Présidence Obama: Maintenant, nous sommes tous socialistes (We are all socialists now)

SarkobamaJ’aime la France, mais je ne tiens pas à ce qu’il y en ait deux, surtout si la deuxième se trouve aux Etats-Unis. Roger Cohen (chroniqueur du NYT)
Avez-vous remarqué que le discours de Barack Obama ressemble chaque jour un peu plus à celui du président français? Michael Freedman et Tracy McNicoll (Newsweek)
Les Etats-Unis devraient se diriger vers un système de redistribution plus centralisé, comme en Europe (…) Je considère les élections américaines de 2008 comme un tournant vers le modèle européen. Ken Rogoff (économiste, Harvard)
Il faut s’attendre à une forme de nationalisation du système de santé. Les entreprises ne seront tout simplement pas en mesure de porter ce fardeau toutes seules. Peter Schwartz (conseil aux grandes entreprises installée, San Francisco)
Depuis son arrivée au pouvoir, l’équipe d’Obama s’efforce de présenter toutes ses actions en matière de politique extérieure comme autant de ruptures avec l’ère Bush. Pourtant, la politique de l’actuel gouvernement n’est pas si éloignée de celle de son prédécesseur. L’idée de manier la carotte et le bâton pour pousser l’Iran à abandonner son programme nucléaire n’est pas bien nouvelle (…) la volonté de lier l’installation d’un bouclier antimissile en Europe à la menace posée par Téhéran et de négocier avec Moscou un échange de technologie : tout cela a été mis en branle il y a plus d’un an par le ministre de la Défense Robert Gates. ( …) La volonté d’employer un ton plus conciliant avec Pyongyang n’est pas non plus révolutionnaire. Robert Kagan.

A l’heure où le nouveau messie de Chicago vient de griller un énième Realpolitikard pour son Conseil national du renseignement …

Et pour ceux qui n’auraient toujours pas compris que les Français il y a un an et demi avaient voté pour une politique économique de droite et les Américains il y a quelques mois pour une politique étrangère de gauche …

Plans de sauvetage, plan de relance, plaidoyer en faveur du protectionnisme et contre les milieux d’affaires, nationalisation des banques, injection de près de 1 000 milliards de dollars dans l’économie, limitation des salaire des dirigeants des sociétés financières renflouées par l’Etat, clause permettant aux syndicats d’embaucher plus de personnel …

Carotte et bâton pour l’Iran, lien de l’installation d’un bouclier antimissile en Europe à la menace posée par Téhéran, négociation avec Moscou d’un échange de technologie, ton plus conciliant avec Pyongyang …

Rude réveil, comme commencent à le reconnaître certains journaux américains, pour ceux de droite comme de gauche qui avait cédé aux sirènes obamiennes

We Are All Socialists Now
Michael Freedman et Tracy McNicoll
Feb 16, 2009

In many ways our economy already resembles a European one. As boomers age and spending grows, we will become even more French.
Jon Meacham and Evan Thomas
From the magazine issue dated Feb 16, 2009

The interview was nearly over. on the Fox News Channel last Wednesday evening, Sean Hannity was coming to the end of a segment with Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, the chair of the House Republican Conference and a vociferous foe of President Obama’s nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill. How, Pence had asked rhetorically, was $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts going to put people back to work in Indiana? How would $20 million for « fish passage barriers » (a provision to pay for the removal of barriers in rivers and streams so that fish could migrate freely) help create jobs? Hannity could not have agreed more. « It is … the European Socialist Act of 2009, » the host said, signing off. « We’re counting on you to stop it. Thank you, congressman. »

There it was, just before the commercial: the S word, a favorite among conservatives since John McCain began using it during the presidential campaign. (Remember Joe the Plumber? Sadly, so do we.) But it seems strangely beside the point. The U.S. government has already—under a conservative Republican administration—effectively nationalized the banking and mortgage industries. That seems a stronger sign of socialism than $50 million for art. Whether we want to admit it or not—and many, especially Congressman Pence and Hannity, do not—the America of 2009 is moving toward a modern European state.

We remain a center-right nation in many ways—particularly culturally, and our instinct, once the crisis passes, will be to try to revert to a more free-market style of capitalism—but it was, again, under a conservative GOP administration that we enacted the largest expansion of the welfare state in 30 years: prescription drugs for the elderly. People on the right and the left want government to invest in alternative energies in order to break our addiction to foreign oil. And it is unlikely that even the reddest of states will decline federal money for infrastructural improvements.

If we fail to acknowledge the reality of the growing role of government in the economy, insisting instead on fighting 21st-century wars with 20th-century terms and tactics, then we are doomed to a fractious and unedifying debate. The sooner we understand where we truly stand, the sooner we can think more clearly about how to use government in today’s world.

As the Obama administration presses the largest fiscal bill in American history, caps the salaries of executives at institutions receiving federal aid at $500,000 and introduces a new plan to rescue the banking industry, the unemployment rate is at its highest in 16 years. The Dow has slumped to 1998 levels, and last year mortgage foreclosures rose 81 percent.

All of this is unfolding in an economy that can no longer be understood, even in passing, as the Great Society vs. the Gipper. Whether we like it or not—or even whether many people have thought much about it or not—the numbers clearly suggest that we are headed in a more European direction. A decade ago U.S. government spending was 34.3 percent of GDP, compared with 48.2 percent in the euro zone—a roughly 14-point gap, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2010 U.S. spending is expected to be 39.9 percent of GDP, compared with 47.1 percent in the euro zone—a gap of less than 8 points. As entitlement spending rises over the next decade, we will become even more French.

This is not to say that berets will be all the rage this spring, or that Obama has promised a croissant in every toaster oven. But the simple fact of the matter is that the political conversation, which shifts from time to time, has shifted anew, and for the foreseeable future Americans will be more engaged with questions about how to manage a mixed economy than about whether we should have one.

The architect of this new era of big government? History has a sense of humor, for the man who laid the foundations for the world Obama now rules is George W. Bush, who moved to bail out the financial sector last autumn with $700 billion.

Bush brought the Age of Reagan to a close; now Obama has gone further, reversing Bill Clinton’s end of big government. The story, as always, is complicated. Polls show that Americans don’t trust government and still don’t want big government. They do, however, want what government delivers, like health care and national defense and, now, protections from banking and housing failure. During the roughly three decades since Reagan made big government the enemy and « liberal » an epithet, government did not shrink. It grew. But the economy grew just as fast, so government as a percentage of GDP remained about the same. Much of that economic growth was real, but for the past five years or so, it has borne a suspicious resemblance to Bernie Madoff’s stock fund. Americans have been living high on borrowed money (the savings rate dropped from 7.6 percent in 1992 to less than zero in 2005) while financiers built castles in the air.

Now comes the reckoning. The answer may indeed be more government. In the short run, since neither consumers nor business is likely to do it, the government will have to stimulate the economy. And in the long run, an aging population and global warming and higher energy costs will demand more government taxing and spending. The catch is that more government intrusion in the economy will almost surely limit growth (as it has in Europe, where a big welfare state has caused chronic high unemployment). Growth has always been America’s birthright and saving grace.

The Obama administration is caught in a paradox. It must borrow and spend to fix a crisis created by too much borrowing and spending. Having pumped the economy up with a stimulus, the president will have to cut the growth of entitlement spending by holding down health care and retirement costs and still invest in ways that will produce long-term growth. Obama talks of the need for smart government. To get the balance between America and France right, the new president will need all the smarts he can summon.

Foreign Policy Sequels

By Robert Kagan
Monday, March 9, 2009; A15

President Obama’s foreign policy team has been working hard to present its policies to the world as constituting a radical break from the Bush years. In the broadest sense, this has been absurdly easy: Obama had the world at hello.

When it comes to actual policies, however, selling the pretense of radical change has required some sleight of hand — and a helpful press corps. Thus the New York Times reports a dramatic « shift » in China policy to « rigorous and persistent engagement, » as if the previous two administrations had been doing something else for the past decade and a half. Another Times headline trumpeted a new « softer tone on North Korea, » based on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that the United States would have a « great openness to working with » Pyongyang — as soon as it agrees to « verifiable and complete dismantling and denuclearization. » Startling.

The media have also reported a dramatic shift in the Obama administration’s approach to conducting the Activity Formerly Known as the War on Terror. « Bush’s ‘War’ on Terror Comes to Sudden End, » The Post announced on Jan. 23, and subsequent stories have proclaimed a transformation from « hard power » to « soft power, » from military action to diplomacy — even as the Obama administration sends 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, significantly expands Predator drone attacks in Pakistan and agrees to a timetable for drawing down troops in Iraq scarcely distinguishable from what a third Bush administration (with the same defense secretary) might have ordered.

So, too, the administration’s insistence on linking proposed missile defense installations in Europe to the « threat » posed by Iran, or its offer to negotiate Russia’s acquiescence to this plan and even to share missile defense technology. All this is widely celebrated as new. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates began these negotiations with Moscow more than a year ago. On Iran, the emphasis on carrots, in the form of a global political and economic embrace if Tehran stops pursuing nuclear weapons, and sticks, in the form of international sanctions and isolation if it doesn’t, is not exactly novel. Add to this the administration’s justifiable hesitancy, campaign rhetoric notwithstanding, to jump into direct, high-level negotiations but to focus instead on mid-level contacts or multilateral meetings on other subjects such as Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s no surprise if Iranian officials wonder what’s the big deal.

This is all to the good. So far, President Obama has made generally sound decisions on Afghanistan, Iraq, missile defense and Iran. Along with the language of unclenched fists and reset buttons, the basic goals and premises of U.S. policy have not shifted. If the world views this as a revolution, so much the better. Whatever works.

Yet there is another area where the administration claims to depart from the Bush legacy but really hasn’t, and I wish that it would. That is the issue of democracy and human rights. Ever since Clinton’s confirmation hearing, where she talked about three D’s — defense, diplomacy and development — but not a fourth — democracy — the press has made much of this allegedly sharp departure from the Bush administration’s « freedom agenda. » (Vice President Biden’s prominent remarks about the fourth D in Munich last month have been ignored because they didn’t fit the storyline.) Thus the Times’s Peter Baker writes that « Obama appears poised to return to a more traditional American policy of dealing with the world as it is rather than as it might be. » Set aside what a funny sentence that is to anyone with even scant knowledge of American history and its traditions — remember Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton? The more interesting question is whether the Bush administration ever seriously pursued a « freedom agenda. »

As my Carnegie colleague and preeminent democracy expert Thomas Carothers points out, the idea that the Bush administration engaged in a massive effort to promote democracy around the world is mostly myth. While every U.S. president for the past three decades has engaged in some degree of democracy promotion, he writes, « the place of democracy in Bush foreign policy was no greater, and in some ways was less, than in the foreign policies of his predecessors. » It did provide important support to struggling democracies in Ukraine, Georgia and Lebanon. But Bush ignored the systematic dismantling of democracy in Russia. Like Secretary Clinton, he did not let human rights get in the way of dealing with China. The Bush administration supported Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf until the bitter end. It backed away from challenging Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to hold freer and fairer elections in 2005, and whatever ardor it had about pushing for democracy in the Middle East cooled significantly after the 2006 election of Hamas. Meanwhile, it worked closely with dictators in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Aside from Iraq and Afghanistan, where its stalwart support for democratic progress was undermined for many years by failed military strategy, it is hard to point to many places where the « freedom agenda » was ever seriously implemented.

The world would be a better and safer place if the Bush administration’s policies had more closely matched its rhetoric. But in any case, as Carothers notes, the idea that « a major post-Bush realist corrective is needed represents a serious misreading of the past eight years. » It would be ironic, to say the least, if in its desire to distinguish itself from Bush on this issue, the Obama administration wound up replicating Bush. Viva la revolución!

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes a monthly column for The Post.

Voir enfin:

Sur les pas de Bush
Michael Young
Now Lebanon
Traduit pas Courrier international
22 janv. 2009

La politique étrangère d’Obama ne sera pas celle de Clinton, mais ressemblera à celle de Bush (deuxième période).

Il nous faudra peut-être revoir l’idée que George W. Bush était un va-t-en-guerre, une fois qu’Obama intensifiera l’effort militaire en Afghanistan et qu’il découvrira que s’engager dans des négociations “sans conditions” avec l’Iran ne va pas empêcher ce pays de produire des armes nucléaires. Même si Hillary Clinton est secrétaire d’Etat, il s’inspirera de Bush, parce que celui-ci a peu manifesté d’instincts néoconservateurs durant son second mandat [2004-2008]. La politique de Bush pendant son premier mandat se retrouve dans quelques idées fortes : le recours aux mesures préventives pour neutraliser les menaces mondiales émergentes ; le maintien de la domination américaine sur d’autres pays ou groupes de pays ; et la propension à utiliser la force, notamment militaire – et de manière unilatérale si nécessaire –, pour défendre les intérêts américains.

Durant son second mandat, presque toutes les orientations néoconservatrices – et les fanfaronnades – ont disparu de la politique étrangère. Au Moyen-Orient, les Etats-Unis ont tant donné dans le multilatéralisme qu’ils ne sont pas parvenus à grand-chose. Pour l’Iran, la collaboration avec l’Agence internationale pour l’énergie atomique et les Nations unies n’a débouché sur rien. Si l’action préventive contre les menaces – et le programme nucléaire iranien semblerait correspondre à ce qualificatif – constituait l’un des piliers de la pensée néoconservatrice, l’administration Bush a torpillé cette règle en 2007 en publiant un rapport des services de renseignements, qui ruinait la possibilité d’une attaque contre le nucléaire iranien. Les Etats-Unis ont même demandé à Israël de ne pas lancer d’attaque. Quant au Liban, les Etats-Unis ont, à partir de 2004, créé un corpus de résolutions des Nations unies pour protéger le pays de la Syrie et contenir le Hezbollah. Cela n’a pas empêché Damas de les violer systématiquement et de saper la souveraineté libanaise, ni le Hezbollah d’en faire autant en se réarmant à partir du territoire syrien. En ce qui concerne le conflit israélo-palestinien, les Etats-Unis ont aussi donné dans le multilatéralisme pour finir dans une impasse. Si le fameux quartette – Etats-Unis, Nations unies, Russie et Union européenne – a été inefficace, c’est en grande partie parce que la dynamique interne d’Israël et de la Palestine a empêché une avancée. En fait, pendant son second mandat, George W. Bush a ressemblé à ce qu’Obama déclare vouloir être : un président qui travaille avec d’autres Etats dans le consensus, qui utilise le droit et les institutions internationales, qui traite les menaces émergentes par la diplomatie et, moins ouvertement, qui est prêt à ignorer tout ce qui précède si cela sert mieux les intérêts des Etats-Unis. Pour Obama, le premier test sera Gaza. Laissera-t-il le Hamas se faire battre pour capitaliser là-dessus ? Ou exigera-t-il une solution immédiate ? Je parie sur le réflexe George W. Bush.


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