Doctrine Obama: C’est mort à l’Amérique, imbécile ! (Continuation of the jihad by other means: American power is what they all hope to break)

https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpa1/t31.0-8/10003674_1070465586313700_7193367525536975127_o.jpghttps://scontent-ams.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/10491203_1070485379645054_1522694794172874079_n.jpg?oh=0fd6ff33e4f716e022380d1c41371160&oe=55E58EBB Apologizer in chief on DDayhttps://scottthong.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/revjerwright341.jpg?w=450&h=345Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. René Girard
One can’t think that in order to improve and normalize relations with the U.S., Cuba has to give up the principles it believes in. Changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable. Josefina Vidal (Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, 25.01.15)
Although Cuba no longer actively supports armed struggle in Latin America and other parts of the world, the Cuban government continued to provide safe haven to several terrorists. Members of ETA, the FARC, and the ELN remained in Cuba during 2008, some having arrived in Cuba in connection with peace negotiations with the governments of Spain and Colombia. Cuban authorities continued to publicly defend the FARC. However, on July 6, 2008, former Cuban President Fidel Castro called on the FARC to release the hostages they were holding without preconditions. He has also condemned the FARC’s mistreatment of captives and of their abduction of civilian politicians who had no role in the armed conflict. The United States has no evidence of terrorist-related money laundering or terrorist financing activities in Cuba, although Cuba has one of the world’s most secretive and non-transparent national banking systems. Cuba has no financial intelligence unit. Cuba’s Law 93 Against Acts of Terrorism provides the government authority to track, block, or seize terrorist assets. The Cuban government continued to permit some U.S. fugitives—including members of U.S. militant groups such as the Boricua Popular, or Macheteros, and the Black Liberation Army to live legally in Cuba. In keeping with its public declaration, the government has not provided safe haven to any new U.S. fugitives wanted for terrorism since 2006. US Department of state
Imagine there’s no Israel, It’s easy if you try, Imagine all the people, Living life in peace You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us And the world will be as one … (à fredonner sur un air connu)
Il a fallu s’y atteler et dans ces lieux, on peut rendre hommage aux Cubains, issus de la Révolution qui se sont résolus à tenir tête aux États-Unis, leurs plus proches voisins. Les Cubains, les Cubains de Cuba, fiers de leur révolution sociale, savent qu’ils ne sont plus seuls. En revendiquant leur dignité, ils s’associent aux revendications de tous les peuples opprimés et, de ce fait, ils rejoignent les bâtisseurs du monde de demain. Danielle Mitterrand (Porto Alegre, février 2003)
L’Amérique est toujours le tueur numéro 1 dans le monde. . . Nous sommes profondément impliqués dans l’importation de la drogue, l’exportation d’armes et la formation de tueurs professionnels. . . Nous avons bombardé le Cambodge, l’Irak et le Nicaragua, tuant les femmes et les enfants tout en essayant de monter l’opinion publique contre Castro et Khaddafi. . . Nous avons mis Mandela en prison et soutenu la ségrégation pendant 27 ans. Nous croyons en la suprématie blanche et l’infériorité noire et y croyons davantage qu’en Dieu. … Nous avons soutenu le sionisme sans scrupule tout en ignorant les Palestiniens et stigmatisé quiconque le dénonçait comme anti-sémite. . . Nous ne nous inquiétons en rien de la vie humaine si la fin justifie les moyens. . . Nous avons lancé le virus du SIDA. . . Nous ne pouvons maintenir notre niveau de vie qu’en nous assurant que les personnes du tiers monde vivent dans la pauvreté la plus abjecte. Rev. Jeremiah Wright (le 15 janvier 2006)
L’audace de l’espoir. Voilà le meilleur de l’esprit américain ; avoir l’audace de croire, malgré toutes les indications contraires, que nous pouvions restaurer un sens de la communauté au sein d’une nation déchirée ; l’audace de croire que malgré des revers personnels, la perte d’un emploi, un malade dans la famille ou une famille empêtrée dans la pauvreté, nous avions quelque emprise- et par conséquent une responsabilité sur notre propre destin. Barack Hussein Obama
Je veux aussi, une fois élu, organiser un sommet dans le monde musulman, avec tous les chefs d’Etat, pour discuter franchement sur la façon de contenir le fossé qui s’agrandit chaque jour entre les musulmans et l’Occident. Je veux leur demander de rejoindre notre combat contre le terrorisme. Nous devons aussi écouter leurs préoccupations. (…) Je veux dialoguer directement avec l’Iran et la Syrie. Nous ne stabiliserons pas la région si nous ne parlons pas à nos ennemis. Lorsqu’on est en désaccord profond avec quelqu’un, il faut lui parler directement. Barack Obama (Paris Match, le 31 janvier 2008)
Il n’y a aucune raison que nous ne puissions restaurer le respect dont jouissait l’Amérique et le partenariat qu’elle avait avec le monde musulman voilà 20 ou 30 ans de cela. (…) J’ai déclaré durant la campagne qu’il est très important pour nous de faire en sorte que nous utilisions tous les outils de la puissance américaine, y compris la diplomatie, dans nos relations avec l’Iran. Barack Hussein Obama
We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing … people don’t seem to understand. You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.” The notion that Iran is undeterrable — “it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’ — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naïve — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. … We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it? Barack Hussein Obama
It’s the dreamers — no matter how humble or poor or seemingly powerless — that are able to change the course of human events. We saw it in South Africa, where citizens stood up to the scourge of apartheid. We saw it in Europe, where Poles marched in Solidarity to help bring down the Iron Curtain. In Argentina, where mothers of the disappeared spoke out against the Dirty War. It’s the story of my country, where citizens worked to abolish slavery, and establish women’s rights and workers’ rights, and rights for gays and lesbians. It’s not to say that my country is perfect — we are not. And that’s the point. We always have to have citizens who are willing to question and push our government, and identify injustice. We have to wrestle with our own challenges — from issues of race to policing to inequality. But what makes me most proud about the extraordinary example of the United States is not that we’re perfect, but that we struggle with it, and we have this open space in which society can continually try to make us a more perfect union. (…) As the United States begins a new chapter in our relationship with Cuba, we hope it will create an environment that improves the lives of the Cuban people -– not because it’s imposed by us, the United States, but through the talent and ingenuity and aspirations, and the conversation among Cubans from all walks of life so they can decide what the best course is for their prosperity. As we move toward the process of normalization, we’ll have our differences, government to government, with Cuba on many issues — just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas; just as we differ with our closest allies. There’s nothing wrong with that. (…) And whether it’s crackdowns on free expression in Russia or China, or restrictions on freedom of association and assembly in Egypt, or prison camps run by the North Korean regime — human rights and fundamental freedoms are still at risk around the world. And when that happens, we believe we have a moral obligation to speak out. (…) As you work for change, the United States will stand up alongside you every step of the way. We are respectful of the difference among our countries. The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past. (…) We have a debt to pay, because the voices of ordinary people have made us better. That’s a debt that I want to make sure we repay in this hemisphere and around the world. (…) God bless you. Barack Hussein Obama (Sommet des Amériques, Panama city, April 10, 2015)
Les frères Jonas sont ici ; ils sont là quelque part. Sasha et Malia sont de grandes fans. Mais les gars, allez pas vous faire des idées. J’ai deux mots pour vous: « predator drone ». Vous les verrez même pas venir. Vous croyez que je plaisante, hein ? Barack Hussein Obama
I, and most of my colleagues, have spent a lot of time discussing red lines since the tragedy in Paris. As you know, the Muhammad cartoon controversy began eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against “self-censorship,” one editor’s call to arms against what she felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority—her charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful. Not only was one cartoonist gunned down, but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores. No one could say toward what positive social end, yet free speech absolutists were unchastened. Using judgment and common sense in expressing oneself were denounced as antithetical to freedom of speech. And now we are adrift in an even wider sea of pain. Ironically, Charlie Hebdo, which always maintained it was attacking Islamic fanatics, not the general population, has succeeded in provoking many Muslims throughout France to make common cause with its most violent outliers. This is a bitter harvest. Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean. By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voila—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world, including one in Niger, in which ten people died. Meanwhile, the French government kept busy rounding up and arresting over 100 Muslims who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks. The White House took a lot of hits for not sending a high-level representative to the pro-Charlie solidarity march, but that oversight is now starting to look smart. The French tradition of free expression is too full of contradictions to fully embrace. Even Charlie Hebdo once fired a writer for not retracting an anti-Semitic column. Apparently he crossed some red line that was in place for one minority but not another. What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must. Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged. They’re allowed to feel pain. Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism. I’m aware that I make these observations from a special position, one of safety. In America, no one goes into cartooning for the adrenaline. As Jon Stewart said in the aftermath of the killings, comedy in a free society shouldn’t take courage. Writing satire is a privilege I’ve never taken lightly.  And I’m still trying to get it right. Doonesbury remains a work in progress, an imperfect chronicle of human imperfection. It is work, though, that only exists because of the remarkable license that commentators enjoy in this country. That license has been stretched beyond recognition in the digital age. It’s not easy figuring out where the red line is for satire anymore. But it’s always worth asking this question: Is anyone, anyone at all, laughing? If not, maybe you crossed it. Garry Trudeau
Si à Poitiers Charles Martel avait été battu, le monde aurait changé de face. Puisque le monde était déjà condamné à l’influence judaïque (et son sous-produit le christianisme est une chose si insipide !), il aurait mieux valu que l’islam triomphe. Cette religion récompense l’héroïsme, promet au guerrier les joies du septième ciel… Animé d’un esprit semblable, les Germains auraient conquis le monde. Ils en ont été empêchés par le christianisme. Hitler (1942)
Après tout, qui parle encore aujourd’hui de l’annihilation des Arméniens? Hitler (22 août 1939)
Nous ne savons pas si Hitler est sur le point de fonder un nouvel islam. Il est d’ores et déjà sur la voie; il ressemble à Mahomet. L’émotion en Allemagne est islamique, guerrière et islamique. Ils sont tous ivres d’un dieu farouche. Jung (1939)
Mein Kamp (…) Tel était le nouveau Coran de la foi et de la guerre: emphatique, fastidieux, sans forme, mais empli de son propre message. Churchill
Si le Reich allemand s’impose comme protecteur de tous ceux dont le sang allemand coule dans les veines, et bien la foi musulmane impose à chaque Musulman de se considérer comme protecteur de toute personne ayant été imprégnée de l’apprentissage coranique. Hassan el Banna (fondateur des Frères musulmans et grand-père de Tariq et Hani Ramadan)
J’annonce au monde entier que si les infidèles font obstacle à notre religion, nous nous opposerons au monde entier et nous ne cesserons pas avant leur anéantissement, nous en sortirons tous libérés ou nous obtiendrons une plus grande liberté qui est le martyr. Soit nous nous serrerons les uns aux autres pour célébrer la victoire de l’islam sur le monde ou bien nous aurons tous la vie éternelle grâce au martyr. Dans les deux cas, la victoire et le succès seront à nous. Khomeiny
Beaucoup de déçus dans la lutte entre le monde islamique et les infidèles ont essayé de rejeter la responsabilité en annonçant qu’il n’est pas possible d’avoir un monde sans les États-Unis et le sionisme. Mais vous savez que ce sont un but et un slogan réalisables. Pour étayer ses propos, le président se réfère à la chute, dans l’histoire récente, de plusieurs régimes que personne ne voyait sombrer. Lorsque notre cher imam (Khomeiny) a annoncé que le régime (du Shah) devait être supprimé, beaucoup de ceux qui prétendaient être politiquement bien informés ont déclaré que ce n’était pas possible. Qui pouvait penser qu’un jour, nous pourrions être témoins de l’effondrement de l’empire de l’Est (Union soviétique) ? L’Imam a annoncé que Saddam devait s’en aller puis a ajouté qu’il s’affaiblirait plus vite que personne ne l’imagine.  L’Imam (Khomeiny) a annoncé que le régime occupant Jérusalem devait disparaître de la page du temps. Ahmadinejad (Conférence du monde sans sionisme, 25 octobre 2005)
Mort à l’Amérique, parce que l’Amérique est la source d’origine de cette pression. Ils insistent à mettre la pression sur l’économie de nos chères personnes. Quel est leur objectif ? Leur objectif est de monter les gens contre le système. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei  (20.03.15)
Our negotiations with the world powers are a source of national pride. Yesterday [during the Iran-Iraq War], your brave generals stood against the enemy on the battlefield and defended their country. Today, your diplomatic generals are defending [our nation] in the field of diplomacy; this too is jihad. Hassan Rouhani
La situation est tragique mais les forces en présence au Moyen-Orient font qu’au long terme, Israël, comme autrefois les Royaumes francs, finira par disparaître. Cette région a toujours rejeté les corps étrangers. Dominique de Villepin (Paris, automne 2001)
Nul ne peut ne pas rêver de la destruction de n’importe quelle puissance devenue à ce point hégémonique (…) A la limite, c’est eux qui l’ont fait, mais c’est nous qui l’avons voulu. Jean Baudrillard (novembre 2001)
En des occasions diverses j’ai défini cette époque comme un temps de guerre, une troisième guerre mondiale « par morceaux », où nous assistons quotidiennement à des crimes atroces, à des massacres sanglants, et à la folie de la destruction. Malheureusement, encore aujourd’hui, nous entendons le cri étouffé et négligé de beaucoup de nos frères et sœurs sans défense, qui, à cause de leur foi au Christ ou de leur appartenance ethnique, sont publiquement et atrocement tués – décapités, crucifiés, brulés vifs –, ou bien contraints d’abandonner leur terre. Aujourd’hui encore nous sommes en train de vivre une sorte de génocide causé par l’indifférence générale et collective, par le silence complice de Caïn qui s’exclame : « Que m’importe ? », « Suis-je le gardien de mon frère ? » (…) Notre humanité a vécu, le siècle dernier, trois grandes tragédies inouïes : la première est celle qui est généralement considérée comme « le premier génocide du XXème siècle » ; elle a frappé votre peuple arménien – première nation chrétienne –, avec les Syriens catholiques et orthodoxes, les Assyriens, les Chaldéens et les Grecs. Des évêques, des prêtres, des religieux, des femmes, des hommes, des personnes âgées et même des enfants et des malades sans défense ont été tués. Les deux autres ont été perpétrées par la nazisme et par le stalinisme. Et, plus récemment, d’autres exterminations de masse, comme celles au Cambodge, au Rwanda, au Burundi, en Bosnie. Cependant, il semble que l’humanité ne réussisse pas à cesser de verser le sang innocent. Il semble que l’enthousiasme qui est apparu à la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale soit en train de disparaître et de se dissoudre. Il semble que la famille humaine refuse d’apprendre de ses propres erreurs causées par la loi de la terreur ; et ainsi, encore aujourd’hui, il y en a qui cherchent à éliminer leurs semblables, avec l’aide des uns et le silence complice des autres qui restent spectateurs.  (…) Se souvenir d’eux est nécessaire, plus encore c’est un devoir, parce que là où il n’y a plus de mémoire, cela signifie que le mal tient encore la blessure ouverte ; cacher ou nier le mal c’est comme laisser une blessure continuer à saigner sans la panser ! Pape François
Les « pacifistes » croient donner une chance à la paix. En fait, s’ils donnent une chance, c’est à l’aveuglement et à lui seul. Les manifestations de samedi dernier c’est l’union sacrée de John Lennon et de Neville Chamberlain. Une naïveté poussée jusqu’à l’absence complète de discernement le dispute au mépris de la réalité. Il n’y a rien à attendre d’une telle alliance. Laurent Murawiec
Obama demande pardon pour les faits et gestes de l’Amérique, son passé, son présent et le reste, il s’excuse de tout. Les relations dégradées avec la Russie, le manque de respect pour l’Islam, les mauvais rapports avec l’Iran, les bisbilles avec l’Europe, le manque d’adulation pour Fidel Castro, tout lui est bon pour battre la coulpe de l’Amérique. (…) Mais où Obama a-t-il donc appris ces inepties ? D’où vient cet amoncellement de mécomptes du monde, d’idées fausses et difformes? D’où provient ce prurit du je-vous-demande pardon ? On est habitué au Jimmycartérisme, qui se mettait à quatre pattes devant Khomeiny (« un saint »), l’URSS, Cuba, le tiers monde, le terrorisme musulman. D’où vient qu’Obama ait – dirigeant d’une république – courbé la tête devant le roi d’Arabie ? C’est là qu’il convient de se souvenir de l’homme qui fut son pasteur pendant vingt ans, ce qui est très long quand on n’en a pas encore cinquante : le pasteur Jeremy Wright, de l’Eglise de la Trinité à Chicago, dont Obama ne se sépara que contraint et forcé, pour cause de déclarations insupportablement anti-américaines et antioccidentales, délirantes et conspirationnistes, et qui « passaient mal» dans la campagne.(…) C’est Wright qui fait du diplômé de Harvard qui est maintenant un agitateur local (community organizer), un politicien en vue à Chicago. N’oublions pas que la carrière politique locale d’Obama est lancée par les fanatiques de la haine de l’Amérique, les ultragauchistes terroristes des Weathermen, à Chicago, qui répètent et confirment la même antienne idéologique. Tous les aquariums où a nagé le têtard avaient la même eau. Obama est la version manucurée de Wright : il est allé à Harvard. Il n’éructe pas, il ne bave pas, il ne montre pas le poing. Il n’émet pas de gros mots à jet continu comme le fait son gourou. Elégant, Il est tout miel – mais les dragées, même recouvertes de sucre, n’en sont pas moins au poivre. Le fond est identique. Wright insulte l’Amérique, Obama demande pardon : dans les deux cas, elle est coupable. Wright est pasteur, Obama est président. Plus encore, cette déplorable Amérique a semé le désordre et le mal partout dans le monde. Au lieu de collaborer multilatéralement avec tous, d’œuvrer au bien commun avec Poutine, Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Saddam Hussein, Bachir al-Assad, et Cie, l’insupportable Bush en a fait des ennemis. Quelle honte ! Il faut réparer les torts commis. L’Amérique ne trouvera sa rédemption que dans le retrait, la pénitence, la contrition, et une forme de disparition. (…) Il faut, à tout prix, trouver des terrains d’entente avec tous. Il faut aller loin, très loin, dans les concessions : l’autre côté finira bien par comprendre. Kim Jong-Il, Hugo Chavez, l’ayatollah Khamenei, Assad, le Hamas, on trouvera les compromis nécessaires à un deal avec les avocats des partie adverses. Sans entente, on retombe dans les errements de l’Amérique honnie. L’Amérique, quelle horreur, se laisse aller à défendre ses alliés contre ses ennemis. On se bat au Vietnam et en Corée contre le communisme agresseur. On se bat contre le Communisme soviétique. Que croyez-vous que l’Obama de la campagne électorale ait signifié à Berlin, en disant, non sans délire, que le monde avait gagné la Guerre froide « en s’unissant » comme s’il n’y avait un qu’un seul camp dans cette guerre ! L’Amérique doit être réduite dans ses prétentions et dans sa puissance. Le monde doit être réduit à un seul camp, celui des faiseurs de paix, avec lesquels l’entente est toujours trouvable. Il n’y a pas d’ennemis, il n’y a que des malentendus. Il ne peut y avoir d’affrontements, seulement des clarifications. (…) Notons à propos que la mêlée des «réalistes»de la politique étrangère, qui préconise justement de se débarrasser des alliés afin de s´arranger avec les méchants, est aux anges, et participe à la mise en oeuvre de l´obamisterie. Ah! finalement, on ne s´embarrasse plus d´autre chose que la «stabilité» à court terme. (…) Obama ne sépare ni le blanc du noir, ni l´ami de l´ennemi. Il a gratuitement offensé les Anglais en méprisant la «relation spéciale». Il a offensé le Japon, en ne se souciant pas de lui ni du survol de son territoire par le missile nord-coréen. Il n´a pas eu un mot pour l´allié taïwanais. Il prépare avec acharnement une crise avec Israel. Il a montré à la Tchéquie et à la Pologne, sur l´affaire de la défense anti- missiles, qu´il ne faut pas compter sur Washington et qu´ils seront sacrifiés sur l´autel du «nouveau départ» avec Moscou. Pour tous, la leçon est brutale: à l´ère d´Obama, mieux vaut être un ennemi qu´un ami: ami, on vous jettera aux orties. Ennemi, on fera tout pour vous plaire. Laurent Murawiec
Quand l’Autriche se moque de vous, c’est que ce n’est pas votre semaine. Pourtant qui peut blâmer Madame Fekter, vu le dédain qu’Obama a montré pour son propre pays à l’étranger, jouant au philosophe-roi au-dessus de la mêlée qui négocie entre sa patrie renégate et un monde par ailleurs chaleureux et accueillant ? (…) Il est particulièrement étrange de voir un leader mondial célébrer le déclin de son propre pays. Encore quelques tournées mondiales comme celle-ci et Obama aura beaucoup plus de déclin à célébrer. Charles Krauthammer
Bref, nous assistons au retour de l’idéalisme postnational d’un Carter mais avec cette fois le charisme d’un Reagan. Pendant 40 ans nos écoles ont enseigné l’équivalence morale, le pacifisme utopique et le multiculturalisme bien intentionné et nous apprenons maintenant que tout ceci n’était pas que de la thérapie mais est insidieusement devenu notre évangile national. Victor Davis Hanson
Le problème n’est pas la sécurité d’Israël, la souveraineté du Liban ou les ingérences de la Syrie ou du Hezbollah : Le problème est centré sur l’effort de l’Iran à obtenir le Droit d’Abolir l’Exclusivité de la Dissuasion. La prolifération sauvage, le concept de «tous nucléaires» sera la fin de la Guerre Froide et le retour à la période précédant la Dissuasion. Les mollahs et leurs alliés, le Venezuela, l’Algérie, la Syrie, la Corée du Nord et la Russie…, se militarisent à une très grande échelle sachant qu’ils vont bientôt neutraliser le parapluie protecteur de la dissuasion et alors ils pourront faire parler la poudre. Chacun visera à dominer sa région et sans que les affrontements se déroulent en Europe, l’Europe sera dépouillée de ses intérêts en Afrique ou en Amérique du Sud et sans combattre, elle devra déposer les armes. Ce qui est incroyable c’est la myopie de la diplomatie française et de ses experts. (…) Aucun d’entre eux ne se doute que la république islamique a des alliés qui ont un objectif commun: mettre un terme à une discrimination qui dure depuis 50 ans, la dissuasion nucléaire ! Cette discrimination assure à la France une position que beaucoup d’états lui envient. Ils attendent avec impatience de pouvoir se mesurer avec cette ancienne puissance coloniale que beaucoup jugent arrogante, suffisante et gourmande.  Iran-Resist
En tant que défenseur de la rue arabe, [l’Iran] ne peut pas avoir un dialogue apaisé avec les Etats-Unis, dialogue au cours duquel il accepterait les demandes de cet Etat qui est le protecteur par excellence d’Israël. Téhéran a le soutien de la rue arabe, talon d’Achille des Alliés Arabes des Etats-Unis, car justement il refuse tout compromis et laisse entendre qu’il pourra un jour lui offrir une bombe nucléaire qui neutralisera la dissuasion israélienne. Pour préserver cette promesse utile, Téhéran doit sans cesse exagérer ses capacités militaires ou nucléaires et des slogans anti-israéliens. Il faut cependant préciser que sur un plan concret, les actions médiatiques de Téhéran ne visent pas la sécurité d’Israël, mais celle des Alliés arabes des Etats-Unis, Etats dont les dirigeants ne peuvent satisfaire les attentes belliqueuses de la rue arabe. Ainsi Téhéran a un levier de pression extraordinaire sur Washington. Comme toute forme de dissuasion, ce système exige un entretien permanent. Téhéran doit sans cesse fouetter la colère et les frustrations de la rue arabe ! Il doit aussi garder ses milices actives, de chaînes de propagande en effervescence et son programme nucléaire le plus opaque possible, sinon il ne serait pas menaçant. C’est pourquoi, il ne peut pas accepter des compensations purement économiques offertes par les Six en échange d’un apaisement ou une suspension de ses activités nucléaires. Ce refus permanent de compromis est vital pour le régime. (…) Il n’y a rien qui fasse plus peur aux mollahs qu’un réchauffement avec les Etats-Unis : ils risquent d’y perdre la rue arabe, puis le pouvoir. C’est pourquoi, le 9 septembre, quand Téhéran a accepté une rencontre pour désactiver les sanctions promises en juillet, il s’est aussitôt mis en action pour faire capoter ce projet de dialogue apaisé qui est un véritable danger pour sa survie. Iran Resist
La gauche a beaucoup de chance. Des historiens et des politologues complaisants veulent toujours voir dans les turbulences qui l’agitent le fruit de divergences idéologiques, de visions du monde opposées comme l’on disait autrefois. Ainsi, on opposera une gauche girondine à une gauche jacobine, une première gauche à une seconde etc… On remarquera que pour beaucoup ces fractures internes sont issues de la révolution française. Curieusement, une période de la révolution est toujours oubliée. Si l’on excepte de rares occasions, on parle peu de la gauche thermidorienne et pourtant, pensons nous, cette période est capitale pour comprendre ce qu’est devenue, aujourd’hui, la gauche française. La période thermidorienne débute avec la chute de Robespierre le 9 thermidor (27 juillet 1794) et finit avec le coup d’Etat de Bonaparte, le 18 brumaire (9 novembre1799). Elle culminera avec le Directoire. La coalition qui mettra fin à la dictature robespierriste est, dans sa composition, assez hétéroclite. Elle va d’ex-conventionnels terroristes aux anciens girondins en passant par le centre mou de la révolution : le fameux marais. En apparence, sauf l’hostilité à Robespierre, pour des raisons diverses d’ailleurs, ils ne sont d’accord sur rien. En apparence seulement. Car comme le soulignent Furet et Richet dans leur livre La révolution française, ce qui les réunit c’est la poursuite d’un double objectif : celui de la conquête et de l’intérêt. Il ne s’agit plus de créer l’homme vertueux mais de profiter (au sens plein du terme) des acquis de la révolution. Les thermidoriens les plus célèbres, dont le fameux Barras, seront des jouisseurs. Ils aiment l’argent et la jouissance dans tous ses aspects. De ce point de vue, la gauche Canal+ vient de loin, elle n’est pas née avec le mitterrandisme, ni avec 1968. La république spartiate rêvée par Robespierre et Saint-Just fait désormais place à la République des palais et des costumes extravagants. (…) Enfin, dernier legs de Thermidor : l’institutionnalisation du pouvoir intellectuel. C’est dans cette période que va, en effet, s’institutionnaliser le pouvoir intellectuel en France avec la création de l’Institut et la domination des fameux idéologues tant raillés par Bonaparte puis Napoléon. Dès lors, l’intellectuel français va adopter des caractéristiques qui ne le quitteront plus. Il sera philosophiquement progressiste, socialement bourgeois, très souvent anticlérical ou athée, profondément élitiste (même s’il proclame le contraire) et très souvent fâché avec le monde réel. Et conclurons-nous très proche des pouvoirs établis ! L’intellectuel de gauche n’est pas né avec l’affaire Dreyfus, il est un enfant de Thermidor. (…) Pourtant, lorsque l’on examine avec attention cette période on se rend compte que toutes les contradictions de la gauche et toutes ses évolutions futures s’y trouvent contenues. La phase thermidorienne de la révolution française est en quelque sorte le laboratoire historique de la gauche contemporaine. Le cynisme, le sociétalisme des oligarques socialistes ne sont pas des accidents de l’histoire, ils sont ancrés en elle. L’argent roi et le progressisme fou sont des vieux compagnons de route de la gauche française ! Jean-Claude Pacitto
Les drones américains ont liquidé plus de monde que le nombre total des détenus de Guantanamo. Pouvons nous être certains qu’il n’y avait parmi eux aucun cas d’erreurs sur la personne ou de morts innocentes ? Les prisonniers de Guantanamo avaient au moins une chance d’établir leur identité, d’être examinés par un Comité de surveillance et, dans la plupart des cas, d’être relâchés. Ceux qui restent à Guantanamo ont été contrôlés et, finalement, devront faire face à une forme quelconque de procédure judiciaire. Ceux qui ont été tués par des frappes de drones, quels qu’ils aient été, ont disparu. Un point c’est tout. Kurt Volker
Cooperation is not an exercise in good feeling; it presupposes congruent definitions of stability. There exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such an understanding. Even while combating common enemies, such as ISIS, Iran has declined to embrace common objectives. Iran’s representatives (including its Supreme Leader) continue to profess a revolutionary anti-Western concept of international order; domestically, some senior Iranians describe nuclear negotiations as a form of jihad by other means. The final stages of the nuclear talks have coincided with Iran’s intensified efforts to expand and entrench its power in neighboring states. Iranian or Iranian client forces are now the pre-eminent military or political element in multiple Arab countries, operating beyond the control of national authorities. With the recent addition of Yemen as a battlefield, Tehran occupies positions along all of the Middle East’s strategic waterways and encircles archrival Saudi Arabia, an American ally. Unless political restraint is linked to nuclear restraint, an agreement freeing Iran from sanctions risks empowering Iran’s hegemonic efforts. Henry Kissinger and George Schultz
Obama rencontre Castro, mais a refusé de rencontrer Netanyahu. Pourquoi légitimer le dictateur cruel d’un régime répressif ? Jeb Bush
Nous assistons au retour de l’idéalisme postnational d’un Carter mais avec cette fois le charisme d’un Reagan. Pendant 40 ans nos écoles ont enseigné l’équivalence morale, le pacifisme utopique et le multiculturalisme bien intentionné et nous apprenons maintenant que tout ceci n’était pas que de la thérapie mais est insidieusement devenu notre évangile national. Victor Davis Hanson
De l’Iran au Venezuela et à Cuba, du Myanmar à la Corée du Nord et à la Chine, du Soudan à l’Afghanistan et à l’Irak, de la Russie à la Syrie et à l’Arabie Saoudite, l’administration Obama a systématiquement enlevé les droits de l’homme et la promotion de la démocratie de l’ordre du jour de l’Amérique. A leur place, elle a préconisé l’amélioration de l’image de l’Amérique, le multilatéralisme et un relativisme moral qui soit ne voit aucune distinction entre les dictateurs et leurs victimes soit considère les distinctions peu importantes à l’avancement des intérêts américains. Caroline Glick
The steady aim of this nation, as of all enlightened nations should be to strive to bring ever nearer the day when there shall prevail throughout the world the peace of justice. …Tyrants and oppressors have many times made a wilderness and called it peace. …The peace of tyrannous terror, the peace of craven weakness, the peace of injustice, all these should be shunned as we shun unrighteous war. … The right of freedom and the responsibility for the exercise of that right cannot be divorced. Theodore Roosevelt (Dec. 4, 1904)
There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants … and that is the force of human freedom…. The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. … America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one... « America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one … From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth. George W. Bush
On the day in November 1961, when the Air Force achieved the first successful silo launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the SM-80, the Western Hemisphere part of the Monroe Doctrine ceased to mean anything at all – while the ideas behind it began to mean everything in the world. At bottom, the notion of a sanctified Western Hemisphere depended upon its separation from the rest of the world by two vast oceans, making intrusions of any sort obvious. The ICBM’s – soon the Soviet Union and other countries had theirs – shrank the world in a military sense. Then long-range jet aircraft, satellite telephones, television and the Internet all, in turn, did the job socially and commercially. By Mr. Bush’s Inauguration Day, the Hemi in Hemisphere had long since vanished, leaving the Monroe Doctrine with – what? – nothing but a single sphere … which is to say, the entire world. For the mission – the messianic mission! – has never shrunk in the slightest (…) David Gelernter, the scientist and writer, argues that « Americanism » is a fundamentally religious notion shared by an incredibly varied population from every part of the globe and every conceivable background, all of whom feel that they have arrived, as Ronald Reagan put it, at a « shining city upon a hill. » God knows how many of them just might agree with President Bush – and Theodore Roosevelt – that it is America’s destiny and duty to bring that salvation to all mankind. Tom Wolfe
If Iran is able to successfully evade addressing the IAEA’s concerns now, when biting sanctions are in place, why would it address them later when these sanctions are lifted, regardless of anything it may pledge today? David Albright
Wasn’t Obama’s great international cause a nuclear-free world? Within months of his swearing-in, he went to Prague to so declare. He then led a 50-party Nuclear Security Summit, one of whose proclaimed achievements was having Canada give up some enriched uranium. Having disarmed the Canadian threat, Obama turned to Iran. The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians. In fact, the Iranian regime just this week, at the apex of these nuclear talks, staged a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz. Well, say the administration apologists, what’s your alternative? Do you want war? It’s Obama’s usual, subtle false-choice maneuver: It’s either appeasement or war. It’s not. True, there are no good choices, but Obama’s prospective deal is the worst possible. Not only does Iran get a clear path to the bomb but it gets sanctions lifted, all pressure removed and international legitimacy. (…) Consider where we began: six U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding an end to Iranian enrichment. Consider what we are now offering: an interim arrangement ending with a sunset clause that allows the mullahs a robust, industrial-strength, internationally sanctioned nuclear program. Such a deal makes the Cuba normalization look good and the Ukrainian cease-fires positively brilliant. We are on the cusp of an epic capitulation. History will not be kind. Charles Krauthammer
You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon. Charles Krauthammer
Obama’s decision to literally extend a hand of friendship toward a Castro represents the abandonment of decades of cherished Democratic foreign affairs doctrine.  (…) By contrast, Obama has stood by and watched as the world’s most brutal regimes oversaw the reclamation of their power. Obama turned a blind eye toward the crushing of the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009, and today strengthens the Mullah’s domestic authority by inking dubious deals with Tehran that will allegedly yield great rewards for the Islamic Republic’s ruling class. In Iran, Obama is rightly seen as no friend to the friendless, and he has greatly strengthened the hand of the system’s stakeholders. The same could be said of Venezuela, where bloody anti-government riots broke out in 2014 and were subsequently crushed by Caracas. Though the global left and Nicolas Maduro’s government saw the riots as an extension of America’s desire to oust his regime from power, Obama made no statements to that effect at the rebellion’s zenith. Only over a year after the fighting in the streets had been quelled did the administration name a handful of Maduro regime officials as threats to American national security in order to target them with sanctions. Perhaps the president wanted to avoid a repeat of his galling refusal to follow up on his 2011 insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. That feel-good statement was not met with action. Quite the contrary; the president stood back and allowed the regime to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocents with conventional and chemical weapons before tepidly committing to take action. But even that reluctant acknowledgment of the president’s responsibility to posterity was not met with engagement. Only when the situation became untenable, the terrorist threat to Western security grew imminent, and the attacks on human decency in the Middle East became truly unprecedented did the United States finally begin to address them. In Moscow, where Obama’s pledge to have more flexibility with the Putin regime in his second term was taken quite literally, the Soviet approach to information management and the suppression of domestic criticism is back in vogue. Journalists who dare to censure the regime again fear for their lives and livelihoods. The institutions of civil society that the Clinton administration invested time and energy, not to mention millions of dollars, trying to build up are now being eagerly destroyed by a Russia that sees more value in repression and revanchism than openness. Once an administration success story, a modest loosening of restrictions on freedoms in Burma has been completely reversed by the military junta in Naypyidaw. (…) In China, an economic powerhouse that nevertheless remains a one-party communist autocracy, America has tacitly consented to supporting the regime’s increased interest in total command and control. (…) Even within the NATO alliance, repression is on the rise. In Turkey, the secularism Kemal Ataturk regarded as a basic value has been de-emphasized. (…) The U.S. has joined other United Nations member in expressing concern over Turkey’s authoritarian drift, but human rights groups have called Obama’s silence on this matter “deafening.” In fact, about the only nation in which Obama pursued what he claimed was a purely humanitarian foreign policy was his decision to lead from behind while Europe toppled Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. There, the West’s attempt to stave off a humanitarian crisis yielded an even greater one. Not only is Libya a failed state today, but it serves as an incubator for fundamentalist Islamic terror groups. Obama surely hopes historians will define his legacy as one of nobly sloughing off the burdens of the past, and opening America up to a brave new dawn in which multilateral talk shops become powerful forces for good. But Obama confuses the people of the world for their governments – a distinction that his Democratic predecessors understood and frequently made. While Obama pursues what he considers a pragmatic approach to international relations, the tide of freedoms that characterized the end of the last century is waning. When the need to protect Obama’s image for the sake of the left’s sense of self-validation subsides, it will become clear that the president’s true legacy was one of accommodation toward international community’s most repressive elements purely for the sake of convenience and fleeting domestic political gain. Noah Rothman
It was U.S. policy that caused the destruction of the Libyan state, such as it was. U.S. policy, from starting a war to failing to plan for its Phase 4 post-combat aftermath, explains not only the god-awful mess that Libya has become, but also what happened to Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. (…) Like Libya, Iraq was a nasty, authoritarian hellhole before U.S. policy made it even worse. We may blame that on the Bush Administration for mis-starting a war that had not been properly planned, but Iraq would not be quite the mess it is today had the Obama Administration not mis-ended it by yanking our presence out without a SOFA agreement. (…) Did Syria’s troubles fall out of the sky, too? Here U.S. policy is mostly guilty of sins of omission rather than sins of commission, some of them circling back to our hands-off-Iran supinity, but it is guilty all the same. As we have said here at TAI many times over the past three years, a judicious early use of U.S. power and leadership well short of kinetic action—difficult though it always was, true—could have averted the still evolving worst-case calamity that Syria has become. Syria is well on its way to complete Somalization. Far be it for me to advocate the use of U.S. force in any of these places. We cannot put these states back together at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure. As I have stressed in earlier posts (for example, here), what is happening, at base, is historio-structural in nature and no mere policy nipping and tucking can restore the status quo ante. I am no more in a mood to move chess pieces around on a table than the President is, especially if I have to do it with bombers, APCs, and Aegis cruisers loaded up with SLCMs. But to pontificate about the need for Arab self-help in these three cases, as though U.S. policy had nothing whatsoever to do with their present plights, very nearly surpasses credulity. It reminds me of a three-year old not yet well experienced at hide-and-go-seek who covers his face and thereby imagines that others cannot see him. Who in the region does the President think he’s fooling? Adam Garfinkle
The pattern of which I speak, conceived by the historian Walter A. McDougall, consists of four phases that tend to repeat in cycles. First, there is a shock to the system, usually in the form of a surprise attack: the shot fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861, the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbour in 1898, the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, Pearl Harbour in 1941, and September 11 in 2001. In the phase directly after the shock, the leader of the day—Lincoln, McKinley, Wilson, FDR, George W. Bush—vows to resurrect the status quo ante and punish the evildoers. That corresponds to Lincoln’s vow to save the Union, Wilson’s vow to defend the right of American free passage on the high seas, and Bush’s vow to find and punish the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks so that America’s minimally acceptable standard of near perfect security could be restored. But third, in the course of mobilising the national effort to achieve the limited goals set after the shock, the transcendent God-talk begins and the effort soon becomes enmeshed in the sacred narrative of American exceptionalism. This leads to a distension of goals and expectations, to geopolitical amnesia, and to what cognitive psychologists call a dominant strategy that is impervious to negative feedback and logical contradiction. And so, in the September 11 decade, we chose a war that thoughtlessly destroyed the regional balance against Iranian hegemonism without even stopping to ask about the broader implications of a Shi’a government in Baghdad. One does not, apparently, descend to the smarminess of geopolitical analysis when one is doing the Lord’s work. So, too, did we turn what could and should have remained a punitive military operation in Afghanistan into a quixotic, distracted, underfunded nation- and state-building campaign. And so, too, did we conflate all our adversaries into one monolithic demon—typical of eschatological thinking. The administration conflated secular, Ba’athi Iraq with the apocalyptical Muslim fanatics of al-Qaeda, and so went to war against a country uninvolved in 9/11 whose threat to America was not, as is commonly claimed, zero, but which hardly justified, or excused, the haste and threadbare planning with which the war was launched and conducted. Then, in the fourth phase, overreach leads to setbacks (the Korean War, for example, and the Iraq insurgency) and regrets (like the Vietnam War), ultimately resulting in at least temporary retrenchment … until the cycle starts all over again. This four-phase model fits the September 11 decade to a tee. The attack itself is of course phase 1; the Bush doctrine version 1.0 represents phase 2; the Second Inaugural signals the full efflorescence of phase 3; and the election of Barack Obama marks the consolidation of phase 4. It matters in all this, however, whether the ideological vehicle that propels phase 3 forward even remotely reflects or aligns with reality. When it does, as it did during and after World War II, no one pays attention since things tend then to turn out well. In the case of the September 11 decade, unfortunately, it did not. There have been basically two problems with it. First, the « forward strategy » for freedom’s ascription of causality for Islamist terrorism is mistaken. Second, even if it were not mistaken, the timetables in which democracy promotion was seen as a solution for mass-casualty terrorism do not even begin to match. The reason is that despite President Bush’s assertion that democracy promotion is « the work of generations » and that democracy is about more than elections, that is not the basis upon which the administration actually behaved. It rushed into premature elections in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, with troublesome and still open-ended consequences for Iraq and disastrous ones for Lebanon and Gaza. After September 11, as Americans searched for analogies that might help them understand the motivations for the attacks, most found themselves with very shallow reservoirs of historical analogies. Indeed, Americans tended almost exclusively to choose Cold War metaphors to explain September 11. Liberal idealists took their characteristic meliorist approach: It was poverty and injustice that motivated the attacks, and American policies that determined the target. There were dozens of calls for a « Marshall Plan for the Middle East », and hundreds of pleas to concentrate more than ever on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, as if that were somehow a magic bullet that could fix all problems. Conservative idealists, as already noted, took the democracy-promotion approach, arguing that the motivation was not economic but political. Both were wrong; Islamist radicalism, in truth, is a form of chiliastic violence that has taken many forms in many cultures over the past two millennia, from the Jewish zealots of the First Century of the Common Era, to the 16th-century Peasants’ Revolt in Germany, to the 19th-century « ghost dances » of American Indians. But the obvious weaknesses of the meliorist approach encouraged conservative idealists in their conviction that their own view, therefore, must be right. (Manichean-minded Americans have real problems when any potential set of choices exceeds two.) The administration’s rhetoric went even further, however, suggesting that US policy was largely responsible for the debased condition of Arab political cultures. When Bush famously said in November 2003: « Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty », he argued in essence that it was US policy, not the long incubated political culture of the region, that accounted for Arab autocracy. The Bush White House, in essence, adopted the wrongheaded left-wing side of an old debate over « friendly tyrants » as lesser evils and what to do with and about them, a very strange position for an avowedly conservative administration to take. The President also seemed to be saying, in a locution repeated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Cairo in June 2005 and many times thereafter, that US Cold War policy in the region was unsuccessful on its own terms, that it did not provide safety and stability. Adam Garfinkle
 The United States is the world’s pre-eminent if not hegemonic power. Since World War II it has set the normative standards and both formed and guarded the security and economic structures of the world. In that capacity it has provided for a relatively secure and prosperous global commons, a mission nicely convergent with the maturing American self-image as an exceptionalist nation. To do this, however, the United States has had to maintain a global military presence as a token of its commitment to the mission and as a means of reassurance to those far and wide with a stake in it. This has required a global network of alliances and bases, the cost of which is not small and the maintenance of which, in both diplomatic and other terms, is a full-time job. Against this definition of strategic mission there have always been those in the United States who have dissented, holding that we do, ask and expect much too much, and get into gratuitous trouble as a result. Some have preferred outright isolationism, but most serious skeptics of the status quo have preferred a posture of ‘offshore balancing’. Remove the bases and end the alliances, they have argued, and the US government will be better able, at less risk and far less cost to the nation, to balance against threatening developments abroad, much as America’s strategic mentor, Great Britain, did throughout most of the 19th century. This is the core conversation Americans have been having about the US global role since at least 1945. To one side we recall George McGovern’s 1972 ‘Come Home, America’ campaign plank, the Mansfield Amendment that would have removed US troops from Europe in mid-Cold War, and the early Carter administration’s proposal to remove US troops from South Korea spoken in rhythm to speeches decrying an “inordinate fear of communism”. To the other side has been almost everyone and everything else, so that the offshore approach has always been turned back, at least until now. Where is the Obama administration in this great debate? We don’t really know; the evidence, once again, suggests ambivalence. President Obama has rejected American exceptionalism as no American president before him ever has; he did so in London on 29 April 2009, when he answered a question as follows: “I believe in American exceptionalism just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” By relativizing what has always been an absolute, Obama showed how profoundly his image of America has been influenced by the received truths of the Vietnam anti-war movement and counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. If he has a theory of American exceptionalism, it is a far subtler, humbler and more historically contingent one than the secular messianist, attenuated Protestant version that has been common to American history. The President also believes that downward pressure on the defense budget is warranted; his projected budgets show as much, though the prospective cuts are not draconian. But in this he joins a large, politically ecumenical contingent, so his views do not imply opposition to the forward-presence approach to grand strategy. And the fact that US relations with many of its allies, notably in Europe, have worsened during Obama’s tenure is more likely a consequence of the President being distracted than it is of any active dislike for either specific allies or alliances in general. Nor does his candid view that fighting in Afghanistan for another decade and spending $1 trillion doing so is not in America’s best national interest, mean that he is reticent about using force on behalf of strategic aims when it is in America’s interest to do so. Perhaps Obama accepts the forward strategy but will end up starving it of resources to the point that it will shockingly fail some crucial test—perhaps the worst outcome of all. Taken together, then, the administration’s track record, encompassing the whole spectrum from discrete policy arenas to the lofty heights of grand strategy, suggests the foreign policy equivalent of a Rorschach inkblot. Observers can see in it what they have wanted to see. Some have tagged the Obama administration a re-run of the Carter administration, but the fit is obviously imperfect; it’s very hard to see Carter during his first or second year in office ordering those Predator strikes, even harder to imagine him holding his tongue on human rights. Some have seen a replay of Nixon and Kissinger: Realpolitik hiding behind feel-good talk about allies and peace and the rest, trying simultaneously to play an inherited weak hand and set the stage for a grand bargain—this time with Iran instead of China. Still others think they are witness to the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: a shrewd opportunist who knows the limits set by domestic constraints, and whose main concern is national economic stabilization and social strengthening against the day when American power must meet a true test of destiny. The name game can go on because, while no great successes have sprouted forth from the Obama foreign policy, no great debacles have emerged either. (…) Read any serious history of American diplomacy and it becomes readily apparent how central the character of the president is to it. One of the great mysteries of understanding US foreign policy today in its essence is that, more than any other occupant of the Oval Office, Americans and foreigners alike simply do not have a good feel for who Barack Obama really is. Aside from being relatively young and recent upon the national political scene, he doesn’t fit into any category with which we are accustomed to understand intellectual and temperamental origins. More importantly, Obama’s ‘mentality’ is not only hard for outsiders to read, he is, thanks to the facts of his nativity and life circumstances, an unusually self-constructed personality. He is black in an obvious physical way but culturally not black in any significant way. He is a person who, finding himself naturally belonging nowhere, has striven to shape himself into a person who belongs everywhere. As his books suggest, he is a man who has put himself through more reconstructive psychological surgery than any American politician in memory. A few of the resultant characteristics are critically important for understanding how he serves as both president and commander-in-chief. Obama has understood above all that he must keep his cool. His cultivated aloofness is absolutely necessary to his successful political personality, for he cannot allow himself to exude emotion lest he raise the politically fatal specter of ‘the emotional black man’. His analytical mien, however, has made it hard for him to bond with foreign heads of state and even with some members of his own staff. His relationship with General Jones, for example, lacked rapport to the point that it seems to be a major reason for Jones resigning his position. But Obama’s ‘cool’ does not imply a stunted capacity for emotional intelligence. To the contrary: he knows unerringly where the emotional balance of a conversation needs to be, and it is for this reason that Obama’s self-confidence is so imperturbable. He knows he can read other people without letting them read him. And this is why, in parallel with the complex of his racial identity, he never defers to others psychologically or emotionally, not towards individuals and not, as with the US military, towards any group. The combination of ‘cool’ and empathetic control helps explain Obama’s character as commander-in-chief. He is respected in the ranks for sacking General Stanley McChrystal after the latter’s inexcusable act of disrespect and insubordination. That was control at work. But US troops do not feel that Obama has their back. He thinks of them as victims, not warriors, and one does not defer to victims. His ‘cool’, as well as his having had no prior contact with the professional military ethos at work, enjoins a distance that diminishes his effectiveness as commander-in-chief. Obama’s mastery at projecting himself as self-confident, empathetic and imperturbable has also compensated for his lack of original policy ideas. Whether in law school, on the streets of Chicago, in the US Senate or in the race for the White House, he has commanded respect by being the master orchestrator of the ideas, talents and ambitions of others. Many claim that his personality archetype is that of the ‘professor’, but this is not so; it is that of the judge. It is the judge who sits above others; they defer to him, not he to them. It is the judge who bids others speak while he holds his peace and shows no telling emotion. It is the judge who settles disputes and orders fair and just resolution. It is the judge whose presumed intelligence trumps all others. This kind of personality archetype can succeed well within American politics. In this sense it is precisely Charles Evans Hughes, a former chief justice of the US Supreme Court, not Carter, Wilson, Niebuhr, Nixon or FDR who stands as the true forebear of Barack Obama. But in the international arena even the American president cannot pull off a judge act and get away with it. Wilson tried and failed (or was that a prophet act?). The American president among his international peers is but one of many, perhaps primus inter pares but certainly without a mandate to act like it. Obama cum ‘judge’ has not impressed these peers: not among our European allies, who are ill at ease with his aloofness; not among Arabs and Muslims, who think him ill-mannered for bad-mouthing his predecessors while being hosted in foreign lands; not among Russians and Chinese, who think him gullible and guileless. Obama may still be popular on the ‘streets’ of the world because of the color of his skin, the contrast he draws to his predecessor, the general hope for renewal he symbolizes, and his willingness to play to chauvinist sentiment abroad by apologizing for supposed past American sins; but this matters not at all in the palaces where decisions are made. As his novelty has worn off, he impresses less and less. One reason President Obama does not impress the foreigners who matter is that he looks to be a figure in political distress at home. They know, as does the President, that his legacy will be forged in the context of the American domestic moment. Success at home can empower him abroad, but the opposite is not the case. That is why it is impossible to assess the Obama foreign policy bereft of its domestic political context. (…) If we now try to put all the foregoing factors together, what do we find assembled? We find a president in a tough spot who most likely does not know if he is inspired more by Wilson or Niebuhr, because reality thus far has not forced him to choose. We don’t know if he is resigned to a strategy of forward deployment or desirous of an offshore alternative because he likely doesn’t know either, having never been posed the question in so many words. We find a man whose inexperience leaves him with an incomplete grasp of what he gives up by asserting such close control over foreign policy from the White House. We see a man whose personality does not function abroad as successfully as it has at home, and so cannot with brilliant speeches alone dissolve the conflicting interests that define the cauldron of international politics into a comforting pot of warm milk. We see a man commanding a decision system untested by crisis, and one whose core issues remain unfocused for all the distractions of other challenges in his path. We see, lastly but not least, a man whose political instincts are no more detachable from him than his own shadow. From all these sources, bumping against and mixing with one another, comes the foreign policy of Barack Obama. Where the man will lead that policy, or the policy lead the man (the rest of us in tow), is now driven by the fact that the President is adrift conceptually since his initial engagement strategies did not succeed. Obama now awaits the crisis that will forge his legacy, but what that crisis will be, and whether the president will meet it with the American national interest or his personal political concerns foremost in mind, no one knows. No one can possibly know. Adam Garfinkle
Je ne pense donc pas que le Président ait une théorie stratégique explicite sur le dossier du Proche-Orient. Je n’entends tourner aucun des mécanismes de Kissinger. Ses orientations à l’égard de la région ressemblent plus à celles de George H. W. Bush : il a des intuitions, des instincts. Et ceux-ci lui soufflent qu’obtenir ce qu’on veut dans cette partie du monde est très difficile et le devient de plus en plus, dans la mesure où la possibilité d’avoir un interlocuteur unique – dont nous « jouissions » en ayant pour alliés des régimes arabes autoritaires et stables – n’est plus ce qu’elle était. (…) Si j’ai raison de soutenir que le Président Obama a des instincts et des intuitions, mais pas de grande et ambitieuse stratégie pour le Proche-Orient, a-t-il néanmoins quelque chose de plus précis à l’esprit, replaçant le Proche-Orient dans un cadre global plus vaste ? La réponse à cette question est la même : le Président n’est pas, je pense, un homme qui a confiance dans l’exercice d’une stratégie formelle, mais il ne fonctionne pas non plus complètement au cas par cas. Il croit probablement que les États-Unis sont effectivement trop investis au Proche-Orient et pas assez en Asie. D’où l’idée du pivot et peu importe qu’on l’ait sabotée en la présentant comme une proposition alternative. Selon toute vraisemblance, il s’est un jour demandé quel était le pire scénario pour le Proche-Orient. Ce qui se passerait si tout allait mal. En quoi cela affecterait vraiment les intérêts vitaux de l’Amérique. Non ses engagements traditionnels, non sa réputation, non ses obligations découlant de l’habitude et pas d’une approche nouvelle – mais ses authentiques intérêts vitaux. Et sa réponse a probablement été que, sauf réaction en chaîne en matière de prolifération d’ADM, les conséquences seraient minimes. Une fois encore, je doute qu’Obama déploie consciemment ici une logique stratégique explicite ou formalisée ou qu’il accepte les théories universitaires du réalisme bienveillant ou de l’équilibre naturel. Mais je pense qu’il se rend compte qu’après le relatif immobilisme de la Guerre froide, le monde est devenu globalement plus confus ; que le degré de contrôle que peuvent donner les relations interétatiques traditionnelles sur une zone aux enjeux importants a baissé à mesure que, grâce aux nouvelles cyber-technologies, les mobilisations populaires et populistes se sont accrues aux niveaux à la fois sous-étatique et trans-étatique. Le Proche-Orient est certainement bien plus compliqué et confus, même si ce n’est pas, ou pas encore, le cas du reste du monde. À mon avis, cette intuition a eu pour effet de rendre le Président Obama encore plus hostile au risque de manière générale et en particulier dans une région où il manque à tout le moins d’expérience et en son for intérieur d’assurance. Il est visiblement mal à l’aise lorsque ses conseillers sont divisés. Comme un juge, il essaie de trouver un dénominateur commun entre eux, ce qui est une bonne chose dans un travail de militant associatif, mais pas nécessairement en politique étrangère. Lorsque ses conseillers se livrent à une pensée de groupe, ce qu’ils font de plus en plus depuis le départ de Gates et de Donilon, ou lorsque aucun d’eux ne fait d’objections sérieuses à quelque chose (par exemple à la lubie de Kerry sur la paix israélo-palestinienne), il est satisfait de s’investir dans la gestion de son image – la twitterisation de la politique étrangère américaine en quelque sorte – parce qu’il sait qu’il ne peut tout simplement pas ignorer toutes ces choses. La sensibilité du Président aux limites a également tendance à rendre sa politique réactive et ses objectifs réels modestes. Aussi, dans la confusion qu’est le Proche-Orient aujourd’hui, il veut que l’Irak soit gouverné de manière plus inclusive. Il veut que la Syrie et la Libye soient gouvernées, point. Il veut que l’Égypte soit stable et il n’est pas très regardant sur la manière dont cela peut se faire. Il veut que l’Iran n’ait pas d’armes nucléaires et il est prêt à beaucoup de choses pour l’empêcher par la diplomatie car il pense probablement que les dirigeants iraniens ne peuvent pas aujourd’hui exercer leur volonté au-delà de leurs frontières avec plus de réel succès que nous. Il ne semble avoir d’idées précises et ne souhaiter agir préventivement que pour empêcher que des attaques terroristes tuent des citoyens américains, en particulier sur le sol des États-Unis. D’où son goût pour les attaques de drones, sa tolérance à l’égard de Guantánamo, son refus d’émasculer une série de programmes de la NSA, sauf à la marge, et son soutien généreux à l’ouverture discrète dans le monde entier de bases petites, mais puissantes, pour les forces spéciales. Cet ensemble de positions n’est ni de l’apaisement ni de l’isolationnisme. Ce n’est manifestement pas non plus du maximalisme stratégique. C’est quelque chose d’intermédiaire et dans cet entre-deux, suspendu entre des attentes héritées du passé et des hésitations dues au flou de l’avenir, les choses deviennent parfois étranges ou pénibles lorsqu’il faut prendre un nombre sans précédent de décisions. Étrange, comme Genève II.  Adam Garfinkle
Pour Obama, le terrorisme est, à la racine, un produit de la désintégration sociale. La guerre est peut-être nécessaire pour contenir l’avancée de l’Etat islamique, mais seulement une réforme sociale peut vraiment s’en débarrasser. Ajoutez à cette vision le vécu d’un parfait ‘outsider’, moitié blanc et moitié noir avec une enfance et une famille dispersée autour du monde, et on commence à voir le profil d’un homme avec une empathie automatique pour les marginaux et un sens presque instinctif que les plus importants problèmes du monde sont enracinés, non pas dans l’idéologie, mais dans des structures sociales et économiques oppressives qui renforcent la marginalisation. Cette sensibilité est plus large que n’importe quelle orthodoxie économique, et elle est enracinée dans la dure expérience du Sud de Chicago. Après avoir pris la tête de la plus importante superpuissance du monde en janvier 2009, ce travailleur social s’est mis à construire une politique étrangère qui traduisait ses impressions en actions géopolitiques.(…) Le monde était un énorme Chicago, ses problèmes essentiels pas totalement différents de ceux des Noirs du Sud de Chicago, et les solutions à ces problèmes étaient enracinées dans la même capacité humaine à surpasser les divisions sociales et les inégalités. Voilà en quoi consistait le « provincialisme » d’Obama, sa vision d’un monde qui favorisait les désavantagés et les opprimés, qui percevait les conflits idéologiques et politiques entre les gouvernements comme secondaires par rapport à des crises plus universelles et en fin de compte sociales qui troublaient un monde déjà tumultueux. (…) L’aversion du président Obama pour Netanyahu est intense et … Il y a peu de doute que cette hostilité soit devenue personnelle – un dirigeant juif américain a affirmé que c’est le président Obama lui-même qui a donné l’interview à The Atlantic, dans laquelle un responsable anonyme s’est moqué de Netanyahu en le qualifiant de « chickenshit » [poule mouillée] – mais ses origines sont plus profondes qu’une antipathie personnelle. (…) Lorsque Netanyahu insiste pour parler de l’histoire juive à l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU, tout en refusant d’aborder la dépossession palestinienne, quand il rejette d’emblée et à plusieurs reprises l’idée qu’une éventuelle réadaptation de l’Iran pourrait être plus souhaitable qu’une confrontation permanente, Obama entend des échos de ces militants de Chicago dont le chauvinisme a fait plus de mal que de bien à leurs communautés. (…) Pour les deux hommes, l’écart est plus profond que la fracture démocrates-républicains, plus profond que la question palestinienne, plus profond encore que la bataille sur l’Iran. Obama a cherché à introduire une nouvelle conscience dans les affaires mondiales, une conscience qui a défini son identité politique. Netanyahu défend les anciennes méthodes – dont dépendent, selon lui, la sécurité nationale. Haviv Rettig Gur
Iran must be taken seriously when it says it sees this negotiation as part of a struggle with an enemy. Liberal American diplomats often delude themselves that foreigners prefer them to conservative hardliners. They think that American adversaries like the Castro brothers or the Iranians will want to work cooperatively with liberals here, and help the American liberals stay in power in order to advance a mutually beneficial, win-win agenda. Thus liberals think they can get better deals from U.S. opponents than hardliners who, as liberals see it, are so harsh and crude in their foreign policy that they force otherwise neutral or even pro-American states into opposition. What liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of these leaders it is the American system and American civilization that is seen as the enemy. It is capitalism, for example, that the communists opposed, and they saw liberal capitalism as simply one of the masks that the heartless capitalist system could wear. For the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threatFor the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threat. Obama’s ideas from this point of view are if anything less sympathetic to Iranian theocrats than those of, say, American evangelicals who aren’t running around supporting gay marriage, transgender rights and an industrial strength feminism that conservative Iranian mullahs see as blasphemy made flesh. The mullahs in other words, don’t see blue America as an ally against red America. It is America, blue and red, that they hate and want to bring down. And while, like the Soviets during the Cold War, they may be willing to sign specific agreements where their interests and ours coincide on some particular issue, they do not look to end the rivalry by reaching agreements. The Iranians are as likely to use negotiations to trip up and humiliate Obama as they were willing to doublecross Jimmy Carter and to drag out hostage negotiations as a way of making him look weak in the eyes of the world. American power is what they hope to break, and they don’t like it more or trust it more when a liberal Democrat stands at the head of our system. The Iranians appear to believe that Obama desperately needs an agreement with Iran, and are using the leverage they think this gives them to tease and torment the president while they push for more concessions. (…) Given that the Iranians, as much as the communists before them, believe that the conflict between them and the United States is a conflict arising from the differences between the two country’s systems rather than from personality clashes or minor and adjustable conflicts of interest, the mullahs would by their own lights be foolish indeed if they didn’t do everything possible to push their advantages in Geneva and elsewhere. Walter Russell Mead

Attention: une guerre sainte peut en cacher une autre !

En ce 100e anniversaire du premier génocide du XXe siècle …

Et modèle et début, entre nazisme, communisme et à nouveau aujourd’hui islam comme l’a rappelé le pape, d’une longue liste de violences génocidaires …

Où après la reconnaissance du droit à l’arme nucléaire d’un pays appelant explicitement à l’annihilation de l’Etat hébreu …

Et après son refus de rencontrer le dirigeant sortant de l’unique véritable démocratie du Moyen-Orient …

Ou même de se déplacer pour le 70e anniversaire de la libération d’Auschwitz ou, défendu par ses belles âmes, la Marche de Paris pour la liberté d’expression …

L’actuel chef du Monde libre et discret Predator in chief n’a rien trouvé de mieux que de célébrer les prétendument historiques retrouvailles avec l’un des derniers dictateurs stalinistes de la planète …

Comment ne pas voir avec le politologue américain Walter Russell Mead …

Derrière l’impressionnante liste de mauvaises causes que le président Obama aura épousées …

Et sous couvert, au niveau intérieur et sociétal comme dans la France socialiste, de la non moins impressionnante liste de prétendues bonnes causes et d’intérêts bien compris

Le véritable objectif …

Tant des ennemis de l’Amérique et de l’Occident …

Que du Flagellant en chef et de toute sa génération de pleureuses …

A savoir derrière l’abaissement voire l’élimination de l’Amérique et d’Israël

Celui du Monde libre qu’ils représentent ?

Not A Partner For Peace
Walter Russell  Mead

The American Interest

April 10, 2015

The Supreme Leader’s Speech and Liberal Delusions Walter Russell MeadWhat liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of America’s adversaries, it is the American system and American civilization that are the enemies.
Iran’s Supreme Leader gave a speech yesterday regarding the nuclear framework agreement, and what he said cannot have been comforting to the Obama Administration. Khamenei made two unequivocal demands: 1) sanctions must be lifted as soon as a final deal is signed, and 2) there will be no inspections of Iranian military sites. These stand in sharp contrast to the framework agreement as it has been repeatedly described by Western leaders ever since they announced it more than a week ago.

Careful observers should not be terribly surprised—at least not by the first demand. None other than Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Secretary John Kerry’s direct interlocutor at the talks in Lausanne, immediately tweeted after the announcement that in his understanding the sanctions would be lifted immediately upon signing—not gradually.

As to the question of inspections of Iranian military sites, that too was a contentious area of discussion carefully sidestepped during the framework negotiations. Leaks preceding the announcement of the agreement indicated that the talks nearly broke down due to Iran refusing to disclose what military nuclear research it had already undertaken.

It’s hard to predict how events will play out, but the Obama Administration should have no illusions on one count: Iran must be taken seriously when it says it sees this negotiation as part of a struggle with an enemy. Liberal American diplomats often delude themselves that foreigners prefer them to conservative hardliners. They think that American adversaries like the Castro brothers or the Iranians will want to work cooperatively with liberals here, and help the American liberals stay in power in order to advance a mutually beneficial, win-win agenda. Thus liberals think they can get better deals from U.S. opponents than hardliners who, as liberals see it, are so harsh and crude in their foreign policy that they force otherwise neutral or even pro-American states into opposition.

What liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of these leaders it is the American system and American civilization that is seen as the enemy. It is capitalism, for example, that the communists opposed, and they saw liberal capitalism as simply one of the masks that the heartless capitalist system could wear. For the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threatFor the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threat. Obama’s ideas from this point of view are if anything less sympathetic to Iranian theocrats than those of, say, American evangelicals who aren’t running around supporting gay marriage, transgender rights and an industrial strength feminism that conservative Iranian mullahs see as blasphemy made flesh.

The mullahs in other words, don’t see blue America as an ally against red America. It is America, blue and red, that they hate and want to bring down. And while, like the Soviets during the Cold War, they may be willing to sign specific agreements where their interests and ours coincide on some particular issue, they do not look to end the rivalry by reaching agreements.

The Iranians are as likely to use negotiations to trip up and humiliate Obama as they were willing to doublecross Jimmy Carter and to drag out hostage negotiations as a way of making him look weak in the eyes of the world. American power is what they hope to break, and they don’t like it more or trust it more when a liberal Democrat stands at the head of our system.

The Iranians appear to believe that Obama desperately needs an agreement with Iran, and are using the leverage they think this gives them to tease and torment the president while they push for more concessions. They think, for example, that his reluctance to intervene in the Middle East reflects his desperate hunger for a deal—and so they are doubling down on that by stepping up support for the Houthis in Yemen. With the announcement of the framework agreement and their subsequent pullback, they seem to be playing him exactly the way Lucy plays Charlie Brown: the goal is to snatch the football away after Charlie Brown is committed to kicking it.

Will Iran walk away from a deal, or will it sign? Ultimately, nobody except the Supreme Leader knows, and he may not have made up his mind quite yet. Whatever else Iran is doing, it is clearly try its best to push the final negotiations in a more favorable direction—waiting to see what else he can get before acting decisively.

Given that the Iranians, as much as the communists before, them believe that the conflict between them and the United States is a conflict arising from the differences between the two country’s systems rather than from personality clashes or minor and adjustable conflicts of interest, the mullahs would by their own lights be foolish indeed if they didn’t do everything possible to push their advantages in Geneva and elsewhere. Iran may in the end be willing to give Obama the deal he so badly wants, but the mullahs aim to make him pay the highest possible price for the smallest possible gain that they can.  From what we have seen in the days since the framework agreement was announced, Iran doesn’t think the squeezing process is over, and it thinks that the Obama administration can and will end up paying more to get less.

Voir aussi:

Iranian President: Diplomacy With U.S. is an Active ‘Jihad’
Diplomacy just as significant as new weapons, missiles
Adam Kredo
March 12, 2015
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described his country’s diplomacy with the United States as an active “jihad” that is just as significant to Tehran’s advancement as the slew of new weapons and missiles showcased by the Islamic Republic’s military.

Rouhani praised the country’s military leaders for standing “against the enemy on the battlefield” and said as president, he would carry out this “jihad” on the diplomatic front.

Rouhani’s comments echo those of foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator Javad Zarif, who said Tuesday that Iran has emerged as “the winner” in talks with Western powers. Like Zarif, Rouhani boasted that Iran’s years-long diplomacy with Western nations over its nuclear program established the Islamic Republic as a global power.

Iran has made headway in convincing the U.S. to allow it to maintain much of its core infrastructure through diplomatic talks that Rouhani said are viewed as a “jihad.”

“Our negotiations with the world powers are a source of national pride,” Rouhani said earlier this week. “Yesterday [during the Iran-Iraq War], your brave generals stood against the enemy on the battlefield and defended their country. Today, your diplomatic generals are defending [our nation] in the field of diplomacy–this, too, is jihad.”

“Our power is growing each day, but we don’t intend to be aggressive toward anyone. However, we will certainly defend our country, nation, independence, and honor wholeheartedly.”

Iran stands “10 times more powerful” than it was during the time of the Iran-Iraq War, Rouhani said, which “reflects a serious deterrence to the enemies’ threats.”

Iranian leaders view the ongoing talks with the United States and other nations as a source of global legitimacy.

Rouhani’s remarks have “significant domestic implications,” according to an analysis published by the American Enterprise Institute.

“Iran’s negotiations team to the status of Iran-Iraq War commanders, who are traditionally revered by the regime as upholders of Islamic Revolutionary values, could potentially lead to rhetorical backlash from regime hardliners opposed to the nuclear negotiations,” AEI wrote.

Matan Shamir, director of research at United Against Nuclear Iran, said Rouhani’s latest comments show he is not a moderate leader.

“While Rouhani talks about a ‘win-win’ nuclear deal to global audiences, his comments make clear that he continues to view the U.S. an antagonistic global oppressor that must be triumphed over, in this case by a diplomatic ‘jihad,’” Shamir said. “This is clearly not the language of a moderate or of a regime with which rapprochement is at all realistic.”

Zarif said Tuesday that a final nuclear deal with the United States is meaningless at this point.

“We are the winner whether the [nuclear] negotiations yield results or not,” Zarif was quoted as saying by the Tasnim News Agency. “The capital we have obtained over the years is dignity and self-esteem, a capital that could not be retaken.”

As Rouhani and Zarif grandstand on the nuclear front, Iranian military leaders have begun to unveil a host of new missiles and sea-based weapons.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a leader in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Iran’s defensive capabilities “are non-negotiable in the nuclear talks,” AEI reported.

The comments came the same day Iran paraded its new cruise missiles.

Hajizadeh also dismissed economic sanctions on Iran, saying that “his is a message which should be understood by the bullying powers which raise excessive demands.”

On Wednesday, the State Department said any final deal with Iran was “nonbinding,” meaning that neither party would be legally obliged to uphold the agreement.

Voir également:

Obama has destroyed the Democratic Party’s legacy on human rights
Noah Rothman

Hot air

April 12, 2015

Marco Rubio couldn’t have asked for a better foil than a president in the White House who eagerly shakes the hand of a Castro in the pursuit of a “legacy issue.” When he launches his presidential campaign on Monday, it’s fair to expect the Florida senator to dwell on the matter of Obama’s crass disrespect for the oppressed Cuban people. The president has said he wants to break the “shackles” that constrain his freedom of action overseas. The “shackles” he derides were those foreign policy precepts that once rendered America the shining city on a hill, a beacon of freedom, and a champion of fundamental human aspiration for the better part of a century.

If he is so inclined, Rubio might also make note of the fact that Raul Castro doesn’t seem interested in playing the docile and repentant dictator in order to help Obama recast the communists in Havana as responsible international actors. In what CNN’s Jim Acosta called “a borderline rant,” Castro’s speech at the Summit of the Americas was apparently loaded with a fair amount of good, old-fashioned America bashing.

“Castro, in a meandering, nearly hour-long speech to the Summit of the Americas, ran through an exhaustive history of perceived Cuban grievances against the U.S. dating back more than a century—a vivid display of how raw passions remain over American attempts to undermine Cuba’s government,” Time Magazine reported.

Eventually, Castro said he had become “emotional” and apologized to Obama personally “because he had no responsibility for this.” What Castro refers to as “this” is, in fact, 200 years of American policy toward the Western Hemisphere – a source of much consternation for the revolutionary left. “In my opinion, President Obama is an honest man,” Castro glowed.

Having successfully courted the communist dictator, Obama and Castro proceeded to have what the administration apparently considered a historic, if not fruitful, bilateral meeting. “In a later news conference, Obama said that he was ‘optimistic that we’ll continue to make progress, and that this can indeed be a turning point,’” a Washington Post dispatch read.

A realist might look upon Obama’s approach to thawing relations with Cuba and smile. The United States has long regarded this region as pivotal, and Washington has warily eyed Beijing’s efforts to supplant U.S. influence in South and Central America and the Caribbean for years. But Cuba has counted itself a member of any foreign camp dedicated to balancing against U.S. power for decades, and the United States has somehow soldiered on without the complicity of a placid regime in Havana.

What’s more, Obama’s decision to literally extend a hand of friendship toward a Castro represents the abandonment of decades of cherished Democratic foreign affairs doctrine. One of the precious few lasting achievements secured by Jimmy Carter’s administration was to ensure that the concept of human rights served a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. In principle if not always in practice, respect for human rights became the sine qua non for friendly bilateral relations with the United States after 1977. That has remained the case through both Democratic and Republican administrations ever since. Many on the left would argue that this focus forced more than a handful of repressive regimes to extend to their domestic dissident elements the deference they needed in order to ultimately topple the governments they opposed.

By contrast, Obama has stood by and watched as the world’s most brutal regimes oversaw the reclamation of their power.

Obama turned a blind eye toward the crushing of the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009, and today strengthens the Mullah’s domestic authority by inking dubious deals with Tehran that will allegedly yield great rewards for the Islamic Republic’s ruling class. In Iran, Obama is rightly seen as no friend to the friendless, and he has greatly strengthened the hand of the system’s stakeholders.

The same could be said of Venezuela, where bloody anti-government riots broke out in 2014 and were subsequently crushed by Caracas. Though the global left and Nicolas Maduro’s government saw the riots as an extension of America’s desire to oust his regime from power, Obama made no statements to that effect at the rebellion’s zenith. Only over a year after the fighting in the streets had been quelled did the administration name a handful of Maduro regime officials as threats to American national security in order to target them with sanctions.

Perhaps the president wanted to avoid a repeat of his galling refusal to follow up on his 2011 insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. That feel-good statement was not met with action. Quite the contrary; the president stood back and allowed the regime to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocents with conventional and chemical weapons before tepidly committing to take action. But even that reluctant acknowledgment of the president’s responsibility to posterity was not met with engagement. Only when the situation became untenable, the terrorist threat to Western security grew imminent, and the attacks on human decency in the Middle East became truly unprecedented did the United States finally begin to address them.

In Moscow, where Obama’s pledge to have more flexibility with the Putin regime in his second term was taken quite literally, the Soviet approach to information management and the suppression of domestic criticism is back in vogue. Journalists who dare to censure the regime again fear for their lives and livelihoods. The institutions of civil society that the Clinton administration invested time and energy, not to mention millions of dollars, trying to build up are now being eagerly destroyed by a Russia that sees more value in repression and revanchism than openness.

Once an administration success story, a modest loosening of restrictions on freedoms in Burma has been completely reversed by the military junta in Naypyidaw. In January, Human Rights Watch called on the government to “stop arresting peaceful protesters and immediately and unconditionally free those imprisoned.” It is a call you will not here echoed in Washington too loudly, lest the political class recall that the crowning achievement of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as America’s chief diplomat was to secure the illusory opening of Burma and to finally guarantee Aung San Suu Kyi’s pathway to power.

In China, an economic powerhouse that nevertheless remains a one-party communist autocracy, America has tacitly consented to supporting the regime’s increased interest in total command and control. A series of moves to roll back nascent freedoms of speech, religion, and expression in China in 2014 following the rise of President Xi Jinping has led many to wonder if information technology and free trade truly have the power to compel openness in closed societies. “China’s repression of political activists, writers, independent journalists, artists and religious groups who potentially challenge the party’s monopoly of power has intensified since Xi took office nearly two years ago,” The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall reported in December.

Even within the NATO alliance, repression is on the rise. In Turkey, the secularism Kemal Ataturk regarded as a basic value has been de-emphasized. As Ankara has grown friendlier toward Islamism, so has it embraced anti-democratic policies toward journalists and regime critics alike. “We feel the pressure every day,” one unnamed Turkish journalist told Haaretz in December. “We go over our articles with extreme care and remove anything that could give Erdogan’s dogs a pretext for going after us.” The U.S. has joined other United Nations member in expressing concern over Turkey’s authoritarian drift, but human rights groups have called Obama’s silence on this matter “deafening.”

In fact, about the only nation in which Obama pursued what he claimed was a purely humanitarian foreign policy was his decision to lead from behind while Europe toppled Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. There, the West’s attempt to stave off a humanitarian crisis yielded an even greater one. Not only is Libya a failed state today, but it serves as an incubator for fundamentalist Islamic terror groups.

Obama surely hopes historians will define his legacy as one of nobly sloughing off the burdens of the past, and opening America up to a brave new dawn in which multilateral talk shops become powerful forces for good. But Obama confuses the people of the world for their governments – a distinction that his Democratic predecessors understood and frequently made. While Obama pursues what he considers a pragmatic approach to international relations, the tide of freedoms that characterized the end of the last century is waning. When the need to protect Obama’s image for the sake of the left’s sense of self-validation subsides, it will become clear that the president’s true legacy was one of accommodation toward international community’s most repressive elements purely for the sake of convenience and fleeting domestic political gain.

Voir encore:

Qu’est-ce vraiment que l’instabilité ?

Adam Garfinkle

traduit par Commentaire

Les « experts » autoproclamés du Proche-Orient ont longtemps déploré l’instabilité de la région. C’est qu’ils ne savaient rien de la véritable instabilité.

Imaginez-vous en train d’essayer de suivre un match capital de base-ball ou de football – par exemple la finale de la Série mondiale de base-ball ou un Super Bowl – sans pouvoir y assister, ni même le regarder à la télévision, sans savoir quels joueurs ont été sélectionnés à ce moment-là et sans même avoir de commentaire en direct par la radio ou Internet. Vous ne disposez en tout et pour tout que de comptes rendus de seconde ou troisième main, dont on ne peut être certain qu’ils sont fiables et impartiaux et, pire, dont on a des raisons de supposer qu’ils brouillent ou déforment les faits. C’est un peu comme essayer de suivre aujourd’hui la politique étrangère américaine, en particulier sa politique au Proche-Orient. Il se passe des choses, alors même qu’on est en plein débat intérieur et qu’il y a des désaccords. On procède à des estimations et on prend des décisions, or ces expertises, importantes ou non, emportent des conséquences. Pour ceux qui ne sont pas sur le terrain et qui sont même dans l’impossibilité de suivre le match en temps réel, il est frustrant d’essayer d’imaginer ce qui est en train de se passer, car ce que nous savons du processus de décision pourrait s’expliquer de plusieurs manières.

Il est certain que la métaphore sportive connaît des limites. La politique étrangère américaine n’est pas un jeu. Elle ne peut se mesurer par un score chiffré. Il y a plus de deux équipes. Le nombre des joueurs de part et d’autre n’est ni le même ni fixe. On ne distingue pas nettement l’offensive de la défensive. La compétition ne s’arrête jamais tout à fait. Les règles sont floues. Il n’y a pas d’arbitre, à part peut-être la logique implacable de l’interaction stratégique. Vous avez néanmoins compris l’idée de base : il se passe des choses importantes, mais nous, qui ne sommes pas dans le secret des dieux, ne pouvons que faire des hypothèses sur ce dont il s’agit. Or c’est un « grand jeu ». L’instabilité sans précédent du Proche-Orient, quels qu’en soient les autres effets, va obliger les responsables américains à prendre un nombre sans précédent de décisions qui en engendreront d’autres, créant des réalités en fonction de la réponse apportée, avec lesquelles nous devrons vivre pendant des décennies. C’est une époque de remise à plat, c’est pourquoi il est tellement nécessaire (ou il devrait l’être) de prendre de bonnes décisions.

Nous connaissons la plupart des questions qui se posent : que faire s’agissant de la guerre civile en Syrie ? Quel est le meilleur moyen d’arrêter ou de limiter le programme nucléaire militaire de l’Iran ? Que faire face à la nouvelle fragmentation de l’Irak ? Comment faire pour que la situation en Syrie et en Irak ne se propage pas en Jordanie et au Liban ? Comment traiter le problème majeur que pose la Turquie, c’est-à-dire la question kurde en Syrie et en Irak, alors que ce pays est en pleine crise politique et que celle-ci pourrait être très grave ? Jusqu’où et de quelle manière pousser des négociations de paix israélo-palestiniennes et quelle priorité leur donner ? Comment influencer l’évolution politique du « printemps arabe » en Égypte, en Tunisie, en Libye, à Bahreïn et ailleurs ? Comment envisager les clivages confessionnels en formation dans la région et propres à certains pays ? En quoi le dossier de non prolifération est-il lié aux autres défis de la région ? Comment repenser le rôle des services de renseignement antiterroristes américains, compte tenu du retrait de tant de programmes et de personnel d’Irak et bientôt d’Afghanistan ?

Ce qui est frappant dans ces questions est qu’un grand nombre d’entre elles exigent une réponse immédiate alors qu’elles ont tendance à être très diverses, très difficiles et très imbriquées. Ce qui est inhabituel. À son tour, cette observation amène à d’autres questions : l’Administration Obama a-t-elle une théorie stratégique sur ce dossier régional, susceptible d’intégrer tous ces éléments dans un cadre logique global ? Et cette théorie sur le dossier du Proche-Orient, si elle existe, est-elle consciemment liée à des objectifs stratégiques globaux ? Si c’est le cas, d’où vient cette théorie ? Du Président ? Du secrétaire d’État ? De quelqu’un d’autre ? Les dirigeants se sont-ils, ou non, mis d’accord sur une partie de cette théorie, sa plus grande partie, sa totalité ?

Ce ne sont pas des questions simples car les différents présidents et dirigeants ont manifestement des manières différentes d’établir un lien entre les abstractions stratégiques et leur comportement politique. Certains ont bel et bien des théories explicites sur le dossier et s’efforcent avec cohérence de faire coïncider leur comportement et leur stratégie. Le mandat Nixon-Kissinger était la quintessence de ce genre d’approche ; instruits par la Seconde Guerre mondiale et disciplinés par la Guerre froide, les Administrations Eisenhower et Kennedy-Johnson s’en rapprochaient elles aussi.

Certaines Administrations ont eu des théories extrêmement abstraites, souvent intensément moralistes, sur ce dossier ; mais elles étaient trop abstraites pour rester cohérentes dans le processus politique. Elles ont souvent obligé ses subordonnés à deviner et à défendre ce que voulait le Président. Ce fut le cas des présidences Reagan et George W. Bush et, dans une certaine mesure, aussi celle de Carter.

Certains présidents et leurs conseillers les plus proches ont eu beaucoup recours aux intuitions en matière politique et n’ont pas été très enclins à formaliser l’exercice stratégique ou à expliciter leurs stratégies. L’équipe Bush-Scowcroft-Baker en est un exemple, de même que celle de Truman-Acheson. Un président peut être porté à la stratégie sans avoir de stratégie formalisée et, en période de calme, c’est ce qu’il peut faire de mieux. En effet, au moment où le président doit prendre des décisions, il n’a plus un très grand nombre d’options à sa disposition. Son instinct peut l’amener à regrouper d’une certaine manière les questions à trancher, même s’il ne peut expliquer totalement, ou de manière cohérente, pourquoi la décision qu’il a prise était de nature à satisfaire un Kissinger, un Brzezinski, un Acheson ou même un Scowcroft.

Certains présidents semblent ne pas avoir besoin de stratégie, n’être ni portés à penser en ces termes ni à l’aise avec cette méthode. Ils ont donc tendance à traiter au cas par cas les questions qui ne peuvent manquer de se poser en politique étrangère. La période Clinton-Christopher en est une illustration.

Et Barack Obama ? La politique étrangère de cette Administration se contente-t-elle d’improviser, comme l’affirment beaucoup et comme le laissent penser certains éléments du processus de décision ? Ou bien, quoi qu’on en pense, cette Administration a-t-elle, comme d’autres l’affirment, une théorie stratégique explicite sur ce dossier, intégrant le Proche-Orient dans une vision globale ? Ou encore, comme l’Administration de George H. W. Bush, a-t-elle des instincts très intelligents (ou très malencontreux) n’allant pas jusqu’à une stratégie explicite et formalisée, mais n’en conduisant pas moins, peu à peu, la politique dans une direction particulière ? Laquelle ? Comment le sait-on ? Quelles en sont les preuves ?

Une situation nouvelle

C’est à ces questions que je vais tenter de répondre. Mais, pour qu’une réponse ait du sens, il faut d’abord mieux comprendre en quoi un Proche-Orient totalement déstabilisé est une chose nouvelle et comment il en est arrivé là. On examinera ensuite brièvement quelques-unes des diverses décisions à prendre au Proche-Orient (Syrie, Iran et Irak), dans l’espoir de faire émerger un modèle caractérisant le processus de décision dans l’Administration Obama. Peut-être pourra-t-on alors définir l’approche de cette Administration, afin de se prononcer sur son degré de discernement et son cap probable.

Au cours des soixante-dix dernières années s’est développée une sorte de tic intellectuel chez les observateurs occidentaux occasionnels du « Proche-Orient » consistant à considérer la région comme « instable ». (J’ai prudemment mis Proche-Orient entre guillemets pour suggérer que les susdits observateurs occasionnels définissent sans grande rigueur la région dont ils parlent.) Or, comme beaucoup de choses, une zone n’est stable ou instable que par comparaison avec un autre endroit ou avec le même endroit à une autre époque. C’est pourquoi la manière de définir la zone dont on parle affecte nécessairement les comparaisons.

Par conséquent, si ces observateurs occasionnels occidentaux entendaient par « Proche-Orient » uniquement la zone du conflit « arabo-israélien » (et ce fut souvent le cas), alors les guerres de 1948-1949, 1956, 1967, 1970-1971, 1973, 1982, etc., les périodes de « paix », truffées d’actes de terrorisme, de représailles, de raids, d’assassinats et autres, justifient probablement de considérer cette zone comme extrêmement instable par comparaison avec l’Europe, l’Amérique du Sud et la plus grande partie de l’Asie durant la Guerre froide. Si ces observateurs entendaient parler du Levant ou des pays du Golfe, ou de l’Afrique du Nord ou, plus largement, du « monde arabe », ou encore plus largement, du « monde musulman », l’étiquette « instabilité » convient beaucoup moins. Certes, il y a eu des révolutions de palais, des assassinats et des interventions de militaires en politique, plus quelques insurrections, guerres civiles et autres épisodes de violences politiques de masse dans des pays de toutes ces zones. Mais il n’y a eu en réalité qu’une seule véritable guerre interétatique, dans laquelle Israël n’ait pas été impliqué, et aucune qui ait opposé des États arabes directement l’un à l’autre.

Il y a eu aussi des régimes extrêmement stables, qui ont duré très longtemps : Kadhafi en Libye, de septembre 1969 à octobre 2011 ; les Assad en Syrie, de novembre 1970 à ce jour ; Moubarak en Égypte, d’octobre 1981 à février 2012 ; le Baath en Irak, essentiellement sous Saddam Hussein, de juillet 1968 à mars 2003, et on pourrait continuer ainsi. Bien sûr, les cimetières sont stables eux aussi, c’est pourquoi la stabilité n’est pas, contrairement à ce que croient la plupart d’entre nous, toujours une bonne chose pour des sociétés civiles saines. Mais j’emploie le mot « stabilité » dans une acception descriptive, celle des sciences sociales – ni plus ni moins.

On peut se faire une idée de la relative stabilité qu’a connue le Proche-Orient pendant la plus grande partie de ces soixante à soixante-dix dernières années, jusqu’avant la fin de l’année 2010, en la comparant à ce qui s’y passe maintenant. À présent, la région dans son ensemble – quasiment sa totalité, quelle que soit la manière de la définir – est instable. Réellement instable. Cela pourrait même s’aggraver encore et c’est probablement ce qui se passera. C’est cela l’instabilité : toute une région engagée dans l’équivalent politique d’un derby de démolition, sauf que personne ne semble beaucoup s’amuser.

À l’heure actuelle, s’il n’y a pas de guerres conventionnelles entre pays voisins, ce qui se passe dans la région est de nature à produire un cocktail d’instabilité. Guerres civiles et insurrections actives majeures ? Voyez par vous-même : Syrie, Irak, Yémen, Afghanistan et Somalie (les deux derniers si l’on inclut des pays non arabes). Violence politique n’allant pas jusqu’à des insurrections organisées ? Libye, Égypte, Bahreïn, Liban et, sans doute, Algérie. Gouvernements simplement effrayés ou plus ou moins faibles ? Jordanie, Tunisie, Arabie Saoudite, Maroc, Soudan et tout à la fois le Hamas à Gaza et l’Autorité palestinienne en Cisjordanie. Gouvernements ayant en temps normal de bonnes institutions, mais aujourd’hui en crise politique et ne contrôlant pas la totalité de leur territoire national ? Turquie. Les deux seuls grands pays de la région (j’exclus les trois familles ou groupes de familles du Golfe à la tête de leur pays : Oman, Qatar et les Émirats arabes unis) qui contrôlent leur territoire national et qui, selon leurs propres estimations, ne sont pas au bord d’une débâcle intérieure, sont l’Iran et Israël. Or ces deux pays pourraient bien entrer en guerre avant même que le reste de la région ne se remette.

De plus, comme beaucoup d’observateurs l’ont fait remarquer, nous ne sommes pas confrontés seulement à deux douzaines de pays faisant face à des problèmes, mais à quelques pays dont l’existence même, en tant qu’entités politiques, est menacée. C’est sûrement le cas de la Syrie et probablement de l’Irak. Il n’est pas davantage certain que l’intégrité territoriale de la Libye, du Liban, du Yémen et du Soudan puisse être longtemps préservée. La perspective d’un soulèvement contre le régime (non pour faire tomber le gouvernement, mais pour changer vraiment de régime) dans les monarchies du Bahreïn, d’Arabie Saoudite, de Jordanie et du Maroc est loin d’être nulle. La montée du nationalisme pankurde aura des effets sur la configuration territoriale de l’Iran et de la Turquie ainsi que sur celle de l’Irak et de la Syrie. La « Palestine », qui est moins qu’une entité politique, mais plus qu’un produit de l’imagination politique, a longtemps été dans les limbes et, malgré les négociations actuelles, y restera probablement encore un certain temps. On ne parle donc pas seulement de la somme des problèmes de chaque pays, mais de tout un sous-système étatique régional, qui ondule et se désintègre sous l’effet de la décomposition de certaines de ses unités et de la faiblesse et de l’imprévisibilité croissantes des autres.

Qui blâmer ?

De même que les observateurs occidentaux occasionnels sont prompts à gloser sur l’instabilité du Proche-Orient, ils étaient, et sont toujours, déterminés à en faire porter la responsabilité à quelqu’un. La majorité de la presse américaine fonctionne sur l’analyse biographique : qui sont les étoiles montantes, qui voit son étoile pâlir ; qui est has been et qui ne l’est pas (encore). Cela épargne aux journalistes et aux rédacteurs en chef d’avoir à comprendre vraiment les problèmes ; en outre, ils ont probablement raison de penser que c’est ce qu’attendent la plupart de leurs lecteurs. Les potins de haute volée l’emportent très largement sur l’analyse de fond.

Ce qui a pour résultat qu’en fonction de leurs opinions politiques, certains attribuent au président Obama la responsabilité de la confusion actuelle au Proche-Orient. Il aurait dû intervenir très tôt en Syrie, déclarent-ils d’un air supérieur. Il aurait dû soutenir la révolution verte iranienne en 2009. Il aurait dû défendre Moubarak, même si les propres collègues de Moubarak étaient en train de le renverser. S’il avait fait tout cela, plus une liste interminable de choses qu’il aurait dû faire, mais n’a pas faites, ou qu’il a faites, mais n’aurait pas dû faire, tout irait bien aujourd’hui.

D’autres préfèrent blâmer George W. Bush et les neocons. C’est la guerre en Irak qui a tout provoqué. Je ne plaisante pas ; dans un bref article intitulé « What the War in Iraq Wrought », paru dans le New Yorker du 15 janvier 2014, un journaliste, nommé John Lee Anderson, attribue tout ce qui va mal dans la région, et même, par voie de conséquence, ce qui se passe en Égypte, à la guerre en Irak parce que c’est elle qui aurait créé le démon sectaire lâché aujourd’hui au Proche-Orient.

Certains sont plus œcuméniques dans leur révisionnisme : ce sont les États-Unis et toutes leurs Administrations, aussi loin qu’on puisse remonter, qui sont à l’origine de tous ces problèmes. À moins que ce ne soient les Britanniques ou les Français, ou l’Occident générique, ou les Russes ou (bien sûr, ne les oublions pas) les Juifs. Il semble rarement venir à l’esprit que les peuples de cette région pourraient avoir une certaine responsabilité dans leur situation actuelle. Et l’on ne pense presque jamais que chercher un bouc émissaire n’est peut-être pas le meilleur moyen de comprendre les réalités régionales.

Il est particulièrement agaçant d’entendre des gens, qui devraient être plus avisés, tenir ce genre de discours, plus encore lorsqu’ils les tiennent sur le mode du mea culpa. J’ai été stupéfait en entendant le Président Bush dire en 2003 : « Pendant soixante ans, les États-Unis ont recherché la stabilité au Proche-Orient au détriment de la démocratie et n’ont obtenu ni l’une ni l’autre », déclaration que Condoleezza Rice a souvent répétée lorsqu’elle était secrétaire d’État (ce qui, plus que toute autre chose, m’a amené à cesser de travailler pour elle). En d’autres termes, la raison pour laquelle les pays arabes n’étaient pas des démocraties et produisaient donc des terroristes ne tenait pas aux milliers d’années de leur propre expérience historique et culturelle, mais aux décisions de politique étrangère prises par les États-Unis au cours des six précédentes décennies. Tel était le raisonnement de ceux qui, à gauche, critiquaient le soutien des États-Unis aux régimes autoritaires dans le contexte de la Guerre froide. Que des Républicains ouvertement conservateurs se mettent à le reprendre avait de quoi vous couper le souffle, notamment parce que, quel que soit celui qui le tient, ce raisonnement est absurde.

Nous avons assuré la stabilité pendant ces soixante années. Quel que soit le critère retenu, la politique américaine au Proche-Orient pendant la Guerre froide a été un succès. Bien plus important, pour revenir à la question, il n’a jamais été en notre pouvoir de transformer les États arabes en démocraties. C’est une chose qu’aujourd’hui George W. Bush (je l’espère) a apprise à ses dépens ainsi que le docteur Rice. Il est stupéfiant que, même lorsque nous nous critiquons nous-mêmes, nous le fassions avec une dose d’hubris himalayesque : tout tourne toujours autour de nous. Sauf que c’est faux. Les États-Unis ne sont pas, et n’ont jamais été, le facteur déterminant de tout ce qui se passe au Proche-Orient, ni ailleurs non plus du reste (sauf peut-être à Panama à une époque). Redescendons sur terre.

Ce qui ne signifie pas pour autant que les décisions des présidents restent totalement sans effet. Pour le meilleur ou pour le pire, une partie de ce que font les États-Unis ne reste pas, la plupart du temps, sans conséquences ou a beaucoup de répercussions, de temps en temps au moins. La guerre en Irak s’est révélée peu judicieuse : à coup sûr la manière de la mener, voire la décision même de l’entreprendre. La manière dont nous avons décidé d’opérer en Afghanistan, après la chute du régime des Talibans, était également une erreur, bien qu’il ait fallu plus de temps à la plupart des observateurs pour s’en rendre compte. Rater ces deux guerres équivalait à une défaite stratégique américaine dans l’ensemble de la région ; tous les alliés et partenaires des États-Unis en ont donc pâti, de même que tous ses adversaires et rivaux l’ont emporté d’une manière ou d’une autre.

Ayant hérité de cette défaite, l’Administration Obama a décidé de réduire les pertes américaines et de voir ensuite si cette action aggravait ou non les choses. Il est certain que l’oscillation entre interventionnisme militant et repli américain sous Obama a elle aussi désorienté les esprits. S’agissant des vastes répercussions des récentes politiques américaines, la guerre en Irak a certes attisé les charbons ardents des dissensions confessionnelles, mais ce n’est pas elle qui les a créées. La recrudescence des violences entre sunnites et chiites remonte approximativement à 1973-1974, année où le quadruplement des prix du pétrole a tout à la fois préparé le terrain de l’effondrement du régime des Pahlavi en Iran et financé le wahhabisme saoudien, laissant présager une collision future entre les clergés extrémistes sunnite et chiite. (Non que, dans l’Islam, le conflit confessionnel soit exclusivement de nature théologique, il ne l’est pas plus que ne l’étaient les guerres de religion au xvie siècle en Europe.) Si l’Administration Obama avait rapidement et efficacement jugulé la situation en Syrie, elle aurait pu retarder l’affrontement confessionnel dans la région – mais probablement pas de beaucoup, puisque le démon avait déjà brisé ses chaînes en Irak et fait des apparitions mortelles dans un pays aussi éloigné que le Pakistan.

Des facteurs inhérents à la région expliquent une grande partie de ce qui se passe aujourd’hui. À quelques exceptions près, leurs sociétés tribales et leurs identités religieuses affaiblissent les États arabes. Ces États faibles, dont la plupart sont hétérogènes ethniquement ou religieusement, ont été incapables de créer des loyautés réelles ou d’obtenir, au fil des ans, une croissance économique forte ou une plus grande justice sociale. Beaucoup d’entre eux ont été fossilisés par la malédiction des ressources. Les tendances très patriarcales et autoritaires de ces sociétés les ont empêchées de s’adapter à nombre d’aspects de la modernité ; elles ont notamment été incapables de remplacer par une économie de marché la patrimonialisation des ressources opérée par une élite vivant de la rente qui caractérise tous les pays arabes, républiques ou monarchies, depuis le début de l’époque de l’indépendance.

Malgré toutes ces insuffisances, les élites des États arabes ont préféré blâmer l’Occident, les États-Unis et spécialement Israël ; et, plus bizarre encore, elles ont réussi à en persuader de nombreux Occidentaux. Il est certain que le caractère artificiel de nombre d’États territoriaux, créés dans le sillage de la Première Guerre mondiale, n’a pas arrangé les choses. Mais, dans la plupart des cas, après tant d’années, ce n’est ni le seul ni le principal obstacle ; et on ne peut certainement pas en attribuer la responsabilité au Président Bush, au Président Obama ou aux États-Unis en général.

Bref, les désordres du type de ceux que nous observons aujourd’hui au Proche-Orient ont de nombreuses causes, certaines très anciennes, d’autres plus récentes. Elles sont difficiles à démêler et encore plus difficiles à expliquer à des gens dès lors qu’ils n’ont pas envie de savoir si cela contredit leur quête de boucs émissaires, dans un but politique ou faute de meilleure idée. On peut améliorer la connaissance d’un militant politique, mais non le faire réfléchir.

Notre lamentable politique syrienne

Examinons à présent quelques-unes des décisions à prendre, énumérées ci-dessus, pour essayer de nous y retrouver dans l’écheveau des politiques. Même si beaucoup d’éléments de ce dossier sont interconnectés, on les étudiera les uns après les autres en les combinant au fil des besoins.

Tout d’abord la Syrie. Le meilleur moyen de comprendre la politique américaine à l’égard de la Syrie est de partir de la Libye. En mars 2011, avant que la Syrie ne se soit vraiment soulevée, le Président décida de s’associer à la Grande-Bretagne et à la France et d’entreprendre une guerre en Libye. Les conseillers de l’Administration étaient divisés face au désordre croissant en Libye. Le secrétaire à la Défense, Bob Gates, et tous les membres du Comité des chefs d’état-major étaient opposés à l’intervention. De même que le vice-Président Biden et le conseiller à la Sécurité nationale de l’époque, Tom Donilon, qui était « un homme de Biden ». C’était aussi le cas de beaucoup de gens à l’extérieur de l’Administration, dont le président du Council of Foreign Relations et votre humble serviteur.

Le Président semblait partagé. Aussi posa-t-il une série de conditions strictes pour consentir à l’intervention – dont un soutien de la Ligue arabe et une résolution du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU sur la base de l’article 7. Toutefois, il écouta les partisans de la guerre lorsque le secrétaire d’État, Hillary Clinton, s’y rallia et que, peut-être à son grand regret et contre toute attente, les conditions qu’il avait posées se trouvèrent toutes réunies. Même s’il faut attendre des mémoires fiables pour en être certain, mon sentiment est que le Président ne tarda pas à regretter sa décision en voyant les conséquences multiples, sinistres et involontaires de l’intervention en Libye. Le défaut de planification par ses alliés de la phase de la guerre postérieure aux combats, malgré un triste précédent, a eu de sombres répercussions en Libye (qui ont conduit au raid sur Benghazi de septembre 2012), mais aussi au Mali, au nord du Nigéria et, sans doute, en Algérie.

Aussi, lorsque, quelques mois plus tard, ses conseillers se divisèrent à nouveau sur la Syrie, le Président Obama résolut de ne pas s’en mêler. Il est difficile de dire dans quelle mesure des considérations de politique politicienne entrèrent en jeu – l’élection de 2012 approchait –, mais il est probable selon moi qu’elles ont tenu une place importante (je l’ai dit à l’époque). En toute hypothèse, même sans échéance électorale pour altérer son jugement, la passivité américaine à l’égard de la Syrie était tout à fait prévisible.

Il ne fait pas de doute que, dès le début, le Président a entendu force analyses et propos amers sur la Syrie. Il est à mon avis malheureux qu’à cause de la Libye, on ait fait preuve d’une prudence excessive. Prendre rapidement le leadership, de concert avec la Turquie et avec le soutien de l’OTAN, aurait pu arrêter la violence avant qu’elle ne se soit métastasée, radicalisée entre camps religieux et étendue à d’autres pays. Il n’était pas nécessaire, ni même souhaitable, pour y parvenir, d’envoyer des troupes sur le terrain ni même d’instaurer dès le début des zones d’exclusion aérienne. Il y a des moyens d’exercer de l’influence sans pour autant mettre en danger un grand nombre de soldats américains : c’est pour cette raison que nous avons des alliés, des opérations de renseignement, des forces spéciales et tout un assortiment de cyberprocédés douteux. Mais l’Administration a découragé les Turcs et la politique de passivité qu’elle a adoptée s’est révélée être la plus coûteuse de toutes les politiques.

Pour être honnête, la Syrie a toujours constitué un problème difficile. Si la Libye est une île du point de vue militaire et un petit pays en termes démographiques, la Syrie est plus vaste, plus difficile à vaincre militairement et, comme on le sait, elle dispose de stocks d’armes chimiques, voire biologiques. Les armes à longue portée, comme les missiles de croisière, ne sont pas ce qu’il y a de mieux pour maîtriser l’espace aérien ou pour travailler en étroite coordination avec des forces rebelles sur le terrain. Le président du Comité des chefs d’états-majors interarmées, Martin Dempsey, a du reste abondam ment déclaré qu’il faudrait effectuer 700 sorties pour détruire le système de défense aérienne syrien avant que les avions américains puissent entrer en action. C’est un nombre qui paraît élevé et c’était bien l’impression que Dempsey voulait donner en le citant. Cependant, à la différence de la Libye, le dossier syrien comportait des enjeux très importants, pour la plupart liés à l’Iran. La combinaison d’enjeux d’intérêts nationaux incontestables et d’options militaires malaisées rendait donc les choses difficiles.

Le temps que l’Administration en vienne à envisager sérieusement d’armer les rebelles (elle commença par coordonner des accords avec des tiers, comme la Croatie, et par demander à la CIA de faire passer quelques stocks d’armes de Libye aux rebelles syriens), un grand nombre de jihadistes sunnites radicaux avaient fait leur apparition et fusionné dans Jabhat al-Nusra. Ce qui rendait encore plus difficile ce qu’on avait déjà du mal à entreprendre. Il était normal de s’inquiéter que des armes américaines puissent tomber entre de mauvaises mains, c’est pourquoi l’envoi de matériels non létaux devint la forme d’aide préférée. Mais l’inquiétude ne devrait pas être paralysante, à moins que l’on ne veuille précisément être paralysé et que l’on ait des raisons pour cela.

Même l’aide non létale arrivait lentement et en petite quantité, conduisant certains observateurs à soupçonner que l’Administration voulait à présent que le régime Assad survive pour faire contrepoids aux jihadistes sunnites. (Peu importait l’égarement qui lui avait fait déclarer « Assad doit partir » lorsqu’on avait l’impression que c’était ce qui allait se produire.) Du coup, certains allèrent jusqu’à affirmer que la passivité en Syrie était un élément de négociation pour amadouer les Iraniens. C’est bien possible. Maintenant que nous connaissons l’étendue et les dates des contacts secrets avec l’Iran, menés en partie par l’ambassadeur Jeffrey Feltman depuis son poste de l’ONU à New York, on peut imaginer lebody language des Américains, voire leur langage au sens propre. Ils ont effectivement pu tenir ce discours aux Iraniens : « Écoutez, faites ce que vous voulez en Syrie ; nous, Américains, n’avons pas l’intention de nous ingérer dans vos relations avec vos voisins. Nous ne cherchons même pas à renverser le régime. » Et, comme preuve de l’absence d’intentions agressives, on a très bien pu évoquer les débuts de la politique d’« engagement » de l’Administration, qui a conduit les États-Unis à adopter une attitude réservée lors du soulèvement de l’opposition verte en 2009.

On reviendra plus loin sur le dossier iranien, mais il est essentiel de comprendre que, dès le départ, l’Administration Obama a considéré la Syrie comme un sous-problème de moindre importance dans le cadre d’une politique centrée sur l’Iran. En cela, elle était dans la ligne des précédentes Administrations. Les États-Unis n’ont en fait jamais eu de politique spécifique à l’égard de la Syrie. Notre ligne vis-à-vis de celle-ci a toujours été un dérivé de politiques plus importantes – relations arabo-israéliennes, Irak, Turquie, Liban, etc. Par le passé, cette tendance a eu de très malheureuses conséquences, permettant même au régime syrien de tuer des Américains et de s’en prendre par ailleurs à des intérêts américains – comme en Irak, par exemple – sans en payer vraiment le prix. Cette fois-ci, elle paraissait au moins un peu plus logique.

On peut bien sûr soutenir qu’une politique américaine plus énergique à l’égard du régime Assad aurait assuré plus d’efficacité à sa politique iranienne, mais ce n’est pas l’approche adoptée par l’Administration Obama. Les Iraniens ne craignaient plus les programmes d’ADM irakiens, tournure des événements assez ironique compte tenu de l’attitude du Président à l’égard de la guerre en Irak. Je subodore en outre que l’Administration pensait que, si le régime iranien cessait de nous considérer comme une menace mortelle, son analyse en termes de coûts-avantages de l’acquisition d’armes nucléaires s’en trouverait modifiée. Nous pouvions en augmenter le coût par des sanctions et réduire par la diplomatie les avantages d’une politique aussi risquée – et nous pourrions peut-être traduire cette nouvelle approche iranienne par un accord officiel. Mais revenons pour l’instant à la Syrie.

Les lignes rouges

La passivité américaine face à la guerre civile syrienne se prolongeant, le cours de la bataille tourna à l’avantage du régime. Il est clair que l’une des raisons de la passivité initiale des États-Unis était l’impression, confirmée par les évaluations des services de renseignement, que les rebelles allaient gagner, avec ou sans notre aide. On en voyait la preuve dans les défections de sunnites de premier plan, tels Manaf Tlass et d’autres. Mais, comme c’est le cas depuis très longtemps en Syrie, les sunnites ne parvinrent pas à s’entendre entre eux ni à coopérer vraiment pour passer de leurs premiers succès à la phase de destruction du régime. Pendant ce temps, les Russes déversaient des armes et des conseillers, dont certains s’étaient battus en Tchétchénie, et les Iraniens, via le Hezbollah et les brigades al-Qods, commençaient à apporter une aide décisive à Assad. Le cours de la guerre se renversa. Mais l’Administration Obama n’agit pas davantage – si ce n’est que sa politique se concentra dès lors sur les armes chimiques syriennes : la Maison-Blanche traça la première des deux « lignes rouges » contre l’emploi d’armes chimiques.

J’imagine que le Président pensait que la première ligne rouge sur les armes chimiques ne l’engageait pas – c’était un moyen de paraître fort et impliqué, sans prendre le moindre risque. À ce moment-là, aucune arme chimique n’avait été utilisée pendant les combats. C’était profondément méconnaître le régime alaouite et ses dirigeants. L’Administration aurait dû faire plus attention à l’habileté que les Syriens mettaient à humilier Kofi Annan et au plaisir qu’ils en retiraient. En fait, le régime syrien n’aurait peut-être jamais utilisé d’armes chimiques si le Président Obama ne l’avait pas mis en garde contre leur emploi – en vérité, aucune raison strictement militaire ne les y obligeait. Sentant la réticence d’Obama à s’engager militairement, le régime syrien fit ce qu’il sait le mieux faire : intimider, provoquer et croiser le fer psychologiquement avec une partie moins engagée. De plus, en utilisant les armes chimiques sans avoir à en payer le prix, il narguait les rebelles en leur signalant qu’il était très vraisemblable que les Américains les laisseraient tomber.

Vint alors la seconde ligne rouge sur les armes chimiques et nous nous souvenons tous de ce qui suivit. N’ayant utilisé auparavant qu’une très petite quantité d’armes chimiques pour tester la réponse américaine (il n’y en eut pas), les Syriens les employèrent alors à grande échelle et de façon manifeste. Certains Américains crédules (dont l’éminent James Fallows) affirmèrent que l’opposition avait fait cela en catimini pour incriminer le régime, mais nefirent qu’étaler leur ignorance et leur mauvais jugement. Les Russes étaient eux aussi enclins à croire ce mensonge, mais on n’en attendait pas moins d’eux en tant que conseils d’Assad.

Au milieu de tous ces nocifs gaz virtuels, de peur d’être obligée d’agir, l’Administration s’efforça d’ignorer les preuves d’emploi réitéré d’armes chimiques. Il devint trop embarrassant de persister dans cette attitude, dans la mesure où les preuves s’accumulaient, venues de partout, y compris des services de renseignement français et britannique. Alors, l’Administration se mit soudain en colère et se prépara à agir, allant jusqu’à envoyer en Méditerranée six navires équipés de missiles de croisière. Mais, tout aussi subitement, après que les Britanniques lui eurent retiré leur soutien en raison de l’opposition imprévue de leur Parlement, Obama décida de ne pas se montrer moins démocrate que la Grande-Bretagne et de demander l’approbation du Congrès.

On ne sait toujours pas vraiment si Obama pensait obtenir cet accord ou s’il savait que ce ne serait pas le cas et qu’il pourrait ainsi blâmer le Congrès de l’empêcher de faire une chose qu’il n’avait jamais vraiment voulu faire. Quoi qu’il en soit, au cours de cet épisode, l’Administration laissa entendre qu’il s’agirait d’une attaque « très réduite » avec des armes commandées à distance – absurde et fâcheuse remarque de Kerry, destinée à tranquilliser les sceptiques au Congrès, inquiets d’un risque de dérive. Le Président se sentit obligé de le contredire en public (« l’armée américaine ne fait pas de piqûres d’épingle »). Mais le mal était fait ; la langue du secrétaire d’État avait fourché, privant une éventuelle attaque de la plus grande partie de son impact, avant qu’on ait même posé le doigt sur la gâchette. Finalement, comme on le sait, après avoir fait naître de faux espoirs, le Président prit le contre-pied de la plupart de ses assistants et renonça à l’usage de la force contre un simulacre d’accord sur les armes chimiques conclu sous l’égide des Russes.

Il n’y a rien de mal à éliminer les armes chimiques syriennes, compte tenu du risque d’effondrement de l’État syrien, mais cet accord n’élimine pas toutes les armes chimiques de Syrie. Il ne met fin qu’à celles que le régime a déclarées – et nous n’avons aucun moyen fiable de vérifier l’existence de ce qu’il a passé sous silence. Il est très probable que les armes les plus modernes et les plus létales n’ont pas été déclarées, laissant la soi-disant communauté internationale – essentiellement les États-Unis, comme c’était prévisible – jouer le rôle de ramasseur d’ordures de produits dangereux, qui plus est en prenant les frais en charge.

Il était extrêmement douloureux de voir le Président passer de ligne rouge en ligne rouge, puis au subterfuge du Congrès et enfin au gilet de sauvetage diplomatique russe (qui n’était pas aussi improvisé que l’Administration a voulu le faire croire à l’époque). Le nouveau conseiller à la Sécurité nationale, Susan Rice, s’est révélée parfaitement incompétente en présidant, ou en essayant de présider, à la recherche de l’excuse la plus embarrassante que j’aie jamais vue dans un processus de décision en politique étrangère.

Et pour quel résultat ? Premièrement, comme beaucoup de gens l’ont fait remarquer, l’accord sur les armes chimiques légitimait Assad et le transformait en partenaire pour la mise en œuvre de l’accord – en contradiction directe avec la politique du « Assad doit partir ». Le retard mis à évacuer les produits chimiques du pays a fait ressortir la même contradiction. La Syrie étant une zone de guerre, il fallait sécuriser le transport par voie de terre avant de transférer les produits chimiques vers un port. Or qui rendait le transport par voie de terre problématique ? Nos alliés putatifs, l’Armée syrienne libre (ASL) et ses associés. Nous étions donc obligés de nous plaindre que nos alliés retardaient la mise en œuvre d’un accord que nous avions conclu avec leur ennemi, qui est aussi le nôtre. En d’autres termes, nous voulions à présent que la partie, que nous souhaitions voir gagner, perde temporairement et localement pour faire progresser un accord de contrôle d’armement largement cosmétique et totalement dissocié du reste de la guerre civile. Si ce n’est pas la preuve de l’incohérence et de l’irresponsabilité de cette politique, je me demande bien ce que c’est.

Indépendamment de l’impression produite aux États-Unis, l’ASL l’a interprétée comme une trahison, de même que les Saoudiens. Le régime syrien a accéléré ses opérations militaires dans la foulée de l’accord sur les armes chimiques ; une fois Assad certain que les États-Unis n’emploieraient pas la force, il a risqué le tout pour le tout en essayant d’écraser l’opposition. Il s’est concentré sur le tissu conjonctif reliant la région de Damas à la province de Lattaquié (où la bataille pour al-Qusayr a été déterminante – il suffit de regarder une carte) et, plus au nord, pour reprendre Alep. Il a depuis bien progressé dans ces deux zones.
Genève II

Pourquoi se dépêcher ? La raison en était la conférence de Genève II, qui devait avoir lieu en mai dernier et qui a finalement eu lieu en janvier 2014.

En juin 2012, neuf nations se sont retrouvées à Genève, la majorité d’entre elles pour essayer de travailler à un régime de transition sans Assad. Mais deux d’entre elles voulaient tout le contraire : c’est-à-dire pas d’accord sur cette question. La réunion du Groupe d’Action, nom qui lui fut donné, constituait l’ultime effort de Kofi Annan, parrainé par l’ONU, pour arrêter la guerre. Comme il fallait s’y attendre, elle échoua, de même que toutes les autres tentatives d’Annan. La Russie et la Chine bloquèrent toute formule appelant au départ d’Assad. On s’entendit sur une déclaration constituant le plus petit commun dénominateur : elle mentionnait sans grande conviction la nécessité de créer un régime de transition, sans dire explicitement qu’Assad ne pourrait pas en faire partie. Elle indique en effet que ce régime « pourra comprendre des membres de l’actuel gouvernement et de l’opposition ainsi que d’autres groupes et sera formé sur la base du consentement mutuel ».

Le reste du communiqué relevait largement de l’ineptie et de l’utopie : s’agissant de chimériques cessez-le-feu, de la démocratie dans une zone qui ne l’avait jamais connue en quatre mille ans. Il comportait en outre des éléments involontairement humoristiques. Alors que des innocents étaient massacrés par milliers par leur propre gouvernement, les rédacteurs de l’ONU prirent le temps de réclamer que des femmes soient représentées à toutes les phases de la transition. Ce qui était vraiment gentil.

À l’approche de Genève II, tout se mit peu à peu à menacer de dérailler. L’irresponsabi lité et l’incohérence de cette politique apparurent de nouveau au grand jour. Dans un contexte où des groupes rebelles s’étaient lancés dans des luttes violentes et fratricides et où le régime avait pris l’avantage, notamment dans la région d’Alep, le gouvernement américain essaya d’obtenir de la coalition de l’ASL qu’elle assiste à la réunion de Genève II. Mais cette coalition compte 144 groupes et les récents combats contre l’État islamique d’Irak et du Levant (ISIS) l’avaient encore plus divisée. La plupart des groupes d’opposition ne voulaient pas y aller à moins que la conférence ne prévoie expressément le départ d’Assad. C’est pourquoi Kerry a répété avant Genève II que c’était précisément le sens que les États-Unis donnaient à cette conférence. Toutefois, la présence de certains groupes d’opposition, alors que nombre d’entre eux n’y participeraient pas, risquait d’accentuer les divisions et donc d’affaiblir la coalition militaire sur le terrain en Syrie.

Je n’arrive pas à comprendre comment le Département d’État peut faire cette lecture du communiqué du 30 juin 2012. Ce n’est pas la lettre du texte et ce n’est certainement pas la lecture qu’en font le régime syrien ou les Russes. Kerry a accusé les Syriens de « révisionnisme » dans leur interprétation du document du 30 juin 2012, mais l’accusation peut tout aussi aisément lui être retournée. C’est ainsi que le secrétaire général de l’ONU, Ban Ki-Moon, a pu inviter les Iraniens à la dernière minute, invitation à laquelle le gouvernement américain s’est opposé tout en semblant l’encourager. Les dernières semaines, Kerry avait en effet paru très soucieux que les Iraniens soient associés à la conférence, mais pas en tant que participants, puisqu’ils étaient censés ne pas accepter l’interprétation américaine des termes de la conférence. Cependant, les Iraniens pouvaient approuver la lettre du communiqué du 30 juin 2012, qui ne préjugeait d’aucune manière de l’avenir d’Assad. C’est pourquoi Moon, qui sait lire, les avait invités.

Ce qui mit Kerry en colère. Aucun secrétaire d’État américain n’aime qu’un type de l’ONU vienne lui couper l’herbe sous le pied, qui plus est sans avertissement et à un moment particulièrement sensible. Le Département d’État a donc demandé à Moon de retirer l’invitation faite à l’Iran, alors même que c’était le body language américain, engageant à l’égard de l’Iran, qui l’avait probablement convaincu de la lancer. Moon s’est rapidement exécuté, mais à contrecœur. L’annulation de l’invitation a épargné au gouvernement américain de devoir se retirer de la conférence qu’il parrainait, événement dans lequel nous avions assidûment et futilement mis tant de vains et faux espoirs.

Mais cela aurait peut-être été préférable. Compte tenu de la situation sur le terrain et du refus des États-Unis de faire quoi que ce soit, même de vaguement efficace, cette conférence ne pouvait aboutir à ce que l’Administration en espérait. Les adversaires ne veulent pas démordre de leur vision d’un jeu à somme nulle et les parrains de la conférence ne sont pas d’accord sur le fond, c’est-à-dire sur ses objectifs. L’échec américain sera donc vu dans toute la région comme la confirmation de l’impuissance américaine et comme une victoire d’Assad, des Iraniens, des Russes et de la brutalité totalement impitoyable exercée contre des populations civiles. J’avoue ne pas comprendre pourquoi nous devrions avoir envie d’en être complices.

Se lamenter du peu de chances de réussite de ce round de la diplomatie de Genève, tout en soulignant que « c’est la seule chose qu’il nous reste à essayer » – des responsables américains ont bien dit en public des choses de ce genre –, montre seulement, une fois encore, que la diplomatie peut bel et bien être nocive si les dirigeants ne parviennent pas à comprendre que la force et la diplomatie sont complémentaires et non opposées. Bêler que ce n’est que le début d’un long processus ou que la conférence encouragera des défections au sein du régime ou qu’une vision alternative à la guerre est en soi utile est une pure sottise. On n’arrête pas une véritable guerre civile avec des cartes de vœux rédigées de manière bien sentie ni avec une bouillie débile sur « comment réussir une négociation ». Tout ce que cette conférence a fait, fait et fera est de multiplier encore le nombre de morts tandis que les deux parties cherchent à prendre l’avantage militaire sur le terrain.

Vous faut-il un autre exemple de la nocivité que peut avoir une diplomatie bornée ? Alors que Genève II approchait, les États-Unis se sont officiellement associés à la Russie pour tenter de persuader les deux parties de déclarer des cessez-le-feu avant la conférence, y voyant un moyen de mettre fin définitivement à la guerre. Mais il y a des preuves incontes tables sur le terrain que le régime syrien offre non des cessez-le-feu locaux, mais des conditions de reddition. En échange de doses homéopathiques de nourriture et de médicaments, le régime demande aux civils assiégés de faire flotter le drapeau syrien au-dessus de la ville ou des alentours. Mais, dès que des agents du régime entrent dans la ville, ils exigent qu’on leur dise où se trouvent les combattants rebelles, arrêtent quelques personnes et abattent purement et simplement ceux qui essaient de s’enfuir. Ce sont des « cessez-le-feu » à la mode tchétchène. John Kerry peut-il vraiment l’ignorer ? Et, s’il le sait, comment peut-il les encourager ? Est-il cynique au point d’être prêt à trahir sciemment des alliés des États-Unis pour mettre fin à la guerre ?

Quoi qu’il s’y passe, le spectacle de Genève II déshonore d’ores et déjà la grande tradition du leadership politique américain. Mieux vaudrait que cette ombre jetée sur notre politique se limite au Proche-Orient. On peut néanmoins se demander ce que, par exemple, les responsables japonais pensent au fond d’eux-mêmes en ce moment. Quant à Kerry, il se borne, apparemment, à répéter qu’il faut laisser une chance à la politique d’apaisement.

Miser sur l’Iran ?

Ce qui nous ramène à l’Iran. Les équipes techniques sont parvenues à un accord sur le nucléaire qui devrait entrer en application. Ce qui est une bonne chose, pour le moment, malgré les défauts de cet accord. La brièveté de sa durée d’application (six mois seulement) et la capitulation de l’Occident sur le principe de l’enrichissement de l’uranium rendent plus probable une éventuelle bombe iranienne, et non l’inverse. Comme j’ai déjà eu l’occasion de le dire, seule la perspective d’un changement dans les relations américano-iraniennes, indépendamment de tout accord, peut justifier que l’on prenne ce risque. Or quelle est la probabilité de ce changement ?

Elle n’est pas égale à zéro, mais elle n’est pas très élevée non plus. Si les Iraniens n’ont plus peur que les Américains tentent de renverser leur régime et s’ils croient que cette Administration-là n’est pas obsédée par l’épouvantail de l’hégémonie régionale iranienne, il est possible qu’ils se disent qu’ils n’ont pas besoin d’une capacité nucléaire complète pour nous dissuader. Ce qui résout le problème, au moins pour les trois prochaines années : l’Iran ne franchira pas le seuil nucléaire tant que persistera cet engagement diplomatique. Si les États-Unis doivent payer encore et encore pour le préserver, comme cela semble très possible, le coût ne sera pas excessif – poursuit le raisonnement – s’il s’agit d’éviter une guerre. Et ne vous trompez pas : l’Administration continue à déclarer, comme émanant d’une décision présidentielle, douloureuse et de longue haleine, mais censée être à toute épreuve, que l’objectif de cette politique est et demeure la prévention et non la dissuasion. (Nous revient alors en mémoire la remarque de Bob Gates : « La parole de cette Maison-Blanche ne signifie rien. »)

Ce type d’approche par paiement au forfait me rappelle un merveilleux passage de Mon nom est Aram de William Saroyan : « Si vous donnez à un voleur, il ne peut plus vous voler et n’est donc plus un voleur. » Je ne veux pas dire par là que la politique d’Obama vis-à-vis de l’Iran n’est que de l’apaisement. C’est une interprétation de ses motivations, mais on peut l’envisager autrement. Il faut pour cela mélanger les niveaux d’analyse en faisant preuve d’inventivité.

Il est possible, comme l’ont soutenu certains, que l’Administration Obama ait une grande théorie, une stratégie ambitieuse, considérant qu’une entente avec l’Iran est le meilleur moyen de protéger la région et le monde de la menace durable que fait peser le radicalisme des jihadistes sunnites. Il est possible que l’Administration veuille s’appuyer sur les chiites pour contrebalancer la prolifération de franchises d’Al-Qaïda dans la région et au-delà de celle-ci et qu’elle pense que le prix à payer à court terme en vaut la peine. Ce prix comporterait une grave détérioration de nos relations avec l’Arabie Saoudite, qui a déjà commencé, mais, pourraient dire ses partisans, et après ? Auprès de qui d’autre les Saoudiens iraient-ils chercher une protection ? Le prix implique aussi une tension dans nos relations avec Israël : il nous faudrait le prier de nous faire confiance, afin qu’il nous soutienne au cas où les choses tourneraient mal. Ce qui rend les Israéliens nerveux, mais n’a rien d’excentrique s’agissant d’une politique de puissance – et il est certain que les jihadistes sunnites doivent inquiéter les Israéliens autant que leurs ennemis chiites inspirés par les Iraniens.

Le complément de ce raisonnement est que la crainte de l’hégémonie iranienne est largement exagérée. L’Iran n’est pas une si grande puissance. Son budget militaire annuel n’atteint même pas les rallonges budgétaires américaines de ces dernières années de guerre. La supériorité militaire technique des États-Unis sur l’Iran est quasiment écrasante. Plus encore, que signifie vraiment l’hégémonie régionale de l’Iran ? Quelles en sont les limites probables et naturelles ?

Une puissance perse et chiite fait penser à des anticorps naturels dans une région arabe et majoritairement sunnite. L’influence iranienne pourrait faire une grande différence au Bahreïn, où un régime sunnite minoritaire gouverne et opprime une majorité chiite ; elle pourrait peut-être faire une différence dans la province Al-Hasa, en Arabie Saoudite, où se trouvent tout à la fois la majorité des chiites et du pétrole du pays. Quant à l’Irak, nous savons déjà que l’Iran peut avoir une vraie forme d’influence à Bagdad, tant que les chiites sont au pouvoir, mais cela ne signifie pas pour autant qu’il dicte et contrôle tout ce qui s’y passe. L’Iran peut semer la pagaille de manière peu probante au Liban, mais la politique libanaise est structurellement peu probante – il ne peut donc en attendre de bénéfices durables. Les Iraniens peuvent fournir des armes aux Houthis chiites au Yémen, comme ils le font depuis peu ; mais quel intérêt vital les États-Unis ont-ils au Yémen, si ce n’est empêcher ce pays de devenir un terreau pour Al-Qaïda ? Et, bien sûr, les Iraniens peuvent s’allier aux alaouites en Syrie, bien que les chiites duodécimains et les alaouites n’aient pas grand-chose en commun en dehors de leur antipathie pour les sunnites.

En d’autres termes, même avec les dysfonctionnement des pays arabes, l’idée que, d’une manière ou d’une autre, les Iraniens pourraient recréer un empire territorial ayant un contrôle absolu – du genre de celui des Empires achéménide, sassanide ou safavide – au Proche-Orient actuel est une vue de l’esprit. Ils peuvent provoquer des troubles dans certaines zones, mais, sans une sérieuse capacité nucléaire, l’Iran ne peut attaquer ni conquérir la Palestine ou tout autre État du Levant ou du Golfe. Dans un siècle ou deux, les arabophones seront toujours au moins 280 millions, contrairement aux persanophones. Si la politique américaine peut maintenir l’Iran au-dessous d’une sérieuse capacité nucléaire, quel danger y a-t-il donc à laisser Téhéran s’empêtrer dans d’interminables conflits débilitants avec différents pays arabes et sunnites ? Et, si les Russes veulent les y aider, ils sont en droit de venir eux aussi piétiner en vain le bac à sable. Ils finiront probablement par le regretter (amèrement).

Ne prenons pas cela trop à la légère. Il n’est certainement pas sans risques qu’après avoir fourni des équipements de sécurité à la région pendant plusieurs décennies, les États-Unis décident soudain qu’ils ont « surinvesti » dans cette région, pour reprendre l’intempestive formule de Ben Rhodes qui a fait l’objet d’une fuite. Certains de nos partenaires commencent à envisager des contre-alliances, tandis que d’autres étudient de nouvelles formes d’autodéfense. Nous n’avons pas envie que l’Arabie Saoudite obtienne une bombe nucléaire grâce au Pakistan. Pire encore, la guerre confessionnelle a tendance à multiplier les radicaux et à marginaliser (ou à éliminer) les modérés, ce qui n’est pas non plus dans l’intérêt de notre sécurité à long terme. Soutenir tacitement Assad et ses parrains iraniens, ou être seulement considérés comme le faisant, ne peut qu’encourager le radicalisme sunnite dans la région et au-delà. C’est donc une chose d’imaginer que, si nous nous désengageons du Proche-Orient et que nous laissons jouer les équilibres naturels, ceux-ci mettront entre parenthèses les dangers que court cette région, et c’en est une autre de survivre à la transition d’un type de régime de sécurité à un autre.

Boucle d’or

Je soupçonne les responsables de cette Administration de comprendre assez bien tout cela. Je doute qu’Obama et Kerry « rêvent certainement d’un coup de maître du genre de celui de Nixon en Chine » sur l’Iran et qu’ils voient « sans aucun doute l’Iran et ses alliés chiites comme des partenaires potentiels dans le combat contre le jihadisme sunnite ». Ceux qui, pendant le premier mandat, ont participé au plus haut niveau aux délibérations sur des questions de ce genre décrivent le Président comme très méfiant à l’égard des coups ambitieux et très sceptique sur les motivations des Iraniens. Des mots tels que « certainement » et « sans aucun doute » n’ont en aucun cas leur place dans un débat de ce genre. Lorsque, plus récemment, Obama n’a pas donné à l’accord nucléaire plus de 50 % de chances de réussir, il manifestait là aussi scepticisme et réserve.

Je ne pense donc pas que le Président ait une théorie stratégique explicite sur le dossier du Proche-Orient. Je n’entends tourner aucun des mécanismes de Kissinger. Ses orientations à l’égard de la région ressemblent plus à celles de George H. W. Bush : il a des intuitions, des instincts. Et ceux-ci lui soufflent qu’obtenir ce qu’on veut dans cette partie du monde est très difficile et le devient de plus en plus, dans la mesure où la possibilité d’avoir un interlocuteur unique – dont nous « jouissions » en ayant pour alliés des régimes arabes autoritaires et stables – n’est plus ce qu’elle était. Je pense que Rhodes orientait Obama à toutes fins utiles en écrivant ce qui suit à Jeffrey Goldberg :

« En politique étrangère, les États-Unis prennent des décisions fondées sur nos intérêts. Il n’est pas dans l’intérêt de l’Amérique d’avoir des troupes dans chaque conflit du Proche-Orient ou d’y être en permanence impliqués dans des guerres sans fin.

Il est de notre intérêt de déployer d’importants efforts diplomatiques – et des ressources – pour essayer de résoudre des conflits et de renforcer les capacités de nos partenaires, ce qui est exactement ce que nous faisons.

L’idée qu’il y ait eu jadis une époque où nous dictions les affaires intérieures des pays du Proche-Orient n’est pas conforme aux faits. Lorsque nous avions bien plus d’une centaine de milliers de troupes en Irak, nous n’avons pas été capables de façonner la réalité politique de ce pays ni de mettre fin à la haine religieuse.

Qui plus est, l’idée que nous soyons désengagés est fausse puisque nous sommes plus engagés dans la région que toute autre nation – pour parvenir à un accord sur le programme nucléaire iranien, faire progresser la paix entre Israël et la Palestine, détruire les réserves d’armes chimiques syriennes, contrer Al-Qaïda et ses associés, assurer la sécurité d’Israël et de nos partenaires du Golfe et soutenir la transition vers la démocratie du Yémen à la Libye. »

Rhodes écrivant à un journaliste, il y a nécessairement du baratin là-dedans – surtout vers la fin. Notre « engagement » est avant tout de la frime ; il s’agit d’en donner l’impression, parce qu’en l’absence de toute volonté de prendre des risques et de le faire durablement, il ne peut en aller autrement. Notre diplomatie vis-à-vis de la Syrie pose problème, notre diplomatie sur la question arabo-israélienne n’aboutira pas à la paix, l’accord avec l’Iran finira peut-être bien, mais peut-être pas, il n’y aura pas de transition démocratique en Libye ni au Yémen, etc. Il s’agit donc de l’une de ces nombreuses déclarations qui est vraie en paroles, mais non en intention. L’intention est de faire passer notre passivité pour autre chose que ce qu’elle est et de la faire paraître à la fois avisée et prudente.

La vérité est que nous sommes face au problème classique de Boucle d’or. Nous ne voulons pas en faire trop peu, parce que cela comporte des risques, mais nous ne voulons pas non plus en faire trop, parce que cela comporte aussi des risques. Il est difficile de trouver le « juste » degré et même les gens honnêtes et bien informés peuvent ne pas s’entendre sur ce qu’est ce « juste » degré. Je pense personnellement que le Président sous-estime les coûts et les risques cumulatifs d’en faire trop peu, qui ne se limitent pas au Proche-Orient. Mais je ne pense pas qu’il faille lui attribuer des objectifs très ambitieux et discutables. De très nombreuses « doctrines » présidentielles ont été créées par des observateurs extérieurs qui essayaient de donner plus de cohérence aux idées d’une Administration qu’elles n’en avaient vraiment. Par pitié, n’inventons pas de toutes pièces une Doctrine Obama.

Et, bien sûr, même si l’Administration Obama recherchait un grand et nouvel équilibre régional avec les mollahs perses, le Président doit savoir qu’il n’y a aucune garantie que ce nouvel ordre régional soit assez attirant pour nous dispenser d’avoir une politique. L’effondrement de la Syrie et de l’Irak en tant qu’États pose des problèmes de zone grise au contre-terrorisme ; on pourrait dire que c’est aussi ce qui risque d’arriver à la Libye et à d’autres pays. Être moins intrusifs dans la région ne ferait pas nécessairement de nous des cibles moins privilégiées. Être vus comme acoquinés à l’Iran pourrait bel et bien nous transformer en cibles encore plus privilégiées. Les équilibres locaux ne résoudront pas tous nos problèmes actuels et risquent même d’en créer.
L’Irak à nouveau en crise

Ce qui nous amène tout naturellement à l’Irak où l’enfer s’est (à nouveau) déchaîné. Sous la forme d’ISIS, Al-Qaïda est de retour et garde le contrôle de Ramadi et Falluja. Les efforts menés depuis Bagdad pour que les chefs tribaux persuadent ISIS de quitter ces villes n’ont pas réussi et ont peut-être même débouché sur un nouveau pacte sunnite dirigé contre Maliki à Bagdad. À ce jour, Al-Qaïda a aussi placé Bagdad en mode verrouillage : les démons se rapprochent. Et tout le monde en Irak croit encore en son for intérieur qu’au combat, un sunnite des tribus du désert vaut à lui seul une centaine de villageois chiites froussards. C’est la tradition, c’est la perception et, du même coup, c’est dans une certaine mesure la réalité. Une avant-garde sunnite, islamiste ou non, pourrait-elle faire peu de cas d’une armée chiite, bien plus importante sur le papier, mais en train de se désintégrer, et atteindre Bagdad ? Évidemment qu’elle le pourrait. Celui qui en doute encore n’a toujours rien compris à l’Irak.

Dans ces conditions, l’Administration Obama devrait-elle accéder à la demande de fournitures d’armes et de formations émanant du Premier ministre Maliki ? C’est tentant. N’ayant pas réussi à obtenir un accord SOFA, nous pourrions à présent garantir que la structure de commandement irakienne reste américaine pour de nombreuses années et sauver quelque chose de la relation de travail que nous envisagions avec l’Irak il y a quelques années. Si nous l’aidons, nous pourrions obtenir de lui qu’il ferme le couloir aérien entre l’Iran et la Syrie (mais voulons-nous vraiment fermer ce couloir ?). La plupart des Américains impliqués dans la politique de guerre souhaitent que nous agissions ainsi et se disent en mesure de livrer rapidement ce matériel.

Je comprends ces raisons et j’y crois jusqu’à un certain point. Maliki a besoin de nous, nous pouvons donc peut-être l’aider et le persuader ainsi de gouverner de manière plus inclusive. Pour l’instant, il s’est révélé être un crétin sectaire et maladroit. Nous avons intérêt à ce que l’Irak ne se désintègre pas complètement et, pour cela, il faut à Bagdad un gouvernement qui soit plus réellement national que d’esprit sectaire. Mais que se passera-t-il si l’on ne parvient pas à maîtriser les sunnites, quelle que soit la quantité d’armes que nous envoyons ou le nombre d’officiers irakiens que nous promettons de former ?

Que décidera le Président et quand le décidera-t-il ? S’il est d’accord avec l’idée que nous sommes trop investis dans la région et qu’il doute de la capacité de tiers à s’engager délibérément dans une région comme l’Irak, il pourrait être tenté d’ignorer Maliki. Si l’Irak se désagrège complètement, il pourra faire ce qu’il fait le mieux : en rendre George W. Bush entièrement responsable. (Ce qu’il devrait faire, si cela se produit, est se coordonner avec la Turquie pour reconnaître le Gouvernement régional kurde comme un État indépendant, mais il ne le fera pas.)

D’un autre côté, l’effondrement de l’État irakien est en soi une mauvaise chose pour nous et son effondrement ou la victoire des sunnites radicaux là-bas aggravera encore la situation en Syrie. C’est une grave décision et aucune théorie globale sur ce dossier ne peut la faciliter. Mon sentiment est qu’en définitive, c’est la politique qui l’emportera, comme c’est habituellement le cas dans cette Administration. Lorsque le Président envisage la perspective que des armes américaines et des soldats américains, fût-ce comme formateurs, retournent en Irak, il a un mouvement de recul. Je pense qu’il calera. Je me demande si les secrétaires d’État Hagel et Kerry ont une idée là-dessus et si c’est la même. Ah, pouvoir être une petite souris pendant une réunion des responsables sur cette question !
La structure mentale du Président

Si j’ai raison de soutenir que le Président Obama a des instincts et des intuitions, mais pas de grande et ambitieuse stratégie pour le Proche-Orient, a-t-il néanmoins quelque chose de plus précis à l’esprit, replaçant le Proche-Orient dans un cadre global plus vaste ?

La réponse à cette question est la même : le Président n’est pas, je pense, un homme qui a confiance dans l’exercice d’une stratégie formelle, mais il ne fonctionne pas non plus complètement au cas par cas. Il croit probablement que les États-Unis sont effectivement trop investis au Proche-Orient et pas assez en Asie. D’où l’idée du pivot et peu importe qu’on l’ait sabotée en la présentant comme une proposition alternative. Selon toute vraisemblance, il s’est un jour demandé quel était le pire scénario pour le Proche-Orient. Ce qui se passerait si tout allait mal. En quoi cela affecterait vraiment les intérêts vitaux de l’Amérique. Non ses engagements traditionnels, non sa réputation, non ses obligations découlant de l’habitude et pas d’une approche nouvelle – mais ses authentiques intérêts vitaux. Et sa réponse a probablement été que, sauf réaction en chaîne en matière de prolifération d’ADM, les conséquences seraient minimes.

Une fois encore, je doute qu’Obama déploie consciemment ici une logique stratégique explicite ou formalisée ou qu’il accepte les théories universitaires du réalisme bienveillant ou de l’équilibre naturel. Mais je pense qu’il se rend compte qu’après le relatif immobilisme de la Guerre froide, le monde est devenu globalement plus confus ; que le degré de contrôle que peuvent donner les relations interétatiques traditionnelles sur une zone aux enjeux importants a baissé à mesure que, grâce aux nouvelles cyber-technologies, les mobilisations populaires et populistes se sont accrues aux niveaux à la fois sous-étatique et trans-étatique. Le Proche-Orient est certainement bien plus compliqué et confus, même si ce n’est pas, ou pas encore, le cas du reste du monde.

À mon avis, cette intuition a eu pour effet de rendre le Président Obama encore plus hostile au risque de manière générale et en particulier dans une région où il manque à tout le moins d’expérience et en son for intérieur d’assurance. Il est visiblement mal à l’aise lorsque ses conseillers sont divisés. Comme un juge, il essaie de trouver un dénominateur commun entre eux, ce qui est une bonne chose dans un travail de militant associatif, mais pas nécessairement en politique étrangère. Lorsque ses conseillers se livrent à une pensée de groupe, ce qu’ils font de plus en plus depuis le départ de Gates et de Donilon, ou lorsque aucun d’eux ne fait d’objections sérieuses à quelque chose (par exemple à la lubie de Kerry sur la paix israélo-palestinienne), il est satisfait de s’investir dans la gestion de son image – la twitterisation de la politique étrangère américaine en quelque sorte – parce qu’il sait qu’il ne peut tout simplement pas ignorer toutes ces choses.

La sensibilité du Président aux limites a également tendance à rendre sa politique réactive et ses objectifs réels modestes. Aussi, dans la confusion qu’est le Proche-Orient aujourd’hui, il veut que l’Irak soit gouverné de manière plus inclusive. Il veut que la Syrie et la Libye soient gouvernées, point. Il veut que l’Égypte soit stable et il n’est pas très regardant sur la manière dont cela peut se faire. Il veut que l’Iran n’ait pas d’armes nucléaires et il est prêt à beaucoup de choses pour l’empêcher par la diplomatie car il pense probablement que les dirigeants iraniens ne peuvent pas aujourd’hui exercer leur volonté au-delà de leurs frontières avec plus de réel succès que nous.

Il ne semble avoir d’idées précises et ne souhaiter agir préventivement que pour empêcher que des attaques terroristes tuent des citoyens américains, en particulier sur le sol des États-Unis. D’où son goût pour les attaques de drones, sa tolérance à l’égard de Guantánamo, son refus d’émasculer une série de programmes de la NSA, sauf à la marge, et son soutien généreux à l’ouverture discrète dans le monde entier de bases petites, mais puissantes, pour les forces spéciales.

Cet ensemble de positions n’est ni de l’apaissement ni de l’isolationnisme. Ce n’est manifestement pas non plus du maximalisme stratégique. C’est quelque chose d’intermédiaire et dans cet entre-deux, suspendu entre des attentes héritées du passé et des hésitations dues au flou de l’avenir, les choses deviennent parfois étranges ou pénibles lorsqu’il faut prendre un nombre sans précédent de décisions. Étrange, comme Genève II.

Docteur (PhD) de l’université de Pennsylvanie). Fondateur et editor de la revue The American Interest. De 2002 à 2005, a été assistant du secrétaire d’État. Ancieneditor de The National Interest. A enseigné à John Hopkins University, à l’université de Pennsylvanie et à Haverford College. A été un des collaborateur du sénateur H. M. Jackson. Parmi ses livres : Jewcentricity : How the Jews Get Praised, Blamed and Used to Explain Nearly Everything (Wiley, 2009) et The Origin and Impact of the Vietnam Antiwar Movement (St. Martin’s, 1995).

What Hasn’t the U.S. Given Up in the Iran Negotiations?

Charles Krauthammer

The National Review

April 9 2015

Under Obama’s proposed deal, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would remain intact, with the centrifuges spinning. “Negotiations . . . to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability . . .” — Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, the Wall Street Journal, April 8

It was but a year and a half ago that Barack Obama endorsed the objective of abolition when he said that Iran’s heavily fortified Fordow nuclear facility, its plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor, and its advanced centrifuges were all unnecessary for a civilian nuclear program. The logic was clear: Since Iran was claiming to be pursuing an exclusively civilian program, these would have to go.

Yet under the deal Obama is now trying to sell, not one of these is to be dismantled. Indeed, Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure is kept intact, just frozen or repurposed for the length of the deal (about a decade). Thus Fordow’s centrifuges will keep spinning. They will now be fed xenon, zinc, and germanium instead of uranium. But that means they remain ready at any time to revert from the world’s most heavily (indeed comically) fortified medical isotope facility to a bomb-making factory.

And upon the expiration of the deal, conceded Obama Monday on NPR, Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear bomb will be “almost down to zero,” i.e., it will be able to produce nuclear weapons at will and without delay.

And then there’s cheating. Not to worry, says Obama. We have guarantees of compliance: “unprecedented inspections” and “snapback” sanctions.

The inspection promises are a farce. We haven’t even held the Iranians to their current obligation to come clean with the International Atomic Energy Agency on their previous nuclear activities. The IAEA charges Iran with stonewalling on eleven of twelve issues.

As veteran nuclear expert David Albright points out, that makes future verification impossible — how can you determine what’s been illegally changed or added if you have no baseline? Worse, there’s been no mention of the only verification regime with real teeth — at-will, unannounced visits to any facility, declared or undeclared. The joint European-Iranian statement spoke only of “enhanced access through agreed procedures,” which doesn’t remotely suggest spot inspections. And on Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader ruled out any “extraordinary supervision measures.”

The IAEA hasn’t been allowed to see the Parchin weaponization facility in ten years. And the massive Fordow complex was disclosed not by the IAEA but by Iranian dissidents.

Yet even if violations are found, what then? First, they have to be certified by the IAEA. Which then reports to the United Nations, where Iran has the right to challenge the charge. Which then has to be considered, argued and adjudicated. Which then presumably goes to the Security Council where China, Russia and sundry anti-Western countries will act as Iran’s lawyers. Which all would take months — after which there is no guarantee that China and Russia will ratify the finding anyway.

As for the “snapback” sanctions — our last remaining bit of pressure — they are equally fantastic. There’s no way sanctions will be re-imposed once they have been lifted. It took a decade to weave China, Russia, and the Europeans into the current sanctions infrastructure. Once gone, it doesn’t snap back. None will pull their companies out of a thriving, post-sanctions Iran. As Kissinger and Shultz point out, we will be fought every step of the way, leaving the U.S., not Iran, isolated.

Obama imagines that this deal will bring Iran in from the cold, tempering its territorial ambitions and ideological radicalism. But this defies logic: With sanctions lifted, its economy booming, and tens of billions injected into its treasury, why would Iran curb rather than expand its relentless drive for regional dominance?

An overriding objective of these negotiations, as Obama has said, is to prevent the inevitable proliferation — Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf states — that would occur if Iran went nuclear. Yet the prospective agreement is so clearly a pathway to an Iranian bomb that the Saudis are signaling that the deal itself would impel them to go nuclear. You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon.

What is the alternative, asks the president? He’s repeatedly answered the question himself: No deal is better than a bad deal.

Voir également:

The fatal flaw in the Iran deal
Charles Krauthammer

The Washington post

February 26 2015

A sunset clause?

The news from the nuclear talks with Iran was already troubling. Iran was being granted the “right to enrich.” It would be allowed to retain and spin thousands of centrifuges. It could continue construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. Yet so thoroughly was Iran stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors that just last Thursday the IAEA reported its concern “about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed . . . development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Bad enough. Then it got worse: News leaked Monday of the elements of a “sunset clause.” President Obama had accepted the Iranian demand that any restrictions on its program be time-limited. After which, the mullahs can crank up their nuclear program at will and produce as much enriched uranium as they want.

Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. Iran would reenter the international community, as Obama suggested in an interview in December, as “a very successful regional power.” A few years — probably around 10 — of good behavior and Iran would be home free.

The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy.

Meanwhile, Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program is subject to no restrictions at all. It’s not even part of these negotiations.

Why is Iran building them? You don’t build ICBMs in order to deliver sticks of dynamite. Their only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads. Nor does Iran need an ICBM to hit Riyadh or Tel Aviv. Intercontinental missiles are for reaching, well, other continents. North America, for example.

Such an agreement also means the end of nonproliferation. When a rogue state defies the world, continues illegal enrichment and then gets the world to bless an eventual unrestricted industrial-level enrichment program, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is dead. And regional hyperproliferation becomes inevitable as Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others seek shelter in going nuclear themselves.

Wasn’t Obama’s great international cause a nuclear-free world? Within months of his swearing-in, he went to Prague to so declare. He then led a 50-party Nuclear Security Summit, one of whose proclaimed achievements was having Canada give up some enriched uranium.

Having disarmed the Canadian threat, Obama turned to Iran. The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians. In fact, the Iranian regime just this week, at the apex of these nuclear talks, staged a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz.

Well, say the administration apologists, what’s your alternative? Do you want war?

It’s Obama’s usual, subtle false-choice maneuver: It’s either appeasement or war.

It’s not. True, there are no good choices, but Obama’s prospective deal is the worst possible. Not only does Iran get a clear path to the bomb but it gets sanctions lifted, all pressure removed and international legitimacy.

There is a third choice. If you are not stopping Iran’s program, don’t give away the store. Keep the pressure, keep the sanctions. Indeed, increase them. After all, previous sanctions brought Iran to its knees and to the negotiating table in the first place. And that was before the collapse of oil prices, which would now vastly magnify the economic effect of heightened sanctions.

Congress is proposing precisely that. Combined with cheap oil, it could so destabilize the Iranian economy as to threaten the clerical regime. That’s the opening. Then offer to renew negotiations for sanctions relief but from a very different starting point — no enrichment. Or, if you like, with a few token centrifuges for face-saving purposes.

And no sunset.

That’s the carrot. As for the stick, make it quietly known that the United States will not stand in the way of any threatened nation that takes things into its own hands. We leave the regional threat to the regional powers, say, Israeli bombers overflying Saudi Arabia.

Consider where we began: six U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding an end to Iranian enrichment. Consider what we are now offering: an interim arrangement ending with a sunset clause that allows the mullahs a robust, industrial-strength, internationally sanctioned nuclear program.

Such a deal makes the Cuba normalization look good and the Ukrainian cease-fires positively brilliant. We are on the cusp of an epic capitulation. History will not be kind.

Voir encore:

An Innocent Abroad

Adam Garfinkle

American review

For all the grand speeches, President Obama has little of substance to show on the foreign policy front.
This article originally appeared in The American Review (Sydney, Australia).

If, as Winston Churchill declared on 1 October, 1939, Russia is “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”, then the foreign policy of the Obama administration is an ambivalence wrapped in a mentality inside a perplexity. The latter is not as inclined to malignity as was the former in Joseph Stalin’s time, but it is just as difficult to decipher as we approach its first term halfway mark.

The fact that it is hard to speak coherently about that which turns out to be incoherent may help to account for the fact that virtually no one has offered a full-scale synthesis of the subject. Shorter sketches on discrete issues there are. Partisan op-ed length potshots and (usually) mercifully brief blog posts written by the standard assortment of fans, fanatics and fantasists both abound. But, quite uncharacteristically, little big-picture analysis has been published. Doubtless there are several reasons for this unusual state of affairs concerning the affairs of state, but the sheer difficulty of doing the deed has to be one of them.

Why the difficulty, and what might an answer to that question tell us about the subject itself? Three reasons produced by the administration’s own choices and nature come first to mind. They have to do with the interplay of policy rhetoric and behavior, management style and the key factor of personality in presidential as opposed to Westminster forms of democracy. Three other reasons of very different sorts, and having to do with existential realities not of the administration’s making, come to mind as well. One, which complements the management piece, is the notable fact that there has yet been no significant sudden crisis to condense plans and intentions into procedural precedent—no 3 am telephone call to the White House residential quarters from the National Security Advisor. The historical record shows that the precedents which matter most, those that elevate some people and privilege certain ideas, are formed from experience, not theory. So far, that experience ‘under fire’ is absent from the Obama watch.

A second extrinsic concern is a new slipperiness of definition about the subject itself. Foreign policy has always been difficult to disentangle from national security policy. Today, however, both are entwined with the extrusions of a domestic economic crisis that is beginning to look larger and more structurally grounded than was apparent in the tumultuous autumn of 2008. Foreign policy looks different to national leaders when seen through the lens of domestic priorities, and this can disorient observers used to a more conventional setup. The third extrinsic reason is so obvious that most observers neglect it: politics. Barack Obama seeks to be re-elected president in 2012, and his statecraft can not reasonably be understood in isolation from that fact.

Let us look at these factors in turn, and then assemble them in hopes of achieving a synthetic analysis. We should not be surprised if our own hard labors at understanding parallel in some ways the difficulties confronting the still new Obama administration that is our subject.

As to the rhetoric of US foreign policy in the Obama era, the one statement that may be offered without fear of contradiction is that there has been plenty of it—much of it presidential in nature. There have been not just one but two start-of-term foundational foreign policy speeches, the purpose of which is to articulate to the world the purpose of American power. The President delivered the first on 7 July 2009 in Moscow, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the second on 15 July in Washington. Both speeches bore the structure of a standard start-of-term foundational statement in that each stressed five principles or pillars. (The problem was that the President’s five principles and those of his Secretary of State did not match up well, a fact bearing on the question of management, to which we return below.)

We also have as of late May 2010 the obligatory annual National Security Strategy, a document that is, accurately or not, taken to bear the imprimatur of an administration at its highest level. Besides these we have the presidential foreign policy addresses delivered in Ankara and Cairo, critical war policy speeches on Afghanistan and Iraq, two major presentations to the UN General Assembly, a most unusual philosophical discourse on the occasion of the President’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, and more besides in the form of interviews, news conferences, official statements on the occasion of state visits, and so on. We also have, not at all incidentally, the first Obama budget, which speaks volumes in numbers. Compared to most of his post-World War II predecessors, Obama has been a veritable one-man talkfest.

And what does all this word wrangling tell us? It tells us a good deal less than one might think, not because nothing of substance has been said, but because nearly everything has been said. Usually the President has seemed to be channeling Woodrow Wilson, dismissing balance-of-power and spheres-of-influence language as ‘so 19th century’ in favor of utopianesque ventures like Global Zero in nuclear weapons and an emphasis on taming strategic competition though legal progress towards global governance. But other times he has seemed to be channeling Reinhold Niebuhr, speaking like a moral realist who recognizes the inevitability of trade-offs and the tenacity of the will to have power among people. The sum of it is a profound ambivalence.

Beneath the rhetoric, however, there have emerged certain intellectual and policy tendencies, but these have been either unclear or unstable. For example, in its not very original but understandable desire to be the un-Dubya, the Obama administration broke from the gate offering earnest engagement to nearly every American adversary it could find—Iran, Syria, North Korea, Burma and others. With an apology or two usually to hand, it trusted that more diplomacy and less prominence for the military instruments of foreign policy would unfreeze problems large and small. At the same time that it privileged an effusive and accommodating tone, its body language was that of cold-blooded tactical realism. It sought the pragmatic deal and rigorously avoided the ‘d’-word—‘democracy’ promotion—in its rhetorical ensemble.

All this suggested that, at a time of straitened economic and political circumstances at home, the administration was eager to beat the kind of tactical retreat that would simultaneously reduce US obligations while not letting things go to hell in a hand basket. This was not an unreasonable approach, particularly with regard to bringing two difficult, expensive and divisive shooting wars to an end. Nevertheless, the policy claimed more than a tactical intent: it pointed inwards to a core source of US troubles. It strongly implied that many gridlocked danger spots around the globe were caused not by genuine conflict of interests or the aggressive designs of others, but by the wayward psychology of American machismo, its preachy holier-than-thou tone, and the temper-escalated misunderstandings that arose there from to make the world more dangerous than it needed to be. A new tone, the President seemed to think, would make a huge difference; speeches could therefore be, in some cases at least, self-executing vehicles of policy.

As it happened, the administration’s early efforts to translate a new rhetoric into policy success did not fare well. Certainly, no major problem has fallen to solution just because Obama made a speech about it. Indeed, there is scant evidence that the change in tone the President did manage to bring about has sprouted any positive concrete policy consequences at all. Polls have shown that while the President is on balance more popular abroad than his predecessor, his policies really are not—not in the Middle East, not in Europe, not in Asia.

Moreover, many of the administration’s policies are not new, and this has posed other problems for the marriage of rhetoric and reality. While what has been discontinuous has not worked (at least not yet), the major areas of policy marked by continuity are understandably not among the administration’s favorite talking points. It has stunned many, including many in the United States, that Obama’s policies in a host of sensitive areas in what used to be called the ‘global war on terror’ bear a striking resemblance to those of the two Bush administrations.

Thus, candidate Obama swore to close down the Guantanamo prison; but President Obama, finding the problem more complex than he thought once in office, has failed to do so. President Obama, while jettisoning the ‘war on terror’ for the lower-case Orwellian ‘overseas contingency operations’, has nevertheless increased the use of Predator drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan, many of which have the character of targeted killings. And he has duly sent forth his lawyers to explain why such killings and attempted killings, even of some self-exiled American citizens like Sheik Anwar al-Awlaqi, do not violate US law.

Before his inauguration many believed, too, that Obama would encourage lustration deep within the Central Intelligence Agency over accusations of its having been involved in torture in secret prisons abroad. He did no such thing, choosing instead to protect the autonomy and morale of CIA operations. Indeed, from all reliable accounts, as well as from Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars, his approach to national security has ramped up sharply the use of clandestine operations undertaken by the CIA and other agencies of the US government, including those engaged in warrantless wiretaps. It has to follow, whether the President yet realizes it or not, that crossing an inevitably too-inflexible legal line from time to time just goes with that territory.

The failure of the administration’s engagement initiatives to transform their targets has doubled back in certain ways on the rhetoric itself. Thus, in recent months the administration has exaggerated the success of US–Russia relations as an end in itself, when the original purpose of engaging the Russians was to gain aid for alleviating more painful pressures in Iran and Afghanistan. Some early engagement efforts, too, were counterproductive to the administration’s own aspirations. Its misguided blundering into the Israeli–Palestinian cauldron set back the re-commencement of direct Israeli–Palestinian negotiations by a year.

To his credit, the President admitted that the problem was more formidable than he had thought. But even after that bout of contrition, new mistakes along the same lines as the old ones have thrown a pall over those negotiations’ likely achievement.

Some of the administration’s engagement initiatives brought harsh criticism at home, too, and so carried political complications. This was especially true for policy towards an Iranian leadership newly challenged in the streets after its rigged June 2009 election. Even many who wished the administration well were aghast at its stony dismissal of Iranian ‘greens’ brave enough to risk their lives for freedom. Other efforts, like the outreach to Syria, simply fell flat on their faces for lack of any interest on the other side.

The attempt to truly join rhetoric and behavior into a coherent whole foundered further as the level of policy abstraction increased. Thus, in the Middle East the administration insisted that the Arab–Israeli conflict was linked to everything else that seemed to be the matter with the region (a vast exaggeration), while in relations with Russia, with its famous ‘reset’ button as another example of the belief that tone and atmospherics could trump interests in relations between major countries, it explicitly denied linkage (a sheer impossibility). It had wished to reach an understanding with Moscow on both Afghanistan and Iran without getting snared in neuralgic issues such as the Georgia–Abkhazia–South Ossetia morass. It thought to use arms control as a kind of lubricant to assuage Russian pride, a notion recommended by the fact that 95 per cent of the work on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) had already been completed during the Bush administration—but this, it insisted, was not a form of linkage.

The Russians, for their part, insisted otherwise. They demanded payment for any help they might give, as eventually manifested in the US withdrawal of certain ballistic missile defense plans in Eastern Europe, Moscow’s refusal to unequivocally rule out the supply of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, US indulgence of Russian aid for Iran’s bringing the Bushehr nuclear plant on-line, and more besides. The administration got for all this a better understanding about logistical cooperation vis-à-vis Afghanistan and a Russian vote for tougher anti-Iran sanctions that are of dubious utility in any event. And much to the administration’s consternation and surprise, Moscow slow-rolled the START talks, less to gain advantage within that agreement than to foil administration timetables at the UN and on the ground in south-west Asia. Thus the administration learned (one hopes) that linkage is a way of life, not a procedural tap one can turn on in one place or off in another at will.

Even in areas seemingly of high priority to the administration, it could not reliably connect the rhetoric-to-policy dots. On non-proliferation policy, for example, the administration belabored efforts on its Global Zero initiative, the late April 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit and the May 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference, even as policy towards Iran and North Korea lay disconnected from these affairs. It was as if administration principals thought they could move reality by pushing on the shadows it made. Meanwhile, although US policy on the Iranian nuclear program remained unchanged—an Iranian nuclear weapons capability remains ‘unacceptable’ and no option to enforce that policy will be ‘removed from the table’—authoritative voices from within the administration signaled that the use of force against Iran is for any practical purpose not on the table as long as US efforts are still surging up and struggling on in Afghanistan.

We shall see how all this shakes out in due course, but the noises coming out of the Pentagon are inherently believable because they are logical: using force against Iran while the conflict in Afghanistan persists would be the equivalent in American politics of starting a second war. Unless a clear existential threat to the United States is believed to exist, as in World War II, sane strategists don’t open a second front while a first one is already in a mess. So when the Secretary of State, amid one of her “crippling sanctions” reveries, began musing out loud about “learning to live with an Iranian bomb”, no one was particularly surprised, least of all the Iranian leadership. Yet it seems not to have occurred to administration principals that one cannot effectively raise the prospect of a new form of extended deterrence on one hand while undermining its credibility through a Global Zero initiative on the other.

Indeed, the fuzzy indeterminacy that characterizes the Obama foreign policy holds true even at the highest echelon of strategy. The United States is the world’s pre-eminent if not hegemonic power. Since World War II it has set the normative standards and both formed and guarded the security and economic structures of the world. In that capacity it has provided for a relatively secure and prosperous global commons, a mission nicely convergent with the maturing American self-image as an exceptionalist nation. To do this, however, the United States has had to maintain a global military presence as a token of its commitment to the mission and as a means of reassurance to those far and wide with a stake in it. This has required a global network of alliances and bases, the cost of which is not small and the maintenance of which, in both diplomatic and other terms, is a full-time job.

Against this definition of strategic mission there have always been those in the United States who have dissented, holding that we do, ask and expect much too much, and get into gratuitous trouble as a result. Some have preferred outright isolationism, but most serious skeptics of the status quo have preferred a posture of ‘offshore balancing’. Remove the bases and end the alliances, they have argued, and the US government will be better able, at less risk and far less cost to the nation, to balance against threatening developments abroad, much as America’s strategic mentor, Great Britain, did throughout most of the 19th century.

This is the core conversation Americans have been having about the US global role since at least 1945. To one side we recall George McGovern’s 1972 ‘Come Home, America’ campaign plank, the Mansfield Amendment that would have removed US troops from Europe in mid-Cold War, and the early Carter administration’s proposal to remove US troops from South Korea spoken in rhythm to speeches decrying an “inordinate fear of communism”. To the other side has been almost everyone and everything else, so that the offshore approach has always been turned back, at least until now. Where is the Obama administration in this great debate? We don’t really know; the evidence, once again, suggests ambivalence.

President Obama has rejected American exceptionalism as no American president before him ever has; he did so in London on 29 April 2009, when he answered a question as follows: “I believe in American exceptionalism just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” By relativizing what has always been an absolute, Obama showed how profoundly his image of America has been influenced by the received truths of the Vietnam anti-war movement and counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. If he has a theory of American exceptionalism, it is a far subtler, humbler and more historically contingent one than the secular messianist, attenuated Protestant version that has been common to American history.

The President also believes that downward pressure on the defense budget is warranted; his projected budgets show as much, though the prospective cuts are not draconian. But in this he joins a large, politically ecumenical contingent, so his views do not imply opposition to the forward-presence approach to grand strategy. And the fact that US relations with many of its allies, notably in Europe, have worsened during Obama’s tenure is more likely a consequence of the President being distracted than it is of any active dislike for either specific allies or alliances in general. Nor does his candid view that fighting in Afghanistan for another decade and spending $1 trillion doing so is not in America’s best national interest, mean that he is reticent about using force on behalf of strategic aims when it is in America’s interest to do so. Perhaps Obama accepts the forward strategy but will end up starving it of resources to the point that it will shockingly fail some crucial test—perhaps the worst outcome of all.

Taken together, then, the administration’s track record, encompassing the whole spectrum from discrete policy arenas to the lofty heights of grand strategy, suggests the foreign policy equivalent of a Rorschach inkblot. Observers can see in it what they have wanted to see. Some have tagged the Obama administration a re-run of the Carter administration, but the fit is obviously imperfect; it’s very hard to see Carter during his first or second year in office ordering those Predator strikes, even harder to imagine him holding his tongue on human rights. Some have seen a replay of Nixon and Kissinger: Realpolitik hiding behind feel-good talk about allies and peace and the rest, trying simultaneously to play an inherited weak hand and set the stage for a grand bargain—this time with Iran instead of China. Still others think they are witness to the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: a shrewd opportunist who knows the limits set by domestic constraints, and whose main concern is national economic stabilization and social strengthening against the day when American power must meet a true test of destiny. The name game can go on because, while no great successes have sprouted forth from the Obama foreign policy, no great debacles have emerged either.

A good deal of the seeming incoherence in any US foreign policy administration stems from management decisions made early on in a president’s tenure. How a president wishes to set up his foreign and national security policy system is a function of his personality, though, as we will see below, that hardly exhausts the ways that a president’s personality affects US foreign policy.

There are as many ways to set up the system as there are presidents, but, in general, a president will prefer either formal or informal structures, and either a big or a small tent of key advisers. The less formal and smaller, the more centered in the White House a policy system is likely to be; the more formal and larger, the less White House-centric a policy system is likely to be. Classic examples: president Eisenhower’s National Security Council was formal, systemically organized and sprawlingly large; president John F Kennedy’s was less formal and much smaller. Both models have at times worked well, and both have at times worked poorly; outcomes derive from the quality of the leaders overseeing the structure as much or more than the structure itself. But structure is not irrelevant. What a large formal system gains in coverage, the use of institutional memory, bureaucratic buy-in, and an enhanced capacity to both plan and implement it may lose in speed, flexibility and creativity. What a smaller, more informal system may gain in speed, flexibility and creativity, even to the point of enabling genuine boldness, it may lose in coverage, cross-issue coherence, bureaucratic support and the ability to implement its own directives.

President Obama has chosen the small, White House-centered model, and he has made clear that no matter how pressed he is with domestic policy issues, he and he alone commands his foreign policy system, not he together with his National Security Adviser as in most prior White House-centered systems. This is as far a cry as one can imagine from what Warren Harding declared after his inauguration in 1921, when he pointed to his secretary of state, Charles Evans Hughes, and directed all media questions about foreign relations to him. The problem is that one person, or even 35 key appointees holed up in the Old Executive Office building, cannot possibly manage the foreign/national security policy of the United States.

There are two and only two ways to handle the mismatch between a small decision system and an enormous array of decision points: prioritization and delegation. President Obama has left no doubt what he cares most about. He cares about ridding the United States of its combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan without jeopardizing rock-bottom US security equities in those countries. Now that he has seen the intelligence at a new level and in more detail, he is concerned about terrorism, which leads him to be particularly concerned about Pakistan. In turn and much related, he cares deeply about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, both to rogue states and to terrorists, understanding that either would likely be strategic game-changers. As already noted, he seems to think that the Arab–Israeli conflict, especially the Palestinian dimension of it, is more intrinsically linked to this entire problem set than it actually is, and so he has reasoned that the so-called peace process must be a high priority. In the beginning of the administration, too, Russia held a high priority because, as has already been noted, it was seen as an important tactical ally in dealing with both Iran and Afghanistan. China mattered as well, of course, but less for its growing geopolitical importance than for its role in the global economy.

For most of these priority concerns the President appointed a special envoy who reports directly to him. The envoy in effect for the wars is the Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, to whom he shrewdly delegated the gist of these policy management burdens—shrewdly because Gates, a Republican holdover from the Bush administration, gives him political cover from two directions: he blunts Republican criticism and to a point his presence distances the President symbolically from the wars themselves should things go wrong. His ‘envoy’ for all Russia/NATO issues is the Vice-President, Joe Biden, who thinks he understands them and apparently has persuaded the President as much.

This leaves nearly everything else—the care and feeding of various and sundry allies, Latin America and the Caribbean, most of Asia, all of Oceania, the Balkans, the Arctic, and a whole host of functional issues from ‘trafficking in persons’ to international religious freedom—delegated to the State Department. This puts the State Department in an even more minor position than usual, and tips its internal scales away from foreign policy to foreign relations, seemingly a subtle but really a significant difference because in a White House-centered system the State Department cannot act boldly or take major initiatives. This arrangement also delegates by default major aspects of China policy and trade policy to the Treasury and Commerce departments, respectively, and leaves a large dollop of policy towards Mexico with the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

The President’s personal style, of which more in a moment, has lent itself to this arrangement for several reasons. One is that he could place his key political operatives, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod (both now gone on to other jobs), closer to the policy action. Another, however, is concern that the inter-agency process in the Executive Branch does not work well. The subject was the focus of a major commission study before and during the transition, the Project on National Security Reform, on which several members of the incoming administration were involved—including both the President’s former national security advisor, General Jim Jones, and his first national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair. The special envoy tack comes directly from that study.

As for the politics of the thing, President Obama is not yet persuaded that Hillary Clinton’s political threat to him has ended. His decision to appoint her Secretary of State, and her decision to accept the position, were both fraught with unexpressed but well understood political calculation. Turning Ms Clinton and the State Department into relatively bit players in the policymaking process was not accidental. The lack of genuine trust in that relationship also explains why the two July 2009 foundational speeches were so uncharacteristically uncoordinated with one another.

The administration has already paid a price for the President’s management decisions. To give but one of many examples, in July 2009 the president managed to rile a valuable ally, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, through complete inadvertence. Having unilaterally blessed the expansion of the G-8 into the G-20 in the face of global economic instability, he ordered members of his administration to seek the rebalancing of voting protocols within International Monetary Fund and the World Bank so that they might better reflect contemporary (and idealized) world power distributions. As he planned his own Global Zero initiative, too, offices at the National Security Council and State Department were busy continuing their work from the transition on how to reform the UN by reshaping the Security Council.

One of their ideas was to create a single European Union seat in place of the two owned by Britain and France. As is the way of government, each of these initiatives proceeded unaware of what others were doing. And so it happened that, within the course of about a month, three core symbols of what remains of French grandeur were attacked by the US government: the status of France as a nuclear power, the status of France as a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, and the status of France as a major player in international financial affairs. It is the job, in this case, of the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs to anticipate inadvertencies of this sort, and to stop a runaway policy train before it flies off the trestle. Phillip Gordon, the current Assistant Secretary, is particularly expert on France and knows Sarkozy; he even translated one of his books into English while working at the Brookings Institution. He was aware of the ‘perfect storm’ brewing in US–French relations, but whatever he tried to do to avert damage it failed to stop the French volcano from erupting—which it did when Sarkozy fumed aloud in the halls of the UN building about how the president was “living in an imaginary” as opposed to a real world. It was not easy to make the French nostalgic for the days of George W Bush, but the Obama team managed it. This is what comes from trying to run the entire foreign policy of the United States from the White House.

Read any serious history of American diplomacy and it becomes readily apparent how central the character of the president is to it. One of the great mysteries of understanding US foreign policy today in its essence is that, more than any other occupant of the Oval Office, Americans and foreigners alike simply do not have a good feel for who Barack Obama really is. Aside from being relatively young and recent upon the national political scene, he doesn’t fit into any category with which we are accustomed to understand intellectual and temperamental origins. More importantly, Obama’s ‘mentality’ is not only hard for outsiders to read, he is, thanks to the facts of his nativity and life circumstances, an unusually self-constructed personality. He is black in an obvious physical way but culturally not black in any significant way. He is a person who, finding himself naturally belonging nowhere, has striven to shape himself into a person who belongs everywhere. As his books suggest, he is a man who has put himself through more reconstructive psychological surgery than any American politician in memory. A few of the resultant characteristics are critically important for understanding how he serves as both president and commander-in-chief.

Obama has understood above all that he must keep his cool. His cultivated aloofness is absolutely necessary to his successful political personality, for he cannot allow himself to exude emotion lest he raise the politically fatal specter of ‘the emotional black man’. His analytical mien, however, has made it hard for him to bond with foreign heads of state and even with some members of his own staff. His relationship with General Jones, for example, lacked rapport to the point that it seems to be a major reason for Jones resigning his position.

But Obama’s ‘cool’ does not imply a stunted capacity for emotional intelligence. To the contrary: he knows unerringly where the emotional balance of a conversation needs to be, and it is for this reason that Obama’s self-confidence is so imperturbable. He knows he can read other people without letting them read him. And this is why, in parallel with the complex of his racial identity, he never defers to others psychologically or emotionally, not towards individuals and not, as with the US military, towards any group.

The combination of ‘cool’ and empathetic control helps explain Obama’s character as commander-in-chief. He is respected in the ranks for sacking General Stanley McChrystal after the latter’s inexcusable act of disrespect and insubordination. That was control at work. But US troops do not feel that Obama has their back. He thinks of them as victims, not warriors, and one does not defer to victims. His ‘cool’, as well as his having had no prior contact with the professional military ethos at work, enjoins a distance that diminishes his effectiveness as commander-in-chief.

Obama’s mastery at projecting himself as self-confident, empathetic and imperturbable has also compensated for his lack of original policy ideas. Whether in law school, on the streets of Chicago, in the US Senate or in the race for the White House, he has commanded respect by being the master orchestrator of the ideas, talents and ambitions of others. Many claim that his personality archetype is that of the ‘professor’, but this is not so; it is that of the judge. It is the judge who sits above others; they defer to him, not he to them. It is the judge who bids others speak while he holds his peace and shows no telling emotion. It is the judge who settles disputes and orders fair and just resolution. It is the judge whose presumed intelligence trumps all others.

This kind of personality archetype can succeed well within American politics. In this sense it is precisely Charles Evans Hughes, a former chief justice of the US Supreme Court, not Carter, Wilson, Niebuhr, Nixon or FDR who stands as the true forebear of Barack Obama. But in the international arena even the American president cannot pull off a judge act and get away with it. Wilson tried and failed (or was that a prophet act?). The American president among his international peers is but one of many, perhaps primus inter pares but certainly without a mandate to act like it. Obama cum ‘judge’ has not impressed these peers: not among our European allies, who are ill at ease with his aloofness; not among Arabs and Muslims, who think him ill-mannered for bad-mouthing his predecessors while being hosted in foreign lands; not among Russians and Chinese, who think him gullible and guileless. Obama may still be popular on the ‘streets’ of the world because of the color of his skin, the contrast he draws to his predecessor, the general hope for renewal he symbolizes, and his willingness to play to chauvinist sentiment abroad by apologizing for supposed past American sins; but this matters not at all in the palaces where decisions are made. As his novelty has worn off, he impresses less and less.

One reason President Obama does not impress the foreigners who matter is that he looks to be a figure in political distress at home. They know, as does the President, that his legacy will be forged in the context of the American domestic moment. Success at home can empower him abroad, but the opposite is not the case. That is why it is impossible to assess the Obama foreign policy bereft of its domestic political context.

When Obama entered office, the economy justifiably dominated his time and energy. Once he gained a moment to sit back and take stock, his attention flowed to what he cares most about: issues of social and economic fairness within America. Thus, even a man who has insisted on monopolizing his own foreign policy saw it ultimately as a holding action against more urgent and important domestic challenges. This explains the remark of a confidante of General Jones, that “after all that Obama had done to practically beg him to take that job… Jim had the sense that Obama didn’t really care.” Yet the decision to privilege healthcare over energy policy was a grave error, similar to the one president Clinton made in 1993 and, in reverse order of policy domains, to the one president Carter made in 1977. One does not come newly enthroned to a place like Washington and try first thing to tackle the hardest, most special-interest encrusted issue in town. That is bound to exhaust more political capital than a novice president can afford. Obama’s victory on the healthcare issue was meager on its own terms and decidedly Pyrrhic politically. It never grew the legs to burnish his image more broadly, whether at home or, except very briefly, abroad.

It soon became clear, too, that a man who bravely campaigned against the K-Street ‘transactional culture’, which he identified as the root of US political dysfunction, lacked the power once in office to do anything about it beyond decreeing a few feckless White House edicts about hiring lobbyists for executive branch jobs. When the President decided on the stimulus package, when he put together his first budget, when he needed the healthcare and then the financial reform bills drafted, what did he do? Having few ideas of his own, only the remnants of a campaign staff and, most importantly, very few close political allies, he had no choice but to turn to the Democratic leadership in Congress to commute these tasks. This, to put it mildly, is no way to fight the K-Street transactional culture. Foreign leaders saw this as well, and they saw the widespread (if largely unfair) charges of leadership forfeit over the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The conclusion they drew is that President Obama is a weak leader, a conclusion that high unemployment figures, Obama’s falling approval ratings and the results of the mid-term election have since done nothing to alter.

Clearly, this is only one way that American domestic circumstances cast their shadow on American foreign policy in the age of Obama. As foreign policy has become both inseparable from and subordinate to economic concerns, these concerns play back on foreign policy from several angles. They bring pressure for a more austere defense budget, which in turn affects key planning judgments with major strategic consequences in the future. They promote concern about trade deficits and distorted international capital flows that directly affect US policy towards China and thus, at least indirectly, towards a dozen or so important allies.

Political weakness and the subordination of foreign policy to domestic priorities also join to explain the contours of the President’s trip to the United Nations in September 2010. The President devoted his yearly General Assembly speech to a political need: rebalancing a perceived lack of commitment to democracy and human rights promotion in US policy. Though delivered before an audience of prestigious foreign diplomats and heads of state in Turtle Bay, the speech’s real audience was composed of American voters in advance of the November mid-term election. The real business of the trip, however, was transacted in a private two hour meeting with the Chinese Premier, trying to convince him to realign the value of China’s currency in the interest of greater long-term international economic stability. The Chinese military is building fast; China is asserting its sovereignty in its trans-territorial waters in ways never before seen, all as the capabilities and resources of the US Navy are shrinking. But what takes pride of place in US diplomacy towards China? Trade and money. Is this shortsighted? Perhaps, perhaps not; it is, in any case, politically unavoidable, for if Obama does not raise the specter of tariffs, the US Congress will.

So we are brought to politics. An American administration may be compared to a tea ball within a teapot. The tea ball brings name and flavor to the brew, but without the liquid surroundings and the element of heat to make the whole thing boil, nothing much would happen.

Barack Obama is a master of the political arts. To expect such a man to simply set aside that mastery once president is to expect too much. Moreover, politics provides the unifying energy that binds the various parts of a president’s obligations and aspirations together. Its sources are manifold but its consequence is seamless. Just as one rock-solid reason that Lyndon Johnson persisted as he did in the Vietnam War was to protect politically what he cared about most—his Great Society program—so Barack Obama’s decision on 1 December 2009 to juxtapose a July 2011 exit date next to his decision to “surge” 30,000 more US troops into Afghanistan turned on his need, as he reportedly expressed it to Senator Lindsay Graham, “not to lose the whole Democratic Party” before major votes on healthcare and other legislation.

Some American critics have complained precisely on this point. It is standard practice in Washington to condemn the insertion of political motives into foreign and national security policy decisions. But it is not, because it cannot be, standard practice to actually desist from it, at least much of the time—and, if anything, Thomas Donilon’s elevation to the post of National Security Advisor increases the weight of political factors in the administration’s decision-making processes.

If we now try to put all the foregoing factors together, what do we find assembled? We find a president in a tough spot who most likely does not know if he is inspired more by Wilson or Niebuhr, because reality thus far has not forced him to choose. We don’t know if he is resigned to a strategy of forward deployment or desirous of an offshore alternative because he likely doesn’t know either, having never been posed the question in so many words. We find a man whose inexperience leaves him with an incomplete grasp of what he gives up by asserting such close control over foreign policy from the White House. We see a man whose personality does not function abroad as successfully as it has at home, and so cannot with brilliant speeches alone dissolve the conflicting interests that define the cauldron of international politics into a comforting pot of warm milk. We see a man commanding a decision system untested by crisis, and one whose core issues remain unfocused for all the distractions of other challenges in his path. We see, lastly but not least, a man whose political instincts are no more detachable from him than his own shadow.

From all these sources, bumping against and mixing with one another, comes the foreign policy of Barack Obama. Where the man will lead that policy, or the policy lead the man (the rest of us in tow), is now driven by the fact that the President is adrift conceptually since his initial engagement strategies did not succeed. Obama now awaits the crisis that will forge his legacy, but what that crisis will be, and whether the president will meet it with the American national interest or his personal political concerns foremost in mind, no one knows. No one can possibly know.
Adam Garfinkle is Editor of The American Interest.

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The silent death of American grand strategy
Over the past quarter century, the American political class, its leadership included, seems to have lost the ability to think strategically about the world and America’s place in it. The reinforcing reasons for this are both remote and proximate, some buried deep within American political culture and others the result of recent and, one hopes, ephemeral distractions. But whatever the reasons may be, four generic phenomena have resulted from the recent abeyance of strategic thought.

First, the error quotient of US foreign policy has risen, and even great powers ultimately have limited margins for error. Second, US policy has become largely reactive, particularly since American leaders’ quality time has been all but monopolised by the deep post-2008 economic swoon and accompanying signs of equally deep political dysfunction. Third, the US reputation for foreign policy constancy and competence has suffered, not least in encouraging revisionist actors to take advantage of the US attention deficit. And these three phenomena have together stimulated a fourth: a shift by default from the US grand strategy in place since the end of World War II to one absentmindedly bearing a different set of prospective risks and benefits.

None of this is particularly good news for American allies.

Unlike classical European and Asian statesmen, American leaders have never developed a tradition of formal grand-strategy making. There is no American version of Clausewitz or Sun Tzu, and comparatively little grand-strategy literature written by native-born intellectuals and leaders exists. This is partly because of the idealistic anti–“Old World” mercantilist bias of the Founders’ Enlightenment ideology. It is also partly because, after the first few decades of American independence and the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine, which warned European imperialism away from the New World, the nation no longer found itself locked in strategic competition with proximate near-equals. The American state’s initial grand strategy, which was to acquire as much of North America as possible, arose ineluctably from the conditions in which the young nation found itself. Whether it was called Jefferson’s “empire of liberty” or “manifest destiny,” this first, developmentalist grand strategy gained nearly universal, if mostly tacit, consensus. There was no need to write formal tracts about it and argue over them in private conclave, and no one did except in rare cases such as Seward’s Folly — the US purchase of Alaska in 1867.

While this first American grand strategy was simple and hence clear, as all grand strategies worth their salt must be, it was not for the saintly or faint of heart. As Machiavelli put it just past 500 years ago, every benign political order rests on antecedent crimes. The American case is no exception: the barbarous treatment of native Americans, slavery, an early avarice directed toward Canada that led to the War of 1812, and the Mexican War, which even as unsentimental a man as Ulysses S. Grant condemned as one of the most unjust wars ever inflicted by a stronger power upon a weaker one. America’s westward expansion was also a necessary precondition for the worst calamity in American history: the Civil War. Withal, the strategy succeeded and by so doing exhausted itself. By the time Frederick Jackson Turner famously wrote about the “closing of the frontier” at the end of the 19th century, the strategy had become obsolete, notwithstanding some unrequited but on balance faint imperial yearnings directed toward the Caribbean and, of course, Hawaii.

At that moment in American history, following the Spanish–American War, several strands came together to produce the second American grand strategy. Alfred Thayer Mahan, the great American navalist, fused his grasp of the British strategic tradition with the newly developing academic notion of geopolitics and out came the template for American anti-hegemonism. Long since unworried about a peer competitor in the Western Hemisphere or the return of a European power in strength to the New World, the grand strategy of the United States as a maritime-oriented World Island would be to oppose the emergence of a hegemonic power in either peninsular Europe or East Asia.

This was not a principled anti-hegemonic stance, for Mahan and others were unperturbed about America’s own New World dominance. It rather flowed from two different principles: First, in a technologically dynamic age, the impossibility that any power at either bracket of Eurasia could amass sufficient resources to literally endanger US security could no longer be taken for granted; and second, no power should be allowed to compel the United States to undertake a level of mobilisation that would undermine the small-government, no-standing-army injunctions of the Founders.

How to implement this strategy? Through self-help and key alliances. Self-help consisted mainly of building up the US Navy to world-class scale; hence President Theodore Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet around the world in 1905; the construction of the Panama Canal, completed in 1913, needs also be seen in this light. It consisted in Asia too, many supposed, of US control of the Philippines. The alliance consisted in riding the coattails of the Royal Navy, that great fleet which bestrode the empire on which the sun never set, and aligning America’s diplomacy too, where possible, with that of Britain. Together, this maritime strategy could be aptly termed one of offshore balancing, which fairly describes the British post-Napoleonic Wars grand strategy that inspired Mahan to devise it.

American strategy also depended for its implementation on deft diplomacy to complement growing US wealth and power. For example, after World War I, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, beyond convening the famed Washington Naval Conference of 1922, set to clean up the imperial detritus in the Pacific occasioned by the collapse of the German Empire. A series of linked negotiations involving the United States, Britain, Japan, and France established a new multilateral security balance upon the exit of Germany from the Marshall, Caroline, and Mariana Islands, Samoa, and Shantung Province in China — which Japan had seized during the World War but, thanks to American diplomatic efforts, was returned to China in 1922.

Alas, the new Pacific order depended on all participants keeping up their insurance premiums, so to speak — but with the coming of the Great Depression America’s security investments all but ceased. American military weakness, particularly its drawdown in naval power, turned the Philippines from potential strategic asset into real strategic liability in the face of rising Japanese militarism. The result was the onset of the Pacific War in 1941, the first direct fist-on-fist test of America’s Mahanian grand strategy.

World War II supplied proper nouns to American grand strategy as World War I never had. In Europe the feared hegemon was Nazi Germany; in Asia it was Japan. America’s guiding wartime two-front tactic, as the immediate application of its larger grand strategy, was so simple that it consisted of but two words: “Europe First.” The strategy was implemented successfully and, after the war, the United States found its own military forces stationed on the brackets of Eurasia, and with both its British and French allies much weaker for war’s wear. As the names of potential hegemons changed from Nazi Germany to Soviet Russia in Europe, and from Japan to Communist China in Asia, America’s two-front anti-hegemonic grand strategy changed in two ways. First, the pro-democracy ideological dimension of the Cold War, long latent in American thinking about global affairs, merged with the anti-hegemonic objectives of US grand strategy. Second, the mode of its implementation changed from offshore balancing to forward deployment. Together, these changes gave rise, in George Kennan’s famous term, to a strategy called “containment.”

Whereas in the past, the US Navy, in concert with the British Navy, was the principal military instrument of US grand strategy, after the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the outbreak of war in Korea the main instrument also came to include the US Air Force, now with nuclear weapons, deployed both at home and in bases ringing the Soviet Union and Communist China. The ongoing aim of US grand strategy now was to deter geostrategic advance by either hostile would-be hegemon, who were believed to be in league with each other for reasons of ideological affinity, but also to suppress security competitions in Europe and Asia that might provide opportunities or temptations for an adversary’s advance toward a hegemonic position.

Since US interests in both brackets of Eurasia were relatively impartial compared to those of local powers, and whereas US strength was truly unparalleled, American strategy attracted many local associates. This enabled US diplomacy to assemble a robust but flexible alliance system spanning Europe and Asia. The ideological and economic dimensions of US policy, also attractive to many abroad, became complements to this policy according to the Tocquevillian conviction that prosperous democracies make for better strategic partners. The US Navy and Air Force thus became, in effect, the ante that allowed Washington to participate in the geopolitics of the two regions, and the alliance structures, in turn, provided a politically supportable means by which US power could combine with that of others. By the advent of the Eisenhower Administration, if not a few years earlier, the grand strategy of the United States was sufficiently clear that a single sentence sufficed to express it: Prevent the emergence of a hegemon over peninsular Europe or East Asia by suppressing security competitions through the forward deployment of US forces, and through a supportive pro-democracy, pro-trade diplomacy.

Through the end of the Cold War in 1989–91, that was America’s post-World War II grand strategy. The strategy did not work perfectly, as the Vietnam War debacle illustrates. It also required some adjustment, for example to add the greater Middle East to its ambit, not mainly for its own sake, but for that region’s instrumental significance to European and Asian security in a new oil-fired age. Yet despite the tendency of the ideological aspect of the struggle to kick up much obfuscating dust, on a good day most senior American leaders, certainly those in the relevant Executive Branch offices and in the upper ranks of the military, were more or less able to articulate that single sentence.

No more. As Walter Russell Mead put it recently, “the habit of supremacy developed in the last generation” caused the “strategic dimension, in the sense of managing intractable relations with actual or potential geopolitical adversaries, [to] largely disappear … from American foreign policy debates.” That, in turn, has allowed the recurrence of those legal and moral modes of thinking about foreign and national security policy that George Kennan and many others tirelessly warned against. What passes for thought about strategic problems now transpires through what Mead calls “an uncomplicated atmosphere of Whig determinism” that manages to somehow turn Anglo-American institutions and values into supposed universal best practice.

This is not a partisan issue. Both American liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, each in their own ways, have long been bridled to Whig views of history. Both were disciplined from indulging in excessive secular messianism during the Cold War by the realism-inducing spectre of clear and present dangers. In the Cold War’s wake, however, resurgent Whiggery has trumped all — even during and just after the shock of 9/11.

The Clinton Administration acted as though the great wave of post–Cold War globalisation represented a cosmic confluence of American power, interests, and values all wonderfully woven together. Strategy was subsumed by multi-dimensional triumph, so that all foreign policy need do was remove lingering obstacles and deal with the occasional atavistic rogue-regime’s response to the galloping obsolescence of its ways of doing business. In consequence, funding for the military and foreign assistance plummeted.

The Bush 43 Administration held a similar view, except that the now obviously underestimated scale of the aforementioned atavistic reactions evoked a more muscular and ambitious promotion of presumed universal best practice. For a short time, President Bush’s “forward strategy for freedom” seemed to become the new US grand strategy. Unfortunately, the misinterpretation of the origins and nature of the 9/11 problem, as it careened through the prism of American exceptionalism, led to decisions that compounded US burdens and devalued resources, in the form of America’s alliances and its “soft power” reservoirs, that had long been vital to US grand strategy.

To take a signal example of the former, while the principal military instruments of US grand strategy are its Navy and Air Force, the doubled US defence budget in the decade after 9/11 overwhelmingly flowed to the Army and the Marines as the recapitalisation of the Navy and the Air Force languished. Had American leaders recognised and affirmed what US grand strategy actually was, launching and (mis) fighting two land wars in Asia Minor would have been the last things they would have chosen to do. By the time the second Bush term ended, the pre-9/11 strategy had not been restored, though US military and diplomatic activities remained wedded to it. But no replacement stood in its place as the 2008 economic crisis descended.

With that shock there soon came a new American administration preoccupied with domestic problems and even more prone than its post-Cold War predecessors to think in legal-moral categories rather than in strategic ones. The combination, with rare “kinetic” exceptions such as the misadventure in Libya and the failed “surge” in Afghanistan, has turned US foreign policy into an extended duck-and-cover drill. These tendencies are illustrated in the Syria and Iran policy portfolios, where a focus on non-proliferation issues has related to second tier the larger strategic stakes raised by the cases seen separately, and especially seen together. Meanwhile, the “pivot to Asia” of the first Obama term was misframed as an either-or choice, and its naval and air force components remain too resource-straitened for either adversaries or allies to yet take it very seriously.

Insofar as there is any larger thinking about strategy in the current administration, perhaps a coherent view actually does exist despite the appearance of ad hocery. That view, an optimistic or benign realism, is said to posit that the United States can withdraw from virtually all European and most Middle Eastern issues without risk because a more or less friendly post-American balance of power is latent in the structure of international affairs and will bloom forth if only America gets out of the way and lets it do so.

Such a view, identified with a neo-offshore balancing perspective, certainly exists in academic circles. Whether this view is truly characteristic of high-level Obama Administration thinking is difficult to know. The signs are ambiguous. Even outward indications of the existence of a coherent strategic view, such as the 2010 roll-out of the Navy–Air Force “Air-Sea Battle” construct — a quintessential offshore balancing proposition — sometimes turn out to be less than meets the eye. In that case, the rollout reflected less a substantive or doctrinal adjustment and more a joint attempt by two beleaguered services to advance their claims to larger defence budget shares.

Perhaps a switch from a forward-deployment method of preventing hostile hegemons in favour of an offshore-balancing one is wise. Perhaps the United States cannot afford the post–World War strategy for political reasons; perhaps, too, it runs more risks than vital US interests warrant in a post–Cold War environment. Certainly it is irresponsible to maintain commitments without willing the means to redeem them en extremis — that is the sort of derangement of ends and means that birthed the Pacific War. Perhaps the anti-hegemonic state-based objective itself is outdated, and that the threat of apocalyptical terrorism joined to weapons of mass destruction is now the principle problem to be addressed.

One would think that, under the circumstances, Americans among themselves and with allies would be discussing these issues. After all, differing means of executing an anti-hegemonic strategy demand different mixes of military-technical, intelligence, diplomatic, financial, and other skill sets. Each requires different kinds of alliances and asks different things of allies. Some regions seem more amenable to stable do-it-yourself local balances than others; but which are which? The potentially destabilising consequences of transitioning from one posture to the other, too, need to be thought through.

Unfortunately, little in the way of a strategic debate is discernible in Washington, either within the administration at high levels or among the political class at large. There is still little recognition here in Washington even of what US grand strategy has been for nearly the past seventy years, hence no basis from which to discuss alternatives. Instead, US thinking, if one can call it that, is being driven by financial strictures, some of them, like sequestration, self-inflicted beyond necessity or logic. In short, the United States is sliding toward an offshore-balancing grand strategy by default, without discussing its implications and without even calling it by its proper name.

A nation does not have a grand strategy if those responsible for devising and implementing it cannot articulate what it is. American grand strategy thus seems to have suffered a strange, silent death. One wishes to say rest in peace, as with any saddening death, but that wish may very well go unrequited. Although relatively few Americans have noticed the problem, senior figures among several allies and associates have. American commitments to allies have nowhere been formally rescinded, but the credibility of those commitments is now everywhere doubted. Even America’s larger competitors have reason to be anxious, for when the rule-maker and provider of global common security goods for more than half a century appears to suddenly abdicate much of that role, uncertainty and perhaps a bit of trouble cannot be far behind.

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Star-spangled anger
It was the day religion and politics collided. Ten years on, what has America done to itself?

Adam Garfinkle

American review

As with the bombing of Pearl Harbour and the assassination of President Kennedy, all adult Americans know where they were on September 11, 2001. On that Tuesday morning I was five blocks from the White House at the 5th-floor offices of National Affairs in Washington, an office that housed both The National Interest and The Public Interest magazines. The Washington Monument was in its usual place outside my south-west-facing office window as were, of course, the streets below. Once it had become clear that an attack was in progress, national and local media assumed a slightly manic tone. Most private offices reacted by letting their staff go, resulting in gridlocked mayhem throughout the city.

The headless-chicken reaction of the nation’s capital to the September 11 attacks disgusted me. Having lived in Israel, it had become second nature for me to assume a stoical mien in times like these, lest one contribute to an enemy’s designs. Just as, Eleanor Roosevelt once observed, no one can make a person feel inferior without his or her consent, no one can terrorise you unless you co-operate. I was against co-operating, so I ordered my staff to stay put, do a day’s work and go home as usual. Of course we would use the phone to assure relatives and friends that we were safe and we would monitor the news; if necessary, we would adjust to further events. We all stayed until past 5pm, emerging later for the evening commute into a virtual ghost town.

In the past decade, I have often thought of those first few hours after the attacks, and I have come to realise the basic error that US leaders made was to inadvertently co-operate with an enemy too weak to achieve its ends in any other way. To me, September 11 did not « change everything ». I thought that, whatever our private worries about the future, the public face of American leadership should radiate optimism and courage, not anger or fear.

Of course, we needed to prevent follow-on attacks. That, it seemed clear to me, meant urgently removing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that had sheltered and abetted the September 11 plotters. We also eventually needed to take out, in one way or another, those who might be planning more attacks, wherever they might be. The Bush doctrine version 1.0, rolled out in the immediate wake of the attack, which held regimes complicit with terrorism to be equally liable for American retribution, was entirely appropriate. Nor did I object to President Bush terming the situation a war, for that was necessary to tell people what was at stake, to break with the failed policies of the past, and to make available certain prudent presidential legal authorities. Still, despite the need to act, I was sure we should not take ourselves psychological hostage, as the Carter administration had allowed to occur after the US Embassy in Tehran was seized by Iranian fanatics in November 1979. We should not allow the attacks to define or monopolize US foreign policy as a whole.

Alas, that is precisely what the administration did allow. The only senior US leader who seemed to take the approach I thought best was Colin Powell, whose influence had been marginalised in the administration. He did not believe that the terrorist threat was of an existential nature that required the cashiering of American strategic principles, allies or institutions. But other administration principals thought differently, quickly accepting a theory-in-waiting, widely ascribed to so-called neo-conservatives, of why September 11 had happened: a democracy deficit in the Arab-Muslim world had forced frustrated citizens into the mosque, where they had been easy prey for religious charlatans and demagogues. The answer was to open up space for dissent, democratic debate and the social balm supposedly provided by market economics. Then these stultified societies could breathe and develop normally, and would not produce demonic mass murderers like Osama bin Laden.

Thus did fear boomerang, in the way that human emotions predictably do, to encourage a form of hubris fed from the wells of post-Cold War triumph (and triumphalism). The September 11 attacks had the effect of propelling US policy to do more at a time when its capacity to influence events had diminished thanks to the end of Cold War bipolarity and the diffusion of lethal technologies to weak state and non-state actors. It propelled the US to ramp up its metabolism and inflate its definition of vital interests rather than calmly discern distinctions among them. Unrivalled US power, pre-eminently of the military kind, would end the threat by transforming the political cultures of more than two dozen Arab and Muslim-majority countries into liberal democracies. This solution in turn depended on the validity of what was known as democratic peace theory—that democracies do not make war on other democracies—and on cherished Tocquevillian views of the pacific nature of egalitarian democratic societies.

Contrary to what many claim, this theory of the sources of September 11 existed within the administration well before the Iraq war began. It existed within Bush’s mind, encouraged by, among others, his speechwriter Michael Gerson and strategic visitors like Natan Sharansky; but it did not have the force of formal policy. The theory emerged into public view when, in February 2003, Bush gave a major speech at the American Enterprise Institute in which all the basic themes of this view found expression. That constituted the Bush doctrine version 3.0, now layered on top of version 2.0, characterised by the pre-emption plank famously inserted into the September 2002 National Security Strategy.

What became known as « the forward strategy for freedom » then found full expression from the bully pulpit in November 2003, with the President’s marquee speech at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The Strategy was then canonised in his Second Inaugural of January 2005, which Thomas Wolfe aptly dubbed the globalisation of the Monroe Doctrine. The worse things got in Iraq, and the more the WMD rationale for that campaign lost persuasiveness, the higher the rhetorical bar of democracy promotion rose—a classic case of cognitive dissonance at work in what is colloquially called in American poker-speak « doubling down ».

The rush to closure over a fearful shock to US security interests, and the hubristic response to it, was part of a longstanding pattern in American foreign policy history. The Bush administration’s reactions to September 11 were not the work of any neo-con cabal. Self-avowed neo-conservatives composed a group that was always smaller, more internally diverse and less influential than is often supposed. Rather, neo-cons struck chords very familiar to American history and political culture, chords that even national interest conservatives like Vice- President Cheney and Defence Secretary Rumsfeld could harmonise with. Had there been no neo-cons, the pattern would have asserted itself anyway in some other ideological dialect.

The pattern of which I speak, conceived by the historian Walter A. McDougall, consists of four phases that tend to repeat in cycles. First, there is a shock to the system, usually in the form of a surprise attack: the shot fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861, the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbour in 1898, the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, Pearl Harbour in 1941, and September 11 in 2001. In the phase directly after the shock, the leader of the day—Lincoln, McKinley, Wilson, FDR, George W. Bush—vows to resurrect the status quo ante and punish the evildoers. That corresponds to Lincoln’s vow to save the Union, Wilson’s vow to defend the right of American free passage on the high seas, and Bush’s vow to find and punish the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks so that America’s minimally acceptable standard of near perfect security could be restored.

But third, in the course of mobilising the national effort to achieve the limited goals set after the shock, the transcendent God-talk begins and the effort soon becomes enmeshed in the sacred narrative of American exceptionalism. This leads to a distension of goals and expectations, to geopolitical amnesia, and to what cognitive psychologists call a dominant strategy that is impervious to negative feedback and logical contradiction.

And so, in the September 11 decade, we chose a war that thoughtlessly destroyed the regional balance against Iranian hegemonism without even stopping to ask about the broader implications of a Shi’a government in Baghdad. One does not, apparently, descend to the smarminess of geopolitical analysis when one is doing the Lord’s work. So, too, did we turn what could and should have remained a punitive military operation in Afghanistan into a quixotic, distracted, underfunded nation- and state-building campaign. And so, too, did we conflate all our adversaries into one monolithic demon—typical of eschatological thinking. The administration conflated secular, Ba’athi Iraq with the apocalyptical Muslim fanatics of al-Qaeda, and so went to war against a country uninvolved in 9/11 whose threat to America was not, as is commonly claimed, zero, but which hardly justified, or excused, the haste and threadbare planning with which the war was launched and conducted.

Then, in the fourth phase, overreach leads to setbacks (the Korean War, for example, and the Iraq insurgency) and regrets (like the Vietnam War), ultimately resulting in at least temporary retrenchment … until the cycle starts all over again. This four-phase model fits the September 11 decade to a tee. The attack itself is of course phase 1; the Bush doctrine version 1.0 represents phase 2; the Second Inaugural signals the full efflorescence of phase 3; and the election of Barack Obama marks the consolidation of phase 4.

It matters in all this, however, whether the ideological vehicle that propels phase 3 forward even remotely reflects or aligns with reality. When it does, as it did during and after World War II, no one pays attention since things tend then to turn out well. In the case of the September 11 decade, unfortunately, it did not. There have been basically two problems with it. First, the « forward strategy » for freedom’s ascription of causality for Islamist terrorism is mistaken. Second, even if it were not mistaken, the timetables in which democracy promotion was seen as a solution for mass-casualty terrorism do not even begin to match. The reason is that despite President Bush’s assertion that democracy promotion is « the work of generations » and that democracy is about more than elections, that is not the basis upon which the administration actually behaved. It rushed into premature elections in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, with troublesome and still open-ended consequences for Iraq and disastrous ones for Lebanon and Gaza.

After September 11, as Americans searched for analogies that might help them understand the motivations for the attacks, most found themselves with very shallow reservoirs of historical analogies. Indeed, Americans tended almost exclusively to choose Cold War metaphors to explain September 11. Liberal idealists took their characteristic meliorist approach: It was poverty and injustice that motivated the attacks, and American policies that determined the target. There were dozens of calls for a « Marshall Plan for the Middle East », and hundreds of pleas to concentrate more than ever on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, as if that were somehow a magic bullet that could fix all problems. Conservative idealists, as already noted, took the democracy-promotion approach, arguing that the motivation was not economic but political.

Both were wrong; Islamist radicalism, in truth, is a form of chiliastic violence that has taken many forms in many cultures over the past two millennia, from the Jewish zealots of the First Century of the Common Era, to the 16th-century Peasants’ Revolt in Germany, to the 19th-century « ghost dances » of American Indians. But the obvious weaknesses of the meliorist approach encouraged conservative idealists in their conviction that their own view, therefore, must be right. (Manichean-minded Americans have real problems when any potential set of choices exceeds two.)

The administration’s rhetoric went even further, however, suggesting that US policy was largely responsible for the debased condition of Arab political cultures. When Bush famously said in November 2003: « Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty », he argued in essence that it was US policy, not the long incubated political culture of the region, that accounted for Arab autocracy. The Bush White House, in essence, adopted the wrongheaded left-wing side of an old debate over « friendly tyrants » as lesser evils and what to do with and about them, a very strange position for an avowedly conservative administration to take. The President also seemed to be saying, in a locution repeated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Cairo in June 2005 and many times thereafter, that US Cold War policy in the region was unsuccessful on its own terms, that it did not provide safety and stability.

These claims are nonsensical by any realistic measure. US Cold War policy in the Middle East achieved exactly what it set out to achieve within the broad framework of containment: It kept the Soviets out, the oil flowing to the benefit of the liberal economic order over which the US stood guard, and the region’s only democracy, Israel, safe. The record was not perfect, of course, and we certainly should have rethought old habits sooner than we did after the Berlin Wall fell; but it was good enough, as we say, for government work. Certainly, too, it was never in the power of the US government to bring about democracy in the Arab world during the Cold War. Yet the Bush administration’s solution for the problem whose origins it misread was just that for the post-Cold War era: deep-rooted reform of the Middle East’s sordid collection of autocracies and tyrannies (the major differences between the two were summarily overlooked) and, absent reform from within, the policy strongly implied that pro-democracy regime change would be imposed from without.

The result was almost breathtakingly counterproductive. The more the « forward strategy » bore down on the Middle East, with guns in Iraq and with projects and programs galore practically everywhere else they could gain access, the more effectively local nativists used Western energies jujitsu-like to gain leverage over their domestic adversaries. Rapid economic growth and rapid democratisation, even had they been possible, would not have stabilised Arab societies and made them less likely to spark off political violence against the West; it would have made such violence more likely. We are fortunate, therefore, that the strategy did not « succeed » for any longer than it did.

When the Bush administration campaigned to spread democracy to the Arabs, it never occurred to most of its principals that what they saw as a secular endeavour would be interpreted in the Muslim world through a religious prism, and used accordingly in intra-Islamic civilisational disputes. When Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, tried to persuade Iraqis not to vote because « democracy » was a front, in essence, for Christian evangelism, a slippery slope leading down to apostasy, he spoke a language that resonated in the ears of a great many (though happily not a majority of) Iraqis and other Muslim Arabs.

As it happens, the locals were essentially correct. Americans were speaking a creedal tongue that we thought entirely separate from « religion », a word that does not exist as such in Arabic. After all, we « separate church from state ». In truth, American political culture is not as secular as most think: The contemporary American idea of democracy, seen as the pre-eminent symbol of social egalitarianism (something very different from the Founders’ view) is an attenuated expression of aspects of Anglo-American Protestant Christian tradition. Our longing to spread it to the Muslims is the 21st-century version of what was, in the 19th century, a much more honest and self-aware missionary movement. We might fool ourselves by pretending that our deepest beliefs can be neatly compartmentalised into what is « political » and what is « religious », but Middle Easterners, who possess no such compartments by dint of a history sans Renaissance or Reformation, know better. Not that theology and ideology are identical, but as creedal systems they are bound to be seen as dramatically less distinct by cultures in which political theology, to use Mark Lilla’s apt terminology, has never been vanquished or, in most countries, even seriously challenged.

Looking at US behaviour in the September 11 decade as a manifestation of a secularised political theology explains far more than the standard parsing of the usual-suspects schools of thought: conservative and liberal realists and idealists, Jacksonians and Hamiltonians and all that. Consider for example that when, only days after September 11, Susan Sontag and other members of the professional adversary culture in the United States dared to suggest—in The New Yorker in Sontag’s case—that the perpetrators of September 11 were not cowards and that Americans were not innocent victims of terrorism, but rather were suffering just revenge for selfish and abrasive American foreign policies, they were treated exactly as heretics were in the so-called age of religion. They were not engaged or debated but shunned or excoriated. Had it still been in style, they would probably have been burned as witches.

The American penchant for seeing the world, especially the world of foreign and national security policy, in transcendental terms, is not an historical constant. It tends to rise in phase 3 of the cycle, when the God-talk emerges out of post-shock mobilisation. But there is a concurrent trend of more recent vintage that may have made things more acute during the September 11 decade.

Over the past half century, America has become increasingly deculturated. As Robert Putnam put it in his Bowling Alone argument, we have suffered a deep erosion of social capital. The face-to-face glue which enables social interactions to generate and sustain a common understanding about what is and isn’t virtuous behaviour—the very heart of what ultimately makes a society prosperous and happy—has been in ever shorter supply.

The implications of de-acculturation for American politics are are manifest. The decline of social trust abets both the polarisation of politics and popular cynicism toward government. It produces a political system in which the chain of connective institutions that link family to neighbourhood to larger community to town or region and ultimately to the national level gets broken, rendering the state both alien and intrusive at the same time as it tries to compensate for a social fabric now rent and tattered. Political parties, particularly those that tend to represent class or ideological structures, flow into the spaces once occupied by a diverse array of social interaction. They become in-group/out-group oriented as well-known psychological dynamics spread the distance between them, leading to an exaggerated perception of how much they actually differ in practical terms. The result is that compromise and horse-trading become more difficult, and the insertion of « culture war » issues into this environment has served only to harden the edges of the us-versus-them distinctions that define it. Identity groups disguised as political parties do not play well together.

The implications of all this for foreign policy are obvious. Presidential judgments necessarily become politicised, and opponents invariably try to criminalise them. Every decision becomes part of the catechism to the loyal, an act of moral enormity to the opposition. That is why the acrid debates over Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and warrantless wiretaps, the Patriot Act and the reach of wartime executive authority, took on the tones they did. These arguments did not remind one of the civilities of the common law tradition; they sounded more like transcripts from the Spanish Inquisition.

The great sociologist E. Digby Baltzell, the man who coined the term WASP back in the 1950s, once said to me that the greatest tragedy of 20th-century America is that the formidable energies of religion had migrated into politics, to the detriment of both. No wiser comment has ever been made about the trajectory of American politics this past half century, and here lies, I think, the key insight for those trying to comprehend the American September 11 decade at its very core. The decade has not been about what others have done to America; it has been about what Americans have done to themselves.

Adam Garfinkle served as chief staff writer of the US Commission on National Security/21st Century (Hart-Rudman Commission), which predicted mass-casualty terrorism on American soil before September 11 and first proposed creation of a Department of Homeland Security. He then served as editor of The National Interest and as speechwriter to Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. He is founding editor of The American Interest.

Indeed, the fuzzy indeterminacy that characterizes the Obama foreign policy holds true even at the highest echelon of strategy. The United States is the world’s pre-eminent if not hegemonic power. Since World War II it has set the normative standards and both formed and guarded the security and economic structures of the world. In that capacity it has provided for a relatively secure and prosperous global commons, a mission nicely convergent with the maturing American self-image as an exceptionalist nation. To do this, however, the United States has had to maintain a global military presence as a token of its commitment to the mission and as a means of reassurance to those far and wide with a stake in it. This has required a global network of alliances and bases, the cost of which is not small and the maintenance of which, in both diplomatic and other terms, is a full-time job.*

Against this definition of strategic mission there have always been those in the United States who have dissented, holding that we do, ask and expect much too much, and get into gratuitous trouble as a result. Some have preferred outright isolationism, but most serious skeptics of the status quo have preferred a posture of ‘offshore balancing’. Remove the bases and end the alliances, they have argued, and the US government will be better able, at less risk and far less cost to the nation, to balance against threatening developments abroad, much as America’s strategic mentor, Great Britain, did throughout most of the 19th century.

This is the core conversation Americans have been having about the US global role since at least 1945. To one side we recall George McGovern’s 1972 ‘Come Home, America’ campaign plank, the Mansfield Amendment that would have removed US troops from Europe in mid-Cold War, and the early Carter administration’s proposal to remove US troops from South Korea spoken in rhythm to speeches decrying an “inordinate fear of communism”. To the other side has been almost everyone and everything else, so that the offshore approach has always been turned back, at least until now. Where is the Obama administration in this great debate? We don’t really know; the evidence, once again, suggests ambivalence. . .

Taken together, then, the administration’s track record, encompassing the whole spectrum from discrete policy arenas to the lofty heights of grand strategy, suggests the foreign policy equivalent of a Rorschach inkblot. Observers can see in it what they have wanted to see. Some have tagged the Obama administration a re-run of the Carter administration, but the fit is obviously imperfect; it’s very hard to see Carter during his first or second year in office ordering those Predator strikes, even harder to imagine him holding his tongue on human rights. Some have seen a replay of Nixon and Kissinger: Realpolitik hiding behind feel-good talk about allies and peace and the rest, trying simultaneously to play an inherited weak hand and set the stage for a grand bargain—this time with Iran instead of China. Still others think they are witness to the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: a shrewd opportunist who knows the limits set by domestic constraints, and whose main concern is national economic stabilization and social strengthening against the day when American power must meet a true test of destiny. The name game can go on because, while no great successes have sprouted forth from the Obama foreign policy, no great debacles have emerged either.

Presidential Language
Be It Resolved
Adam Garfinkle
The American interest
December 30, 2014

In the course of an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep released earlier this week, President Obama tried to flatter the Supreme Leader and other assorted higher-ups in Tehran. Will it work?

NPR released yesterday a presidential interview, taped December 18, that bears on many issues, not least the Middle East. I probably should let the opportunity to comment pass, but I can’t. I probably should eat much less ice cream too, but I can’t seem to do that either. Well, more on New Year’s resolutions anon.

Two globules of presidential language in particular catch my attention, both foreshadowed by a Reuters article on December 28. Let me take the two in turn.

In the interview President Obama praises the “incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran” and adds that if Iran agrees to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions Iran “would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules—and that would be good for everybody.” The President offered that Iran has “legitimate defense concerns” and “suffered from a terrible war with Iraq” in the 1980s, but he criticized it for regional “adventurism, the support of organizations like Hizballah, the threats they’ve directed at Israel.”

The Reuters story commented in demur, drive-by style that, while the President thinks an agreement is still possible and perhaps likely, Vice President Biden said earlier this month that he gives the negotiations a “less than even shot” of succeeding. POTUS can’t so easily dump Biden like he dumped Hagel, because Biden got elected—besides which, the VP’s own “can’t-help-myself” problem, which manifests itself most often in his predilection for “committing a truth” (as he sees it) in public, is under better control today than at any time since his election to the Senate in 1972. (For those unaware, just by the way, the phrase “to commit a truth” is a key element of speechwriting wit; it means that one should not say something in public just because it’s true, unless it serves a particular purpose. Political speech is not a didactic exercise; it is inherently about controlling and manipulating impressions.)

Ah, but back to that other member of the Executive Branch who got elected, the President. What to make of these, one hopes, non-scripted remarks?

It’s clear—actually a little too clear—that President Obama is trying to flatter the Supreme Leader and other assorted higher ups in Tehran. Someone no doubt explained to the President in another, earlier drive-by incident that these guys believe they deserve more respect for their sovereignty, history, and culture than they get. He wants to assure them, insofar as he can, that regime change is not high up on the U.S. want list with regard to Iran, though he cannot explicitly rule it out without cutting the knees out from future U.S. policy options. He wants to let them know he’s sensitive to how the world looks from their perspective.

All of this publicly articulated respect is designed, it seems likely to me as a recovering Executive Branch speechwriter, to reduce the heat on the roiling pot that contains the conspiracy theories Iranians cook up and consume on a depressingly regular basis. The practical purpose? To get the Supreme Leader to authorize the concessions he needs to make to let the deal happen, in return for which we promise not to betray his trust. Respect worked for Aretha Franklin; maybe it’ll work for Barack Obama, too.

But note that, in the list of Iranian sins, the President did not even mention Iran’s role in Syria, or in Yemen. Note, too, that he omitted mentions of Iranian-supported terrorist and insurgent-war acts that have claimed American lives. He never warns that we now intend to link the nuclear negotiations with Iranian regional behavior, as we should have been doing all along. Note too, however, that if we have already secretly consummated a “big deal” with Iran to split U.S. regional security responsibilities with Tehran largely at Arab expense—as some commentators here but especially in the region think is a done deal already a few years ago—it would be harder to make sense of this sort of klutzy fawning language.

The Administration may still yearn for such a deal, however, which now, as in 2009, gives off the sound of one tongue flapping. Here we are, it would seem, at the second coming (or third or fourth coming, depending on what evidence you credit and how you count) of the original outstretched hand offering engagement to mutual benefit for the future. The first time the Administration did this, the Iranian “Green movement” protesting a rigged election was a victim, and our hand got slapped. (Or as Shel Silverstein once wrote: “Cast your bread on the water and what do you get? Another day older, and your bread gets wet.”) Nor did the Supreme Leader deign to answer the first of now three private presidential letters.

It remains to be seen who will suffer this time around, but one thing is certain: When the Saudis, Israelis, and other U.S. associates in the region hear presidential language like this, they head for their mental bunkers and hunker down. Meanwhile, President Obama should not be watching his mailbox for a letter from Tehran.

It will all be judged wise and worldly, perhaps, if the tactic succeeds and we get in due course a nuclear deal worth having. Me, I’m with Joe Biden on this one, as an earlier post explained in some detail. But will it succeed?

Some clever folks in the White House are sensitive to Iranian insecurities and have coached the President on how to make the Iranian lion purr. Alas, they can’t turn the Iranian lion into a vegetarian, and they have a long way to go to evoke any genuine purring. I do not think this will succeed, and let me explain why by speculating on how the Supreme Leader and other Iranians of his ilk will probably hear this sort of language.

The Iranian Lion. Not a vegetarian.

“So”, says the Supreme leader to President Rouhani over mint tea one afternoon, “the Americans think they get to judge whether we can be a successful regional power! They presume their dominance, these upstarts, as they speak to the heirs of the Achaemenid dynasty, the Sassanid dynasty, the Safavid dynasty—as these historical adolescents speak to the very founders of civilization. They speak to us not as equals but as masters. They are not and never will be our masters.”

“Yes, sir”, answers Rouhani. “You will remember when Judge [William P.] Clark, one of the NSC Advisors during the Reagan years, characterized Iranian statesmen as ‘a bunch of rug merchants’, do you not? Despite all their failures since, the hubris in Washington is undaunted. This young and inexperienced man speaks of how everyone will benefit if Iran submits to America’s will, as if life on earth can be like paradise. He speaks of international norms and rules as though everyone accepts them, despite the fact that most people in the world have suffered from the Western arrogance and oppression they symbolize.”

Yes, there is no doubt that Khamenei and Rouhani remember Judge Clark’s comment, for they assiduously collect every insult cast their way in faithful expectation of historical revenge; and you can bet your bottom dollar that the President and his advisers, including current NSC Advisor Susan Rice, lack that particular datum in their active memory banks. And much more important, yes, the Iranian government is full of geostrategic realists who know what a revisionist state is. And they are people who, for the most part—whether we can them moderates or hardliners—sincerely project the Shi’a martyrology complex onto the imagined political sociology of the world. This precisely was the Ayatollah Khomeini’s creative and expansive act of ideological genius; it still defines Iranian foreign policy ideals just as it sustained the revolution in its infancy, particularly during very hard times. So when Barack Obama tells Iranians how much they suffered during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, he comes across like a trespasser on sacred cemetery soil. “Who is this idolatrous man who presumes to narrate our holy suffering?”, the Supreme Leader asks the President.

When Robert Burns wrote, “O would God the gift to gi’ us, to see ourselves as others see us”, he weren’t just whistling Dixie folks, or suggesting that short Cliffs Notes courses in cultural studies would suffice for serious purposes. He really meant it.

The NPR interviewer asked the President whether in his last two years in office he would help war-torn countries like Libya, Syria, and Iraq. His answer was that these countries have to take the lead: “We can help, but we can’t do it for them. I think the American people recognize that. There are times here in Washington where pundits don’t; they think you can just move chess pieces around the table. And whenever we have that kind of hubris, we tend to get burned.”

Well, obviously the President is reading the wrong pundits (and in my view he acts unpresidentially even to mention them publicly). He should be reading me. I don’t want us to be engaged in a bombing campaign against the Islamic State if it is premised on a counterproductive half-strategy. I don’t want U.S. combat troops aiding the Abadi government in Baghdad, along side of Iranian Revolutionary Guard units, trying to reclaim for a unitary Iraqi state what it cannot firmly reclaim. I never argued for boots on the ground in Syria, or anything on the ground or in the air with respect to Libya. I and The American Interest with me over the years have been sympathetic to not “devoting another trillion dollars” to misbegotten foreign wars because, yes, as the President said, “we need to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding our schools, our roads, our basic science, and research here in the United States.” We at TAI used the phrase “nation-building at home” before he did (you can look it up—just check out the lead section of volume 4, number 3, published just before Obama’s inauguration).

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So then what’s wrong with this picture of presidential remarks on Libya, Syria, and Iraq? What’s wrong is that the President is apparently unable or unwilling to connect his own damned dots.

Did Libya’s troubles today, by which I mean in brief that it has not one dysfunctional government but pretenses of two, just fall out of the sky one day? Unless you mean the U.S. cruise missiles targeted on Tripoli that kicked off a war in March 2011, no. If that is what you mean, as the NPR interviewer had the temerity to suggest, than yes. It was U.S. policy that caused the destruction of the Libyan state, such as it was. U.S. policy, from starting a war to failing to plan for its Phase 4 post-combat aftermath, explains not only the god-awful mess that Libya has become, but also what happened to Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. Libya has to get its act together to deserve our help?! What Libya? There is for all practical purposes no Libyan state for us to help.

Did Iraq’s troubles today, by which I mean the state’s collapse back into roughly the three Ottoman provinces cobbled together to create it in 1920, just sort of happen, too? Like Libya, Iraq was a nasty, authoritarian hellhole before U.S. policy made it even worse. We may blame that on the Bush Administration for mis-starting a war that had not been properly planned, but Iraq would not be quite the mess it is today had the Obama Administration not mis-ended it by yanking our presence out without a SOFA agreement. Iraq has to get its act together to deserve our continued or expanded help?! What Iraq? There is, very nearly, no Iraqi state for us to help.

Did Syria’s troubles fall out of the sky, too? Here U.S. policy is mostly guilty of sins of omission rather than sins of commission, some of them circling back to our hands-off-Iran supinity, but it is guilty all the same. As we have said here at TAI many times over the past three years, a judicious early use of U.S. power and leadership well short of kinetic action—difficult though it always was, true—could have averted the still evolving worst-case calamity that Syria has become. Syria is well on its way to complete Somalization. So Syria, too, has to get its act together to deserve our help?! What Syria? There is, very nearly, no Syrian state for us to help.

Far be it for me to advocate the use of U.S. force in any of these places. We cannot put these states back together at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure. As I have stressed in earlier posts (for example, here), what is happening, at base, is historio-structural in nature and no mere policy nipping and tucking can restore the status quo ante. I am no more in a mood to move chess pieces around on a table than the President is, especially if I have to do it with bombers, APCs, and Aegis cruisers loaded up with SLCMs. But to pontificate about the need for Arab self-help in these three cases, as though U.S. policy had nothing whatsoever to do with their present plights, very nearly surpasses credulity. It reminds me of a three-year old not yet well experienced at hide-and-go-seek who covers his face and thereby imagines that others cannot see him. Who in the region does the President think he’s fooling?

I have commented in recent weeks about the dropping away of relevant context in the reporting of important news stories, which I suspect is linked to the generic disappearance of even relatively recent historical memory in our IT-addled, radically segmented collective cognitive state (see, for example, this). But this amnesic babble really takes all, and coming from the President of the United States it frankly makes me a bit uncomfortable.

One of my secular New Year’s resolutions is to read and think more, write and speak less. Another, however, is to write more quickly on the heels of breaking stories, as I’m doing now. Another is to cut back on the ice cream; I like to think that will buy me an indulgence for a bit more single malt, which is more conducive to thinking than to writing, and so the circle of my resolutions comes to completion.

I wish Vice President Biden success in his effort to cut back further on committing truths in public. I’m always here for you, Joe, if you need me.

As for the President, I hope he will add a resolution for 2015 to stop saying stupid “stuff” to his previous determination to not do stupid “stuff.” Since saying and doing are mingled behaviors, especially when they emanate from the Oval Office, a truth that even non-speechwriters can appreciate and that this President seems implicitly to credit more than most, there’s reason to expect both resolution and redemption. Happy New Year!
Adam Garfinkle is editor of The American Interest.

Voir encore:

Obama says days of U.S ‘meddling’ in Latin America are over
Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

April 10, 2015

President Obama told Latin America leaders in Panama Friday that the days of U.S. exploitation of the region are over, and that America owes a debt to the rest of the world for helping to bring equality to the U.S.

“We are respectful of the differences among our countries,” Mr. Obama said at the Summit of the Americas. “The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past.”

The crowd erupted in sustained applause.

Mr. Obama urged leaders in the region to embrace democratic principles, including public debate and dissent.

“It’s not to say that my country’s perfect, we are not. And that’s the point,” Mr. Obama said. “We have to wrestle with our own challenges from issues of race to policing to inequality. We embrace our ability to become better through our democracy.”

Referring to slavery and Jim Crow-era segregation in the U.S., Mr. Obama also said that outside forces helped to improve life in America.

“There was a time in our own country when there were groups that were voiceless and powerless,” Mr. Obama said. “Because of world opinion, that helped to change those circumstances. We have a debt to pay because the voices of ordinary people made us better. That’s a debt I want to make sure we repay in this hemisphere and around the world.”

Earlier, Mr. Obama took an apparent swipe at Cuba’s communist regime when he said “almost everybody” in Latin America has been smart enough to move their countries to a market-based economy.

“By virtue of wisdom, and some things that didn’t work and some things that did, everybody around the region … has a very practical solution, or a practical orientation,” Mr. Obama said.

Then he grinned and added, “Maybe not everybody, but almost everybody.” The audience of business leaders laughed.

The president, who is expected to meet for the first time with Cuban President Raul Castro Saturday on the sidelines of the summit, said countries in the hemisphere previously subscribed either to a “statist” economic model or a free-market approach.

“Everything was very ideological in this region in discussing how economic development went forward,” Mr. Obama said. “I believe the free market is the greatest wealth-generator and innovator and is a recipe for success for countries.”

Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

Voir encore:

Remarks by President Obama at the Civil Society Forum
On April 10, 2015, in Office of the Press Secretary, Speeches and Remarks, The President, Western Hemisphere, by The White House
Hotel El Panama
Panama City, Panama

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Buenas tardes.  Thank you, President Varela.  Thank you very much, Panama, for hosting this Summit of the Americas.  And I thank everybody who’s traveled here from across the region for the courageous work that you do to defend freedom and human rights, and to promote equality and opportunity and justice across our hemisphere and around the world.

I am proud to be with you at this first-ever official gathering of civil society leaders at the Summit of the Americas. And I’m pleased to have Cuba represented with us at this summit for the very first time.  (Applause.)

We’re here for a very simple reason.  We believe that strong, successful countries require strong and vibrant civil societies.  We know that throughout our history, human progress has been propelled not just by famous leaders, not just by states, but by ordinary men and women who believe that change is possible; by citizens who are willing to stand up against incredible odds and great danger not only to protect their own rights, but to extend rights to others.

I had a chance to reflect on this last month when I was in the small town of Selma, Alabama.  Some of you may have heard of it.  It’s a place where, 50 years ago, African-Americans marched in peaceful, nonviolent protest — not to ask for special treatment but to be treated equally, in accordance with the founding documents of our Declaration of Independence, our Bill of Rights.  They were part of a civil rights movement that had endured violence and repression for decades, and would endure it again that day, as many of the marchers were beaten.

But they kept marching.  And despite the beatings of that day, they came back, and more returned.  And the conscience of a nation was stirred.  Their efforts bent, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, the arc of the moral universe towards justice.  And it was their vision for a more fair and just and inclusive and generous society that ultimately triumphed.  And the only reason I stand here today as the President of the United States is because those ordinary people — maids, and janitors, and schoolteachers — were willing to endure hardship on my behalf.  (Applause.)

And that’s why I believe so strongly in the work that you do.  It’s the dreamers — no matter how humble or poor or seemingly powerless — that are able to change the course of human events.  We saw it in South Africa, where citizens stood up to the scourge of apartheid.  We saw it in Europe, where Poles marched in Solidarity to help bring down the Iron Curtain.  In Argentina, where mothers of the disappeared spoke out against the Dirty War.  It’s the story of my country, where citizens worked to abolish slavery, and establish women’s rights and workers’ rights, and rights for gays and lesbians.

It’s not to say that my country is perfect — we are not.  And that’s the point.  We always have to have citizens who are willing to question and push our government, and identify injustice.  We have to wrestle with our own challenges — from issues of race to policing to inequality.  But what makes me most proud about the extraordinary example of the United States is not that we’re perfect, but that we struggle with it, and we have this open space in which society can continually try to make us a more perfect union.

We’ve stood up, at great cost, for freedom and human dignity, not just in our own country, but elsewhere.  I’m proud of that.  And we embrace our ability to become better through our democracy.  And that requires more than just the work of government.  It demands the hard and frustrating, sometimes, but absolutely vital work of ordinary citizens coming together to make common cause.

So civil society is the conscience of our countries.  It’s the catalyst of change.  It’s why strong nations don’t fear active citizens.  Strong nations embrace and support and empower active citizens.  And by the way, it’s not as if active citizens are always right — they’re not.  Sometimes people start yelling at me or arguing at me, and I think, you don’t know what you’re talking about.  But sometimes they do.  And the question is not whether they’re always right; the question is, do you have a society in which that conversation, that debate can be tested and ideas are tested in the marketplace.

And because of the efforts of civil society, now, by and large, there’s a consensus in the Americas on democracy and human rights, and social development and social inclusiveness.  I recognize there’s strong differences about the role of civil society, but I believe we can all benefit from open and tolerant and inclusive dialogue.  And we should reject violence or intimidation that’s aimed at silencing people’s voices.

The freedom to be heard is a principle that the Americas at large is committed to.  And that doesn’t mean, as I said, that we’re going to agree on every issue.  But we should address those issue candidly and honestly and civilly, and welcome the voices of all of our people into the debates that shape the future of the hemisphere.  (Applause.)

Just to take one example:  As the United States begins a new chapter in our relationship with Cuba, we hope it will create an environment that improves the lives of the Cuban people -– not because it’s imposed by us, the United States, but through the talent and ingenuity and aspirations, and the conversation among Cubans from all walks of life so they can decide what the best course is for their prosperity.

As we move toward the process of normalization, we’ll have our differences, government to government, with Cuba on many issues — just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas; just as we differ with our closest allies.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But I’m here to say that when we do speak out, we’re going to do so because the United States of America does believe, and will always stand for, a certain set of universal values.  And when we do partner with civil society, it’s because we believe our relationship should be with governments and with the peoples that they represent.

It’s also because we believe that your work is more important than ever.  Here in the Americas, inequality still locks too many people out of our economies.  Discrimination still locks too many out of our societies.  Around the world, there are still too many places where laws are passed to stifle civil society, where governments cut off funding for groups that they don’t agree with.  Where entrepreneurs are crushed under corruption.  Where activists and journalists are locked up on trumped-up charges because they dare to be critical of their governments.  Where the way you look, or how you pray, or who you love can get you imprisoned or killed.

And whether it’s crackdowns on free expression in Russia or China, or restrictions on freedom of association and assembly in Egypt, or prison camps run by the North Korean regime — human rights and fundamental freedoms are still at risk around the world.  And when that happens, we believe we have a moral obligation to speak out.

We also know that our support for civil society is not just about what we’re against, but also what we’re for.  Because we’ve noticed that governments that are more responsive and effective are typically governments where the people are free to assemble, and speak their minds, and petition their leaders, and hold us accountable.

We know that our economies attract more trade and investment when citizens are free to start a new business without paying a bribe.   We know that our societies are more likely to succeed when all our people — regardless of color, or class, or creed, or sexual orientation, or gender — are free to live and pray and love as they choose.  That’s what we believe.

And, increasingly, civil society is a source of ideas — about everything from promoting transparency and free expression, to reversing inequality and rescuing our environment.  And that’s why, as part of our Stand with Civil Society Initiative, we’ve joined with people around the world to push back on those who deny your right to be heard.  I’ve made it a mission of our government not only to protect civil society groups, but to partner with you and empower you with the knowledge and the technology and the resources to put your ideas into action.  And the U.S. supports the efforts to establish a permanent, meaningful role for civil societies in future Summits of the Americas.  (Applause.)

So let me just say, when the United States sees space closing for civil society, we will work to open it.  When efforts are made to wall you off from the world, we’ll try to connect you with each other.  When you are silenced, we’ll try to speak out alongside you.  And when you’re suppressed, we want to help strengthen you.  As you work for change, the United States will stand up alongside you every step of the way.  We are respectful of the difference among our countries.  The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past.  (Applause.)

But what it does mean — but we do have to be very clear that when we speak out on behalf of somebody who’s been imprisoned for no other reason than because they spoke truth to power, when we are helping an organization that is trying to empower a minority group inside a country to get more access to resources, we’re not doing that because it serves our own interests; we’re doing it because we think it’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  And that’s important.

And I hope that all the other countries at the Summit of the Americas will join us in seeing that it’s important.  Because sometimes, as difficult as it is, it’s important for us to be able to speak honestly and candidly on behalf of people who are vulnerable and people who are powerless, people who are voiceless.  I know, because there was a time in our own country where there were groups that were voiceless and powerless.  And because of world opinion, that helped to change those circumstance.  We have a debt to pay, because the voices of ordinary people have made us better.  That’s a debt that I want to make sure we repay in this hemisphere and around the world.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)  God bless you.

Voir enfin:

The Doctrine That Never Died
Tom Wolfe

The New York Times

January 30, 2005
SURELY some bright bulb from the Council on Foreign Relations in New York or the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton has already remarked that President Bush’s inaugural address 10 days ago is the fourth corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. No? So many savants and not one peep out of the lot of them? Really?

The president had barely warmed up: « There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants … and that is the force of human freedom…. The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. … America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one… » when – bango! – I flashed back 100 years and 47 days on the dot to another president. George W. Bush was speaking, but the voice echoing inside my skull – a high-pitched voice, an odd voice, coming from such a great big hairy bear of a man – was that of the president who dusted off Monroe’s idea and dragged it into the 20th century.

« The steady aim of this nation, as of all enlightened nations, » said the Echo, « should be to strive to bring ever nearer the day when there shall prevail throughout the world the peace of justice. …Tyrants and oppressors have many times made a wilderness and called it peace. …The peace of tyrannous terror, the peace of craven weakness, the peace of injustice, all these should be shunned as we shun unrighteous war. … The right of freedom and the responsibility for the exercise of that right cannot be divorced. »

Theodore Roosevelt! – Dec. 4, 1904, announcing to Congress the first corollary to the Monroe Doctrine – an item I had deposited in the memory bank and hadn’t touched since I said goodbye to graduate school in the mid-1950’s!

In each case what I was hearing was the usual rustle and flourish of the curtains opening upon a grandiloquent backdrop. But if there was one thing I learned before departing academe and heading off wayward into journalism, it was that these pretty preambles to major political messages, all this solemn rhetorical throat-clearing – the parts always omitted from the textbooks as superfluous – are inevitably what in fact gives the game away.

Theodore Roosevelt’s corollary to President James Monroe’s famous doctrine of 1823 proclaimed that not only did America have the right, à la Monroe, to block European attempts to re-colonize any of the Western Hemisphere, it also had the right to take over and shape up any nation in the hemisphere guilty of « chronic wrongdoing » or uncivilized behavior that left it « impotent, » powerless to defend itself against aggressors from the Other Hemisphere, meaning mainly England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy.

The immediate problem was that the Dominican Republic had just reneged on millions in European loans so flagrantly that an Italian warship had turned up just off the harbor of Santo Domingo. Roosevelt sent the Navy down to frighten off the Italians and all other snarling Europeans. Then the United States took over the Dominican customs operations and debt management and by and by the whole country, eventually sending in the military to run the place. We didn’t hesitate to occupy Haiti and Nicaragua, either.

Back in 1823, Europeans had ridiculed Monroe and his doctrine. Baron de Tuyll, the Russian minister to Washington, said Americans were too busy hard-grabbing and making money to ever stop long enough to fight, even if they had the power, which they didn’t. But by the early 1900’s it was a different story.

First there was T.R. And then came Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1912 Japanese businessmen appeared to be on the verge of buying vast areas of Mexico’s Baja California bordering our Southern California. Lodge drew up, and the Senate ratified, what became known as the Lodge Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The United States would allow no foreign interests, no Other Hemispheroids of any description, to give any foreign government « practical power of control » over territory in This Hemisphere. The Japanese government immediately denied having any connection with the tycoons, and the Baja deals, if any, evaporated.

Then, in 1950, George Kennan, the diplomat who had developed the containment theory of dealing with the Soviet Union after the Second World War, toured Latin America and came away alarmed by Communist influence in the region. So he devised the third corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Kennan Corollary said that Communism was simply a tool of Soviet national power. The United States had no choice, under the mandates of the Monroe Doctrine, but to eradicate Communist activity wherever it turned up in Latin America … by any means necessary, even if it meant averting one’s eyes from dictatorial regimes whose police force did everything but wear badges saying Chronic Wrongdoing.

The historian Gaddis Smith summarizes the Lodge and Kennan Corollaries elegantly and economically in « The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine, 1945-1993. » Now, Gaddis Smith was a graduate-schoolmate of mine and very much a star even then and has remained a star historian ever since. So do I dare suggest that in this one instance, in a brilliant career going on 50 years now, that Gaddis Smith might have been …wrong? … that 1945 to 1993 were not the last years of the Monroe Doctrine? … that the doctrine was more buff and boisterous than it has ever been 10 days ago, Jan. 20, 2005?

But before we go forward, let’s take one more step back in time and recall the curious case of Antarctica. In 1939 Franklin Roosevelt authorized the first official United States exploration of the South Pole, led by Admiral Richard E. Byrd. The expedition was scientific – but also military. The Japanese and the Germans were known to be rooting about in the ice down there, as were the Russians, the British, the Chileans, the Argentines, all of them yapping and stepping on one another’s heels. Gradually it dawned on the whole bunch of them: at the South Pole the hemispheres got … awfully narrow. In fact, there was one point, smaller than a dime, if you could ever find it, where there were no more Hemispheres at all. Finally, everybody in essence just gave up and forgot about it. It was so cold down there, you couldn’t shove a shell into the gullet of a piece of artillery … or a missile into a silo.

Ah, yes, a missile. On the day in November 1961, when the Air Force achieved the first successful silo launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the SM-80, the Western Hemisphere part of the Monroe Doctrine ceased to mean anything at all – while the ideas behind it began to mean everything in the world.

At bottom, the notion of a sanctified Western Hemisphere depended upon its separation from the rest of the world by two vast oceans, making intrusions of any sort obvious. The ICBM’s – soon the Soviet Union and other countries had theirs – shrank the world in a military sense. Then long-range jet aircraft, satellite telephones, television and the Internet all, in turn, did the job socially and commercially. By Mr. Bush’s Inauguration Day, the Hemi in Hemisphere had long since vanished, leaving the Monroe Doctrine with – what? – nothing but a single sphere … which is to say, the entire world.

For the mission – the messianic mission! – has never shrunk in the slightest … which brings us back to the pretty preambles and the solemn rhetorical throat-clearing … the parts always omitted from the textbooks as superfluous. « America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one, » President Bush said. He added, « From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth. »

David Gelernter, the scientist and writer, argues that « Americanism » is a fundamentally religious notion shared by an incredibly varied population from every part of the globe and every conceivable background, all of whom feel that they have arrived, as Ronald Reagan put it, at a « shining city upon a hill. » God knows how many of them just might agree with President Bush – and Theodore Roosevelt – that it is America’s destiny and duty to bring that salvation to all mankind.

This article misstated part of the history of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The silo launching of a solid-fuel SM-80 Minuteman missile in November 1961 was not the first of an ICBM; a less practical liquid-fuel Titan missile was launched from a silo earlier that year.

Tom Wolfe is the author, most recently, of « I Am Charlotte Simmons. »

Voir par ailleurs:

Journée historique entre Raul Castro et Barack Obama
Laure Mandeville
Le Figaro

12/04/2015

VIDÉO – Samed, les deux présidents américain et cubain ont échangé une poignée de main et se sont entretenus en marge du sommet des Amériques à Panama. Mais le chemin de la normalisation reste semé de nombreux points de contentieux.
De notre correspondante à Washington

Un peu plus d’une heure, à portes fermées. C’est le temps qu’ont passé ensemble les présidents Barack Obama et Raul Castro, ce samedi lors du sommet des Amériques à Panama. Il n’y avait pas eu de telle rencontre entre un dirigeant américain et un dirigeant cubain depuis 1956 quand Eisenhower y avait rencontré le dictateur Batista. Quand Obama et Castro se sont levés et se sont tendu la main, souriants et décontractés dans leurs costumes sombres, le moment historique a donc été fixé sur pellicule par des nuées de photographes et de cameramen. Un nouveau chapitre s’ouvrait dans l’histoire des Etats-Unis et de Cuba.

«Cela a été une conversation franche et fructueuse», un dialogue «très direct», a affirmé le président Obama devant les journalistes, reconnaissant toutefois que des différences importantes persistent sur les Droits de l’homme. «Nous avons réussi à parler honnêtement de nos différences et de nos préoccupations, de telle manière que je pense que nous détenons la possibilité de faire avancer la relation entre nos deux pays dans une direction différente et meilleure», a-t-il ajouté, optimiste. Raul Castro, lui, a affirmé qu’il faudrait «beaucoup de patience». «L’Histoire entre nos deux pays a été compliquée, mais nous sommes disposés à avancer et à discuter de tout, y compris des droits de l’homme». Le Cubain, visiblement de bonne humeur, avait déjà montré son intention de créer un climat détendu lors du Sommet, en plaisantant sur le fait qu’il avait droit à 8 minutes de discours multipliés par 6, puisque Cuba avait été exclu pendant six sommets. Après un long plaidoyer contre les ingérences des anciennes administrations américaines dans les affaires cubaines et latino-américaines, il a salué la probité de Barack Obama, le qualifiant «d’honnête homme». Il a dit vouloir avancer dans un ‘’dialogue respectueux, pour permettre une «coexistence civilisée» en dépit de «profondes différences».

La reprise des relations diplomatiques a figuré en bonne place dans les discussions, faisant suite à trois séries de discussions de haut niveau entre La Havane et Washington. Castro a demandé à Obama d’accélérer les démarches pour le retrait de Cuba de la liste des pays soutenant le terrorisme, indiquant qu’il verrait comme un «pas positif» une «décision rapide» des États-Unis sur ce dossier. L’Américain a indiqué qu’il avait reçu une recommandation favorable du Département d’Etat, mais qu’il n’avait pas encore eu le temps de l’étudier avant de la transmettre au Congrès. Un sujet qui risque de susciter des tiraillements au sein de la majorité républicaine, sur la colline du Capitole.

Au-delà des relations diplomatiques, le chemin de la normalisation reste semé de nombreux points de contentieux, dont le plus délicat est bien sûr l’embargo total sur les transactions économiques et financières avec Cuba, imposé depuis 1962. Le président cubain a une nouvelle fois insisté samedi sur la nécessité de «résoudre» cette question. Depuis l’annonce historique du rapprochement avec Cuba en décembre, Obama a demandé au Congrès, de travailler à la levée de l’embargo car lui seul peut le faire. Mais les deux chambres, dominées par les républicains sont pour l’instant très partagées sur la question, sous la pression notamment de la minorité cubaine américaine, dans l’ensemble très conservatrice sur la question des relations avec Cuba. Cette minorité influente exige toujours des changements préalables substantiels en matière de libertés à Cuba, que le clan conservateur des généraux de l’île, veut empêcher à toute force.

Le chemin de la normalisation s’avère donc semé d’obstacles, même si la nouvelle génération de cubains américains est plus ouverte à la réconciliation que celle de leurs parents. «Nous sommes en terre inconnue ici, il s’agit de changer fondamentalement la manière dont les Etats-Unis considèrent Cuba, son gouvernement, sa population, sa société civile», a résumé le principal conseiller de politique étrangère d’Obama, Ben Rhodes. L’équipe du président Obama espère que le développement des relations et la modernisation finissent par créer une dynamique positive d’ouverture au plan politique, une approche soutenue par l’opinion publique américaine, favorable à une évolution des relations à 59%. La normalisation avec Cuba est d’autant plus soutenue qu’elle va entraîner une normalisation des relations des Etats-Unis avec l’ensemble de la région, notent les experts. «Le fantôme de Cuba était présent dans toutes les relations bilatérales et multilatérales, à partir de maintenant, il disparaît», a confié à l’AFP Santiago Canton, responsable du centre Robert Kennedy pour la justice et les droits de l’homme.

Voir aussi:

Cuba leaves talks on US ties insisting it won’t make major changes to its system
Michael Weissenstein And Anne-Marie Garcia,

The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

25 Jan, 2015

HAVANA – The start of talks on repairing 50 years of broken relations appears to have left President Raul Castro’s government focused on winning additional concessions without giving in to U.S. demands for greater freedoms, despite the seeming benefits that warmer ties could have for the country’s struggling economy.

Following the highest-level open talks in three decades between the two nations, Cuban officials remained firm in rejecting significant reforms pushed by the United States as part of President Barack Obama’s surprise move to re-establish ties and rebuild economic relations with the Communist-led country.

« One can’t think that in order to improve and normalize relations with the U.S., Cuba has to give up the principles it believes in, » Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press after the end of the talks. « Changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable. »

It’s not clear if Cuba’s tough stance is part of normal negotiation tactics or a hardened position that could prevent the talks from moving forward.

The Obama administration has dedicated significant political capital to rapprochement, but closer ties with the economic giant to the north also could have major importance for Cuba, which saw growth slow sharply in 2014 and is watching with concern as falling oil prices slam Venezuela, which has been a vital source of economic support.

In a wide-ranging interview, Vidal said that before deciding whether to allow greater economic ties with the U.S., Cuba was seeking more answers about Obama’s dramatic of loosening the half-century trade embargo.

Measures put into effect this month range from permitting large-scale sales of telecommunications equipment to allowing U.S. banks to open accounts in Cuba, but Vidal said officials on the island want to know if Cuba can buy such gear on credit and whether it is now free to use dollars for transactions around the world, not just those newly permitted with U.S. institutions. Until now, at least, U.S. law and policy has banned most foreign dealings with Cuba.

« I could make an endless list of questions and this is going to require a series of clarifications in order to really know where we are and what possibilities are going to open up, » Vidal said.

Obama also launched a review of Cuba’s inclusion on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and Vidal said « it will be difficult to conceive of the reestablishment of relations » while Cuba remains on that list, which imposes financial and other restrictions.

Vidal also said full normalization will be impossible until Congress lifts the many elements of the trade embargo that aren’t affected by Obama’s executive action — a step seen as unlikely with a Republican-dominated Congress. Among key prohibitions that remain is a ban on routine tourism to Cuba.

Even a relatively simple measure such as granting U.S. diplomats freedom of movement around Cuba, she said, is tied to reduced U.S. support of dissidents, whom Cuba says are breaking the law by acting to undermine the government of behalf of U.S. interests.

« It’s associated with a change in behaviour in the diplomatic missions as such and of the diplomatic officials, who must conduct themselves as our officials in Washington do, with total respect for the laws of that country, » Vidal said.

She also said Cuba has not softened its refusal to turn over U.S. fugitives granted asylum in Cuba. The warming of relations has spawned new demands in the U.S. for the State Department to seek the return of fugitives including Joanne Chesimard, a Black Liberation Army member now known as Assata Shakur, who fled to Cuba after she was convicted in 1977 of killing a New Jersey state trooper.

Vidal said the two nations’ extradition treaty « had a very clear clause saying that the agreement didn’t apply to people who could be tied to crimes of a political nature. »

But the opening already has led to some changes, at least in the short-term: Cuba significantly relaxed its near-total control of public information during the talks in Havana, allowing the live broadcast of news conferences in which foreign reporters questioned Vidal about sensitive topics including human rights. Cuban television even broadcast part of a news conference with Vidal’s counterpart, Roberta Jacobson, to foreign reporters, state media and independent Cuban reporters who are considered members of the opposition.

Cubans said they were taken aback by the flow of information but wanted to know much more about what the new relationship with the U.S. means.

« We’ve seen so much, really so much more than what we’re used to, about very sensitive topics in our country, » said Diego Ferrer, a 68-year-old retired state worker.

Jesus Rivero, also 68 and retired from government work, sat on a park bench in Old Havana reading a report in the official Communist Party newspaper, Granma, about Jacobson’s press conference.

« It’s good that Granma reports the press conference in the residence of the head of the Interests Section, » Rivero said. « But I think they should explain much more so that the whole population really understands what’s going on. »

Voir de plus:

The Abuse of Satire
Garry Trudeau on Charlie Hebdo, free-speech fanaticism, and the problem with “punching downward”
Garry Trudeau

The New Yorker

Apr 11 2015

The following is the text of remarks Garry Trudeau delivered on April 10 at the Long Island University’s George Polk Awards ceremony, where he received the George Polk Career Award.

My career—I guess I can officially call it that now—was not my idea. When my editor, Jim Andrews, recruited me out during my junior year in college and gave me the job I still hold, it wasn’t clear to me what he was up to. Inexplicably, he didn’t seem concerned that I was short on the technical skills normally associated with creating a comic strip—it was my perspective he was interested in, my generational identity. He saw the sloppy draftsmanship as a kind of cartoon vérité, dispatches from the front, raw and subversive.

Why were they so subversive? Well, mostly because I didn’t know any better.  My years in college had given me the completely false impression that there were no constraints, that it was safe for an artist to comment on volatile cultural and political issues in public. In college, there’s no down side. In the real world, there is, but in the euphoria of being recognized for anything, you don’t notice it at first. Indeed, one of the nicer things about youthful cluelessness is that it’s so frequently confused with courage.

One of the nicer things about youthful cluelessness is that it’s so frequently confused with courage.
In fact, it’s just flawed risk assessment. I have a friend who was the Army’s top psychiatrist, and she once told me that they had a technical term in the Army for the prefrontal cortex, where judgment and social control are located. She said, “We call them sergeants.”

In the print world, we call them editors. And I had one, and he was gifted, but the early going was rocky. The strip was forever being banned. And more often than not, word would come back that it was not the editor but the stuffy, out of touch owner/publisher who was hostile to the feature.

For a while, I thought we had an insurmountable generational problem, but one night after losing three papers, my boss, John McMeel, took me out for a steak and explained his strategy. The 34-year-old syndicate head looked at his 22-year-old discovery over the rim of his martini glass, smiled, and said, “Don’t worry. Sooner or later, these guys die.”

Well, damned if he wasn’t right. A year later, the beloved patriarch of those three papers passed on, leaving them to his intemperate son, whose first official act, naturally, was to restore Doonesbury. And in the years that followed, a happy pattern emerged: All across the country, publishers who had vowed that Doonesbury would appear in their papers over their dead bodies were getting their wish.

So McMeel was clearly on to something—a brilliant actuarial marketing strategy, but it didn’t completely solve the problem. I’ve been shuttled in and out of papers my whole career, most recently when I wrote about Texas’s mandatory transvaginal probes, apparently not a comics page staple. I lost 70 papers for the week, so obviously my judgment about red lines hasn’t gotten any more astute.

I, and most of my colleagues, have spent a lot of time discussing red lines since the tragedy in Paris. As you know, the Muhammad cartoon controversy began eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against “self-censorship,” one editor’s call to arms against what she felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority—her charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful. Not only was one cartoonist gunned down, but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores. No one could say toward what positive social end, yet free speech absolutists were unchastened. Using judgment and common sense in expressing oneself were denounced as antithetical to freedom of speech.

And now we are adrift in an even wider sea of pain. Ironically, Charlie Hebdo, which always maintained it was attacking Islamic fanatics, not the general population, has succeeded in provoking many Muslims throughout France to make common cause with its most violent outliers. This is a bitter harvest.

Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.

Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.
By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voila—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world, including one in Niger, in which ten people died. Meanwhile, the French government kept busy rounding up and arresting over 100 Muslims who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks.

The White House took a lot of hits for not sending a high-level representative to the pro-Charlie solidarity march, but that oversight is now starting to look smart. The French tradition of free expression is too full of contradictions to fully embrace. Even Charlie Hebdo once fired a writer for not retracting an anti-Semitic column. Apparently he crossed some red line that was in place for one minority but not another.

What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must. Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged. They’re allowed to feel pain. Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.

I’m aware that I make these observations from a special position, one of safety. In America, no one goes into cartooning for the adrenaline. As Jon Stewart said in the aftermath of the killings, comedy in a free society shouldn’t take courage.

Writing satire is a privilege I’ve never taken lightly.  And I’m still trying to get it right. Doonesbury remains a work in progress, an imperfect chronicle of human imperfection. It is work, though, that only exists because of the remarkable license that commentators enjoy in this country. That license has been stretched beyond recognition in the digital age. It’s not easy figuring out where the red line is for satire anymore. But it’s always worth asking this question: Is anyone, anyone at all, laughing? If not, maybe you crossed it.

Voir aussi:

SALUTATION DU SAINT-PERE AU DÉBUT DE LA MESSE POUR LES FIDÈLES DE RITE ARMÉNIEN

Pape François

MESSE POUR LES FIDÈLES DE RITE ARMÉNIEN

Basilique vaticane
IIe Dimanche de Pâques (ou de la Divine Miséricorde), 12 avril 2015

Chers frères et sœurs Arméniens, chers frères et sœurs,

En des occasions diverses j’ai défini cette époque comme un temps de guerre, une troisième guerre mondiale « par morceaux », où nous assistons quotidiennement à des crimes atroces, à des massacres sanglants, et à la folie de la destruction. Malheureusement, encore aujourd’hui, nous entendons le cri étouffé et négligé de beaucoup de nos frères et sœurs sans défense, qui, à cause de leur foi au Christ ou de leur appartenance ethnique, sont publiquement et atrocement tués – décapités, crucifiés, brulés vifs –, ou bien contraints d’abandonner leur terre.

Aujourd’hui encore nous sommes en train de vivre une sorte de génocide causé par l’indifférence générale et collective, par le silence complice de Caïn qui s’exclame : « Que m’importe ? », « Suis-je le gardien de mon frère ? » (Gn 4, 9 ; Homélie à Redipuglia, 13 septembre 2014).

Notre humanité a vécu, le siècle dernier, trois grandes tragédies inouïes : la première est celle qui est généralement considérée comme « le premier génocide du XXème siècle » (Jean-Paul II et Karekin II, Déclaration commune, Etchmiadzin, 27 septembre 2001) ; elle a frappé votre peuple arménien – première nation chrétienne –, avec les Syriens catholiques et orthodoxes, les Assyriens, les Chaldéens et les Grecs. Des évêques, des prêtres, des religieux, des femmes, des hommes, des personnes âgées et même des enfants et des malades sans défense ont été tués. Les deux autres ont été perpétrées par la nazisme et par le stalinisme. Et, plus récemment, d’autres exterminations de masse, comme celles au Cambodge, au Rwanda, au Burundi, en Bosnie. Cependant, il semble que l’humanité ne réussisse pas à cesser de verser le sang innocent. Il semble que l’enthousiasme qui est apparu à la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale soit en train de disparaître et de se dissoudre. Il semble que la famille humaine refuse d’apprendre de ses propres erreurs causées par la loi de la terreur ; et ainsi, encore aujourd’hui, il y en a qui cherchent à éliminer leurs semblables, avec l’aide des uns et le silence complice des autres qui restent spectateurs. Nous n’avons pas encore appris que « la guerre est une folie, un massacre inutile » (cf. Homélie à Redipuglia, 13 septembre 2014).

Chers frères arméniens, aujourd’hui nous rappelons, le cœur transpercé de douleur mais rempli d’espérance dans le Seigneur ressuscité, le centenaire de ce tragique événement, de cette  effroyable et folle extermination, que vos ancêtres ont cruellement soufferte. Se souvenir d’eux est nécessaire, plus encore c’est un devoir, parce que là où il n’y a plus de mémoire, cela signifie que le mal tient encore la blessure ouverte ; cacher ou nier le mal c’est comme laisser une blessure continuer à saigner sans la panser !

Je vous salue avec affection et je vous remercie pour votre témoignage.

Je salue et je remercie pour sa présence Monsieur Serž Sargsyan, Président de la République d’Arménie.

Je salue aussi cordialement mes frères Patriarches et Évêques : Sa Sainteté Karekin II, Patriarche Suprême et Catholicos de tous les Arméniens ; Sa Sainteté Aram Ier, Catholicos de la Grande Maison de Cilicie ; Sa Béatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarche de Cilicie des Arméniens Catholiques ; les deux Catholicossats de l’Église Apostolique Arménienne, et le Patriarcat de l’Église Arméno-Catholique.

Avec la ferme certitude que le mal ne vient jamais de Dieu infiniment Bon, et enracinés dans la foi, affirmons que la cruauté ne peut jamais être attribuée à l’œuvre de Dieu, et en outre ne doit absolument pas trouver en son Saint Nom une quelconque justification. Vivons ensemble cette célébration en fixant notre regard sur Jésus-Christ, vainqueur de la mort et du mal.

Voir enfin:

What the War in Iraq Wrought
Jon Lee Anderson

The New Yorker
January 15, 2014

It’s been nearly eleven years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which, almost since it began, proved to be the historically fatal element in the war on terror launched by George W. Bush’s White House. His Administration, and its sundry neoconservative wingmen, went so far as to tout the war in Iraq as a means to promote democracy across the Muslim lands. At the same time, there was a growing unease that things might not turn out well. In a 2005 conversation I had with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq at the time, Zalmay Khalilzad, he spoke of his fears: “I shudder to think what we could face if we don’t fix Iraq.” He foresaw the possibility that an Iraqi civil war between Sunnis and Shiites could infect the entire Middle East.

Where are we today? It seems a good time to take stock.

In Iraq, two years after President Barack Obama made good on his word and pulled U.S. troops out—forty-five hundred American lives later, and God knows how many Iraqi lives later—the slumbering sectarian war has reignited. At least eight thousand Iraqis were killed in the violence in 2013, a majority of them Shiite civilians targeted for murder or killed in bomb blasts set by the reascendant Sunni extremists of Al Qaeda. That’s right: they’re back. Now calling themselves ISIS—the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham—the jihadis, who were supposedly defeated by Sunni tribesmen and American troops under the tutelage of David Petraeus, in the so-called Sunni Awakening of 2006-08, are not only active again; they are dominating the Syrian battlefield on the rebel side, and in the past few weeks seized the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and a good part of nearby Ramadi, too.

Remember Fallujah? That’s the city on the outskirts of Baghdad, in the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, the homeland of restive tribes since the British occupation of Mesopotamia, a hundred years ago. It’s also where, in 2004, in a bid to beat the extremists who controlled it at the time, U.S. combat troops fought two separate battles, at a cost of more than a hundred and twenty American lives. Nearly a quarter of the American troops killed in Iraq during the war—about a thousand men and women—died in Anbar Province.

Now the Al Qaeda flag waves in the center of Fallujah. At least fifty-two people died in Iraq from terrorist bombs on Wednesday. There are car bombs nearly every day.

In Syria, more than two and a half years into a bloody civil war, as many as a hundred and twenty thousand people are dead, with more than a quarter of the country’s population now living as refugees, either displaced internally or in neighboring countries. Al Qaeda and other Islamist rebel groups have taken over what was once a popular, broad-based uprising against the Assad dictatorship, and are killing one another, and ordinary Syrian civilians, across a wide swath of that country. Having effectively lost control of much of the country’s second most important city, Aleppo, to rebels, the regime is now feeling confident enough to be preparing an assault to retake it. Syria’s conflict is about a lot of different things, of course, but in the business of killing, which is the hardtack, everyday stuff of war, it, too, is Shiite versus Sunni.

As for neighboring Lebanon—the Mediterranean rump state formed in the European carve-up of the Ottoman Empire, in the wake of the First World War—thanks to the spillover of Syria’s conflict, it is looking increasingly like a cracked pane of glass, just waiting for the next hard shake to fall apart completely. As in Syria, the violence is pitting Shiite against Sunni, and also against Christian.

And on and on. The region is, effectively, coming apart. If the Cold War helped to suppress long-standing feuds and rivalries (while helping to incubate militant Islam), which the fall of the Soviet Union exposed, it seems obvious now that key nerve endings were cut by the U.S. intervention in Iraq—and the one in Afghanistan, too—finishing off whatever uneasy compromises remained. (The death, by hanging, of Saddam Hussein, in 2006, had a vengeful quality, but it appeased none of Iraq’s demons.) The Arab Spring of 2011, that phenomenon which so raised hopes and caused hearts to flutter in the West—and, indeed, across the Middle East—has collapsed, and been replaced by increasing volatility. Egypt, the bulwark of American power in the region, a staunch Western ally ever since Anwar Sadat signed a peace deal with Israel at Camp David, is now, post-Mubarak and post-Muslim Brotherhood, in the grip of a military clique that is, by the day, widening its definition of who and what is a terrorist. Extremist violence has begun as a reaction, or possibly as a provocation, or both. Expect tyranny, and more violence, in the land of the pharaohs, and—who knows—maybe even civil war. In Bahrain, the Shiite majority simmers under a Sunni king. In Saudi Arabia, hundreds of young male volunteers, anxious for the chance to kill Shiites in Syria’s jihad, manage to go off and do just that, with the ease of Californians flying to Las Vegas for weekend gambling breaks.

And there is anarchic Libya, with its myriad armed gangs, its jihadis, and its own waves of bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations; fragile (and still marginally hopeful) Tunisia; Mali and the other shaky statelets of western Africa, Burkina Faso and Niger, in which terrorists occasionally kill and are chased but nothing is the same as it was; Nigeria, with the fanatical jihadi group Boko Haram, which seeks common cause with Al Qaeda in the region and at home, and kills Christians with breathtaking frequency, only to find its own people massacred by out-of-control government troops; and the Central African Republic, where poverty and underlying tribal enmities have now found terrifying expression within a Christian-versus-Muslim prism.

Indeed, an arc of violent political instability now links Muslim nations from Mauritania to Pakistan, affecting neighbors in Europe and Africa, and there is no end in sight. Most worryingly, in the contiguous nations of central and eastern Africa, where the states are weak, a rash of uncontained conflicts has spread, their violence and refugees flowing outward and overlapping, in a great bulge of mayhem that extends from the Horn to the Nile and from the Great Lakes region to the Sahel. It is dangerous: war thrives in a vacuum.

Nowadays, the U.S. has no interest in sending combat troops, just advisers or small SWAT teams dispatched here and there on specific missions (to kill Osama bin Laden or sundry terrorists in Somalia). Instead, it supports peacekeeping missions, sends humanitarian aid, and engages in hard-nosed diplomacy. That’s all well and good. Why fight wars if you can’t win them? More troops won’t rewind the past or undo the tragic mistakes and the stupidities of the Iraq invasion and its aftermath. But, at the same time, who says that this is not a world at war? Do we have a plan of action?

Back in the days when he was trying to fix Iraq, Ambassador Khalilzad talked about his use of chaos theory, but he lamented the lack of American strategists with the heft and the depth of Zbigniew Brzezinski, his old mentor, or Henry Kissinger, helping to steer things at the top—someone with a world view and a chess master’s eye. It was, I suppose, his way of saying that, for all its sweeping ambitions, the U.S.S. Enterprise was steering blind.

No new Brzezinski ever appeared on the scene. Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld have long since retired to their ranches to, variously, paint, get a heart transplant, and write self-serving memoirs. Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense, has come out with a tell-all book of his own, revealing, among other things, that he cried at night over the deaths of American troops. That’s comforting. We’re all back home now, or nearly so. But we’ve left a mess behind. So what’s next? Where do we go from here?

As for those American soldiers asking, “Was our sacrifice in Fallujah worth it?,” one is at a loss about how to reply to the thought that comes to mind this week: No, it really wasn’t. It is time to get angry.

Voir par ailleurs:

La gauche actuelle est thermidorienne et cynique
Jean-Claude Pacitto, maître de conférences à l’université Paris Est et Philippe Jourdan, professeur à l’université Paris Est

Le Monde

10.04.2015

La gauche a beaucoup de chance. Des historiens et des politologues complaisants veulent toujours voir dans les turbulences qui l’agitent le fruit de divergences idéologiques, de visions du monde opposées comme l’on disait autrefois. Ainsi, on opposera une gauche girondine à une gauche jacobine, une première gauche à une seconde etc…

On remarquera que pour beaucoup ces fractures internes sont issues de la révolution française. Curieusement, une période de la révolution est toujours oubliée. Si l’on excepte de rares occasions, on parle peu de la gauche thermidorienne et pourtant, pensons nous, cette période est capitale pour comprendre ce qu’est devenue, aujourd’hui, la gauche française. La période thermidorienne débute avec la chute de Robespierre le 9 thermidor (27 juillet 1794) et finit avec le coup d’Etat de Bonaparte, le 18 brumaire (9 novembre1799). Elle culminera avec le Directoire. La coalition qui mettra fin à la dictature robespierriste est, dans sa composition, assez hétéroclite. Elle va d’ex-conventionnels terroristes aux anciens girondins en passant par le centre mou de la révolution : le fameux marais. En apparence, sauf l’hostilité à Robespierre, pour des raisons diverses d’ailleurs, ils ne sont d’accord sur rien. En apparence seulement. Car comme le soulignent Furet et Richet dans leur livre La révolution française, ce qui les réunit c’est la poursuite d’un double objectif : celui de la conquête et de l’intérêt. Il ne s’agit plus de créer l’homme vertueux mais de profiter (au sens plein du terme) des acquis de la révolution. Les thermidoriens les plus célèbres, dont le fameux Barras, seront des jouisseurs. Ils aiment l’argent et la jouissance dans tous ses aspects. De ce point de vue, la gauche Canal+ vient de loin, elle n’est pas née avec le mitterrandisme, ni avec 1968. La république spartiate rêvée par Robespierre et Saint-Just fait désormais place à la République des palais et des costumes extravagants.

La période du Directoire sera aussi cette époque où les spéculateurs de tout poil vont nouer avec le pouvoir politique des relations troubles. Les liaisons de la gauche avec la finance ont des antécédents et on se rend compte alors que ce n’est pas simplement ici une rencontre de circonstance. Pour se maintenir au pouvoir et profiter de leurs richesses, souvent acquises de manière suspecte, les thermidoriens seront prêts à tout, notamment aux coups d’Etat. Voyant des complots royalistes partout ils sauront en profiter pour s’offrir une virginité politique à bon compte. Malgré leur cynisme et le caractère très intéressé de leur investissement en politique, ces hommes sont pourtant, d’un point de vue philosophique, des hommes de gauche. Barras, Tallien, Reubell, La Révellière-Lépeaux et bien d’autres encore communient à la philosophie des lumières. Ils croient en la politique de la table rase et vomissent le catholicisme. Leur vision du monde est celle du progressisme de Condorcet. L’anticléricalisme leur est d’autant plus utile qu’il masque l’abandon de leur part de toute volonté de transformation sociale. Car, comme les socialistes d’aujourd’hui les thermidoriens sont, pour la plupart, des bourgeois (Barras était lui issu de la noblesse) qui se méfient de la « canaille ». Les philosophes des lumières leur ont légué une méfiance du peuple qui ne fera que s’approfondir. De ce point de vue aussi, la « prolophobie » actuelle du parti socialiste vient de loin. Ainsi, plus le directoire accentuera sa politique favorable aux intérêts, plus l’anticléricalisme se fera pesant avec un point paroxystique atteint après le coup d’Etat de Fructidor qui entrainera la déportation de centaines de prêtres. Le sociétalisme de la gauche n’est pas né ces trente dernières années, il lui est consubstantiel. Comme l’a bien montré Michéa, il n’est que la manifestation politique de la vision progressiste du monde telle qu’issue de la philosophie des lumières. La nouveauté que les thermidoriens vont léguer à la gauche contemporaine réside dans leur très forte capacité à habiller le cynisme et un amour inconsidéré du pouvoir pour le pouvoir des oripeaux du progressisme. Si l’on ne saurait exonérer les thermidoriens d’un minimum de convictions, ce qui les caractérise avant tout c’est une passion pour le pouvoir et de tout ce qu’il permet. Dans cette perspective, les nombreux dirigeants du PS qui sont issus de l’extrême gauche ne sont pas sans rappeler tous ces ex-conventionnels adeptes de la terreur qui sauront très bien se reconvertir après le 9 thermidor et entamer, pour beaucoup d’entre-eux, des carrières très fructueuses (à tous les points de vue), on pense ici à Fouché5. Il y a beaucoup de thermidorisme dans la trajectoire d’un Cambadélis, passé du lambertisme au strauss-kahnisme et ce n’est pas un hasard s’il est devenu premier secrétaire du parti socialiste. Ayant à peu près tout renié, il ne cesse de déclamer son progressisme avec une insistance qui fait sourire. N’est pas homme des lumières qui veut !

Enfin, dernier legs de Thermidor : l’institutionnalisation du pouvoir intellectuel. C’est dans cette période que va, en effet, s’institutionnaliser le pouvoir intellectuel en France avec la création de l’Institut et la domination des fameux idéologues tant raillés par Bonaparte puis Napoléon. Dès lors, l’intellectuel français va adopter des caractéristiques qui ne le quitteront plus. Il sera philosophiquement progressiste, socialement bourgeois, très souvent anticlérical ou athée, profondément élitiste (même s’il proclame le contraire) et très souvent fâché avec le monde réel. Et conclurons-nous très proche des pouvoirs établis ! L’intellectuel de gauche n’est pas né avec l’affaire Dreyfus, il est un enfant de Thermidor.

La gauche est mal à l’aise avec Thermidor. C’est un héritage qu’elle ne revendique pas. D’ailleurs, c’est le parent pauvre de l’histoire de la révolution française alors que d’un point de vue chronologique c’est la période la plus longue (hors Consulat). On débat toujours de Robespierre mais qui se souvient de Barras ? Pourtant, lorsque l’on examine avec attention cette période on se rend compte que toutes les contradictions de la gauche et toutes ses évolutions futures s’y trouvent contenues. La phase thermidorienne de la révolution française est en quelque sorte le laboratoire historique de la gauche contemporaine. Le cynisme, le sociétalisme des oligarques socialistes ne sont pas des accidents de l’histoire, ils sont ancrés en elle. L’argent roi et le progressisme fou sont des vieux compagnons de route de la gauche française !

Un commentaire pour Doctrine Obama: C’est mort à l’Amérique, imbécile ! (Continuation of the jihad by other means: American power is what they all hope to break)

  1. jcdurbant dit :

    Voir aussi:

    The issue with President Obama’s glad-handing of Raul Castro isn’t the obvious trollishness of it, particularly toward older Cuban Americans, or his gauche attitude toward making light of the crimes of the Cuban regime, or the fact that the president has embarked on this normalization without the approval of Congress (Constitutions are so passé these days). Still, there’s no reason for President Obama to do buddy-buddy sitdowns with Raul Castro (we can trade with them, as we do with other nations, without becoming BFFs) except to rub it in the face of his critics.

    But the president’s trolling of Cuba-defending Republicans ought to result in mockery, not outrage. Because the real problem with the Obama administration’s approach to normalization with Cuba isn’t the normalization itself. It’s that this normalization came without getting the United States any of their long-stated policy priorities for the Cuban people in return. Normalization is President Obama’s gift to the Castro regime—a gift with no strings attached.

    This is, not coincidentally, the exact same problem we see with the administration’s approach to negotiations with Iran (with far more at stake, of course). In both cases, an avowed enemy of the United States is handed huge strategic concessions by the Americans—in exchange for what amounts to nothing.

    Unilateral sanctions on Cuba have been oppressive and largely ineffective, and that’s why the public largely supports lifting them. But rolling them back should have come through the normalization process in Congress, and it should have come in return for tangible reforms in Cuba.

    The government in Havana is best understood as a cross between violent left-wing radicals and organized crime. And we are normalizing our relations with them now—for what, exactly? So agricultural interests can make a buck? So academic leftists can check off a wish list item? Letting Cuba off the hook should presumably be an opportunity to prod the nation toward reforms that benefit its people and American interests. But President Obama will have none of it. By pursuing another misguided unilateral policy, he has squandered an opportunity to encourage freedom on the island and open up trade relations at the same time.

    What does the United States get in return for this overture? Do we get normalization of the status of Guantanamo? Do we get our fugitives back so they can face justice? Does Cuba apologize for any of its support for terrorism? Does Cuba have to render justice or accountability for shooting down American civilian aircraft in international airspace, as it did in 1996? Do meaningful numbers of Cuban political prisoners get released? Does Cuban social and political repression ease one iota? Does Cuban support for radicalism and violence abroad cease? Does the Cuban communist grip on power and society relax even slightly? Does America receive Cuban support or even neutrality on any issue over which Cuba was previously opposed? Does Cuba concede a single item of strategic value or tactical value?

    The answer to every single one of these questions is the same: no.

    Ronald Reagan’s line about his preferred end to the Cold War—“We win, they lose”—is a statement that had more than one foreign policy expert laughing at the time. Barack Obama has appropriated that line as his own, but he’s flipped the actors. “They win, we lose” is the approach of his foreign policy and national security apparatus. It’s varying degrees of disaster for us and our friends, but the other guys love it. They might even be grateful, if they were the grateful sort—but, typically, they are not.

    We should not labor under the illusion that our friends—and as important, our enemies—abroad do not understand this in full. No doubt the White House thinks the Obama handshake with Castro is an appealing visual of a new era. But outside the hothouse of self-referential left and libertarian policy circles, it is read as something else: more accurately, a surrender—a gift in return for no tangible reforms, no prisoner releases, no policy changes—nothing.

    Finding a clear indication of who got the better end of virtually any deal negotiated during President Obama’s second term is simple: Just look at the smile on the guy in the other chair.

    Ben Domenech

    J'aime

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