Guerre d’Obama: L’histoire est décidément cruelle (Fouad Ajami’s unequalled appreciation of historical irony)

Blundering Into Syrian Quagmire? | Clarion IndiaComme 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. George Bush (September 2003)
Quand vous pilotez, vous devez le faire en fonction de l’endroit où vous vous trouvez, pas de celui où vous auriez aimé vous trouver ! (…) Une stratégie qui ne vise pas à laisser derrière nous un Afghanistan stable est une stratégie à courte vue. Général McChrystal (octobre 2009)
On the face of it, there is nothing overwhelmingly stirring about Sen. Obama. There is a cerebral quality to him, and an air of detachment. He has eloquence, but within bounds. After nearly two years on the trail, the audience can pretty much anticipate and recite his lines. The political genius of the man is that he is a blank slate. The devotees can project onto him what they wish. The coalition that has propelled his quest — African-Americans and affluent white liberals — has no economic coherence. But for the moment, there is the illusion of a common undertaking — Canetti’s feeling of equality within the crowd. The day after, the crowd will of course discover its own fissures. The affluent will have to pay for the programs promised the poor. The redistribution agenda that runs through Mr. Obama’s vision is anathema to the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and the hedge-fund managers now smitten with him. Their ethos is one of competition and the justice of the rewards that come with risk and effort. All this is shelved, as the devotees sustain the candidacy of a man whose public career has been a steady advocacy of reining in the market and organizing those who believe in entitlement and redistribution. A creature of universities and churches and nonprofit institutions, the Illinois senator, with the blessing and acquiescence of his upscale supporters, has glided past these hard distinctions. On the face of it, it must be surmised that his affluent devotees are ready to foot the bill for the new order, or are convinced that after victory the old ways will endure, and that Mr. Obama will govern from the center. Ambiguity has been a powerful weapon of this gifted candidate: He has been different things to different people, and he was under no obligation to tell this coalition of a thousand discontents, and a thousand visions, the details of his political programs: redistribution for the poor, postracial absolution and « modernity » for the upper end of the scale. It was no accident that the white working class was the last segment of the population to sign up for the Obama journey. Their hesitancy was not about race. They were men and women of practicality; they distrusted oratory, they could see through the falseness of the solidarity offered by this campaign. They did not have much, but believed in the legitimacy of what little they had acquired. They valued work and its rewards. They knew and heard of staggering wealth made by the Masters of the Universe, but held onto their faith in the outcomes that economic life decreed. The economic hurricane that struck America some weeks ago shook them to the core. They now seek protection, the shelter of the state, and the promise of social repair. The bonuses of the wizards who ran the great corporate entities had not bothered them. It was the spectacle of the work of the wizards melting before our eyes that unsettled them. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late Democratic senator from New York, once set the difference between American capitalism and the older European version by observing that America was the party of liberty, whereas Europe was the party of equality. Just in the nick of time for the Obama candidacy, the American faith in liberty began to crack. (…) This election is the rematch that John Kerry had not delivered on. In the fashion of the crowd that seeks and sees the justice of retribution, Mr. Obama’s supporters have been willing to overlook his means. So a candidate pledged to good government and to ending the role of money in our political life opts out of public financing of presidential campaigns. What of it? The end justifies the means. (…) The morning after the election, the disappointment will begin to settle upon the Obama crowd. Defeat — by now unthinkable to the devotees — will bring heartbreak. Victory will steadily deliver the sobering verdict that our troubles won’t be solved by a leader’s magic. 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. He glides through crises, he knits together groups of varied, often clashing, interests. Always there is that magical moment, and its beauty, as a reference point. Mr. Obama gave voice to this sentiment in a speech on Nov. 6 in Dallas: « Sometimes I worry because everybody had such a fun experience in ’08, at least that’s how it seemed in retrospect. And, ‘yes we can,’ and the slogans and the posters, et cetera, sometimes I worry that people forget change in this country has always been hard. » It’s a pity we can’t stay in that moment, says the redeemer: The fault lies in the country itself — everywhere, that is, except in the magician’s performance. (…) Five years on, we can still recall how the Obama coalition was formed. There were the African-Americans justifiably proud of one of their own. There were upper-class white professionals who were drawn to the candidate’s « cool. » There were Latinos swayed by the promise of immigration reform. The white working class in the Rust Belt was the last bloc to embrace Mr. Obama—he wasn’t one of them, but they put their reservations aside during an economic storm and voted for the redistributive state and its protections. There were no economic or cultural bonds among this coalition. There was the new leader, all things to all people. A nemesis awaited the promise of this new presidency: Mr. Obama would turn out to be among the most polarizing of American leaders. No, it wasn’t his race, as Harry Reid would contend, that stirred up the opposition to him. It was his exalted views of himself, and his mission. The sharp lines were sharp between those who raised his banners and those who objected to his policies. (…) A leader who set out to remake the health-care system in the country, a sixth of the national economy, on a razor-thin majority with no support whatsoever from the opposition party, misunderstood the nature of democratic politics. An election victory is the beginning of things, not the culmination. With Air Force One and the other prerogatives of office come the need for compromise, and for the disputations of democracy. A president who sought consensus would have never left his agenda on Capitol Hill in the hands of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Mr. Obama has shown scant regard for precedent in American history. To him, and to the coterie around him, his presidency was a radical discontinuity in American politics. There is no evidence in the record that Mr. Obama read, with discernment and appreciation, of the ordeal and struggles of his predecessors. At best there was a willful reading of that history. Early on, he was Abraham Lincoln resurrected (the new president, who hailed from Illinois, took the oath of office on the Lincoln Bible). He had been sworn in during an economic crisis, and thus he was FDR restored to the White House. He was stylish with two young children, so the Kennedy precedent was on offer. In the oddest of twists, Mr. Obama claimed that his foreign policy was in the mold of Dwight Eisenhower’s. But Eisenhower knew war and peace, and the foreign world held him in high regard. During his first campaign, Mr. Obama had paid tribute to Ronald Reagan as a « transformational » president and hinted that he aspired to a presidency of that kind. But the Reagan presidency was about America, and never about Ronald Reagan. Reagan was never a scold or a narcissist. He stood in awe of America, and of its capacity for renewal. There was forgiveness in Reagan, right alongside the belief in the things that mattered about America—free people charting their own path. If Barack Obama seems like a man alone, with nervous Democrats up for re-election next year running for cover, and away from him, this was the world he made. No advisers of stature can question his policies; the price of access in the Obama court is quiescence before the leader’s will. The imperial presidency is in full bloom. There are no stars in the Obama cabinet today, men and women of independent stature and outlook. It was after a walk on the White House grounds with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, that Mr. Obama called off the attacks on the Syrian regime that he had threatened. If he had taken that walk with Henry Kissinger or George Shultz, one of those skilled statesmen might have explained to him the consequences of so abject a retreat. But Mr. Obama needs no sage advice, he rules through political handlers. Valerie Jarrett, the president’s most trusted, probably most powerful, aide, once said in admiration that Mr. Obama has been bored his whole life. The implication was that he is above things, a man alone, and anointed. Perhaps this moment—a presidency coming apart, the incompetent social engineering of an entire health-care system—will now claim Mr. Obama’s attention. Fouad Ajami
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
Il n’y a aucune garantie qu’un clair soutien américain aurait modifié l’issue de la lutte entre l’autocratie et la liberté en Iran. Mais il n’en restera pas moins dans la grande geste de la liberté qu’au moment où la Perse s’est soulevée à l’été 2009, le responsable de la puissance américaine s’est dérobé et qu’un président si fier de son éloquence n’a même pas réussi à trouver les mots pour faire savoir aux forces de la liberté qu’il avait compris les sources de leur révolte. Fouad Ajami
Les lamentations sur ce qui est advenu de la politique étrangère américaine au Moyen-Orient passent à côté de l’essentiel. Le plus remarquable concernant la diplomatie du président Obama dans la région, c’est qu’elle est revenue au point de départ – jusqu’au début de sa présidence. La promesse d’ « ouverture » vers l’Iran, l’indulgence envers la tyrannie de Bashar Assad en Syrie, l’abandon des gains américains en Irak et le malaise systématique à l’égard d’Israël — tels étaient les traits distinctifs de l’approche du nouveau président en politique étrangère. A présent, nous ne faisons qu’assister aux conséquences alarmantes d’une perspective aussi malavisée que naïve. Fouad Ajami (oct. 2013)
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

L’histoire est décidément bien cruelle …

Quand le Naïf en chef découvre à son tour que « la guerre est hélas une activité humaine qu’on ne peut pas faire à moitié »…

Quand après s’être fait élire contre la guerre à présent gagnée de son prédécesseur, le fraichement nobélisé nouvel espoir noir du monde se voit plus que jamais empêtré dans sa propre guerre et contraint d’y ordonner les mêmes renforts victorieux qu’il avaient tant fustigés pour l’Irak …

Et quand, suprême ironie, Mr. Cool himself se voit emporté dans sa propre guerre avec la presse

Retour, avec l’historien militaire américain Victor Davis Hanson et le recul des trois années passées, sur l’un des meilleurs livres-bilan, par le célèbre politologue libano-américain Fouad Ajami, de la tant vilipendée guerre de Bush.

Et notamment sur la série d’ironies qu’il met à jour.

Comme le fait que par la simple élimination d’un Saddam, Bush ait réussi à contraindre l’ensemble du Monde arabe à un règlement de comptes général qu’il refusait jusqu’alors.

Ou que c’est par sa véhémence même qu’a finalement été vaincue et humiliée sur son propre terrain l’insurrection irakienneque tant de commentaeturs voyaient sans fin.

Ou encore que les mollahs que tous les observateurs voyaient alors gagnants aient déjà commencé, comme on déjà pu le voir cet été, à maudire le jour où leurs cousins shiites d’Irak ont été libérés par les Américains.

Ou enfin, ironie des ironies, que ce soit un membre de l’establishment pétrolier américain, lui-même fils d’un président qui en 1991 avait appelé les Chiites irakiens à l’insurrection pour finalement les abandonner à leur sort, qui ait transformé le puissant pouvoir de déstabilisation du Moyen-Orient que représentait l’Irak en septembre 2003 en un puissant pouvoir d’inspiration pour la région entière …

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.

Voir aussi:

Obama est trop indécis sur l’Afghanistan
Renaud Girard
Le Figaro
14/10/2009

ANALYSE – Depuis un mois, le président Barack Obama donne l’impression, à propos du conflit en Afghanistan, de croire qu’on peut faire la guerre à moitié. Par Renaud Girard, grand reporter au service Etranger du «Figaro».

La guerre est hélas une activité humaine qu’on ne peut pas faire à moitié. Les Allemands et les Italiens l’ont récemment appris à leurs dépens en Afghanistan. Comme s’ils n’avaient pas été capables de tirer par eux-mêmes les leçons des difficultés connues par l’Armée rouge de 1980 à 1988, ils se plaignent d’avoir des soldats tués ou d’être critiqués à l’occasion de telle ou telle bavure, comme si la guerre pouvait se faire sans aucun mort, parmi les combattants comme parmi les civils. Cet angélisme européen n’est pas très grave, dans la mesure où la guerre occidentale en Afghanistan, qui dure depuis 2001, est avant tout une guerre américaine. Elle a été décidée par l’Amérique (après les attentats du 11 Septembre) ; elle a été conduite par les stratèges du Pentagone ; elle protège un leader afghan initialement choisi par Washington ; elle ne pourra être gagnée que par l’armée américaine. À l’exception des Anglais (qui se battent férocement dans la province de Helmand, grenier à opium du pays, et qui ont eu déjà plus de 200 soldats tués), les Européens ne font que de la figuration politique en Afghanistan.

Beaucoup plus grave est l’indécision de Barack Obama sur le dossier militaire afghan. Depuis un mois, le président américain donne, lui aussi, la fâcheuse impression de croire qu’on peut faire la guerre à moitié. Durant sa campagne électorale, il tenait un langage clair : se retirer d’Irak et gagner en Afghanistan. Au mois de mars dernier, il annonçait solennellement sa stratégie, fondée sur un triptyque classique : sécurisation militaire des provinces malmenées par les insurgés ; amélioration de la gouvernance afghane dans les territoires repris à l’ennemi ; renforcement des projets de développement afin de gagner les «cœurs et les esprits» de la population afghane. Deux mois plus tard, Obama donne un nouveau commandant en chef aux 100 000 soldats de l’Otan (dont les deux tiers sont américains) déployés sur le terrain, le général McChrystal.

Mais lorsque ce dernier, après étude d’une situation militaire se détériorant de jour en jour, lui demande l’envoi de 40 000 soldats supplémentaires, le président tarde à lui répondre. Il atermoie parce que les sondages ne sont pas enthousiastes à l’égard de cette guerre et que son vice-président, l’ancien sénateur Joe Biden, milite pour un engagement minimum des forces américaines en Afghanistan, limité à 50 000 hommes des forces spéciales, prêtes à détruire toute résurgence des camps d’entraînement d’al-Qaida.

Interrogé sur la pertinence de l’option stratégique défendue par Biden, le général McChrystal a répondu avec son franc-parler habituel : «Quand vous pilotez, vous devez le faire en fonction de l’endroit où vous vous trouvez, pas de celui où vous auriez aimé vous trouver !» Puis ce soldat, très respecté par ses pairs comme par ses subordonnés, a eu le courage d’ajouter : «Une stratégie qui ne vise pas à laisser derrière nous un Afghanistan stable est une stratégie à courte vue.»

Peut-être les Américains ont-ils eu tort, lors de la conférence de Bonn de décembre 2001, de promettre à la population afghane la reconstruction de leur État, l’avènement de la démocratie et le retour à une économie viable. Peut-être auraient-ils dû se contenter du pouvoir tadjik et ouzbek qui avait chassé, avec leur aide financière et aérienne, les talibans de Kaboul. Il se trouve qu’ils ont vu les choses en grand et l’ont annoncé au monde entier. Le moment n’est pas de fléchir et de renier ses promesses. Car un tel aveu de faiblesse aurait des conséquences incalculables sur une région gangrenée par l’islamisme, à commencer par le Pakistan, pays doté de la bombe atomique.

Obama a, jusqu’à l’été, fait preuve d’une démarche logique. Il a investi de sa confiance McChrystal. Le général a forgé une nouvelle stratégie de terrain – louée par tous les observateurs -, privilégiant la protection de la population et du pays utile. Le président se contredirait lui-même à refuser à son général les moyens qu’il réclame aujourd’hui.

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