comme abandonnant leurs alliés de longue date pour flatter obséquieusement ceux qui soutiennent le terrorisme islamique fanatique. Les États-Unis soutiendront-ils la juste cause d’Israël contre le terrorisme génocidaire, ou seront-ils un bouclier de protection pour les barbares du Hamas qui sont à nos portes, frayant ainsi la voie à une future guerre beaucoup plus brutale dans un futur proche ? Isi Leibler

Attention: un bouclier humain peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où, victime de l’incroyable succès de sa stratégie de propagande morbide comme nous le rappelions dans notre dernier billet, le Hamas a réussi l’exploit de rallier une communauté internationale – Monde arabe, quoi qu’il en dise officiellement, compris ! -jusque là divisée à la demande israélienne de son propre désarmement …

Et  qu’avec son seul autre allié dans la région et aux côtés des  incontournables financiers du jihadisme mondial, l‘islamisme dit « modéré » prend tranquillement  le tramway de la démocratie  …

Pendant qu’après les abjections que l’on sait et à travers une timide et tardive déclaration, commencent à émerger les conditions dans lesquelles nos médias collaborent au cauchemar délibérément orchestré par le Hamas …

Et qu’en Irak même et avant demain  l’Afghanistan apparait  chaque jour un peu plus clairement la folie de l’Administration américaine actuelle d’abandon systématique des positions chèrement acquises …..

Devinez, comme le rappelle cette excellente tribune de l’éditorialiste du Jerusalem Post Isi Leibler traduite par notre ami Menahem Macina, qui entre deux parties de golf est en train de tout saboter ?

Et qui,  fidèle à lui-même et à son habitude de trahir ses alliés (Israël, Egypte) et soutenir ses ennemis (Qatar, Turquie, Iran), pourrait à nouveau jouer les boucliers humains …

Pour une organisation explicitement auto-revendiquée comme terroriste et génocidaire?

Obama va-t-il continuer à servir de bouclier aux barbares du Hamas qui sont à nos portes?
Isi Leibler
The Jerusalem post
12/08/2014
Texte original anglais “Will Obama keep shielding Hamas barbarians at our gates?”, sur le site du Jerusalem Post, 3 août 2014

[Bien qu’il date un peu et qu’entre temps les choses ont quelque peu changé sur le terrain, puisque un nouveau cessez-le-feu de 72 heures est entré en vigueur depuis 24 heures, j’ai cru intéressant de traduire les réflexions de cet éditorialiste engagé et passionné, qui croit à la réalité de l’incident révélant une brouille profonde entre Israël et l’Administration Obama. On n’est bien entendu pas obligé de partager sa vision pessimiste des choses, mais il faut l’entendre. Merci à Giora Hod de m’avoir signalé ce texte. (Menahem Macina).]
Si les États-Unis récompensent le Hamas en voulant faire cesser le blocus ou en les finançant sans démilitarisation, ce sera une trahison à notre égard.

Les États-Unis sont le plus important allié d’Israël. Ils nous ont fourni des armes, et voici juste une semaine [fin juillet], ils nous ont accordé un financement supplémentaire pour améliorer les performances du système de défense anti-missiles Iron Dome (dôme de fer). Ils ont également usé de leur influence politique pour faire échouer l’adoption de résolutions hostiles et de sanctions au niveau international.

Mais nous ne devons pas nous faire d’illusions. La relation américano-israélienne est sous grande tension. En dépit des déclarations sibyllines des gouvernements israélien et américain, niant la véracité des extraits d’une conversation téléphonique empoisonnée entre le Premier ministre Binyamin Netanyahu et le Président Barak Obama, le rédacteur en chef hautement respecté du département étranger de la chaîne de télévision Channel One, Oren Nahary, défend fermement son reportage ; il maintient que sa source – un haut fonctionnaire américain – est crédible, et que l’information ne provient pas du bureau du Premier ministre [israélien].

Le Président américain aurait réagi en disant que ce n’était pas à Netanyahu de dicter à l’Amérique quels pays devaient agir en tant que médiateurs. Quelques jours plus tard, Nancy Pelosi, chef de file de la minorité au Congrès, a accrédité cet échange en disant sur CNN que les États-Unis devraient coopérer avec les Qataris qui, dit-elle « m’ont affirmé à maintes reprises que le Hamas est une organisation humanitaire ». Il est ahurissant qu’un dirigeant démocratique du Congrès puisse qualifier d’« humanitaire » une organisation génocidaire ayant des objectifs similaires à ceux d’al-Qaïda, et dont la charte appelle explicitement à la destruction d’Israël et au meurtre des juifs.

Il y a eu également des échanges tendus entre le bureau du Premier ministre et le Secrétaire d’État américain John Kerry, désormais tristement célèbre pour ses commentaires inappropriés et ses déclarations contradictoires.

Les deux parties ont fait des efforts pour calmer la tempête. Les hauts fonctionnaires américains ont réaffirmé leur soutien à Israël et soutenu à nouveau son droit à se défendre. Avec quelque retard, le président Obama a emboîté le pas aux Européens et fait de la démilitarisation de la bande de Gaza une question qui devrait être négociée en liaison avec la levée du blocus après la cessation des hostilités.

Mais il est indiscutable que le Président Obama a, consciemment ou non, servi de bouclier au Hamas. Ce n’est pas un conflit dans lequel les États-Unis doivent jouer le rôle de médiateurs ou même faire allusion à une équivalence morale. Ce conflit nous a été imposé par un groupe terroriste qui promeut la culture de la mort et du martyre, laquelle s’exprime dans le slogan souvent cité: « Les Juifs veulent la vie alors que nous voulons mourir en martyrs ». Nous avons affaire ici à une entité qui veut l’indépendance. C’est un conflit entre le bien et le mal.

On se fût attendu à ce que notre allié impute la responsabilité de la mort des victimes aux marchands de mort du Hamas qui prennent pour cibles des citoyens israéliens et causent des victimes à leur propre peuple qu’ils utilisent comme boucliers humains en les exhibant avec joie devant le monde comme des victimes de la tyrannie israélienne.

Au lieu de cela, le Président Obama a pris les devants en soutenant hypocritement notre droit à nous défendre, tout en nous reprochant de réagir de manière disproportionnée en ripostant contre la source des tirs de missiles, et les postes de commandement qui sont délibérément imbriqués dans les bâtiments de l’ONU, les écoles, les hôpitaux et les mosquées. Les scènes sanglantes de victimes palestiniennes, mises en relief par les médias mondiaux auraient dû être présentées dans le contexte de la responsabilité du Hamas qui a délibérément orchestré ce cauchemar. Au lieu de cela, le comportement du Président Obama a tout simplement encouragé le Hamas à poursuivre sa stratégie barbare, persuadé qu’il est que les États-Unis le sauveront des machoires de la défaite et le récompenseront de son engagement dans le terrorisme.

Dans ce contexte, les éructations clairement synchronisées de la Maison Blanche, du Département d’État, et même du Pentagone, juste avant l’annonce du cessez-le-feu mort-né de 72 heures, condamnant Israël pour les victimes civiles, et ce compris le bombardement d’une école de l’UNRWA à Gaza, comme « indéfendables » et « totalement inacceptables », avaient clairement pour but d’obtenir le soutien du Qatar et de la Turquie.

Les États-Unis savent parfaitement quelles mesures extraordinaires, sans équivalent dans quelque conflit armé que ce soit, ont été prises par Israël pour réduire au minimum les pertes civiles. Mais des civils innocents meurent au cours d’une guerre – et a fortiori dans des circonstances où des femmes et des enfants sont utilisés comme boucliers humains et délibérément logés dans le voisinage immédiat de lanceurs de missiles et de postes de commandement. Quand les soldats israéliens sont pris sous le feu de terroristes, même si ces tirs proviennent d’écoles, ils doivent riposter, ou être tués. En outre, des accidents sont inévitables. Il sufit de se remémorer les milliers de civils français innocents tués par les Alliés durant l’invasion en 1944.

Pour prendre la mesure du deux poids deux mesures et de l’hypocrisie dont nous sommes victimes, les États-Unis devraient tenir compte des centaines de milliers de civils innocents tués par les forces de la coalition au cours de la guerre d’Irak et en Afghanistan, ainsi que le carnage causé en Serbie par les bombardements indiscriminés de civils par l’OTAN, à Belgrade, pour venir à bout de Milosevic.

La tragédie des victimes palestiniennes innocentes nous attriste tous. Mais il est révoltant de voir le président américain exprimer plus d’indignation pour la mort de 1 500 Palestiniens, dont une grande partie sont des terroristes sanguinaires, que pour les 180 000 Syriens massacrés dans la guerre civile en cours dans ce pays.

Il est absolument inacceptable de condamner un allié de longue date. Comment les États-Unis peuvent-ils justifier leur focalisation sur la perte de vies innocentes sans prendre en considération le contexte et en s’abstenant de jeter le blâme sur le Hamas qui exulte de massacrer tant les Israéliens que son propre peuple, dont il exploite ouvertement les souffrances pour discréditer Israël et détourner l’attention de ses activités terroristes? Cela rappelle l’expression sarcastique – souvent citée – de Golda Meïr, selon laquelle « la paix adviendra quand nos adversaires aimeront leurs enfants plus qu’ils nous haïssent ».

Israël doit rester ferme. Le choc public causé par la découverte des tunnels terroristes et celle de l’extension de la portée des missiles qui couvrent désormais tout le pays, a réalisé l’union du peuple d’une manière qui rappelle la Guerre des Six-Jours. Près de 90% de la population sont inébranlables sur ce point : Israel ne doit pas s’arrêter tant que Gaza ne sera pas démilitarisée et le Hamas complètement écrasé, malgré le terrible coût en vies humaines

Même le Parti d’opposition travailliste “colombe” attend cela de Netanyahu. Bien que ce ne soit pas perceptible en raison de l’extraordinaire tsunami de l’antisémitisme mondial et de l’attitude des deux poids deux mesures, adoptée par les pays occidentaux, il y a un clair consensus sur le fait que cette guerre nous a été imposée, et une plus grande prise de conscience de la nature terroriste du Hamas et de son mépris de la vie humaine.

Il y a aussi le revirement radical dans l’approche de l’Égypte, de l’Arabie Saoudite, de la Jordanie, de l’Autorité Palestinienne et de la majeure partie des membres de la Ligue arabe, qui ont avalisé la proposition égyptienne de cessez-le feu, et dont la peur et le mépris des fondamentalistes islamistes extrémistes dépassent de beaucoup leur traditionnelle haine d’Israël. Les Égyptiens et d’autres États arabes modérés affirment, que depuis son discours initial du Caire en 2009, le Président Obama est apparu comme un supporter des Frères musulmans, créateurs du Hamas, qu’ils considèrent à juste titre comme une organisation fondamentaliste terroriste.

Ils considèrent l’atteinte causée aux propositions égyptiennes de cessez-le-feu et le recours au Qatar et à la Turquie, qui soutiennent les Frères Musulmans et le Hamas, comme un exemple de plus du fait que les États-Unis trahissent leurs alliés et font cause commune avec leurs ennemis. La chose a trouvé son expression dans la proposition initiale de cessez-le-feu de Kerry, parrainée par le Qatar et la Turquie, mais rejetée à l’unanimité par le cabinet israélien, et qui aurait pu être rédigée par le Hamas.

À l’heure actuelle, Israël a largement atteint ses objectifs principaux qui étaient de détruire les tunnels et de neutraliser de manière significative les capacités de tirs de missiles. Mais le Hamas reste intact et, à moins qu’une démilitarisation ne soit imposée, nous devrons faire face à des djihadistes invétérés qui ne renonceront pas à leur objectif ouvertement exprimé de nous détruire ou tout au moins d’user notre moral par des attaques terroristes incessantes.

La responsabilité majeure de tout gouvernement est de protéger ses citoyens. C’est l’occasion pour Israël de rester ferme et de prendre toutes les mesures qui seront nécessaires pour affaiblir le Hamas et démilitariser Gaza. La responsabilité des dommages collatéraux causés aux civils innocents incombe exclusivement au Hamas.

L’insolente violation par le Hamas du cessez-le-feu de 72 heures a mené à une réaction temporaire mondiale à l’encontre du Hamas.

Après avoir neutralisé les tunnels que Tsahal a été en mesure de détecter, les forces terrestres ont été redéployées. Toutefois, Netanyahu a clairement dit que l’opération n’était pas terminée.

Le cabinet doit rapidement décider de l’une des deux options suivantes. Il peut étendre la campagne terrestre et conquérir Gaza, ce à quoi la majorité de la nation souscrira probablement en premier lieu, mais cela impliquerait probablement des pertes massives et donnerait lieu à une pression internationale qui pourrait nous contraindre à nous replier de manière unilatérale ou nous exposer à des sanctions. Il apparaît que sans exclure cette option, le Premier ministre Netanyahu – au moins à court terme – a l’intention de continuer à détruire les lance-missiles et à attaquer le Hamas par voie aérienne, limitant ainsi les pertes israéliennes et exerçant une plus grande influence sur la mise en oeuvre de la démilitarisation.

Le résultat dépend, dans une large mesure, des États-Unis. S’ils récompensent le Hamas pour son agression en s’efforçant de faire « lever le blocus », ou s’ils lui versent des fonds sans démilitarisation, ce sera une trahison à notre égard. Les États-Unis auront détruit le peu de crédibilité mondiale qu’ils ont encore et seront considérés comme abandonnant leurs alliés de longue date pour flatter obséquieusement ceux qui soutiennent le terrorisme islamique fanatique.

Les États-Unis soutiendront-ils la juste cause d’Israël contre le terrorisme génocidaire, ou seront-ils un bouclier de protection pour les barbares du Hamas qui sont à nos portes, frayant ainsi la voie à une future guerre beaucoup plus brutale dans un futur proche ?
© Isi Leibler

Le site Internet de l’auteur peut être consulté at http://www.wordfromjerusalem.com. On peut le contacter à ileibler@leibler.com.

Voir aussi:

JÉRUSALEM
Gaza: une association de médias étrangers dénoncent les pratiques du Hamas
AFP/L’Express

11/08/2014

Jérusalem – L’Association de la presse étrangère en Israël et dans les Territoires palestiniens a accusé lundi le Hamas d’avoir « harcelé » et « menacé » des journalistes étrangers venus couvrir la guerre dans la bande de Gaza.

L’association qui regroupe les journalistes travaillant en Israël et dans les Territoires a accusé, dans un communiqué, le mouvement islamiste palestinien Hamas d’avoir recours à « des méthodes énergiques et peu orthodoxes » à l’encontre des envoyés spéciaux.

« On ne peut pas empêcher les médias internationaux de faire leur travail par la menace ou les pressions et priver leurs lecteurs, auditeurs et téléspectateurs d’une vision objective du terrain », poursuit le texte.

« A plusieurs reprises, des journalistes étrangers travaillant à Gaza ont été harcelés, menacés ou interrogés sur des reportages ou des informations dont ils avaient fait état dans leur média ou sur les réseaux sociaux », a dit l’association.

Des centaines de journalistes venus du monde entier se sont rendus à Gaza pour « couvrir » le conflit entre Israël et le Hamas, qui contrôle le territoire. « Environ 10% » d’entre eux ont dit avoir rencontré des difficultés avec les autorités du Hamas, a dit une responsable de l’association à l’AFP.

Les journalistes ayant été menacés répugnent à raconter publiquement leur expérience, par crainte des répercussions, a-t-elle dit.

Un photographe a rapporté à l’association avoir été frappé et son appareil détruit; l’appareil d’un autre lui a été confisqué pendant trois jours et il a été demandé à plusieurs journalistes de retirer des publications sur Twitter et des vidéos sur YouTube. Un média européen a été menacé alors qu’il filmait une manifestation anti-Hamas, a-t-elle dit.

L’association accuse aussi le Hamas de chercher à « filtrer » l’entrée des journalistes en réclamant des informations sur leur compte à leur média. Elle craint l’établissement d’une liste noire des journalistes dont le travail aurait déplu au Hamas.

Plusieurs médias ont rapporté avoir reçu lundi une demande du Hamas réclamant les noms des journalistes se rendant à Gaza, leur média, leur pays de résidence, leurs coordonnées ainsi que le nom de leur traducteur, pour « faciliter et organiser » leur travail dans l’enclave palestinienne.

Voir encore:

Hillary Clinton: ‘Failure’ to Help Syrian Rebels Led to the Rise of ISIS
The former secretary of state, and probable candidate for president, outlines her foreign-policy doctrine. She says this about President Obama’s: « Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle. »
Jeffrey Goldberg

The Atlantic

AUG 10 2014

President Obama has long ridiculed the idea that the U.S., early in the Syrian civil war, could have shaped the forces fighting the Assad regime, thereby stopping al Qaeda-inspired groups—like the one rampaging across Syria and Iraq today—from seizing control of the rebellion. In an interview in February, the president told me that “when you have a professional army … fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict—the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”

Well, his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, isn’t buying it. In an interview with me earlier this week, she used her sharpest language yet to describe the « failure » that resulted from the decision to keep the U.S. on the sidelines during the first phase of the Syrian uprising.

“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.

As she writes in her memoir of her State Department years, Hard Choices, she was an inside-the-administration advocate of doing more to help the Syrian rebellion. Now, her supporters argue, her position has been vindicated by recent events.
Hillary Clinton: Chinese System Is Doomed, Leaders on a ‘Fool’s Errand’
Professional Clinton-watchers (and there are battalions of them) have told me that it is only a matter of time before she makes a more forceful attempt to highlight her differences with the (unpopular) president she ran against, and then went on to serve. On a number of occasions during my interview with her, I got the sense that this effort is already underway. (And for what it’s worth, I also think she may have told me that she’s running for president—see below for her not-entirely-ambiguous nod in that direction.)

Of course, Clinton had many kind words for the “incredibly intelligent” and “thoughtful” Obama, and she expressed sympathy and understanding for the devilishly complicated challenges he faces. But she also suggested that she finds his approach to foreign policy overly cautious, and she made the case that America needs a leader who believes that the country, despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good. At one point, I mentioned the slogan President Obama recently coined to describe his foreign-policy doctrine: “Don’t do stupid shit” (an expression often rendered as “Don’t do stupid stuff” in less-than-private encounters).

This is what Clinton said about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

She softened the blow by noting that Obama was “trying to communicate to the American people that he’s not going to do something crazy,” but she repeatedly suggested that the U.S. sometimes appears to be withdrawing from the world stage.

During a discussion about the dangers of jihadism (a topic that has her “hepped-up, » she told me moments after she greeted me at her office in New York) and of the sort of resurgent nationalism seen in Russia today, I noted that Americans are quite wary right now of international commitment-making. She responded by arguing that there is a happy medium between bellicose posturing (of the sort she associated with the George W. Bush administration) and its opposite, a focus on withdrawal.

“You know, when you’re down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you’re not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward,” she said. “One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.”

I responded by saying that I thought that “defeating fascism and communism is a pretty big deal.” In other words, that the U.S., on balance, has done a good job of advancing the cause of freedom.

Clinton responded to this idea with great enthusiasm: “That’s how I feel! Maybe this is old-fashioned.” And then she seemed to signal that, yes, indeed, she’s planning to run for president. “Okay, I feel that this might be an old-fashioned idea, but I’m about to find out, in more ways than one.”

She said that the resilience, and expansion, of Islamist terrorism means that the U.S. must develop an “overarching” strategy to confront it, and she equated this struggle to the one the U.S. waged against Soviet-led communism.

Clinton-watchers say it’s a matter of time before she highlights her differences with Obama. I got the sense that this effort is well underway.
“One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States,” she said. “Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’etre is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank—and we all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain that? I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.”

She went on, “You know, we did a good job in containing the Soviet Union but we made a lot of mistakes, we supported really nasty guys, we did some things that we are not particularly proud of, from Latin America to Southeast Asia, but we did have a kind of overarching framework about what we were trying to do that did lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism. That was our objective. We achieved it.” (This was one of those moments, by the way, when I was absolutely sure I wasn’t listening to President Obama, who is loath to discuss the threat of Islamist terrorism in such a sweeping manner.)

Much of my conversation with Clinton focused on the Gaza war. She offered a vociferous defense of Israel, and of its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well. This is noteworthy because, as secretary of state, she spent a lot of time yelling at Netanyahu on the administration’s behalf over Israel’s West Bank settlement policy. Now, she is leaving no daylight at all between the Israelis and herself.

“I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” she told me. “Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”

I asked her if she believed that Israel had done enough to prevent the deaths of children and other innocent people.

“[J]ust as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians,” mistakes are made, she said. “We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are—and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position—that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.”
She went on to say that “it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets. And I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and the children and all the rest of that, makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth.”

She continued, “There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict. … So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”

When I asked her about the intense international focus on Gaza, she was quick to identify anti-Semitism as an important motivating factor in criticism of Israel. “It is striking … that you have more than 170,000 people dead in Syria. … You have Russia massing battalions—Russia, that actually annexed and is occupying part of a UN member-state—and I fear that it will do even more to prevent the incremental success of the Ukrainian government to take back its own territory, other than Crimea. More than 1,000 people have been killed in Ukraine on both sides, not counting the [Malaysia Airlines] plane, and yet we do see this enormous international reaction against Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself, and the way Israel has to defend itself. This reaction is uncalled for and unfair.”

She went on, “You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today. There are more demonstrations against Israel by an exponential amount than there are against Russia seizing part of Ukraine and shooting down a civilian airliner. So there’s something else at work here than what you see on TV.” Clinton also blamed Hamas for “stage-managing” the conflict. “What you see is largely what Hamas invites and permits Western journalists to report on from Gaza. It’s the old PR problem that Israel has. Yes, there are substantive, deep levels of antagonism or anti-Semitism towards Israel, because it’s a powerful state, a really effective military. And Hamas paints itself as the defender of the rights of the Palestinians to have their own state. So the PR battle is one that is historically tilted against Israel.”

Clinton also seemed to take an indirect shot at administration critics of Netanyahu, who has argued that the rise of Muslim fundamentalism in the Middle East means that Israel cannot, in the foreseeable future, withdraw its forces from much of the West Bank. “If I were the prime minister of Israel, you’re damn right I would expect to have control over security, because even if I’m dealing with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, who is 79 years old, and other members of Fatah, who are enjoying a better lifestyle and making money on all kinds of things, that does not protect Israel from the influx of Hamas or cross-border attacks from anywhere else. With Syria and Iraq, it is all one big threat. So Netanyahu could not do this in good conscience.”

She also struck a notably hard line on Iran’s nuclear demands. “I’ve always been in the camp that held that they did not have a right to enrichment,” Clinton said. “Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich. This is absolutely unfounded. There is no such right. I am well aware that I am not at the negotiating table anymore, but I think it’s important to send a signal to everybody who is there that there cannot be a deal unless there is a clear set of restrictions on Iran. The preference would be no enrichment. The potential fallback position would be such little enrichment that they could not break out.” When I asked her if the demands of Israel, and of America’s Arab allies, that Iran not be allowed any uranium-enrichment capability whatsoever were militant or unrealistic, she said, “I think it’s important that they stake out that position.”

What follows is a transcript of our conversation. It has been edited for clarity but not for length, as you will see. Two other things to look for: First, the masterful way in which Clinton says she has drawn no conclusions about events in Syria and elsewhere, and then draws rigorously reasoned conclusions. Second, her fascinating and complicated analysis of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ill-fated dalliance with democracy.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: It seems that you’ve shifted your position on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. By [chief U.S. negotiator] Wendy Sherman’s definition of maximalism, you’ve taken a fairly maximalist position—little or no enrichment for Iran. Are you taking a harder line than your former colleagues in the Obama administration are taking on this matter?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: It’s a consistent line. I’ve always been in the camp that held that they did not have a right to enrichment. Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich. This is absolutely unfounded. There is no such right. I am well aware that I am not at the negotiating table anymore, but I think it’s important to send a signal to everybody who is there that there cannot be a deal unless there is a clear set of restrictions on Iran. The preference would be no enrichment. The potential fallback position would be such little enrichment that they could not break out. So, little or no enrichment has always been my position.

JG: Am I wrong in saying that the Obama administration’s negotiators have a more flexible understanding of this issue at the moment?

HRC: I don’t want to speak for them, but I would argue that Iran, through the voice of the supreme leader, has taken a very maximalist position—he wants 190,000 centrifuges and the right to enrich. And some in our Congress, and some of our best friends, have taken the opposite position—absolutely no enrichment. I think in a negotiation you need to be very clear about what it is going to take to move the other side. I think at the moment there is a big debate going on in Tehran about what they can or should do in order to get relief from the sanctions. It’s my understanding that we still have a united P5+1 position, which is intensive inspections, very clear limits on what they can do in their facilities that they would permitted to operate, and then how they handle this question of enrichment, whether it’s done from the outside, or whether it can truly be constrained to meet what I think our standard should be of little-to-no enrichment. That’s what this negotiation is about.

JG: But there is no sign that the Iranians are willing to pull back—freezing in place is the farthest they seem to be willing to go. Am I wrong?

HRC: We don’t know. I think there’s a political debate. I think you had the position staked out by the supreme leader that they’re going to get to do what they want to do, and that they don’t have any intention of having a nuclear weapon but they nevertheless want 190,000 centrifuges (laughs). I think the political, non-clerical side of the equation is basically saying, “Look, you know, getting relief from these sanctions is economically and politically important to us. We have our hands full in Syria and Iraq, just to name two places, maybe increasingly in Lebanon, and who knows what’s going to happen with us and Hamas. So what harm does it do to have a very strict regime that we can live under until we determine that maybe we won’t have to any longer?” That, I think, is the other side of the argument.
JG: Would you be content with an Iran that is perpetually a year away from being able to reach nuclear-breakout capability?

HRC: I would like it to be more than a year. I think it should be more than a year. No enrichment at all would make everyone breathe easier. If, however, they want a little bit for the Tehran research reactor, or a little bit for this scientific researcher, but they’ll never go above 5 percent enrichment—

JG: So, a few thousand centrifuges?

HRC: We know what “no” means. If we’re talking a little, we’re talking about a discrete, constantly inspected number of centrifuges. “No” is my preference.

JG: Would you define what “a little” means?

HRC: No.

JG: So what the Gulf states want, and what the Israelis want, which is to say no enrichment at all, is not a militant, unrealistic position?

HRC: It’s not an unrealistic position. I think it’s important that they stake out that position.

JG: So, Gaza. As you write in your book, you negotiated the last long-term ceasefire in 2012. Are you surprised at all that it didn’t hold?

HRC: I’m surprised that it held as long as it did. But given the changes in the region, the fall of [former Egyptian President Mohamed] Morsi, his replacement by [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi, the corner that Hamas felt itself in, I’m not surprised that Hamas provoked another attack.

JG: The Israeli response, was it disproportionate?

HRC: Israel was attacked by rockets from Gaza. Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult. Of course Israel, just like the United States, or any other democratic country, should do everything they can possibly do to limit civilian casualties.

« We see this enormous international reaction against Israel. This reaction is uncalled for and unfair. »
JG: Do you think Israel did enough to limit civilian casualties?

HRC: It’s unclear. I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets. And there is the surprising number and complexity of the tunnels, and Hamas has consistently, not just in this conflict, but in the past, been less than protective of their civilians.

JG: Before we continue talking endlessly about Gaza, can I ask you if you think we spend too much time on Gaza and on Israel-Palestine generally? I ask because over the past year or so your successor spent a tremendous amount of time on the Israel-Palestinian file and in the same period of time an al Qaeda-inspired organization took over half of Syria and Iraq.

HRC: Right, right.

JG: I understand that secretaries of state can do more than one thing at a time. But what is the cause of this preoccupation?

HRC: I’ve thought a lot about this, because you do have a number of conflicts going on right now. As the U.S., as a U.S. official, you have to pay attention to anything that threatens Israel directly, or anything in the larger Middle East that arises out of the Palestinian-Israeli situation. That’s just a given.

It is striking, however, that you have more than 170,000 people dead in Syria. You have the vacuum that has been created by the relentless assault by Assad on his own population, an assault that has bred these extremist groups, the most well-known of which, ISIS—or ISIL—is now literally expanding its territory inside Syria and inside Iraq. You have Russia massing battalions—Russia, that actually annexed and is occupying part of a UN member state—and I fear that it will do even more to prevent the incremental success of the Ukrainian government to take back its own territory, other than Crimea. More than 1,000 people have been killed in Ukraine on both sides, not counting the [Malaysia Airlines] plane, and yet we do see this enormous international reaction against Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself, and the way Israel has to defend itself. This reaction is uncalled for and unfair.

JG: What do you think causes this reaction?

HRC: There are a number of factors going into it. You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today. There are more demonstrations against Israel by an exponential amount than there are against Russia seizing part of Ukraine and shooting down a civilian airliner. So there’s something else at work here than what you see on TV.

And what you see on TV is so effectively stage-managed by Hamas, and always has been. What you see is largely what Hamas invites and permits Western journalists to report on from Gaza. It’s the old PR problem that Israel has. Yes, there are substantive, deep levels of antagonism or anti-Semitism towards Israel, because it’s a powerful state, a really effective military. And Hamas paints itself as the defender of the rights of the Palestinians to have their own state. So the PR battle is one that is historically tilted against Israel.

« There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict and did so to leverage its position. »
JG: Nevertheless there are hundreds of children—

HRC: Absolutely, and it’s dreadful.

JG: Who do you hold responsible for those deaths? How do you parcel out blame?

HRC: I’m not sure it’s possible to parcel out blame because it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets. And I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and the children and all the rest of that, makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict and wanted to do so in order to leverage its position, having been shut out by the Egyptians post-Morsi, having been shunned by the Gulf, having been pulled into a technocratic government with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority that might have caused better governance and a greater willingness on the part of the people of Gaza to move away from tolerating Hamas in their midst. So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.

That doesn’t mean that, just as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians, that there aren’t mistakes that are made. We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are—and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position—that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.

JG: Several years ago, when you were in the Senate, we had a conversation about what would move Israeli leaders to make compromises for peace. You’ve had a lot of arguments with Netanyahu. What is your thinking on Netanyahu now?
HRC: Let’s step back. First of all, [former Israeli Prime Minister] Yitzhak Rabin was prepared to do so much and he was murdered for that belief. And then [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Barak offered everything you could imagine being given under any realistic scenario to the Palestinians for their state, and [former Palestinian leader Yasir] Arafat walked away. I don’t care about the revisionist history. I know that Arafat walked away, okay? Everybody says, “American needs to say something.” Well, we said it, it was the Clinton parameters, we put it out there, and Bill Clinton is adored in Israel, as you know. He got Netanyahu to give up territory, which Netanyahu believes lost him the prime ministership [in his first term], but he moved in that direction, as hard as it was.

Bush pretty much ignored what was going on and they made a terrible error in the Palestinian elections [in which Hamas came to power in Gaza], but he did come with the Roadmap [to Peace] and the Roadmap was credible and it talked about what needed to be done, and this is one area where I give the Palestinians credit. Under [former Palestinian Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad, they made a lot of progress.

I had the last face-to-face negotiations between Abbas and Netanyahu. [Secretary of State John] Kerry never got there. I had them in the room three times with [former Middle East negotiator] George Mitchell and me, and that was it. And I saw Netanyahu move from being against the two-state solution to announcing his support for it, to considering all kinds of Barak-like options, way far from what he is, and what he is comfortable with.

Now I put Jerusalem in a different category. That is the hardest issue, Again, based on my experience—and you know, I got Netanyahu to agree to the unprecedented  settlement freeze, it did not cover East Jerusalem, but it did cover the West Bank and it was actually legitimate and it did stop new housing starts for 10 months. It took me nine months to get Abbas into the negotiations even after we delivered on the settlement freeze, he had a million reasons, some of them legitimate, some of them the same old, same old.

So what I tell people is, yeah, if I were the prime minister of Israel, you’re damn right I would expect to have control over security [on the West Bank], because even if I’m dealing with Abbas, who is 79 years old, and other members of Fatah, who are enjoying a better lifestyle and making money on all kinds of things, that does not protect Israel from the influx of Hamas or cross-border attacks from anywhere else. With Syria and Iraq, it is all one big threat. So Netanyahu could not do this in good conscience. If this were Rabin or Barak in his place—and I’ve talked to Ehud about this—they would have to demand a level of security that would be provided by the [Israel Defense Forces] for a period of time. And in my meetings with them I got Abbas to about six, seven, eight years on continued IDF presence. Now he’s fallen back to three, but he was with me at six, seven, eight. I got Netanyahu to go from forever to 2025. That’s a negotiation, okay? So I know. Dealing with Bibi is not easy, so people get frustrated and they lose sight of what we’re trying to achieve here.

Hillary Clinton meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
JG: You go out of your way in Hard Choices to praise Robert Ford, who recently quit as U.S. ambassador to Syria, as an excellent diplomat. Ford quit in protest and has recently written strongly about what he sees as the inadequacies of Obama administration policy. Do you agree with Ford that we are at fault for not doing enough to build up a credible Syrian opposition when we could have?

HRC: I have the highest regard for Robert. I’m the one who convinced the administration to send an ambassador to Syria. You know, this is why I called the chapter on Syria “A Wicked Problem.” I can’t sit here today and say that if we had done what I recommended, and what Robert Ford recommended, that we’d be in a demonstrably different place.

JG: That’s the president’s argument, that we wouldn’t be in a different place.

HRC: Well, I did believe, which is why I advocated this, that if we were to carefully vet, train, and equip early on a core group of the developing Free Syrian Army, we would, number one, have some better insight into what was going on on the ground. Two, we would have been helped in standing up a credible political opposition, which would prove to be very difficult, because there was this constant struggle between what was largely an exile group outside of Syria trying to claim to be the political opposition, and the people on the ground, primarily those doing the fighting and dying, who rejected that, and we were never able to bridge that, despite a lot of efforts that Robert and others made.

So I did think that eventually, and I said this at the time, in a conflict like this, the hard men with the guns are going to be the more likely actors in any political transition than those on the outside just talking. And therefore we needed to figure out how we could support them on the ground, better equip them, and we didn’t have to go all the way, and I totally understand the cautions that we had to contend with, but we’ll never know. And I don’t think we can claim to know.

JG: You do have a suspicion, though.

HRC: Obviously. I advocated for a position.

JG: Do you think we’d be where we are with ISIS right now if the U.S. had done more three years ago to build up a moderate Syrian opposition?

HRC: Well, I don’t know the answer to that. I know that the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.

They were often armed in an indiscriminate way by other forces and we had no skin in the game that really enabled us to prevent this indiscriminate arming.

JG: Is there a chance that President Obama overlearned the lessons of the previous administration? In other words, if the story of the Bush administration is one of overreach, is the story of the Obama administration one of underreach?

HRC: You know, I don’t think you can draw that conclusion. It’s a very key question. How do you calibrate, that’s the key issue. I think we have learned a lot during this period, but then how to apply it going forward will still take a lot of calibration and balancing. But you know, we helped overthrow [Libyan leader Muammar] Qaddafi.
JG: But we didn’t stick around for the aftermath.

HRC: Well, we did stick around. We stuck around with offers of money and technical assistance, on everything from getting rid of some of the nasty stuff he left behind, to border security, to training. It wasn’t just us, it was the Europeans as well. Some of the Gulf countries had their particular favorites. They certainly stuck around and backed their favorite militias. It is not yet clear how the Libyans themselves will overcome the lack of security, which they inherited from Qaddafi. Remember, they’ve had two good elections. They’ve elected moderates and secularists and a limited number of Islamists, so you talk about democracy in action—the Libyans have done it twice—but they can’t control the ground. But how can you help when you have so many different players who looted the stuffed warehouses of every kind of weapon from the Qaddafi regime, some of which they’re using in Libya, some of which they’re passing out around the region?

So you can go back and argue either, we should we have helped the people of Libya try to overthrow a dictator who, remember, killed Americans and did a lot of other bad stuff, or we should have been on the sidelines. In this case we helped, but that didn’t make the road any easier in Syria, where we said, “It’s messy, it’s complicated, we’re not sure what the outcome will be.” So what I’m hoping for is that we sort out what we have learned, because we’ve tried a bunch of different approaches. Egypt is a perfect example. The revolution in Tahrir Square was not a Muslim Brotherhood revolution. It was not led by Islamists. They came very late to the party. Mubarak falls and I’m in Cairo a short time after, meeting the leaders of this movement, and I’m saying, “Okay, who’s going to run for office? Who’s going to form a political party?” and they’re saying, “We don’t do that, that’s not who we are.”

And I said that there are only two organized groups in this country, the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, and what we have here is an old lesson that you can’t beat somebody with nobody. There was a real opportunity here to, if a group had arisen out of the revolution, to create a democratic Egyptian alternative. Didn’t  happen. What do we have to think about? In order to do that better, I see a lot of questions that we have to be answering. I don’t think we can draw judgments yet. I think we can draw a judgment about the Bush administration in terms of overreach, but I don’t know that we can reach a conclusion about underreach.

Hillary Cliinton poses with Libyan soldiers in the fall of 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
JG: There is this moment in your book, in which Morsi tells you not to worry about jihadists in the Sinai—he says in essence that now that a Muslim Brotherhood government is in charge, jihadists won’t feel the need to continue their campaign. You write that this was either shockingly sinister or shockingly naïve. Which one do you think it was?

HRC: I think Morsi was naïve. I’m just talking about Morsi, not necessarily anyone else in the Muslim Brotherhood. I think he genuinely believed that with the legitimacy of an elected Islamist government, that the jihadists would see that there was a different route to power and influence and would be part of the political process. He had every hope, in fact, that the credible election of a Muslim Brotherhood government would mean the end of jihadist activities within Egypt, and also exemplify that there’s a different way to power.

The debate is between the bin Ladens of the world and the Muslim Brotherhood. The bin Ladens believe you can’t overthrow the infidels or the impure through politics. It has to be through violent resistance. So when I made the case to Morsi that we were picking up a lot of intelligence about jihadist groups creating safe havens inside Sinai, and that this would be a threat not only to Israel but to Egypt, he just dismissed this out of hand, and then shortly thereafter a large group of Egyptian soldiers were murdered.

JG: In an interview in 2011, I asked you if we should fear the Muslim Brotherhood—this is well before they came into power—and you said, ‘The jury is out.” Is the jury still out for you today?

HRC: I think the jury would come back with a lesser included offense, and that is a failure to govern in a democratic, inclusive manner while holding power in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood had the most extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate the potential for an Islamist movement to take responsibility for governance, and they were ill-prepared and unable to make the transition from movement to responsibility. We will see how they respond to the crackdown they’re under in Egypt, but the Muslim Brotherhood itself, although it had close ties with Hamas, for example, had not evidenced, because they were kept under tight control by Mubarak, the willingness to engage in violent conflict to achieve their goals. So the jury is in on their failure to govern in a way that would win the confidence of the entire Egyptian electorate. The jury is out as to whether they morph into a violent jihadist resistance group.

« The jury is out as to whether the Muslim Brotherhood morphs into a violent jihadist resistance group. »
JG: There’s a critique you hear of the Obama administration in the Gulf, in Jordan, in Israel, that it is a sign of naiveté to believe that there are Islamists you can work with, and that Hamas might even be a group that you could work with. Is there a role for political Islam in these countries? Can we ever find a way to work with them?

HRC: I think it’s too soon to tell. I would not put Hamas in the category of people we could work with. I don’t think that is realistic because its whole reason for being is resistance against Israel, destruction of Israel, and it is married to very nasty tactics and ideologies, including virulent anti-Semitism. I do not think they should be in any way treated as a legitimate interlocutor, especially because if you do that, it redounds to the disadvantage of the Palestinian Authority, which has a lot of problems, but historically has changed its charter, moved away from the kind of guerrilla resistance movement of previous decades.

I think you have to ask yourself, could different leaders have made a difference in the Muslim Brotherhood’s governance of Egypt? We won’t know and we can’t know the answer to that question. We know that Morsi was ill-equipped to be president of Egypt. He had no political experience. He was an engineer, he was wedded to the ideology of top-down control.

JG: But you’re open to the idea that there are sophisticated Islamists out there?
HRC: I think you’ve seen a level of sophistication in Tunisia. It’s a very different environment than Egypt, much smaller, but you’ve seen the Ennahda Party evolve from being quite demanding that their position be accepted as the national position but then being willing to step back in the face of very strong political opposition from secularists, from moderate Muslims, etc. So Tunisia might not be the tail that wags the dog, but it’s an interesting tail. If you look at Morocco, where the king had a major role in organizing the electoral change, you have a head of state who is a monarch who is descended from Muhammad, you have a government that is largely but not completely representative of the Muslim party of Morocco. So I think that there are not a lot of analogies, but when you look around the world, there’s a Hindu nationalist party now, back in power in India. The big question for Prime Minister Modi is how inclusive he will be as leader because of questions raised concerning his governance of Gujurat [the state he governed, which was the scene of anti-Muslim riots in 2002]. There were certainly Christian parties in Europe, pre- and post-World War II. They had very strong values that they wanted to see their society follow, but they were steeped in democracy, so they were good political actors.

JG: So, it’s not an impossibility.

HRC: It’s not an impossibility. So far, it doesn’t seem likely. We have to say that. Because for whatever reason, whatever combination of reasons, there hasn’t been the soil necessary to nurture the political side of the experience, for people whose primary self-definition is as Islamists.

« We’ve learned about the limits of our power. But we’ve also learned about the importance of our power appropriately deployed and explained. »
JG: Are we so egocentric, so Washington-centric, that we think that our decisions are dispositive? As secretary, did you learn more about the possibilities of American power or the limitations of American power?

HRC: Both, but it’s not just about American power. It’s American values that also happen to be universal values. If you have no political—small “p”—experience, it is really hard to go from a dictatorship to anything resembling what you and I would call democracy. That’s the lesson of Egypt. We didn’t invade Egypt. They did it themselves, and once they did it they looked around and didn’t know what they were supposed to do next.

I think we’ve learned about the limits of our power to spread freedom and democracy. That’s one of the big lessons out of Iraq. But we’ve also learned about the importance of our power, our influence, and our values appropriately deployed and explained. If you’re looking at what we could have done that would have been more effective, would have been more accepted by the Egyptians on the political front, what could we have done that would have been more effective in Libya, where they did their elections really well under incredibly difficult circumstances but they looked around and they had no levers to pull because they had these militias out there. My passion is, let’s do some after-action reviews, let’s learn these lessons, let’s figure out how we’re going to have different and better responses going forward.

JG: Is the lesson for you, like it is for President Obama, “Don’t do stupid shit”?

HRC: That’s a good lesson but it’s more complicated than that. Because your stupid may not be mine, and vice versa. I don’t think it was stupid for the United States to do everything we could to remove Qaddafi because that came from the bottom up. That was people asking us to help. It was stupid to do what we did in Iraq and to have no plan about what to do after we did it. That was really stupid. I don’t think you can quickly jump to conclusions about what falls into the stupid and non-stupid categories. That’s what I’m arguing.

JG: Do you think the next administration, whoever it is, can find some harmony between muscular intervention—“We must do something”—vs. let’s just not do something stupid, let’s stay away from problems like Syria because it’s a wicked problem and not something we want to tackle?

HRC: I think part of the challenge is that our government too often has a tendency to swing between these extremes. The pendulum swings back and then the pendulum swings the other way. What I’m arguing for is to take a hard look at what tools we have. Are they sufficient for the complex situations we’re going to face, or not? And what can we do to have better tools? I do think that is an important debate.

One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States. Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’être is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank—and we all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain that? I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat. You know, we did a good job in containing the Soviet Union, but we made a lot of mistakes, we supported really nasty guys, we did some things that we are not particularly proud of, from Latin America to Southeast Asia, but we did have a kind of overarching framework about what we were trying to do that did lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism. That was our objective. We achieved it.

Now the big mistake was thinking that, okay, the end of history has come upon us, after the fall of the Soviet Union. That was never true, history never stops and nationalisms were going to assert themselves, and then other variations on ideologies were going to claim  their space. Obviously, jihadi Islam is the prime example, but not the only example—the effort by Putin to restore his vision of Russian greatness is another. In the world in which we are living right now, vacuums get filled by some pretty unsavory players.

Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin, in 2012 (Jim Watson/Reuters)
JG: There doesn’t seem to be a domestic constituency for the type of engagement you might symbolize.

HRC: Well, that’s because most Americans think of engagement and go immediately to military engagement. That’s why I use the phrase “smart power.” I did it deliberately because I thought we had to have another way of talking about American engagement, other than unilateralism and the so-called boots on the ground.

You know, when you’re down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you’re not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward. One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.
JG: I think that defeating fascism and communism is a pretty big deal.

HRC: That’s how I feel! Maybe this is old-fashioned. Okay, I feel that this might be an old-fashioned idea—but I’m about to find out, in more ways than one.

Great nations need organizing principles, and “Don’t do stupid stuff” is not an organizing principle. It may be a necessary brake on the actions you might take in order to promote a vision.

JG: So why do you think the president went out of his way to suggest recently that that this is his foreign policy in a nutshell?

HRC: I think he was trying to communicate to the American people that he’s not going to do something crazy. I’ve sat in too many rooms with the president. He’s thoughtful, he’s incredibly smart, and able to analyze a lot of different factors that are all moving at the same time. I think he is cautious because he knows what he inherited, both the two wars and the economic front, and he has expended a lot of capital and energy trying to pull us out of the hole we’re in.

So I think that that’s a political message. It’s not his worldview, if that makes sense to you.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the campaign trail, in 2008 (Jim Young/Reuters)
JG: There is an idea in some quarters that the administration shows signs of believing that we, the U.S., aren’t so great, so we shouldn’t be telling people what to do.

HRC: I know that that is an opinion held by a certain group of Americans, I get all that. It’s not where I’m at.

JG: What is your organizing principle, then?

HRC: Peace, progress, and prosperity. This worked for a very long time. Take prosperity. That’s a huge domestic challenge for us. If we don’t restore the American dream for Americans, then you can forget about any kind of continuing leadership in the world. Americans deserve to feel secure in their own lives, in their own middle-class aspirations, before you go to them and say, “We’re going to have to enforce navigable sea lanes in the South China Sea.” You’ve got to take care of your home first. That’s another part of the political messaging that you have to engage in right now. People are not only turned off about being engaged in the world, they’re pretty discouraged about what’s happening here at home.

I think people want—and this is a generalization I will go ahead and make—people want to make sure our economic situation improves and that our political decision-making improves. Whether they articulate it this way or not, I think people feel like we’re facing really important challenges here at home: The economy is not growing, the middle class is not feeling like they are secure, and we are living in a time of gridlock and dysfunction that is just frustrating and outraging.

People assume that we’re going to have to do what we do so long as it’s not stupid, but what people want us to focus on are problems here at home. If you were to scratch below the surface on that—and I haven’t looked at the research or the polling—but I think people would say, first things first. Let’s make sure we are taking care of our people and we’re doing it in a way that will bring rewards to those of us who work hard, play by the rules, and yeah, we don’t want to see the world go to hell in a handbasket, and they don’t want to see a resurgence of aggression by anybody.

JG: Do you think they understand your idea about expansionist jihadism following us home?

HRC: I don’t know that people are thinking about it. People are thinking about what is wrong with people in Washington that they can’t make decisions, and they want the economy to grow again. People are feeling a little bit that there’s a little bit happening that is making them feel better about the economy, but it’s not nearly enough where it should be.

JG: Have you been able to embed your women’s agenda at the core of what the federal government does?

HRC: Yes, we did. We had the first-ever ambassador for global women’s issues. That’s permanent now, and that’s a big deal because that is the beachhead.

Secretary Kerry to his credit has issued directions to embassies and diplomats about this continuing to be a priority for our government. There is also a much greater basis in research now that proves you cannot have peace and security without the participation of women. You can’t grow your GDP without opening the doors to full participation of women and girls in the formal economy.

JG: There’s a link between misogyny and stagnation in the Middle East, which in many ways is the world’s most dysfunctional region.

HRC: It’s now very provable, when you look at the data from the IMF and the World Bank and what opening the formal economy would mean to a country’s GDP. You have Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe in Japan who was elected to fix the economy after so many years of dysfunction in Japan, and one of the major elements in his plan is to get women into the workforce. If you do that, if I remember correctly, the GDP for Japan would go up nine percent. Well, it would go up 34 percent in Egypt. So it’s self-evident and provable.

Voir enfin:

The Hillary Metamorphosis
Reasons to be skeptical about Mrs. Clinton’s self-reinvention as a foreign-policy hawk.
Bret Stephens
WSJ
Aug. 11, 2014 7

Robert Gates, who is the Captain Renault of our time, recounts the following White House exchange between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, back when she was serving the president loyally as secretary of state and he was taking notes as secretary of defense.

« In strongly supporting a surge in Afghanistan, » Mr. Gates writes in his memoir, « Duty, » « Hillary told the president that her opposition in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the primary. She went on to say, ‘The Iraq surge worked.’ The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying. »

Here’s a fit subject for an undergraduate philosophy seminar: What, or who, is your true self? Are you Kierkegaardian or Aristotelian? Is the real « you » the interior and subjective you; the you of your private whispers and good intentions? Or are you only the sum of your public behavior, statements and actions? Are you the you that you have been, and are? Or are you what you are, perhaps, becoming?

And if Mrs. Clinton supported the surge in private—because she thought it would help America win a war—but opposed it in public—because she needed to win a primary—shall we conclude that she is (a) despicable; (b) clever; (c) both; or (d) « what difference, at this point, does it make? »

***
All this comes to mind after reading Mrs. Clinton’s remarkable interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic. « Great nations need organizing principles, » she said, in the interview’s most quotable line, « and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle. »

That one is a direct riposte to the White House’s latest brainstorm of a guiding foreign-policy concept. But it wasn’t Mrs. Clinton’s only put-down of her old boss.

She was scathing on the president’s abdication in Syria: « I know that the failure »—failure— »to help build a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad . . . the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled. » She was unequivocal in her defense of Israel, in a way that would be unimaginable coming from John Kerry : « If I were prime minister of Israel, you’re damn right I would expect to have control over security [on the West Bank]. » She was dubious about the nuclear diplomacy with Iran, and the administration’s willingness to concede to Tehran a « right » to enrich uranium.

She blasted Israel’s critics in its war against Hamas: « You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today. » She hinted at the corruption of Mahmoud Abbas and his inner circle, « who are enjoying a better lifestyle and making money on all kinds of things. » She blamed Moscow for « shooting down a civilian jetliner, » presumably while the president waits for the results of a forensic investigation.

And she made the case for American power: « We’ve learned about the limits of our power to spread freedom and democracy. That’s one big lesson out of Iraq. But we’ve also learned about the importance of our power, our influence, and our values. » With Mr. Obama, the emphasis is always on the limitations, period.

All this sounds a lot like what you might read on this editorial page. Whatever happened to the Hillary Clinton who was an early advocate of diplomatic engagement with Iran, and who praised Bashar Assad as a « reformer » and pointedly refused to call for his ouster six months into the uprising? Wasn’t she the most vocal and enthusiastic advocate for the reset with Russia? Didn’t she deliver White House messages to Benjamin Netanyahu by yelling at him? Didn’t she also once describe former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak as a family friend?

And didn’t she characterize her relationship with Mr. Obama—in that cloying « 60 Minutes » exit interview the two of them did with Steve Kroft —as « very warm, very close »? Where’s the love now?

***
There are a few possible answers to that one. One is that the views she expressed in the interview are sincere and long-held and she was always a closet neoconservative; Commentary magazine is delivered to her mailbox in an unmarked brown envelope. Another is that Mrs. Clinton can read a poll: Americans now disapprove of the president’s handling of foreign policy by a 57% to 37% margin, and she belatedly needs to disavow the consequences of the policies she once advocated. A third is that she believes in whatever she says, at least at the time she’s saying it. She is a Clinton, after all.

There’s something to all of these theories: The political opportunist always lacks the courage of his, or her, convictions. That’s not necessarily because there aren’t any convictions. It’s because the convictions are always subordinated to the needs of ambition and ingratiation.

Then again, who cares who Mrs. Clinton really is? When the question needs to be asked, it means we already know, or should know, how to answer it. The truth about Mrs. Clinton isn’t what’s potentially at stake in the next election. It’s the truth about who we are. Are we prepared to believe anything?

We tried that with Barack Obama, the man who promised to be whatever we wanted him to be. Mrs. Clinton’s self-reinvention as a hawk invites us to make the mistake twice.


Immigration: Qui sont les racistes ? (Who are the bigots ? While the Obama Administration simply chooses not to enforce existing laws and Silicon Valley and Wall Street pity the poor immigrants)

13 juillet, 2014
http://www.truthrevolt.org/sites/default/files/images/Ramirez%202(1).jpg
http://www.truthrevolt.org/sites/default/files/images/mckee.jpg
Ce ne sont pas les différences qui provoquent les conflits mais leur effacement. René Girard
En présence de la diversité, nous nous replions sur nous-mêmes. Nous agissons comme des tortues. L’effet de la diversité est pire que ce qui avait été imaginé. Et ce n’est pas seulement que nous ne faisons plus confiance à ceux qui ne sont pas comme nous. Dans les communautés diverses, nous ne faisons plus confiance à ceux qui nous ressemblent. Robert Putnam
Les Israéliens ne savent pas que le peuple palestinien a progressé dans ses recherches sur la mort. Il a développé une industrie de la mort qu’affectionnent toutes nos femmes, tous nos enfants, tous nos vieillards et tous nos combattants. Ainsi, nous avons formé un bouclier humain grâce aux femmes et aux enfants pour dire à l’ennemi sioniste que nous tenons à la mort autant qu’il tient à la vie. Fathi Hammad (responsable du Hamas, mars 2008)
Cela prouve le caractère de notre noble peuple, combattant du djihad, qui défend ses droits et ses demeures le torse nu, avec son sang. La politique d’un peuple qui affronte les avions israéliens la poitrine nue, pour protéger ses habitations, s’est révélée efficace contre l’occupation. Cette politique reflète la nature de notre peuple brave et courageux. Nous, au Hamas, appelons notre peuple à adopter cette politique, pour protéger les maisons palestiniennes. Sami Abu Zuhri (porte-parole du Hamas)
Depuis le début de l’opération, au moins 35 bâtiments résidentiels auraient été visés et détruits, entraînant dans la majorité des pertes civiles enregistrées jusqu’à présent, y compris une attaque le 8 Juillet à Khan Younis qui a tué sept civils, dont trois enfants, et blessé 25 autres. Dans la plupart des cas, avant les attaques, les habitants ont été avertis de quitter, que ce soit via des appels téléphoniques de l’armée d’Israël ou par des tirs de missiles d’avertissement. Rapport ONU (09.07.14)
Mais pourquoi n’appelle-t-on pas ce mur, qui sépare les Gazaouites de leurs frères égyptiens « mur de la honte » ou « de l’apartheid »? Liliane Messika (Primo-Europe)
Dieu, source de tensions, précisément au-dessus de ce mur, surplombé par la coupole du Dome, un lieu saint islamique contrôlé par la police israélienne. Cette Esplanade des mosquées interdite de fait à des milliers de musulmans exclus de la ville par cet autre mur érigé par Israël à l’est des remparts.  (…) Le dernier-né des murs de Jérusalem travesti en toile géante par des artistes de rue, rêvant de faire tomber cette muraille un jour prochain peut-être … Patrick Fandio
The idea that Palestinians use their children as human shields is racist and reprehensible. And the idea that the Israelis are somehow spewing this and we’re to believe it is also racist. … I somehow do not believe, though, that people are going to listen to somebody who says stay inside while your house is being bombed. People don’t want to die, Jake. And the fact that the Israelis continue to drop bombs on them doesn’t make them want to die any more. It’s simply a fact that what the Israelis are doing is they’re dropping bombs of a magnitude that we have never seen before on a captive civilian child population. Diana Buttu (human rights attorney and a former legal adviser to the PLO)
Washington va bientôt cesser d’expulser de jeunes immigrés sans papiers Cette annonce prochaine de Barack Obama pourrait renforcer sa popularité auprès de l’électorat Hispanique à cinq mois de la présidentielle.Les Etats-Unis vont cesser d’expulser de jeunes immigrés sans papiers sur la base de critères précis. Une décision favorable aux Hispaniques à l’approche de l’élection présidentielle de novembre. Cette annonce s’appliquera aux mineurs qui sont arrivés dans le pays avant l’âge de 16 ans, sont actuellement âgés de moins de trente ans, scolarisés ou ayant obtenu leur baccalauréat et n’ayant aucun antécédent judiciaire, ont expliqué vendredi 15 juin des responsables américains, avant une annonce en ce sens du président Barack Obama. Cette mesure, qui devrait susciter l’opposition vigoureuse des Républicains, peut permettre au président-candidat de renforcer sa popularité auprès des jeunes et des Hispaniques, dont le soutien peut s’avérer crucial dans certains Etats-clés. Le Nouvel Observateur (15.06.12)
Most Americans believe that our country has a clear and present interest in enacting immigration legislation that is both humane to immigrants living here and a contribution to the well-being of our citizens. Reaching these goals is possible. Our present policy, however, fails badly on both counts. We believe it borders on insanity to train intelligent and motivated people in our universities — often subsidizing their education — and then to deport them when they graduate. Many of these people, of course, want to return to their home country — and that’s fine. But for those who wish to stay and work in computer science or technology, fields badly in need of their services, let’s roll out the welcome mat. A “talented graduate” reform was included in a bill that the Senate approved last year by a 68-to-32 vote. It would remove the worldwide cap on the number of visas that could be awarded to legal immigrants who had earned a graduate degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited institution of higher education in the United States, provided they had an offer of employment. The bill also included a sensible plan that would have allowed illegal residents to obtain citizenship, though only after they had earned the right to do so. Americans are a forgiving and generous people, and who among us is not happy that their forebears — whatever their motivation or means of entry — made it to our soil? For the future, the United States should take all steps to ensure that every prospective immigrant follows all rules and that people breaking these rules, including any facilitators, are severely punished. No one wants a replay of the present mess. We also believe that America’s self-interest should be reflected in our immigration policy. For example, the EB-5 “immigrant investor program,” created by Congress in 1990, was intended to allow a limited number of foreigners with financial resources or unique abilities to move to our country, bringing with them substantial and enduring purchasing power. Reports of fraud have surfaced with this program, and we believe it should be reformed to prevent abuse but also expanded to become more effective. People willing to invest in America and create jobs deserve the opportunity to do so. Their citizenship could be provisional — dependent, for example, on their making investments of a certain size in new businesses or homes. Expanded investments of that kind would help us jolt the demand side of our economy. These immigrants would impose minimal social costs on the United States, compared with the resources they would contribute. New citizens like these would make hefty deposits in our economy, not withdrawals. Whatever the precise provisions of a law, it’s time for the House to draft and pass a bill that reflects both our country’s humanity and its self-interest. Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates
Illegal and illiberal immigration exists and will continue to expand because too many special interests are invested in it. It is one of those rare anomalies — the farm bill is another — that crosses political party lines and instead unites disparate elites through their diverse but shared self-interests: live-and-let-live profits for some and raw political power for others. For corporate employers, millions of poor foreign nationals ensure cheap labor, with the state picking up the eventual social costs. For Democratic politicos, illegal immigration translates into continued expansion of favorable political demography in the American Southwest. For ethnic activists, huge annual influxes of unassimilated minorities subvert the odious melting pot and mean continuance of their own self-appointed guardianship of salad-bowl multiculturalism. Meanwhile, the upper middle classes in coastal cocoons enjoy the aristocratic privileges of having plenty of cheap household help, while having enough wealth not to worry about the social costs of illegal immigration in terms of higher taxes or the problems in public education, law enforcement, and entitlements. No wonder our elites wink and nod at the supposed realities in the current immigration bill, while selling fantasies to the majority of skeptical Americans. Victor Davis Hanson
Who are the bigots — the rude and unruly protestors who scream and swarm drop-off points and angrily block immigration authority buses to prevent the release of children into their communities, or the shrill counter-protestors who chant back “Viva La Raza” (“Long Live the Race”)? For that matter, how does the racialist term “La Raza” survive as an acceptable title of a national lobby group in this politically correct age of anger at the Washington Redskins football brand? How can American immigration authorities simply send immigrant kids all over the United States and drop them into communities without firm guarantees of waiting sponsors or family? If private charities did that, would the operators be jailed? Would American parents be arrested for putting their unescorted kids on buses headed out of state? Liberal elites talk down to the cash-strapped middle class about their illiberal anger over the current immigration crisis. But most sermonizers are hypocritical. Take Nancy Pelosi, former speaker of the House. She lectures about the need for near-instant amnesty for thousands streaming across the border. But Pelosi is a multimillionaire, and thus rich enough not to worry about the increased costs and higher taxes needed to offer instant social services to the new arrivals. Progressives and ethnic activists see in open borders extralegal ways to gain future constituents dependent on an ever-growing government, with instilled grudges against any who might not welcome their flouting of U.S. laws. How moral is that? Likewise, the CEOs of Silicon Valley and Wall Street who want cheap labor from south of the border assume that their own offspring’s private academies will not be affected by thousands of undocumented immigrants, that their own neighborhoods will remain non-integrated, and that their own medical services and specialists’ waiting rooms will not be made available to the poor arrivals. … What a strange, selfish, and callous alliance of rich corporate grandees, cynical left-wing politicians, and ethnic chauvinists who have conspired to erode U.S. law for their own narrow interests, all the while smearing those who object as xenophobes, racists, and nativists. Victor Davis Hanson

Attention: un  raciste peut en cacher un autre !

Manifestants qui empêchent l’application de la loi contre les clandestins, gouvernements qui n’appliquent pas ladite loi, parents qui abandonnent leurs enfants aux griffes des passeurs dès leur plus jeune âge, responsables politiques milliardaires prônant l’amnistie, politiciens et militants associatifs lorgnant sur de futurs électeurs, capitalistes de Silicon Valley et de Wall Street à la recherche de main d’oeuvre bon marché …

A l’heure où, après le Pape et nos médias et pendant que pleuvent les roquettes sur ses villes et que le Hamas vante l’efficacité de sa chair à canon, il est de bon ton de condamner comme raciste toute mesure de l’Etat d’Israël pour se défendre de ceux qui appellent à son annihilation …

Et où, poussés par de véritables mafias de trafiquants humains toujours plus innovants et encouragés par les paroles lénifiantes de dirigeants toujours plus irresponsables (dont notamment une annonce d’amnistie partielle pour les jeunes immigrés irréguliers par le président Obama à cinq mois comme par hasard de sa réélection) …

C’est à présent par centaines à la fois que les nouveaux damnés de la terre s’échouent sur nos côtes ou s’attaquent à nos murs de la honte (pardon: « barrières de sécurité ») …

Petite remise des pendules à l’heure avec l’historien militaire américain Victor Davis Hanson …

Qui, rappelant les intérêts politiques ou économiques bien compris de ceux qui n’ont jamais de mots assez durs pour stigmatiser l’intolérance des masses, montre que les racistes ne sont pas toujours ceux que l’on croit …

The Moral Crisis on Our Southern Border
A perfect storm of special interests have hijacked U.S. immigration law
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
July 10, 2014

No one knows just how many tens of thousands of Central American nationals — most of them desperate, unescorted children and teens — are streaming across America’s southern border. Yet this phenomenon offers us a proverbial teachable moment about the paradoxes and hypocrisies of Latin American immigration to the U.S.

For all the pop romance in Latin America associated with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba, few Latinos prefer to immigrate to such communist utopias or to socialist spin-offs like Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, or Peru.

Instead, hundreds of thousands of poor people continue to risk danger to enter democratic, free-market America, which they have often been taught back home is the source of their misery. They either believe that America’s supposedly inadequate social safety net is far better than the one back home, or that its purportedly cruel free market gives them more opportunities than anywhere in Latin America — or both.

Mexico strictly enforces some of the harshest immigration laws in the world that either summarily deport or jail most who dare to cross Mexican borders illegally, much less attempt to work inside Mexico or become politically active. If America were to emulate Mexico’s immigration policies, millions of Mexican nationals living in the U.S. immediately would be sent home.

How, then, are tens of thousands of Central American children crossing with impunity hundreds of miles of Mexican territory, often sitting atop Mexican trains? Does Mexico believe that the massive influxes will serve to render U.S. immigration law meaningless, and thereby completely shred an already porous border? Is Mexico simply ensuring that the surge of poorer Central Americans doesn’t dare stop in Mexico on its way north?

The media talks of a moral crisis on the border. It is certainly that, but not entirely in the way we are told. What sort of callous parents simply send their children as pawns northward without escort, in selfish hopes of soon winning for themselves either remittances or eventual passage to the U.S? What sort of government allows its vulnerable youth to pack up and leave, without taking any responsibility for such mass flight?

Here in the U.S., how can our government simply choose not to enforce existing laws? In reaction, could U.S. citizens emulate Washington’s ethics and decide not to pay their taxes, or to disregard traffic laws, or to build homes without permits? Who in the pen-and-phone era of Obama gets to decide which law to follow and which to ignore?

Who are the bigots — the rude and unruly protestors who scream and swarm drop-off points and angrily block immigration authority buses to prevent the release of children into their communities, or the shrill counter-protestors who chant back “Viva La Raza” (“Long Live the Race”)? For that matter, how does the racialist term “La Raza” survive as an acceptable title of a national lobby group in this politically correct age of anger at the Washington Redskins football brand?

How can American immigration authorities simply send immigrant kids all over the United States and drop them into communities without firm guarantees of waiting sponsors or family? If private charities did that, would the operators be jailed? Would American parents be arrested for putting their unescorted kids on buses headed out of state?

Liberal elites talk down to the cash-strapped middle class about their illiberal anger over the current immigration crisis. But most sermonizers are hypocritical. Take Nancy Pelosi, former speaker of the House. She lectures about the need for near-instant amnesty for thousands streaming across the border. But Pelosi is a multimillionaire, and thus rich enough not to worry about the increased costs and higher taxes needed to offer instant social services to the new arrivals.

Progressives and ethnic activists see in open borders extralegal ways to gain future constituents dependent on an ever-growing government, with instilled grudges against any who might not welcome their flouting of U.S. laws. How moral is that?

Likewise, the CEOs of Silicon Valley and Wall Street who want cheap labor from south of the border assume that their own offspring’s private academies will not be affected by thousands of undocumented immigrants, that their own neighborhoods will remain non-integrated, and that their own medical services and specialists’ waiting rooms will not be made available to the poor arrivals.

Have immigration-reform advocates such as Mark Zuckerberg or Michael Bloomberg offered one of their mansions as a temporary shelter for needy Central American immigrants? Couldn’t Yale or Stanford welcome homeless immigrants into their now under-occupied summertime dorms? Why aren’t elite academies such as Sidwell Friends or the Menlo School offering their gymnasia as places of refuge for tens of thousands of school-age Central Americans?

What a strange, selfish, and callous alliance of rich corporate grandees, cynical left-wing politicians, and ethnic chauvinists who have conspired to erode U.S. law for their own narrow interests, all the while smearing those who object as xenophobes, racists, and nativists.

Voir aussi:

Break the Immigration Impasse
Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates on Immigration Reform

By SHELDON G. ADELSON, WARREN E. BUFFETT and BILL GATES

The NYT

JULY 10, 2014

AMERICAN citizens are paying 535 people to take care of the legislative needs of the country. We are getting shortchanged. Here’s an example: On June 10, an incumbent congressman in Virginia lost a primary election in which his opponent garnered only 36,105 votes. Immediately, many Washington legislators threw up their hands and declared that this one event would produce paralysis in the United States Congress for at least five months. In particular, they are telling us that immigration reform — long overdue — is now hopeless.

Americans deserve better than this.

The three of us vary in our politics and would differ also in our preferences about the details of an immigration reform bill. But we could without doubt come together to draft a bill acceptable to each of us. We hope that fact holds a lesson: You don’t have to agree on everything in order to cooperate on matters about which you are reasonably close to agreement. It’s time that this brand of thinking finds its way to Washington.

Most Americans believe that our country has a clear and present interest in enacting immigration legislation that is both humane to immigrants living here and a contribution to the well-being of our citizens. Reaching these goals is possible. Our present policy, however, fails badly on both counts.

We believe it borders on insanity to train intelligent and motivated people in our universities — often subsidizing their education — and then to deport them when they graduate. Many of these people, of course, want to return to their home country — and that’s fine. But for those who wish to stay and work in computer science or technology, fields badly in need of their services, let’s roll out the welcome mat.

A “talented graduate” reform was included in a bill that the Senate approved last year by a 68-to-32 vote. It would remove the worldwide cap on the number of visas that could be awarded to legal immigrants who had earned a graduate degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited institution of higher education in the United States, provided they had an offer of employment. The bill also included a sensible plan that would have allowed illegal residents to obtain citizenship, though only after they had earned the right to do so.

Americans are a forgiving and generous people, and who among us is not happy that their forebears — whatever their motivation or means of entry — made it to our soil?

For the future, the United States should take all steps to ensure that every prospective immigrant follows all rules and that people breaking these rules, including any facilitators, are severely punished. No one wants a replay of the present mess.

We also believe that America’s self-interest should be reflected in our immigration policy. For example, the EB-5 “immigrant investor program,” created by Congress in 1990, was intended to allow a limited number of foreigners with financial resources or unique abilities to move to our country, bringing with them substantial and enduring purchasing power. Reports of fraud have surfaced with this program, and we believe it should be reformed to prevent abuse but also expanded to become more effective. People willing to invest in America and create jobs deserve the opportunity to do so.

Their citizenship could be provisional — dependent, for example, on their making investments of a certain size in new businesses or homes. Expanded investments of that kind would help us jolt the demand side of our economy. These immigrants would impose minimal social costs on the United States, compared with the resources they would contribute. New citizens like these would make hefty deposits in our economy, not withdrawals.

Whatever the precise provisions of a law, it’s time for the House to draft and pass a bill that reflects both our country’s humanity and its self-interest. Differences with the Senate should be hammered out by members of a conference committee, committed to a deal.

A Congress that does nothing about these problems is extending an irrational policy by default; that is, if lawmakers don’t act to change it, it stays the way it is, irrational. The current stalemate — in which greater pride is attached to thwarting the opposition than to advancing the nation’s interests — is depressing to most Americans and virtually all of its business managers. The impasse certainly depresses the three of us.

Signs of a more productive attitude in Washington — which passage of a well-designed immigration bill would provide — might well lift spirits and thereby stimulate the economy. It’s time for 535 of America’s citizens to remember what they owe to the 318 million who employ them.

How did such immoral special interests hijack U.S. immigration law and arbitrarily decide for 300 million Americans who earns entry into America, under what conditions, and from where?

Voir également:

Washington va bientôt cesser d’expulser de jeunes immigrés sans papiers
Cette annonce prochaine de Barack Obama pourrait renforcer sa popularité auprès de l’électorat Hispanique à cinq mois de la présidentielle.
Le Nouvel Observateur avec AFP
15-06-2012

Les Etats-Unis vont cesser d’expulser de jeunes immigrés sans papiers sur la base de critères précis. Une décision favorable aux Hispaniques à l’approche de l’élection présidentielle de novembre.

Cette annonce s’appliquera aux mineurs qui sont arrivés dans le pays avant l’âge de 16 ans, sont actuellement âgés de moins de trente ans, scolarisés ou ayant obtenu leur baccalauréat et n’ayant aucun antécédent judiciaire, ont expliqué vendredi 15 juin des responsables américains, avant une annonce en ce sens du président Barack Obama.

Cette mesure, qui devrait susciter l’opposition vigoureuse des Républicains, peut permettre au président-candidat de renforcer sa popularité auprès des jeunes et des Hispaniques, dont le soutien peut s’avérer crucial dans certains Etats-clés.
« Nos lois en matière d’immigration doivent être appliquées de façon ferme et judicieuse », a déclaré la secrétaire à la Sécurité intérieure, Janet Napolitano, chargée des questions d’immigration

« Mais elles ne sont pas conçues pour être appliquées aveuglément, sans tenir compte des circonstances individuelles de chaque cas », a-t-elle poursuivi. « Elles ne sont pas non plus conçues pour perdre des jeunes gens productifs et les renvoyer vers des pays où ils n’ont peut-être pas vécu ou dont ils ne parlent pas la langue ».

Cette décision consacre les objectifs d’un projet de loi — baptisé DREAM Act — soutenu par la Maison Blanche et qui permettrait, s’il était voté, aux jeunes immigrés arrivés avec leurs parents de devenir des résidents permanents du pays.

Ce projet de loi, auquel le candidat républicain Mitt Romney et les conservateurs s’opposent, n’a pas obtenu l’aval du Congrès.

Voir encore:

Migration
The mobile masses
The costs and benefits of mass immigration
The Economist
Sep 28th 2013

Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World. By Paul Collier. Oxford University Press USA; 309 pages; $27.95. Allen Lane; £20. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

PAUL COLLIER is one of the world’s most thoughtful economists. His books consistently illuminate and provoke. “Exodus” is no exception. Most polemics about migration argue either that it is good or bad. They address the wrong question, says Mr Collier. The right one is: how much more migration would be beneficial, and to whom?

He examines this question from three perspectives: the migrants themselves, the countries they leave and the countries to which they move.

Migration makes migrants better off. If it did not, they would go home. Those who move from poor countries to rich ones quickly start earning rich-country wages, which may be ten times more than they could have earned back home. “Their productivity rockets upwards,” says Mr Collier, because they are “escaping from countries with dysfunctional social models”.

This is a crucial insight. Bar a few oil sheikhdoms, rich countries are rich because they are well organised, and poor countries are poor because they are not. A factory worker in Nigeria produces less than he would in New Zealand because the society around him is dysfunctional: the power keeps failing, spare parts do not arrive on time and managers are busy battling bribe-hungry bureaucrats. When a rich country lets in immigrants, it is extending to them the benefits of good governance and the rule of law.

What of the countries that receive immigrants? Mr Collier argues that they have benefited from past immigration, but will probably suffer if it continues unchecked.

So far, immigrants have typically filled niches in the labour market that complement rather than displace the native-born. For most citizens of rich countries, immigration has meant slightly higher wages, as fresh brains with new ideas make local firms more productive. It may have dragged down wages for the least-skilled, but only by a tiny amount.

However, says Mr Collier, continued mass immigration threatens the cultural cohesion of rich countries. Some diversity adds spice: think of Thai restaurants or Congolese music. But a large unabsorbed diaspora may cling to the cultural norms that made its country of origin dysfunctional, and spread them to the host country. Furthermore, when a society becomes too heterogeneous, its people may be unwilling to pay for a generous welfare state, he says. Support for redistribution dwindles if taxpayers think the beneficiaries will be people unlike themselves.

Finally, Mr Collier looks at the effect of emigration on poor countries. Up to a point, it makes them better off. Emigrants send good ideas and hard currency home. The prospect of emigration prompts locals to study hard and learn useful skills; many then stay behind and enrich the domestic talent pool instead. But if too many educated people leave, poor countries are worse off. Big emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil benefit from emigration, but the smallest and poorest nations do not: Haiti, for example, has lost 85% of its educated people.

Mr Collier’s most arresting argument is that past waves of migration have created the conditions under which migration will henceforth accelerate. Emigration is less daunting if you can move to a neighbourhood where lots of your compatriots have already settled. There, you can speak your native language, eat familiar food and ask your cousins to help you find a job. Because many Western countries allow recent immigrants to sponsor visas for their relatives, Mr Collier frets that large, unassimilated diasporas will keep growing. And as they grow, they will become harder to assimilate.

Mr Collier is plainly not a bigot and his arguments should be taken seriously. Nonetheless, he is far too gloomy. He lives in Britain, which is nearly 90% white and has seen substantial immigration only relatively recently. His worries are mostly about the harm that immigration might do, rather than any it has already done. Indeed, the evidence he marshals suggests that so far it has been hugely beneficial.

It is possible that Britain will prove unable to cope with greater diversity in the future, but one cannot help noticing that the most diverse part of the country—London, which is less than 50% white British—is also by far the richest. It is also rather livelier than the lily-white counties that surround it.

America’s population consists almost entirely of immigrants and their descendants, yet it is rich, dynamic, peaceful and united by abundant national pride. Every past wave of newcomers has assimilated; why should the next one be different? The recent history of Canada, Australia and New Zealand also suggests that large-scale immigration is compatible with prosperity and social cohesion.

Mr Collier is right that there is a tension between mass immigration and the welfare state. A rich country that invited all and sundry to live off the dole would not stay rich for long. Immigrants assimilate better in America than in most European countries in part because welfare is less generous there. In parts of Europe it is possible for able-bodied newcomers to subsist on handouts, which infuriates the native-born. In America, by and large, immigrants have to work, so they do. Through work, they swiftly integrate into society.

Mr Collier approves of the European-style welfare state, so his policy prescriptions are aimed largely at preventing immigration from undermining it. He would peg the number of immigrants to how well previous arrivals have integrated. He would welcome quite a lot of skilled migrants and students (a good idea) but curb family reunions (which sounds harsh). He would allow in asylum-seekers from war zones but send them back when peace returns to their homelands. (This, he explains, would help their homelands rebuild themselves.) As for illegal immigrants, he would offer them the chance to register as guest workers who pay taxes but receive no social benefits.

Insisting that immigrants work is sound policy, but the tone of “Exodus” is problematic. Mr Collier finds endless objections to a policy—more or less unlimited immigration—that no country has adopted. In the process, he exaggerates the possible risks of mobility and underplays its proven benefits.

Voir encore:

Obama administration to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants
Tom Cohen
CNN
June 16, 2012

In an election-year policy change, the Obama administration said Friday it will stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they meet certain requirements.

The shift on the politically volatile issue of immigration policy prompted immediate praise from Latino leaders who have criticized Congress and the White House for inaction, while Republicans reacted with outrage, saying the move amounts to amnesty — a negative buzz word among conservatives — and usurps congressional authority.

Those who might benefit from the change expressed joy and relief, with celebratory demonstrations forming outside the White House and elsewhere.

Pedro Ramirez, a student who has campaigned for such a move, said he was « definitely speechless, » then added: « It’s great news. »

In a Rose Garden address Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama said the changes caused by his executive order will make immigration policy « more fair, more efficient and more just. »

« This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix, » Obama said to take on conservative criticism of the step. « This is a temporary stopgap measure. »

Noting children of illegal immigrants « study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods, befriend our kids, pledge allegiance to our flag, » Obama said, « it makes no sense to expel talented young people who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans. »

When a reporter interrupted Obama with a hostile question, the president admonished him and declared that the policy change is « the right thing to do. »

Under the new policy, people younger than 30 who came to the United States before the age of 16, pose no criminal or security threat, and were successful students or served in the military can get a two-year deferral from deportation, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

It also will allow those meeting the requirements to apply for work permits, Napolitano said, adding that participants must be in the United States now and be able to prove they have been living in the country continuously for at least five years.

The change is part of a department effort to target resources at illegal immigrants who pose a greater threat, such as criminals and those trying to enter the country now, Napolitano said, adding it was « well within the framework of existing laws. »

The move addresses a major concern of the Hispanic community and mimics some of the provisions of a Democratic proposal called the DREAM Act that has failed to win enough Republican support to gain congressional approval.

Obama has been criticized by Hispanic-American leaders for an overall increase in deportations of illegal aliens in recent years. Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 396,906 illegal immigrants, the largest number in the agency’s history.

Friday’s policy change is expected to potentially affect 800,000 people, an administration official told CNN on background.

Both Obama and Napolitano called for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would put into law similar steps for children of illegal immigrants to continue living and working in the country.

« I’ve been dealing with immigration enforcement for 20 years and the plain fact of the matter is that the law that we’re working under doesn’t match the economic needs of the country today and the law enforcement needs of the country today, » Napolitano told CNN. « But as someone who is charged with enforcing the immigration system, we’re setting good, strong, sensible priorities, and again these young people really are not the individuals that the immigration removal process was designed to focus upon. »

Republicans who have blocked Democratic efforts on immigration reform immediately condemned the move, with some calling it an improper maneuver to skirt congressional opposition.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a leading GOP foe of Democratic proposals for immigration reform, threatened to file a lawsuit asking the courts to stop Obama « from implementing his unconstitutional and unlawful policy. »

In a Twitter post, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called the decision « a classic Barack Obama move of choosing politics over leadership, » while House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, called the change a « decision to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants. »

« Many illegal immigrants will falsely claim they came here as children and the federal government has no way to check whether their claims are true, » Smith said in a statement. « And once these illegal immigrants are granted deferred action, they can then apply for a work permit, which the administration routinely grants 90% of the time. »

Others complained the move will flood an already poor job market for young Americans with illegal immigrants.

However, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who sponsored the DREAM Act, welcomed the announcement that he said « will give these young immigrants their chance to come out of the shadows and be part of the only country they’ve ever called home. »

He rejected the GOP argument that Obama’s move was all about politics, noting « there will be those who vote against him because of this decision, too. That’s what leadership is about. »

Durbin also noted that Obama repeatedly called for Congress to pass immigration reform legislation, including the DREAM Act. Now that it is clear no progress would occur this Congress, the president acted, Durbin said.

Obama has used executive orders more frequently in recent months to launch initiatives he advocates that have been stymied by the deep partisan divide in Congress. A White House campaign of such steps involving economic programs was labeled « We Can’t Wait. »

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has been working on an alternative version of the DREAM Act, criticized Obama for taking a piecemeal approach Friday. He said in a statement that « by once again ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress, this short-term policy will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long-term one. »

Rubio is considered a possible running mate for certain GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who rejected the DREAM Act in the heat of the Republican primary campaign but has since expressed willingness to consider whatever Rubio proposes.

Later Friday, Romney told reporters that the issue needs more substantive action than an executive order, which can be replaced by a subsequent president.

He said he agrees with Rubio’s statement that Obama’s move makes finding a long-term solution more difficult. As president, Romney said, he would seek to provide « certainty and clarity for people who come into this country through no fault of their own by virtue of the actions of their parents. »

Hispanics make up the fastest-growing immigrant population in the country, and the Latino vote is considered a crucial bloc for the November presidential election.

A spokeswoman for a major Latino group, the National Council of La Raza, hailed the administration’s move.

« In light of the congressional inaction on immigration reform, this is the right step for the administration to take at this time, » said NCLR spokeswoman Laura Vazquez.

Immigration lawyers also called the change a major step in the right direction. However, one immigration expert warned that the new policy does not guarantee the result sought by participants.

« I worry that the announcement will be implemented more stingily than the administration would like, » said Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell Law School.

Meanwhile, some evangelical Christian leaders who recently met at the White House to discuss immigration issues also endorsed Friday’s move, along with the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and some Jewish groups.

For Jose Luis Zelaya, who came to the United States illegally from Honduras at age 14 to find his mother, also an illegal immigrant, the new policy means that « maybe I will be able to work without being afraid that someone may deport me. »

« There is no fear anymore, » he said.

Voir par ailleurs:

A vastly changed Middle East

Caroline B. Glick

The Jerusalem Post

11/21/2013

When America returns, it will likely find a changed regional landscape; nations are disintegrating, only to reintegrate in new groupings.

A week and a half ago, Syria’s Kurds announced they are setting up an autonomous region in northeastern Syria.

The announcement came after the Kurds wrested control over a chain of towns from al-Qaida in the ever metastasizing Syrian civil war.

The Kurds’ announcement enraged their nominal Sunni allies – including the al-Qaida forces they have been combating – in the opposition to the Assad regime. It also rendered irrelevant US efforts to reach a peace deal between the Syrian regime and the rebel forces at a peace conference in Geneva.

But more important than what the Kurds’ action means for the viability of the Obama administration’s Syria policy, it shows just how radically the strategic landscape has changed and continues to change, not just in Syria but throughout the Arab world.

The revolutionary groundswell that has beset the Arab world for the past three years has brought dynamism and uncertainty to a region that has known mainly stasis and status quo for the past 500 years. For 400 years, the Middle East was ruled by the Ottoman Turks. Anticipating the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, the British and the French quickly carved up the Ottoman possessions, dividing them between themselves. What emerged from their actions were the national borders of the Arab states – and Israel – that have remained largely intact since 1922.

As Yoel Guzansky and Erez Striem from the Institute for National Security Studies wrote in a paper published this week, while the borders of Arab states remain largely unchanged, the old borders no longer reflect the reality on the ground.

“As a result of the regional upheavals, tribal, sectarian, and ethnic identities have become more pronounced than ever, which may well lead to a change in the borders drawn by the colonial powers a century ago that have since been preserved by Arab autocrats.”

Guzansky and Striem explained, “The iron-fisted Arab rulers were an artificial glue of sorts, holding together different, sometimes hostile sects in an attempt to form a single nation state.

Now, the de facto changes in the Middle East map could cause far-reaching geopolitical shifts affecting alliance formations and even the global energy market.”

The writers specifically discussed the breakdown of national governments and the consequent growing irrelevance of national borders in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

And while it is true that the dissolution of central government authority is most acute in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, in every Arab state national authorities are under siege, stressed, or engaged in countering direct threats to their rule. Although central authorities retain control in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Bahrain, they all contend with unprecedented challenges. As a consequence, today it is impossible to take for granted that the regime’s interests in any Arab state will necessarily direct the actions of the residents of that state, or that a regime now in power will remain in power tomorrow.

Guzansky and Striem note that the current state of flux presents Israel with both challenges and opportunities. As they put it, “The disintegration of states represents at least a temporary deterioration in Israel’s strategic situation because it is attended by instability liable to trickle over into neighboring states…. But the changes also mean dissolution of the regular armies that posed a threat in the past and present opportunities for Israel to build relations with different minorities with the potential to seize the reins of government in the future.”

Take the Kurds for example. The empowerment of the Kurds in Syria – as in Iraq – presents a strategic opportunity for Israel. Israel has cultivated and maintained an alliance with the Kurds throughout the region for the past 45 years.

Although Kurdish politics are fraught with internal clashes and power struggles, on balance, the empowerment of the Kurds at the expense of the central governments in Damascus and Baghdad is a major gain for Israel.

And the Kurds are not the only group whose altered status since the onset of the revolutionary instability in the Arab world presents Israel with new opportunities. Among the disparate factions in the disintegrating Arab lands from North Africa to the Persian Gulf are dozens of groups that will be thrilled to receive Israeli assistance and, in return, be willing to cooperate with Israel on a whole range of issues.

To be sure, these new allies are not likely to share Israeli values. And many may be no more than the foreign affairs equivalent of a one-night stand. But Israel also is not obliged to commit itself to any party for the long haul. Transactional alliances are valuable because they are based on shared interests, and they last for as long as the actors perceive those interests as shared ones.

Over the past week, we have seen a similar transformation occurring on a regional and indeed global level, as the full significance of the Obama administration’s withdrawal of US power from the region becomes better understood.

When word got out two weeks ago about the US decision to accept and attempt to push through a deal with Iran that would strip the international sanctions regime of meaning in return for cosmetic Iranian concessions that will not significantly impact Iran’s completion of its nuclear weapons program, attempts were made by some Israeli and many American policy-makers to make light of the significance of President Barack Obama’s moves.

But on Sunday night, Channel 10 reported that far from an opportunistic bid to capitalize on a newfound moderation in Tehran, the draft agreement was the result of months-long secret negotiations between Obama’s consigliere Valerie Jarrett and Iranian negotiators.

According to the report, which was denied by the White House, Jarrett, Obama’s Iranian-born consigliere, conducted secret talks with Iranian negotiators for the past several months. The draft agreement that betrayed US allies throughout the Arab world, and shattered Israeli and French confidence in the US’s willingness to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, was presented to negotiators in Geneva as a fait accompli. Israel and Saudi Arabia, like other US regional allies were left in the dark about its contents. As we saw, it was only after the French and the British divulged the details of the deal to Israel and Saudi Arabia that the Israelis, Saudis and French formed an ad hoc alliance to scuttle the deal at the last moment.

The revelation of Jarrett’s long-standing secret talks with the Iranians showed that the Obama administration’s decision to cut a deal with the mullahs was a well-thought-out, long-term policy to use appeasement of the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism as a means to enable the US to withdraw from the Middle East. The fact that the deal in question would also pave the way for Iran to become a nuclear power, and so imperil American national security, was clearly less of a concern for Obama and his team than realizing their goal of withdrawing the US from the Middle East.

Just as ethnic, regional and religious factions wasted no time filling the vacuum created in the Arab world by the disintegration of central governments, so the states of the region and the larger global community wasted no time finding new allies to replace the United States.

Voicing this new understanding, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday that it is time for Israel to seek out new allies.

In his words, “The ties with the US are deteriorating.

They have problems in North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Egypt, China, and their own financial and immigration troubles. Thus I ask – what is our place in the international arena? Israel must seek more allies with common interests.”

In seeking to block Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Israel has no lack of allies. America’s withdrawal has caused a regional realignment in which Israel and France are replacing the US as the protectors of the Sunni Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

France has ample reason to act. Iran has attacked French targets repeatedly over the past 34 years. France built Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor while Saddam was at war with Iran.

France has 10 million Muslim citizens who attend mosques financed by Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, France has strong commercial interests in the Persian Gulf. There is no doubt that France will be directly harmed if Iran becomes a nuclear power.

Although Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s meeting Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin did not bring about a realignment of Russian interests with the Franco- Sunni-Israeli anti-Iran consortium, the very fact that Netanyahu went to Moscow sent a clear message to the world community that in its dealings with outside powers, Israel no longer feels itself constrained by its alliance with the US.

And that was really the main purpose of the visit. Netanyahu didn’t care that Putin rejected his position on Iran. Israel didn’t need Russia to block Jarrett’s deal. Iran is no longer interested in even feigning interest in a nuclear deal. It was able to neutralize US power in the region, and cast the US’s regional allies into strategic disarray just by convincing Obama and Jarrett that a deal was in the offing. This is why Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei again threatened to annihilate Israel this week. He doesn’t think he needs to sugar coat his intentions any longer.

It is not that the US has become a nonentity in the region overnight, and despite Obama’s ill-will toward Israel, under his leadership the US has not become a wholly negative actor. The successful Israeli-US test of the David’s Sling short-range ballistic missile interceptor on Wednesday was a clear indication of the prevailing importance of Israel’s ties with the US. So, too, the delivery this week of the first of four US fast missile boats to the Egyptian navy, which will improve Egypt’s ability to secure maritime traffic in the Suez Canal, showed that the US remains a key player in the region. Congress’s unwillingness to bow to Obama’s will and weaken sanctions on Iran similarly is a positive portent for a post-Obama American return to the region.

But when America returns, it will likely find a vastly changed regional landscape. Nations are disintegrating, only to reintegrate in new groupings.

Monolithic regimes are giving way to domestic fissures and generational changes. As for America’s allies, some will welcome its return.

Others will scowl and turn away. All will have managed to survive, and even thrive in the absence of a guiding hand from Washington, and all will consequently need America less.

This changed landscape will in turn require the US to do some long, hard thinking about where its interests lie, and to develop new strategies for advancing them.

So perhaps in the fullness of time, we may all end up better off for this break in US strategic rationality.


Hommage: Fouad Ajami ou l’anti-Edward Saïd (Edward Said accused him of having “unmistakably racist prescriptions »)

24 juin, 2014
http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/kXV199fIWjw/0.jpgEdward Said, the Palestinian cultural critic who died in 2003, accused him of having “unmistakably racist prescriptions. The NYT
Après la chute des Twin Towers, des universitaires américains renommés, Bernard Lewis et Fouad Ajami en tête, ont avalisé cet orientalisme de stéréotypes, et fourni ainsi une caution intellectuelle au discours ambiant, néoconservateur et belliciste, affirmant que la démocratie était étrangère aux Arabes, qu’il fallait la leur imposer par la contrainte. Jean-Pierre Filiu
What makes self-examination for Arabs and Muslims, and particularly criticism of Islam in the West very difficult is the totally pernicious influence of Edward Said’s Orientalism. The latter work taught an entire generation of Arabs the art of self-pity – “ were it not for the wicked imperialists , racists and Zionists , we would be great once more ”- encouraged the Islamic fundamentalist generation of the 1980s , and bludgeoned into silence any criticism of Islam , and even stopped dead the research of eminent Islamologists who felt their findings might offend Muslims sensibilities , and who dared not risk being labelled “orientalist ”. The aggressive tone of Orientalism is what I have called “ intellectual terrorism ” , since it does not seek to convince by arguments or historical analysis but by spraying charges of racism, imperialism , Eurocentrism ,from a moral highground ; anyone who disagrees with Said has insult heaped upon him. The moral high ground is an essential element in Said’s tactics ; since he believes his position is morally unimpeachable , Said obviously thinks it justifies him in using any means possible to defend it , including the distortion of the views of eminent scholars , interpreting intellectual and political history in a highly tendentious way , in short twisting the truth. But in any case , he does not believe in the “truth”. (…) In order to achieve his goal of painting the West in general , and the discipline of Orientalism in particular , in as negative a way as possible , Said has recourse to several tactics . One of his preferred moves is to depict the Orient as a perpetual victim of Western imperialism ,dominance,and aggression. The Orient is never seen as an actor , an agent with free-will , or designs or ideas of its own . It is to this propensity that we owe that immature and unattractive quality of much contemporary Middle Eastern culture , self-pity , and the belief that all its ills are the result of Western -Zionist conspiracies. Here is an example of Said’s own belief in the usual conspiracies taken from “ The Question of Palestine ”: It was perfectly apparent to Western supporters of Zionism like Balfour that the colonization of Palestine was made a goal for the Western powers from the very beginning of Zionist planning : Herzl used the idea , Weizmann used it , every leading Israeli since has used it . Israel was a device for holding Islam – later the Soviet Union , or communism – at bay ”. So Israel was created to hold Islam at bay !
For a number of years now , Islamologists have been aware of the disastrous effect of Said’s Orientalism on their discipline. Professor Berg has complained that the latter’s influence has resulted in “ a fear of asking and answering potentially embarrassing questions – ones which might upset Muslim sensibilities ….”. Professor Montgomery Watt , now in his nineties , and one of the most respected Western Islamologists alive , takes Said to task for asserting that Sir Hamilton Gibb was wrong in saying that the master science of Islam was law and not theology .This , says Watt , “ shows Said’s ignorance of Islam ” . But Watt , rather unfairly ,adds , “ since he is from a Christian Arab background ”. Said is indeed ignorant of Islam , but surely not because he is a Christian since Watt and Gibb themselves were devout Christians . Watt also decries Said’s tendency to ascribe dubious motives to various writers , scholars and stateman such as Gibb and Lane , with Said committing doctrinal blunders such as not realising that non-Muslims could not marry Muslim women. R.Stephen Humphreys found Said’s book important in some ways because it showed how some Orientalists were indeed “ trapped within a vision that portrayed Islam and the Middle East as in some way essentially different from ‘the West ’ ” . Nonetheless , “Edward Said’s analysis of Orientalism is overdrawn and misleading in many ways , and purely as [a] piece of intellectual history , Orientalism is a seriously flawed book .” Even more damning , Said’s book actually discouraged , argues Humphreys , the very idea of modernization of Middle Eastern societies . “In an ironic way , it also emboldened the Islamic activists and militants who were then just beginning to enter the political arena . These could use Said to attack their opponents in the Middle East as slavish ‘Westernists’, who were out of touch with the authentic culture and values of their own countries . Said’s book has had less impact on the study of medieval Islamic history – partly because medievalists know how distorted his account of classical Western Orientalism really is ….”.  Even scholars praised by Said in Orientalism do not particularly like his analysis , arguments or conclusions .Maxime Rodinson thinks “ as usual , [ Said’s ] militant stand leads him repeatedly to make excessive statements ” , due , no doubt , to the fact that Said was “ inadequately versed in the practical work of the Orientalists ”. Rodinson also calls Said’s polemic and style “ Stalinist ”. While P.J.Vatikiotis wrote , “ Said introduced McCarthyism into Middle Eastern Studies ”. Jacques Berque , also praised by Said , wrote that the latter had “ done quite a disservice to his countrymen in allowing them to believe in a Western intelligence coalition against them ”. For Clive Dewey , Said’s book “ was , technically ,so bad ; in every respect , in its use of sources , in its deductions , it lacked rigour and balance .The outcome was a caricature of Western knowledge of the Orient , driven by an overtly political agenda .Yet it clearly touched a deep vein of vulgar prejudice running through American academe ”. The most famous modern scholar who not only replied to but who mopped the floor with Said was ,of course,Bernard Lewis .Lewis points to many serious errors of history ,interpretation , analysis and omission . Lewis has never been answered let alone refuted . Lewis points out that even among British and French scholars on whom Said concentrates , he does not mention at all Claude Cahen , Lévi-Provençal , Henri Corbin ,Marius Canard , Charles Pellat , William and George Marçais , William Wright , or only mentioned in passing ,usually in a long list of names , scholars like R.A.Nicholson , Guy Le Strange , Sir Thomas Arnold , and E.G.Browne. “ Even for those whom he does cite , Mr.Said makes a remarkably arbitrary choice of works . His common practice indeed is to omit their major contributions to scholarship and instead fasten on minor or occasional writings ”. Said even fabricates lies about eminent scholars : “ Thus in speaking of the late –eighteenth early-nineteenth-century French Orientalist Silvestre de Sacy , Mr.Said remarks that ‘he ransacked the Oriental archives ….What texts he isolated , he then brought back ; he doctored them …” If these words bear any meaning at all it is that Sacy was somehow at fault in his access to these documents and then committed the crime of tampering with them .This outrageous libel on a great scholar is without a shred of truth ”. Another false accusation that Said flings out is that Orientalists never properly discussed the Oriental’s economic activities until Rodinson’s Islam and Capitalism (1966) .This shows Said’s total ignorance of the works of Adam Mez , J.H.Kramers , W.Björkman , V.Barthold , Thomas Armold , all of whom dealt with the economic activities of Muslims . As Rodinson himself points out elsewhere , one of the three scholars who was a pioneer in this field was Bernard Lewis . Said also talks of Islamic Orientalism being cut off from developments in other fields in the humanities , particularly the economic and social. But this again only reveals Said’s ignorance of the works of real Orientalists rather than those of his imagination . As Rodinson says the sociology of Islam is an ancient subject , citing the work of R.Lévy . Rodinson then points out that Durkheim’s celebrated journal L’Année sociologique listed every year starting from the first decades of the XX century a certain number of works on Islam .
It must have been particularly galling for Said to see the hostile reviews of his Orientalism from Arab , Iranian or Asian intellectuals , some of whom he admired and singled out for praise in many of his works . For example , Nikki Keddie , praised in Covering Islam , talked of the disastrous influence of Orientalism , even though she herself admired parts of it : “ I think that there has been a tendency in the Middle East field to adopt the word “ orientalism” as a generalized swear-word essentially referring to people who take the “wrong” position on the Arab-Israeli dispute or to people who are judged too “conservative ”. It has nothing to do with whether they are good or not good in their disciplines .So “orientalism” for may people is a word that substitutes for thought and enables people to dismiss certain scholars and their works .I think that is too bad .It may not have been what Edward Said meant at all , but the term has become a kind of slogan ”.  Nikki Keddie also noted that the book “ could also be used in a dangerous way because it can encourage people to say , ‘You Westerners , you can’t do our history right , you can’t study it right , you really shouldn’t be studying it , we are the only ones who can study our own history properly ”. Albert Hourani , who is much admired by Said , made a similar point , “ I think all this talk after Edward’s book also has a certain danger .There is a certain counter-attack of Muslims , who say nobody understands Islam except themselves ”. Hourani went further in his criticism of Said’s Orientalism : “ Orientalism has now become a dirty word .Nevertheless it should be used for a perfectly respected discipline ….I think [ Said] carries it too far when he says that the orientalists delivered the Orient bound to the imperial powers ….Edward totally ignores the German tradition and philosophy of history which was the central tradition of the orientalists ….I think Edward’s other books are admirable ….”. Similarly , Aijaz Ahmed thought Orientalism was a “deeply flawed book” , and would be forgotten when the dust settled , whereas Said’s books on Palestine would be remembered. Kanan Makiya , the eminent Iraqi scholar , chronicled Said’s disastrous influence particularly in the Arab world : “ Orientalism as an intellectual project influenced a whole generation of young Arab scholars , and it shaped the discipline of modern Middle East studies in the 1980s .The original book was never intended as a critique of contemporary Arab politics , yet it fed into a deeply rooted populist politics of resentment against the West .The distortions it analyzed came from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries , but these were marshaled by young Arab and “ pro-Arab ” scholars into an intellectual-political agenda that was out of kilter with the real needs of Arabs who were living in a world characterized by rapidly escalating cruelty , not ever-increasing imperial domination .The trajectory from Said’s Orientalism to his Covering Islam …is premised on the morally wrong idea that the West is to be blamed in the here-and-now for its long nefarious history of association with the Middle East .Thus it unwittingly deflected from the real problems of the Middle East at the same time as it contributed more bitterness to the armory of young impressionable Arabs when there was already far too much of that around .” Orientalism , continues , Makiya , “ makes Arabs feel contented with the way they are , instead of making them rethink fundamental assumptions which so clearly haven’t worked ….They desperately need to unlearn ideas such as that “ every European ” in what he or she has to say about the world is or was a “racist” ….The ironical fact is that the book was given the attention it received in the “almost totally ethnocentric ” West was largely because its author was a Palestinian ….”. Though he finds much to admire in Said’s Orientalism , the Syrian philosopher Sadiq al- ‘Azm finds that “the stylist and polemicist in Edward Said very often runs away with the systematic thinker ”. Al-‘Azm also finds Said guilty of the very essentialism that Said ostensibly sets out to criticise , perpetuating the distinction between East and West .Said further renders a great disservice to those who wish to examine the difficult question of how one can study other cultures from a libertarian perspective .Al-‘Azm recognizes Said anti-scientific bent , and defends certain Orientalist theses from Said’s criticism ; for example , al-‘Azm says : “ I cannot agree with Said that their “ Orientalist mentality ”blinded them to the realities of Muslim societies and definitively distorted their views of the East in general .For instance : isn’t it true , on the whole , that the inhabitants of Damascus and Cairo today feel the presence of the transcendental in their lives more palpably and more actively than Parisians and Londoners ? Isn’t it tue that religion means everything to the contemporary Moroccan , Algerian and Iranian peasant in amnner it cannot mean for the American farmer or the member of a Russian kolkhoz ? And isn’t it a fact that the belief in the laws of nature is more deeply rooted in the minds of university students in Moscow and New York than among the students of al-Azhar and of Teheran University ”. Ibn Warraq
Fouad Ajami would have been amused, but not surprised, to read his own obituary in the New York Times. « Edward Said, the Palestinian cultural critic who died in 2003, accused [Ajami] of having ‘unmistakably racist prescriptions,’ » quoted obituarist Douglas Martin. Thus was Said, the most mendacious, self-infatuated and profitably self-pitying of Arab-American intellectuals—a man whose account of his own childhood cannot be trusted—raised from the grave to defame, for one last time, the most honest and honorable and generous of American intellectuals, no hyphenation necessary. Ajami (…) first made his political mark as an advocate for Palestinian nationalism. For those who knew Ajami mainly as a consistent advocate of Saddam Hussein’s ouster, it’s worth watching a YouTube snippet of his 1978 debate with Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Ajami makes the now-standard case against Israeli iniquity. Today Mr. Netanyahu sounds very much like his 28-year-old self. But Ajami changed. He was, to borrow a phrase, mugged by reality. By the 1980s, he wrote, « Arab society had run through most of its myths, and what remained in the wake of the word, of the many proud statements people had made about themselves and their history, was a new world of cruelty, waste, and confusion. » What Ajami did was to see that world plain, without the usual evasions and obfuscations and shifting of blame to Israel and the U.S. Like Sidney Hook or Eric Hoffer, the great ex-communists of a previous generation, his honesty, courage and intelligence got the better of his ideology; he understood his former beliefs with the hard-won wisdom of the disillusioned. (…) Ajami understood the Arab world as only an insider could—intimately, sympathetically, without self-pity. And he loved America as only an immigrant could—with a depth of appreciation and absence of cynicism rarely given to the native-born. If there was ever an error in his judgment, it’s that he believed in people—Arabs and Americans alike—perhaps more than they believed in themselves. It was the kind of mistake only a generous spirit could make. Bret Stephens
Ce qui caractérise pour l’essentiel Ajami n’est pas sa foi religieuse (s’il en a une au sens traditionnel) mais son appréciation sans égal de l’ironie historique – l’ironie , par exemple, dans le fait qu’en éliminant la simple figure de Saddam Hussein nous ayons brutalement contraint un Monde arabe qui ne s’y attendait pas à un règlement de comptes général; l’ironie que la véhémence même de l’insurrection irakienne puisse au bout du compte la vaincre et l’humilier sur son propre terrain et pourrait déjà avoir commencé à le faire; l’ironie que l’Iran chiite pourrait bien maudire le jour où ses cousins chiites en Irak ont été libérés par les Américains. Et ironie pour ironie, Ajami est clairement épaté qu’un membre de l’establishment pétrolier américain, lui-même fils d’un président qui en 1991 avait appelé les Chiites irakiens à l’insurrection contre un Saddam Hussein blessé pour finalement les laisser se faire massacrer, ait été amené à s’exclamer en septembre 2003: Comme dictature, l’Irak avait un fort pouvoir de déstabilisation du Moyen-Orient. Comme démocratie, il aura un fort pouvoir d’inspiration pour le Moyen-Orient. Victor Davis Hanson
The relations between Islam and Christianity, both Orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other’s Other. The 20th-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity. Samuel Huntington
Nearly 15 years on, Huntington’s thesis about a civilizational clash seems more compelling to me than the critique I provided at that time. In recent years, for example, the edifice of Kemalism has come under assault, and Turkey has now elected an Islamist to the presidency in open defiance of the military-bureaucratic elite. There has come that “redefinition” that Huntington prophesied. To be sure, the verdict may not be quite as straightforward as he foresaw. The Islamists have prevailed, but their desired destination, or so they tell us, is still Brussels: in that European shelter, the Islamists shrewdly hope they can find protection against the power of the military. (…) Huntington had the integrity and the foresight to see the falseness of a borderless world, a world without differences. (He is one of two great intellectual figures who peered into the heart of things and were not taken in by globalism’s conceit, Bernard Lewis being the other.) I still harbor doubts about whether the radical Islamists knocking at the gates of Europe, or assaulting it from within, are the bearers of a whole civilization. They flee the burning grounds of Islam, but carry the fire with them. They are “nowhere men,” children of the frontier between Islam and the West, belonging to neither. If anything, they are a testament to the failure of modern Islam to provide for its own and to hold the fidelities of the young. More ominously perhaps, there ran through Huntington’s pages an anxiety about the will and the coherence of the West — openly stated at times, made by allusions throughout. The ramparts of the West are not carefully monitored and defended, Huntington feared. Islam will remain Islam, he worried, but it is “dubious” whether the West will remain true to itself and its mission. Clearly, commerce has not delivered us out of history’s passions, the World Wide Web has not cast aside blood and kin and faith. It is no fault of Samuel Huntington’s that we have not heeded his darker, and possibly truer, vision. Fouad Ajami
There should be no illusions about the sort of Arab landscape that America is destined to find if, or when, it embarks on a war against the Iraqi regime. There would be no « hearts and minds » to be won in the Arab world, no public diplomacy that would convince the overwhelming majority of Arabs that this war would be a just war. An American expedition in the wake of thwarted UN inspections would be seen by the vast majority of Arabs as an imperial reach into their world, a favor to Israel, or a way for the United States to secure control over Iraq’s oil. No hearing would be given to the great foreign power. (…) America ought to be able to live with this distrust and discount a good deal of this anti-Americanism as the « road rage » of a thwarted Arab world – the congenital condition of a culture yet to take full responsibility for its self-inflicted wounds. There is no need to pay excessive deference to the political pieties and givens of the region. Indeed, this is one of those settings where a reforming foreign power’s simpler guidelines offer a better way than the region’s age-old prohibitions and defects. Fouad Ajami
The current troubles of the Obama presidency can be read back into its beginnings. Rule by personal charisma has met its proper fate. The spell has been broken, and the magician stands exposed. We need no pollsters to tell us of the loss of faith in Mr. Obama’s policies—and, more significantly, in the man himself. Charisma is like that. Crowds come together and they project their needs onto an imagined redeemer. The redeemer leaves the crowd to its imagination: For as long as the charismatic moment lasts—a year, an era—the redeemer is above and beyond judgment. Fouad Ajami
[Bush] can definitely claim paternity…One despot fell in 2003. We decapitated him. Two despots, in Tunisia and Egypt, fell, and there is absolutely a direct connection between what happened in Iraq in 2003 and what’s happening today throughout the rest of the Arab world. (…) It wasn’t American tanks [that brought about this moment]…It was a homegrown enterprise. It was Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans conquering their fear – people went out and conquered fear and did something amazing. Fouad Ajami
The United States will have to be prepared for and accept the losses and adversity that are an integral part of staying on, rightly, in so tangled and difficult a setting. Fouad Ajami
The mask of the Assad regime finally falls.. Fouad Ajami
The Iraqis needn’t trumpet the obvious fact in broad daylight, but the balance of power in the Persian Gulf would be altered for the better by a security arrangement between the United States and the government in Baghdad. (…) There remains, of course, the pledge given by presidential candidate Barack Obama that a President Obama would liquidate the American military role in Iraq by the end of 2011. That pledge was one of the defining themes of his bid for the presidency, and it endeared him to the “progressives” within his own party, who had been so agitated and mobilized against the Iraq war. But Barack Obama is now the standard-bearer of America’s power. He has broken with the “progressives” over Afghanistan, the use of drones in Pakistan, Guantánamo, military tribunals, and a whole host of national security policies that have (nearly) blurred the line between his policies and those of his predecessor. The left has grumbled, but, in the main, it has bowed to political necessity. At any rate, the fury on the left that once surrounded the Iraq war has been spent; a residual American presence in Iraq would fly under the radar of the purists within the ranks of the Democratic Party. (…) The enemy will have a say on how things will play out for American forces in Iraq. Iran and its Iraqi proxies can be expected to do all they can to make the American presence as bloody and costly as possible. A long, leaky border separates Iran from Iraq; movement across it is quite easy for Iranian agents and saboteurs. They can come in as “pilgrims,” and there might be shades of Lebanon in the 1980s, big deeds of terror that target the American forces.  (…) Even in the best of worlds, an American residual presence in Iraq will have its costs and heartbreak. But the United States will have to be prepared for and accept the losses and adversity that are an integral part of staying on, rightly, in so tangled and difficult a setting. Fouad Ajami
L’argument selon lequel la liberté ne peut venir que de l’intérieur et ne peut être offerte à des peuples lointains est bien plus fausse que l’on croit. Dans toute l’histoire moderne, la fortune de la liberté a toujours dépendu de la volonté de la ou des puissances dominantes du moment. Le tout récemment disparu professeur Samuel P. Huntington avait développé ce point de la manière la plus détaillée. Dans 15 des 29 pays démocratiques en 1970, les régimes démocratiques avaient été soit initiés par une puissance étrangère soit étaient le produit de l’indépendance contre une occupation étrangère. (…) Tout au long du flux et du reflux de la liberté, la puissance est toujours restée importante et la liberté a toujours eu besoin de la protection de grandes puissances. Le pouvoir d’attraction des pamphlets de Mill, Locke et Paine était fondé sur les canons de la Pax Britannica, et sur la force de l’Amérique quand la puissance britannique a flanché.  (…) L’ironie est maintenant évidente: George W. Bush comme force pour l’émancipation des terres musulmanes et Barack Hussein Obama en messager des bonnes vieilles habitudes. Ainsi c’est le plouc qui porte au monde le message que les musulmans et les Arabes n’ont pas la tyrannie dans leur ADN et l’homme aux fragments musulmans, kenyans et indonésiens dans sa propre vie et son identité qui annonce son acceptation de l’ordre établi. Mr. Obama pourrait encore reconnaître l’impact révolutionnaire de la diplomatie de son prédecesseur mais jusqu’à présent il s’est refusé à le faire. (…) Son soutien au  » processus de paix » est un retour à la diplomatie stérile des années Clinton, avec sa croyance que le terrorisme prend sa source dans les revendications des Palestiniens. M. Obama et ses conseillers se sont gardés d’affirmer que le terrorisme a disparu, mais il y a un message indubitable donné par eux que nous pouvons retourner à nos propres affaires, que Wall Street est plus mortel et dangereux que la fameuse  » rue Arabo-Musulmane ».  Fouad Ajami
Two men bear direct responsibility for the mayhem engulfing Iraq: Barack Obama and Nouri al-Maliki. (…) This sad state of affairs was in no way preordained. In December 2011, Mr. Obama stood with Mr. Maliki and boasted that « in the coming years, it’s estimated that Iraq’s economy will grow even faster than China’s or India’s. » But the negligence of these two men—most notably in their failure to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that would have maintained an adequate U.S. military presence in Iraq—has resulted in the current descent into sectarian civil war. (…) With ISIS now reigning triumphant in Fallujah, in the oil-refinery town of Baiji, and, catastrophically, in Mosul, the Obama administration cannot plead innocence. Mosul is particularly explosive. It sits astride the world between Syria and Iraq and is economically and culturally intertwined with the Syrian territories. This has always been Mosul’s reality. There was no chance that a war would rage on either side of Mosul without it spreading next door. The Obama administration’s vanishing « red lines » and utter abdication in Syria were bound to compound Iraq’s troubles. Grant Mr. Maliki the harvest of his sectarian bigotry. He has ridden that sectarianism to nearly a decade in power. Mr. Obama’s follies are of a different kind. They’re sins born of ignorance. He was eager to give up the gains the U.S. military and the Bush administration had secured in Iraq. Nor did he possess the generosity of spirit to give his predecessors the credit they deserved for what they had done in that treacherous landscape. Fouad Ajami

Descente en règle dans le NYT et the Nation, silence radio dans les médias comme d’ailleurs dans l’édition en France, notice wikipedia en français de quatre lignes …

Quel meilleur hommage, pour un spécialiste du Monde arabe, que d’être accusé  de racisme par Edward Saïd ?

Et quel silence plus éloquent, au lendemain de sa mort et au moment même de la perte de l’Irak contre laquelle il avait tant averti l’Administration américaine, que celui de la presse française pour l’un des plus respectés spécialistes du Moyen-Orient ?

Qui, si l’on suit les médias qui prennent la peine de parler de lui, avait commis l’impardonnable péché d’appeler de ses voeux l’intervention alliée en Irak …

Et surtout, vis à vis de l’Illusioniste en chef de la Maison Blanche et coqueluche de nos médias, de ne jamais mâcher ses mots ?

Fouad Ajami, Commentator and Expert in Arab History, Dies at 68
Douglas Martin
The New York Times
June 22, 2014

Fouad Ajami, an academic, author and broadcast commentator on Middle East affairs who helped rally support for the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 — partly by personally advising top policy makers — died on Sunday. He was 68.

The cause was cancer, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where Mr. Ajami was a senior fellow, said in a statement

An Arab, Mr. Ajami despaired of autocratic Arab governments finding their own way to democracy, and believed that the United States must confront what he called a “culture of terrorism” after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He likened the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to Hitler.

Mr. Ajami strove to put Arab history into a larger perspective. He often referred to Muslim rage over losing power to the West in 1683, when a Turkish siege of Vienna failed. He said this memory had led to Arab self-pity and self-delusion as they blamed the rest of the world for their troubles. Terrorism, he said, was one result.

It was a view that had been propounded by Bernard Lewis, the eminent Middle East historian at Princeton and public intellectual, who also urged the United States to invade Iraq and advised President George W. Bush.

Most Americans became familiar with Mr. Ajami’s views on CBS News, CNN and the PBS programs “Charlie Rose” and “NewsHour,” where his distinctive beard and polished manner lent force to his opinions. He wrote more than 400 articles for magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, as well as a half-dozen books on the Middle East, some of which included his own experiences as a Shiite Muslim in majority Sunni societies.

Condoleezza Rice summoned him to the Bush White House when she was national security adviser, and he advised Paul Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense. In a speech in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney invoked Mr. Ajami as predicting that Iraqis would greet liberation by the American military with joy.

In the years following the Iraqi invasion, Mr. Ajami continued to support the action as stabilizing. But he said this month that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had squandered an opportunity to unify the country after American intervention and become a dictator. More recently, he favored more aggressive policies toward Iran and Syria. Mr. Ajami’s harshest criticism was leveled at Arab autocrats, who by definition lacked popular support. But his use of words like “tribal,” “atavistic” and “clannish” to describe Arab peoples rankled some. So did his belief that Western nations should intervene in the region to correct wrongs. Edward Said, the Palestinian cultural critic who died in 2003, accused him of having “unmistakably racist prescriptions.”

Others praised him for balance. Daniel Pipes, a scholar who specializes in the Middle East, said in Commentary magazine in 2006 that Mr. Ajami had avoided “the common Arab fixation on the perfidy of Israel.”

Fouad Ajami was born on Sept. 19, 1945, at the foot of a castle built by Crusaders in Arnoun, a dusty village in southern Lebanon. His family came from Iran (the name Ajami means “Persian” in Arabic) and were prosperous tobacco farmers. When he was 4, the family moved to Beirut.

As a boy he was taunted by Sunni Muslim children for being Shiite and short, he wrote in “The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey” (1998), an examination of Arab intellectuals of the last two generations. As a teenager, he was enthusiastic about Arab nationalism, a cause he would later criticize. He also fell in love with American culture, particularly Hollywood movies, and especially Westerns. In 1963, a day or two before his 18th birthday, his family moved to the United States.

He attended Eastern Oregon College (now University), then earned a Ph.D. at the University of Washington after writing a thesis on international relations and world government. He next taught political science at Princeton. In 1980, the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University named him director of Middle East studies. He joined the Hoover Institution in 2011.

Mr. Ajami’s first book, “The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice Since 1967” (1981), explored the panic and sense of vulnerability in the Arab world after Israel’s victory in the 1967 war. His next book, “The Vanishing Imam: Musa al Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon” (1986), profiled an Iranian cleric who helped transform Lebanese Shia from “a despised minority” to effective successful political actors. For the 1988 book “Beirut: City of Regrets,” Mr. Ajami provided a long introduction and some text to accompany a photographic essay by Eli Reed.

“The Dream Palace of the Arabs” told of how a generation of Arab intellectuals tried to renew their homelands’ culture through the forces of modernism and secularism. The Christian Science Monitor called it “a cleareyed look at the lost hopes of the Arabs.”

Partly because of that tone, some condemned the book as too negative. The scholar Andrew N. Rubin, writing in The Nation, said it “echoes the kind of anti-Arabism that both Washington and the pro-Israeli lobby have come to embrace.”

Mr. Ajami received many awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 1982 and a National Humanities Medal in 2006. He is survived by his wife, Michelle. In a profile in The Nation in 2003, Adam Shatz described Mr. Ajami’s distinctive appearance, characterized by a “dramatic beard, stylish clothes and a charming, almost flirtatious manner.”

He continued: “On television, he radiates above-the-frayness, speaking with the wry, jaded authority that men in power admire, especially in men who have risen from humble roots. Unlike the other Arabs, he appears to have no ax to grind. He is one of us; he is the good Arab.”

Voir aussi:

The Native Informant
Fouad Ajami is the Pentagon’s favorite Arab.
Adam Shatz
April 10, 2003 | This article appeared in the April 28, 2003 edition of The Nation.

Late last August, at a reunion of Korean War veterans in San Antonio, Texas, Dick Cheney tried to assuage concerns that a unilateral, pre-emptive war against Iraq might « cause even greater troubles in that part of the world. » He cited a well-known Arab authority: « As for the reaction of the Arab street, the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation in Basra and Baghdad, the streets are sure to erupt in joy. » As the bombs fell over Baghdad, just before American troops began to encounter fierce Iraqi resistance, Ajami could scarcely conceal his glee. « We are now coming into acquisition of Iraq, » he announced on CBS News the morning of March 22. « It’s an amazing performance. »

If Hollywood ever makes a film about Gulf War II, a supporting role should be reserved for Ajami, the director of Middle East Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University. His is a classic American success story. Born in 1945 to Shiite parents in the remote southern Lebanese village of Arnoun and now a proud naturalized American, Ajami has become the most politically influential Arab intellectual of his generation in the United States. Condoleezza Rice often summons him to the White House for advice, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, a friend and former colleague, has paid tribute to him in several recent speeches on Iraq. Although he has produced little scholarly work of value, Ajami is a regular guest on CBS News, Charlie Rose and the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, and a frequent contributor to the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. His ideas are also widely recycled by acolytes like Thomas Friedman and Judith Miller of the Times.

Ajami’s unique role in American political life has been to unpack the unfathomable mysteries of the Arab and Muslim world and to help sell America’s wars in the region. A diminutive, balding man with a dramatic beard, stylish clothes and a charming, almost flirtatious manner, he has played his part brilliantly. On television, he radiates above-the-frayness, speaking with the wry, jaded authority that men in power admire, especially in men who have risen from humble roots. Unlike the other Arabs, he appears to have no ax to grind. He is one of us; he is the good Arab.

Ajami’s admirers paint him as a courageous gadfly who has risen above the tribal hatreds of the Arabs, a Middle Eastern Spinoza whose honesty has earned him the scorn of his brethren. Commentary editor-at-large Norman Podhoretz, one of his many right-wing American Jewish fans, writes that Ajami « has been virtually alone in telling the truth about the attitude toward Israel of the people from whom he stems. » The people from whom Ajami « stems » are, of course, the Arabs, and Ajami’s ethnicity is not incidental to his celebrity. It lends him an air of authority not enjoyed by non-Arab polemicists like Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes.

But Ajami is no gadfly. He is, in fact, entirely a creature of the American establishment. His once-luminous writing, increasingly a blend of Naipaulean clichés about Muslim pathologies and Churchillian rhetoric about the burdens of empire, is saturated with hostility toward Sunni Arabs in general (save for pro-Western Gulf Arabs, toward whom he is notably indulgent), and to Palestinians in particular. He invites comparison with Henry Kissinger, another émigré intellectual to achieve extraordinary prominence as a champion of American empire. Like Kissinger, Ajami has a suave television demeanor, a gravitas-lending accent, an instinctive solicitude for the imperatives of power and a cool disdain for the weak. And just as Kissinger cozied up to Nelson Rockefeller and Nixon, so has Ajami attached himself to such powerful patrons as Laurence Tisch, former chairman of CBS; Mort Zuckerman, the owner of US News & World Report; Martin Peretz, a co-owner of The New Republic; and Leslie Gelb, head of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Despite his training in political science, Ajami often sounds like a pop psychologist in his writing about the Arab world or, as he variously calls it, « the world of Araby, » « that Arab world » and « those Arab lands. » According to Ajami, that world is « gripped in a poisonous rage » and « wedded to a worldview of victimology, » bad habits reinforced by its leaders, « megalomaniacs who never tell their people what can and cannot be had in the world of nations. » There is, to be sure, a grain of truth in Ajami’s grim assessment. Progressive Arab thinkers from Sadeq al-Azm to Adonis have issued equally bleak indictments of Arab political culture, lambasting the dearth of self-criticism and the constant search for external scapegoats. Unlike these writers, however, Ajami has little sympathy for the people of the region, unless they happen to live within the borders of « rogue states » like Iraq, in which case they must be « liberated » by American force. The corrupt regimes that rule the Arab world, he has suggested, are more or less faithful reflections of the « Arab psyche »: « Despots always work with a culture’s yearnings…. After all, a hadith, a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, maintains ‘You will get the rulers you deserve.' » His own taste in regimes runs to monarchies like Kuwait. The Jews of Israel, it seems, are not just the only people in the region who enjoy the fruits of democracy; they are the only ones who deserve them.

Once upon a time, Ajami was an articulate and judicious critic both of Arab society and of the West, a defender of Palestinian rights and an advocate of decent government in the Arab world. Though he remains a shrewd guide to the hypocrisies of Arab leaders, his views on foreign policy now scarcely diverge from those of pro-Israel hawks in the Bush Administration. « Since the Gulf War, Fouad has taken leave of his analytic perspective to play to his elite constituency, » said Augustus Richard Norton, a Middle East scholar at Boston University. « It’s very unfortunate because he could have made an astonishingly important contribution. »

Seeking to understand the causes of Ajami’s transformation, I spoke to more than two dozen of his friends and acquaintances over the past several months. (Ajami did not return my phone calls or e-mails.) These men and women depicted a man at once ambitious and insecure, torn between his irascible intellectual independence and his even stronger desire to belong to something larger than himself. On the one hand, he is an intellectual dandy who, as Sayres Rudy, a former student, puts it, « doesn’t like groups and thinks people who join them are mediocre. » On the other, as a Shiite among Sunnis, and as an émigré in America, he has always felt the outsider’s anxiety to please, and has adjusted his convictions to fit his surroundings. As a young man eager to assimilate into the urbane Sunni world of Muslim Beirut, he embraced pan-Arabism. Received with open arms by the American Jewish establishment in New York and Washington, he became an ardent Zionist. An informal adviser to both Bush administrations, he is now a cheerleader for the American empire.

The man from Arnoun appears to be living the American dream. He has a prestigious job and the ear of the President. Yet the price of power has been higher in his case than in Kissinger’s. Kissinger, after all, is a figure of renown among the self-appointed leaders of « the people from whom he stems » and a frequent speaker at Jewish charity galas, whereas Ajami is a man almost entirely deserted by his people, a pariah at what should be his hour of triumph. In Arnoun, a family friend told me, « Fouad is a black sheep because of his staunch support for the Israelis. » Although he frequently travels to Tel Aviv and the Persian Gulf, he almost never goes to Lebanon. In becoming an American, he has become, as he himself has confessed, « a stranger in the Arab world. »

Up From Lebanon

This is an immigrant’s tale.

It begins in Arnoun, a rocky hamlet in the south of Lebanon where Fouad al-Ajami was born on September 19, 1945. A prosperous tobacco-growing Shiite family, the Ajamis had come to Arnoun from Iran in the 1850s. (Their name, Arabic for « Persian, » gave away their origins.)

When Ajami was 4, he moved with his family to Beirut, settling in the largely Armenian northeastern quarter, a neighborhood thick with orange orchards, pine trees and strawberry fields. As members of the rural Shiite minority, the country’s « hewers of wood and drawers of water, » the Ajamis stood apart from the city’s dominant groups, the Sunni Muslims and the Maronite Christians. « We were strangers to Beirut, » he has written. « We wanted to pass undetected in the modern world of Beirut, to partake of its ways. » For the young « Shia assimilé, » as he has described himself, « anything Persian, anything Shia, was anathema…. speaking Persianized Arabic was a threat to something unresolved in my identity. » He tried desperately, but with little success, to pass among his Sunni peers. In the predominantly Sunni schools he attended, « Fouad was taunted for being a Shiite, and for being short, » one friend told me. « That left him with a lasting sense of bitterness toward the Sunnis. »

In the 1950s, Arab nationalism appeared to hold out the promise of transcending the schisms between Sunnis and Shiites, and the confessional divisions separating Muslims and Christians. Like his classmates, Ajami fell under the spell of Arab nationalism’s charismatic spokesman, the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. At the same time, he was falling under the spell of American culture, which offered relief from the « ancestral prohibitions and phobias » of his « cramped land. » Watching John Wayne films, he « picked up American slang and a romance for the distant power casting its shadow across us. » On July 15, 1958, the day after the bloody overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy by nationalist army officers, Ajami’s two loves had their first of many clashes, when President Eisenhower sent the US Marines to Beirut to contain the spread of radical Arab nationalism. In their initial confrontation, Ajami chose Egypt’s leader, defying his parents and hopping on a Damascus-bound bus for one of Nasser’s mass rallies.

Ajami arrived in the United States in the fall of 1963, just before he turned 18. He did his graduate work at the University of Washington, where he wrote his dissertation on international relations and world government. At the University of Washington, Ajami gravitated toward progressive Arab circles. Like his Arab peers, he was shaken by the humiliating defeat of the Arab countries in the 1967 war with Israel, and he was heartened by the emergence of the PLO. While steering clear of radicalism, he often expressed horror at Israel’s brutal reprisal attacks against southern Lebanese villages in response to PLO raids.

apartment in New York. He made a name for himself there as a vocal supporter of Palestinian self-determination. One friend remembers him as « a fairly typical advocate of Third World positions. » Yet he was also acutely aware of the failings of Third World states, which he unsparingly diagnosed in « The Fate of Nonalignment, » a brilliant 1980/81 essay in Foreign Affairs. In 1980, when Johns Hopkins offered him a position as director of Middle East Studies at SAIS, a Washington-based graduate program, he took it.

Ajami’s Predicament

A year after arriving at SAIS, Ajami published his first and still best book, The Arab Predicament. An anatomy of the intellectual and political crisis that swept the Arab world following its defeat by Israel in the 1967 war, it is one of the most probing and subtle books ever written in English on the region. Ranging gracefully across political theory, literature and poetry, Ajami draws an elegant, often moving portrait of Arab intellectuals in their anguished efforts to put together a world that had come apart at the seams. The book did not offer a bold or original argument; like Isaiah Berlin’s Russian Thinkers, it provided an interpretive survey–respectful even when critical–of other people’s ideas. It was the book of a man who had grown disillusioned with Nasser, whose millenarian dream of restoring the « Arab nation » had run up against the hard fact that the « divisions of the Arab world were real, not contrived points on a map or a colonial trick. » But pan-Arabism was not the only temptation to which the intellectuals had succumbed. There was radical socialism, and the Guevarist fantasies of the Palestinian revolution. There was Islamic fundamentalism, with its romance of authenticity and its embittered rejection of the West. And then there was the search for Western patronage, the way of Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, who forgot his own world and ended up being devoured by it.

Ajami’s ambivalent chapter on Sadat makes for especially fascinating reading today. He praised Sadat for breaking with Nasserism and making peace with Israel, and perhaps saw something of himself in the « self-defined peasant from the dusty small village » who had « traveled far beyond the bounds of his world. » But he also saw in Sadat’s story the tragic parable of a man who had become more comfortable with Western admirers than with his own people. When Sadat spoke nostalgically of his village–as Ajami now speaks of Arnoun–he was pandering to the West. Arabs, a people of the cities, would not be « taken in by the myth of the village. » Sadat’s « American connection, » Ajami suggested, gave him « a sense of psychological mobility, » lifting some of the burdens imposed by his cramped world. And as his dependence on his American patrons deepened, « he became indifferent to the sensibilities of his own world. »

Sadat was one example of the trap of seeking the West’s approval, and losing touch with one’s roots; V.S. Naipaul was another. Naipaul, Ajami suggested in an incisive 1981 New York Times review of Among the Believers, exemplified the « dilemma of a gifted author led by his obsessive feelings regarding the people he is writing about to a difficult intellectual and moral bind. » Third World exiles like Naipaul, Ajami wrote, « have a tendency to…look at their own countries and similar ones with a critical eye, » yet « these same men usually approach the civilization of the West with awe and leave it unexamined. » Ajami preferred the humane, nonjudgmental work of Polish travel writer Ryszard Kapucinski: « His eye for human folly is as sharp as V.S. Naipaul. His sympathy and sorrow, however, are far deeper. »

The Arab Predicament was infused with sympathy and sorrow, but these qualities were ignored by the book’s Arab critics in the West, who–displaying the ideological rigidity that is an unfortunate hallmark of exile politics–accused him of papering over the injustices of imperialism and « blaming the victim. » To an extent, this was a fair criticism. Ajami paid little attention to imperialism, and even less to Israel’s provocative role in the region. What is more, his argument that « the wounds that mattered were self-inflicted » endeared him to those who wanted to distract attention from Palestine. Doors flew open. On the recommendation of Bernard Lewis, the distinguished British Orientalist at Princeton and a strong supporter of Israel, Ajami became the first Arab to win the MacArthur « genius » prize in 1982, and in 1983 he became a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The New Republic began to publish lengthy essays by Ajami, models of the form that offer a tantalizing glimpse of the career he might have had in a less polarized intellectual climate. Pro-Israel intellectual circles groomed him as a rival to Edward Said, holding up his book as a corrective to Orientalism, Said’s classic study of how the West imagined the East in the age of empire.

In fact, Ajami shared some of Said’s anger about the Middle East. The Israelis, he wrote in an eloquent New York Times op-ed after the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, « came with a great delusion: that if you could pound men and women hard enough, if you could bring them to their knees, you could make peace with them. » He urged the United States to withdraw from Lebanon in 1984, and he advised it to open talks with the Iranian government. Throughout the 1980s, Ajami maintained a critical attitude toward America’s interventions in the Middle East, stressing the limits of America’s ability to influence or shape a « tormented world » it scarcely understood. « Our arguments dovetailed, » says Said. « There was an unspoken assumption that we shared the same kind of politics. »

But just below the surface there were profound differences of opinion. Hisham Milhem, a Lebanese journalist who knows both men well, explained their differences to me by contrasting their views on Joseph Conrad. « Edward and Fouad are both crazy about Conrad, but they see in him very different things. Edward sees the critic of empire, especially in Heart of Darkness. Fouad, on the other hand, admires the Polish exile in Western Europe who made a conscious break with the old country. »

Yet the old world had as much of a grip on Ajami as it did on Said. In southern Lebanon, Palestinian guerrillas had set up a state within a state. They often behaved thuggishly toward the Shiites, alienating their natural allies and recklessly exposing them to Israel’s merciless reprisals. By the time Israeli tanks rolled into Lebanon in 1982, relations between the two communities had so deteriorated that some Shiites greeted the invaders with rice and flowers. Like many Shiites, Ajami was fed up with the Palestinians, whose revolution had brought ruin to Lebanon. Arnoun itself had not been unscathed: A nearby Crusader castle, the majestic Beaufort, was now the scene of intense fighting.

In late May 1985, Ajami–now identifying himself as a Shiite from southern Lebanon–sparred with Said on the MacNeil Lehrer Report over the war between the PLO and Shiite Amal militia, then raging in Beirut’s refugee camps. A few months later, they came to verbal blows again, when Ajami was invited to speak at a Harvard conference on Islam and Muslim politics organized by Israeli-American academic Nadav Safran. After the Harvard Crimson revealed that the conference had been partly funded by the CIA, Ajami, at the urging of Said and the late Pakistani writer Eqbal Ahmad, joined a wave of speakers who were withdrawing from the conference. But Ajami, who was a protégé and friend of Safran, immediately regretted his decision. He wrote a blistering letter to Said and Ahmad a few weeks later, accusing them of « bringing the conflicts of the Middle East to this country » while « I have tried to go beyond them…. Therefore, my friends, this is the parting of ways. I hope never to encounter you again, and we must cease communication. Yours sincerely, Fouad Ajami. »

The Tribal Turn

By now, the « Shia assimilé » had fervently embraced his Shiite identity. Like Sadat, he began to rhapsodize about his « dusty village » in wistful tones. The Vanished Imam, his 1986 encomium to Musa al-Sadr, the Iranian cleric who led the Amal militia before mysteriously disappearing on a 1978 visit to Libya, offers important clues into Ajami’s thinking of the time. A work of lyrical nationalist mythology, The Vanished Imam also provides a thinly veiled political memoir, recounting Ajami’s disillusionment with Palestinians, Arabs and the left, and his conversion to old-fashioned tribal politics.

The marginalized Shiites had found a home in Amal, and a spiritual leader in Sadr, a « big man » who is explicitly compared to Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim and credited with a far larger role than he actually played in Shiite politics. Writing of Sadr, Ajami might have been describing himself. Sadr is an Ajam–a Persian–with « an outsider’s eagerness to please. » He is « suspicious of grand schemes, » blessed with « a strong sense of pragmatism, of things that can and cannot be, » thanks to which virtue he « came to be seen as an enemy of everything ‘progressive.' » « Tired of the polemics, » he alone is courageous enough to stand up to the Palestinians, warning them not to « seek a ‘substitute homeland,’ watan badil, in Lebanon. » Unlike the Palestinians, Ajami tells us repeatedly, the Shiites are realists, not dreamers; reformers, not revolutionaries. Throughout the book, a stark dichotomy is also drawn between Shiite and Arab nationalism, although, as one of his Shiite critics pointed out in a caustic review in the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, « allegiance to Arab nationalist ideals…was paramount » in Sadr’s circles. The Shiites of Ajami’s imagination seem fundamentally different from other Arabs: a community that shares America’s aversion to the Palestinians, a « model minority » worthy of the West’s sympathy.

The Shiite critic of the Palestinians cut an especially attractive profile in the eyes of the American media. Most American viewers of CBS News, which made him a high-paid consultant in 1985, had no idea that he was almost completely out of step with the community for which he claimed to speak. By the time The Vanished Imam appeared, the Shiites, under the leadership of a new group, Hezbollah, had launched a battle to liberate Lebanon from Israeli control. Israeli soldiers were now greeted with grenades and explosives, rather than rice and flowers, and Arnoun became a hotbed of Hezbollah support. Yet Ajami displayed little enthusiasm for this Shiite struggle. He was also oddly silent about the behavior of the Israelis, who, from the 1982 invasion onward, had killed far more Shiites than either Arafat (« the Flying Dutchman of the Palestinian movement ») or Hafez al-Assad (Syria’s « cruel enforcer »). The Shiites, he suggested, were « beneficiaries of Israel’s Lebanon war. »

In the Promised Land

By the mid-1980s, the Middle Eastern country closest to Ajami’s heart was not Lebanon but Israel. He returned from his trips to the Jewish state boasting of traveling to the occupied territories under the guard of the Israel Defense Forces and of being received at the home of Teddy Kollek, then Jerusalem’s mayor. The Israelis earned his admiration because they had something the Palestinians notably lacked: power. They were also tough-minded realists, who understood « what can and cannot be had in the world of nations. » The Palestinians, by contrast, were romantics who imagined themselves to be « exempt from the historical laws of gravity. »

n 1986, Ajami had praised Musa al-Sadr as a realist for telling the Palestinians to fight Israel in the occupied territories, rather than in Lebanon. But when the Palestinians did exactly that, in the first intifada of 1987-93, it no longer seemed realistic to Ajami, who then advised them to swallow the bitter pill of defeat and pay for their bad choices. While Israeli troops shot down children armed only with stones, Ajami told the Palestinians they should give up on the idea of a sovereign state (« a phantom »), even in the West Bank and Gaza. When the PLO announced its support for a two-state solution at a 1988 conference in Algiers, Ajami called the declaration « hollow, » its concessions to Israel inadequate. On the eve of the Madrid talks in the fall of 1991 he wrote, « It is far too late to introduce a new nation between Israel and Jordan. » Nor should the American government embark on the « fool’s errand » of pressuring Israel to make peace. Under Ajami’s direction, the Middle East program of SAIS became a bastion of pro-Israel opinion. An increasing number of Israeli and pro-Israel academics, many of them New Republic contributors, were invited as guest lecturers. « Rabbi Ajami, » as many people around SAIS referred to him, was also receiving significant support from a Jewish family foundation in Baltimore, which picked up the tab for the trips his students took to the Middle East every summer. Back in Lebanon, Ajami’s growing reputation as an apologist for Israel reportedly placed considerable strains on family members in Arnoun.

‘The Saudi Way’

Ajami also developed close ties during the 1980s to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which made him–as he often and proudly pointed out–the only Arab who traveled both to the Persian Gulf countries and to Israel. In 1985 he became an external examiner in the political science department at Kuwait University; he said « the place seemed vibrant and open to me. » His major patrons, however, were Saudi. He has traveled to Riyadh many times to raise money for his program, sometimes taking along friends like Martin Peretz; he has also vacationed in Prince Bandar’s home in Aspen. Saudi hospitality–and Saudi Arabia’s lavish support for SAIS–bred gratitude. At one meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ajami told a group that, as one participant recalls, « the Saudi system was a lot stronger than we thought, that it was a system worth defending, and that it had nothing to apologize for. » Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, he faithfully echoed the Saudi line. « Rage against the West does not come naturally to the gulf Arabs, » he wrote in 1990. « No great tales of betrayal are told by the Arabs of the desert. These are Palestinian, Lebanese and North African tales. »

This may explain why Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 aroused greater outrage in Ajami than any act of aggression in the recent history of the Middle East. Neither Israel’s invasion of Lebanon nor the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre had caused him comparable consternation. Nor, for that matter, had Saddam’s slaughter of the Kurds in Halabja in 1988. This is understandable, of course; we all react more emotionally when the victims are friends. But we don’t all become publicists for war, as Ajami did that fateful summer, consummating his conversion to Pax Americana. What was remarkable was not only his fervent advocacy; it was his cavalier disregard for truth, his lurid rhetoric and his religious embrace of American power. In Foreign Affairs, Ajami, who knew better, described Iraq, the cradle of Mesopotamian civilization, a major publisher of Arabic literature and a center of the plastic arts, as « a brittle land…with little claim to culture and books and grand ideas. » It was, in other words, a wasteland, led by a man who « conjures up Adolf Hitler. »

Months before the war began, the Shiite from Arnoun, now writing as an American, in the royal « we, » declared that US troops « will have to stay in the Gulf and on a much larger scale, » since « we have tangible interests in that land. We stand sentry there in blazing clear daylight. » After the Gulf War, Ajami’s cachet soared. In the early 1990s Harvard offered him a chair (« he turned it down because we expected him to be around and to work very hard, » a professor told me), and the Council on Foreign Relations added him to its prestigious board of advisers last year. « The Gulf War was the crucible of change, » says Augustus Richard Norton. « This immigrant from Arnoun, this man nobody had heard of from a place no one had heard of, had reached the peak of power. This was a true immigrant success story, one of those moments that make an immigrant grateful for America. And I think it implanted a deep sense of patriotism that wasn’t present before. »

And, as Ajami once wrote of Sadat, « outside approval gave him the courage to defy » the Arabs, especially when it came to Israel. On June 3, 1992, hardly a year after Gulf War I, Ajami spoke at a pro-Israel fundraiser. Kissinger, the keynote speaker, described Arabs as congenital liars. Ajami chimed in, expressing his doubts that democracy would ever work in the Arab world, and recounting a visit to a Bedouin village where he « insisted on only one thing: that I be spared the ceremony of eating with a Bedouin. »

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Ajami has been a consistent critic of the peace process–from the right. He sang the praises of each of Israel’s leaders, from the Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu, with his « filial devotion [to] the land he had agreed to relinquish, » to Labor leader Ehud Barak, « an exemplary soldier. » The Palestinians, he wrote, should be grateful to such men for « rescuing » them from defeat, and to Zionism for generously offering them « the possibility of their own national political revival. » (True to form, the Palestinians showed « no gratitude. ») A year before the destruction of Jenin, he proclaimed that « Israel is existentially through with the siege that had defined its history. » Ajami’s Likudnik conversion was sealed by telling revisions of arguments he had made earlier in his career. Where he had once argued that the 1982 invasion of Lebanon aimed to « undermine those in the Arab world who want some form of compromise, » he now called it a response to « the challenge of Palestinian terror. »

Did Ajami really believe all this? In a stray but revealing comment on Sadat in The New Republic, he left room for doubt. Sadat, he said, was « a son of the soil, who had the fellah’s ability to look into the soul of powerful outsiders, to divine how he could get around them even as he gave them what they desired. » Writing on politics, the man from Arnoun gave them what they desired. Writing on literature and poetry, he gave expression to the aesthete, the soulful elegist, even, at times, to the Arab. In his 1998 book, The Dream Palace of the Arabs, one senses, for the first time in years, Ajami’s sympathy for the world he left behind, although there is something furtive, something ghostly about his affection, as if he were writing about a lover he has taught himself to spurn. On rare occasions, Ajami revealed this side of himself to his students, whisking them into his office. Once the door was firmly shut, he would recite the poetry of Nizar Qabbani and Adonis in Arabic, caressing each and every line. As he read, Sayres Rudy told me, « I could swear his heart was breaking. »

Ajami’s Solitude

September 11 exposed a major intelligence failure on Ajami’s part. With his obsessive focus on the menace of Saddam and the treachery of Arafat, he had missed the big story. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers hailed from what he had repeatedly called the « benign political order » of Saudi Arabia; the « Saudi way » he had praised had come undone. Yet the few criticisms that Ajami directed at his patrons in the weeks and months after September 11 were curiously muted, particularly in contrast to the rage of most American commentators. Ajami’s venues in the American media, however, were willing to forgive his softness toward the Saudis. America was going to war with Muslims, and a trusted native informant was needed.

Other forces were working in Ajami’s favor. For George W. Bush and the hawks in his entourage, Afghanistan was merely a prelude to the war they really wanted to fight–the war against Saddam that Ajami had been spoiling for since the end of Gulf War I. As a publicist for Gulf War II, Ajami has abandoned his longstanding emphasis on the limits of American influence in that « tormented region. » The war is being sold as the first step in an American plan to effect democratic regime change across the region, and Ajami has stayed on message. We now find him writing in Foreign Affairs that « the driving motivation of a new American endeavor in Iraq and in neighboring Arab lands should be modernizing the Arab world. » The opinion of the Arab street, where Iraq is recruiting thousands of new jihadists, is of no concern to him. « We have to live with this anti-Americanism, » he sighed recently on CBS. « It’s the congenital condition of the Arab world, and we have to discount a good deal of it as we press on with the task of liberating the Iraqis. »

In fairness, Ajami has not completely discarded his wariness about American intervention. For there remains one country where American pressure will come to naught, and that is Israel, where it would « be hubris » to ask anything more of the Israelis, victims of « Arafat’s war. » To those who suggest that the Iraq campaign is doomed without an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, he says, « We can’t hold our war hostage to Arafat’s campaign of terror. »

Fortunately, George W. Bush understands this. Ajami has commended Bush for staking out the « high moral ground » and for « putting Iran on notice » in his Axis of Evil speech. Above all, the President should not allow himself to be deterred by multilateralists like Secretary of State Colin Powell, « an unhappy, reluctant soldier, at heart a pessimist about American power. » Unilateralism, Ajami says, is nothing to be ashamed of. It may make us hated in the « hostile landscape » of the Arab world, but, as he recently explained on the NewsHour, « it’s the fate of a great power to stand sentry in that kind of a world. »

It is no accident that the « sentry’s solitude » has become the idée fixe of Ajami’s writing in recent years. For it is a theme that resonates powerfully in his own life. Like the empire he serves, Ajami is more influential, and more isolated, than he has ever been. In recent years he has felt a need to defend this choice in heroic terms. « All a man can betray is his conscience, » he solemnly writes in The Dream Palace of the Arabs, citing a passage from Conrad. « The solitude Conrad chose is loathed by politicized men and women. »

It is a breathtakingly disingenuous remark. Ajami may be « a stranger in the Arab world, » but he can hardly claim to be a stranger to its politics. That is why he is quoted, and courted, by Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz. What Ajami abhors in « politicized men and women » is conviction itself. A leftist in the 1970s, a Shiite nationalist in the 1980s, an apologist for the Saudis in the 1990s, a critic-turned-lover of Israel, a skeptic-turned-enthusiast of American empire, he has observed no consistent principle in his career other than deference to power. His vaunted intellectual independence is a clever fiction. The only thing that makes him worth reading is his prose style, and even that has suffered of late. As Ajami observed of Naipaul more than twenty years ago, « he has become more and more predictable, too, with serious cost to his great gift as a writer, » blinded by the « assumption that only men who live in remote, dark places are ‘denied a clear vision of the world.' » Like Naipaul, Ajami has forgotten that « darkness is not only there but here as well. »

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Middle East expert Fouad Ajami, supporter of U.S. war in Iraq, dies at 68
Ajami was known for his criticism of the Arab world’s despotic rulers, among them Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gadhafi, and Hafez and Bashar Assad.
Ofer Aderet
Haaretz
Jun. 23, 2014

American-Lebanese intellectual and Middle East scholar Prof. Fouad Ajami has died of cancer, aged 68. He passed away Sunday in the United States.

Ajami, who was an expert on the Middle East, is remembered chiefly for his support of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. He advised the Bush administration during that period. He was strongly opposed to the dictatorial regimes in the Arab countries, believed that the United States must confront “the culture of terror,” as he called it, and supported an assertive policy in regard to Iran and Syria.

Ajami immigrated to the United States from Lebanon with his family in 1963, when he was 18. At Princeton University, he stood out as a supporter of the Palestinians’ right to self-rule. He later went on to Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, where he was in charge of the Middle East studies program.

He became well-known for his appearances on current affairs programs on American television, the hundreds of articles he wrote in journals and newspapers, and the six books he published.

Ajami was very close to the administration of George W. Bush and served as an adviser to Condoleezza Rice while she was national security adviser, and to Paul Wolfowitz, who was deputy secretary of defense at the time. In a speech delivered in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney claimed Ajami had said the Iraqis would greet their liberation by the Americans with rejoicing.

His support for the war in Iraq elicited harsh criticism. He reiterated this support in an interview with Haaretz in 2011, in which he said: “I still support that war, and I think that the liberals who attacked Bush in America and elsewhere, who attacked him mercilessly, need to reexamine their assumptions.”

Ajami was known for his criticism of the Arab world’s despotic rulers, among them Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Muammar Gadhafi in Libya, and Hafez and Bashar Assad in Syria. He expressed optimism at the time of the Arab Spring, and had recently supported an assertive policy against Iran and Syria.

Fouad Ajami, Great American
His genius lay in the breadth of his scholarship and the quality of his human understanding.
Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
June 23, 2014

Fouad Ajami would have been amused, but not surprised, to read his own obituary in the New York Times. « Edward Said, the Palestinian cultural critic who died in 2003, accused [Ajami] of having ‘unmistakably racist prescriptions,' » quoted obituarist Douglas Martin.

Thus was Said, the most mendacious, self-infatuated and profitably self-pitying of Arab-American intellectuals—a man whose account of his own childhood cannot be trusted—raised from the grave to defame, for one last time, the most honest and honorable and generous of American intellectuals, no hyphenation necessary.

Ajami, who died of prostate cancer Sunday in his summer home in Maine, was often described as among the foremost scholars of the modern Arab and Islamic worlds, and so he was. He was born in 1945 to a family of farmers in a Shiite village in southern Lebanon and was raised in Beirut in the politics of the age.

« I was formed by an amorphous Arab nationalist sensibility, » he wrote in his 1998 masterpiece, « The Dream Palace of the Arabs. » He came to the U.S. for college and graduate school, became a U.S. citizen, and first made his political mark as an advocate for Palestinian nationalism. For those who knew Ajami mainly as a consistent advocate of Saddam Hussein’s ouster, it’s worth watching a YouTube snippet of his 1978 debate with Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Ajami makes the now-standard case against Israeli iniquity.

Today Mr. Netanyahu sounds very much like his 28-year-old self. But Ajami changed. He was, to borrow a phrase, mugged by reality. By the 1980s, he wrote, « Arab society had run through most of its myths, and what remained in the wake of the word, of the many proud statements people had made about themselves and their history, was a new world of cruelty, waste, and confusion. »

What Ajami did was to see that world plain, without the usual evasions and obfuscations and shifting of blame to Israel and the U.S. Like Sidney Hook or Eric Hoffer, the great ex-communists of a previous generation, his honesty, courage and intelligence got the better of his ideology; he understood his former beliefs with the hard-won wisdom of the disillusioned.

He also understood with empathy and without rancor. Converts tend to be fanatics. But Ajami was too interested in people—in their motives and aspirations, their deceits and self-deceits, their pride, shame and unexpected nobility—to hate anyone except the truly despicable, namely tyrants and their apologists. To read Ajami is to see that his genius lay not only in the breadth of the scholarship or the sharpness of political insight but also in the quality of human understanding. If Joseph Conrad had been reborn as a modern-day academic, he would have been Fouad Ajami.

Consider a typical example, from an op-ed he wrote for these pages in February 2013 on the second anniversary of the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime:

« Throughout [Mubarak’s] reign, a toxic brew poisoned the life of Egypt—a mix of anti-modernism, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. That trinity ran rampant in the universities and the professional syndicates and the official media. As pillage had become the obsession of the ruling family and its retainers, the underclass was left to the rule of darkness and to a culture of conspiracy. »

Or here he is on Barack Obama’s fading political appeal, from a piece from last November:

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

A publisher ought to collect these pieces. Who else could write so profoundly and so well? Ajami understood the Arab world as only an insider could—intimately, sympathetically, without self-pity. And he loved America as only an immigrant could—with a depth of appreciation and absence of cynicism rarely given to the native-born. If there was ever an error in his judgment, it’s that he believed in people—Arabs and Americans alike—perhaps more than they believed in themselves. It was the kind of mistake only a generous spirit could make.

Over the years Ajami mentored many people—the mentorship often turning to friendship—who went on to great things. One of them, Samuel Tadros, a native of Egypt and now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote me Monday with an apt valediction:

« Fouad is remarkable because he became a full American, loved this country as anyone could love it, but that did not lessen his passion for what he left behind. He cared deeply about the region, he was always an optimist. He knew well the region’s ills, the pains it gave those who cherished it. God knows it gave him nothing but pain, but he always believed that the peoples of the region deserved better. »

Free at Last
Victor Davis Hanson
Commentary Magazine
September 6, 2006

A review of The Foreigner’s Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq by Fouad Ajami (Free Press, 400 pp)

The last year or so has seen several insider histories of the American experience in Iraq. Written by generals (Bernard Trainor’s Cobra II, with Michael Wood), reporters (George Packer’s The Assassins’ Gate), or bureaucrats (Paul Bremer’s My Year in Iraq), each undertakes to explain how our enterprise in that country has, allegedly, gone astray; who is to blame for the failure; and why the author is right to have withdrawn, or at least to question, his earlier support for the project.

Fouad Ajami’s The Foreigner’s Gift is a notably welcome exception—and not only because of Ajami’s guarded optimism about the eventual outcome in Iraq. A Lebanese-born scholar of the Middle East, Ajami, now at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, lacks entirely the condescension of the typical in-the-know Western expert who blithely assures his American readers, often on the authority of little or no learning, of the irreducible alienness of Arab culture. Instead, the world that Ajami describes, once stripped of its veneer of religious pretense, is defined by many of the same impulses—honor, greed, selfinterest—that guide dueling Mafia families, rival Christian televangelists, and (for that matter) many ordinary people hungry for power. As an Arabic-speaker and native Middle Easterner, Ajami has enjoyed singular access to both Sunni and Shiite grandees, and makes effective use here of what they tell him. He also draws on a variety of contemporary written texts, mostly unknown by or inaccessible to Western authors, to explicate why many of the most backward forces in the Arab world are not in the least unhappy at the havoc wrought by the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

The result, based on six extended visits to Iraq and a lifetime of travel and experience, is the best and certainly the most idiosyncratic recent treatment of the American presence there. Ajami’s thesis is straightforward. What brought George W. Bush to Iraq, he writes, was a belief in the ability of America to do something about a longstanding evil, along with a post-9/11 determination to stop appeasing terror-sponsoring regimes. That the United States knew very little about the bloodthirsty undercurrents of Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish sectarianism, for years cloaked by Saddam’s barbaric rule—the dictator “had given the Arabs a cruel view of history,” one saturated in “iron and fire and bigotry”—did not necessarily doom the effort to failure. The idealism and skill of American soldiers, and the enormous power and capital that stood behind them, counted, and still count, for a great deal. More importantly, the threats and cries for vengeance issued by various Arab spokesmen have often been disingenuous, serving to obfuscate the genuine desire of Arab peoples for consensual government (albeit on their own terms). In short, Ajami assures us, the war has been a “noble” effort, and will remain so whether in the end it “proves to be a noble success or a noble failure.”

Aside from the obvious reasons he adduces for this judgment—we have taken no oil, we have stayed to birth democracy, and we are now fighting terrorist enemies of civilization—there is also the fact that we have stumbled into, and are now critically influencing, the great political struggle of the modern Middle East. The real problem in that region, Ajami stresses, remains Sunni extremism, which is bent on undermining the very idea of consensual government—the “foreigner’s gift” of his title. Having introduced the concept of one person/one vote in a federated Iraq, America has not only empowered the perennially maltreated Kurds but given the once despised Iraqi Shiites a historic chance at equality. Hence the “rage against this American war, in Iraq itself and in the wider Arab world.”

No wonder, Ajami comments, that a “proud sense of violation [has] stretched from the embittered towns of the Sunni Triangle in western Iraq to the chat rooms of Arabia and to jihadists as far away from Iraq as North Africa and the Muslim enclaves of Western Europe.” Sunni, often Wahhabi, terrorists have murdered many moderate Shiite clerics, taken a terrible toll of Shiites on the street, and, with the clandestine aid of the rich Gulf sheikdoms, hope to prevail through the growing American weariness at the loss in blood and treasure. The worst part of the story, in Ajami’s estimation, is that the intensity of the Sunni resistance has fooled some Americans into thinking that we cannot work with the Shiites—or that our continuing to do so will result in empowering the Khomeinists in nearby Iran or its Hizballah ganglia in Lebanon. Ajami has little use for this notion. He dismisses the view that, within Iraq, a single volatile figure like Moqtadar al-Sadr is capable of sabotaging the new democracy (“a Shia community groping for a way out would not give itself over to this kind of radicalism”). Much less does he see Iraq’s Shiites as the religious henchmen of Iran, or consider Iraqi holy men like Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani or Sheikh Humam Hamoudi to be intent on establishing a theocracy. In common with the now demonized Ahmad Chalabi, Ajami is convinced that Iraqi Shiites will not slavishly follow their Khomeinist brethren but instead may actually subvert them by creating a loud democracy on their doorstep.

In general,according to Ajami, the pathologies of today’s Middle East originate with the mostly Sunni autocracies that threaten, cajole, and flatter Western governments even as they exploit terrorists to deflect popular discontent away from their own failures onto the United States and Israel. Precisely because we have ushered in a long-overdue correction that threatens not only the old order of Saddam’s clique but surrounding governments from Jordan to Saudi Arabia, we can expect more violence in Iraq.

What then to do? Ajami counsels us to ignore the cries of victimhood from yesterday’s victimizers, always to keep in mind the ghosts of Saddam’s genocidal regime, to be sensitive to the loss of native pride entailed in accepting our “foreigner’s gift,” and to let the Iraqis follow their own path as we eventually recede into the shadows. Along with this advice, he offers a series of first-hand portraits, often brilliantly subtle, of some fascinating players in contemporary Iraq. His meeting in Najaf with Ali al-Sistani discloses a Gandhi-like figure who urges: “Do everything you can to bring our Sunni Arab brothers into the fold.” General David Petraeus, the man charged with rebuilding Iraq’s security forces, lives up to his reputation as part diplomat, part drillmaster, and part sage as he conducts Ajami on one of his dangerous tours of the city of Mosul. On a C-130 transport plane, Ajami is so impressed by the bookish earnestness of a nineteen-year-old American soldier that he hands over his personal copy of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American (“I had always loved a passage in it about American innocence roaming the world like a leper without a bell, meaning no harm”).

There are plenty of tragic stories in this book. Ajami recounts the bleak genesis of the Baath party in Iraq and Syria, the brainchild of Sorbonne-educated intellectuals like Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar who thought they might unite the old tribal orders under some radical antiWestern secular doctrine. Other satellite figures include Taleb Shabib, a Shiite Baathist who, like legions of other Arab intellectuals, drifted from Communism, Baathism, and panArabism into oblivion, his hopes for a Western-style solution dashed by dictatorship, theocracy, or both. Ajami bumps into dozens of these sorry men, whose fate has been to end up murdered or exiled by the very people they once sought to champion. There are much worse types in Ajami’s gallery. He provides a vividly repugnant glimpse of the awful alGhamdi tribe of Saudi Arabia. One of their number, Ahmad, crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11; another, Hamza, helped to take down Flight 93. A second Ahmad was the suicide bomber who in December 2004 blew up eighteen Americans in Mosul. And then there is Sheik Yusuf alQaradawi, the native Egyptian and resident of Qatar who in August 2004 issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill American civilians in Iraq. Why not kill them in Westernized Qatar, where they were far more plentiful? Perhaps because they were profitable to, and protected by, the same government that protected Qaradawi himself. Apparently, like virtue, evil too needs to be buttressed by hypocrisy.

The Foreigner’s Gift is not an organized work of analysis, its arguments leading in logical progression to a solidly reasoned conclusion. Instead, it is a series of highly readable vignettes drawn from Ajami’s serial travels and reflections. Which is hardly to say that it lacks a point, or that its point is uncontroversial—far from it. Critics will surely cite Ajami’s own Shiite background as the catalyst for his professed confidence in the emergence of Iraq’s Shiites as the stewards of Iraqi democracy. But any such suggestion of a hidden agenda, or alternatively of naiveté, would be very wide of the mark. What most characterizes Ajami is not his religious faith (if he has any in the traditional sense) but his unequalled appreciation of historical irony—the irony entailed, for example, in the fact that by taking out the single figure of Saddam Hussein we unleashed an unforeseen moral reckoning among the Arabs at large; the irony that the very vehemence of Iraq’s insurgency may in the end undo and humiliate it on its own turf, and might already have begun to do so; the irony that Shiite Iran may rue the day when its Shiite cousins in Iraq were freed by the Americans. When it comes to ironies, Ajami is clearly bemused that an American oilman, himself the son of a President who in 1991 called for the Iraqi Shiites to rise up and overthrow a wounded Saddam Hussein, only to stand by as they were slaughtered, should have been brought to exclaim in September 2003: “Iraq as a dictatorship had great power to destabilize the Middle East. Iraq as a democracy will have great power to inspire the Middle East.” Ajami himself is not yet prepared to say that Iraq will do so—only that, with our help, it just might. He needs to be listened to very closely.

The Clash
Fouad Ajami
The New York Times
January 6, 2008

It would have been unlike Samuel P. Huntington to say “I told you so” after 9/11. He is too austere and serious a man, with a legendary career as arguably the most influential and original political scientist of the last half century — always swimming against the current of prevailing opinion.

In the 1990s, first in an article in the magazine Foreign Affairs, then in a book published in 1996 under the title “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” he had come forth with a thesis that ran counter to the zeitgeist of the era and its euphoria about globalization and a “borderless” world. After the cold war, he wrote, there would be a “clash of civilizations.” Soil and blood and cultural loyalties would claim, and define, the world of states.

Huntington’s cartography was drawn with a sharp pencil. It was “The West and the Rest”: the West standing alone, and eight civilizations dividing the rest — Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist and Japanese. And in this post-cold-war world, Islamic civilization would re-emerge as a nemesis to the West. Huntington put the matter in stark terms: “The relations between Islam and Christianity, both Orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other’s Other. The 20th-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity.”

Those 19 young Arabs who struck America on 9/11 were to give Huntington more of history’s compliance than he could ever have imagined. He had written of a “youth bulge” unsettling Muslim societies, and young Arabs and Muslims were now the shock-troops of a new radicalism. Their rise had overwhelmed the order in their homelands and had spilled into non-Muslim societies along the borders between Muslims and other peoples. Islam had grown assertive and belligerent; the ideologies of Westernization that had dominated the histories of Turkey, Iran and the Arab world, as well as South Asia, had faded; “indigenization” had become the order of the day in societies whose nationalisms once sought to emulate the ways of the West.

Rather than Westernizing their societies, Islamic lands had developed a powerful consensus in favor of Islamizing modernity. There was no “universal civilization,” Huntington had observed; this was only the pretense of what he called “Davos culture,” consisting of a thin layer of technocrats and academics and businessmen who gather annually at that watering hole of the global elite in Switzerland.

In Huntington’s unsparing view, culture is underpinned and defined by power. The West had once been pre-eminent and militarily dominant, and the first generation of third-world nationalists had sought to fashion their world in the image of the West. But Western dominion had cracked, Huntington said. Demography best told the story: where more than 40 percent of the world population was “under the political control” of Western civilization in the year 1900, that share had declined to about 15 percent in 1990, and is set to come down to 10 percent by the year 2025. Conversely, Islam’s share had risen from 4 percent in 1900 to 13 percent in 1990, and could be as high as 19 percent by 2025.

It is not pretty at the frontiers between societies with dwindling populations — Western Europe being one example, Russia another — and those with young people making claims on the world. Huntington saw this gathering storm. Those young people of the densely populated North African states who have been risking all for a journey across the Strait of Gibraltar walk right out of his pages.

Shortly after the appearance of the article that seeded the book, Foreign Affairs magazine called upon a group of writers to respond to Huntington’s thesis. I was assigned the lead critique. I wrote my response with appreciation, but I wagered on modernization, on the system the West had put in place. “The things and ways that the West took to ‘the rest,’” I wrote, “have become the ways of the world. The secular idea, the state system and the balance of power, pop culture jumping tariff walls and barriers, the state as an instrument of welfare, all these have been internalized in the remotest places. We have stirred up the very storms into which we now ride.” I had questioned Huntington’s suggestion that civilizations could be found “whole and intact, watertight under an eternal sky.” Furrows, I observed, run across civilizations, and the modernist consensus would hold in places like India, Egypt and Turkey.

Huntington had written that the Turks — rejecting Mecca, and rejected by Brussels — would head toward Tashkent, choosing a pan-Turkic world. My faith was invested in the official Westernizing creed of Kemalism that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had bequeathed his country. “What, however, if Turkey redefined itself?” Huntington asked. “At some point, Turkey could be ready to give up its frustrating and humiliating role as a beggar pleading for membership in the West and to resume its much more impressive and elevated historical role as the principal Islamic interlocutor and antagonist of the West.”

Nearly 15 years on, Huntington’s thesis about a civilizational clash seems more compelling to me than the critique I provided at that time. In recent years, for example, the edifice of Kemalism has come under assault, and Turkey has now elected an Islamist to the presidency in open defiance of the military-bureaucratic elite. There has come that “redefinition” that Huntington prophesied. To be sure, the verdict may not be quite as straightforward as he foresaw. The Islamists have prevailed, but their desired destination, or so they tell us, is still Brussels: in that European shelter, the Islamists shrewdly hope they can find protection against the power of the military.

“I’ll teach you differences,” Kent says to Lear’s servant. And Huntington had the integrity and the foresight to see the falseness of a borderless world, a world without differences. (He is one of two great intellectual figures who peered into the heart of things and were not taken in by globalism’s conceit, Bernard Lewis being the other.)

I still harbor doubts about whether the radical Islamists knocking at the gates of Europe, or assaulting it from within, are the bearers of a whole civilization. They flee the burning grounds of Islam, but carry the fire with them. They are “nowhere men,” children of the frontier between Islam and the West, belonging to neither. If anything, they are a testament to the failure of modern Islam to provide for its own and to hold the fidelities of the young.

More ominously perhaps, there ran through Huntington’s pages an anxiety about the will and the coherence of the West — openly stated at times, made by allusions throughout. The ramparts of the West are not carefully monitored and defended, Huntington feared. Islam will remain Islam, he worried, but it is “dubious” whether the West will remain true to itself and its mission. Clearly, commerce has not delivered us out of history’s passions, the World Wide Web has not cast aside blood and kin and faith. It is no fault of Samuel Huntington’s that we have not heeded his darker, and possibly truer, vision.

Fouad Ajami is a professor of Middle Eastern studies at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and the author, most recently, of “The Foreigner’s Gift.”

Samuel Huntington’s Warning
He predicted a ‘clash of civilizations,’ not the illusion of Davos Man.
Fouad Ajami
The WSJ
Dec. 30, 2008

The last of Samuel Huntington’s books — « Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, » published four years ago — may have been his most passionate work. It was like that with the celebrated Harvard political scientist, who died last week at 81. He was a man of diffidence and reserve, yet he was always caught up in the political storms of recent decades.

« This book is shaped by my own identities as a patriot and a scholar, » he wrote. « As a patriot I am deeply concerned about the unity and strength of my country as a society based on liberty, equality, law and individual rights. » Huntington lived the life of his choice, neither seeking controversies, nor ducking them. « Who Are We? » had the signature of this great scholar — the bold, sweeping assertions sustained by exacting details, and the engagement with the issues of the time.

He wrote in that book of the « American Creed, » and of its erosion among the elites. Its key elements — the English language, Christianity, religious commitment, English concepts of the rule of law, the responsibility of rulers, and the rights of individuals — he said are derived from the « distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers of America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. »

Critics who branded the book as a work of undisguised nativism missed an essential point. Huntington observed that his was an « argument for the importance of Anglo-Protestant culture, not for the importance of Anglo-Protestant people. » The success of this great republic, he said, had hitherto depended on the willingness of generations of Americans to honor the creed of the founding settlers and to shed their old affinities. But that willingness was being battered by globalization and multiculturalism, and by new waves of immigrants with no deep attachments to America’s national identity. « The Stars and Stripes were at half-mast, » he wrote in « Who Are We? », « and other flags flew higher on the flagpole of American identities. »

Three possible American futures beckoned, Huntington said: cosmopolitan, imperial and national. In the first, the world remakes America, and globalization and multiculturalism trump national identity. In the second, America remakes the world: Unchallenged by a rival superpower, America would attempt to reshape the world according to its values, taking to other shores its democratic norms and aspirations. In the third, America remains America: It resists the blandishments — and falseness — of cosmopolitanism, and reins in the imperial impulse.

Huntington made no secret of his own preference: an American nationalism « devoted to the preservation and enhancement of those qualities that have defined America since its founding. » His stark sense of realism had no patience for the globalism of the Clinton era. The culture of « Davos Man » — named for the watering hole of the global elite — was disconnected from the call of home and hearth and national soil.

But he looked with a skeptical eye on the American expedition to Iraq, uneasy with those American conservatives who had come to believe in an « imperial » American mission. He foresaw frustration for this drive to democratize other lands. The American people would not sustain this project, he observed, and there was the « paradox of democracy »: Democratic experiments often bring in their wake nationalistic populist movements (Latin America) or fundamentalist movements (Muslim countries). The world tempts power, and denies it. It is the Huntingtonian world; no false hopes and no redemption.

In the 1990s, when the Davos crowd and other believers in a borderless world reigned supreme, Huntington crossed over from the academy into global renown, with his « clash of civilizations » thesis. In an article first published in Foreign Affairs in 1993 (then expanded into a book), Huntington foresaw the shape of the post-Cold War world. The war of ideologies would yield to a civilizational struggle of soil and blood. It would be the West versus the eight civilizations dividing the rest — Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist and Japanese.

In this civilizational struggle, Islam would emerge as the principal challenge to the West. « The relations between Islam and Christianity, both orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other’s Other. The 20th-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity. »

He had assaulted the zeitgeist of the era. The world took notice, and his book was translated into 39 languages. Critics insisted that men want Sony, not soil. But on 9/11, young Arabs — 19 of them — would weigh in. They punctured the illusions of an era, and gave evidence of the truth of Huntington’s vision. With his typical precision, he had written of a « youth bulge » unsettling Muslim societies, and young, radicalized Arabs, unhinged by modernity and unable to master it, emerging as the children of this radical age.

If I may be permitted a personal narrative: In 1993, I had written the lead critique in Foreign Affairs of his thesis. I admired his work but was unconvinced. My faith was invested in the order of states that the West itself built. The ways of the West had become the ways of the world, I argued, and the modernist consensus would hold in key Third-World countries like Egypt, India and Turkey. Fifteen years later, I was given a chance in the pages of The New York Times Book Review to acknowledge that I had erred and that Huntington had been correct all along.

A gracious letter came to me from Nancy Arkelyan Huntington, his wife of 51 years (her Armenian descent an irony lost on those who dubbed him a defender of nativism). He was in ill-health, suffering the aftermath of a small stroke. They were spending the winter at their summer house on Martha’s Vineyard. She had read him my essay as he lay in bed. He was pleased with it: « He will be writing you himself shortly. » Of course, he did not write, and knowing of his frail state I did not expect him to do so. He had been a source of great wisdom, an exemplar, and it had been an honor to write of him, and to know him in the regrettably small way I did.

We don’t have his likes in the academy today. Political science, the field he devoted his working life to, has been in the main commandeered by a new generation. They are « rational choice » people who work with models and numbers and write arid, impenetrable jargon.

More importantly, nowadays in the academy and beyond, the patriotism that marked Samuel Huntington’s life and work is derided, and the American Creed he upheld is thought to be the ideology of rubes and simpletons, the affliction of people clinging to old ways. The Davos men have perhaps won. No wonder the sorrow and the concern that ran through the work of Huntington’s final years.

Mr. Ajami is professor of Middle East Studies at The Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies. He is also an adjunct research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Robert Gates Is Right About Iraq
Fouad Ajami
The New Republic
June 3, 2011

The U.S. war in Iraq has just been given an unexpected seal of approval. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in what he billed as his “last major policy speech in Washington,” has owned up to the gains in Iraq, to the surprise that Iraq has emerged as “the most advanced Arab democracy in the region.” It was messy, this Iraqi democratic experience, but Iraqis “weren’t in the streets shooting each other, the government wasn’t in the streets shooting its people,” Gates observed. The Americans and the Iraqis had not labored in vain; the upheaval of the Arab Spring has only underlined that a decent polity had emerged in the heart of the Arab world.

Robert Gates has not always been a friend of the Iraq war. He was a member in good standing, it should be recalled, of the Iraq Study Group, a panel of sages and foreign policy luminaries, co-chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, who had taken a jaundiced view of the entire undertaking in Iraq. Their report endorsed a staged retreat from the Iraq war and an accommodation with Syria and Iran. When Gates later joined the cabinet of George W. Bush, after the “thumping” meted out to the Republicans in the congressional elections of 2006, his appointment was taken as a sharp break with the legacy of his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld. It was an open secret that the outlook of the new taciturn man at the Department of Defense had no place in it for the spread of democracy in Arab lands. Over a long career, Secretary Gates had shared the philosophical approach of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, peers of his and foreign policy “realists” who took the world as it is. They had styled themselves as unillusioned men who had thought that the Iraq war, and George W. Bush’s entire diplomacy of freedom, were projects of folly—romantic, self deluding undertakings in the Arab world.

To the extent that these men thought of the Greater Middle East, they entered it through the gateway of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. The key to the American security dilemma in the region, they maintained, was an Arab-Israeli settlement that would drain the swamps of anti-Americanism and reconcile the Arab “moderates” to the Pax Americana. This was a central plank of the Iraq Study Group—the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian issue to the peace of the region, and to the American position in the lands of Islam.

Nor had Robert Gates made much of a secret of his reading of Iran. He and Zbigniew Brzezinski had been advocates of “engaging” the regime in Tehran—this was part of the creed of the “realists.” It was thus remarkable that, in his last policy speech, Gates acknowledged a potentially big payoff of the American labor in Iraq: a residual U.S. military presence in that country as a way of monitoring the Iranian regime next door.

Is Gates right about both the progress in Iraq and the U.S. future in the country? In short, yes. The Iraqis needn’t trumpet the obvious fact in broad daylight, but the balance of power in the Persian Gulf would be altered for the better by a security arrangement between the United States and the government in Baghdad. The Sadrists have already labeled a potential accord with the Americans as a deal with the devil, but the Sadrists have no veto over the big national decisions in Baghdad. If the past is any guide, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has fought and won a major battle with the Sadrists; he crushed them on the battlefield but made room for them in his coalition government, giving them access to spoils and patronage, but on his terms.

Democracy, it turns out, has its saving graces: Nuri Al Maliki need not shoulder alone the burden of sustaining a security accord with the Americans. He has already made it known that the decision to keep American forces in Iraq would depend on the approval of the major political blocs in the country, and that the Sadrists would have no choice but to accept the majority’s decision. The Sadrists would be left with the dubious honor of “resistance” to the Americans—but they would hold onto the privileges granted them by their access to state treasury and resources. Muqtada Al Sadr and the political functionaries around him know that life bereft of government patronage and the oil income of a centralized state is a journey into the wilderness.

There remains, of course, the pledge given by presidential candidate Barack Obama that a President Obama would liquidate the American military role in Iraq by the end of 2011. That pledge was one of the defining themes of his bid for the presidency, and it endeared him to the “progressives” within his own party, who had been so agitated and mobilized against the Iraq war. But Barack Obama is now the standard-bearer of America’s power. He has broken with the “progressives” over Afghanistan, the use of drones in Pakistan, Guantánamo, military tribunals, and a whole host of national security policies that have (nearly) blurred the line between his policies and those of his predecessor. The left has grumbled, but, in the main, it has bowed to political necessity. At any rate, the fury on the left that once surrounded the Iraq war has been spent; a residual American presence in Iraq would fly under the radar of the purists within the ranks of the Democratic Party. They will be under no obligation to give it their blessing. That burden would instead be left to the centrists—and to the Republicans.

It is perhaps safe to assume that Robert Gates is carrying water for the Obama administration—an outgoing official putting out some necessary if slightly unpalatable political truths. Gates is an intensely disciplined man; he has not been a free-lancer, but instead has forged a tight personal and political relationship with President Obama. His swan song in Washington is most likely his gift to those left with maintaining and defending the American position in Iraq and in the Persian Gulf.

It is a peculiarity of the American-Iraq relationship that it could yet be nurtured and upheld without fanfare or poetry. The Iraqis could make room for that residual American presence while still maintaining the fiction of their political purity and sovereignty. For their part, American officials could be discreet and measured; they needn’t heap praise on Iraq nor take back what they had once said about the war—and its costs and follies. Iraq’s neighbors would of course know what would come to pass. In Tehran, and in Arab capitals that once worried about an American security relationship with a Shia-led government in Baghdad, powers would have to make room for this American-Iraqi relationship. The Iranians in particular will know that their long border with Iraq is, for all practical purposes, a military frontier with American forces. It will be no consolation for them that this new reality so close to them is the work of their Shia kinsmen, who come to unexpected power in Baghdad.

The enemy will have a say on how things will play out for American forces in Iraq. Iran and its Iraqi proxies can be expected to do all they can to make the American presence as bloody and costly as possible. A long, leaky border separates Iran from Iraq; movement across it is quite easy for Iranian agents and saboteurs. They can come in as “pilgrims,” and there might be shades of Lebanon in the 1980s, big deeds of terror that target the American forces. The Iraqi government will be called upon to do a decent job of tracking and hunting down saboteurs and terrorists, as this kind of intelligence is not a task for American soldiers. This will take will and political courage on the part of Iraq’s rulers. They will have to speak well of the Americans and own up to the role that American forces are playing in the protection and defense of Iraq. They can’t wink at anti-Americanism or give it succor.

Even in the best of worlds, an American residual presence in Iraq will have its costs and heartbreak. But the United States will have to be prepared for and accept the losses and adversity that are an integral part of staying on, rightly, in so tangled and difficult a setting.

Fouad Ajami teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He is also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The Men Who Sealed Iraq’s Fate
Fouad Ajami
The Wall Street Journal
June 15, 2014

Two men bear direct responsibility for the mayhem engulfing Iraq: Barack Obama and Nouri al-Maliki. The U.S. president and Iraqi prime minister stood shoulder to shoulder in a White House ceremony in December 2011 proclaiming victory. Mr. Obama was fulfilling a campaign pledge to end the Iraq war. There was a utopian tone to his pronouncement, suggesting that the conflicts that had been endemic to that region would be brought to an end. As for Mr. Maliki, there was the heady satisfaction, in his estimation, that Iraq would be sovereign and intact under his dominion.

In truth, Iraq’s new Shiite prime minister was trading American tutelage for Iranian hegemony. Thus the claim that Iraq was a fully sovereign country was an idle boast. Around the Maliki regime swirled mightier, more sinister players. In addition to Iran’s penetration of Iraqi strategic and political life, there was Baghdad’s unholy alliance with the brutal Assad regime in Syria, whose members belong to an Alawite Shiite sect and were taking on a largely Sunni rebellion. If Bashar Assad were to fall, Mr. Maliki feared, the Sunnis of Iraq would rise up next.

Now, even as Assad clings to power in Damascus, Iraq’s Sunnis have risen up and joined forces with the murderous, al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which controls much of northern Syria and the Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit. ISIS marauders are now marching on the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and Baghdad itself has become a target.

In a dire sectarian development on Friday, Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on his followers to take up arms against ISIS and other Sunni insurgents in defense of the Baghdad government. This is no ordinary cleric playing with fire. For a decade, Ayatollah Sistani stayed on the side of order and social peace. Indeed, at the height of Iraq’s sectarian troubles in 2006-07, President George W. Bush gave the ayatollah credit for keeping the lid on that volcano. Now even that barrier to sectarian violence has been lifted.

This sad state of affairs was in no way preordained. In December 2011, Mr. Obama stood with Mr. Maliki and boasted that « in the coming years, it’s estimated that Iraq’s economy will grow even faster than China’s or India’s. » But the negligence of these two men—most notably in their failure to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that would have maintained an adequate U.S. military presence in Iraq—has resulted in the current descent into sectarian civil war.

There was, not so long ago, a way for Mr. Maliki to avoid all this: the creation of a genuine political coalition, making good on his promise that the Kurds in the north and the Sunnis throughout the country would be full partners in the Baghdad government. Instead, the Shiite prime minister set out to subjugate the Sunnis and to marginalize the Kurds. There was, from the start, no chance that this would succeed. For their part, the Sunni Arabs of Iraq were possessed of a sense of political mastery of their own. After all, this was a community that had ruled Baghdad for a millennium. Why should a community that had known such great power accept sudden marginality?

As for the Kurds, they had conquered a history of defeat and persecution and built a political enterprise of their own—a viable military institution, a thriving economy and a sense of genuine national pride. The Kurds were willing to accept the federalism promised them in the New Iraq. But that promise rested, above all else, on the willingness on the part of Baghdad to honor a revenue-sharing system that had decreed a fair allocation of the country’s oil income. This, Baghdad would not do. The Kurds were made to feel like beggars at the Maliki table.

Sadly, the Obama administration accepted this false federalism and its façade. Instead of aiding the cause of a reasonable Kurdistan, the administration sided with Baghdad at every turn. In the oil game involving Baghdad, Irbil, the Turks and the international oil companies, the Obama White House and State Department could always be found standing with the Maliki government.

With ISIS now reigning triumphant in Fallujah, in the oil-refinery town of Baiji, and, catastrophically, in Mosul, the Obama administration cannot plead innocence. Mosul is particularly explosive. It sits astride the world between Syria and Iraq and is economically and culturally intertwined with the Syrian territories. This has always been Mosul’s reality. There was no chance that a war would rage on either side of Mosul without it spreading next door. The Obama administration’s vanishing « red lines » and utter abdication in Syria were bound to compound Iraq’s troubles.

Grant Mr. Maliki the harvest of his sectarian bigotry. He has ridden that sectarianism to nearly a decade in power. Mr. Obama’s follies are of a different kind. They’re sins born of ignorance. He was eager to give up the gains the U.S. military and the Bush administration had secured in Iraq. Nor did he possess the generosity of spirit to give his predecessors the credit they deserved for what they had done in that treacherous landscape.

As he headed for the exits in December 2011, Mr. Obama described Mr. Maliki as « the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq. » One suspects that Mr. Obama knew better. The Iraqi prime minister had already shown marked authoritarian tendencies, and there were many anxieties about him among the Sunnis and Kurds. Those communities knew their man, while Mr. Obama chose to look the other way.

Today, with his unwillingness to use U.S. military force to save Syrian children or even to pull Iraq back from the brink of civil war, the erstwhile leader of the Free World is choosing, yet again, to look the other way.

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

Voir aussi:

Fouad Ajami on America and the Arabs
Excerpts from the Middle Eastern scholar’s work in the Journal over nearly 30 years.
The Wall Street Journal

June 22, 2014

Editor’s note: Fouad Ajami, the Middle Eastern scholar and a contributor to these pages for 27 years, died Sunday at age 68. Excerpts from his writing in the Journal are below, and a related editorial appears nearby:

« A Tangled History, » a review of Bernard Lewis’s book, « Islam and the West, » June 24, 1993:

The book’s most engaging essay is a passionate defense of Orientalism that foreshadows today’s debate about multiculturalism and the study of non-Western history. Mr. Lewis takes on the trendy new cult led by Palestinian-American Edward Said, whose many followers advocate a radical form of Arab nationalism and deride traditional scholarship of the Arab world as a cover for Western hegemony. The history of that world, these critics insist, must be reclaimed and written from within. With Mr. Lewis’s rebuttal the debate is joined, as a great historian defends the meaning of scholarship and takes on those who would bully its practitioners in pursuit of some partisan truths.

 » Barak’s Gamble, » May 25, 2000:

It was bound to end this way: One day Israel was destined to vacate the strip of Lebanon it had occupied when it swept into that country in the summer of 1982. Liberal societies are not good at the kind of work military occupation entails.

« Show Trial: Egypt: The Next Rogue Regime? » May 30, 2001:

If there is a foreign land where U.S. power and influence should be felt, Egypt should be reckoned a reasonable bet. A quarter century of American solicitude and American treasure have been invested in the Egyptian regime. Here was a place in the Arab world—humane and tempered—where Pax Americana had decent expectations: support for Arab-Israeli peace, a modicum of civility at home.
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Fouad Ajami Getty Images

It has not worked out that way: The regime of Hosni Mubarak has been a runaway ally. In the latest display of that ruler’s heavy handedness, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a prominent Egyptian-American sociologist, has recently been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment on charges of defaming the state. It was a summary judgment, and a farce: The State Security Court took a mere 90 minutes to deliberate over the case.

« Arabs Have Nobody to Blame But Themselves, » Oct. 16, 2001:

A darkness, a long winter, has descended on the Arabs. Nothing grows in the middle between an authoritarian political order and populations given to perennial flings with dictators, abandoned to their most malignant hatreds. Something is amiss in an Arab world that besieges American embassies for visas and at the same time celebrates America’s calamities. Something has gone terribly wrong in a world where young men strap themselves with explosives, only to be hailed as « martyrs » and avengers.

« Beirut, Baghdad, » Aug. 25, 2003:

A battle broader than the country itself, then, plays out in Iraq. We needn’t apologize to the other Arabs about our presence there, and our aims for it. The custodians of Arab power, and the vast majority of the Arab political class, never saw or named the terrible cruelties of Saddam. A political culture that averts its gaze from mass graves and works itself into self-righteous hysteria over a foreign presence in an Arab country is a culture that has turned its back on political reason.
Opinion Video

Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot pays tribute to Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami. Photo credit: hoover.org

Yet this summer has tested the resolve of those of us who supported the war, and saw in it a chance to give Iraq and its neighbors a shot at political reform. There was a leap of faith, it must be conceded, in the argument that a land as brutalized as Iraq would manage to find its way out of its cruel past and, in the process, give other Arabs proof that a modicum of liberty could flourish in their midst.

« The Curse of Pan-Arabia, » May 12, 2004:

Consider a tale of three cities: In Fallujah, there are the beginnings of wisdom, a recognition, after the bravado, that the insurgents cannot win in the face of a great military power. In Najaf, the clerical establishment and the shopkeepers have called on the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr to quit their city, and to « pursue another way. » It is in Washington where the lines are breaking, and where the faith in the gains that coalition soldiers have secured in Iraq at such a terrible price appears to have cracked. We have been doing Iraq by improvisation, we are now « dumping stock, » just as our fortunes in that hard land may be taking a turn for the better. We pledged to give Iraqis a chance at a new political life. We now appear to be consigning them yet again to the same Arab malignancies that drove us to Iraq in the first place.

 » Bush of Arabia, » Jan. 8, 2008:

Suffice it for them that George W. Bush was at the helm of the dominant imperial power when the world of Islam and of the Arabs was in the wind, played upon by ruinous temptations, and when the regimes in the saddle were ducking for cover, and the broad middle classes in the Arab world were in the grip of historical denial of what their radical children had wrought. His was the gift of moral and political clarity. . . .

We scoffed, in polite, jaded company when George W. Bush spoke of the « axis of evil » several years back. The people he now journeys amidst didn’t: It is precisely through those categories of good and evil that they describe their world, and their condition. Mr. Bush could not redeem the modern culture of the Arabs, and of Islam, but he held the line when it truly mattered. He gave them a chance to reclaim their world from zealots and enemies of order who would have otherwise run away with it.

 » Obama’s Afghan Struggle, » March 20, 2009:

[President Obama] can’t build on the Iraq victory, because he has never really embraced it. The occasional statement that we can win over the reconcilables and the tribes in Afghanistan the way we did in the Anbar is lame and unconvincing. The Anbar turned only when the Sunni insurgents had grown convinced that the Americans were there to stay, and that the alternative to accommodation with the Americans, and with the Baghdad government, is a sure and widespread Sunni defeat. The Taliban are nowhere near this reckoning. If anything, the uncertain mood in Washington counsels patience on their part, with the promise of waiting out the American presence.

« Pax Americana and the New Iraq, » Oct. 6, 2010:

The question posed in the phase to come will be about the willingness of Pax Americana to craft a workable order in the Persian Gulf, and to make room for this new Iraq. It is a peculiarity of the American presence in the Arab-Islamic world, as contrasted to our work in East Asia, that we have always harbored deep reservations about democracy’s viability there and have cast our lot with the autocracies. For a fleeting moment, George W. Bush broke with that history. But that older history, the resigned acceptance of autocracies, is the order of the day in Washington again.

It isn’t perfect, this Iraqi polity midwifed by American power. But were we to acknowledge and accept that Iraqis and Americans have prevailed in that difficult land, in the face of such forbidding odds, we and the Iraqis shall be better for it. We have not labored in vain.


Publicité: On oublie toujours que le prophète sort du rang des prêtres (Would Manet be today in the advertising business ? Looking back at original Mad man David Ogilvy)

12 juin, 2014
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Dans la presse, seules les publicités disent la vérité. Thomas Jefferson
Si je devais recommencer ma vie à zéro, je crois que je choisirais la publicité plus que presque n’importe quel autre domaine. L’élévation générale des normes de la civilisation moderne dans l’ensemble des groupes de personnes qui constituent notre société au cours du demi-siècle passé aurait été impossible sans la diffusion de la connaissance de normes plus élevées par le biais de la publicité. Franklin D Roosevelt (discours à la Fédération américaine des publicitaires, NY, 1931)
La publicité, c’est la plus grande forme d’art du XXe siècle. Marshall Mc Luhan
Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need. Will Rogers
Advertising lets us know how things ought to be. Michael Schudson
It is worth recognizing that the advertising man in some respects is as much a brain alterer as is the brain surgeon, but his tools and instruments are different. Advertising Age (1957)
Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best trained minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind … to get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, and control. Marshall McLuhan (1951)
La publicité la plus habile ne cherche pas à nous convaincre qu’un produit est excellent mais qu’il est désiré par les Autres. René Girard
Si les révolutions symboliques sont particulièrement difficiles à comprendre, surtout lorsqu’elles sont réussies, c’est parce que le plus difficile est de comprendre ce qui semble aller de soi, dans la mesure où la révolution symbolique produit les structures à travers lesquelles nous la percevons. Autrement dit, à la façon des grandes révolutions religieuses, une révolution symbolique bouleverse des structures cognitives et parfois, dans une certaine mesure, des structures sociales. Elle impose, dès lors que ‘elle réussit, de nouvelles structures cognitives qui, du fait qu’elles se généralisent, qu’elles se diffusent, qu’elles habitent l’ensemble des sujets percevants d’un univers social, deviennent imperceptibles. Pierre Bourdieu
Manet a deux propriétés uniques […] : premièrement, il a rassemblé des choses qui avaient été séparées, et […] c’est une des propriétés universelles des grands fondateurs. […] Et, deuxième propriété, il pousse à la limite les propriétés de chacun de ces éléments constitutifs de l’assemblage qu’il fabrique. Donc, il y a systématicité et passage à la limite. Pierre Bourdieu
Au fond, Manet, Flaubert, Heidegger, pourraient être considérés respectivement, si on voulait faire un palmarès, comme le plus peintre des peintres, le plus écrivain des écrivains et le plus philosophe des philosophes.(…) Dans le cas de Flaubert et de Manet, je pense que ce sont des personnages qui doivent être considérés comme des fondateurs de champs. Je prends l’exemple de Manet qui est le plus net. On avait une peinture académique, des peintres d’Etat, des peintres fonctionnaires qui étaient à la peinture ce que les professeurs de philosophie sont à la philosophie – sans méchanceté -, c’est à dire des gens qui avaient une carrière de peintres, qui étaient recrutés par des concours, qui avaient des classes préparatoires avec les mêmes procédures de bizutage, de nivellement, d’abrutissement et de sélection. Et puis un personnage, Manet, arrive ; il est passé par ces écoles. Ca, c’est extrêmement important ; c’est une chose que Weber dit en passant dans son livre sur le judaïsme antique : on oublie toujours que le prophète sort du rang des prêtres ; le Grand Hérésiarque est un prophète qui va dire dans la rue ce qui se dit normalement dans l’univers des docteurs. Manet est dans ce cas ; il est l’élève de Couture ; c’est un peintre semi-académique ; et il commence déjà à faire des histoires dans l’atelier de Couture ; il critique la manière de faire asseoir les modèles ; il critique les poses antiques, il critique tout ça… Puis, il commence à faire une chose extraordinaire – comme un premier collé du concours de l’Ecole Normale qui se mettrait à contester l’Ecole Normale – : au lieu d’intérioriser la sanction sous la forme de la malédiction – chose que nous connaissons bien dans le milieu universitaire -, il conteste l’univers et il le défie sur son propre terrain. C’est le problème de l’hérésiarque, le chef de sectes qui affronte l’église et lui oppose un nouveau principe de légitimation, un nouveau goût. Le problème est de se demander comment ce goût apparaît : qu’est-ce qu’il y a dans son capital, sa famille, son origine, et surtout son univers social de relations, ses amis, etc. (…) l’univers des amis de Manet, l’univers des amis de la femme de Manet qui étaient pianistes et qui jouaient du Schuman, ce qui était l’avant-garde à l’époque. Je cherche à résoudre une question tout à fait fondamentale ; celui qui saute hors de l’institution universitaire ou les institutions académiques saute dans le vide. J’ai évoqué le drame du premier collé tout à l’heure parce que beaucoup des auditeurs ont au moins une connaissance indirecte de cette expérience. Le problème du premier collé, c’est qu’il ne peut même pas penser à contester l’institution qui l’a collé ; ça ne lui vient même pas à l’esprit ; et s’il y pense, il se trouve jeté dans le néant. Manet en est là : « Si je ne fais pas de la peinture académique, est-ce que je ne cesse pas d’exister ? ». Il faut avoir du culot pour résister à l’excommunication. Pour résoudre ce problème là, Il faut comprendre ce que Manet avait comme ressources qu’on appellerait psychologiques mais qui en fait ont des bases sociales : ses amis, ses relations artistiques, etc. Voilà le travail que je fais. Je vais au plus individuel du plus individuel : la particularité de Manet, à savoir ses rapports avec ses parents, ses amis, le rôle des femmes dans ses relations… et en même temps à l’étude de l’espace dans lequel il se situait pour comprendre le commencement de l’art moderne. (…) Manet institue l’univers dans lequel plus personne ne peut dire qui est peintre, ce qu’est le peintre comme il faut. Pour employer un grand mot, un monde social intégré, c’est à dire celui que régissait l’Académie est un monde dans lequel il y a un nomos, c’est à dire une loi fondamentale et un principe de division. Le mot grec « nomos » vient du verbe « nemo » qui veut dire diviser, partager. Une des choses que nous acquérons à travers la socialisation, ce sont des principes de division qui sont en même temps des principes de vision : masculin/féminin, humide/sec, chaud/froid, etc. Un monde bien intégré, académique dit qui est peintre et qui ne l’est pas ; l’Etat dit que c’est un peintre parce qu’il est certifié peintre. Du jour où Manet fait son coup, plus personne ne peut dire qui est peintre. Autrement dit, on passe du nomos à l’anomie, c’est à dire à un univers dans lequel tout le monde est légitimé à lutter à propos de la légitimité. Plus personne ne peut dire qu’il est peintre sans trouver quelqu’un qui contestera sa légitimité de peintre. Et le champ scientifique est de ce type, c’est un univers dans lequel il est question de la légitimité mais il y a lutte à propos de la légitimité. Un sociologue peut toujours être contesté dans son identité de sociologue. Plus le champ avance, plus son capital spécifique s’accumule, plus, pour contester la légitimité d’un peintre, il faut avoir du capital spécifique de peintre. Apparemment, les mises en forme de contestation radicale, par exemple les peintres conceptuels d’aujourd’hui qui apparemment mettent en question la peinture doivent avoir une formidable connaissance de la peinture pour mettre en question adéquatement, picturalement la peinture et non pas comme l’iconoclaste primaire. L’iconoclasme spécifique accompli par un artiste suppose une maîtrise virtuose du champ artistique. Ce sont des paradoxes mais qui apparaissent à partir du moment où il y a un champ. La naïveté qui consiste à dire « Il peint comme mon fils » est typique de quelqu’un qui ne sait pas ce qu’est un champ. Un autre exemple est celui du douanier Rousseau qui était naïf mais le naïf n’apparaît que quand il y a un champ – de même que le naïf religieux n’apparaît que quand il y a un champ religieux… C’est quelqu’un qui devient peintre pour les autres. C’est Picasso, Apollinaire, etc. qui ont fait du douanier Rousseau un peintre en le pensant à partir du champ de la peinture. Mais lui-même ne savait pas ce qu’il faisait. L’opposé du douanier Rousseau, c’est Duchamp qui est le premier à avoir maîtrisé de manière quasi parfaite – ce qui ne veut pas dire consciente – les lois du champ artistique et le premier à avoir joué de toutes les ressources que donne cette institutionnalisation de l’anomie. Pierre Bourdieu
Il faut qu’il y ait un jeu et une règle du jeu pratique. Un champ ressemble beaucoup à un jeu mais une des différences majeures étant que le champ est un lieu où il y une loi fondamentale, des règles mais il n’y a personne qui dit les règles comme pour un sport, une fédération… Et finalement, il y a des régularités immanentes à un champ, des sanctions, des censures, des récompenses sans que tout ça ait été institué. Le champ artistique, par exemple, a la particularité d’être le moins institutionnalisé de tous les champs. Par exemple, il y a relativement peu d’instances de consécration. Cela dit, il y a champ quand on est obligé de se plier – sans même procéder à une opération consciente – à un ensemble de lois de fonctionnement de l’univers. Prenons dans le champ philosophique l’exemple d’Heidegger avec ses idées nazies ; être antisémite deviendra être antikantien. Ce qui est intéressant, c’est cette espèce d’alchimie que le champ impose : ayant à dire des choses nazies, si je veux les dire de telle manière que je sois reconnu comme philosophe, je dois les transfigurer au point que la question de savoir si Heidegger était nazi ou pas n’a aucun sens. Il est certain qu’il était nazi mais ce qui est intéressant, c’est de voir comment il a dit des choses nazies dans un langage ontologique. Pierre Bourdieu
In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. David Ogilvy
« DÉJEUNER SUR L’HERBE by Édouard Manet (1832-1883). Manet was born in Paris and entered Courbet’s studio at the age of 19. Though his independence infuriated his master and his pictures were constantly rejected by the Salon, he soon gathered a group of painters around him, Whistler and Fantin-Latour among them. In 1863, when Napoleon III ordered the establishment of a Salon des Refusés, Manet’s «Déjeuner sur l’herbe», which afterwards exercised a tremendous influence on Cézanne, was its scandal and success. It is reproduced by permission from the painting in the Louvre.» This picture caused a public scandal when it was first exhibited in 1863. Actually, of course, it was people’s conservatism that was outraged—not their moral or aesthetic sensibilities. With an idealised dryad substituted for the artist’s model and a classically naked Bacchus and Silenus for these rather overdressed picnickers, the group would probably have been hailed as a masterpiece. The real offence of the picture was that it stood for something new: and at that time whatever was new was certain to be opposed. Later in the century scientific innovations, such as the first telephones and motor cars, were attacked with the same conservative fury. Nowadays, fortunately, we are better tuned to progress. Eight years ago, for instance, when the revolutionary Aga Cooker was introduced, people were quick to appreciate its advantages: its cream and chromium cleanliness; guaranteed maximum fuel consumption; readiness for work by day and night and gift of meeting cooks three-quarters of the way. Already this cooker has brought a new reign of comfort and good temper to more than twenty thousand kitchens.» Publicité pour les cuisinières Aga (David Ogilvy)
This is my first advertisement and it embarrasses me to reproduce it. No headline, no promise, no information about the product. Certainly, nobody had ever shown a nude in an advertisement before, but, in this case, it was irrelevant to the product—a cooking stove. David Ogilvy
“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock What makes Rolls-Royce the best car in the world? “There is really no magic about it- it is merely patient attention to detail,” says an eminent Rolls-Royce engineer. 1. “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise comes from the electric clock,” reports the Technical Editor of THE MOTOR. Three mufflers tune out sound frequencies – acoustically. 2. Every Rolls-Royce engine is run for seven hours at full throttle before installation, and each car is test driven for hundreds of miles 3. The Rolls-Royce is designed as an owner-driven car. It is eighteen inches shorter than the largest domestic cars. 4. The car has power steering, power brakes and automatic gear-shift. It is very easy to drive and to park. No chauffeur required. 5. The finished car spends a week in the final test-shop, being fine-tuned. Here it is subjected to 98 separate ordeals. For example, the engineers use a stethoscope to listen for axle-whine. 6. The Rolls-Royce is guaranteed for three years. With a new network of dealers and parts-depots from Coast to coast, service is no problem. 7. The Rolls-Royce radiator has never changed, except that when Sir Henry Royce died in 1933 the monogram RR was changed from red to black. 8. The coachwork is given five coats of primer paint, and hand rubbed between each coat, before nine coats of finishing paint go on. 9. By moving a switch on the steering column, you can adjust the shock-absorbers to suit road conditions. 10. A picnic table, veneered in French walnut, slides out from under the dash. Two more swing out behind the front seats. 11. You can get such optional extras as an Espresso coffee-making machine, a dictating machine, a bed, hot and cold water for washing, an electric razor or a telephone. 12. There are three separate systems of power brakes, two hydraulic and one mechanical. Damage to one will not affect the others. The Rolls-Royce is a very safe car- and also a very lively car. It cruises serenely at eighty-five. Top speed is in excess of 100 m.p.h. 13. The Bentley is made by Rolls-Royce. Except for the radiators, they are identical motor cars, manufactured by the same engineers in the same works. People who feel diffident about driving a Rolls-Royce can buy a Bentley. PRICE. The Rolls-Royce illustrated in this advertisement – f.o.b. principal ports of entry – costs $13,995. If you would like the rewarding experience of driving a Rolls-Royce or Bentley, write or telephone to one of the dealers listed on opposite page. Rolls Royce Inc., 10 Rockefeller Plaza, New York 20, N.Y. Circle 5-1144. Rolls Royce ad (The New Yorker, May 31, 1958)
I didn’t write that headline. It’s a quotation from an article which appeared about 20 years before in an English automobile magazine. » David Ogilvy
The man from Schweppes is here Meet Commander Edward Whitehead, Schweppesman Extraordinary from London, England, where the house of Schweppes has been a great institution since 1794. Commander Whitehead has come to these United States to make sure that every drop of Schweppes Quinine Water bottled here has the original flavor which has long made Schweppes the only mixer for and authentic Gin-and-Tonic. He imports the original Schweppes elixir, and the secret of Schweppes unique carbonation is locked in his brief case. “Schweppervescence, ” says the Commander, “lasts the whole drink through. ” It took Schweppes almost a hundred years to bring the flavor of their Quinine Water to its present bittersweet perfection. But it will take you only thirty seconds to mix it with ice and gin in a high ball glass. Then, gentle reader, you will bless the day you read these words. P.S. If your favorite store or bar doesn’t yet have Schweppes, drop a card to us and we’ll make the proper arrangements. Address Schweppes, 30 East 60th Street, New York City Schweppes ad (David Ogilvy, The New Yorker, June 6, 1953)
One-quarter cleansing cream – Dove creams your skin while you wash. Slogan (Doove ad, David Ogilvy, 1955)
« The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife. David Ogilvy
When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. David Ogilvy
The only sound one can hear in the new Pierce-Arrows is the ticking of the electric clock. Pierce-Arrow (Time, February 27, 1933)
“There is a yawning chasm between you generalists and we directs. We directs belong to a different world. Your gods are not our gods.
“You generalists pride yourselves on being creative – whatever that awful word means. You cultivate the mystique of creativity. Some of you are pretentious poseurs. You are the glamour boys and girls of the advertising community. You regard advertising as an art form – and expect your clients to finance expressions of your genius. We directs do not regard advertising as an art form. Our clients don’t give a damn whether we win awards at Cannes. They pay us to sell their products. Nothing else.
“You must be the most seductive salesmen in the world if you can persuade hard headed clients to pay for your kind of advertising. When sales go up, you claim credit for it. When sales go down, you blame the product. We in direct response know exactly to the penny how many products we sell with each of our advertisements. Your favourite music is the applause of your fellow art directors and copywriters. Our favourite music is the ring of the cash register.
You generalists use short copy. We use long copy. Experience has taught us that short copy doesn’t sell. In our headlines, we promise the consumer a benefit. You generalists don’t think it is creative.
You have never had to live with the discipline of knowing the results of your advertising. We pack our advertisements and letters with information about the product. We have found out we have to – if we want to sell anything.”
David Ogilvy, the ad executive who dreamed up the eye-patch wearing  »man in the Hathaway shirt » and many other iconic advertising campaigns (…) In a career that spanned five decades, (…) created one of the biggest ad agencies in the world and helped alter the landscape of American advertising. And while it would be impossible to gauge the impact his campaigns had on sales, his work created many images that are well-known in households worldwide. He is credited, along with William Bernbach, with introducing what was then a novel idea: that consumers could be considered as intelligent as, say, advertising people, and approached with a soft sell through print, radio and television. His ads, for everything from Schweppes to Rolls-Royce, helped start the creative revolution of the 1960’s. The ads were in marked contrast to the droning, repetitious style of those they supplanted. The NYT
Every viral video has a backstory—and most also have their critics too. One video, by U.K. content creation agency Purplefeather, has been a continual hit on social media for its message of compassion and empathy. It’s a well-executed emotional story showing that words used wisely are powerful, and can be used for the power of good. Running at 1:48 it does this remarkably well. The video has also drawn the critics. The story portrays an anecdote usually attributed to advertising legend David Ogilvy, known as the original Mad Man. It’s about a blind man begging with a sign that reads, “I’m blind. Please help.” The man is largely ignored until one day, a man stops, picks up his sign, adds a few words, and carries on. From that point, on the blind man’s cup fills easily with money. What was changed? The deft copywriter had edited the sign to read: “It’s spring and I’m blind. Please help.” In the video version, the copywriter doesn’t edit the text, but she turns over the blind man’s sign to write her own: “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.” From a copywriter’s perspective, this version offends the sensibilities of anyone who has suffered an editor’s heavy pen and breaks a key rule of advertising. The hapless blind man’s words aren’t edited, they’re replaced; and the important call to action “please help” is deleted. From the blind man’s perspective, a stranger’s show of compassion—call it pro bono consulting—is what made the difference. Cindy Drukier

Manet serait-il devenu un virtuose de la publicité aujourd’hui ?

Quatrième fils chétif d’un universitaire écossais excentrique devenu courtier puis ruiné par la déclaration de la première Guerre mondiale, frère cadet d’un employé de la plus grande agence de publicité de Londres, boursier recalé d’Oxford, chassé d’Angleterre par la Grande Dépression, apprenti dans les cuisines d’un grand hôtel parisien, représentant de commerce et vendeur virtuose de cuisinières de luxe, publicitaire et auteur d’un manuel de vente considéré comme la bible dans son domaine, découverte de l’Amérique et de la publicité scientifique, chercheur dans le fameux institut de sondage Gallup, agent secret, cultivateur de tabac dans le pays Amish, créateur de la plus grande agence de publicité du monde, victime d’un rachat hostile, châtelain en France et mari d’une troisième femme de 20 ans sa cadette,  tableau (dénudé, s’il vous plait !) de Manet et caractéristiques techniques d’une cuisinière), mystérieux baron officier au cache-oeil et liste de vertus des chemises Hathaway, mère de famille à l’épicerie du village avec ses enfants et 19 raisons d’acheter une Rolls égrenées par un ingénieur) …

En ces temps où, pouvoir des mots oblige, la nouvelle patronne d’un parti xénophobe se voit définitivement contrainte de tuer à la fois le père et le langage du père …

Et où sous la pression de ces maitres des mots que sont devenus les publicitaires, les penchants tant craints nos ancêtres sont devenus aujourdh’ui de véritables devoirs civiques (la sacro-sainte préservation des emplois) …

Pendant que pour percer dans le monde de l’art nombre de femmes en sont encore réduites à se dénuder

Et qu’avec l’internet et une vidéo de 90 secondes vue en quelques jours des millions de fois, une agence de publicité peut à la fois toucher et faire réfléchir audit pouvoir des mots …

Tout en faisant ou refaisant sa réputation sur le dos presque littéralement des sans-abris …

Comment ne pas repenser justement à celui qui avait lancé ladite histoire mais aussi l’histoire même de la publicité moderne …

L »apôtre de l’image de marque » et  légendaire publicitaire écossais-américain David Ogilvy ?

Et comment ne pas voir en ce véritable publicitaire des publicitaires (qui s’était justement choisi, pour lancer sa première pub, le révolutionnaire « Déjeuner sur l’herbe » de Manet) ce que Bourdieu appelait les « propriétés universelles des grands fondateurs » …

A savoir de ceux qui poussent la transformation d’un champ jusqu’à en rendre impossible la perception même  …

Et qui, dans son cas précis, en se choisissant certes au départ le créneau du luxe et sur fond d’une indéniable montée du niveau général d’instruction de la population, cet art unique de « rassembler des choses qui avaient été séparées » (mystique et information, marketing direct et créativité) et, entre Manet et cuisinières ou baron à cache-oeil et chemises de luxe, de les « pousser à la limite » ?

Quand Ogilvy transforme les SDF en homme-sandwichs (ou comment faire du neuf avec du vieux)
Les SDF seraient-ils devenus la façon la plus rentable de faire du buzz à bas prix ?
Sophie Gourion
Toutalego
lundi 16 avril 2012
En mars dernier, une agence de communication britannique avait fait grand bruit en équipant des sans-abris de bornes wifi lors d’un festival. Repartis dans la ville pour donner un accès au réseau internet 4G aux participants, ces volontaires étaient identifiables grâce à leur t-shirt (« Je suis Clarence, borne 4G ») et localisables sur Google maps. Chacun pouvait donc avoir accès à une connexion d’excellente qualité pour un prix dérisoire et l’ensemble des profits était reversé aux « SDF-antenne ». Pour Bartle Bogle Hegarty, il s’agissait simplement de moderniser le concept du SDF vendeur de journaux rédigés par les sans-abris:
« Combien de fois voit-on quelqu’un acheter un journal, pour finalement le laisser au sans-abri? (…) Pourtant, le modèle n’est pas cassé en soi. C’est seulement le produit qui est archaïque », pouvait-on lire sur le blog de l’agence. Une opération qui a suscité de nombreuses réactions négatives. John Bird, co-fondateur de The Big issue, publication d’origine britannique rédigée par des journalistes professionnels mais vendue par des sans abris, a ainsi déclaré à la BBC:
« Si tout ce que Bartle Bogle Hegarty fait est de transformer ces personnes en antenne en leur demandant de rester immobile, alors ils sont simplement en train de traiter les sans-abri de la même manière que les Victoriens l’ont fait quand ils leur ont demandé de tenir des affiches. »
Mais après les SDF utilisés comme vulgaire objets de consommation, l’agence Ogilvy va encore plus loin en les utilisant comme panneau publicitaire.
Dans une vidéo trouvée ce jour sur Twitter, l’agence s’achète une bonne conscience à peu de frais sur le dos des SDF : le spot commence par de jolies images de Paris suivies par un portrait d’un SDF déclarant « les rêves, j’en ai plus, les rêves je laisse ça aux autres ». La voix off explique ensuite que certaines agences aident les associations de SDF mais qu’aucune d’entre elles ne les aide directement. Mais ça, c’était avant Ogilvy : « we are proud to announce 18 new clients ». Les 18 « clients en question » sont 18 SDF dont les visages défilent façon mosaïque. Changement de décor et de musique, on quitte les violons pour une ambiance plus rythmée : gros plan sur les créatifs de l’agence qui jouent du stylo et manipulent des bouts de carton pour pondre des affiches originales pour leurs nouveaux amis SDF. Et les résultats ne se font pas attendre : les pièces tombent à gogo et les sans-abris ont retrouvé le sourire. Conclusion « sans dépenser un euro, nous avons permis à Michel de s’acheter une part de pizza, à Bernard de s’offrir un café, à Robert de se doucher » (et à l’agence de s’offrir un bon coup de buzz). Les SDF sont retournés à la rue mais ils auront eu une belle leçon de marketing, qui nourrit l’esprit, à défaut de remplir le ventre.
Les créatifs d’Ogilvy, quant à eux, ont retrouvé leur bureau, l’esprit apaisé et le cœur léger.
Comble du cynisme…
On va me répondre que les agences ne sont pas des philanthropes et que l’initiative est intéressante car elle est créative. Créative vraiment ? L’année dernière, une vidéo développée par l’agence Purple Feather intitulée « power of words » reprenait la même thématique : une jeune femme change la pancarte d’un aveugle qui n’arrive pas à récolter un euro et écrit « C’est le printemps et je ne le verrai jamais ». Succès assuré pour le sans-abri : les pièces pleuvent. La vidéo a été vue plus de 13 800 000 fois ! Sauf que cette vidéo était elle-même la copie d’un court métrage espagnol primé à Cannes en 2008 « The Story of a sign » ! Scénario identique à part le sexe de la personne qui change la pancarte.
Plus récemment, un groupe de créatifs espagnols a développé un projet intitulé « dreaming the same ». Le concept : réecrire les pancartes des SDF afin d’attirer l’attention du public.
En faisant quelques recherches, j’ai trouvé que l’histoire du SDF et de la pancarte était initialement une histoire racontée par David Ogilvy, fondateur de l’agence du même nom…celle-là même qui la récupère aujourd’hui pour faire le buzz en suivant à la lettre les préceptes de son créateur « Si vous avez la chance d’écrire une bonne annonce, répétez-la jusqu’à ce qu’elle cesse de vendre ». Dont acte.
Voir aussi:
Dreaming The Same
Duncan Macleod
The Inspiration romm
January 20, 2012A group of creatives in Spain have developed “Dreaming the Same”, a creative project inspired by David Ogilvy, drawing attention to the sad reality of people whose poverty has led them to begging on the streets. The international project, online at dreamingthesame.org, invites people to use cardboard signs with creative messages to offer a helping hand to people living in extreme poverty, and raise awareness in the general public.Dreaming The SameThe Dreaming The Same project began with The Family Business, a group of students from Complot Escuela de Creativos in Barcelona who were convinced that creativity can offer more than just a tool to sell products and create brands. The project took on global dimensions as the team opened it up to anyone who wanted to develop their creativity by helping others. The participant’s task was simple. Design a cardboard sign with a creative copy that would invite the reader to reflect. They then had to give it to a person of their choice and film the entire process. Over two months two hundred people subscribed to the website and numerous videos were received from cities all over the world.

The Dreaming The Same project was developed at The Family Business by Leticia Rita, Pablo Madrazo, Enrique Santos and Besay Fernández. The team met while at Complot’s Course of Integrated Creative Advertising.

Inspiration for the project comes primarily from a story attributed to advertising genius David Ogilvy. During one of his morning walks to work at Ogilvy & Mather in New York City, David Ogilvy encountered a man begging with a sign around his neck. The sign read: “I am blind,” and, as evidenced by his nearly empty cup, the man was not doing very well. Ogilvy removed the man’s sign from around his neck, pulled out a marker and changed the sign to read, “It is spring and I am blind.” He hung the sign back around the beggar’s neck and went on his way. On his way home he was pleased to notice the beggar had a full cup.

Mexican film director Alonso Alvarez Barreda used the story in “Historia de un Letero” (The Story of a Sign), a short film which the Best Short Film Award at Cannes in 2008.

Purple Feather, an agency in Glasgow, went viral in 2010 (over 12 million views) with their version of Barreda’s film, “The Power of Words”, in which a woman produces new copy for a blind man’s sign.

Voir également:
Blind Man Video Shows Power of Words, And Draws Critics (+Video)
Cindy Drukier
Epoch Times
November 3, 2013Every viral video has a backstory—and most also have their critics too. One video, by U.K. content creation agency Purplefeather, has been a continual hit on social media for its message of compassion and empathy. It’s a well-executed emotional story showing that words used wisely are powerful, and can be used for the power of good. Running at 1:48 it does this remarkably well.The video has also drawn the critics. The story portrays an anecdote usually attributed to advertising legend David Ogilvy, known as the original Mad Man. It’s about a blind man begging with a sign that reads, “I’m blind. Please help.” The man is largely ignored until one day, a man stops, picks up his sign, adds a few words, and carries on. From that point, on the blind man’s cup fills easily with money. What was changed? The deft copywriter had edited the sign to read: “It’s spring and I’m blind. Please help.”In the video version, the copywriter doesn’t edit the text, but she turns over the blind man’s sign to write her own: “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.” From a copywriter’s perspective, this version offends the sensibilities of anyone who has suffered an editor’s heavy pen and breaks a key rule of advertising. The hapless blind man’s words aren’t edited, they’re replaced; and the important call to action “please help” is deleted.From the blind man’s perspective, a stranger’s show of compassion—call it pro bono consulting—is what made the difference.
Voir de plus:
I’m blind. Please leave my sign alone.BlindThere’s an old story, usually attributed to David Ogilvy, about a copywriter whose daily walk to work takes him past a blind beggar on a street corner. His sign reads, “I’M BLIND. PLEASE HELP.” Every day, the beggar is largely ignored by the passers-by. One sunny morning, the copywriter stops, takes out a marker pen and scribbles three words on the sign, then moves on. From that day, the blind man’s cup is stuffed with notes and overflowing with change. The copywriter has adapted the sign to read: “IT’S SPRING AND I’M BLIND. PLEASE HELP.”It’s a lovely story, which has been making copywriters feel good about themselves ever since (and possibly making blind people feel somewhat patronised). It’s usually quoted in the context of how important the ‘emotive sell’ is when pushing the latest commercial message into the minds of unwitting consumers, which is what copywriters generally do when they’re not being selfless superheroes.Anyway, I mention this because a video version of the story has recently gone viral, attracting 6 million hits on YouTube. It’s a promotional video for online agency Purplefeather, titled ‘The Power of Words’. But, regrettably, the story isn’t quite the same. It’s been what you might charitably call ‘adapted’, or less charitably call ‘unforgivably mutilated’.You can watch the video yourself if you want to add to the viewing figures, but suffice to say the key moment comes at the end, when the copywriter (a woman this time) takes to the sign with a marker pen. This time though, instead of elegantly adapting the existing text, she turns the sign over and writes: “IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY AND I CAN’T SEE IT.”This is seriously what she writes.The copywriter ignores the existing text written by the hapless blind man, and writes her own line on the reverse, thereby removing any of the wit and charm of the original story.But she goes further by spelling out what was implicit in the original line. “IT’S SPRING AND I’M BLIND’ is a spare statement of fact that leaves the reader to fill in the emotional gap. This is where it gets its power. “IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY AND I CAN’T SEE IT” is the same line rewritten by the Ronseal copywriting team. In fact, it doesn’t even have that level of disarming directness, because the writer has forgotten to include the call to action. Without the ‘Please help’, it’s all a bit pointless.And there’s another problem. What if it isn’t a beautiful day? What if it’s raining tomorrow, or in a couple of hours? Ogilvy thought of this – ‘spring’ is nicely open-ended (although you have to hope he adapted the sign come summer). Does this new copywriter have a stack of signs covering various weather conditions? “IT’S DRIZZLING SLIGHTLY AND I CAN’T SEE IT.” “IT WAS NICE A MINUTE AGO BUT HAS SINCE CLOUDED OVER A BIT AND I CAN’T SEE IT. » (If you watch the video, you can see it appears to be a grey and damp day, even though the woman copywriter is bizarrely wearing sunglasses. Almost makes you wonder which of them is blind.)It’s testament to the power of the original story that this bastardised version nevertheless retains enough impact to garner 6 million hits. But it’s also disheartening. We copywriters only have a limited supply of industry folklore to keep us going. If you’re going to use this story to make your agency promo, at least get the line right. Redrafting David Ogilvy isn’t something to undertake lightly, especially when your video is all about the power of words.Anyway, if I ever fall on hard times, I’ve already planned my sign, which, if nothing else, should raise a smile from the odd passing copywriter – “IT’S SPRING AND I’M BLIND DRUNK. PLEASE HELP.”I just hope that woman doesn’t come along and change it.
Voir encore:

Ogilvy’s Famous Rolls Royce Ad – Another Look
Jeff Sexton
Grokdotcom
August 3rd, 2009

Did you know that Ogilvy was not the first to use the “electric clock” comparison in a headline?

Pierce Rolls ComparisonI came across this bit o’ trivia while writing my post on Ogilvy’s preferred ad layout. I found it written up by Robert Rosenthal at Freaking Marketing, who had done the detective work to find and scan in this Pierce-Arrow ad that ran about 25 years before Ogilvy’s Rolls Royce campaign.

If you consider yourself a student of advertising, you’ll want to read Robert’s entire post to get all the historical details, but any copywriter should find it worthwhile to compare the two headlines and analyze the improvements Ogilvy made to his version.
First, let’s look at the two headlines

So here are the two headlines for comparison:

The only sound one can hear in the new Pierce-Arrows is the ticking of the electric clock

vs.

“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the ticking of its electric clock.”

Why the Ogilvy Headline was far more powerful

1) Specificity: The Ogilvy ad gives an actual speed. Not only are specifics always more believable than generalities, but in this case, the specific speed makes the reader think that an actual test was conducted to determine this fact. By comparison, the Pierce-Arrows ad reads like hype.

2) Quote marks: The quotation marks around the Rolls Royce headline indicate to the casual reader, scanning the page, that this was a remark made by someone, perhaps by a tester or engineer. And indeed, the subdeck and first bullet point confirm that this is the case. Again, the Pierce-Arrow headline has none of this credibility-building substantiation.

3) Believability of the claim itself: Notice the change from “only sound” to “loudest noise.” For the reader, conjuring up a mental image of driving in a car in which the electric clock is actually louder than the engine is relatively easy, whereas the mind rejects the idea of a moving car making absolutely no noise except for that of the clock. Consequently, the Pierce-Arrow ad practically provokes skepticism and dismissal from the reader.

4) Words fat with emotional associations: the difference between sound and noise may seem subtle, but the emotional connotations are miles apart. Sound could be anything, and all else being equal, the word alone usually has positive associations. Noise, on the other hand, is a nuisance. Tell me I won’t hear a sound in a car, and I’ll think you’re exaggerating or speaking figuratively – would anybody even want to drive in the kind of sensory deprivation chamber that that would require? But tell me that the loudest noise in the car comes from a ticking lock, and I’ll want to experience the serenity of such an exquisitely engineered car/cabin that is capable of nullifying the unpleasant noises and nuisances of the road.
Why the Ogilvy Ad was far more modern

In some ways, my comparison is simply not fair since the Pierce-Arrow ad hails from a far less cynical age than the Rolls Royce Ad. One could suppose that back in the days of the Pierce-Arrow ad, “yeah, sure” and “prove it” probably weren’t the automatic responses to any advertising claim that they are today.

But the transition in audience attitudes wasn’t instantaneous. In fact, you can already see the need for proof and substantiation by the time Ogilvy’s ad rolls around. That’s why the Rolls Royce ad:

Includes engineering and expert testimonials or quotes.
Provides no less than 12 bullet points of factual copy – facts proving the extreme quality, engineering, and attention to detail that goes into making a Rolls Royce
Openly states the price of the car without dancing around the subject.

How to apply this to the Web

If you are an online copywriter here’s what you need to ask yourself:

1) Are you doing the research that Ogilvy did in order to come up with powerful headlines? And once you have that angle of approach, are you anywhere near as careful with your wordsmithing?

2) More importantly, do you think the public has grown any less cynical since the time of that Rolls Royce ad?

3) Most importantly, are you providing more substantiated copy, proof, and pricing information than Ogilvy’s Rolls Royce ad does? Or are you providing less?

Voir par ailleurs:

David Ogilvy confessé par les « cahiers » : un entretien à New York
Les Cahiers de la publicité. N°11, pp. 14-18.

Il a un teint boucané et des yeux surprenants, d’un bleu de porcelaine. Le vieux veston en tweed, avachi et confortable, est très britannique; le toupet de cheveux aussi. David Ogilvy paraît trente-huit, quarante ans. Il traverse son long bureau d’un pas juvénile, vient crayonner, sur le marbre de la table à thé, quelques inscriptions subversives à propos de Madison Avenue. Il ne parle pas de la fameuse Rolls, frappée de ses armoiries, mais de la bicyclette sur laquelle il parcourt les routes françaises, en été. Il pose des questions apparemment innocentes sur l’indépendance des revues professionnelles, par exemple, et rit de très bon coeur. Voici le personnage étrange et séduisant qui a introduit dans l’univers publicitaire une petite Comédie humaine, composée de personnages étranges et séduisants, délicieusement snobs, en qui il déclare s’être dépeint avec complaisance. Ayez du Schweppes aussi dans le bar de votre Rolls », nous conseille, de sa part, du fond de sa barbe distinguée, le Commander Whitehead. En lisant les réponses faites ci-dessous par Ogilvy, vous reconnaît sans peine l’exquise insolence du ton.

Le gentilhomme écossais, créateur d’une petite agence toute neuve, met un bandeau sur l’oil d’un gentilhomme autrichien pris comme mannequin et voici lancées, à la fois, les chemises Hathaway et l’agence Ogilvy (Ogilvy, Benson & Mather). Ceci se passait il y a une quinzaine d’années, pas plus. De nombreux personnages ogilviens se sont succédés depuis, porte-paroles de la K.LM., de Shell, du Tou risme américain, de Rolls-Royce, de Porto-Rico, etc.; le concepteur Ogilvy, ex-cuisinier au Majestic, ex-vendeur au porte-à-porte, est devenu un chef d’entreprise prospère, et les techniques que lui et les siens mettent en uvre sont diverses, comme il convient à des vendeurs de produits divers; mais en présence du personnage Ogilvy, on ne peut se défendre de penser qu’il joue (supérieurement) à se regarder dans le miroir des magazines. « Ce que je fais faire au baron Wrangel Vhomme au bandeau sur Vtl c’est, dit-il en substance, ce que j’aime ou aimerais faire moi-même : jouer du hautbois, barrer un yacht, etc. *

Mais il ne faut jamais se hâter de dire à propos de lui ; c Voilà la clef. » David Ogilvy est une maison avec beaucoup de portes. Excentrique et puritain, philanthrope et snob, cynique et sentimental, il invite à toutes les antithèses. Sauf une : il est toujours intelligent.

Cahier de la publicité

Pourquoi avez-vous écrit votre livre?

David Ogilvy

La vraie raison est enfouie dans mon subconscient, mais je peux vous en donner d’autres.
a) J’espérais que ce livre pourrait contribuer à amener de nou veaux clients à mon agence. J’aime l’idée que des prospects paient cinq dollars pour avoir le privilège de lire une < présentation » une de plus.
b) J’espérais que ce livre pourrait faire comprendre à mes clients actuels que j’en sais plus qu’eux sur la publicité et ainsi, les décourager de discuter avec moi. J’ai peu de goût pour la discussion.
c) J’espérais que ce livre pourrait donner à quelques jeunes hommes et jeunes femmes, ayant de l’ambition et de la personnalité, l’idée de venir me demander du travail.
M. C.

d) J’espérais que ce livre pourrait me rendre célèbre. Je suis friand de célébrité.
c) J’espérais que ce livre pourrait apprendre à ma propre équipe présente et future à mieux travailler. Toutes ces espérances se sont en partie réalisées.
C. P. :
Avez-vous écrit votre livre avec plaisir?
D. O.:
Oui! Je l’ai écrit pendant mes vacances, en été, le soir, après avoir passé la journée sur la plage. Assis à mon bureau, la plume à la main, j’éclatais de rire à tout bout de champ; et quand ma femme demand aitàprofiterdecette«sibonnehistoire»,jen’avaisqu’àluilire les dernières lignes… Vous comprenez, le premier jet était horrible mentindiscret, rempli d’anecdotes désopilantes à propos de mes clients. J’en ai censuré un bon nombre avant de donner le manuscrit à l’éditeur.
J’avais passé bien des années à rédiger des textes publicitaires, c’est-à-dire des textes courts. Maintenant, il fallait donner de l’am pleur à mon style. J’ai trouvé cela assez difficile. Dans son état final, le livre est sans doute encore un peu laconique. Au moins, il est court! On le lit en peu de temps.
C. P.:
Espérez-vous que les publicitaires suivront vos conseils?
D. O.:
Oui. J’aimerais bien que tous les publicitaires du monde suivent mes conseils. Cela ferait de moi le Grand-Prêtre de ma profession.
J’ai toujours envié le Pape.
C. P.:
Pensez-vous que les publicitaires en général sont capables d’ap prendre?
D. O.:
Non. La plupart sont trop stupides pour reconnaître la simple VERITE quand ils la rencontrent. Les petits esprits aiment la complication.
16
C. P.:
Si vous aviez à « vendre > votre livre, quelle serait la « promesse de bénéfice »? (1)
D. O.:
Je dirais : « Lisez mon livre et vous ferez de l’argent, vous aussi. »
C. P.:
Comment réformer la publicité? Et qui doit s’en charger?
D. O.:
Des réformes? en voici.
a) Interdire l’affichage. Il rend les villes et les campagnes hideuses.
b) Donner au consommateur des faits; s’abstenir de lui donner de l’air chaud.
c) Ne pas rougir d’avoir bon goût en toute occasion.
d) Interdire l’interruption des programmes sérieux par la publi cité(à la radio et à la télévision).
c) Cesser toute publicité pour les cigarettes, parce qu’elles tuent.
Qui devrait se charger de ces réformes? J’aimerais bien que ce
soit nous, publicitaires. Mais nous ne le faisons pas. Alors, au gouver nement de faire le pas et de nous protéger contre nous-mêmes.
C. P.:
Peut-on enseigner la « créativité » (pardon pour ce terme bar bare), et si oui, comment?
D. O.:
Si un homme est né sans imagination ni talent, personne ne lui en donnera. Mais j’ai pu apprendre à des c créatifs » l’art de rendre leurs inventions utilisables. Et certains animateurs je pense en particulier à Bill Bernbach ont réussi à créer chez eux une atmo sphère qui libère les élans créateurs de chacun. Une entreprise spé cialisée dans la création a besoin de dirigeants inspirés.
C. P.:
Les agences sont-elles nécessaires?
(1) Il s’agit du bénéfice promis au consommateur s’il achète le produit, objet de la publicité. Terme du vocabulaire ogilvien.
17
D. O.:
Oui, elles sont encore nécessaires, Dieu merci. Il n’y a pas beau coup de rédacteurs ou de maquettistes qui aient envie de travailler chez l’annonceur : l’ambiance « usine » les embête. Cela dit, je crois qu’au cours des dix prochaines années, les clients auront tendance à reprendre directement sous leur coupe la plupart des activités de marketing, laissant aux agences les activités de création. Cela évitera ces duplications d’efforts, qui causent aujourd’hui tant de frictions
et qui gaspillent tant d’argent.
C. P.:
Où, quand, comment, combien de temps travaillez-vous lorsque vous concevez une campagne?
D. O.:
Je passe toutes mes heures de bureau en réunions et coups de téléphone. Je ne peux lire ou écrire que chez moi, le soir, et pendant les week-ends.
A l’âge de cinquante-trois ans, je commence à me rendre compte qu’il ne faut pas veiller trop tard. Plus jeune, je restais à mon bureau longtemps après minuit, cinq jours par semaine. Maintenant, je travaille à la maison, tous les jours, une heure ou deux avant le breakfast.
Quelquefois, je n’arrive pas à « sortir » une idée. Mais j’ai mis au point deux remèdes pour venir à bout de cet inconvénient : écouter
des disques (surtout Haendel et Mozart) et boire beaucoup de vin (surtout du Bordeaux rouge).
Il y a dix ans, notre agence était une toute petite agence. Nous avions quinze campagnes en cours, dont quatorze de moi. Aujourd’hui nous menons cinquante campagnes, rien que pour notre bureau de New York et une seule est de moi. Nous avons cinquante rédact eurs, cinquante maquettistes : beaucoup d’entre eux sont plus forts que moi.
Pour vous dire toute la vérité, je suis bien moins fertile qu’autref oisC.’est peut-être l’âge. Ou la paresse. Ou la fonction directoriale, qui m’accapare de plus en plus…
18

Voir aussi:

http://lannigan.org/images_archive/Ogilvy_and_Mather_Advertisement.jpg

How to Create Advertising that Sells
by David Ogilvy

Ogilvy & Mather has created over $1,480,000,000 worth of advertising, and spent $4,900,000 tracking the results.

Here, with all the dogmatism of brevity, are 38 of the things we have learned.

1. The most important decision. We have learned that the effect of your advertising on your sales depends more on this decision than on any other: How should you position your product?

Should you position SCHWEPPES as a soft drink—or as a mixer?

Should you position DOVE as a product for dry skin or as a product which gets hands really clean?

The results of your campaign depend less on how we write your advertising than on how your product is positioned. It follows that positioning should be decided before the advertising is created.

Research can help. Look before you leap.

2. Large promise. The second most important decision is this: what should you promise the customer? A promise is not a claim, or a theme, or a slogan. It is a benefit for the consumer.

It pays to promise a benefit which is unique and competitive. And the product must deliver the benefit you promise.

Most advertising promises nothing. It is doomed to fail in the marketplace.

« Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement »—said Samuel Johnson.

3. Brand image. Every advertisement should contribute to the complex symbol which is the brand image. Ninety-five percent of all advertising is created ad hoc. Most products lack any consistent image from one year to another.

The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand gets the largest share of the market.

4. Big ideas. Unless your advertising is built on a BIG IDEA it will pass like a ship in the night.

It takes a BIG IDEA to jolt the consumer out of his indifference—to make him notice your advertising, remember it and take action.

Big ideas are usually simple ideas. Said Charles Kettering, the great General Motors inventor: « This problem, when solved, will be simple. »

BIG SIMPLE IDEAS are not easy to come by. They require genius—and midnight oil. A truly big one can be continued for twenty years—like our Eye patch for Hathaway shirts.

5. A first-class ticket. It pays to give most products an image of quality—a first-class ticket.

Ogilvy & Mather has been conspicuously successful in doing this—for Pepperidge, Hathaway, Mercedes-Benz, Schweppes, Dove and others.

If your advertising looks ugly, consumers will conclude that your product is shoddy, and they will be less likely to buy it.

6. Don’t be a bore. Nobody was ever bored into buying a product. Yet most advertising is impersonal, detached, cold—and dull.

It pays to involve the customer.

Talk to her like a human being. Charm her. Make her hungry. Get her to participate.

7. Innovate. Start trends—instead of following them. Advertising which follows a fashionable fad, or is imitative, is seldom successful

It pays to innovate, to blaze new trails. But innovation is risky unless you pre-test your innovation with consumers. Look before you leap.

8. Be suspicious of awards. The pursuit of creative awards seduces creative people from the pursuit of sales.

We have been unable to establish any correlation whatever between awards and sales.

At Ogilvy & Mather we now give an annual award for the campaign which contributes the most to sales.

Successful advertising sells the product without drawing attention to itself. It rivets the consumer’s attention on the product

Make the product the hero of your advertising.

9. Psychological segmentation. Any good agency knows how to position products for demographic segments of the market—for men, for young children, for farmers in the South, etc.

But Ogilvy & Mather has learned that it often pays to position products for psychological segments of the market.

Our Mercedes-Benz advertising is positioned to fit nonconformists who scoff at « status symbols » and reject flimflam appeals to snobbery.

10. Don’t bury news. It is easier to interest the consumer in a product when it is new than at any other point in its life. Many copywriters have a fatal instinct for burying news. This is why most advertising for new products fails to exploit the opportunity that genuine news provides.

It pays to launch your new product with a loud BOOM-BOOM.

11. Go the whole hog. Most advertising campaigns are too complicated. They reflect a long list of marketing objectives. They embrace the divergent views of too many executives. By attempting too many things, they achieve nothing.

It pays to boil down your strategy to one simple promise—and go the whole hog in delivering that promise.
What works best in television

12.Testimonials: Avoid irrelevant celebrities. Testimonial commercials arc almost always successful—if you make them credible.

Either celebrities or real people can be effective. But avoid irrelevant celebrities whose fame has no natural connection with your product or your customers. Irrelevant celebrities steal attention from your product.

13.Problem-solution (don’t cheat!) You set up a problem that the consumer recognizes.

Then you show how your product can solve that problem.

And you prove the solution.

This technique has always been above average in sales results, and it still is. But don’t use it unless you can do so without cheating; the consumer isn’t a moron, she is your wife.

14. Visual demonstrations. If they are honest, visual demonstrations are generally effective in the marketplace.

It pays to visualize your promise. It saves time. It drives the promise home. It is memorable.

15. Slice of life. These playlets are corny, and most copywriters detest them. But they have sold a lot of merchandise, and are still selling.

16. Avoid logorrhea. Make your pictures tell the story. What you show is more important than what you say.

Many commercials drown the viewer in a torrent of words. We call that logorrhea (rhymes with diarrhoea).

We have created some great commercials without words.

17. On-camera voice. Commercials using on-camera voice do significantly better than commercials using voice-over.

18. Musical backgrounds. Most commercials use musical backgrounds. However, on the average, musical backgrounds reduce recall of your commercial. Very few creative people accept this.

But we never heard of an agency using musical background under a new business presentation.

19. Stand-ups. The stand-up pitch can be effective, if it is delivered with straightforward honesty.

20. Burr of singularity. The average consumer now sees 20,000 commercials a year; poor dear.

Most of them slide off her memory like water off a duck’s back.

Give your commercials a flourish of singularity, a burr that will stick in the consumer’s mind. One such burr is the MNEMONIC DEVICE, or relevant symbol—like the crowns in our commercials for Imperial Margarine.

21. Animation & cartoons. Less than five percent of television commercials use cartoons or animation. They are less persuasive than live commercials.

The consumer cannot identify herself with the character in the cartoon. And cartoons do not invite belief.

However, Carson/Roberts, our partners in Los Angeles, tell us that animation can be helpful when you are talking to children.

They should know—they have addressed more than six hundred commercials to children.

22. Salvage commercials. Many commercials which test poorly can be salvaged.

The faults revealed by the test can be corrected. We have doubled the effectiveness of a commercial simply by re-editing it

23. Factual vs. emotional. Factual commercials tend to be more effective than emotional commercials.

However, Ogilvy & Mather has made some emotional commercials which have been successful in the marketplace. Among these are our campaigns for Maxwell House Coffee and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.

24. Grabbers. We have found that commercials with an exciting opening hold their audience at a higher level than commercials which begin quietly.
What works best in print

25. Headlines. On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body

It follows that, if you don’t sell the product in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your money. That is why most Ogilvy & Mather headlines include the brand name and the promise.

26. Benefit in headlines. Headlines that promise a benefit sell more than those that don’t.

27. News in headlines. Time after time, we have found that it pays to inject genuine news into headlines.

The consumer is always on the lookout for new products, or new improvements in an old product, or new ways to use an old product.

Economists—even Russian economists—approve of this. They call it « informative » advertising. So do consumers.

28. Simple headlines. Your headline should telegraph what you want to say—in simple language. Readers do not stop to decipher the meaning of obscure headlines.

29. How many words in a headline? In headline tests conducted with the cooperation of a big department store, it was found that headlines of ten words or longer sold more goods than short headlines.

In terms of recall headlines between eight and ten words are most effective.

In mail-order advertising, headlines between six and twelve words get the most coupon returns.

On the average, long headlines sell more merchandise than short ones—headlines like our

« At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock. »

30. Localize headlines. In Local advertising it pays to include the name of the city in your headline.

31. Select your prospects. When you advertise a product which is consumed only by a special group, it pays to « flag » that group in your headline -MOTHERS, BED-WETTERS, GOING TO EUROPE?

32. Yes, people read long copy. Readership falls off rapidly up to fifty words, but drops very little between fifty and five hundred words. (This page contains 1909 words, and you are reading it.)

Ogilvy & Mather has used long copy—with notable success—for Mercedes-Benz, Cessna Citation, Merrill Lynch and Shell gasoline.

« The more you tell, the more you sell. »

33. Story appeal in picture. Ogilvy & Mather has gotten notable results with photographs which suggest a story. The reader glances at the photograph and asks himself, « What goes on here? » Then he reads the copy to find out.

Harold Rudolph called this magic element « story appeal. » The more of it you inject into your photograph, the more people look at your advertisement.

It is easier said than done.

34. Before & after. Before and After advertisements are somewhat above average in attention value.

Any form of « visualized contrast » seems to work well.

35. Photographs vs. artwork. Ogilvy & Mather has found that photographs work belter than drawings—almost invariably.

They attract more readers, generate more appetite appeal, are more believable, are better remembered, pull more coupons, and sell more merchandise.

36. Use captions to sell. On the average, twice as many people read the captions under photographs as read the body copy.

It follows that you should never use a photograph without putting a caption under it; and each caption should be a miniature advertisement for the product—complete with brand name and promise.

37. Editorial layouts. Ogilvy & Mather has had more success with editorial layouts than with. « addy » layouts.

Editorial layouts get higher readership than conventional advertisements.

38. Repeat your winners. Scores of great advertisements have been discarded before they have begun to pay off.

Readership can actually increase with repetition—up to five repetitions.

Is this all we know?

These findings apply to most categories of products. But not to all.

Ogilvy & Mather has developed a separate and specialized body of knowledge on what makes for success in advertising food products, tourist destinations, proprietary medicines, children’s products and other classifications.

But this special information is revealed only to the clients of Ogilvy & Mather.

2 East 48th Street, New York, N.Y. 10017

 Voir encore:

The Theory and Practice of Selling the Aga Cooker
by David Ogilvy—June, 1935
Issued by Aga Heat Limited

« The perfect Aga Salesman combines the tenacity of the bulldog with the manners of the spaniel ».
An AGA Cooker Sales Training Manual
FOREWARD

We may divide modern industry into three interdependent parts: design, manufacture, and selling. The Aga, designed by Dr. Dalen and manufactured by master English steel and iron founders, demands a high standard of selling.

Selling includes advertising, sales literature and personal contact. Of these, personal contact with the prospective purchasers is the last link in the chain between Dalen and John Bull. It might be the strongest.

In Great Britain, there are twelve million households. One million of these own motor cars. Only ten thousand own Aga Cookers. No household which can afford a motor car can afford to be without an Aga. They must be hunted out and their interest in Aga roused by personal sales argument. Only by personal contact can you judge whether a household is Aga-worthy. Only a salesman can get the order. Press advertising and sales literature is intended to facilitate your work and not to do it for you. You can use sales literature as one weapon in your armoury. People are impressed by what they hear far more than by what they read. They must be talked to about Aga, by you. Only an insignificant percentage will go to shops and ask you to tell them. In the immortal words of Henry Ford, « solicit by personal visitation. »

Unfortunately householders do not hold « At Homes  » for salesmen. Nor is there any inevitably successful method of getting into their houses. If you have never called on householders as a salesman it will not take you long to find out that there are hundreds of other people doing the same thing. In some towns it is not unusual for as many as twenty salesmen to call at a house in one day. Few, if any, of them get in. Orders have been given to the maid to keep salesmen out at al costs. But there are ways of getting in and only be constant experiment will you be able to develop what is for you the best technique. There are certain universal rules. Dress quietly and shave well. Do not wear a bowler hat. Go to the back door (most salesmen go to the front door, a manoeuvre always resented by maid and mistress alike). Always find out beforehand the name of the householder. Be as polite as you know how. Never lose your temper. Tell the person who opens the door frankly and briefly what you have come for’ it will get her on your side. Never on any account get in on false pretences. Study the best time of day for calling; between 12 and 2PM you will not be welcome, whereas a call at an unorthodox time of day – after supper in the summer for instance – will often succeed. Never « do » a whole street consecutively. If you must carry sales literature, use an expensive looking brief case which cannot be mistaken for a bag of samples. Some salesmen make their first call without any literature at all, a plan which has much to commend it. In general, study the methods of you competitors and do the exact opposite.

Find out all you can about your prospects before you call on them’ their general living conditions, wealth, profession, hobbies, friends and so on. Every hour spent in this kind of research will help you impress your prospect.

Salesmen are only too often unpopular people in Aga-worthy houses.. Show straight away that you are not of the so-called canvasser variety. Never bully, get into an argument, show resentment, or lose your temper. Do not talk about « your husband » – « Mr. Smith » is less impertinent. Never talk down or show superior knowledge. Never appeal to a prospect’s pity because the more prosperous you appear the more she is likely to be impressed with you and to believe in you and your Aga. The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore. Foster any attempt to talk about other things; the longer you stay the better you get to know the prospect, and the more you will be trusted. Pretend to be vastly interested in any subject the prospect shows an interest in. The more she talks the better, and if you can make her laugh you are several points up. If she argues a lot, do not give the impression of knowing all the answers by heart and always being one up on her. She will think you are too smart by half, and mistrust your integrity. Find out as soon as possible in the conversation how much she already knows about Aga; it will give you the correct angle of approach. Perhaps the most important thing of all is to avoid standardisation in your sales talk. If you find yourself on fine day saying the same things to a bishop and a trapezist, you are done for.

When the prospect tries to bring the interview to a close, go gracefully. It can only hurt to be kicked out. Learn to recognise a really valid reason for the prospect being unable to order (there are mighty few such reasons). With these reservations you cannot be too tenacious or too persevering. The good salesman combines the tenacity of a bull dog with the manners of a spaniel. If you have any charm, ooze it.

The more prospects you talk to, the more sales you expose yourself to, the more orders you will get. But never mistake the quantity of calls for quality of salesmanship.

Quality of salesmanship involves energy, time and knowledge of the product. We cannot contribute to the first two. The object of these notes is to help you to the third – abetter knowledge of the Aga. And although many of the sales arguments expended here are already well known to all experience Aga salesmen, this manual must contain at least some hints which will prove interesting and helpful to everybody. Selling does not materially differ from military campaigning, and we may analyse it under two main headings, ATTACK and DEFENCE.

The attack is the positive task of stimulating the prospect to want an Aga more than anything in the world. The defence is the negative task of removing obstacles which seem to the prospect to lie between her and her dearest wish. Never get manoeuvred into a permanent defence; it will become a retreat. Defence must be developed as quickly as possible into counter attack. Positive argument is more persuasive than negative argument.
ATTACK
1. General Statement

most people have heard something about the Aga Cooker. They vaguely believe it to involve some new method of cooking. They may have heard that it works on the principle of « heat storage ». Heat storage is the oldest known form of cooking. Aborigines bake their hedgehogs in the ashes of a dying fire. The baker’s brick oven has been in use for centuries and is known by most women to be traditionally the perfect oven. The hay-box came into its own during the War. But the Aga is not just a glorified hay-box with a fire inside, or a baker’s oven put in a polished case of chromium-plat and vitreous enamel. It is the result of applying contemporary scientific knowledge of combustion, metallurgy, and nutrition to the accumulated kitchen sense of centuries.

The Aga was invited by Dr. Gustaf Dalen of Stockholm. A scientist of little distinction, he has actually won the Nobel Prices (approximate value £ 5,000).

And Dr. Dalen is that rare thing, a front rank scientist who actually applies his knowledge to inventions of material and immediate benefit to mankind. Before inventing the Aga he had perfected a system of lights for lighthouses and buoys, which has been adopted throughout the world, and which at this very moment is saving the lives of sailors on some rocky coast on the other side of the world: just as the Aga is now cooking luncheon for at least one hundred thousand British people. The everyday influence of Dr. Dalen may justly be compared to that of Signor Marconi.

For nine years the Aga has been tested and improved in detail, at huge cost, until to-day it is perhaps the perfect cooker. For five years it has been in use in our British kitchens. For four years it has been made in Britain by a British company.

When the inventor built his wife a house, he looked for, but could not find, a cooker which was capable of every cooking method-baking, boiling, braising, frying, grilling, toasting, stewing, roasting, steaming and simmering. He demanded that his cooker should be able to do all these things to perfection. As a scientist even more as a husband he was appalled by the enormous waste of heat apparent in the ordinary type of cooker. He saw that however efficient a cooker could be made, so long as the human factor in the heat control remained, that cooker could never be economical. If he could cut out the human factor in heat control he would give to the world and to his wife their most economical cooker. So Dr. Dalen produced the Aga. It is the only cooker in the world with a fixed invariable fuel consumption, guaranteed by its inventor, its manufacturers, its salesmen, its users and eve coal merchants to burn less than £4 worth of fuel in a year.

Having got some preliminary remarks of this kind off your chest, find out as quickly as possible which of the particular sales arguments that follow is most likely to appeal to your audience, and give that argument appropriate emphasis. Stock-brokers will appreciate No. 2. Doctors will understand No. 9. Cooks will be won over with No. 5. Only on rare occasions will you have the opportunity of getting through all twelve arguments.
2. Economy

The Aga is the only cooker in the world with a guaranteed maximum fuel consumption. It is guaranteed to burn less than £4 of fuel a year. This figure can be expressed as £1 a quarter, 6/8 a month, 1/6 a week, 11/2 a day or one-fifth of a penny per hour. Different prospects are impressed most by different statements of time and price, but the majority will easily remember £4 a year. (These figures refer to the standard model only).

Very few people believe you the first time they hear this claim. Bring testimonials to your support. The most electrifying proof of the truth of you claim is to offer to make yourself personally responsible for keeping the prospect in fuel in return for a fixed annual payment of £4. If you add confidentially that the transaction will show you a profit, the prospect will prefer to buy her own fuel. Stress the fact that no cook can make her Aga burn more fuel than this, however stupid, extravagant or careless she may be, or however much she may cook. If more fuel is consumed, it is being stolen, and the police should be called immediately.

Avoid like the plague any reference to fuel consumption in terms of tons. Tons are less memorable than £s and discussion of weights and measures in English conversation invariably leads to argument, competitive exaggeration, disbelieve, and bad temper. It is vitally essential to make every prospect believe your fuel consumption claim, even if she disbelieves everything else you say. On the whole, however, you will not find incredulity a serious obstacle in selling the Aga; after all, it is all true, and if you believe it yourself you will find that, like the Apostles, you will be believed by other people.

Next find out how much the prospect in spending in fuel consumption, making it appear that your estimate is charitable on the low side. Some prospects know the fuel consumption for the whole house, but very few indeed know how exactly what proportion is accounted for by the kitchen. The tactic is the assume an air of objective omniscience and to tell her that the kitchen accounts for at least 80 per cent of the fuel in most houses, but that in her house it may only burn 70 per cent of the total.

Having arrived by some means or another at an agreed figure for the fuel consumption of the present cooker, you proceed to finance. You let the wild can out of the bag and tell her the price. If you have painted the Aga in sufficiently glowing colours she will have been led up to believe that the price will be actually higher than it is. Without apologising for the price, rush on to prove that the Aga is a first-class investment which first pays for itself out of the money it saves in fuel, and then continues to pay dividends ad infinitum. If the prospect will invest capital in the Aga she will receive dividends on a scale unheard of on the Stock Exchange.

Suggest that the Aga can be bought by hire-purchase and that it will pay its own instalments. Money which has hitherto gone to coal merchants, the Gas Company, or the Electricity undertaking, can simply be diverted for a year or two until the Aga is paid for. Then one find day the prospect wakes up and finds herself handsomely in pocket. There are houses where a Christmas Party is given every year out of Aga’s fuel saving. It can be thus be shown that the Aga need cost nothing to buy.

The following tables will implement your thesis. Carry them about with you in the form you can show to prospects.

THE NEW STANDARD AGA COOKER costs £47 10S. Add from £5 for Delivery and Erection. Total Cost, £52 10S. Fuel Cost, 4 per annum.

H.P. terms for 4 years: Initial payment, £5 10s, followed by:

48 monthly payments $1 S2 plus 6/8 for fuel
£1 11s. 8d. a month, or 7/6 a week
12 quarterly payments £3 15s. plus £1 for fuel
£4 15s a quarter

MODEL 21 AGA COOKER costs £78. Add from £5 10S for Delivery and Erection. Total Cost, £83 10S. Fuel cost £5 per anum

H.P. Terms for 3 years: Initial payment, £5 10s, followed by:

36 monthly payments of £2 12s, 10d plus 8/4 for fuel
£3 28. 2d a month
12 quarterly payments of £4;0s 1d. plus 25/- for fuel
£9 5s 1d a quarter

NOTE:—For fuel consumptions smaller than those shown the fuel saving is so small as to be hardly worth using as a major argument. You have barked up the wrong tree. Change gracefully to another argument, without giving the impression that any wind has gone out of your sails.
3. Always Ready

You cannot surprise an Aga. It is always on its toes, ready for immediate use at any time of the day or night. It is difficult for a cook or housewife who has not known to Aga to realise exactly what this will mean to her. Tell her she can come down in the middle of the night and roast a goose, or even refill her hot water bottle. On Sunday evenings when all the bread in the house is as stale as Old Harry, she need only pop the stale loaf into the oven for two to three minutes and abracadabra ! – a hot crunch loaf of new bread. Hot breakfast may be given to the wretched visitor who has to start back to London at zero hour on Monday morning. Only after the Aga has been installed will the prospect realise the real significance of the « Always Ready » advantage, and the first time she returns from an all-day picnic to a hot cooker she will have reason to bless you. More than 90 per cent of the Aga users who have written to us and the other Aga organizations throughout the world tell us that the best feature of the Cooker is that it is always ready. (Although it is the actual user who can best express an unbiased opinion of the Aga, the value of testimonials is generally exaggerated. People are not much impressed by them unless they happen to know something about the people who wrote them).

« Always Ready » is a feature of cardinal importance which runs like a silver thread through every description of the Aga.
4. Cleanliness

Cleanliness with which may be coupled beauty, is a virtue sometimes better appreciated by the prospect than by the salesman. The woman who does the work in a house spends more time on cleaning that on anything else. Vacuum cleaners, carpet sweepers, soap, dusters, aprons, brushes and mops are bought to remove dirt. Anything calculated to remove one of the major causes of dirt in a house is immediately appreciated by all women. The Aga is innately clean-as clean as the shining vitreous enamel on its front. It will save £s in kitchen redecoration, and every £ saved annually represents the interest on capital investment of £20

Ladies can cook a dinner on the Aga in evening dress. Doctors will agree that it is so clean that it would not look out of place in the sterilising room of an operating theatre.

Like motor cars, women, hats and houses, cookers sell on their look, and there can be no denying that the Aga is more beautiful, modern-looking and « functional » than any other cooker. If your prospect has not seen an Aga she will never come to hanker for it until she has seen it. Fix it.

Appeal to the prospect’s house-proudness. She must be made to want the most hygienic cooker and to have her kitchen a model kitchen. If you are selling to schools or nursing homes point out tactfully the sales value to them of having a model kitchen. Schools and nursing homes revolve round their kitchens, and most of them know it.

An occasional flowery phrase is called for to allow your enthusiasm full scope in describing the beauty and cleanliness of the Aga. Think some up and produce them extempore.
Cookery

It is hopeless to try and sell a single Aga unless you know something about cookery and appear to know more than you actually do. It is not simply a question of knowing which part of the Aga bakes and which simmers. You must be able to talk to cooks and housewives on their own ground. Most of the women who buy cookers are cooks themselves by necessity, profession, or hobby, and if you can talk food with them you have at your finger-tips a ready made topic of common interest which will open many doors and more hearts. And bear this in mind, that the more you know about cookery the more you will enjoy your own meals.

THE BOILING PLATE–I have heard the Aga is good for slow cooking, but can it cook fast? » You will hear this objection a hundred times a week. Forestall it every time. The Boiling Plate is far and away faster than any gas ring or electric hotplate. It is about as fast as the red part of a coal fire. If you are demonstrating, show how quickly water boils and how violently it goes on boiling. A hearty display of clouds of steam, lid rattling and boiling over should dispel this slowness inhibition once and for all. Nevertheless you will sometimes run across prospects who can quote chapter and verse for the Aga being too slow. With such people it will pay you to admit with a confidence-winning show of frankness that the old type cooker did indeed lose speed when the lids had been up for a prolonged period; how different, you will say, is the new cooker, which recuperates as fast as it loses heat and whose boiling plate is always as hot as blazes.

If you do not yourself believe that the Aga is the fastest cooker, spit on the boiler plate. Such an exhibition of bouncing, dancing and globular antics will convince you.

The heat of the Boiling Plate is even all over. Food does not stick, as it does when a saucepan rests on top of unequally impinging gas flames.

Aga grilling should be featured, particularly to men, who are almost always interested in this if in no other method of cooking; it is the only culinary operation they ever see and understand. Expatiate on the theme that the Aga grills almost as well as an open charcoal or coke grill. The process is described in the utensil catalogue and by Ambrose Heath.

THE SIMMERING PLATE. The point of importance with regard to the Simmering plate is not to admit for one moment the proposition that to cook on it cools the oven. In point of fact the oven will cook if the Simmering Plate is used to excess, but the prospect would be unduly alarmed were you to tell her this in so many words; your conscience can be salved by the safe knowledge that when she becomes an owner the Cooking Oven will make the use of the Simmering Plate largely superfluous.

It is possible, you will tell the prospect, to keep three saucepans simmering for all eternity on the Simmering Plate. They can never boil over. However, too much emphasis must not be laid on the virtues of the Simmering Plate, or it will detract from the culinary sensation you hope to make with the Cooking Oven.

THE ROASTING OVEN. Learn to recognise vegetarians on sight. It is painful indeed to gush over roasting and grilling to a drooping face which has not enjoyed the pleasures of a beefsteak for years.

Before you open the top oven door, either actually or by description, forestall the inevitable observation that it « looks very small. » It is an optical illusion due to the solid shape of the Aga. Measured in cubic inches the top oven compares very favourably with other ovens. It is deep from back to front-roughly the shape of a sucking pig. Demonstrate with exaggerated groping how far back the oven goes. It will take a 20-lb turkey, a 22-lb. roast of beef, or four legs of lamb. The turkey introduces the subject of Christmas dinner and this can be made an opportunity for digression into the realm of good food.

Every cubic inch of space in the oven can be utilised because the heat is even all over. This is very far from being the case with other cookers, where the gas flames dry and scorch food placed too close to them, or the hot flue passes over one side of the oven and leaves the other side as cold as an iceberg. Furthermore the temperature of the oven does not vary with unexpected rapidity as it does in an electric oven, whose walls are not so thick and whose insulation is not so thorough. Cakes and joints for this reason do not require such careful watching in the Aga Oven. Joints never require basting.

The Roasting Oven closely resembles an old-fashioned brick baker’s oven, which all knowledgeable cooks will admit is second only to a spit for roasting. Indeed in one respect the Aga Oven is even better than a baker’s oven: it does not have to be heated up. That reduces time spent in the kitchen and brings you to a most important talking point: the Aga makes you cook. The housewife who uses an ordinary cooker and who is busy in the house all day, tends to save time as much as possible over cooking by choosing those dishes which she can cook in a few minutes, without wasting time in heating up her oven. The result is an excess of expensive cutlets, sausages, eggs, and worst of all, tinned food. With the Aga oven such dishes as gratins, pies, tarts, joints, and patties come into their own. These dishes are better eating and far cheaper. In this way the Aga stimulates its owners to more and better cooking.

Joints roasted in the Aga do not shrink. The reason for this is that the actual walls of the oven hold sufficiently large quantities of heat to insure that the joint quickly reaches a temperature where the correct carapace or crust is formed, and the natural juices are sealed inside. Result: meat which is incomparably juicy, tasty, evenly roasted all through, and beautifully coloured on the outside. Cold Aga joints are a sight more welcome than ordinary cold meat. The budgetary saving brought about by the absence of shrinkage is so great that you can safely count on 10 per cent off the butcher’s bill.

Baking interests most women more than roasting. Without beating around the bush, tell the prospect that pastry baking, bread baking and cake baking are star turns. A tart will come out evenly golden all over. Every little cake on a tray will be the same uniform colour. Home-made bread comes into its own in the baker-poisoned household. Most women are subject to baking fits, and the ability to give this idiosyncrasy full rein may be enlarged upon at some length.

The top shelf of the oven is good for browning gratins, etc.

Forestall the question: « How do you regulate the temperature? » It will be in the prospects mind long before you finish eulogising the oven, and if you can attack the subject before it is thrown in your teeth you will have a tactical advantage. One of the greatest virtues of the Aga is that the temperature control is fully automatic, so that the cook can forget it entirely. In boiling, or in the case of marmalade by soaking the peel and pulp with the water all night. Meringues, the first cousins of custard and mayonnaise, present no difficulty. The cooking oven will do them to perfection at any time of the day or night. National dishes such as Haggis, Irish Stew and Sauerkraut are child’s play.

In a nut-shell the Aga enables a housewife to provide those dishes whose excellence is due to the cooking they receive instead of to the expensiveness of the ingredients they contain. Economy and good food all along the line.

THE HOT WATER TANK. Go into an old-fashioned kitchen at two o’clock in the afternoon and ten to one you will see a kettle boiling away sleepily for tea at half-past four, when the water will be dead and stale. Now imagine an 80-pint kettle which never quite boils, which remains perfectly fresh, and which is ready and fit all round the clock for tea, vegetables, hot-water bottles, washing up, and even to come to the rescue on those fearful occasions when the domestic hot-water system breaks down. Paint a picture of Colonel Blimp wallowing in a hip bath while hoards of apologetic kitchen maids carry cans from the Aga tank to float him to heights of political epigram. In humbler houses the tank makes it possible to do without the independent boiler in hot weather, or when a caretaker is alone in the house.. Needless to say, the tank is most important in those houses where there are invalids.

Some prospects will pretend that their domestic hot water system provides all the kitchen requirements. Point out to them the superior advantage of having the hot water actually on the cooker under the cook’s hand, and invite them to admit that they would be horrified to hear of hot water from the house system being used for cooking or tea.

The tank must be filled daily. A tap from the main placed immediately above the opening only costs a few shillings to fix and saves fetching and carrying. If the cook forgets to fill the tank, it cannot run dry. And even if it could nothing would happen. In 15,000 cases there has never been an accident. To the prospect who is irretrievably nervous about bursting boilers you can only offer to erect the Aga without a tank; go on to say that the construction of the tank, with the business tap half way up, renders it incapable of being emptied. When the cook finds the tap running dry she will fill up, safe in the knowledge that five gallons still remain below tap level.

Every time cold water is poured in it falls to the bottom and the hot water comes up to the top. In this way you never have to wait for hot water and the water is always fresh.

The tank is imbecile-proof.
6. Appeal to Cooks

If there is a cook in the house, she is bound to have the casting vote over a new cooker. Butter her up. Never go above her head. Before the sale and afterwards as a user a cook can be your bitterest enemy or your best friend’ she can poison a whole district or act as your secret representative. The Aga will mean for her an extra hour in bed, and a kitchen as clean as a drawing-room. Every cook who knows the Aga can get a good job at any time; but be careful how you tell her this.. The Aga is cool to work at and will not burn her face. It will be reliable and will never let her down. She will be able to bake rolls and scones before breakfast. She will not have to scrub the kitchen floor so frequently. In a big house do not make the unpardonable error of attributing to the cook the dirty work done by the kitchenmaid. All kitchenmaids love the Aga, at any rate until they are dismissed as superfluous; even then they can get a better job as cook in an Aga house.

Do not lead the cook to suppose that she will have to relearn her job.
7. Appeal to Men

When selling to men who employ a staff or whose wives do their cooking, make a discreet appeal to their humane instincts. The Aga takes the slavery out of the kitchen work. It dos not cook the cook. It civilises live in the kitchen. It can be to women what their motor car is to men. And compare prices. If you can work on this appeal to a man’s better nature and combine it with an appeal to his pocket and his belly, you cannot fail to secure an order. Contentment in a house spreads from the cook outwards, and a discontented cook will turn a house into a bedlam of grumbling. All men pray for peace below stairs and a house which runs on oiled wheels; the Aga goes to the heart of the problem.
8. Appeal to Special Classes.

Children can be given the run of the Aga kitchen for making coffee and so on. There is no danger of burning, electric shocks, gassing or explosion. The blind will like to hear that Dr. Dalen is himself blind. Cooks will like to hear that Ambrose Heat himself uses an Aga. Doctors will admire your perspicacity if you tell them that Sir Farquhar Buzzard and Sir Humphrey Rolleston are doctor-users, and if a case keeps them long after the normal hour for dinner they will get an unspoilt meal on their return to an Aga house. There is no end to the special appeal Aga has for every conceivable class and profession. Think it out.
9. Kitchen and Warming and Air Conditioning

The Aga warms an average-sized kitchen even in the depths of winter, acting like a radiator of approximately 37 square feet surface area at a constant temperature of about 90 degrees F. A little heat goes a long way if it is constant. Ordinary kitchens get cold in the night. The Aga kitchen keeps warm all night. For the cook to come down first thing in the morning to a warm kitchen, and to have one room in the house always warm, are huge advantages, particularly in houses which have not got central heating.

You can reasonable claim that the Aga will warm any kitchen enough for working in, but large basement kitchens and those in country houses with stone floors and leaky windows must be provided with other heating in winter, if the staff are to use them as sitting rooms. This difficulty often solves itself, as in big houses the boiler is in the kitchen, or there is central heating, or a servants’ hall is provided (as it ought to be).

In summer the windows are left open and the Aga kitchen achieves an arctic coldness. And does it not look cool?

Magically enough, the Aga also contrives to « air-condition » the kitchen. This advantage will appeal with some force to factory owners, architects and others who understand that « air-conditioning » is the modern way of talking about keeping a room well aired. Modern cinemas, shops, and even express trains are air-conditioned. All coal-burning fires help to change the air in a room while they are burning. The Aga always burns as it pumps out foul air through the chimney and pulls fresh air into the kitchen. The Aga cook works in a fresh,, dry, warm atmosphere. The Aga kitchen is healthy and inimical to germs. In coal-range, gas, electric or oil kitchens the temperature falls every night; when cooking begins again in the morning steam condenses on the cold walls, and in time a layer of sticky dust and grime accumulates everywhere. Food mildews, cereals lose crispness, salt cakes, and the kitchen needs re-painting; the Aga kitchen is perennially cosy and knows not such abominations.
10. Summary of Miscellaneous Economies

The Aga means fuel savings, staff reduction, reduced expenditure on cleaning materials, reduction of meat shrinkage and food wastage, abolition of chimney-sweeps; painting and redecorating is unheard of; electric irons and their antics are unnecessary; raids on registry offices for new servants become a thing of the past; the house can be let or sold at any time on its kitchen; bilious attacks and doctor’s bills are halved; restaurants are seldom visited, and, as the French say; « The Aga owner eats best at home. »
11. Wise-Cracking

The longer you talk to a prospect, the better, and you will not do this if you’re a bore. Pepper your talk with anecdote and jokes. Accumulate a repertoire of illustration. Above all, laugh till you cry every time the prospect makes the joke about the Aga Khan. A deadly serious demonstration is bound to fail. If you can’t make a lady laugh, you certainly cannot maker buy.
12. How it Works Briefly

The AGA Cooker works as follows: The heart of the Cooker is a mass of metal weighing about cwts.. It consists of two cylindrical barrels, one inside the other. The inner barrel forms a magazine which feeds the fire with fuel. The fire is burning at the bottom of the outer barrel. The space between the two barrels forms the flue from the fire. The magazine is charged with coke once every twelve hours, and the fire, burning continuously, heats up this mass of metal. The heat cannot escape from this unit because of the insulating packing around it. When the temperature of the mass of metal, or the heat storage unit, reaches a pre-determined point, a damper automatically reduces the draught and the fire just remains burning to restore to the unit the heat which escapes to warm the kitchen. If the AGA insulation were 100 per cent. perfect, the cooker would not warm the kitchen and the fire would go out (unless cooking were done on it).

Heat is taken from the heat storage unit by metallic conduction to the various parts of the cooker, in exactly the right quantities. Straight up to the very fast boiling plate, across to the simmering plate and the roasting oven, across and down to the lower oven. The amount of metal in each part of the cooker has been calculated so that the temperature is exactly right. By virtue of the automatic damper, or the thermostat, the temperatures are constant.

The insulating lids on top of the hot plates are for keeping heat inside when the hot plates are not in use. When cooking is in progress, these lids are open, cold things are put in the oven, and heat us used up. But as soon as the lids are shut down, the heat immediately begins to store up for the next lot of cooking. All through the night the heat is storing up for the next day’s cooking, and you know that when you come down to the cooker in the morning the temperatures of every part will be exactly the same as they have been on the previous days.
DEFENSE
1. General Advice

The ideal to aim at is to make your attack so thorough that the enemy is incapable of counter-attack, to pile up points in every round and to hand out a K.O. before the last gong; to anticipate every objection without suggesting bogies. In practice, however, you must always be faced soon or later with questions and objections which may indeed be taken as a sign that the prospect’s brain is in working order, and that she is conscientiously considering the AGA as a practical proposition for herself. Some salesmen expound their subject academically, so that at the end the prospect feels no more inclination to buy the AGA than she would to buy the planet Jupiter after a broadcast from the Astronomer Royal. A talkative prospect is a good thing. The dumb prospect is too often equally deaf.

To show that you are completely stumped on any point is fatal, for it stimulates the prospect to attack, puts you on the defensive, and, worst of all, gives the impression that you do not know your job. Know all the answers backwards without learning them by heart. Reply to objections quietly and firmly; don’t be too smart; return naturally to the attack.

If the prospect comes to trust you sufficiently, she may ask you in confidence to tell her what the crab is. Play up and tell her a crab, but be certain that what you tell her will not have the slightest adverse influence. Say, for instance, that orders are so plentiful delivery has been difficult recently, that her family’s appetite may double, that her pigs and hens will die of starvation, that she may find cooking so attractive she never does anything else, that kettles boil over as soon as her back is turned, that the cook will find time lies heavy on her hands, that the neighbours will be jealous, and that every conceivable blessing in disguise will crowd upon her. You can make a fine art of admitting crabs and scoring with them.

All the objections and answers that follow have continuations which will give you an indication of the technique of returning to the lead. They are not cast-iron rules to be learnt by heart and spouted automatically on every occasion. You will be able to develop and improve on our suggestions.
2. Detailed Objections

« It is too big for my kitchen. »

Bolony always. It only looks big because it does not, like gas stoves, stand on legs. Make the objection a pretext for going into the kitchen to measure, and ton continue the conversation there. Among other advantages of selling in the kitchen is that the cook will be in earshot and you can kill two birds with one stone. Continue : There is no danger of getting burned with an Aga, so that it is possible to go right up to it. You have to give a range a very wide berth. You can sit on the Aga. It is an uncommon kind of kitchen maid in that it does not get in your way.

« I don’t like Coke. »

The old-fashioned coke stove has admittedly brought coke into disrepute. But the Aga differs from the old slow combustion stove as chalk from cheese.

Continue: Coke is the cheapest fuel per heat unit. It is five times cheaper than gas at 9d. a therm, and twelve times cheaper than electric current at 1d. a unit. The heat thus costs so little that it accounts to some extent for the economy of the cooker. If you are asked why the Aga cannot be made to work electrically, that is the answer. (It is worth while knowing the exact rates at which gas and electricity are purveyed in your districts).

« I prefer turning on a tap or a switch. »

Fuelling the Aga is dustproof. Show in the Catalogue how the fuel is injected. It is easier and quicker to inject coke once or twice a day than to turn switches and taps and wait for the heat.

Continue: The top oven is always hot ….

« Too much work to carry coke from coal cellar to kitchen. »

Not in a super container with a good handle. It is easier to carry coke than to turn witches and taps all day long and wait for heat.

Continue: And think of all the heat you get for such infinitesimal trouble …

« Too much work to remove ashes and clinker, and think of the dust. »

Combustion is so complete that the ashes do not contain any soot and are as clean as toilet powder. Ash removal with a special shovel every day or so is as simple a habit as brushing your teeth. Combustion is so steady and controlled that slag and clinker are not produced.

Continue: The combustion is complete and there is no waste. That explains why the cooker gets away with only 7-lbs of coke a day.

« Does the fire often go out ? »

The only possible causes for the fire going out is that the cook has forgotten to fill the barrel. This may happen once or twice at first, but in a few days filling becomes a habit.

Even if the fire goes out it does not much matter , as the cooker stays hot enough to cook on for at least twelve hours afterwards.

Continue: This point illustrates the heat storage principle, always ready, always on duty ….

« Is the Aga difficult to light ? »

Fantastically easy. Light it exactly like any other fire only using charcoal instead of wood for kindling. we give a lavish present of charcoal with the cooker, and this will last for many lightings. Our fitter will show you all the dodges when he comes to erect the cooker.

Continue: There are Agas which have been burning continuously for several years. There is no reason on earth why they should not go on burning for several more ….

« Does it take a terrible time to get hot when lit for cold ? »

No.. The top plates are hot in an hour or two and the ovens in two or three hours.

Continue: If you go away for a weekend you fill up with anthracite. The cooker will then burn for forty-eight hours after stoking, and will remain hot for seventy-two hours. You can prolong your weekend all Monday as well and still return to a warm kitchen …

« Will my chimney give the correct draught? »

If the old range has burnt well there is nothing to fear with the Aga.

Continue: We come along and inspect your chimney to see that everything will be in order. If we find anything wrong it is our policy to tell you so honestly and at once, so that the appropriate remedy can be applied. We find honesty in these matters pays ourselves as well as our customers. we are only too often accused of gross understatement in our advertising; we prefer to leave exaggeration to Aga users, who represent a huge army of salesmen.

« Can the Aga share a flue with an independent boiler? »

Yes. The only stipulation is that a damper must make it possible to shut off the boiler end of the flue when the boiler is out of use. This is invariably the case anyway.

Continue: We come along and inspect your kitchen and leave no stone unturned to make the installation satisfactory beforehand. This policy obviates subsequent domestic upheaval for our customers and saves ourselves money in the long run.

« Can the Aga give off unpleasant fumes? »

The flue construction makes this quite impossible; a striking manifestation of the inventor’s genius. [You will some-times come across people with unfortunate gassing experiences of closed stoves. Try to avoid the subject as it introduces the wrong atmosphere.]

Continue: The extra air inlet is also a brilliant safety device to prevent overheating in the event of the ashpit door being left open. The Aga is both fool-proof and knave-proof.

« Can the Aga make toast? »

Extremely well. If you are in a showroom toast a piece. One Aga demonstrator recently made toast for thirty school masters on one Cooker in twenty minutes, three pieces at a time. To the prospect who has positive information that her neighbour’s Aga makes toast like white tiles, admit that the old Aga was rather weak in this regard; the present Cooker is so fast that it toasts diabolically well.

Continue: Toasting an old-fashioned range was no picnic …

« Two hot plates are not enough to hold all our saucepans before elaborate meals. »

The Cooking Oven holds seven saucepans and each hot plate holds three, making a total capacity of 13 saucepans.. Cooks prefer to put their saucepans away in the Cooking Oven so that they do not have to bother about them, and can concentrate on the job at hand.

Continue: The Cooking Oven cuts out rush and flurry …

« The Roasting Oven is too small. »

This objection should invariably be anticipated. The answer is given under ATTACK.

« How maddening not to be able to regulate the Roasting Oven. »

The answer to this objection is also given under Attack.

« Does the smell of food cooking on the Aga penetrate all over the house? »

Nothing so impolite. The ovens ventilate direct into the flue so that all cooking smells are dispersed up the chimney.

How different from ordinary ovens, which irresponsibly discharge their perfume into the kitchen.

Continue: Kitchen conditions are improved …

« I don’t believe food could cook properly in the Cooking Oven. »

How dare you! Why do you think we call it a cooking oven? But keep your temper, and explain that unlike the haybox the Aga oven is heated.

Continue: Rush cooking breeds indigestion. Can your stomach cope with porridge cooked in the ordinary way? Quite so.

« My cook must have an open fire to sit by. »

Agreed. But not to cook on, any more than you would cook on your drawing-room fire. Is there a servants’ hall, or an independent boiler to sit by?

Continue: The Aga kitchen is always warm, even first thing in the morning, without the bother of laying and lighting a fire..

« Can you heat radiators? »

No. There are limits, you will be surprised to hear. The Aga principle of heat conservation is the precise opposite of radiation.

Continue: The Aga is itself a radiator and you will always have one warm room in the house …

« My cooker must heat the bath water as well. »

Explain that, as somebody with experience of heating engineering, you would strongly advise one heat unit for cooking and another separate unit for hot water; to combine the two units results inevitably in outrageous fuel consumption, and that kind of Victorian inefficiency which means hot bath and cold oven, or hot oven and cold bath.

Continue: The Aga is called a « Cooker. » and, by heaven, that is what it is! Off you go again on the cooking advantages.

« I have heard of somebody who is dissatisfied. »

Probably at second hand. These malicious reports are spread by jealous people who have not got an Aga. Express grave concern and try to find out the name and address so that you can rush away then and there to put matters right. In this way you will give the prospect a foretaste of willing service.

Continue: Do you know so-and-so, who has just put in an Aga? Go on mentioning all the satisfied owners in the district until you find someone whose name is familiar to the prospect.

« How long does it take to install? »

Generally one day for removing the old cooker or range, and one day for erecting the Aga. We do not want to do your builder out of a job; he can attend to the preparatory work.

Continue: Delivery can be obtained immediately, in spite of the flood of orders recently received. We have just installed one for so-and-so. (Mention all the recent installations in the district).

« My cook is a perfect fool. She could never manage the Aga. »

Anyone who tolerates a fool in the kitchen is herself a dumb-bell. The Aga might have been designed for fools-no tricky temperature regulations to worry about, no taps or switches to remember to turn off, no temptation to suicide by self-ovening, no danger of any kind. Any idiot can contract the habits-they become almost reflex actions-of semi-automatic stoking and riddling. In two large hospitals the Aga are entirely managed by certified lunatics.

Continue: The Aga turns a second-class cook into a first-class cook, and we have a special department, run on the lines of a super domestic science school, to help users with their cooking problems and, if necessary, to instruct cooks in the elemental details of Aga management.

« I don’t want to change just at present. »

If it is summer, point out how cool the Aga would make the kitchen. If it is winter, how nice it would be to have a warm kitchen.

Continue: You lose money and miss good food every day you are without an Aga. How can anybody afford not to own one?

« Improvements have been made, you admit. A better model may come out and I mean to wait and see. »

A very good argument for never buy a motor car.

Improvements are in detail only and can normally be incorporated in earlier models. Honestly, you know of no new model in the offing.

Continue: He who hesitates is lost.

(It is equally true that he who is not for you is against you. Polite prospects choose this way of conveying to you that they are not « sold. » Learn to recognise this gambit and begin again).

« I am only renting my present house. »

The Aga is not a fixture. You can take with you when you move. We make a small charge for dismantling and re-erecting it in your new house.

Continue: A great advantage of the Aga is its simplicity so far as installation is concerned ….
3. Competitors

Try and avoid being drawn into discussing competitive makes of cooker, as it introduces a negative and defensive atmosphere. On no account sling mud-it can carry very little weight, coming from you, and it will make the prospect distrust your integrity and dislike you. The best way to tackle the problem is to find out all you possibly can about the merits, faults and sales arguments of competitors, and then keep quiet about them. Profound knowledge of other cookers will help you put your positive case for Aga more convincingly.

To the inveterate tap-fuel enthusiast – the gas and electricity maniac – argue the general superiority of solid fuel appliances in their most modern development; their safety, reliability, air-conditioning, simplicity, economy and so on. Gas and electricity are made from coal; why not cut out the intermediate processes and burn the coal itself? Coal miners love the Aga. It brings solid fuel back to pre-eminence as the cheapest, cleanest, and most labour-saving fuel. One coal mine has actually installed an Aga in its own canteen.

If you are invited to give your opinion of any particular make of cooker, damn it with faint praise.. What you leave unsaid will kill.
4. Price DEFENSE

It pays to approach this subject off your own bat and in your own time, as described here.
Sami.is.free

Voir enfin:

Pierre Bourdieu – L’iconoclasme spécifique accompli par un artiste suppose une maîtrise virtuose du champ artistique
Entretien avec l’historien Roger Chartier diffusé dans « Les chemins de la connaissance » (partie 5, 1988)

Roger Chartier : Il me semble que ton travail s’oriente dans ses derniers développements vers des voies un peu inattendues, en particulier par cette étude proposée sur Flaubert, Manet, un moment particulier de l’histoire du champ esthétique, littéraire et pictural. Est-ce que ça veut dire que c’est une manière d’essayer de se disculper par ce retour à des individualités et à un objet plus noble ? Quelqu’un qui a écrit un livre sur la distinction et qui s’est occupé d’objets aussi peu distingués que les consommations alimentaires ou les goûts les plus ordinaires, peut-être là trouverait la manière de relégitimer tout son travail en se portant vers des objets les plus légitimes. Est-ce que là tu n’es pas en train de te soumettre toi-même à un certain nombre d’analyses que tu as proposées en voulant redistinguer par l’objet et non plus par le travail ?

Pierre Bourdieu : Certains ne manqueront pas de dire que c’est associé au vieillissement et à la consécration sociale… Ce qui est d’ailleurs une loi commune au vieillissement des savants. La consécration, très souvent, s’accompagne d’un changement des objets : plus on est consacré dans un champ, plus on a le droit à des ambitions planétaires. Par exemple, les savants ont souvent une deuxième carrière en tant que philosophes. Moi, j’ai le sentiment que ce n’est pas le cas et que c’est la logique même de mon travail qui m’a amené à cette étude. A la liste que tu as donnée, on pourrait ajouter Heidegger, un autre penseur central. Au fond, Manet, Flaubert, Heidegger, pourraient être considérés respectivement, si on voulait faire un palmarès, comme le plus peintre des peintres, le plus écrivain des écrivains et le plus philosophe des philosophes. C’est la logique normale de mon travail, et en particulier la compréhension du processus de genèse d’un champ, qui m’a conduit à m’intéresser à eux. Dans le cas de Flaubert et de Manet, je pense que ce sont des personnages qui doivent être considérés comme des fondateurs de champs. Je prends l’exemple de Manet qui est le plus net. On avait une peinture académique, des peintres d’Etat, des peintres fonctionnaires qui étaient à la peinture ce que les professeurs de philosophie sont à la philosophie – sans méchanceté -, c’est à dire des gens qui avaient une carrière de peintres, qui étaient recrutés par des concours, qui avaient des classes préparatoires avec les mêmes procédures de bizutage, de nivellement, d’abrutissement et de sélection. Et puis un personnage, Manet, arrive ; il est passé par ces écoles. Ca, c’est extrêmement important ; c’est une chose que Weber dit en passant dans son livre sur le judaïsme antique : on n’oublie toujours que le prophète sort du rang des prêtres ; le Grand Hérésiarque est un prophète qui va dire dans la rue ce qui se dit normalement dans l’univers des docteurs. Manet est dans ce cas ; il est l’élève de Couture ; c’est un peintre semi-académique ; et il commence déjà à faire des histoires dans l’atelier de Couture ; il critique la manière de faire asseoir les modèles ; il critique les poses antiques, il critique tout ça… Puis, il commence à faire une chose extraordinaire – comme un premier collé du concours de l’Ecole Normale qui se mettrait à contester l’Ecole Normale – : au lieu d’intérioriser la sanction sous la forme de la malédiction – chose que nous connaissons bien dans le milieu universitaire -, il conteste l’univers et il le défie sur son propre terrain. C’est le problème de l’hérésiarque, le chef de sectes qui affronte l’église et lui oppose un nouveau principe de légitimation, un nouveau goût. Le problème est de se demander comment ce goût apparaît : qu’est-ce qu’il y a dans son capital, sa famille, son origine, et surtout son univers social de relations, ses amis, etc. Je fais un travail que bizarrement aucun historien n’avait jamais fait. Ou alors de façon plus anecdotique, j’essaie d’étudier l’univers des amis de Manet, l’univers des amis de la femme de Manet qui étaient pianistes et qui jouaient du Schuman, ce qui était l’avant-garde à l’époque. Je cherche à résoudre une question tout à fait fondamentale ; celui qui saute hors de l’institution universitaire ou les institutions académiques saute dans le vide. J’ai évoqué le drame du premier collé tout à l’heure parce que beaucoup des auditeurs ont au moins une connaissance indirecte de cette expérience. Le problème du premier collé, c’est qu’il ne peut même pas penser à contester l’institution qui l’a collé ; ça ne lui vient même pas à l’esprit ; et s’il y pense, il se trouve jeté dans le néant. Manet en est là : « Si je ne fais pas de la peinture académique, est-ce que je ne cesse pas d’exister ? ». Il faut avoir du culot pour résister à l’excommunication. Pour résoudre ce problème là, Il faut comprendre ce que Manet avait comme ressources qu’on appellerait psychologiques mais qui en fait ont des bases sociales : ses amis, ses relations artistiques, etc. Voilà le travail que je fais. Je vais au plus individuel du plus individuel : la particularité de Manet, à savoir ses rapports avec ses parents, ses amis, le rôle des femmes dans ses relations… et en même temps à l’étude de l’espace dans lequel il se situait pour comprendre le commencement de l’art moderne.

Roger Chartier : Oui, mais l’art moderne, ce n’est pas tout à fait la même chose que l’instauration d’un champ de la production picturale. La constitution globale du champ qui implique aussi les positions de ceux qui ne font pas de l’art moderne renvoie nécessairement à d’autres déterminants. Ou est-ce que tu penses que simplement le coup de tonnerre que donne Manet recompose tout un ensemble de positions pour les faire cohabiter comme des positions contradictoires et affrontées à l’intérieur de quelque chose qui est neuf et qui est justement ce champ ?

Pierre Bourdieu : Tu as tout à fait raison de me corriger. Je donnais une vision tout à fait classique du révolutionnaire exclu, isolé, etc. J’étais tout à fait mauvais. La vérité, c’est ce que tu dis. Manet institue l’univers dans lequel plus personne ne peut dire qui est peintre, ce qu’est le peintre comme il faut. Pour employer un grand mot, un monde social intégré, c’est à dire celui que régissait l’Académie est un monde dans lequel il y a un nomos, c’est à dire une loi fondamentale et un principe de division. Le mot grec « nomos » vient du verbe « nemo » qui veut dire diviser, partager. Une des choses que nous acquérons à travers la socialisation, ce sont des principes de division qui sont en même temps des principes de vision : masculin/féminin, humide/sec, chaud/froid, etc. Un monde bien intégré, académique dit qui est peintre et qui ne l’est pas ; l’Etat dit que c’est un peintre parce qu’il est certifié peintre. Du jour où Manet fait son coup, plus personne ne peut dire qui est peintre. Autrement dit, on passe du nomos à l’anomie, c’est à dire à un univers dans lequel tout le monde est légitimé à lutter à propos de la légitimité. Plus personne ne peut dire qu’il est peintre sans trouver quelqu’un qui contestera sa légitimité de peintre. Et le champ scientifique est de ce type, c’est un univers dans lequel il est question de la légitimité mais il y a lutte à propos de la légitimité. Un sociologue peut toujours être contesté dans son identité de sociologue. Plus le champ avance, plus son capital spécifique s’accumule, plus, pour contester la légitimité d’un peintre, il faut avoir du capital spécifique de peintre. Apparemment, les mises en forme de contestation radicale, par exemple les peintres conceptuels d’aujourd’hui qui apparemment mettent en question la peinture doivent avoir une formidable connaissance de la peinture pour mettre en question adéquatement, picturalement la peinture et non pas comme l’iconoclaste primaire. L’iconoclasme spécifique accompli par un artiste suppose une maîtrise virtuose du champ artistique. Ce sont des paradoxes mais qui apparaissent à partir du moment où il y a un champ. La naïveté qui consiste à dire « Il peint comme mon fils » est typique de quelqu’un qui ne sait pas ce qu’est un champ. Un autre exemple est celui du douanier Rousseau qui était naïf mais le naïf n’apparaît que quand il y a un champ – de même que le naïf religieux n’apparaît que quand il y a un champ religieux… C’est quelqu’un qui devient peintre pour les autres. C’est Picasso, Apollinaire, etc. qui ont fait du douanier Rousseau un peintre en le pensant à partir du champ de la peinture. Mais lui-même ne savait pas ce qu’il faisait. L’opposé du douanier Rousseau, c’est Duchamp qui est le premier à avoir maîtrisé de manière quasi parfaite – ce qui ne veut pas dire consciente – les lois du champ artistique et le premier à avoir joué de toutes les ressources que donne cette institutionnalisation de l’anomie.

Roger Chartier : Mais alors si on applique la même perspective sur ce qui constitue les sciences sociales, est-ce que tu dirais que la constitution d’une discipline comme discipline est l’équivalent de la constitution d’un champ tel que tu viens de le décrire pour le champ de production picturale ?

Pierre Bourdieu : Il faut qu’il y ait un jeu et une règle du jeu pratique. Un champ ressemble beaucoup à un jeu mais une des différences majeures étant que le champ est un lieu où il y une loi fondamentale, des règles mais il n’y a personne qui dit les règles comme pour un sport, une fédération… Et finalement, il y a des régularités immanentes à un champ, des sanctions, des censures, des récompenses sans que tout ça ait été institué. Le champ artistique, par exemple, a la particularité d’être le moins institutionnalisé de tous les champs. Par exemple, il y a relativement peu d’instances de consécration. Cela dit, il y a champ quand on est obligé de se plier – sans même procéder à une opération consciente – à un ensemble de lois de fonctionnement de l’univers. Prenons dans le champ philosophique l’exemple d’Heidegger avec ses idées nazies ; être antisémite deviendra être antikantien. Ce qui est intéressant, c’est cette espèce d’alchimie que le champ impose : ayant à dire des choses nazies, si je veux les dire de telle manière que je sois reconnu comme philosophe, je dois les transfigurer au point que la question de savoir si Heidegger était nazi ou pas n’a aucun sens. Il est certain qu’il était nazi mais ce qui est intéressant, c’est de voir comment il a dit des choses nazies dans un langage ontologique.

Roger Chartier : Ce que tu avances là permet de se sortir des grandes naïvetés réductionnistes. Les historiens passant d’une analyse des positions sociales, des structures sociales à une analyse des objets ou des pratiques culturelles ont pratiqué autant que d’autres une sorte de court-circuit en mettant en rapport directement la production et la position, ceci, soit à l’échelle de l’individu en mettant très mécaniquement en rapport ce qui était produit avec l’individu producteur, soit alors à l’échelle de groupes. Par exemple, beaucoup de discussions sur les formes de « culture populaire » se sont enlisées dans cette mise en rapport sans aucune médiation. Alors, je crois que l’idée de traduction, de médiation, de retravail dans une langue et dans un système qui est imposé par l’état du champ est un apport décisif. Même question que pour la perspective sur la notion d’habitus : que fait-on du champ avant le champ ? Comment peut-on essayer de repérer dans ce langage ce qui peut se dire, à un moment donné, constitué, organisé à l’intérieur d’un espace commun – même si les positions qui y sont occupées sont complètement contradictoires et antagonistes – alors même que cet espace commun n’existe pas ? Par exemple, je suis en train de faire un travail sur Molière, plus particulièrement sur George Dandin, une de ses pièces. Je crois qu’on peut dire que le théâtre au dix-septième siècle est une des manières de viser des progrès qui ensuite seront constitués avec d’autres langages, d’autres formes dans le savoir sociologique. Je crois que ce n’est pas revenir à la notion du précurseur – cette idée un peu stupide qui consiste à faire une galerie de portraits à partir de Montesquieu ou même plus haut. Cette idée n’a aucun sens. En revanche, ce qui a du sens, c’est de comprendre à travers quel type de discours, de formes peuvent se viser des objets qui ensuite seront constitués comme les objets propres du champ sociologique

Pierre Bourdieu : Oui, tout à fait. Encore une fois, il y a beaucoup de contribution dans ce que tu viens de dire. Je pourrai apporter un autre exemple à côté de celui de Molière, c’est celui du roman au dix-neuvième siècle. Communément, on dit que Balzac est le précurseur de la sociologie. En fait, pour moi, le plus sociologue des romanciers, c’est Flaubert. Cet exemple surprend souvent puisqu’il est en même temps l’inventeur du roman formel. Il y a eu, à mon avis, à tort un effort, en particulier de la part des romanciers du Nouveau Roman, pour constituer Flaubert comme inventeur du roman pur, du roman formel, sans objet, etc. En réalité, Flaubert est le plus réaliste, sociologiquement, de tous les romanciers, en particulier dans L’éducation sentimentale et en particulier, parce qu’il est formel. On peut dire exactement la même chose de Manet dont les recherches formelles étaient en même temps des recherches de réalisme. Je pense que le travail de recherche formelle dans le cas de Flaubert a été l’occasion d’une anamnèse sociale, de retour du refoulé social. Et Flaubert, à la faveur d’une recherche purement formelle, a fait un travail qui a consisté à expectorer sa propre expérience du monde social et à faire une objectivation de la classe dominante de son temps qui rivalise avec les plus belles analyses historiques. Quand j’avais fait ma première analyse de L’éducation sentimentale, je l’ai envoyée à un certain nombre d’amis, dont un philosophe qui m’a demandé si la vision de l’espace social bourgeois que propose Flaubert était sociologiquement fondée. Je pense que Flaubert n’a pas su lui-même complètement qu’il produisait cette analyse. Ce travail sur la forme était en même temps un travail sur lui-même, un travail de socio-analyse dont il produisait la vérité objective de ce qui lui faisait écrire un roman. On a dit naïvement que Flaubert s’identifie à Frédéric ; en fait, Flaubert produisait le roman d’un personnage qui occupait la même position que Flaubert dans l’espace social et qui, occupant cette position, n’arrivait pas à écrire un roman. Bon, là, on pourrait développer à l’infini ; ça poserait tous les problèmes de la fonction de la sociologie, le rôle d’anamnèse, de socioanalyse, du rapport entre le roman et le discours scientifique. Une question qui, moi, m’a beaucoup fait réfléchir : pourquoi la traduction en langage sociologique du contenu de L’éducation sentimentale révolte les amoureux de Flaubert ? Je comprends tout à fait bien cette expérience ; je pense que j’aurais été révolté, il y 20 ans, par les analyses que je propose aujourd’hui. Cela dit, ça fait réfléchir sur les formes de l’objectivation. Je pense que, selon les états du champ, les formes d’objectivation seront différentes. Je vais employer une analogie au risque de paraître compliqué. Les guerres de religion sont la forme que prennent les guerres civiles dans l’état de différenciation des champs où le champ politique n’est pas encore différencié du champ religieux. Il y a une espèce de lutte pâteuse où les guerres de paysans sont à la fois des guerres religieuses. Se demander si elles sont politiques ou religieuses est idiot : elles sont aussi politiques que possibles dans les limites d’un espace où le politique n’étant pas constitué comme tel, le seul terrain, c’est la religion. De même, je pense que Molière, comme tu l’as montré à propos de George Dandin, peut constituer une forme d’objectivation de sociologie, de rapports bourgeoisie/noblesse, de systèmes de classements, etc. Il dit le plus possible dans l’état des systèmes de censure.

Roger Chartier : Oui, dire le plus possible ou dire autrement. Là, on revient à un problème qu’on a traité, celui de l’écriture. Il semble, à travers tout ce que tu dis, qu’il y a presque comme une fascination nostalgique par rapport à cette écriture littéraire qui pourrait peut-être dire avec un impact, une force beaucoup plus grande que celle de toute écriture sociologique, même la plus achevée, la plus réussie, l’objet que tu vises. Peut-être que c’est là une question qui a trait à l’état du champ, c’est à dire, à un moment donné, lorsque le discours sociologique n’est pas constitué comme tel, la littérature – peut-être d’autres formes – occupe tout le terrain. Elle est à la fois littérature et quelque part sociologie. A partir du moment où on est dans une situation de compétition, de concurrence, de dualisme, effectivement la sociologie peut être accusée comme étant par défaut puisqu’elle ne peut pas rendre dans la langue la plus légitime, qui est celle de la littérature, des objets qui peuvent être communément visés. Et là, on a peut-être un exemple de comment un même type de discours peut changer non pas parce qu’il change lui-même mais parce que le champ dans lequel il est prononcé a lui-même changé… Sur l’identification possible, est-ce que par moments tu ne voudrais pas être Flaubert ?

Pierre Bourdieu : Oui et non. C’est évident que j’ai une certaine nostalgie. Cela dit, je pense que le fait d’être en mesure de comprendre sociologiquement les raisons pour lesquelles Flaubert n’a pu être que Flaubert – ce qui est déjà extraordinaire -, c’est à dire non sociologue alors qu’il voulait l’être, empêche de rêver d’un discours qui est un discours aliéné. Je pense que dans une certaine mesure le romancier flaubertien n’a pas pu complètement faire ce qu’il voulait faire. Il n’a pu dire ce qu’il disait sur le monde social parce qu’il le disait sur un mode tel qu’il ne se le disait pas, qu’il ne se l’avouait pas. Peut-être parce qu’il ne pouvait supporter la vérité du monde social qu’il présentait que sous une forme supportable, c’est à dire mise en forme… Les romanciers sont souvent en avance [1], par exemple, dans la compréhension des structures temporelles, dans la compréhension des structures de récits, dans la compréhension des usages du langage, etc. C’est en grande partie parce qu’étant occupés par le travail de mise en forme, ils mettent la réalité à distance ; ils touchent la réalité avec des pincettes de forme ; du coup, ils peuvent la supporter. Alors que le sociologue est insupportable parce qu’il dit les choses comme ça, sans mise en forme. La différence de forme, c’est à la fois tout et rien. Ca explique que la trans-formation que j’opère de L’éducation sentimentale en schéma, ça ne change rien et ça change tout. Et ça rend insupportable quelque chose qui était charmant parce que c’était le produit d’une dénégation et c’était re-dénié par le récepteur qui comprend tout en comprenant sans comprendre. Ca a le charme du jouet avec le feu social qui est quelque chose que personne ne veut connaître.

Roger Chartier : Oui, je crois que le rapport entre les modes d’écriture et la discipline scientifique est différent dans le cas des deux disciplines. Pour l’histoire, il est plus aisé de se mouler dans des formes de narration qui peuvent être techniquement empruntées beaucoup plus aisément à la construction littéraire, l’enjeu n’étant pas le même. En sociologie, l’enjeu, c’est la distance par rapport à l’objet lui-même.

Pierre Bourdieu : Oui, là, j’ai souvent envie de taquiner mes amis historiens qui ont un souci de l’écriture tout à fait légitime de la belle forme mais qui, je crois, souvent, s’épargnent les rudes grossièretés du concept qui sont extrêmement importantes pour faire avancer la science. Le souci du beau récit peut être très important parce il y a aussi une fonction d’évocation. Une des manières de construire un objet scientifique, c’est aussi de le faire sentir de le faire voir, de l’évoquer au sens presque micheletien – bien que je n’aime pas beaucoup ça. Evoquer une structure, c’est une des fonctions de l’historien à la différence du sociologue qui lui doit dégager l’intuition immédiate. L’historien, s’il veut parler des moines tunisiens, il va évoquer la forêt, etc. Il y a une fonction du beau style mais parfois je crois que les historiens sacrifient trop à la belle forme et dans cette mesure là, ne font pas jusqu’au bout la coupure avec l’expérience première, les adhérences esthétiques, les jouissances du rapport à l’objet.

[1] Bourdieu cite Faulkner comme « formidable romancier du discours populaire ». Cet exemple se coulait mal dans le reste du propos d’où le choix de la mise en note.

  Voir par ailleurs:

Mode d’emploi du détournement
Paru initialement dans LES LÈVRES NUES N.8
(MAI 1956)
Guy-Ernest Debord / Gil J. Wolman
B I B L I O T H E Q U E ~ V I R T U E L L E

Tous les esprits un peu avertis de notre temps s’accordent sur cette évidence qu’il est devenu impossible à l’art de se soutenir comme activité supérieure, ou même comme activité de compensation à laquelle on puisse honorablement s’adonner. La cause de ce dépérissement est visiblement l’apparition de forces productives qui nécessitent d’autres rapports de production et une nouvelle pratique de la vie. Dans la phase de guerre civile où nous nous trouvons engagés, et en liaison étroite avec l’orientation que nous découvrirons pour certaines activités supérieures à venir, nous pouvons considérer que tous les moyens d’expression connus vont confluer dans un mouvement général de propagande qui doit embrasser tous les aspects, en perpétuelle interaction, de la réalité sociale.

Sur les formes et la nature même d’une propagande éducative, plusieurs opinions s’affrontent, généralement inspirées par les diverses politiques réformistes actuellement en vogue. Qu’il nous suffise de déclarer que, pour nous, sur le plan culturel comme sur le plan strictement politique, les prémisses de la révolution ne sont pas seulement mûres, elles ont commencé à pourrir. Non seulement le retour en arrière, mais la poursuite des objectifs culturels « actuels », parce qu’ils dépendent en réalité des formations idéologiques d’une société passée qui a prolongé son agonie jusqu’à ce jour, ne peuvent avoir d’efficacité que réactionnaire. L’innovation extrémiste a seule une justification historique.

Dans son ensemble, l’héritage littéraire et artistique de l’humanité doit être utilisé à des fins de propagande partisane. Il s’agit, bien entendu, de passer au-delà de toute idée de scandale. La négation de la conception bourgeoise du génie et de l’art ayant largement fait son temps, les moustaches de la Joconde ne présentent aucun caractère plus intéressant que la première version de cette peinture. Il faut maintenant suivre ce processus jusqu’à la négation de la négation. Bertold Brecht révélant, dans une interview accordée récemment à l’hebdomadaire « France-Observateur », qu’il opérait des coupures dans les classiques du théâtre pour en rendre la représentation plus heureusement éducative, est bien plus proche que Duchamp de la conséquence révolutionnaire que nous réclamons. Encore faut-il noter que, dans le cas de Brecht, ces utiles interventions sont tenues dans d’étroites limites par un respect malvenu de la culture, telle que la définit la classe dominante : ce même respect enseigné dans les écoles primaires de la bourgeoisie et dans les journaux des partis ouvriers, qui conduit les municipalités les plus rouges de la banlieue parisienne à réclamer toujours « le Cid » aux tournées du T.N.P., de préférence à « Mère Courage ».

A vrai dire, il faut en finir avec toute notion de propriété personnelle en cette matière. Le surgissement d’autres nécessités rend caduques les réalisations « géniales » précédentes. Elles deviennent des obstacles, de redoutables habitudes. La question n’est pas de savoir si nous sommes ou non portés à les aimer. Nous devons passer outre.

Tous les éléments, pris n’importe où, peuvent faire l’objet de rapprochements nouveaux. Les découvertes de la poésie moderne sur la structure analogique de l’image démontrent qu’entre deux éléments, d’origines aussi étrangères qu’il est possible, un rapport s’établit toujours. S’en tenir au cadre d’un arrangement personnel des mots ne relève que de la convention. L’interférence de deux mondes sentimentaux, la mise en présence de deux expressions indépendantes, dépassent leurs éléments primitifs pour donner une organisation synthétique d’une efficacité supérieure. Tout peut servir.

Il va de soi que l’on peut non seulement corriger une oeuvre ou intéger divers fragments d’oeuvres périmées dans une nouvelle, mais encore changer le sens de ces fragments et truquer de toutes les manières que l’on jugera bonnes ce que les imbéciles s’obstinent à nommer des citations.

De tels procédés parodiques ont été souvent employés pour obtenir des effets comiques. Mais le comique met en scène une contradiction à un état donné, posé comme existant. En la circonstance, l’état de choses littéraire nous parraissant presque aussi étranger que l’âge du renne, la contradiction ne nous fait pas rire. Il faut donc concevoir un stade parodique-sérieux où l’accumulation d’éléments détournés, loin de vouloir susciter l’indignation ou le rire en se référant à la notion d’une oeuvre originale, mais marquant au contraire notre indifférence pour un original vidé de sens et oublié, s’emploierait à rendre un certain sublime.

On sait que Lautréamont s’est avancé si loin dans cette voie qu’il se trouve encore partiellement incompris par ses admirateurs les plus affichés. Malgré l’évidence du procédé appliqué dans « Poésies », particulièrement sur la base de la morale de Pascal et Vauvenargues, au langage théorique – dans lequel Lautréamont veut faire aboutir les raisonnements, par concentrations successives, à la seule maxime – on s’est étonné des révélations d’un nommé Viroux, voici trois ou quatre ans, qui empêchaient désormais les plus bornés de ne pas reconnaître dans « les Chants de Maldoror » un vaste détournement, de Buffon et d’ouvrages d’histoire naturelle entre autres. Que les prosateurs du « Figaro », comme ce Viroux lui-même, aient pu y voir une occasion de diminuer Lautréamont, et que d’autres aient cru devoir le défendre en faisant l’éloge de son insolence, voilà qui ne témoigne que de la débilité intellectuelle de vieillards des deux camps, en lutte courtoise. Un mot d’ordre comme « le Plagiat est n’ecessaire, le progrès l’implique » est encore aussi mal compris, et pour les mêmes raisons, que la phrase fameuse sur la poésie qui « doit être faite par tous ».

L’oeuvre de Lautréamont – que son apparition extrêmement prématurée fait encore échapper en grande partie à une critique exacte – mis à part, les tendances au détournement que peut reconnaître une étude de l’expression contemporaine sont pour la plupart inconscientes ou occasionnelles; et, plus que dans la production esthétique finissante, c’est dans l’industrie publicitaire qu’il faudra en chercher les plus beaux exemples.

On peut d’abord définir deux catégories principales pour tous les éléments détournés, eet sans discerner si leur mise en présence s’accompagne ou non de corrections introduites dans les originaux. Ce sont les détournements mineurs, et les détournements abusifs.

Le détournement mineur est le détournement d’un élément qui n’a pas d’importance propre et qui tire donc tout son sens de la mise en présence qu’on lui fait subir. Ainsi des coupures de presse, une phrase neutre, la photographie d’un sujet quelconque.

Le détournement abusif, dit aussi détournement de proposition prémonitoire, est au contraire celui dont un élément significatif en soi fait l’objet; élément qui tirera du nouveau rapprochement une portée différente. Un slogan de Saint-Just, une séquence d’Einsenstein par exemple.

Les oeuvres détournées d’une certaine envergure se trouveront donc le plus souvent constituéees par une ou plusieurs séries de détournements abusifs-mineurs.

Plusieurs lois sur l’emploi du détournement se peuvent dès à présent établir.

C’est l’élément détourné le plus lointain qui concourt le plus vivement à l’impression d’ensemble, et non les éléments qui déterminent directement la nature de cette impression. Ainsi dans une métagraphie relative à la guerre d’Espagne la phrase au sens le plus nettement révolutionnaire est cette réclame incomplète d’une marque de rouge à lèvres : « les jolies lèvres ont du rouge ». Dans une autre métagraphie (« Mort de J.H. ») cent vingt-cinq petites annonces sur la vente de débits de boissons traduisent un scuicide plus visiblement que les articles de journaux qui le relatent.

Les déformations introduites dans les éléments détournés doivent tendre à se simplifier à l’extrême, la principale force d’un détournement étant fonction directe de sa reconnaissance, consciente ou trouble, par la mémoire. C’est bien connu. Notons seulement aui si cette utilisation de la mémoire implique un choix du public préalable à l’usage du détournement, ceci n’est qu’un cas particulier d’une loi générale qui régit aussi bien le détournement que tout autre mode d’action sur le monde. L’idée d’expression dans l’absolu est morte, et il ne survit momentanément qu’une singerie de cette pratique, tant que nosautres ennemis survivent.

Le détournement est d’autant moins opérant qu’il s’approche d’une réplique rationnelle. C’est le cas d’un assez grand nombre de maximes retouchées par Lautréamont. Plus le caractère rationnel de la réplique est apparent, plus elle se confond avec le banal esprit de répartie, pour lequel il s’agit également de faire servir les paroles de l’adversaire contre lui. Ceci n’est naturellement pas limité au langage parlé. C’est dans ceet ordre d’idées que nous eûmes à débattre le projet de quelques-uns de nos camarades visant à détourner une affiche antisoviétique de l’organisation fasciste « Paix et Liberté » – qui proclamait, avec vues de drapeaux occidentaux emmêlés, « l’union fait la force » – en y ajoutant la phrase « et les coalitions font la guerre ».

Le détournement par simple retournement est toujours le plus immédiat et le moins efficace. Ce qui ne signifie pas qu’il ne puisse avoir un aspect progressif. Par exemple cette appellation pour une statue et un homme : « le Tigre dit Clemenceau ». De même la messe noire oppose á la construcion d’une ambiance qui se fonde sur une métaphysique donnée, une construction d’ambiance dans le même cadre, en renversant les valeurs, conservées, de cette métaphysique.

Des quatre lois qui viennent d’être énoncées, la première est essentielle et s’applique universellement. Les trois autres ne valent pratiquement que pour des éléments abusifs détournés.

Les premières conséquences apparentes d’une génération du détournement, outre les pouvoirs intrinsèques de propagande qu’il détient, seront la réappropriation d’une foule de mauvais livres; la participation massive d’écrivains ignorés; la différenciation toujours plus poussée des phrases ou des oeuvres plastiques qui se trouveront être à la mode; et surtout une facilité de la production dépassant de très loin, par la quantité, la variété et la qualité, l’écriture automatique d’ennuyeuse mémoire.

Non seulement le détournement conduit à la découverte de nouveaux aspects du talent, mais encore, se heurtant de front à toutes les conventions mondaines et juridiques, il ne peut manquer d’apparaître un puissant instrument culturel au service d’une lutte de classes bien comprise. Le bon marché de ses produits est la grosse artillerie avec laquelle on bat en brêche toutes les murailles de Chine de l’intelligence. Voici un réel moyen d’enseignement artistique prolétarien, la première ébauche d’un communisme littéraire.

Les propositions et les réalisations sur le terrain du détournement se multiplient à volonté. Limitons nous pour le moment à montrer quelques possibilités concrètes à partir des divers secteurs actuels de la communication, étant bien entendu que ces divisions n’ont de valeur qu’en fonction des techniques d’aujourd’hui, et tendent toutes à disparaître au profit de synthèses supérieures, avec les progrès de ces techniques.

Outre les diverses utilisations immédiates des phrases détournées dans les affiches, le disque ou l’émission radiophonique, les deux principales applications de la prose détournée sont l’écriture métagraphique et, dans une moindre mesure, le cadre romanesque habilement perverti.

Le détournement d’une oeuvre romanesque complète est une entreprise d’un assez mince avenir, mais qui pourrait se révéler opérante dans la phase de transition. Un tel détournement gagne à s’accompagner d’illustrations en rapports non-explicites avec le texte. Malgré les difficultés que nous ne nous dissimulons pas, nous croyons qu’il est possible de parvenir à un instructif détournement psychogéographique du « Consuelo » de George Sand, qui pourrait être relancé, ainsi maquillé, sur le marché littéraire, dissimulé sous un titre anodin comme « Grande Banlieue », ou lui-même détourné comme « La Patrouille Perdue » (il serait bon de réinvestir de la sorte beaucoup de titres de films dont on ne peut plus rien tirer d’autre, faute de s’être emparé des vieilles copies avant leur destruction, ou de celles qui continuent d’abrutir la jeunesse dans les cinémathèques).

L’écriture métagraphique, aussi arriéré que soit par ailleurs le cadre plastique où elle se situe matériellement, présente un plus riche débouché à la prose détournée, comme aux autres objets ou images qui conviennent. On peut en juger par le projet, datant de 1951 et abandonné faute de moyens financiers suffisants, qui envisageait l’arrangement d’un billard électrique de telle sorte que les jeux de ses lumières et le parcours plus ou moins prévisible de ses billes servissent à une interprétation métagraphique-spaciale qui s’intitulerait « des sensations thermiques et des désirs des gens qui passent devant les grilles du musée de Cluny, une heure environ après le coucher du soleil en novembre ». Depuis, bien sûr, nous savons qu’un travail situationniste-analytique ne peut progresser scientifiquement par de telles voies. Les moyens cependant restent bons pour des buts moins ambitieux.

C’est évidemment dans le cadre cinématographique que le détournement peut atteindre à sa plus grande efficacité, et sans doute, pour ceux que la chose préoccupe, à sa plus grande beauté.

Les pouvoirs du cinéma sont si étendus, et l’absence de coordination de ces pouvoirs si flagrante, que presque tous les films qui dépassent la misérable moyenne peuvent alimenter des polémiques infinies entre divers spectateurs ou critiques professionnels. Ajoutons que seul le conformisme de ces gens les empêche de trouver des charmes aussi prenants et des défauts aussi criants dans les films de dernière catégorie. Pour dissiper un peu cette risible confusion des valeurs, disons que « Naissance d’une Nation », de Griffith, est un des films les plus importants de l’histoire du cinéma par la masse des apports nouveaux qu’il représente. D’autre part, c’est un film raciste : il ne mérite donc absolument pas d’être projeté sous sa forme actuelle. Mais son interdiction pure et simple pourrait passer pour regrettable dans le domaine, secondaire mais susceptible d’un meilleur usage, du cinéma. Il vaut bien mieux le détourner dans son ensemble, sans même qu’il soit besoin de toucher au montage, à l’aide d’une bande sonore qui en ferait une puissante dénonciation des horreurs de la guerre impérialiste et des activités du Ku-Klux-Klan qui, comme on sait, se poursuivent à l’heure actuelle aux Etats-Unis.

Un tel détournement, bien modéré, n’est somme toute que l’équivalent moral des restaurations des peintures anciennes dans les musées. Mais la plupart des films ne méritent que d’être démembrés pour composer d’autres oeuvres. Evidemment, cette reconversion de séquences préexistantes n’ira pas sans le concours d’autres éléments : musicaux ou picturaux, aussi bien qu’historiques. Alors que jusqu’à présent tout truquage de l’histoire, au cinéma, s’aligne plus ou moins sur le type de bouffonnerie des reconstitutions de Guitry, on peut faire dire à Robespierre, avant son exécution : « malgré tant d’épreuves, mon expérience et la grandeur de ma tâche me font juger que tout est bien ». Si la tragédie grecque, opportunément rajeunie, nous sert en cette occasion à exalter Robespierre, que l’on imagine en retour une séquence du genre néo-réaliste, devant le zinc, par exemple, d’un bar de routiers – un des camionneurs disant sérieusement à un autre : « la morale était dans les livres des philosophes, nous l’avons mise dans le gouvernement des nations ». On voit ce que cette rencontre ajoute en rayonnement à la pensée de Maximilien, à celle d’une dictature du prolétariat.

La lumière du détournement se propage en ligne droite. Dans la mesure où la nouvelle architecture semble devoir commencer par un stade expérimental baroque, le complexe architectural – que nous concevons comme la construction d’un milieu ambiant dynamique en liaison avec des styles de comportement – utilisera vraisemblablement le détournement des formes architecturales connues, et en tout cas tirera parti, plastiquement et émotionnellement, de toutes sortes d’objets détournés : des grues ou des échafaudages métalliques savamment disposés prenant avantageusement la relève d’une tradition sculpturale défunte. Ceci n’est choquant que pour les pires fanatiques du jardin à la française. On se souvient que, sur ses vieux jours, d’Annunzio, cette pourriture fascisante, possédait dans son parc la proue d’un torpilleur. Ses motifs patriotiques ignorés, ce monnument ne peut qu’apparaître plaisant.

En étendant le détournement jusqu’aux réalisations de l’urbanisme, il ne serait sans doute indifférent à personne que l’on reconstituât minutieusement dans une ville tout un cartier d’une autre. L’existence, qui ne sera jamais trop déroutante, s’en verrait réellement embellie.

Les titres mêmes, comme on l’a déjà vu, sont un élément radical du détournement. Ce fait découle de deux constatations générales qui sont, d’une part, que tous les titres sont interchangeables, et d’autre part qu’ils ont une importance déterminante dans plusieurs disciplines. Tous les romans policiers de la « série noire » se ressemblent intensément, et le seul effort de renouvellement portant sur le titre suffit à leur conserver un public considérable. Dans la musique, un titre exerce toujours une grande influence, et rien ne justifie vraiment son choix. Il ne serait donc pas mauvais d’apporter une ultime correction au titre de la « Symphonie héroïque » en en faisant, par exemple, une « Symphonie Lénine ».

Le titre contribue fortement à détourner l’oeuvre, mais une réaction de l’oeuvre sur le titre est inévitable. De sorte que l’on peut faire un usage étendu de titres précis empruntés à des publications scientifiques (« Biologie littorale des mers tempérées ») ou militaires (« Combats de nuit des petites unités d’infanterie ») ; et même de beaucoup de phrases relevées dans les illustrés enfantins (« De merveilleux paysages s’offrent à la vue des navigateurs »).

Pour finir, il nous faut citer brièvement quelques aspects de ce que nous nommerons l’ultra-détournement, c’est-à-dire les tendances du détournement à s’appliquer dans la vie sociale quotidienne. Les gestes et les mots peuvent être chargés d’autres sens, et l’ont été constamment à travers l’histoire, pour des raisons pratiques. Les sociétés secrètes de l’ancienne Chine disposaient d’un grand raffinement de signes de reconnaissance, englobant la plupart des attitudes mondaines (manière de disposer des tasses ; de boire ; citations de poèmes arrêtées à des moments convenus). Le besoin d’une langue secrète, de mots de passe, est inséparable d’une tendance au jeu. L’idée-limite est que n’importe quel signe, n’importe quel vocable, est susceptible d’être converti en autre chose, voire en son contraire. Les insurgés royalistes de la Vendée, parce qu’affublés de l’immonde effigie du coeur de Jésus, s’appelaient l’Armée Rouge. Dans le domaine pourtant limité de la politique, cette expression a été complètement détournée en un siècle.

Outre le langage, il est possible de détourner par la même méthode le vêtement, avec toute l’importance affective qu’il recèle. Là aussi, nous trouvons la notion de déguisement en liaison étroite avec le jeu. Enfin, quand on en arrive à construire des situations, but final de toute notre activité, il sera loisible à tout un chacun de détourner des situations entières en en changeant délibérément telle ou telle condition déterminante.

Les procédés que nous avons sommairement traités ici ne sont pas présentés comme une intention qui nous serait propre, mais au contraire comme une pratique assez communément répandue que nous nous proposons de systématiser.

La théorie du détournement par elle-même ne nous intéresse guère. Mais nous la trouvons liée à presque tous les aspects constructifs de la période de transition présituationniste. Son enrichissement, par la pratique, apparaît donc comme nécessaire.

Nous remettons à plus tard le développement de ces thèses.


Syndrome du passant: Attention, un effet de foule peut en cacher un autre (Kitty Genovese 50 years on: From Queens to Guangzhou, the Good Neighbor question reaches the ends of the earth)

3 mai, 2014
http://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/6450d-kitt.gif?w=446&h=563
Je vous le dis en vérité, toutes les fois que vous avez fait ces choses à l’un de ces plus petits de mes frères, c’est à moi que vous les avez faites. Jésus (Matthieu 25: 40)
Un docteur de la loi (…) voulant se justifier, dit à Jésus : Et qui est mon prochain ? Jésus reprit la parole, et dit : Un homme descendait de Jérusalem à Jéricho. Il tomba au milieu des brigands, qui le dépouillèrent, le chargèrent de coups, et s’en allèrent, le laissant à demi mort. Un sacrificateur, qui par hasard descendait par le même chemin, ayant vu cet homme, passa outre. Un Lévite, qui arriva aussi dans ce lieu, l’ayant vu, passa outre. Mais un Samaritain, qui voyageait, étant venu là, fut ému de compassion lorsqu’il le vit. Il s’approcha, et banda ses plaies, en y versant de l’huile et du vin ; puis il le mit sur sa propre monture, le conduisit à une hôtellerie, et prit soin de lui. Le lendemain, il tira deux deniers, les donna à l’hôte, et dit : Aie soin de lui, et ce que tu dépenseras de plus, je te le rendrai à mon retour. Lequel de ces trois te semble avoir été le prochain de celui qui était tombé au milieu des brigands ? C’est celui qui a exercé la miséricorde envers lui, répondit le docteur de la loi. Et Jésus lui dit : Va, et toi, fais de même. Jésus (Luc 10 : 25-37)
Alors les scribes et les pharisiens amenèrent une femme surprise en adultère; et, la plaçant au milieu du peuple, ils dirent à Jésus: Maître, cette femme a été surprise en flagrant délit d’adultère. Moïse, dans la loi, nous a ordonné de lapider de telles femmes: toi donc, que dis-tu? Ils disaient cela pour l’éprouver, afin de pouvoir l’accuser. Mais Jésus, s’étant baissé, écrivait avec le doigt sur la terre. Comme ils continuaient à l’interroger, il se releva et leur dit: Que celui de vous qui est sans péché jette le premier la pierre contre elle. Et s’étant de nouveau baissé, il écrivait sur la terre. Quand ils entendirent cela, accusés par leur conscience, ils se retirèrent un à un, depuis les plus âgés jusqu’aux derniers; et Jésus resta seul avec la femme qui était là au milieu. Alors s’étant relevé, et ne voyant plus que la femme, Jésus lui dit: Femme, où sont ceux qui t’accusaient? Personne ne t’a-t-il condamnée? Elle répondit: Non, Seigneur. Et Jésus lui dit: Je ne te condamne pas non plus: va, et ne pèche plus. Jean 8: 3-11
Notre monde est de plus en plus imprégné par cette vérité évangélique de l’innocence des victimes. L’attention qu’on porte aux victimes a commencé au Moyen Age, avec l’invention de l’hôpital. L’Hôtel-Dieu, comme on disait, accueillait toutes les victimes, indépendamment de leur origine. Les sociétés primitives n’étaient pas inhumaines, mais elles n’avaient d’attention que pour leurs membres. Le monde moderne a inventé la « victime inconnue », comme on dirait aujourd’hui le « soldat inconnu ». Le christianisme peut maintenant continuer à s’étendre même sans la loi, car ses grandes percées intellectuelles et morales, notre souci des victimes et notre attention à ne pas nous fabriquer de boucs émissaires, ont fait de nous des chrétiens qui s’ignorent. René Girard
Of course I heard the screams. But there was nothing I could do. I was afraid. My hands were trembling. I couldn’t have dialed for an operator if I’d tried. Woman
At one point I thought maybe a girl was being raped – but if she was out alone at that hour, it served her right. Woman
That was none of my business. I attend to my own affairs. Woman
For the most part, the witnesses, crouching in darkened windows like watchers of a Late Show, looked on until the play had passed from their view.
Loudon Wainwright (Life magazine)
Yeah, there was a murder. Yeah, people heard something. You can question how a few people behaved. But this wasn’t 38 people watching a woman be slaughtered for 35 minutes and saying, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be involved.’Joseph De May Jr.
I don’t think 38 people witnessed it. I don’t know where that came from, the 38. I didn’t count 38. We only found half a dozen that saw what was going on, that we could use. I believe that many people heard the screams It could have been more than 38. And anyone that heard the screams had to know there was a vicious crime taking place. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. Charles Skoller (former assistant district attorney)
Where others might have seen them as villains, psychologists see these people as normal. Professor Takooshian
According to police reports, 62 people admitted hearing Kitty’s screams. Many of them did not see anything when they looked out their windows (or told police they hadn’t looked). But about 30 admitted seeing part of Kitty’s ordeal. What and how much they saw varied, but two things are certain: All those who went to their windows did so in response to the screams of Genovese, and many remained for a prolonged period of time. Testimony from trial witnesses confirms this, as do the contemporary press interviews. As one man (who did not testify at trial) told LIFE magazine, “I woke up about the third scream . . . I forgot the [window]screen was there and I almost put my head through it trying to get a better look. I could see people with their heads out and hear windows going up and down all along the street.” One thing even the revisionists concede is that a great number of reporters descended on Kew Gardens in the wake of the explosive Times article. This long-lost news coverage from defunct papers such as the New York Journal-American and Long Island Star-Journal, to name but two, supplements rather than contradicts the Times account. They contain many interviews and quotes, gathered while memories were fresh and consciences hurting. (…) Completely absent are any claims that anyone called the police before the single call noted at 3:50 a.m., a half-hour after all sides agree that Genovese was first attacked. Don’t believe the mythbusters. A young woman was attacked. She screamed. She wept. She cried out, “Help me. Please, if somebody doesn’t help me I am going to die.” That’s what at least one witness heard, according to a statement she gave police. Dozens of her neighbors who had good reason to know full well that a crime was in progress chose not to get involved. Even so, the stigma on Kew Gardens is the only thing worth reconsidering. The witnesses weren’t chronically hard-hearted New Yorkers who couldn’t bother with intervening while a neighbor was murdered. They were normal people hobbled by a mix of fear, self-interest and apathy. We all fail at times, and how bravely we behave varies from day to day, moment to moment. Herein lies the value in recalling the murder of Kitty Genovese in all its disturbing, depressing reality: not to engage in pointless debates about how many witnesses, but to inspire us to fail less often. Catherine Pelonero
J’en appelle à la conscience collective, en tant que représentant du ministère public, je suis inquiet de ce visage d’une société où on est capable de prendre une autre rame en laissant seule une femme face à son agresseur. Il est là l’effroi aujourd’hui…, poursuit le procureur. Se dire que dans notre société, on ne pourra pas compter sur la collectivité. Cette société m’inquiète et me questionne, c’est vraiment chacun pour soi, même dans les moments difficiles.  Mehidine Faroudj (procureur)
Parfois, il suffit de dire: « stop, arrêtez », s’approcher, faire un pas, sortir son téléphone, appeler la police. Il suffirait qu’une seule personne se Ieve dans le métro pour que les autres accompagnent. Luc Belvaux
Chacun pense que quelqu’un d’autre va intervenir. Ce qui serait simple à faire pour un témoin, c’est se tourner vers les autres témoins, et non pas aller directement vers l’agresseur. Essayer de recruter d’autres témoins pour intervenir à plusieurs. Pierre-Yves Cusset
Il y a une dilution de la responsabilité qui fait que chacun reporte sur l’autre la responsabilité d’intervenir, et n’intervient pas lui-même. Clothilde Lizion (psychologue)
La Chine, ta moralité fout le camp… Mais alors pourquoi me permets-je d’être aussi virulent, me direz-vous ? Tout simplement après ce que j’ai vu et entendu récemment au sujet d’un jeune homme, qui a porté assistance à une personne âgée qui avait chuté, et qui s’est vu traîner en justice par sa prétendue victime, qui l’a accusé de l’avoir fait chuter lui-même… hallucinant, vous exclamerez-vous, et vous aurez bien raison. Si l’on se retrouve en justice pour avoir tendu une main secourable, où va t-on ? Si l’affaire en était restée là, et ce serait déjà beaucoup, on n’en aurait peut-être plus parlé. Mais que croyez-vous qu’il arrivât ? Le jeune homme a été condamné à prendre en charge les soins de la vieille dame indigne, par un juge visiblement mal inspiré, dont le verdict a reçu une volée de bois vert de la part des internautes chinois. Vous l’aurez deviné, il s’agit de l’affaire Peng Yu. Si cette affaire était restée unique, elle serait demeurée comme une curiosité des annales judiciaires et on n’en aurait bientôt plus parlé après quelques semaines, quelques mois tout au plus. Sauf que… sauf qu’il s’avère que ce genre d’affaires s’est multiplié depuis, et que comme nous sommes à une époque de l’information, où beaucoup d’informations circulent, et plus encore si elles sont insolites ou sensationnelles, le pays tout entier l’a su. Ce qui fait que désormais, nombreux sont ceux qui hésitent à porter secours à quelqu’un en difficulté, bien que leur nature humaine, leur coeur, les porteraient naturellement à tendre la main sans réfléchir aux conséquences. Résultat pervers, un vieil homme est mort il y a quelques jours dans une rue de Wuhan après avoir fait une chute, sans que personne ne lui porte secours avant l’arrivée d’une ambulance. (…) Certains journalistes et commentateurs ont abondamment commenté cette affaire, et ils en ont tiré la conclusion que d’une part, devant la légèreté manifeste avec laquelle le premier juge s’est prononcé, il serait peut-être bon que la Cour suprême se penche sur le cas et tranche d’une façon plus équitable, plus conforme à la justice. Et j’approuve tout à fait ces commentateurs et journalistes, car cette première décision a servi d’exemple, elle a fait jurisprudence, et ce n’est pas un bon exemple, c’est le moins que l’on puisse dire, puisque depuis, plus d’une personne mal intentionnée, mais pas bête, a compris tout le parti que l’on pouvait en tirer et s’est engouffrée dans la brèche créée par ce juge qui a clairement fait preuve de légèreté et n’a pas mesuré les conséquences de sa décision. Leur deuxième idée, et là encore je les approuve pleinement, est d’appeler à l’adoption d’un texte législatif qui d’un côté protège les bons samaritains et de l’autre punisse sévèrement ceux qui se seraient livrés à une fausse accusation. Car pour eux, ces personnes pour le moins indélicates se rendent coupables d’au moins deux fautes : d’une part ils encombrent les tribunaux, déjà suffisamment chargés par des affaires autrement sérieuses, et d’autre part, agissant ainsi ils se livrent à une véritable extorsion de fonds, dans laquelle les rôles deviennent inversés et où le bon samaritain devient un coupable. Le monde à l’envers. Une fois de plus ces journalistes et commentateurs ont tout à fait raison, mais quant à moi, je rajouterais une troisième faute, et pas des moindres : ces fausses victimes, par leur plainte injustifiée, se moquent de la justice. Donc de l’Etat. Et du peuple, au nom de qui la justice est rendue. Il est donc évident qu’une loi s’impose, mais comme cela ne se fera pas du jour au lendemain, on ne peut que souhaiter que la Cour Suprême, en attendant, donne instruction aux juridictions inférieures de se montrer particulièrement vigilantes et circonspectes dans l’hypothèse où elles auraient à juger ce genre d’affaires. Faute de quoi, les personnes qui n’osent plus intervenir face à un accident risquent d’être de plus nombreuses, et que les conséquences fatales que nous avons connues à Wuhan risquent de se multiplier. Laurent Devaux

Attention: un effet de foule peut en cacher un autre !

Au lendemain de l’agression sexuelle la semaine dernière d’une jeune femme dans le métro de Lille qui a vu apparemment une dizaine de témoins refuser d’intervenir …

Comment ne pas repenser à la tristement fameuse affaire Genovese qui il y a exactement 50 ans avait tant choqué l’Amérique et mené, suite aux expériences de Darley et Latane quatre ans plus tard, à la création d’un syndrome du même nom (le syndrome Genovese dit aussi syndrome du passant) et toute une branche de la psychologie collective …

Et où, après la mise en cause morale de tout un quartier puis les tentatives plus ou moins sérieuses de relativisation, on découvrait en fait l’effet d’un mécanisme psychologique général …

A savoir que, cas particulier des phénomènes de foule bien étudiés par Le Bon et Tarde, le groupe qui par mimétisme peut conduire au lynchage ou à l’action bienfaitrice ou héroïque (le pharisien qui, suite à l’interpellation du Christ, refuse de jeter la première pierre, rompant ainsi par son exemple l’unanimité violente prête à se déchainer contre la femme adultère) peut aussi induire la plus pure passivité fasse à l’agression d’un tiers ?

Mais comment aussi ne pas s’émerveiller, à l’heure où la Chine elle-même commence à se poser la question de lois contre la non-assistance à personne en danger et même pour la protection du bon samaritain, de cette incroyable mondialisation de ce souci judéo-chrétien de la victime devenu désormais planétaire ?

The truth about Kitty Genovese
50 years after the infamous Queens murder, dangerous revisionism is rampant
Catherine Pelonero
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
March 2, 2014

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The 21st century revisionism of the iconic and infamous 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, the young woman attacked on a street in Kew Gardens, Queens and slain in a hallway of her apartment building while her pleas for help went unanswered, gives a glaring example of this old maxim.

Indeed, little bits of knowledge about what happened the night Genovese died – a fact here, a factoid there; speculation, spin and select pieces of a larger narrative – have been variously patched together in recent years by would-be debunkers.

They have sought to transform the horrifying ordeal of this woman dying while her unresponsive neighbors failed to act into something far more sanitized than what was reported at the time. Their new-and-improved, it-really-wasn’t-so-bad-after-all version is based on a stubborn insistence that the original account was a myth invented by an overzealous reporter.

As the author of a new book on the killing, on which I devoted seven years of research and inquiry, I want people to know: Though some details of the initial story may have been incorrect, the fundamental narrative holds up to scrutiny. Genovese’s neighbors failed her, and that likely cost her her life.

Genovese’s murder gained instant notoriety and worldwide attention back in March of 1964 when The New York Times printed an article on its front page with the headline, “37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police.” Written by reporter Martin Gansberg, who had spent two days in Kew Gardens researching the story, the article gave a detailed account (attributed to detectives and witnesses found and interviewed by Gansberg) of the harrowing final half-hour of 28-year-old Genovese’s life.

Driving home to Kew Gardens in the wee hours of March 13, 1964, Genovese had been followed by a man named Winston Moseley, a stranger, who later told police he had been driving around that night looking for a woman to kill.

Gansberg’s article recounted Moseley’s stalking and stabbing of Kitty, her screams for help, Moseley’s retreat after a neighbor yelled at him to “leave that girl alone,” and his return to hunt and kill her. The article claimed Kitty had been attacked three times over a half-hour period while 38 of her neighbors heard her screams and watched parts of her ordeal, but failed to help or call police until it was too late.

Only one of the 38 eventually called police; the other 37 did not. Emphasized was the fact that this happened not in a crime-ridden ghetto, but in a good, clean, middle class neighborhood populated by, in Gansberg’s words, “respectable, law-abiding citizens.”

It was a shocking story, horrible to contemplate in its implications of the human condition (or the inhuman condition of New Yorkers, as some saw it.) It caused a sensation. It left a mark of shame on the quiet community of Kew Gardens. Explaining the chilling collective callousness of Genovese’s neighbors would become a staple of psychology classes for decades to come.

Then, over the years, came the debunkers — attempting to turn a stain on New York City’s conscience into something far more innocuous.

The debunkers claim far fewer than 38 people saw what was happening to Kitty.

They insist that most who saw or heard didn’t understand she needed help.

Additionally, they claim some people did call the police that night, although this seems to contradict the claim that the witnesses didn’t know Genovese needed help in the first place.

My closer look at the actual existing evidence via police reports, trial transcripts (in their entirety as opposed to select bits), and, perhaps most telling of all, statements made by witnesses and residents at the time to reporters from long forgotten newspapers, suggests that rather than shedding new light on an iconic crime, so-called debunkers have instead produced a PG-13 version of the Genovese murder, edited for content — and obscuring the truth.

To be fair, there are errors in the famous New York Times article. Gansberg wrote there were three attacks, but Winston Moseley’s confession and court testimony claimed only two. This discrepancy was acknowledged by the Times in 1964 in their coverage of Moseley’s trial.

Gansberg did not fabricate an extra attack; at least two witnesses told police they thought Kitty had been assaulted an additional time. It’s also true – and this is a major point to the revisionists, the smoking gun that supposedly proves the whole story is a myth – that all 38 people did not watch for all 30 minutes. The problem with this “revelation” is that the famous Times article not only described Kitty’s final journey around to the back of her apartment building; it also included an overhead photograph with arrows showing her path.

Obviously, Genovese did not remain in view of witnesses in the front of Austin Street after she finally managed to stagger around the corner. To say that the New York Times attempted to fool people into thinking otherwise is disingenuous.

At any rate, perhaps the best response to the stubborn effort to debunk comes from one of the original case detectives who was there that morning, questioning these witnesses. He said to me: “Come on, the woman has been screaming, staggering down the street. How much do you need to see?”
error; EXP; Handout What happened here?

The origin of the number 38—which has also been hotly disputed by those seeking to unravel what they believe is a myth — falls in a gray area. Months after the publication of Gansberg’s article, New York Times editor A.M. Rosenthal wrote a short book, “Thirty-Eight Witnesses,” in which he claimed it was Police Commissioner Michael Murphy who first mentioned the number. People close to Gansberg, who passed away in 1995, say that Gansberg counted the witnesses for his article himself. At this point it is likely impossible to discern exactly where the notorious number came from.

In his book, Rosenthal also diminished Gansberg’s standing, referring to him as a “copy editor” and “new at reporting.” In doing so, Rosenthal unwittingly lent fuel to the latter-day revisionists who cite this as proof that Martin Gansberg was a cub reporter eager to make a name for himself.

In reality, Gansberg at the time was a 22-year veteran of the New York Times, neither inexperienced nor in need of a career boost. Gansberg had served as managing editor of the Times international edition. He had asked to step down from management to return to reporting, a profession he revered.

The more important point is: If anything, the number 38 is in some sense an understatement.

According to police reports, 62 people admitted hearing Kitty’s screams. Many of them did not see anything when they looked out their windows (or told police they hadn’t looked). But about 30 admitted seeing part of Kitty’s ordeal. What and how much they saw varied, but two things are certain: All those who went to their windows did so in response to the screams of Genovese, and many remained for a prolonged period of time. Testimony from trial witnesses confirms this, as do the contemporary press interviews.

As one man (who did not testify at trial) told LIFE magazine, “I woke up about the third scream . . . I forgot the [window]screen was there and I almost put my head through it trying to get a better look. I could see people with their heads out and hear windows going up and down all along the street.”

One thing even the revisionists concede is that a great number of reporters descended on Kew Gardens in the wake of the explosive Times article. This long-lost news coverage from defunct papers such as the New York Journal-American and Long Island Star-Journal, to name but two, supplements rather than contradicts the Times account. They contain many interviews and quotes, gathered while memories were fresh and consciences hurting.

“Of course I heard the screams,” one woman told the Long Island Star-Journal. “But there was nothing I could do. I was afraid. My hands were trembling. I couldn’t have dialed for an operator if I’d tried.”

Others took a defiant tack, such as the woman who told reporters from the New York Journal-American, “That was none of my business. I attend to my own affairs.”

At the chilling end of the spectrum was the man who, according to the Journal-American, said of Genovese’s screams: “At one point I thought maybe a girl was being raped – but if she was out alone at that hour, it served her right.”

Completely absent are any claims that anyone called the police before the single call noted at 3:50 a.m., a half-hour after all sides agree that Genovese was first attacked.

The first rumblings of a suggestion that maybe someone called the police after all seems to have coincided with the 20-year anniversary of the murder in 1984. By this time, most of the witnesses had died or moved away, so it was not they but their former neighbors who made blanket statements to reporters — without giving any names or specifics — that the cops had been called.

If anyone really did call the police that night, we have to wonder why none of them said so back in 1964, when Kew Gardens was crawling with reporters from rival newspapers, hounding residents for any new tidbits of information. That would have been quite the scoop.

Don’t believe the mythbusters. A young woman was attacked. She screamed. She wept. She cried out, “Help me. Please, if somebody doesn’t help me I am going to die.” That’s what at least one witness heard, according to a statement she gave police. Dozens of her neighbors who had good reason to know full well that a crime was in progress chose not to get involved.

Even so, the stigma on Kew Gardens is the only thing worth reconsidering. The witnesses weren’t chronically hard-hearted New Yorkers who couldn’t bother with intervening while a neighbor was murdered. They were normal people hobbled by a mix of fear, self-interest and apathy. We all fail at times, and how bravely we behave varies from day to day, moment to moment.

Herein lies the value in recalling the murder of Kitty Genovese in all its disturbing, depressing reality: not to engage in pointless debates about how many witnesses, but to inspire us to fail less often.

Pelonero is author of “Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and its Private Consequences.”

Voir aussi:

Kitty, 40 Years Later
Jim Rasenberger
NYT
February 8, 2004

KEW Gardens does not look much like the setting of an urban horror story. Nestled along the tracks of the Long Island Rail Road, 16 minutes by train from Pennsylvania Station, the Queens neighborhood is quiet and well kept, its streets shaded by tall oaks and bordered by handsome red-brick and wood-frame houses. At first glance, the surroundings appear as remote from big-city clamor as a far-flung Westchester suburb.

Forty years ago, on March 13, 1964, the picturesque tranquillity of Kew Gardens was shattered by the murder of 28-year-old Catherine Genovese, known as Kitty. The murder was grisly, but it wasn’t the particulars of the killing that became the focus of the case. It was the response of her neighbors. As Ms. Genovese screamed —  »Please help me! Please help me! » — 38 witnesses did nothing to intervene, according to reports; nobody even bothered to call the police. One witness later explained himself with a phrase that has passed into infamy:  »I didn’t want to get involved. »

Seldom has a crime in New York City galvanized public outrage so intensely. Newspapers spread the story across the nation and as far away as Istanbul and Moscow. Clergymen and politicians decried the events, while psychologists scrambled to comprehend them.

At a time when the world seemed to be unraveling — Kennedy had been assassinated four months earlier, Harlem was on the verge of race riots, crime rates were suddenly taking off — the case quickly expanded into an all-consuming metaphor for the ills of contemporary urban life. A psychiatrist speculated that television had rendered the witnesses inactive by making them almost delusional. Other observers cited a general moral collapse of modern society.

 »When you have this general sense that things are going wrong, you look for events that are going to confirm that, » said Neal Gabler, author of  »Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality. »  »A society in which people are indifferent to one another; a society in which no one cares; a society in which we are all atomized. Here you had a story that confirmed all of those anxieties and fears. »

But for all that has been said and written about Ms. Genovese’s murder, important questions persist. Some Kew Gardens residents maintain, even now, that there were fewer than 38 witnesses and that many of them could not have seen much of the killing — in other words, that there was less cold-heartedness in Kew Gardens than has been commonly portrayed. Psychologists continue to grapple with the social implications of the neighbors’ response. And then there is the woman who occupies the tragic center of this landmark case: some of the details of Ms. Genovese’s life have tended to get lost beneath the appalling circumstances of her death.

A Peaceful Life

Kitty Genovese, the petite eldest child of an Italian-American family, grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn. When her family moved to New Canaan, Conn., she stayed in the city and, in the spring of 1963, settled in Kew Gardens. With a roommate, Mary Ann Zielonko, she took an apartment in a two-story Tudor-style building on Austin Street, near the village, as residents referred to the central cluster of shops. Across the street rose one of the few high-rises in the neighborhood, an elegant 10-story apartment house called the Mowbray.

Tony Corrado, an 84-year-old upholsterer who has owned a small shop on Austin Street since the 1950’s, recalls the day a cheerful Ms. Genovese moved in. She knocked on his door and asked him to give her help carrying a sofa up the stairs.  »That was my introduction to Kitty, » Mr. Corrado said.  »I remember saying, boy, gonna be a lot of wild parties up there. I thought they were airline stewardesses, which we had a lot coming in. »

In fact, Ms. Genovese worked as manager at a tavern in Hollis, Queens, called Ev’s 11th Hour, and she and Ms. Zielonko lived a quiet, peaceful life over Mr. Corrado’s shop. Crime rates were still low in the spring of 1963, and many residents slept with their doors unlocked. A cat burglar had recently made the rounds, and occasionally a loud drunk stumbled out of the Old Bailey bar, but these were minor disturbances.  »I used to say, gee, nothing ever happens in Kew Gardens, » Mr. Corrado recalled.  »And all of a sudden, this nightmare. »

The nightmare struck a year after Ms. Genovese moved in. Shortly after 3 a.m. on that night in March, she was driving home from Ev’s 11th Hour. As she stopped her Fiat at a red light, she caught the eye of Winston Moseley, a business machine operator from Ozone Park. He had been cruising the streets in his white Corvair, searching for a woman to mutilate.

Mr. Moseley tailed Ms. Genovese to Kew Gardens, to the paved lot of the railroad station. When she got out of her car, he followed on foot. Ms. Genovese began to run up Austin Street, but he quickly caught up and stabbed her in the back. As she screamed, he stabbed her again, then twice more. A window opened in the Mowbray and a man’s voice called out:  »Leave that girl alone! »

Mr. Moseley later told the police he was not that concerned about the voice —  »I had a feeling this man would close his window and go back to sleep, » he said — but he ran off upon hearing it. He moved his car to a more discreet location, changed his hat, then returned. He found Ms. Genovese collapsed in a foyer in the back of her building and finished what he’d begun on Austin Street, stabbing and slashing her repeatedly, then leaving her to die.

The Community as Villain

Kitty Genovese’s murder did not initially attract much attention from the press — The New York Times gave it four paragraphs — but 10 days later, A.M. Rosenthal, then metropolitan editor of The Times, happened to meet Police Commissioner Michael J. Murphy for lunch. Mr. Moseley had just been arrested and had confessed to the murders of both Ms. Genovese and another young woman. When the subject turned to Mr. Moseley’s double confession, Mr. Murphy, who is dead, mentioned the 38 witnesses.  »Brother, » he said,  »that Queens story is one for the books. »

As Mr. Rosenthal later recounted in his own book about the Genovese case,  »Thirty-Eight Witnesses, » he knew he’d just been handed a startling scoop, and he assigned it to a reporter, Martin Gansberg, that afternoon. A few days later, Mr. Gansberg, who died in 1995, filed his story, and it soon appeared on the front page.

 »For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens, » the article began.  »Twice the sound of their voices and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out and stabbed her again. »

Beginning with its plain but indelible first sentence, the article suggested that 38 eyewitnesses had seen all, or at least a substantial part, of the killing; that they had  »watched » it for half an hour, almost as if gaping at a performance. The Times was first to describe this horrifying spectacle, but it would soon have plenty of company. Writing in Life magazine, Loudon Wainwright put it like this:  »For the most part, the witnesses, crouching in darkened windows like watchers of a Late Show, looked on until the play had passed from their view. »

A pall fell over Kew Gardens in the months after the murder.  »People had an impression of Kew Gardens that was unbelievable, » said Charles Skoller, a Queens assistant district attorney at the time who would help prosecute the killer at his insanity trial.  »The entire community was villainous. »

Slowly, though, life returned to its tranquil ways in Kew Gardens. Slowly, the residents began to shake off their stigma. And slowly, some of them began to insist that the portrayal of their neighborhood had been unfair, based on exaggerated accounts by police and journalists. As Mr. Corrado said,  »Kew Gardens got a bad rap. »

In the years since Ms. Genovese’s death, this charge has been repeated a handful of times in newspaper articles, including a Daily News column by John Melia in 1984 and, more briefly, a 1995 account in The Times. No one, though, has ever undertaken the task of defending Kew Gardens as assiduously as Joseph De May Jr.

A More Complex View

It was never the intention of Mr. De May, a 54-year-old maritime lawyer, to spend hundreds of hours analyzing a decades-old murder. Indeed, he had little interest in the subject of Kitty Genovese’s death until two years ago. That is when he decided, as a hobby, to create a nostalgic Web site devoted to Kew Gardens, where he’d lived for almost 30 years. If he was going to delve into his neighborhood’s past, he reasoned, he’d certainly have to consider its most notorious episode.

In the end, Mr. De May’s conclusion about the murder is that, while the behavior of the witnesses was hardly beyond reproach, the common conception of exactly what occurred that night is not in fact what occurred. What did occur, he argues, is far more complex and far less damning to the residents of Kew Gardens.

 »Yeah, there was a murder, » Mr. De May said.  »Yeah, people heard something. You can question how a few people behaved. But this wasn’t 38 people watching a woman be slaughtered for 35 minutes and saying, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be involved. »’

Mr. De May began his research with the seminal Times article of March 27, 1964.  »I remember reading through it, then putting it down and thinking, ‘Well, this doesn’t hang together at all, »’ he said.  »And then I read it again carefully. I knew the area. I knew the crime scene because I go by there every day. »

Mr. De May soon found himself poring through legal documents related to the case, scouring books and articles, and interviewing neighbors. At one point, he even ran the route of Ms. Genovese’s flight up Austin Street, timing it with a watch. He became convinced that his first impression was correct.  »Here’s something that everyone thinks happened, » he said,  »that isn’t so. »

His argument, made in full at oldkewgardens.com, boils down to two claims: that the great majority of the 38 so-called witnesses did not see any part of the actual killing; and that what most of them did see, or hear, was fleeting and vague.

To begin, he points out that there were two attacks on Kitty Genovese, not three, as The Times initially indicated. The newspaper later acknowledged the discrepancy — it was caused by confused police accounts — but three is still given as the number of attacks, recently in  »The Tipping Point » by Malcolm Gladwell and  »New York: An Illustrated History » by Ric Burns and James Sanders. Since the extra attack was supposed to have occurred in full view of surrounding windows, it added to an impression of callous disregard by neighbors.

Of the two attacks that did occur, the first was on Austin Street, across from the Mowbray. Contrary to what some accounts imply, Mr. De May, citing courtroom testimony, contends that this first attack must have lasted only minutes before Mr. Moseley jogged off to his car. By the time most witnesses heard the screams and made it to their windows, Mr. De May argues, they saw just a young woman walking or stumbling alone down Austin Street toward the side of her building, then vanishing around the corner.

Every bit as significant as the brevity of the first attack, Mr. De May believes, was the location of the second, more sustained attack. This occurred in a narrow foyer at the back of Ms. Genovese’s building, indoors and facing away from the Mowbray toward the railroad tracks. This is where Kitty had gone to seek safety, and where Mr. Moseley discovered her. Only one witness, a man who lived at the top of the stairs, could have seen what occurred in that foyer, Mr. De May said.

Charles Skoller, the former assistant district attorney, supports part of Mr. De May’s conclusion.  »I don’t think 38 people witnessed it, » said Mr. Skoller, now retired.  »I don’t know where that came from, the 38. I didn’t count 38. We only found half a dozen that saw what was going on, that we could use. »

But Mr. Skoller is far less willing than Mr. De May to forgive the neighbors. Even if not all saw the crime, Mr. Skoller is convinced they heard it.  »I believe that many people heard the screams, » he said.  »It could have been more than 38. And anyone that heard the screams had to know there was a vicious crime taking place. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. »

Many witnesses claimed they thought it was a lovers’ quarrel or a drunken argument spilling out of the Old Bailey. Mr. De May points out that a good number of the witnesses were elderly, and nearly all awoke from deep slumbers, their brains befogged, their windows shut to the cold. Furthermore, he raises the possibility that several witnesses did call the police after the first attack, but that their calls were ignored and never recorded.

A.M. Rosenthal, who went on to become executive editor of The Times, stands by the article he assigned to Mr. Gansberg 40 years ago, right down to the word  »watched » in its opening sentence. This questioning of details, he said, is to be expected.

 »In a story that gets a lot of attention, there’s always somebody who’s saying, ‘Well, that’s not really what it’s supposed to be, »’ said Mr. Rosenthal, who is retired from The Times and now writes a column for The Daily News. There may have been minor inaccuracies, he allows, but none that alter the story’s essential meaning.  »There may have been 38, there may have been 39, » he said,  »but the whole picture, as I saw it, was very affecting. »

Theory, Guilt and Loss

Nowhere was the case more affecting than among America’s psychologists.  »It was monumental, » said Harold Takooshian, a professor of urban psychology at Fordham University. Before the murder, he added,  »nobody really had any idea why people did not help, and conversely why people did help. The psychologists were really stunned by their lack of information on this. »

The first major studies prompted by the murder, conducted in the 1960’s by the psychologists Bibb Latane and John Darley, arrived at a counterintuitive conclusion: the greater the number of bystanders who view an emergency, the smaller the chance that any will intervene. People tend to feel a  »diffusion of responsibility » in groups, the two concluded. Kitty Genovese would have been better off, in other words, had one witness seen or heard her attack, rather than the reputed 38.

In the years since these experiments, the study of human altruism has developed into a whole new branch of psychology, now known as prosocial behavior.  »That area did not exist before, » Professor Takooshian said. And, still, Ms. Genovese’s death continues to haunt the field. On March 9, Professor Takooshian will host a symposium at Fordham to revisit many of the conundrums posed by that night 40 years ago.

It is psychology that probably offers the best explanation of the issues the case raised. A raft of behavioral studies performed over the last 40 years suggests that Ms. Genovese’s neighbors reacted as they reportedly did not because they were apathetic or cold-hearted, but because they were confused, uncertain and afraid.  »Where others might have seen them as villains, » Professor Takooshian said,  »psychologists see these people as normal. »

Normal or not, many of the 38 were consumed by guilt after the crime. Others simply got fed up with the negative attention, and many of them moved away from Kew Gardens.  »It was just too much for them, I guess, » said Mr. Corrado, sitting in his shop, looking out over the spot where Ms. Genovese was first attacked.

Ms. Genovese’s death hit hardest, of course, among those who loved her. This includes Mary Ann Zielonko, the young woman who moved with her to Kew Gardens — and who had the grim task of identifying her remains. One of the many little-known facts about Ms. Genovese was her close relationship with Ms. Zielonko, an omission that perhaps was understandable in 1964.  »She was actually my partner, » said Ms. Zielonko, who now lives in Vermont.  »We were lovers together. Everybody tried to hush that up. »

Ms. Zielonko still becomes emotional remembering the horror of Ms. Genovese’s death, but brightens as she recalls what she cherished.  »It sounds trite, » she said,  »but it was her smile. She had a great smile. »

William Genovese, one of Kitty’s four younger siblings, offers other memories of his sister. He remembers how she would sweep into New Canaan to visit the family in her Nash Rambler, or later in her red Fiat, fresh from the city and bubbling with new ambitions and ideas. He remembers how the two of them would stay up late into the night talking about subjects as esoteric as solipsism and Einstein’s theory of relativity.  »She and I had a special affinity, » Mr. Genovese said.

Two years after his sister’s murder, Mr. Genovese volunteered for the Marines, a decision he attributes to his disgust with public apathy.  »I became obsessed with saving people, » he said.  »When I got to Vietnam, I would have flashbacks of my sister all the time. I’d find myself in situations where I’d think, ‘This is a test.’ That’s the way I viewed it. »

Photos: Kitty Genovese, a young bar manager who lived in Kew Gardens, Queens, was attacked late one night in March 1964 as she returned from work. After the killer, Winston Moseley, stabbed her, she fled down a path, above center. But he found her in a foyer and finished the job. (Photos by Genovese, illustration by The New York Times; Moseley, United Press International; building, Joyce Dopkeen/The New York Times)(pg. 1); Ms. Genovese died in a foyer of her apartment house, second door from the corner.; The behavior of the witnesses was the focus of the Genovese case. The Mowbray, an elegant apartment house, sits across the street from where the first attack occurred. (Photo by Edward Hausner/The New York Times, 1965); (Photo by Joyce Dopkeen/The New York Times)(pg. 9)

Jim Rasenberger’s book,  »High Steel: The Daring Men Who Built the World’s Greatest Skyline, » will be published in April by HarperCollins.

Voir également:

Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police
Martin Gansberg
New York Times
March 27, 1964

For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.

Twice their chatter and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.

That was two weeks ago today.

Still shocked is Assistant Chief Inspector Frederick M. Lussen, in charge of the borough’s detectives and a veteran of 25 years of homicide investigations. He can give a matter-of-fact recitation on many murders. But the Kew Gardens slaying baffles him–not because it is a murder, but because the « good people » failed to call the police.

« As we have reconstructed the crime, » he said, « the assailant had three chances to kill this woman during a 35-minute period. He returned twice to complete the job. If we had been called when he first attacked, the woman might not be dead now. »

This is what the police say happened at 3:20 A.M. in the staid, middle-class, tree-lined Austin Street area:

Twenty-eight-year-old Catherine Genovese, who was called Kitty by almost everyone in the neighborhood, was returning home from her job as manager of a bar in Hollis. She parked her red Fiat in a lot adjacent to the Kew Gardens Long Island Railroad Station, facing Mowbray Place. Like many residents of the neighborhood, she had parked there day after day  since her arrival from Connecticut a year ago, although the railroad frowns on the practice.

She turned off the lights of her car, locked the door, and started to walk the 100 feet to the entrance of her apartment  at 82-70 Austin Street, which is in a Tudor building, with  stores in the first floor and apartments on the second.

The entrance to the apartment is in the rear of the building  because the front is rented to retail stores. At night the quiet
neigborhood is shrouded in the slumbering darkness that  marks most residential areas.

Miss Genovese noticed a man at the far end of the lot, near a  seven-story apartment house at 82-40 Austin Street. She  halted. Then, nervously, she headed up Austin Street toward  Lefferts Boulevard, where there is a call box to the 102nd Police Precinct in nearby Richmond Hill.

She got as far as a street light in front of a bookstore before the man grabbed her. She screamed. Lights went on in the 10-story apartment house at 82-67 Austin Street, which faces the bookstore. Windows slid open and voices punctuated the early-morning stillness.

Miss Genovese screamed: « Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Please help me! Please help me! »

From one of the upper windows in the apartment house, a man called down: « Let that girl alone! »

The assailant looked up at him, shrugged, and walked down Austin Street toward a white sedan parked a short distance
away. Miss Genovese struggled to her feet.

Lights went out. The killer returned to Miss Genovese, now trying to make her way around the side of the building by the
parking lot to get to her apartment. The assailant stabbed her again.

« I’m dying! » she shrieked. « I’m dying! »

Windows were opened again, and lights went on in many apartments. The assailant got into his car and drove away. Miss Genovese staggered to her feet. A city bus, 0-10, the Lefferts Boulevard line to Kennedy International Airport, passed. It was 3:35 A.M.

The assailant returned. By then, Miss Genovese had crawled to the back of the building, where the freshly painted brown
doors to the apartment house held out hope for safety. The killer tried the first door; she wasn’t there. At the second door, 82-62 Austin Street, he saw her slumped on the floor at  the foot of the stairs. He stabbed her a third time–fatally.

It was 3:50 by the time the police received their first call, from a man who was a neighbor of Miss Genovese. In two minutes they were at the scene. The neighbor, a 70-year-old woman, and another woman were the only persons on the street. Nobody else came forward.

The man explained that he had called the police after much deliberation. He had phoned a friend in Nassau County for  advice and then he had crossed the roof of the building to the  apartment of the elderly woman to get her to make the call.

« I didn’t want to get involved, » he sheepishly told police.

Six days later, the police arrested Winston Moseley, a 29-year-old business machine operator, and charged him with homicide. Moseley had no previous record. He is married, has two children and owns a home at 133-19 Sutter Avenue, South Ozone Park, Queens. On Wednesday, a court committed him to Kings County Hospital for psychiatric observation.

When questioned by the police, Moseley also said he had slain Mrs. Annie May Johnson, 24, of 146-12 133d Avenue, Jamaica, on Feb. 29 and Barbara Kralik, 15, of 174-17 140th Avenue, Springfield Gardens, last July. In  the Kralik case, the police are holding Alvin L. Mitchell, who is said to have confessed to that slaying.

The police stressed how simple it would have been to have gotten in touch with them. « A phone call, » said one  of the detectives, « would have done it. » The police may  be reached by dialing « 0 » for operator or SPring 7-3100.

Today witnesses  from the   neighborhood, which is  made up of one-family  homes in the $35,000 to $60,000  range with the exception of the two  apartment houses near  the railroad  station, find it difficult to explain why  they didn’t call the police.

A housewife, knowingly if quite casually, said, « We thought it was a lovers’ quarrel. » A husband and wife both said, « Frankly, we were afraid. » They seemed aware of the fact that events might have been different. A distraught woman, wiping her hands in her apron, said, « I didn’t want my husband to get involved. »

One couple, now willing to talk about that night, said they heard the first screams. The husband looked thoughtfully at the bookstore where the killer first grabbed Miss Genovese.

« We went to the window to see what was happening, » he  said, « but the light from our bedroom made it difficult to see the street. » The wife, still apprehensive, added: « I put out the light and we were able to see better. »

Asked why they hadn’t called the police, she shrugged and replied: « I don’t know. »

A man peeked out from a slight opening in the doorway to his  apartment and rattled off an  account of the killer’s second attack. Why hadn’t he called the police at the time? « I was tired, » he said without emotion. « I went back to bed. »

It was 4:25 A.M. when the ambulance arrived to take the  body of Miss Genovese. It drove off. « Then, » a solemn police detective said, « the people came out. »

The above reported events are true and took place on March 14, 1964.

The brutal murder of Kitty Genovese and the disturbing lack of action by her neighbors became emblematic in what many perceived as an evolving culture of violence and apathy in the United States. In fact, social scientists still debate the causes of what is now known as « the Genovese Syndrome. »

Voir encore:

http://archives.lesoir.be/non-intervention-un-phenomene-de-groupe-bien-connu-pays_t-19930827-Z0756G.html

Non-intervention: un phénomène de groupe bien connu
Pays-Bas: noyade classée «sans suite»
Mark Deppennningen
Le Soir
27 août 1993

La noyade d’une jeune Marocaine de 9 ans, samedi, devant 200 personnes apathiques massées sur la berge d’un lac proche de Rotterdam (nos éditions d’hier) continue à susciter une vive émotion aux Pays-Bas, même si le parquet de Rotterdam, après avoir annoncé son intention de poursuivre les témoins passifs de la noyade, a finalement dû se résoudre à classer l’affaire «sans suite».

Les chances d’identifier des suspects sont extrêmement minces, a déclaré un porte-parole du parquet. Ces témoins, qui n’avaient pas répondu aux appels au secours lancés par une amie de la victime et n’avaient pas jugé utile, par la suite, de prêter main-forte aux pompiers, étaient susceptibles d’être poursuivis pour non-assistance à personne en danger de mort. Certains «spectateurs» s’étaient en outre livrés, durant la noyade, à des réflexions déplacées sur les immigrés clandestins et avaient tenus des propos racistes «indignes d’être répétés», selon la police.

L’apathie d’une foule face à une situation de danger a souvent été l’objet d’études psycho-sociales. Les premières études, explique le professeur de psychologie sociale Jacques Leyens (UCL), ont été menées aux États-Unis après qu’un meurtre, précédé de violences durant une demi-heure, a été commis sur une serveuse de bar. La scène s’était déroulée devant 28 témoins, massés à la fenêtre de leurs appartements. Aucun n’était intervenu ni n’avait prévenu la police. Selon le professeur Leyens, le fait pour un individu d’être confronté à une situation d’urgence alors qu’il se trouve dans une foule diminue la perception de l’urgence à intervenir. On assiste, dit-il, à un phénomène de dilution de la responsabilité. Les gens se regardent mutuellement, croyant que l’autre va intervenir. Des expériences ont ainsi été tentées, principalement aux États-Unis. Elles ont permis de constater que le même individu confronté à une situation d’urgence réagissait «normalement» lorsqu’il était seul et faisait preuve de retard à la réaction dès lors qu’il était en groupe. Par contre, ajoute le professeur Leyens, si le groupe est constitué de personnes qui se connaissent bien, les réactions des individus qui le composent sont promptes.

Selon notre interlocuteur, ce n’est pas la perception individuelle du danger que courrait éventuellement le sauveteur (se faire tuer, se noyer soi-même…) qui motiverait l’apathie des membres d’un groupe, mais bien la situation de groupe dans laquelle ils se trouvent au moment où l’événement dont ils sont les témoins se produit.

http://www.francesoir.fr/actualite/societe/etats-unis-indignation-apres-viol-collectif-d-une-adolescente-15-ans-44752.html

Etats-Unis – Indignation après le viol collectif d’une adolescente de 15 ans
Sylvain Chazot
France Soir
1/11/09

La Californie s’interroge après le viol, la semaine dernière, d’une adolescente de 15 ans sous l’œil de plusieurs témoins. Ces derniers pourraient ne pas être poursuivis par la justice.

L’affaire fait grand bruit aux Etats-Unis. Les journalistes américains s’interrogent pendant que CNN multiplie les débats entre experts. La cause de ce déchaînement médiatique ? Le viol, la semaine dernière d’une adolescente de 15 ans, dans la ville prolétaire de Richmond, en Californie. La jeune fille aurait été violée pendant deux heures et demi par plusieurs individus dans l’enceinte même de l’école Richmond High où était organisée une soirée pour les étudiants. Selon la police, dix personnes au moins auraient participé au viol de manière active.

Dimanche, six individus avaient déjà été arrêtés. L’un d’eux pourrait être relâché, faute de preuve. La plupart des garçons incriminés sont mineurs, âgés entre 15 et 19 ans. Seul l’un d’entre eux a 21 ans. Pourtant, si les charges sont retenues contre eux, ils devraient être poursuivis comme des adultes, eut égard de la gravité du crime.
Ce fait divers sordide fait d’autant plus polémique que plusieurs dizaines d’individus auraient assisté au viol sans pour autant intervenir. Certains d’entre eux auraient pris des photos avec leur téléphone portable pendant que d’autres riaient, selon la police. Aucun n’a appelé à l’aide.
Indignation collective

Tout le débat est là : en Californie, la non-assistance à personne en danger n’est pas un délit. Depuis 1999 et l’adoption du Sherrice Iverson Child Victim Protection Act, seuls les témoins de violences portées envers un enfant ont obligation d’en faire part aux autorités. La loi concerne les enfants âgés de 14 ans ou moins et ne s’applique donc pas au viol collectif de Richmond High, la jeune fille attaquée étant âgée de 15 ans. Autrement dit, les témoins du viol ne sauraient être attaqués.

Depuis plusieurs jours, les témoignages se succèdent dans les médias. On s’indigne. Comment des témoins passif d’un viol ne pourrait-ils pas être inquiétés ? Dans l’école concernée, les élèves tentent d’expliquer ce comportement lâche, rapporte le Los Angeles Times. Certains y voient la peur de représailles. Pour d’autres, les témoins ont pu penser que la fille était consentante ou qu’il s’agissait d’une sorte « d’initiation ». Restent une envie populaire, relayée par les télés et journaux américains : l’extension du Sherrice Iverson Child Victim Protection Act à toutes les personnes, et non plus seulement aux enfants.

Samedi, les parents de la jeune fille ont appelé au calme. Par la voix de leur pasteur, ils ont souhaité que l’on ne « réponde à cet événement tragique en faisant la promotion de la haine ou en causant plus de violence. (…) Si vous devez exprimer votre outrage, enterrez votre haine sous des actions positives ». De son côté, l’adolescente est sortie de l’hôpital après quatre jours de soins.

http://www.unpeudedroit.fr/droit-penal/edito-agression-sexuelle-dans-le-metro-lillois-retour-sur-les-consequences-penales-dune-indifference-generalisee/

Agression sexuelle dans le métro lillois : retour sur les conséquences pénales d’une indifférence généralisée
Sophie Corioland
Un peu de droit

Billet d’humeur – Agression sexuelle dans le métro lillois : retour sur les conséquences pénales d’une indifférence généralisée2…

30 minutes ! Il lui faudra 30 interminables minutes pour  parvenir à trouver une personne prête à l’aider… 30 minutes pendant lesquelles elle devra se débattre, seule, pour se défaire de son agresseur, manifestement alcoolisé, dans une rame du métro. Elle appellera au secours en vain, parviendra à s’enfuir, tentera d’arrêter plusieurs voitures avant qu’enfin un automobiliste ne s’arrête. C’est vrai, la scène n’est malheureusement pas exceptionnelle sauf que cette fois-ci, elle se déroule sous les yeux de personnes qui n’ont pas voulu voir, qui n’ont pas bougé, qui ont laissé faire dans une indifférence totale…

Ces quelques lignes pourraient faire penser à l’introduction d’un roman policier ou au scénario d’une énième série policière dont nos chaines de télé nous abreuvent … sauf que cette fois, il n’est pas question de fiction. Les faits sont bien réels. Ils se sont produits mardi soir, vers 22h30, dans une rame du métro de Lille. La victime, une jeune trentenaire qui rentrait tranquillement chez elle. L’agresseur, un jeune homme de 19 ans, ivre, qui aborde la jeune femme « pour la draguer » aurait-il dit, avant de l’agresser sexuellement3. Les indifférents, les passagers de la rame du métro, plusieurs semble-t-il, selon les caméras de vidéosurveillance.
L’infraction de non-assistance à personne en danger

Alors forcément, il y a matière à la réflexion … D’autant plus, d’ailleurs, qu’il est utile de rappeler que cette « politique de l’autruche », trouve une traduction dans notre Code pénal : la non assistance à personne en danger. La non-assistance à personne en danger est prévue par l’article 223-6 du Code pénal. Selon ce texte, « quiconque pouvait empêcher par son action immédiate, sans risque pour lui ou pour les tiers, soit un crime, soit un délit contre l’intégrité corporelle de la personne, s’abstient volontairement de le faire est puni de 5 ans d’emprisonnement et de 75000 euros d’amende. Sera puni des mêmes peines quiconque s’abstient volontairement de porter à une personne en péril l’assistance que, sans risque pour lui ou pour les tiers, il pouvait lui prêter soit pas son action personnelle, soit en provoquant un secours ». Or, en l’occurrence si les faits sont confirmés, le comportement des témoins de l’agression semble bien entrer dans les prévisions de cette incrimination et plus précisément dans celles de l’alinéa 2. Tentons de décortiquer les éléments constitutifs de cette non assistance, au regard des éléments factuels dont nous disposons, afin de voir si l’incrimination peut être envisagée4.
L’élément matériel

Au niveau de l’élément matériel, le texte suppose deux choses : une personne est en péril d’une part, et d’autre part, une autre personne ne lui porte aucune assistance alors qu’elle pouvait le faire soit en agissant directement, soit en appelant les secours.

Concernant la première composante matérielle, dans l’affaire évoquée, la victime était manifestement en danger puisqu’elle était en train de subir une agression de nature sexuelle par des attouchements répétés. Traditionnellement, la jurisprudence enseigne que peu importe la nature du péril, celui-ci pouvant résulter d’un évènement quelconque (Cass. crim., 31 mai 1949, JCP 49, II, 4945, note Magnol ; Rev sc. crim. 1949, p. 746 et s., note Hugueney. On notera d’ailleurs que dans des affaires aux faits approchants, les juges ont déjà retenu la situation de « péril ». Il en fut ainsi dans une affaire d’attentat à la pudeur (CA Bourges, 21 juin 1990 : Dr. pén. 1991, comm. 135) ou encore dans une affaire de viol (Cass. crim., 8 oct. 1997 : Bull. crim. 1997, n° 329 ; Rev. sc. crim. 1998, p. 320, obs. Y. Mayaud). A cette exigence d’existence d’un péril, la jurisprudence a ajouté une autre condition, non prévue par le texte, l’imminence du péril. Sans le caractère immédiat du péril, l’infraction de non assistance en danger n’est pas retenue (par ex. : Cass. crim., 11 avril 1964, Bull. crim. n° 113). Or, là encore la condition parait remplie. L’agression était en cours.

Deuxième composante de l’élément matériel, l’omission de porter secours. Cette omission suppose une abstention, c’est-à-dire un comportement négatif : s’abstenir de faire quelque chose que la loi nous oblige à faire. En l’occurrence, il s’agit plus précisément de l’obligation de porter assistance à une personne soit par une intervention personnelle, soit en appelant les secours, voire les deux. Les juges considèrent en effet que bien que l’intervention personnelle doive être d’abord privilégiée, la nature et les circonstances de la situation peuvent imposer le recours à un tiers, voire le cumul des deux modes d’assistance ( par ex : Cass. crim., 26 juillet 1954, Bull. crim. n° 276). Pour autant, il n’est pas question de jouer les « héros », tout est question de cas par cas. Ainsi, le fait d’avoir simplement cherché de l’aide ne suffira pas forcément s’il est établi que l’intervention personnelle était possible sans risque (Trib. corr. Aix en Provence, 27 mars 1947, D. 1947, p. 304). En outre, si obligation d’assistance il y a, celle-ci ne joue que si l’assistance est possible sans risque pour soi ou pour les tiers. Enfin, il ne s’agit nullement de ce que l’on pourrait appeler une obligation de résultat. Autrement dit, peu importe que l’assistance ait été efficace ou non (V. par ex, Cass. crim., 23 mars 1953, bull. crim. n° 104 : dans cette décision, la Cour de cassation retient que celui qui s’est abstenu en raison de la gravité des blessures de la victime de porter secours, ne peut ensuite invoquer l’inefficacité de son intervention éventuelle pour justifier son comportement et contester les poursuites).

Si l’on confronte ses exigences aux faits dont nous disposons, il y a tout lieu de penser qu’une intervention était possible : soit par plusieurs témoins, soit au moins en appelant les autorités compétentes.

L’élément moral

Au niveau de l’élément moral, le délit est intentionnel. Cela veut dire qu’il faut démontrer que l’omission de porter secours a été commise volontairement. Le raisonnement doit se faire en deux temps. Il faut d’abord prouver que la personne avait conscience du péril auquel était exposée la victime (par ex : Cass. crim., 17 févr. 1972 : Bull. crim. 1972, n° 68), faute de quoi, le délit ne saurait être retenu. Dans un second temps, il faut prouver qu’en dépit de cette connaissance, la personne n’est pas intervenue volontairement. Le plus souvent, les juges déduisent l’intention des circonstances factuelles et du comportement de l’intéressé (par ex. : Cass. crim., 23 mars 1953, JCP 53, II, 7598).

Là encore, on peut supposer que les témoins de l’agression ne pouvaient pas ignorer la situation de péril dans laquelle se trouvait la victime, cette dernière appelant au secours. Reste à savoir si les juges considéreront que leur comportement traduit leur intention de ne pas intervenir …

Pour conclure, je me permettrai simplement de reprendre les propos du Procureur de la République du tribunal correctionnel de Lille lors de ses réquisitions : « en tant que représentant du ministère public, je suis inquiet de ce visage d’une société où on est capable de prendre une autre rame en laissant seule une femme face à son agresseur. Il est là l’effroi aujourd’hui… »5. Car effectivement, c’est certainement le qualificatif approprié pour cette indifférence généralisée : effrayante…

La Chine, ta moralité fout le camp !
Laurent Devaux
Le Quotidien du peuple en ligne
08.09.2011

La Chine, ta moralité fout le camp… ce titre un peu provocateur, qui paraphrase une phrase célèbre attribuée à Mme du Barry, favorite du Roi Louis XV, à la vue de son café qui débordait, va peut-être faire bondir plus d’un lecteur. Quoique, à la réflexion…

Mais alors pourquoi me permets-je d’être aussi virulent, me direz-vous ? Tout simplement après ce que j’ai vu et entendu récemment au sujet d’un jeune homme, qui a porté assistance à une personne âgée qui avait chuté, et qui s’est vu traîner en justice par sa prétendue victime, qui l’a accusé de l’avoir fait chuter lui-même… hallucinant, vous exclamerez-vous, et vous aurez bien raison. Si l’on se retrouve en justice pour avoir tendu une main secourable, où va t-on ? Si l’affaire en était restée là, et ce serait déjà beaucoup, on n’en aurait peut-être plus parlé. Mais que croyez-vous qu’il arrivât ? Le jeune homme a été condamné à prendre en charge les soins de la vieille dame indigne, par un juge visiblement mal inspiré, dont le verdict a reçu une volée de bois vert de la part des internautes chinois. Vous l’aurez deviné, il s’agit de l’affaire Peng Yu.

Si cette affaire était restée unique, elle serait demeurée comme une curiosité des annales judiciaires et on n’en aurait bientôt plus parlé après quelques semaines, quelques mois tout au plus. Sauf que… sauf qu’il s’avère que ce genre d’affaires s’est multiplié depuis, et que comme nous sommes à une époque de l’information, où beaucoup d’informations circulent, et plus encore si elles sont insolites ou sensationnelles, le pays tout entier l’a su. Ce qui fait que désormais, nombreux sont ceux qui hésitent à porter secours à quelqu’un en difficulté, bien que leur nature humaine, leur coeur, les porteraient naturellement à tendre la main sans réfléchir aux conséquences. Résultat pervers, un vieil homme est mort il y a quelques jours dans une rue de Wuhan après avoir fait une chute, sans que personne ne lui porte secours avant l’arrivée d’une ambulance. La première réflexion que tout un chacun se fait à l’évocation d’une telle tragédie, c’est de se dire que le comportement des passants a été lâche et sans coeur, et que nous, nous ne serions certainement pas restés de glace. Lui eût-on tendu la main que ce malheureux serait peut-être encore en vie aujourd’hui, et bien évidemment on ne peut que regretter un immobilisme qui a conduit à une tragédie. Les enfants de la victime s’en sont plaints devant les caméras de télévision, et on ne peut que les comprendre. Et de fait ce genre de situation est sans doute, heureusement, très rare. Mais il faut aussi, à la réflexion, essayer de comprendre les témoins de la scène. Sachant les nombreux cas récents de victimes ingrates accusant leur sauveur, qui pouvait dire si ce vieil homme, ou sa famille, n’auraient pas fait de même ?

Et c’est là que nous touchons une partie du problème, mais à mon avis elle n’est pas unique, il y a peut-être d’autres explications.

Certains journalistes et commentateurs ont abondamment commenté cette affaire, et ils en ont tiré la conclusion que d’une part, devant la légèreté manifeste avec laquelle le premier juge s’est prononcé, il serait peut-être bon que la Cour suprême se penche sur le cas et tranche d’une façon plus équitable, plus conforme à la justice. Et j’approuve tout à fait ces commentateurs et journalistes, car cette première décision a servi d’exemple, elle a fait jurisprudence, et ce n’est pas un bon exemple, c’est le moins que l’on puisse dire, puisque depuis, plus d’une personne mal intentionnée, mais pas bête, a compris tout le parti que l’on pouvait en tirer et s’est engouffrée dans la brèche créée par ce juge qui a clairement fait preuve de légèreté et n’a pas mesuré les conséquences de sa décision.

Leur deuxième idée, et là encore je les approuve pleinement, est d’appeler à l’adoption d’un texte législatif qui d’un côté protège les bons samaritains et de l’autre punisse sévèrement ceux qui se seraient livrés à une fausse accusation. Car pour eux, ces personnes pour le moins indélicates se rendent coupables d’au moins deux fautes : d’une part ils encombrent les tribunaux, déjà suffisamment chargés par des affaires autrement sérieuses, et d’autre part, agissant ainsi ils se livrent à une véritable extorsion de fonds, dans laquelle les rôles deviennent inversés et où le bon samaritain devient un coupable. Le monde à l’envers. Une fois de plus ces journalistes et commentateurs ont tout à fait raison, mais quant à moi, je rajouterais une troisième faute, et pas des moindres : ces fausses victimes, par leur plainte injustifiée, se moquent de la justice. Donc de l’Etat. Et du peuple, au nom de qui la justice est rendue. Il est donc évident qu’une loi s’impose, mais comme cela ne se fera pas du jour au lendemain, on ne peut que souhaiter que la Cour Suprême, en attendant, donne instruction aux juridictions inférieures de se montrer particulièrement vigilantes et circonspectes dans l’hypothèse où elles auraient à juger ce genre d’affaires. Faute de quoi, les personnes qui n’osent plus intervenir face à un accident risquent d’être de plus nombreuses, et que les conséquences fatales que nous avons connues à Wuhan risquent de se multiplier.

A ce sujet, qu’il me soit permis de suggérer au législateur chinois de s’inspirer du droit français en la matière ; le Code pénal français vous rend en effet passible de sanctions si vous n’avez rien fait pour porter secours à une personne en danger, sauf à ce que vous soyez vous-même mis en danger de ce fait, mais si vous intervenez, votre responsabilité ne pourra être mise en cause. Plus simplement, la loi vous oblige à aider une personne en danger, si c’est sans risque pour vous ; si vous ne le faites pas, vous risquez d’être condamné, mais si vous le faites, rien ne pourra vous être reproché. Clair et net…

Je reviens maintenant sur le choix de mon titre : voir des personnes en difficulté secourues et se retourner contre leur sauveur, n’y a t-il pas là un vrai problème de moralité ? Plus encore, il s’avère même que certaines personnes n’avaient pour ainsi dire rien, quand elles n’ont pas elles-mêmes cherché volontairement un accrochage ou simulé, comme cette personne âgée qui, à côté de son tricycle renversé, a tenté d’accuser un chauffeur de bus innocent qui s’était porté à son secours à Rugao, dans le Jiangsu. Si je me faisais l’avocat du diable, je dirais qu’en l’état actuel de la législation chinoise, elle aurait eu tort de s’en priver ! Dame, c’était tout bénéfice pour elle… au pire, elle ne risquait rien, même en ayant accusé à tort et en s’étant moqué de la justice, et au mieux, elle y aurait gagné quelque argent. Il y a là de quoi inciter quelques personnes malhonnêtes à se livrer à des manoeuvres pour le moins douteuses, ne croyez-vous pas ? Le pire a été de voir en plus ces vieilles dames indignes se pavaner ensuite devant les caméras de télévision, versant des larmes de crocodile, toute honte bue. Proprement répugnant. Cependant, je crains que ces personnes malhonnêtes n’aient pas bien réfléchi aux conséquences de leur acte, et elles pourraient bien, un jour, en payer le prix. Car imaginez un peu… la prochaine fois qu’elles chuteront dans leur escalier ou la cour de leur résidence, il y a fort à parier que personne ne lèvera le petit doigt, et qu’à se moment là, elles s’en mordront les doigts. On serait tenté de dire « bien fait pour elles », mais ce serait par trop cruel, mais le pire est que leur acte indigne risque de porter préjudice à d’autres personnes vraiment en difficulté, et honnêtes, celles-là.

Je comprends maintenant mieux pourquoi, il y a quelque temps, alors que j’étais en voiture avec une amie chinoise et que je lui faisais remarquer qu’il y avait des personnes, d’un certain âge, attendant dangereusement au bord de la route, elle me répondit : « Méfie toi, ces gens-là cherchent volontairement un accrochage pour te soutirer de l’argent ». La secrétaire de mon ancienne patronne à l’université m’avait aussi fait la même remarque, me voyant circuler tous les jours en scooter. A l’époque, j’avais trouvé ces réflexions étonnantes et choquantes. Mais je mesure aujourd’hui combien elles étaient exactes, hélas. Et comme par un fait exprès –le hasard fait bien les choses, si je puis m’exprimer ainsi- ce matin, alors que je prenais mon bus pour le rendre au bureau, que vois-je ? En travers de la chaussée, un vélo renversé, et un homme faisant des gestes pour qu’on vienne à son secours. En d’autres temps, nul doute que les passants, le chauffeur de bus, ou moi-même, serions intervenus. Mais ce matin, personne n’a bougé, et le chauffeur de bus a soigneusement contourné cet « obstacle », qui, soit dit en passant, m’a paru fort agité et bien portant pour quelqu’un qui aurait fait une chute… de là à penser que cet individu simulait et jouait la fausse victime pour en chercher une vraie sous la forme d’un bon samaritain, il n’y avait qu’un pas.

Moralité douteuse donc… mais qu’arrive t-il donc à la Chine, pourtant pétrie depuis les temps les plus anciens de règles de respect et d’honnêté ? Sans doute faut-il y voir là un reflet de notre époque, où l’argent est le sésame suprême, sans lequel on n’est rien. Une Chine, où malgré les efforts incessants du Gouvernement, la corruption est trop présente. Et quand certains fonctionnaires donnent le mauvais exemple, comment s’étonner que leurs administrés fassent à leur tour preuve d’un comportement douteux ? Une Chine où les disparités de revenus, là aussi malgré les efforts du Gouvernement, sont de plus en plus criantes. Et quand il en est ainsi, comment s’étonner que des personnes moins favorisées, ne souhaitant pas se livrer au vol, pour lequel elles seraient punies, recourent à cet artifice tout aussi malhonnête, mais non sanctionné, pour soutirer quelqu’argent ? Le problème me parait donc plus large que l’adoption d’une simple loi, et symptomatique des problèmes que connaît la Chine aujourd’hui. Pour autant, cela ne rend aucunement excusable ces façons détestables et répugnantes d’agir de ces gens indignes se retournant contre leur sauveur.

Fait notable, il s’avère aussi que la plupart de ces « victimes » sont des personnes d’un certain âge, suffisamment respectable pour sans doute avoir reçu un fonds d’éducation confucéenne et vu il y a soixante ans les soldats de l’Armée Populaire de Libération libérer la Chine de la tyrannie du Guomindang, soldats qui étonnèrent alors le monde et suscitèrent son admiration par leur probité, leur honnêteté, leur discipline, et leur rigueur. « Ne prendre au peuple ni une aiguille, ni un fil », disait-on alors. Ces temps semblent désormais bien loin… Chine, où est passée ta moralité ?

Source: le Quotidien du Peuple en ligne

La petite Wang Yue écrasée par deux camionnettes est décédée

Wang Yue, la fillette de deux ans percutée par deux véhicules et ignorée par 18 passants, est décédée vendredi à l’hôpital, ont annoncé ses médecins.

Sa mort a provoqué une vague de chagrin dans tout le pays, l’incident ayant été suivi de près par les gens choqués par l’absence apparente de morale dans la société chinoise.

La petite Wang Yue est morte à 12h32 d’un infarctus cérébral à l’Hôpital général du commandement militaire de Guangzhou, dans la province du Guangdong (sud), selon les médecins.

Elle était dans un état critique depuis son hospitalisation vendredi dernier.

Le décès de la petite fille a été le sujet le plus évoqué de la journée sur le site de microblogging Weibo, attirant plus de 1,9 million de réactions en une heure. De nombreux microbloggueurs ont décrié l’apathie et la cruauté des chauffeurs et des passants qui ne lui sont pas venus en aide.

Le public a appris cette nouvelle le 13 octobre, grâce à une vidéo filmée par une caméra de surveillance et diffusée sur internet. La vidéo montre la fillette se faisant percutée par deux véhicules qui ont ensuite pris la fuite en la laissant en sang dans la rue étroite d’un marché de la ville de Foshan, dans le Guangdong.

La vidéo révèle également que 18 personnes sont passées à côté d’elle au cours des six minutes qui ont suivi, sans toutefois lui venir en aide. La 19e passante, une femme âgée qui ramassait des ordures, a traîné son corps hors du passage des véhicules et a crié à l’aide.

Un grand nombre d’internautes ont répondu à cette vidéo en critiquant les chauffeurs et les passants, appelant à davantage de bons Samaritains et s’engageant à porter assistance aux personnes dans le besoin.

Beaucoup de gens ont envoyé des dons pour payer les soins de la fillette. Selon les informations locales, son père avait reçu jeudi 270 100 yuans (42 468 dollars). Certains donneurs sont des petits élèves de jardins d’enfants, et d’autres sont des ressortissants chinois en Australie et en Thaïlande.

Cet incident a fait réfléchir de nombreuses personnes, qui se demandent si le développement économique rapide de la Chine a eu un effet sur l’éthique et la morale du public.

Wang Yang, gouverneur de la province du Guangdong, a indiqué lors d’une réunion provinciale de haut niveau que la tragédie devait servir de sonnette d’alarme pour toute la société et que de tels incidents ne devaient plus être tolérés.

« Nous devons regarder notre laideur intérieure avec honnêteté et faire l’examen douloureux de notre conscience », a-t-il rappelé.

Source: xinhua

Comment le bon Samaritain a occis Aristote
Olivier Klein
Nous et les autres
10 février 2012

Parmi les expériences de psychologie sociale, celle qui est rapportée par John Darley et Daniel Batson dans un article intitulé « De Jerusalem à Jericho » (1973) est sans doute une des plus stimulantes. Tout d’abord, par son inspiration: la parabole du bon Samaritain provenant de l’évangile de Luc:

« Un homme descendait de Jérusalem à Jéricho et il tomba au milieu de brigands qui, après l’avoir dépouillé et roué de coups, s’en allèrent, le laissant à demi mort. Un prêtre vint à descendre par ce chemin-là ; il le vit et passa outre. Pareillement un lévite, survenant en ce lieu, le vit et passa outre. Mais un samaritain, qui était en voyage, arriva près de lui, le vit et fut pris de pitié. Il s’approcha, banda ses plaies, y versant de l’huile et du vin, puis le chargea sur sa propre monture, le mena à l’hôtellerie et prit soin de lui. Le lendemain, il tira deux deniers et les donna à l’hôtelier, en disant : « Prends soin de lui, et ce que tu auras dépensé en plus, je te le rembourserai, moi, à mon retour. » Lequel de ces trois, à ton avis, s’est montré le prochain de l’homme tombé aux mains des brigands ? » Il dit : « Celui-là qui a exercé la miséricorde envers lui. » Et Jésus lui dit : « Va, et toi aussi, fais de même ».

Darley et Batson cherchent à reproduire cette situation expérimentalement et, là est le second intérêt de leur étude, en utilisant comme sujets 47 séminaristes, à savoir des individus qui devraient avoir souscrit aux valeurs et aux idéaux évangéliques à tel point qu’ils en aient faire leur vocation. Si quelqu’un est susceptible d’aider un homme en détresse, ce devrait précisément être eux.

Ces étudiants en théologie pensent participer à une étude sur le sentiment religieux. Après une présentation rapide du questionnaire, on leur dit qu’ils vont devoir écouter un court texte et seront ensuite invités à s’exprimer sur celui-ci. Le contenu du texte est manipulé: soit il s’agit d’un texte très général sur la vocation des prêtres, soit il s’agit de la parabole du bon samaritain telle que reproduite précédemment.

Suite à l’écoute de ce texte, on leur signale qu’ils  doivent se rendre dans un autre bâtiment. Toutefois, on manipule le temps dont ils disposent: soit ils peuvent prendre tout leur temps, soit ils doivent y aller rapidement, soit très rapidement. Le sujet s’éclipse. Alors qu’il se trouve sur l’allée qui sépare les deux bâtiments, voici le spectacle qui l’attend (je ne résiste pas au plaisir de reprendre le texte de l’article – on le croirait extrait d’un roman policier!):

« La victime (en fait un complice de l’expérimentateur) était assise, pliée en deux à travers  le passage de la porte, la tête baissée, les yeux fermés, immobiles. Alors que le sujet passait, la victime toussait à deux reprises, gardant la tête baissée. Si le sujet s’arrêtait et demandait si quelque chose n’allait pas, ou offrait de l’aide, la victime, étonnée, et presque groggy, disait: « Oh, merci [toussotement]…Non, ça va. [Pause] J’ai ces problèmes respiratoires [toussotement]…Le docteur m’a administré ces pilules et je n’en n’ai prise qu’une…Si je m’asseyais et me rereposais juste pour quelques minutes, tout irait bien…Merci pour votre aide [sourire] » (p. 104)

Une fois le sujet passé, la victime évaluait son comportement selon son degré d’aide de 0 à 4:

0 = n’a même pas remarqué que la victime était peut-être en détresse
1 = A perçu que la victime était peut-être en détresse mais n’a pas offert de l’aider.
2 = Ne s’est pas arrêté mais a aidé indirectement (par exemple en prévenant un assistant).
3 = S’est arrêté et a demandé si la victime avait besoin d’aide?
4 = Après s’être arrêtée, a insisté pour emmener la victime à l’intérieur et l’a ensuite aidée.
5 = Après s’être arrêté, refuse de quitter la victime et/ou insiste pour l’emmener en dehors du contexte de l’expérience (infirmerie, caféraria…).

On examine ensuite comment les deux variables (la lecture de la parabole et le degré de pression temporelle) influencent le comportement d’aide des séminaristes. En toute logique, la lecture de la parabole devrait favoriser le comportement d’aide et le degré d’empressement ne devrait guère interférer avec la vertu (ou la foi) de nos sujets. Or, que se passe-t-il?

Comment on le voit ci-dessus, les séminaristes sont plus susceptibles de venir en aide lorsqu’ils sont peu pressés que lorsqu’ils sont fort pressés. En fait, dans ce dernier cas, ils aperçoivent à peine que la victime a peut-être besoin d’aide. La vertu est donc fortement limitée par le chronomètre.

Par ailleurs, on constate que la lecture de la parabole a relativement peu d’effet: c’est uniquement lorsqu’ils sont peu pressés qu’elle les rend plus altruiste mais cet effet n’est pas statistiquement significatif (on ne peut pas exclure qu’il soit dû au hasard avec suffisamment de certitude).

Darley et Batson ont également mesuré différents indices de « religiosité » évaluant l’intensité de la foi des sujets et également leur vision de la religion (comme une quête, comme un moyen comme une fin en soi, etc.). Ces variables ne prédisent en rien l’aide à la victime. Comme si le fait d’aider son prochain n’avait moins de rapport avec les convictions religieuses qu’avec la vitesse d’une trotteuse…

Ces résultats suggèrent que la différence entre ceux qui aident et ceux qui n’aident pas dépend bien plus de facteurs situationnels que de leur personnalité (leur « vertu », leur « foi », etc.). A son tour, voici une expérience qui raconte une histoire, une parabole, comme la « légende » biblique. Mais c’est cette fois une parabole quelque peu désenchantée, dont on peut même être tenté de faire une lecture anticléricale (et ce serait une grosse erreur car il y a fort à parier que les « apôtres » de la générosité laïque tomberaient dans le même piège).

Et comme les paraboles, elle fait l’objet d’exégèses. Nous devons l’une des plus récentes à Ruwen Ogien, spécialiste de philosophie morale qui a récemment publié un passionnant volume intitulé L’influence de l’odeur des croissants chauds sur la bonté humaine et autres questions de philosophie morale expérimentale (Grasset). Pour Ogier, cette expérience, comme d’autres études classiques en psychologie, permet d’alimenter (sinon de trancher) certaines controverses dans son domaine d’étude et en particulier la validité d’une « éthique des vertus » chère à Aristote:

« Dans ses versions les plus récentes, l’éthique des vertus repose sur l’idée qu’il existe des ‘personnalités’ tellement vertueuses qu’elles pourraient nous servir d’exemples moraux.
Pour savoir ce qu’il faut faire, il suffirait de se demander qu’aurait fait X ou Y (plutôt que Socrate ou Ghandi qu’un serial killer!).
Mais les théories psychologiques dites ‘situationnistes’ affirment que l’idée d’une ‘personnalité vertueuse’ n’a pas de signification très claire.
Ces façons de définir les gens par leur ‘personnalité » proviendrait d’une tendance plutôt irrationnelle à les juger de façon globale.
En réalité, il n’y aurait ni unité ni continuité empirique significative dans les attitudes et les conduites des gens » (p. 221)

Ogien passe en revue les arguments empiriques à l’appui de cette vision des choses. Il le met en balance avec l’existence de « Justes » qui, en dépit d’une situation qui aurait dû les conduire à se comporter comme des agents du mal, se sont rebellés et ont aidé (par exemple) des Juifs pendant l’occupation allemande. Si on souscrit à une explication situationniste pour ceux qui nuisent à autrui, il faut également en trouver une pour les autres (comme les séminaristes de l’étude précitée). Et Ogier montre qu’en fait, on peut y parvenir en soulignant que

1- Les Justes ont généralement été confrontés à un facteur situationnel puissant: une demande explicite d’aide de la part des victimes.
2 – Leur aide aide ne reflète généralement pas l’expression pleine, immédiate, et entière d’une vertu débordante. Au contraire, ils ont généralement aidé petit à petit: en rendant d’abord des services mineurs dénués de risques pour progressivement se montrer de plus en plus généreux et se dévouer totalement aux victimes. Ceci plaide à nouveau pour une explication situationnelle. Ce type d’aide fait un remarquable écho à l’escalade des sujets de l’expérience de Stanley Milgram qui délivrent des chocs de plus en plus puissants à la victime. Ces sujets n’envisageraient jamais de délivrer des chocs aussi puissants s’ils n’en n’avaient pas délivré de moins puissants préalablement. Comme si 15 volts de plus, ça ne faisait guère de différence…et par la règle des « petits pas », on arrive ainsi à l’extrémité du mal.

Voici donc comment Ogien utilise ce type de résultats pour remettre Aristote à sa place (et Jésus par la même occasion). En  attendant la prochaine exégèse de l’expérience du bon Samaritain…

La morale du croissant
Robert Maggiori
Libération
15 septembre 2011

CRITIQUE
Le bien et le mal à travers les casse-tête du philosophe Ruwen Ogien

Peu importe que ce soient des croissants ou des pains au chocolat. L’important, c’est l’arôme, l’effluve odorant qui, vers 10-11 heures, émane de la boulangerie, se répand dans la rue, les trottoirs, affole les narines et fait glouglouter le ventre. Que quelqu’un s’installe à proximité, pour quémander une cigarette, mendier quelques euros ou simplement demander un renseignement, et un autre dans un endroit anodin ou peu amène, pour faire la même chose. Une équipe de psychologues a fait l’expérience pour tester objectivement, avec force statistiques, les «comportements d’aide» : la «bonne humeur» liée à la perception de la suave odeur de pain ou de viennoiseries accroît sensiblement la gentillesse et la générosité des passants ! Voilà expliqué le titre du livre de Ruwen Ogien : l’Influence de l’odeur des croissants chauds sur la bonté humaine, qui paraît aujourd’hui chez Grasset. Qu’on se rassure (ou s’inquiète) cependant : de croissants, il n’est question que dans une seule page – quand de la bonté, ou de la méchanceté, du bien et du mal, bref de morale, il est question dans les 325 autres.

«Ne pas mentir».

Vous êtes impatient d’hériter de votre oncle. Premier cas : vous allez chez lui, et vous le trouvez gisant dans la baignoire, victime d’un infarctus. Le Samu pourrait encore le sauver. Vous ne l’appelez pas. Deuxième cas : vous attendez que votre oncle traverse la rue, et vous l’écrasez avec votre voiture. Une petite enquête d’opinion montrerait sûrement que les gens (et le droit pénal aussi bien) sont plus indulgents pour celui qui laisse mourir que pour celui qui tue. Qu’il y ait ou non équivalence (l’exemple eût pu être celui du médecin qui fait une piqûre mortelle à son patient en fin de vie ou qui n’intervient pas et laisse venir l’issue mortelle) suscite néanmoins bien des débats parmi les philosophes. C’est qu’on ne voit pas les choses de la même manière, selon qu’on adopte telle ou telle conception de la morale. Si on suit, même sans le savoir, le «conséquentialisme» (dont l’option la plus connue est l’utilitarisme), c’est-à-dire si on pense que ce qui compte moralement n’est pas tant de respecter en aveugle des règles ou des contraintes («Ne pas mentir», «Ne pas traiter une personne humaine comme un simple moyen», etc.) que de faire en sorte qu’«il y ait au total le plus de bien ou le moins de mal possible dans l’univers», on ne verra pas de différence morale profonde entre tuer et laisser mourir : le résultat est le même.

Si l’on est «arétiste», c’est-à-dire ami de l’«éthique des vertus» façon Aristote, et si on estime que la morale ne concerne pas seulement le rapport aux autres mais aussi le souci de soi, la perfection personnelle, le fait de vouloir être quelqu’un de bien, probe, courageux, généreux, etc., alors on établira une différence capitale – mais qui apparaît plus psychologique que morale – entre l’horrible individu qui tue de ses mains et celui qui, «sans être particulièrement répugnant», laisse mourir quelqu’un «par calcul ou négligence». Si l’on est «déontologiste», si l’on tient, en disciple de Kant, à l’impératif catégorique du «tu dois» (ou ne dois pas), et si l’on retient qu’il existe «des contraintes absolues sur nos actions», on pointera une différence au niveau des intentions.

Il est vrai que l’intention est un marqueur moral : si un gradé oblige des pauvres militaires à faire des centaines de pompes dans la cour de la caserne, l’ordre qu’il donne ne pourra être évalué moralement que si on connaît ses intentions, soit humilier les militaires, pour son plaisir sadique, soit les préparer à une épreuve physique difficile, pour leur bien ou bénéfice. Mais dans le cas du neveu avide ? On voit bien que s’il laisse mourir ou tue, son intention est la même : se débarrasser de son oncle pour avoir l’héritage. De plus, quand on parle d’intention, on n’envisage souvent que le point de vue de l’acteur, et non de la victime. Pour un patient incurable qui veut continuer à vivre, «peu importe que les médecins interviennent pour le faire mourir ou qu’ils le laissent mourir en mettant fin aux soins qui le maintiennent en vie» : lui «ne veut ni l’un ni l’autre», et juge les actes aussi mauvais. Pour un patient incurable, qui ne veut plus vivre, peu importe que les médecins le piquent ou laissent la maladie faire son œuvre : «il veut l’un et l’autre», et, juge les actes aussi bons. Où est la différence morale ?

L’Influence de l’odeur des croissants chauds sur la bonté humaine traite d’une vingtaine de problèmes, dilemmes, paradoxes et «casse-tête moraux», relevant d’une éthique «expérimentale». Ruwen Ogien les expose dans le style de la philosophie analytique anglo-saxonne, avec cette façon claire et légère, parfois ironique, de poser les hypothèses, de les démontrer une à une, de comparer la valeur des conclusions, de toujours tenir compte du point de vue contraire à celui qu’on défend. Mais qu’on ne songe pas à un ouvrage purement théorique, froid et abscons. Il est composé, répétons-le, d’études de cas, ou plutôt d’«expériences de pensée» ou de «petites fictions» inventées spécialement «pour susciter la perplexité» et peut-être mettre à l’épreuve, sinon obliger à réviser les «avis» que chacun a spontanément sur elles.

Ces «petites fictions» tournent en effet autour de thèmes auxquels personne ne peut se dire totalement indifférent : sexualité, euthanasie, avortement, assistance à personne en danger, entraide, transplantation d’organes, «clonage reproductif humain», suicide, «amélioration génétique des capacités physiques et mentales humaines», traitement des animaux, excision, blasphème, inceste… Et elles donnent tellement à réfléchir qu’on se prend à rêver qu’elles puissent être méditées par tous ceux et celles qui interviennent sur ces sujets dans l’espace public (hommes politiques, intellectuels médiatiques, journalistes…) et qui n’avancent souvent que des opinions bien légères, partisanes, dictées par des raisons tactiques ou idéologiques. Que des exemplaires gratuits de l’Influence des croissants chauds soient placés à l’entrée de l’Assemblée et du Sénat ! Il n’est cependant pas sûr que les opinion makers emboîtent le pas de Ruwen Ogien, homme réservé, timide, prompt à se mettre au dernier rang plutôt qu’en avant, mais dont le propos est au contraire provocant, plein d’audace, radical, d’un «libéralisme» (ou d’une libéralité) extrême.

Né à Hofgeismar (Allemagne), venu très tôt en France, Ruwen Ogien, directeur de recherche au CNRS, commence ses études universitaires à Tel-Aviv. C’est là qu’il découvre la philosophie analytique, lit John Rawls, et s’approche des positions, par exemple, de Thomas Nagel ou Charles Larmore. Après une année à Cambridge (1984-1985), il revient à Paris, à la Sorbonne. C’est sous la direction de Jacques Bouveresse qu’il fait sa thèse de doctorat, publiée sous le titre la Faiblesse de la volonté (PUF, 1993).

Hygiène.

Si ses premières recherches d’anthropologie sociale ont porté sur l’immigration et la pauvreté, il s’est peu à peu orienté, travaillant sur les émotions, la haine, la honte, le sexe, la pornographie, la bioéthique (proche, sur ce point, de John Harris) ou l’argent, vers ce qu’il nomme une «éthique minimale», minibombe placée sous le moralisme, le paternalisme et toutes les formes de prohibitionnisme, laquelle se caractérise par une sorte de neutralité à l’égard des diverses conceptions du Bien, et pose que nos croyances morales n’ont pas besoin de se fonder «sur un principe unique et incontestable (Dieu, la Nature, le Plaisir, les Sentiments, la Raison, ou quoi que ce soit d’autre du même genre)».

Un tel minimalisme fait en fin de compte tenir toute la morale dans deux petits (mais essentiels) impératifs, «rien de plus» : accorder la même valeur à la voix de chacun, et «ne pas nuire aux autres». Ce qui implique qu’il n’y a pas de devoirs envers soi-même, et qu’on peut mener la vie qu’on veut du moment qu’on ne porte pas tort à autrui : «Les torts qu’on se cause à soi-même, qu’on cause aux choses abstraites ou à des adultes consentants n’ont pas d’importance morale.» Il n’est certes pas simple de s’en tenir à cette éthique minimale. N’ayant aucun devoir envers moi-même, je peux évidemment me laisser aller, ne plus prendre soin de mon hygiène ou de ma santé, me laisser détruire par de néfastes addictions, céder à toutes les indignités – mais est-il certain que, me comportant ainsi, je ne nuise pas à autrui, je ne fasse pas du tort à ceux qui m’estiment ou m’aiment, et qui se sentent tristes, humiliés, blessés de me voir me dégrader de la sorte ? Ruwen Ogien, sans la mettre en jeu expressément, montre cependant, en exploitant les «petites fictions» infernales de l’Influence des croissants chauds, non seulement qu’elle est praticable mais apte à protéger des grands discours moralisateurs qui, comme disait Pascal, «se moquent de la morale».

«Est-il permis de tuer une personne pour prélever ses organes et sauver ainsi la vie de cinq autres personnes en attente de greffe ?»«Est-il permis [ce cas, et toutes ses variantes, a provoqué un véritable hourvari sur Internet, au point de créer une sorte de «tramwaylogie» !] de détourner un tramway qui risque de tuer cinq personnes vers une voie d’évitement où une seule sera écrasée ?» Est-il juste, quand quatre personnes et un chien sont sur un canot qui coulerait s’il n’était délesté, de jeter le chien à la mer ? La réponse changerait-elle si les quatre hommes étaient des nazis en fuite, coupables des crimes les plus atroces, et le chien un chien de sauvetage qui a permis à des dizaines de personnes de sauver leur vie après un tremblement de terre ? Pourquoi ? «Est-il immoral de nettoyer les toilettes avec le drapeau national ?»«L’inceste peut-il être pratiqué en toute innocence ?» Posée à «des échantillons de populations différentes par la « culture », l’origine sociale, l’âge, le sexe, la religion, etc.», cette dernière question suscite des réponses très majoritairement négatives. La fiction présentée par Ogien – Julie et son frère Mark décident de faire l’amour, elle prend déjà la pilule, lui met un préservatif, ils gardent leur union d’un soir secrète et, depuis, se sentent plus proches et bien dans leur peau – exclut certains arguments : leur enfant serait handicapé, la relation pourrait laisser un traumatisme psychologique, ou offenser la société. A quels arguments rationnels doit-on alors faire appel pour justifier la réprobation spontanée ? Le rejet de l’inceste est-il universel ? Non, «de nombreuses sociétés le tolèrent ou le recommandent (à des degrés de proximité familiale divers)». La réaction intuitive de blâme est-elle innée ? Non, les sociétés ont institué la prohibition de l’inceste pour élargir le cercle des échanges… Doit-on se contenter de «Je sais que c’est mal, mais je ne peux pas dire pourquoi» ?

Blasphème.

En réalité, la question est cachée par une autre, plus ample, qui, outre l’inceste volontaire ou d’autres relations entre adultes consentants, concernerait les actions dirigées vers soi-même (y compris le mal qu’on tient à se faire et les bizarreries qu’on veut faire subir à son corps) ou les atteintes aux «entités abstraites» (blasphème contre les dieux ou les ancêtres) : à savoir les «crimes moraux sans victimes» et les «fautes morales sans victimes». En vertu de quoi un comportement est-il jugé immoral s’il «ne cause aucun tort concret à personne» ? Est-on «permissif» si on limite «le domaine du jugement moral légitime aux fautes avec victime» et «moralisateur» si on «étend ce domaine à certaines fautes sans victime» ? On laisse deviner la position d’Ogien. Mais il est clair qu’aux yeux du «permissif» ni les relations sexuelles de tout genre entre adultes consentants, ni le blasphème, ni la consommation de nourriture impure, ni la profanation de sépultures, ni les façons «scandaleuses» de s’habiller ou de (mal)traiter son corps en le perçant, en le tatouant, en le «vendant en pièces détachées», voire en le mutilant volontairement, n’ont à être jugées «immorales» : elles peuvent être simplement contraires à des règles religieuses (variables selon les sociétés et ne touchant pas ceux qui n’ont pas de religion) ou des règles sociales (variables selon les sociétés et les époques).

On l’a dit : l’éthique expérimentale d’Ogien veut susciter la «perplexité», la critique de nos intuitions morales spontanées, la mise en cause de «politiques» qui, au nom du moralisme, et en faisant appel à des notions qui semblent intouchables, telle la «dignité humaine», freinent et rognent la liberté des personnes. Reste à savoir si une «morale minimale», appelant uniquement à «ne pas nuire à autrui», comme le voulait déjà John Stuart Mill, suffit à faire vivre une société. Les hommes, écrit Ruwen Ogien, sont «non seulement plus moraux qu’on a tendance à le dire, mais beaucoup trop moraux, c’est-à-dire beaucoup trop enclins à juger les autres, à faire la police morale, à fouiner dans la vie des gens, et à se prendre pour des saints».

Ruwen Ogien L’Influence de l’odeur des croissants chauds sur la bonté humaine Grasset, 326 pp., 18,50 €.

Voir enfin:

« L’Influence de l’odeur des croissants chauds sur la bonté humaine et autres questions de philosophie morale expérimentale », de Ruwen Ogien : loufoque éthique
Roger-Pol Droit
Le Monde des livres
15.09.2011

Un matin, au réveil, curieuse surprise. Non seulement il y a un inconnu dans votre lit – ce sont des choses qui arrivent -, mais il est branché dans votre dos par un réseau de tubes qui, entre vous et lui, font circuler du sang et d’autres liquides – ce qui est quand même plus rare. L’homme est un grand violoniste, un génie absolu. Il est atteint d’une maladie des reins, et vous étiez le seul organisme compatible. Ses admirateurs vous ont donc kidnappé, endormi, opéré. Vous en avez pour neuf mois. Si vous le débranchez, le violoniste mourra. Mais, après tout, vous n’avez vraiment rien demandé. En un sens, c’est même un cas de légitime défense. Si vous exigiez qu’on le débranche, seriez-vous moralement monstrueux ? Quelle que soit votre réponse, sachez qu’elle sera transposable à la question de l’avortement…

Ne vous croyez pas trop vite sorti d’affaire. En effet, si vous résolvez ce dilemme, dix-huit autres vous attendent. Celui du tramway fou, qui va écraser cinq traminots, sauf si vous déviez la machine sur une voie où ne travaille qu’un seul homme. Celui du type qui pique le parapluie d’un inconnu à la sortie du restaurant, juste parce qu’il n’a pas envie de se mouiller. Celui des adolescents, frère et soeur, qui font l’amour un soir d’été en étant sûrs de n’avoir pas d’enfant et que personne n’en saura rien. Chaque fois, les questions sont : que faire ? Au nom de quoi approuver ou condamner ? Quel genre de règles, de raisonnements et d’évidences mettez-vous en oeuvre pour vous prononcer ?

C’est échevelé, mais seulement en apparence. Ruwen Ogien, spécialiste de philosophie morale, chercheur au CNRS, auteur d’une douzaine d’essais incisifs, est un délirant méthodique. Les machineries mentales qu’il construit sont des expériences de pensée, des praticables destinés à vous faire réfléchir. Dire qu’on ne trouve jamais de violoniste branché dans son dos le matin serait donc la meilleure façon de montrer qu’on n’a rien compris. Car ce qui est réel, dans ces loufoques histoires, ce ne sont évidemment pas les circonstances, mais les problèmes qu’elles posent. Ce sont des casse-tête, mais à solutions multiples, avec presse-évidences intégré.

But du jeu : montrer que tout, en morale, peut et doit être questionné. Que les intuitions dont on se réclame ne sont jamais si claires qu’on croit ni si assurées qu’on dit. Que les doctrines se contredisent toujours, les principes parfois. Et que l’entraide et la bénévolence tiennent à peu de chose : dans un centre commercial, montre une étude savante, les gens exposés aux effluves du four du boulanger rendent significativement plus de menus services que les autres. On pourrait en tirer cette conclusion économique : ne donnez pas de croissants aux gens bons, l’odeur suffit à les moraliser. On attend l’aérosol.

L’INFLUENCE DE L’ODEUR DES CROISSANTS CHAUDS SUR LA BONTÉ HUMAINE ET AUTRES QUESTIONS DE PHILOSOPHIE MORALE EXPÉRIMENTALE de Ruwen Ogien. Grasset, 326 p., 18, 50 €.


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