Boucliers humains: A Alep comme à Gaza, la désinformation vaincra (After Beirut and Gaza, Aleppo: Will the West ever learn ?)

16 octobre, 2016
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Men and civil defence members look for survivors from under the rubble after an airstrike on the rebel held village of Taftanaz eastern countryside of Idlib, Syria, August 13, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

Quelle est l’alternative (en Syrie)? L’alternative est-elle d’ajouter encore des milliers de morts aux 450.000 personnes qui ont déjà été tuées. Qu’Alep soit complètement envahie? Que les Russes et Assad bombardent partout indistinctement dans les jours à venir pendant que nous regardons cela impuissant? L’alternative, c’est essayer d’obtenir tout de même quelque chose puisque l’Amérique ne veut pas intervenir avec ses troupes. Or, l’Amérique a pris la décision de ne pas intervenir militairement en Syrie. Le Président a pris cette décision. John Kerry
Bachar el Assad ne mériterait pas d’être sur la terre. Laurent Fabius
Al Nosra fait du bon boulot. Laurent Fabius
La guerre ne sert à rien. Elle ne fait que renforcer les djihadistes. Jean-Marc Ayrault
La politique de la France est claire… Nous avons une stratégie, une vision. Jean-Marc Ayrault
Si le choix est entre Bachar et DAECH, il n’y a pas de choix. Jean-Marc Ayrault
Le régime syrien a confirmé avec une brutalité inouïe son objectif. Objectif qui n’a rien à voir avec la lutte contre le terrorisme, l’objectif c’est la capitulation d’Alep. Nous avons tous en mémoire Guernica, Srebrenica, Grozny. Ce qui se déroule à Alep est la répétition de cette tragédie. Jean-Marc Ayrault
A propos de la situation humanitaire autour d’Alep. Pensez-vous que nous avons oublié comment les forces aériennes des États-Unis ont bombardé un hôpital en Afghanistan, au cours duquel ont péri des collaborateurs de l’organisation Médecins sans frontières? Ou bombardé des fêtes de mariages où jusqu’à 100 personnes ont péri en Afghanistan, puis maintenant au Yémen ce qui vient de se passer, lorsque, avec une seule bombe, 170 personnes ont été tuées, 500 blessées lors d’une cérémonie funéraire. Quoi qu’il en soit, partout où se déroulent des conflits armés, bien malheureusement meurent et souffrent des gens qui n’y sont pour rien. Mais nous ne pouvons permettre aux terroristes de se protéger derrière des civils qu’ils utilisent comme des boucliers humains, et nous ne pouvons permettre qu’ils fassent chanter le monde entier lorsqu’ils ont pris quelqu’un en otage, le tuent et le décapitent. Si nous voulons mener cette guerre à son terme avec les terroristes, il faut alors se battre contre eux, mais ne pas aller vers eux en s’inclinant, et se retirer à reculons. (…) À Alep la situation est contrôlée par une autre organisation terroriste qui s’appelle Jabhat al Nusra. Elle a toujours été considérée comme une aile d’Al-Qaïda et figure dans la liste des organisations terroristes établie par l’ONU. (…) Ce qui choque et nous étonne c’est le fait que nos partenaires, et plus précisément américains, d’une façon ou d’une autre tentent sans cesse de sortir le dialogue sur le terrorisme de ses limites propres. Et je vais vous dire pourquoi. Il me semble que nos partenaires systématiquement et constamment reviennent sur les mêmes travers, ils veulent utiliser le potentiel militaire de ces organisations terroristes et radicales pour accomplir leurs buts politiques ; et dans ce cas pour combattre le président Assad et son gouvernement, ne comprenant pas que plus tard ils ne réussiront pas à mettre ces terroristes de côté, dans un coin, et les contraindre à vivre selon les lois et le droit civilisés, s’ils arrivaient à vaincre quelqu’un. Vladimir Poutine (TF1)
Obama handling of Syria continues to become more incoherent and more damaging to American interests. Putin has not only, thanks to White House dithering and irresolution, managed to reinsert Russia into Middle East politics in a spoiler role and his gains have not just included a deepening and commercially beneficial relationship with Iran and the weakening of the European Union and Merkel’s leadership in it over the refugee issue; he has also, thanks to the incoherence of American policy, managed to drive a thick wedge into NATO by further alienating Turkey from the West and, especially Washington. As for what a naive and vainglorious President Obama once (back in those days when he collected Nobel Peace Prizes and was hailed as the second coming of Abraham Licoln by a clueless and infatuated press corps) identified as a central goal of his foreign policy—the reconciliation of America with the Muslim world—his callous abandonment of the Syrian Sunnis to their increasingly genocidal foes has done as much, if not more, to tarnish America’s reputation among Sunni Arabs than anything any of his predecessors managed to do going back to Harry Truman. The issues in Syria are difficult and the alternatives are few, but President Obama’s Syria policy is one of the shabbiest and sorriest displays of serial ineptitude that has unfolded in world politics in all these many years. That his emissaries and representatives attempt to cover the nakedness of their policy with grandiose rhetorical denunciation of the crimes that Obama’s incompetence has enabled merely underscores the horrifying moral and political emptiness of the President’s approach to world politics. Walter Russell Mead
Le report sine die de la visite du président russe à Paris, pourtant prévue de longue date, est un nouvel épisode du burlesque qui guide notre diplomatie depuis presque cinq ans. L’inauguration de la cathédrale orthodoxe du quai Branly était l’occasion pour la France de se replacer dans le jeu diplomatique alors que les relations américano-russes sont au plus bas. Mais François Hollande n’a pas eu le courage de préserver l’indépendance de la France. Il a préféré rallier in extremis les bons élèves du camp occidental. Dans une séquence improvisée, François Hollande a benoitement livré au micro de TMC ses hésitations. (…) Il laisse la décision à Vladimir Poutine. Et Vladimir Poutine de lui répondre moqueur :  “je viendrai quand François Hollande sera prêt”. Comme si Hollande n’était pas vraiment dans son assiette. Pas vraiment maître de lui même. Après tout, la France doit parler à Moscou pour exister sur la scène internationale. Mais la Russie n’a pas besoin de Paris pour compter dans le monde. Désireux de se ressaisir et de dissiper ce perpétuel sentiment de flou, François Hollande a tenté devant l’Assemblée du Conseil de l’Europe de prouver qu’il avait un cap, qu’il avait la carrure de Vladimir Poutine. Il a ainsi prétendu avoir reporté l’entrevue suite à ”un désaccord majeur entre la Russie et la France ». Mais c’est trop tard, le mal est fait. La France s’est humiliée. Drapé dans une logique humanitaire à sens unique, Jean-Marc Ayrault semble, de son côté, avoir enfilé les bottes de Laurent Fabius. Après le départ de ce dernier au Conseil Constitutionnel, la diplomatie française semblait pouvoir prendre une tournure un poil plus réaliste. En particulier dans ces deux grandes crises ukrainienne et syrienne mais depuis c’est la rechute. Le retour des grandes déclarations, des coups de menton et des doigts levés; cette parodie d’Aristide Briand à la SDN. La Russie a du mettre son véto à la résolution française de cessez le feu à Alep. Une gifle que le quai d’Orsay n’a pas digérée. Car Poutine est déterminé à terminer le siège des quartiers Est et à reprendre le contrôle de la Syrie septentrionale. Il s’agit pour Moscou, Téhéran et Damas d’infliger une cuisante défaite aux rebelles djihadistes alliés à la branche syrienne d’Al-Qaïda (leur « divorce blanc » n’a trompé personne pour reprendre l’expression de Fabrice Balanche). Moscou entend accélérer les choses avant les élections américaines. Les deux candidats promettent de replacer les Etats-Unis au rang de leader du monde libre mais ils ne prêteront serment que fin janvier. En attendant, Barack Obama n’a pas caché son souhait de reprendre Mossoul avant son départ de la Maison-Blanche. Sa priorité est la chute de Daech et il sait qu’il doit compter malgré tout sur Moscou pour atteindre son but. La course contre-la-montre est engagée. Tout doit être terminé pour l’hiver. A l’initiative de Moscou et Damas, plusieurs cessez-le-feu ont déjà été négociés ou proposés à Alep, sous l’égide de l’ONU, afin que la population alépine puisse sortir de ce piège. Malheureusement, les groupes djihadistes ont interdit à la population d’en profiter. La population civile est le bouclier humain et la caution morale des djihadistes et de leur famille. Les hôpitaux abritent des QG, ils permettent aux grands chefs de la rébellion de se protéger mais aussi d’exposer les blessés aux bombardements de l’aviation russe (comme à Kunduz avec l’aviation américaine). Le but est de jouer sur la corde humanitaire occidentale et de provoquer une intervention sinon une pression occidentale sur Poutine. La France se fait le porte-voix  de ses clients du Golfe. Lesquels relayent les cris des groupes djihadistes enfermés dans Alep. La France surjoue son rôle de patrie des droits de l’homme et de soldat de la paix. Mais en réalité, elle n’est plus maîtresse de son propre jeu. La France est entrée dans une confrontation avec la Russie qui la marginalise un peu plus. Plutôt que de réactiver une guerre froide inutile avec Moscou, et de multiplier les rebuffades, Paris ferait mieux d’assumer le dialogue. Pour combattre notre seul et vrai ennemi commun, les djihadistes. Hadrien Desuin
Make no mistake, the carnage taking place in Aleppo right now is a disgrace to the international community. The Syrian government and Russian-backed forces are reportedly using chemical weapons, barrel bombs and increasingly powerful explosives to target innocent men, women and children. While rebel fighters have undoubtedly embedded themselves in the city in fortified positions, it appears that the civilian population is bearing the brunt of the conflict. While there has been some condemnation from the UN, where are the protests on the streets of European capitals and where is the media frenzy about this disgrace? Had Israel been involved, or had the IDF aimed one solitary munition at Aleppo, I think the response would be much different. The international community’s condemnation of the Assad regime and Putin’s Russia is nothing compared to the vitriol leveled against Israel for its far more restrained (and completely justified) 2014 operation against Hamas in Gaza. Unfortunately for the 250,000 residents of Aleppo, the city is not being attacked by the IDF. There are no leaflets being dropped warning civilians to evacuate areas in the line of fire. There is no “roof knocking” — where non-explosive devices are dropped on the roofs of targeted buildings to give civilians time to flee. And judging by the number of civilian casualties and the extent of the destruction in Syria, there is very little to no concern for the well-being of innocent civilians. Aleppo is a testament to the double standards at play when it comes to the treatment of Israel’s military operations. There is, however, a caveat. The IDF should be held to higher standards than the militaries of both Syria and Russia. And that is why The Sunday Times of London caught my eye recently. One story was headlined “Putin’s gigantic firebombs torch Aleppo.” Next to it was an article entitled, “RAF drone crew divert missile to save ‘civilian’ seconds from death.” The dissonance between the two stories is striking. On one side, we have the alleged deployment by Russia of a weapon “capable of blasting a massive ball of flame across wide areas of Aleppo.” On the other, the release of a video by Britain’s Royal Air Force showing a drone missile aimed at ISIS terrorists being diverted at the last minute to avoid killing a civilian. One side was indiscriminately firebombing, while the other was deliberately acting to prevent civilian casualties. The RAF evidently felt that its tale was a positive story, which showed that its drone squadrons act both ethically and in accordance with international law. Why is this news? Israel released many videos from incidents where missiles targeting Hamas terrorists were diverted due to the presence of Palestinian civilians. So why then were Israel’s identical efforts not deemed newsworthy? Simon Plosker
Tous ceux qui comparent la situation en Syrie avec la guerre d’Espagne et les jihadistes aux brigades internationales bénéficient de l’engouement d’une partie des médias où l’émotion domine plus que la réflexion. Mais les choses sont bien plus complexes: le désastre humanitaire en Syrie est aussi la conséquence de cette irealpolitik. Cela dit, il est évident que ce qui se déroule à Alep-Est est horrible pour les populations civiles qui sont sous les bombes. Ce que décrit l’ONU sur la situation humanitaire est exact: hôpitaux détruits, population terrée dans des abris, femmes et enfants prisonniers des décombres, etc. Mais tous les observateurs un peu réalistes avaient anticipé ce qui allait se passer si les rebelles ne quittaient pas Alep-Est, comme cela leur avait été proposé par la Russie. (…) Les rebelles «modérés» ont refusé de se désolidariser du Front al-Nosra, la branche syrienne d’al-Qaïda. Au contraire, deux des principaux groupes rebelles d’Alep dit «modérés», la brigade al-Zinki et Suqour es-Sham, se sont même officiellement affiliés à la coalition (Jaysh al Naser) dirigée par le Front al-Nosra durant la dernière trêve. Cela indique que le Front al-Nosra domine davantage les différentes factions rebelles, y compris celles considérées comme «modérées». Le Front al Nosra n’est pas membre de Fatah Halep, la coalition des rebelles d’Alep, mais c’est lui qui sur le terrain dirige les opérations militaires. Son emprise sur Alep-Est n’a fait qu’augmenter depuis le printemps 2016, date à laquelle il a envoyé 700 combattants en renfort alors que des combattants des brigades modérées commençaient à quitter la zone avant que la dernière sortie ne soit coupée. L’ouverture provisoire d’une brèche dans le siège d’Alep, en août 2016 (bataille de Ramousseh), a encore augmenté son prestige et son emprise sur les rebelles. (…) L’Arabie Saoudite et autres bailleurs arabes de la rébellion syrienne n’ont aucun intérêt à voir se concrétiser l’accord entre les États-Unis et la Russie. Ils veulent que le combat continue car sinon cet accord russo-américain signifie la victoire du camp Assad en Syrie et notamment celle de l’Iran. Les Saoudiens n’ont que faire des civils syriens, ils bombardent quotidiennement depuis deux ans le Yémen sans aucune considération pour la population civile. Nous sommes dans une guerre régionale et les considérations humanitaires sont instrumentalisées sans scrupules. L’objectif pour l’Arabie Saoudite est précisément d’obliger les États-Unis à intervenir davantage en Syrie pour bloquer l’Iran et la Russie. Pour cela il faut influencer l’opinion publique, c’est-à-dire les électeurs des membres du Congrès, en vue d’infléchir la politique américaine. Cela fonctionne puisqu’Alep est devenu un mot-clé de l’élection présidentielle américaine et il faudra beaucoup de détermination au successeur de Barak Obama pour résister aux pressions interventionnistes. (…) Depuis le printemps 2012, date de la militarisation à outrance de l’opposition syrienne, le régime syrien utilise une stratégie classique de contre-insurrection. Il s’agit moins de gagner les cœurs que de faire plus peur que l’adversaire et de prouver qu’il est le seul capable de ramener la paix en Syrie. Après cinq années de guerre, tout ce qui compte pour l’immense majorité des Syriens c’est précisément de vivre en paix, peu leur importe qui dirige le pays. Sur le plan psychologique, Bachar el Assad a donc gagné puisqu’il apparaît, au pire, comme le moindre mal. Il lui reste à éliminer les rebelles. Pour cela il faut les séparer de la population civile dans laquelle ils se dissimulent. La technique de contre-insurrection utilisée à Alep-Est consiste donc, depuis l’hiver 2013-2014, à bombarder sporadiquement pour faire fuir les civils, puis d’encercler le territoire rebelle. Résultat auquel l’armée syrienne est parvenue début septembre. La population d’Alep-Est est ainsi passée de plus d’un million d’habitants en 2011 à 200,000 aujourd’hui selon l’ONU, mais sans doute beaucoup moins. À titre de comparaison la partie occidentale d’Alep, sous contrôle gouvernemental, compte 800,000 habitants. (…) Après trois années de bombardement, le camp de Bashar el Assad considère que ceux qui restent dans Alep-Est soutiennent les rebelles, car les autres ont eu tout le temps de fuir. C’est en partie vrai, car il s’agit pour l’essentiel des familles des combattants, qui sont donc payées pour rester. Désormais, la seule solution envisagée par les militaires pour les convaincre de quitter Alep-Est est de frapper aveuglément et massivement. Dans quelques jours, une trêve sera sans doute proclamée pour permettre à ceux qui le souhaitent d’être évacués. Mais encore faut-il qu’ils le puissent, car les groupes radicaux empêchent les civils de partir pour les utiliser comme boucliers humains, comme ce fut le cas à Homs. Puis les bombardements reprendront jusqu’à la reconquête totale des quartiers rebelles d’Alep.(…) En tout état de cause, le Président russe considère que les États-Unis sont incapables de convaincre leurs alliés de cesser le combat, il a donc décidé de les mettre devant le fait accompli. L’exécutif américain est paralysé au moins jusqu’à la prise de fonction de la nouvelle administration en janvier 2017. Il s’agit donc de l’emporter à Alep d’ici trois mois. Recep Teyep Erdogan, a lui, anticipé ce qui allait se passer et il a trouvé plus judicieux de négocier avec Vladimir Poutine. Il a obtenu du maître du Kremlin la création d’une zone sous influence turque au Nord-Est d’Alep pour accueillir les futurs réfugiés, tout en bloquant l’avancée des Kurdes vers l’Ouest. En échange, le Président turc a dû s’engager à réduire son soutien aux rebelles syriens. Ce qui augure mal de l’avenir de la rébellion syrienne car la Turquie est indispensable pour son soutien logistique. Alexis Feertchak
Découvrant, mais un peu tard, que la guerre tue, qu’elle est laide, injuste et sans pitié, et surtout que l’on pourrait un jour peut-être, au tribunal de l’Histoire, venir demander à Paris des comptes sur son inaction face au drame – à moins que ce ne soit sur ses actions et ses options politiques-, la France a pris les devants. Accusant avec l’ONU le régime syrien et la Russie de crimes de guerre à Alep, elle a déposé en hâte un projet de résolution au Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies demandant l’arrêt des combats et des bombardements sur l’est de la ville (dont elle feint de croire qu’il n’est peuplé que de civils innocents qui resteraient là de leur propre gré et que la Russie et le régime pilonneraient par pure cruauté), l’acheminement de l’aide humanitaire et la reprise du processus de négociation. Que dire de cette initiative, apparemment inspirée par une indignation vertueuse face au drame bien réel vécu par la population d’Alep-Est, à un moment où la tension russo-américaine monte dangereusement et peut faire craindre un dérapage militaire sur le terrain que certains, à Washington et à l’OTAN, appellent ouvertement de leurs vœux? S’agit-il d’une nouvelle salve d’irénisme aveugle et de «pensée magique», funeste version 2016 de «Boucle d’or au Pays des trois ours» découvrant une intrusion dans sa maisonnette idyllique? Ou d’une gesticulation habile mais dangereuse qui n’a pour but, en prétendant débloquer la situation, que de jouer les utilités au profit de Washington en fossilisant un peu plus les positions des deux camps qui s’affrontent désormais ouvertement sur le corps exsangue de la nation syrienne? Difficile de démêler la part de négation du réel de celle de l’alignement sur ce que l’on présente comme «le camp du Bien» …et de nos intérêts nationaux, si mal évalués pourtant. Ce cinéma diplomatique vient évidemment de se solder par un véto russe, attendu par Paris, Londres et Washington qui veulent faire basculer l’indignation internationale contre Moscou à défaut de mettre en cohérence leurs objectifs politiques et militaires avec leur prétendue volonté de paix. Mais prendre la tête du chœur des vierges ne suffit pas et ne trompe plus personne. L’évidence crève l’écran. «L’Occident» ne mène pas la guerre contre l’islamisme sunnite ou alors de façon très résiduelle: il le nourrit, le conseille, l’entraine. DAECH, dont la barbarie spectaculaire des modes d’action sert d’épouvantail opportun et de catalyseur de la vindicte occidentale, permet de juger par contraste «respectable» l’avalanche de djihadistes sunnites d’obédience wahhabite ou Frères musulmans qui ne combattent d’ailleurs pas plus que nous l’Etat islamique mais s’acharnent sur le régime syrien. Et l’Amérique comme la France cherchent avec une folle complaisance, dans ce magma ultraviolent, des interlocuteurs susceptibles d’être intronisés comme «légitimes» et capables de remplacer un autocrate indocile qui a le mauvais goût de résister à la marche de l’Histoire version occidentale et à la vague démocratique censée inonder de ses bienfaits un Moyen-Orient politiquement arriéré. Saddam Hussein, Mouammar Kadhafi, cruels tyrans sans doute, n’ont pu y résister et croyaient encore pouvoir argumenter avec leurs adversaires occidentaux (longtemps leurs alliés) quand leur sort était en fait scellé depuis longtemps. Bachar el Assad a bien failli y passer lui aussi. Mais à notre grand dam, Moscou a vu dans cette nouvelle guerre occidentale de déstabilisation par procuration, une occasion inespérée de sécuriser ses bases militaires, de défier l’Amérique qui la méprisait trop ouvertement, de regagner une influence centrale dans la région et de traiter «à la source» le terrorisme qui menace son territoire et ses marges d’Asie centrale et du Caucase. Et l’a saisie. Dans ce Grand jeu explosif de reconfiguration de l’équilibre du monde et notamment du nouveau duel cardinal, celui de Washington avec Pékin, la France, je le crains, s’est trompée du tout au tout et démontre à la face du monde mais surtout à l’ennemi – qui observe notre incohérence diplomatique et politique-, qu’elle pratique admirablement le grand écart stratégique… aux dépens toutefois, de nos concitoyens. Comment justifier en effet notre combat au Mali contre les djihadistes sunnites, notre soutien en Irak aux chiites contre les sunnites, et en Syrie notre appui aux groupuscules sunnites les plus extrémistes contre Bachar el Assad…tout en prétendant profiter du marché iranien entre ouvert ….et vendre des armes aux Saoudiens et Qataris sunnites qui sont by the way les financiers du djihadisme mondial dont nous subissons la haine et la violence terroriste sur notre sol désormais à un rythme soutenu? (…) L’impensé du discours français n’en reste pas moins le suivant: si Assad, «bourreau de son propre peuple» selon l’expression consacrée, était finalement militairement et politiquement mis hors-jeu, par qui compte -on le remplacer? A qui sera livrée la Syrie, «utile» ou pas, une fois que DAECH en aura été progressivement «exfiltré» vers d’autres macabres «territoires de jeu», en Libye par exemple? Quelle alternative pour la survie des communautés, notamment chrétiennes, encore présentes dans le pays qui passe par la survie des structures laïques d’Etat? Quels individus veut-on mettre au pouvoir? Les pseudo «modérés» qui encombrent les couloirs des négociations en trompe l’œil de Genève? Le Front al Nosra, sous son nouveau petit nom – Fateh al Sham -, que les Américains persistent à soutenir en dépit des objurgations russes et qui a fait exploser le cessez-le feu? Ou peut-être certains groupuscules désormais armés de missiles américains TOW qui n’attendent qu’un «go» pour tenter de dézinguer un avion ou un hélico russe, «par erreur» naturellement? Ou encore les représentants des Forces démocratiques syriennes, ou ceux de «l’Armée de la Conquête» qui renait opportunément de ses cendres… Ou un mixte de tous ces rebelles – apprentis démocrates férus de liberté et qui libèreront enfin le peuple syrien du sanglant dictateur qui le broyait sous sa férule depuis trop longtemps? Croit-on sérieusement que l’on pourra contrôler une seule minute ces nouveaux «patrons» du pays qui se financent dans le Golfe -dont nous sommes devenus les obligés silencieux-, et dont l’agenda politique et religieux est aux antipodes de la plus petite de nos exigences «démocratiques»? Ne comprend-on pas qu’ils vont mettre le pays en coupe réglée, en finiront dans le sang avec toutes les minorités, placeront les populations sunnites sous leur contrôle terrifiant, et que tout processus électoral sera une mascarade et ne fera qu’entériner une domination communautaire et confessionnelle sans appel? (…) Nous avons depuis 5 ans une politique étrangère à contre-emploi et à contre temps, réduite à deux volets: action humanitaire et diplomatie économique. En gros vendre des armes à tout prix aux pays sunnites, les aider à faire la guerre et à s’emparer du pouvoir à Damas… et porter des couvertures aux victimes de cet activisme économico-militaire: les Syriens. (…) L’Etat Français a d’ailleurs été poursuivi – en vain à ce jour -pour ces déclarations ministérielles qui ont de facto encouragé le prosélytisme islamiste et le terrorisme en présentant le départ pour la Syrie à des apprentis djihadistes français comme une œuvre politique salutaire, avec les résultats que l’on connait sur le territoire national. (…) Mais le pire était à venir. Ce matin, nous avons franchi un nouveau seuil dans le ridicule et le suicide politique. Au moment où il est d’une extrême urgence de se parler enfin à cœur ouvert, de dire la vérité, d’abandonner les poses et les anathèmes, de ne plus se tromper d’ennemi, de faire front commun – comme l’ont proposé les Russes depuis des lustres -, contre l’islamisme qui a décidé notre perte et s’esclaffe de notre ahurissante naïveté et de notre faiblesse, le président de la République française s’interroge publiquement, de bon matin, dans une émission de divertissement, devant l’animateur Yann Barthes sur TMC, sur l’opportunité de recevoir Vladimir Poutine à Paris le 19 octobre prochain! «P’têt ben qu’oui, p’têt ben qu’non …» La réponse de Moscou à cette insulte ne s’est pas fait attendre: le Président russe ne viendra pas. Nous sommes au fond du fond du fond de l’impuissance politique et l’on se laisse couler, saisis par l’ivresse des profondeurs en croyant surnager. (…) La confusion permanente entre l’Etat syrien et le régime syrien nourrit la guerre. C’est l’Etat qu’il faut aider à survivre à l’offensive islamiste au lieu d’encourager les mouvements terroristes à le déstructurer. Le sort de Bachar el Assad est à la fois central et accessoire. Si l’Etat syrien devait tomber sous la coupe de DAECH ou sous celle d’Al Nosra et de ses avatars, alors ce seront les massacres communautaires et le chaos. Qui aura alors des comptes à rendre pour les avoir laissé advenir? Caroline Galactéros

Cachez ces boucliers humains que je ne saurai voir !

Après la pantalonnade que l’on sait de la visite annulée du chef d’Etat français avec son homologue russe …

Pendant que sans la moindre mise en perspective et jusqu’à susciter les vocations les plus fourvoyées …

 Nos belles âmes nous matraquent avec les tragiques images des victimes civiles des bombardements syro-russes …

Comment ne pas repenser …

Sans compter l’évident deux poids deux mesures (imaginez les manifestations qu’aurait provoqué, venant des forces israéliennes, ne serait-ce que le centième des dégâts collatéraux des actuels bombardements d’Alep !) …

Aux tristement fameuses campagnes de désinformation qui, sur fond d’usage massif de boucliers humains achetés ou forcés, avaient marqué les guerres d’Israël contre les forces terroristes du Liban ou de Gaza ?

Et surtout ne pas voir avec la politologue Caroline Galactéros …

L’incroyable mélange d’aveuglement et d’hypocrisie qui sert actuellement de politique étrangère aux dirigeants occidentaux …

Qui après avoir précipité l’émergence des djihadistes de l’Etat islamique suite à l’abandon criminel de l’Irak et de la Syrie par l’Administaration Obama …

Les voit aujourd’hui soutenir …

Contre une Russie plus que jamais revanchiste et un Iran à qui l’on vient par ailleurs de reconnaitre le droit à l’arme ultime …

Et avec, entre deux bombardements de civils au Yemen ou ailleurs, les habituels fourriers saoudiens et qataris du djiadisme …

Rien de moins que la prochaine génération de djihadistes ?

Caroline Galactéros : « La décision de Vladimir Poutine humilie la diplomatie française »
Caroline Galactéros
Le Figaro
11/10/2016

FIGAROVOX/TRIBUNE – Vladimir Poutine a annoncé qu’il reportait sa visite à Paris où il devait rencontrer François Hollande. Pour Caroline Galactéros, cette décision n’est que la suite logique d’un amateurisme complet de la France en Syrie et ailleurs dans le monde.

Docteur en Science politique et colonel au sein de la réserve opérationnelle des Armées, Caroline Galactéros dirige le cabinet d’intelligence stratégique «Planeting». Auteur du blog Bouger Les Lignes, elle a publié Manières du monde. Manières de guerre (Nuvis, 2013) et Guerre, Technologie et société (Nuvis, 2014).

Découvrant, mais un peu tard, que la guerre tue, qu’elle est laide, injuste et sans pitié, et surtout que l’on pourrait un jour peut-être, au tribunal de l’Histoire, venir demander à Paris des comptes sur son inaction face au drame – à moins que ce ne soit sur ses actions et ses options politiques-, la France a pris les devants. Accusant avec l’ONU le régime syrien et la Russie de crimes de guerre à Alep, elle a déposé en hâte un projet de résolution au Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies demandant l’arrêt des combats et des bombardements sur l’est de la ville (dont elle feint de croire qu’il n’est peuplé que de civils innocents qui resteraient là de leur propre gré et que la Russie et le régime pilonneraient par pure cruauté), l’acheminement de l’aide humanitaire et la reprise du processus de négociation.

Que dire de cette initiative, apparemment inspirée par une indignation vertueuse face au drame bien réel vécu par la population d’Alep-Est, à un moment où la tension russo-américaine monte dangereusement et peut faire craindre un dérapage militaire sur le terrain que certains, à Washington et à l’OTAN, appellent ouvertement de leurs vœux? S’agit-il d’une nouvelle salve d’irénisme aveugle et de «pensée magique», funeste version 2016 de «Boucle d’or au Pays des trois ours» découvrant une intrusion dans sa maisonnette idyllique? Ou d’une gesticulation habile mais dangereuse qui n’a pour but, en prétendant débloquer la situation, que de jouer les utilités au profit de Washington en fossilisant un peu plus les positions des deux camps qui s’affrontent désormais ouvertement sur le corps exsangue de la nation syrienne? Difficile de démêler la part de négation du réel de celle de l’alignement sur ce que l’on présente comme «le camp du Bien» …et de nos intérêts nationaux, si mal évalués pourtant.

Ce cinéma diplomatique vient évidemment de se solder par un véto russe, attendu par Paris, Londres et Washington qui veulent faire basculer l’indignation internationale contre Moscou à défaut de mettre en cohérence leurs objectifs politiques et militaires avec leur prétendue volonté de paix. Mais prendre la tête du chœur des vierges ne suffit pas et ne trompe plus personne. L’évidence crève l’écran. «L’Occident» ne mène pas la guerre contre l’islamisme sunnite ou alors de façon très résiduelle: il le nourrit, le conseille, l’entraine. DAECH, dont la barbarie spectaculaire des modes d’action sert d’épouvantail opportun et de catalyseur de la vindicte occidentale, permet de juger par contraste «respectable» l’avalanche de djihadistes sunnites d’obédience wahhabite ou Frères musulmans qui ne combattent d’ailleurs pas plus que nous l’Etat islamique mais s’acharnent sur le régime syrien. Et l’Amérique comme la France cherchent avec une folle complaisance, dans ce magma ultraviolent, des interlocuteurs susceptibles d’être intronisés comme «légitimes» et capables de remplacer un autocrate indocile qui a le mauvais goût de résister à la marche de l’Histoire version occidentale et à la vague démocratique censée inonder de ses bienfaits un Moyen-Orient politiquement arriéré.

Saddam Hussein, Mouammar Kadhafi, cruels tyrans sans doute, n’ont pu y résister et croyaient encore pouvoir argumenter avec leurs adversaires occidentaux (longtemps leurs alliés) quand leur sort était en fait scellé depuis longtemps. Bachar el Assad a bien failli y passer lui aussi. Mais à notre grand dam, Moscou a vu dans cette nouvelle guerre occidentale de déstabilisation par procuration, une occasion inespérée de sécuriser ses bases militaires, de défier l’Amérique qui la méprisait trop ouvertement, de regagner une influence centrale dans la région et de traiter «à la source» le terrorisme qui menace son territoire et ses marges d’Asie centrale et du Caucase. Et l’a saisie.

Dans ce Grand jeu explosif de reconfiguration de l’équilibre du monde et notamment du nouveau duel cardinal, celui de Washington avec Pékin, la France, je le crains, s’est trompée du tout au tout et démontre à la face du monde mais surtout à l’ennemi – qui observe notre incohérence diplomatique et politique-, qu’elle pratique admirablement le grand écart stratégique… aux dépens toutefois, de nos concitoyens. Comment justifier en effet notre combat au Mali contre les djihadistes sunnites, notre soutien en Irak aux chiites contre les sunnites, et en Syrie notre appui aux groupuscules sunnites les plus extrémistes contre Bachar el Assad…tout en prétendant profiter du marché iranien entre ouvert ….et vendre des armes aux Saoudiens et Qataris sunnites qui sont by the way les financiers du djihadisme mondial dont nous subissons la haine et la violence terroriste sur notre sol désormais à un rythme soutenu? C’est de l’opportunisme à très courte vue, mais plus encore un hiatus stratégique béant et la manifestation d’une totale incompréhension du réel.

De telles contradictions ne peuvent s’expliquer que par notre entêtement à vouloir en finir avec le régime syrien actuel dont nul n’imaginait qu’il résisterait si longtemps aux feux croisés de l’Amérique et de ses alliés sunnites. L’exigence américaine – reprise à son compte par Paris – d’une cessation des bombardements aériens sur Alep-Est «pour raisons humanitaires» aurait permis en fait de laisser les islamistes de la ville (soit rien moins qu’Al Nosra et consorts) se refaire une santé militaire en se servant des civils comme de boucliers humains, de poursuivre leurs tirs d’obus sur la partie ouest de la ville et d’empêcher Damas et Moscou de faire basculer décisivement le rapport de force militaire en faveur de l’Etat syrien dans le cadre d’une négociation ultime. Qui a d’ailleurs fait échouer le cessez le feu signé le 9 septembre dernier à Genève? Les groupes terroristes qui n’en voulaient pas et les Etats-Unis qui ont bombardé les forces syriennes à Deir el Zor et ouvert la voie aux forces de l’Etat Islamique. Encore un accord de dupes.

Temps court versus temps long, individu versus groupe, froideur politique versus empathie médiatique (sélective): on se refuse à voir, dans nos démocraties molles, que la véritable action stratégique, pour être efficace, ne peut prendre en compte que des nombres, des masses, des ensembles, des mouvements, des processus, quand toute l’attention médiatique et la gestion politicienne des crises, elles, veulent faire croire que l’individu est central et se concentrent sur la souffrance et le sort des personnes, alors que celles-ci sont depuis toujours et sans doute pour encore longtemps sacrifiées à la confrontation globale et brutale entre Etats. Les images terrifiantes de la guerre au quotidien masquent la réalité d’un affrontement sans scrupules de part et d’autre, dont en l’espèce les malheureux Syriens ne sont même plus les enjeux mais de simples otages.

L’impensé du discours français n’en reste pas moins le suivant: si Assad, «bourreau de son propre peuple» selon l’expression consacrée, était finalement militairement et politiquement mis hors-jeu, par qui compte -on le remplacer? A qui sera livrée la Syrie, «utile» ou pas, une fois que DAECH en aura été progressivement «exfiltré» vers d’autres macabres «territoires de jeu», en Libye par exemple? Quelle alternative pour la survie des communautés, notamment chrétiennes, encore présentes dans le pays qui passe par la survie des structures laïques d’Etat? Quels individus veut-on mettre au pouvoir? Les pseudo «modérés» qui encombrent les couloirs des négociations en trompe l’œil de Genève? Le Front al Nosra, sous son nouveau petit nom – Fateh al Sham -, que les Américains persistent à soutenir en dépit des objurgations russes et qui a fait exploser le cessez-le feu? Ou peut-être certains groupuscules désormais armés de missiles américains TOW qui n’attendent qu’un «go» pour tenter de dézinguer un avion ou un hélico russe, «par erreur» naturellement? Ou encore les représentants des Forces démocratiques syriennes, ou ceux de «l’Armée de la Conquête» qui renait opportunément de ses cendres… Ou un mixte de tous ces rebelles – apprentis démocrates férus de liberté et qui libèreront enfin le peuple syrien du sanglant dictateur qui le broyait sous sa férule depuis trop longtemps?

Croit-on sérieusement que l’on pourra contrôler une seule minute ces nouveaux «patrons» du pays qui se financent dans le Golfe -dont nous sommes devenus les obligés silencieux-, et dont l’agenda politique et religieux est aux antipodes de la plus petite de nos exigences «démocratiques»? Ne comprend-on pas qu’ils vont mettre le pays en coupe réglée, en finiront dans le sang avec toutes les minorités, placeront les populations sunnites sous leur contrôle terrifiant, et que tout processus électoral sera une mascarade et ne fera qu’entériner une domination communautaire et confessionnelle sans appel? … «Anne, ma sœur Anne ne vois-tu rien venir? je ne vois que l’herbe qui verdoie et la terre qui poudroie» … Quelle naïveté, quelle ignorance, quelle indifférence en fait!

L’interview accordée le 5 octobre dernier par notre ministre des Affaires étrangères à la veille de son départ pour Moscou à Yves Calvi sur LCI est à cet égard, un morceau de bravoure édifiant, qui escamote la réalité et brosse un paysage surréaliste du conflit et de ce qu’il faudrait y comprendre et en attendre.

Florilège et exégèse….

«La guerre ne sert à rien. Elle ne fait que renforcer les djihadistes»

Est-ce à dire qu’il faut les laisser faire, leur donner les clefs du pays et prier peut-être, pour qu’ils ne massacrent pas les minorités qui y demeurent encore et instaurent la démocratie? Faut-il ne plus agir en espérant qu’ils vont s’arrêter? De qui se moque-t-on? Adieu Boucle d’Or. Nous sommes au Pays des rêves bleus de Oui-Oui…

Les Russes, qui se disent satisfaits de l’efficacité de leurs frappes contre les terroristes d’Alep-Est «sont cyniques» … Qui est cynique ici? Celui qui déforme la réalité d’un affrontement pour ne pas avouer qu’il est (avec d’autres) à la manœuvre d’une déstabilisation d’Etat par des groupuscules terroristes liés à Al-Qaïda (matrice de Daech) sous couvert d’aspiration à la démocratie? Ou ceux qui cherchent à réduire l’emprise djihadiste et à renforcer des structures d’Etat laïques avec ou sans Bachar?

«La politique de la France est claire… Nous avons une stratégie, une vision

Ah?! Laquelle? Nous avons depuis 5 ans une politique étrangère à contre-emploi et à contre temps, réduite à deux volets: action humanitaire et diplomatie économique. En gros vendre des armes à tout prix aux pays sunnites, les aider à faire la guerre et à s’emparer du pouvoir à Damas… et porter des couvertures aux victimes de cet activisme économico-militaire: les Syriens.

En dépit de l’excellence de nos forces armées, de la présence du Charles de Gaulle sur zone et de nos missions aériennes soutenues, Paris n’est diplomatiquement et stratégiquement plus nulle part en Syrie, et depuis longtemps. Par dogmatisme, par moralisme, par notre parti pris immodéré pour les puissances sunnites de la région, nous nous sommes engouffrés dans un alignement crédule sur la politique américaine qui s’est en plus retourné contre nous dès l’été 2013, lorsque Barack Obama a dû renoncer à frapper directement Damas au prétexte d’un usage d’armes chimiques qui n’a d’ailleurs jamais été confirmé. Un camouflet d’autant plus lourd à porter que notre ancien ministre des affaires étrangères avait jugé bon, dès août 2012, de dire que «Bachar el Assad ne méritait pas d’être sur terre» et, en décembre 2012, «qu’Al Nosra faisait du bon boulot». L’Etat Français a d’ailleurs été poursuivi – en vain à ce jour -pour ces déclarations ministérielles qui ont de facto encouragé le prosélytisme islamiste et le terrorisme en présentant le départ pour la Syrie à des apprentis djihadistes français comme une œuvre politique salutaire, avec les résultats que l’on connait sur le territoire national. N’en déplaise à Monsieur Ayrault, la France n’est ni écoutée, ni considérée, ni attendue sur le dossier syrien. Elle en est réduite à servir de go between entre Washington et Moscou lorsque ceux-ci ne peuvent plus se parler et qu’il faut faire semblant, une fois encore, de rechercher un compromis et d’amener Moscou à lever le pied d’une implication trop efficace à notre goût.

«Si le choix est entre Bachar et Daech, il n’y a pas de choix

Mais c’est pourtant le cas, ne nous en déplaise. Nous combattons l’Etat islamique pour la galerie, sans grande conviction ni détermination politique, de très haut, par des frappes qui sans présence terrestre demeurent symboliques. Pour Moscou, au contraire, il n’existe pas «d’islamistes modérés» ; combattre le terrorisme revient à combattre l’EI mais aussi ses avatars locaux innombrables à tout prix, y compris au prix de pertes civiles importantes. Et c’est aujourd’hui la Russie qui, dans les airs mais aussi au sol, avec l’Iran et le régime syrien, «fait la guerre», se bat contre le terrorisme islamiste qui menace tout l’Occident, gangrène nos vieilles sociétés repues et pacifiques et nous prend pour cible. Ils «font le job». Un horrible job. Dans l’immédiat, il faut choisir entre le soutien à l’Etat syrien – que le régime d’Assad incarne-, et DAECH et Cie.

Le sommet est atteint à la fin de l’intervention ministérielle, lorsque l’on apprend que «la Syrie future devra être unitaire, avoir des structures étatiques stables, être protectrice de toutes ses minorités, mettre en place des institutions solides, contrôler son armée et ses Services…» (sic)! Les bras nous en tombent. Voici décrite…la Syrie d’avant la guerre! Ce terrifiant carnage n’aurait-il donc été qu’un coup d’épée dans l’eau?

Mais le pire était à venir. Ce matin, nous avons franchi un nouveau seuil dans le ridicule et le suicide politique. Au moment où il est d’une extrême urgence de se parler enfin à cœur ouvert, de dire la vérité, d’abandonner les poses et les anathèmes, de ne plus se tromper d’ennemi, de faire front commun – comme l’ont proposé les Russes depuis des lustres -, contre l’islamisme qui a décidé notre perte et s’esclaffe de notre ahurissante naïveté et de notre faiblesse, le président de la République française s’interroge publiquement, de bon matin, dans une émission de divertissement, devant l’animateur Yann Barthes sur TMC, sur l’opportunité de recevoir Vladimir Poutine à Paris le 19 octobre prochain! «P’têt ben qu’oui, p’têt ben qu’non …» La réponse de Moscou à cette insulte ne s’est pas fait attendre: le Président russe ne viendra pas. Nous sommes au fond du fond du fond de l’impuissance politique et l’on se laisse couler, saisis par l’ivresse des profondeurs en croyant surnager.

Hauteur de vue et profondeur de champ, véritable souci pour la souffrance humaine: la realpolitik est la solution, pas le mal. La confusion permanente entre l’Etat syrien et le régime syrien nourrit la guerre. C’est l’Etat qu’il faut aider à survivre à l’offensive islamiste au lieu d’encourager les mouvements terroristes à le déstructurer. Le sort de Bachar el Assad est à la fois central et accessoire. Si l’Etat syrien devait tomber sous la coupe de DAECH ou sous celle d’Al Nosra et de ses avatars, alors ce seront les massacres communautaires et le chaos. Qui aura alors des comptes à rendre pour les avoir laissé advenir?

Voir aussi:

Alep : pourquoi la tragédie humanitaire ne bouleverse pas la donne géopolitique
Alexis Feertchak
Le Figaro
29/09/2016

FIGAROVOX/ENTRETIEN – Alors que la crise humanitaire s’aggrave, le régime syrien soutenu par les Russes et les Iraniens reprend du terrain. Pour Fabrice Balanche, les rebelles sont plus que jamais liés à Al-Qaïda et Moscou ne saurait être le seul responsable du chaos.

Agrégé et docteur en Géographie, Fabrice Balanche est maître de conférences à l’Université Lyon-2 et chercheur invité au Washington Institute. Spécialiste du Moyen-Orient, il a publié notamment La région alaouite et le pouvoir syrien(éd. Karthala, 2006) et Atlas du Proche-Orient arabe (éd. RFI & PUPS, 2010).

FIGAROVOX. – À propos d’Alep, le politologue libanais Ziad Majed a déclaré au journal Le Monde: «Si on parle d’un point de vue de droit international, et de la convention de Genève, ce qui se passe commence même à dépasser le cadre des crimes de guerre, ce sont presque des crimes contre l’humanité». Quelle est aujourd’hui la situation humanitaire dans l’ancienne capitale économique de la Syrie?

Tous ceux qui comparent la situation en Syrie avec la guerre d’Espagne et les jihadistes aux brigades internationales bénéficient de l’engouement d’une partie des médias où l’émotion domine plus que la réflexion. Mais les choses sont bien plus complexe: le désastre humanitaire en Syrie est aussi la conséquence de cette irealpolitik.

Cela dit, il est évident que ce qui se déroule à Alep-Est est horrible pour les populations civiles qui sont sous les bombes. Ce que décrit l’ONU sur la situation humanitaire est exact: hôpitaux détruits, population terrée dans des abris, femmes et enfants prisonniers des décombres, etc. Mais tous les observateurs un peu réalistes avaient anticipé ce qui allait se passer si les rebelles ne quittaient pas Alep-Est, comme cela leur avait été proposé par la Russie. Je citerais tout simplement John Kerry au micro de la NPR le 14 septembre dernier:

«Quelle est l’alternative (en Syrie)? L’alternative est-elle d’ajouter encore des milliers de morts aux 450.000 personnes qui ont déjà été tuées. Qu’Alep soit complètement envahie? Que les Russes et Assad bombardent partout indistinctement dans les jours à venir pendant que nous regardons cela impuissant? L’alternative c’est essayer d’obtenir tout de même quelque chose puisque l’Amérique ne veut pas intervenir avec ses troupes. Or, l’Amérique a pris la décision de ne pas intervenir militairement en Syrie. Le Président a pris cette décision».

L’Armée syrienne soutenue par l’aviation russe a repris un quartier de la zone d’Alep contrôlée par les rebelles. De quels rebelles s’agit-il?

Les rebelles «modérés» ont refusé de se désolidariser du Front al-Nosra, la branche syrienne d’al-Qaïda. Au contraire, deux des principaux groupes rebelles d’Alep dit «modérés», la brigade al-Zinki et Suqour es-Sham, se sont même officiellement affiliés à la coalition (Jaysh al Naser) dirigée par le Front al-Nosra durant la dernière trêve. Cela indique que le Front al-Nosra domine davantage les différentes factions rebelles, y compris celles considérées comme «modérées». Le Front al Nosra n’est pas membre de Fatah Halep, la coalition des rebelles d’Alep, mais c’est lui qui sur le terrain dirige les opérations militaires. Son emprise sur Alep-Est n’a fait qu’augmenter depuis le printemps 2016, date à laquelle il a envoyé 700 combattants en renfort alors que des combattants des brigades modérées commençaient à quitter la zone avant que la dernière sortie ne soit coupée. L’ouverture provisoire d’une brèche dans le siège d’Alep, en août 2016 (bataille de Ramousseh), a encore augmenté son prestige et son emprise sur les rebelles.

L’accord de coopération militaire américano-russe, qui portait d’abord et avant tout sur Alep, semble avoir fait long feu. Comment expliquer cet échec?

L’Arabie Saoudite et autres bailleurs arabes de la rébellion syrienne n’ont aucun intérêt à voir se concrétiser l’accord entre les États-Unis et la Russie. Ils veulent que le combat continue car sinon cet accord russo-américain signifie la victoire du camp Assad en Syrie et notamment celle de l’Iran. Les Saoudiens n’ont que faire des civils syriens, ils bombardent quotidiennement depuis deux ans le Yémen sans aucune considération pour la population civile. Nous sommes dans une guerre régionale et les considérations humanitaires sont instrumentalisées sans scrupules. L’objectif pour l’Arabie Saoudite est précisément d’obliger les États-Unis à intervenir davantage en Syrie pour bloquer l’Iran et la Russie. Pour cela il faut influencer l’opinion publique, c’est-à-dire les électeurs des membres du Congrès, en vue d’infléchir la politique américaine. Cela fonctionne puisqu’Alep est devenu un mot-clé de l’élection présidentielle américaine et il faudra beaucoup de détermination au successeur de Barak Obama pour résister aux pressions interventionnistes.

Mais revenons aux faits. Depuis le printemps 2012, date de la militarisation à outrance de l’opposition syrienne, le régime syrien utilise une stratégie classique de contre-insurrection. Il s’agit moins de gagner les cœurs que de faire plus peur que l’adversaire et de prouver qu’il est le seul capable de ramener la paix en Syrie. Après cinq années de guerre, tout ce qui compte pour l’immense majorité des Syriens c’est précisément de vivre en paix, peu leur importe qui dirige le pays. Sur le plan psychologique, Bachar el Assad a donc gagné puisqu’il apparaît, au pire, comme le moindre mal. Il lui reste à éliminer les rebelles. Pour cela il faut les séparer de la population civile dans laquelle ils se dissimulent. La technique de contre-insurrection utilisée à Alep-Est consiste donc, depuis l’hiver 2013-2014, à bombarder sporadiquement pour faire fuir les civils, puis d’encercler le territoire rebelle. Résultat auquel l’armée syrienne est parvenue début septembre. La population d’Alep-Est est ainsi passée de plus d’un million d’habitants en 2011 à 200,000 aujourd’hui selon l’ONU, mais sans doute beaucoup moins. À titre de comparaison la partie occidentale d’Alep, sous contrôle gouvernemental, compte 800,000 habitants.

Quel semble être aujourd’hui l’objectif du Kremlin et de Damas?

Après trois années de bombardement, le camp de Bashar el Assad considère que ceux qui restent dans Alep-Est soutiennent les rebelles, car les autres ont eu tout le temps de fuir. C’est en partie vrai, car il s’agit pour l’essentiel des familles des combattants, qui sont donc payées pour rester. Désormais, la seule solution envisagée par les militaires pour les convaincre de quitter Alep-Est est de frapper aveuglément et massivement. Dans quelques jours, une trêve sera sans doute proclamée pour permettre à ceux qui le souhaitent d’être évacués. Mais encore faut-il qu’ils le puissent, car les groupes radicaux empêchent les civils de partir pour les utiliser comme boucliers humains, comme ce fut le cas à Homs. Puis les bombardements reprendront jusqu’à la reconquête totale des quartiers rebelles d’Alep. Il faut noter que c’est la première fois depuis l’été 2012, que l’infanterie est engagée pour reprendre du terrain comme le quartier de Farafirah au centre-ville, Sheikh Saïd au sud, ou l’ex camp palestinien de Handarat au nord.

Ce que j’ai décrit était annoncé. La seule façon de l’empêcher est d’entrer dans une confrontation militaire avec la Russie en abattant les avions russes et syriens. Je doute que l’Occident souhaite une escalade de ce type. Certains évoquent la distribution de missiles sol-air aux rebelles, au risque de les voir tomber dans les mains d’Al-Qaïda ou de Daesh. Par ailleurs, il n’est pas sûr que cela soit efficace, car les Russes bombarderaient de plus haut avec du plus lourd et feraient donc plus de dégâts. La Russie pourrait aussi frapper avec des missiles de croisière depuis la mer Caspienne.

Au-delà d’Alep, le rapport de force est-il en train de changer entre le régime et les rebelles? Que change sur ce point l’intervention turque qui se poursuit tout au Nord de la Syrie?

La Russie ne croit plus à la possibilité d’un accord de coopération militaire avec les États-Unis. Le bombardement de l’armée syrienne à Deir ez Zor par l’aviation de la coalition internationale, le 17 septembre dernier, fut le coup de grâce donné à ses longues et laborieuses négociations. S’agit-il d’une erreur comme le prétendent les États-Unis? Ou d’une mauvaise information donnée sciemment par un membre de la coalition qui aurait intérêt à voir échouer l’accord? Erreur ou non, cet épisode risquerait d’entamer la crédibilité de la Russie si Vladimir Poutine ne réagissait pas énergiquement. En tout état de cause, le Président russe considère que les États-Unis sont incapables de convaincre leurs alliés de cesser le combat, il a donc décidé de les mettre devant le fait accompli.

L’exécutif américain est paralysé au moins jusqu’à la prise de fonction de la nouvelle administration en janvier 2017. Il s’agit donc de l’emporter à Alep d’ici trois mois. Recep Teyep Erdogan, a lui, anticipé ce qui allait se passer et il a trouvé plus judicieux de négocier avec Vladimir Poutine. Il a obtenu du maître du Kremlin la création d’une zone sous influence turque au Nord-Est d’Alep pour accueillir les futurs réfugiés, tout en bloquant l’avancée des Kurdes vers l’Ouest. En échange, le Président turc a dû s’engager à réduire son soutien aux rebelles syriens. Ce qui augure mal de l’avenir de la rébellion syrienne car la Turquie est indispensable pour son soutien logistique.

Voir également:

Hollande déboussolé face à Poutine

La France plus isolée que jamais

Hadrien Desuin
Expert en géo-stratégie, sécurité et défense

Causeur

13 octobre 2016

Le report sine die de la visite du président russe à Paris, pourtant prévue de longue date, est un nouvel épisode du burlesque qui guide notre diplomatie depuis presque cinq ans. L’inauguration de la cathédrale orthodoxe du quai Branly était l’occasion pour la France de se replacer dans le jeu diplomatique alors que les relations américano-russes sont au plus bas. Mais François Hollande n’a pas eu le courage de préserver l’indépendance de la France. Il a préféré rallier in extremis les bons élèves du camp occidental.

Hollande improvise sur TMC

Dans une séquence improvisée, François Hollande a benoitement livré au micro de TMC ses hésitations. “Je me suis posé la question (…) Est-ce que c’est utile ? Est-ce que c’est nécessaire ? Est-ce que ça peut être une pression ?”  Il commence par confirmer au jeune journaliste qui se trouvait là qu’il va recevoir le président russe et il finit sa phrase en ânonnant “si je le reçois…” Il est tellement sincère, au fond, notre président. On le voit hésiter, trembler en direct. Comme une Léonarda diplomatique. Cet homme n’aime pas ce pour quoi il a été élu: décider et choisir. Il laisse la décision à Vladimir Poutine. Et Vladimir Poutine de lui répondre moqueur :  “je viendrai quand François Hollande sera prêt”. Comme si Hollande n’était pas vraiment dans son assiette. Pas vraiment maître de lui même. Après tout, la France doit parler à Moscou pour exister sur la scène internationale. Mais la Russie n’a pas besoin de Paris pour compter dans le monde.

Bluff présidentiel

Désireux de se ressaisir et de dissiper ce perpétuel sentiment de flou, François Hollande a tenté devant l’Assemblée du Conseil de l’Europe de prouver qu’il avait un cap, qu’il avait la carrure de Vladimir Poutine. Il a ainsi prétendu avoir reporté l’entrevue suite à ”un désaccord majeur entre la Russie et la France ». Mais c’est trop tard, le mal est fait. La France s’est humiliée.

Drapé dans une logique humanitaire à sens unique, Jean-Marc Ayrault semble, de son côté, avoir enfilé les bottes de Laurent Fabius. Après le départ de ce dernier au Conseil Constitutionnel, la diplomatie française semblait pouvoir prendre une tournure un poil plus réaliste. En particulier dans ces deux grandes crises ukrainienne et syrienne mais depuis c’est la rechute. Le retour des grandes déclarations, des coups de menton et des doigts levés; cette parodie d’Aristide Briand à la SDN.

La Russie a du mettre son véto à la résolution française de cessez le feu à Alep. Une gifle que le quai d’Orsay n’a pas digérée. Car Poutine est déterminé à terminer le siège des quartiers Est et à reprendre le contrôle de la Syrie septentrionale. Il s’agit pour Moscou, Téhéran et Damas d’infliger une cuisante défaite aux rebelles djihadistes alliés à la branche syrienne d’Al-Qaïda (leur « divorce blanc » n’a trompé personne pour reprendre l’expression de Fabrice Balanche).

Obama a besoin de Poutine

Moscou entend accélérer les choses avant les élections américaines. Les deux candidats promettent de replacer les Etats-Unis au rang de leader du monde libre mais ils ne prêteront serment que fin janvier. En attendant, Barack Obama n’a pas caché son souhait de reprendre Mossoul avant son départ de la Maison-Blanche. Sa priorité est la chute de Daech et il sait qu’il doit compter malgré tout sur Moscou pour atteindre son but. La course contre-la-montre est engagée. Tout doit être terminé pour l’hiver.

A l’initiative de Moscou et Damas, plusieurs cessez-le-feu ont déjà été négociés ou proposés à Alep, sous l’égide de l’ONU, afin que la population alépine puisse sortir de ce piège. Malheureusement, les groupes djihadistes ont interdit à la population d’en profiter. La population civile est le bouclier humain et la caution morale des djihadistes et de leur famille. Les hôpitaux abritent des QG, ils permettent aux grands chefs de la rébellion de se protéger mais aussi d’exposer les blessés aux bombardements de l’aviation russe (comme à Kunduz avec l’aviation américaine). Le but est de jouer sur la corde humanitaire occidentale et de provoquer une intervention sinon une pression occidentale sur Poutine.

La France se fait le porte-voix  de ses clients du Golfe. Lesquels relayent les cris des groupes djihadistes enfermés dans Alep. La France surjoue son rôle de patrie des droits de l’homme et de soldat de la paix. Mais en réalité, elle n’est plus maîtresse de son propre jeu. La France est entrée dans une confrontation avec la Russie qui la marginalise un peu plus. Plutôt que de réactiver une guerre froide inutile avec Moscou, et de multiplier les rebuffades, Paris ferait mieux d’assumer le dialogue. Pour combattre notre seul et vrai ennemi commun, les djihadistes.

Voir encore:

Interview intégrale du Président Poutine par TF1

Le 11 octobre, alors que le président Hollande, avec toute l’élégance de son rang et de son niveau, claironne alentour qu’il ne souhaite pas recevoir le Président Poutine, ce dernier accorde une interview à un journaliste de TF1. Cette interview bizarrement nous ne pouvons la trouver sur le site de la chaine française, ni à fortiori vérifier et préciser le nom de l’intervieweur. Il est vrai que ce n’est pas le moment pour les occidentaux de donner place aux points de vue russes…

Cette interview a évidemment eu une résonance minimale dans la presse française et plus largement européenne, alors que Poutine y précise des aspects très importants des évènements en cours. Et nous devons le souligner, avec un tact, une précision, et un vocabulaire extrêmement mesuré. Ceci alors que les hauts représentants du monde occidental ne renoncent ni aux excès de langage, ni à la grossièreté. Sans parler du non-respect des normes et convenances diplomatiques les plus élémentaires.

RI choisit ici de vous traduite le texte intégral de cette interview, sur base du texte officiel mis en ligne sur le site de la présidence russe http://www.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53081

Mufasa

***

Interview du Président Poutine par la chaîne de télévision française TF1 le 11 octobre 2016.

Président Poutine: Mais comment êtes-vous arrivé ici [i]? Nous nous trouvons dans une toute petite ville de province. Maintenant partout où nous venons en Russie, dans n’importe quel village nous trouvons des Français. Mais c’est très bien comme ça, cela nous fait bien plaisir.

Question TF1 : Monsieur le Président pouvez-vous nous expliquer pourquoi vous n’avez pas fait ce voyage à Paris ?

Président Poutine : C’est très simple,  il était supposé que nous allions solennellement inaugurer un centre récemment construit à Paris, un centre culturel et une cathédrale russes, mais nous avons pu observer que ce n’était pas le moment opportun pour un évènement de ce type.  D’autant moins si l’on considère notre incompréhension mutuelle sur ce qui se passe en Syrie et plus précisément autour de la ville d’Alep. Mais sinon nous sommes évidemment toujours ouverts  à ce que nous puissions nous consulter et dialoguer sur ce thème.

Question TF1: mais c’est exactement ce que voulaient les Français, utiliser le contexte de votre visite pour discuter de la situation en Syrie. Tandis que vous c’est pour cette même raison que vous renoncez à la visite.

Président Poutine: Mais sachez que nous n’avons pas réellement refusé, on nous a fait savoir que  la cause principale,  à savoir l’ouverture de ce centre culturel et religieux, n’est pas appropriée. Mais si la raison principale de mon déplacement à Paris n’est pas appropriée, alors nous trouverons certainement une autre possibilité qui soit plus appropriée pour discuter de la situation en Syrie.  Nous n’avons aucune limite à ce sujet nous sommes ouverts au dialogue.

Simplement on nous a fait savoir que ce n’est pas le moment le plus confortable pour de telles manifestations et puis c’est tout. Quant à nous, nous n’avons rien refusé.

Question TF1: De nombreux représentants officiels occidentaux parmi lesquels John Kerry, Jean-Marc Ayrault, même François Hollande, utilisent une rhétorique dure envers la Russie à propos des bombardements à Alep, sous lesquels tombent des cibles civiles, telles que des hôpitaux. Certains même recourent à l’expression « crimes de guerre ». Que pouvez-vous dire à ce sujet?

Président Poutine: Je dirais que c’est une rhétorique politique qui n’a pas grand sens ni ne tient compte de la réalité de ce qui se passe dans ce pays. Et je dirai maintenant pourquoi. Je suis intimement convaincu que dans la situation qui s’est instaurée dans la région dans son ensemble et en Syrie en particulier la responsabilité incombe à tous nos partenaires occidentaux, et en premier lieu évidemment les États-Unis d’Amérique et leurs alliés, dont évidemment les pays leaders de l’Europe.

Rappelons-nous avec quel engouement tous là-bas soutenaient la révolution arabe. Où est-il ce bel optimisme ? Par quoi cela s’est-il terminé ? Souvenons-nous ce que représentaient la Libye et l’Irak avant la destruction de leurs états, de leurs gouvernements. Qui ont été anéantis  par les diverses forces armées de nos partenaires occidentaux.

Ce n’étaient pas bien sûr des modèles de démocratie tels que cela se comprend aujourd’hui. Certainement on pouvait influer sur les structures de ces sociétés, les structures de ces gouvernements et de ces pouvoirs. Par les forces autochtones. Mais dans tous les cas il n’y avait précisément pas de signes avant-coureurs de terrorisme dans ces pays. De ces territoires ne partaient pas de menaces, ni pour Paris, ni pour la Côte-d’Azur en France, ni pour la Belgique, la Russie ou pour les États-Unis d’Amérique.

Actuellement ce sont des sources de terrorisme. Et notre but consiste exactement à éviter qu’en Syrie ne se développe une telle situation.

J’anticipe votre question à propos des réfugiés. Je suppose que vous voulez en parler ? Même si ce n’est pas le cas je vais aborder cette question. Souvenons-nous que les problèmes des réfugiés sont apparus bien avant que la Russie n’entreprenne ses actions pour la normalisation et la stabilisation de la situation en Syrie. L’exode massif de personnes de ces énormes territoires du Moyen-Orient, de l’Afrique et de l’Afghanistan, a commencé bien avant notre intervention en Syrie. Aucun reproche à la Russie à propos de l’augmentation du problème des réfugiés n’est acceptable. Notre but justement est de restaurer les conditions pour le retour des réfugiés sur leur lieu d’existence antérieure.

Maintenant à propos de la situation humanitaire autour d’Alep. Pensez-vous que nous avons oublié comment les forces aériennes des États-Unis ont bombardé un hôpital en Afghanistan, au cours duquel ont péri des collaborateurs de l’organisation Médecins sans frontières? Ou bombardé des fêtes de mariages où jusqu’à 100 personnes ont péri en Afghanistan, puis maintenant au Yémen ce qui vient de se passer, lorsque, avec une seule bombe, 170 personnes ont été tuées, 500 blessées lors d’une cérémonie funéraire.

Quoi qu’il en soit, partout où se déroulent des conflits armés, bien malheureusement meurent et souffrent des gens qui n’y sont pour rien. Mais nous ne pouvons permettre aux terroristes de se protéger derrière des civils qu’ils utilisent comme des boucliers humains, et nous ne pouvons permettre qu’ils fassent chanter le monde entier lorsqu’ils ont pris quelqu’un en otage, le tuent et le décapitent. Si nous voulons mener cette guerre à son terme avec les terroristes, il faut alors se battre contre eux, mais ne pas aller vers eux en s’inclinant, et se retirer à reculons.

Question TF1 : Monsieur le Président le fait est que les Français ne comprennent pas pourquoi vous faites subir des bombardements à ceux que vous appelez des terroristes. Nous avons été attaqués par l’EI,  qui ne se trouve pas dans Alep. C’est cela que les Français ne comprennent pas.

Président Poutine: Je vais vous expliquer. À Alep la situation est contrôlée par une autre organisation terroriste qui s’appelle Jabhat al Nusra. Elle a toujours été considérée comme une aile d’Al-Qaïda et figure dans la liste des organisations terroristes établie par l’ONU.

Ce qui choque et nous étonne c’est le fait que nos partenaires, et plus précisément américains, d’une façon ou d’une autre tentent sans cesse de sortir le dialogue sur le terrorisme de ses limites propres. Et je vais vous dire pourquoi. Il me semble que nos partenaires systématiquement et constamment reviennent sur les mêmes travers, ils veulent utiliser le potentiel militaire de ces organisations terroristes et radicales pour accomplir leurs buts politiques ; et dans ce cas pour combattre le président Assad et son gouvernement, ne comprenant pas que plus tard ils ne réussiront pas à mettre ces terroristes de côté, dans un coin, et les contraindre à vivre selon les lois et le droit civilisés, s’ils arrivaient à vaincre quelqu’un.

Nous avons à de multiples reprises convenu avec les Américains qu’ils procéderont à la séparation de l’organisation Jabhat al Nosra et de ses semblables des autres organisations que l’on appelle modérées de l’opposition, dont celles qui sont à Alep. Et les Américains ont convenu avec nous  que cela doit être fait. Je dirais même plus, nous avons convenu  de certains délais, mais mois après mois, rien n’a été fait.

Nous avons tout récemment convenu de ce que nous annoncerions le jour du cessez-le-feu  – le jour J comme disent les Américains-.  J’avais insisté pour que, auparavant, ils résolvent le problème de la séparation de Jabhat al Nosra et des autres organisations terroristes de ce que l’on appelle l’opposition modérée. Et que, alors seulement, soit annoncé le cesser le feu.

Mais les Américains insistèrent au contraire pour que l’on annonce d’abord un cessez-le-feu et seulement ensuite soit accomplie cette séparation entre terroristes et non terroristes. Finalement nous avons été à leur rencontre et nous avons accepté cela. Et c’est ainsi que le 12 septembre fut  annoncé le cessez-le-feu  et la cessation des activités militaires.  Mais le 16 septembre l’aviation américaine a bombardé les forces syriennes[ii] occasionnant la mort de 80 militaires syriens.

Au même moment, immédiatement après les bombardements, l’État islamique -et ici on parle bien de l’État islamique-, a entrepris une attaque terrestre sur la zone qui venait d’être bombardée. Nos collègues américains nous ont dit que ce bombardement était une erreur. Mais cette erreur a conduit à la mort de 80 personnes. C’est la première chose. Et la deuxième chose, c’est que c’est peut-être aussi par hasard que Daech est passé à l’offensive tout de suite après ces frappes.

Alors, simultanément, à un niveau inférieur, opérationnel, un des responsables militaires américains annonce très directement qu’ils avaient préparé pendant plusieurs jours cette attaque aérienne. Comment pouvaient-ils se tromper s’ils ont consacré plusieurs jours à la préparation?

Ainsi furent rompus nos accord sur un cesser le feu. Qui les a rompus ? Nous ? Non.

Question TF1: on parle du retour possible à la guerre froide mais il y a d’autre part un américain auquel vous plaisez, c’est Donald Trump. Comment le considérer vous? Est-ce qu’il vous plaît ?

Président Poutine: Écoutez, tout le monde nous plaît, l’Amérique est un grand pays, les Américains un grand peuple, intéressant, sympathique et talentueux. C’est une grande nation. Qui ils vont élire nous verrons, et c’est avec celui-ci ou celle-là que nous travaillerons. Bien sûr il est plus commode de travailler avec ceux qui souhaitent travailler avec nous.  Si Trump veut travailler avec la Russie alors on peut  seulement le saluer, mais il faut seulement que cette collaboration soit sincèrement équitable et mutuelle.

Mais, voyez-vous,  revenons au problème de Alep. Nous parlons de ce qu’il est indispensable de mener des convois humanitaires.  Tout le monde tente de nous convaincre de la nécessité de le faire.  Mais il ne faut pas nous convaincre, nous sommes du même avis, nous pensons qu’il est nécessaire d’organiser des convois humanitaires. Mais comment le faire ? Il n’y a qu’une seule route, par laquelle doit passer le convoi, d’un côté de la route il y a les combattants  rebelles et de l’autre il y a des régiments de l’armée arabe syrienne.  Nous avons connaissance des provocations et de tirs sur l’une de ces colonnes, et nous savons  par quel groupe terroriste ces tirs ont été provoqués.

Nous disons: Convenons d’évacuer les troupes rebelles d’un côté de la route, et l’armée régulière syrienne de l’autre côté de la route. Et nous libérons ainsi le passage et sécurisons cette route pour les convois humanitaires.

Tout le monde est d’accord avec nous et même plus, cela est consigné dans certains documents. Et puis, plus rien ne se passe, personne n’agit du côté de nos partenaires. Soit ils ne veulent pas retirer les troupes rebelles soit ils ne peuvent pas le faire, je ne le sais pas.

Ensuite arrive une proposition exotique. Je vais maintenant vous étonner, vous et vos téléspectateurs. Il nous a été proposé de placer nos forces armées -de l’armée russe- de part et d’autre de cette route. Et d’en assurer la sécurité. Nos militaires, qui sont des gens courageux et déterminés, sont venus me voir et m’ont dit : bien, on peut le faire nous sommes prêts.

J’ai dit non. Si nous le faisons, nous ferons avec les Américains, proposez-le leur. Nous avons proposé et les Américains ont immédiatement refusé : monter au front, ils ne veulent pas. Retirer les troupes rebelles, ils ne veulent pas non plus. Que fait-on dans cette situation ?

Nous devons simplement relever le niveau de confiance mutuelle et comprendre que ces menaces nous sont communes Et ce n’est qu’en travaillant ensemble que l’on peut écarter et éloigner ces menaces.

Avec les services français nous avons d’excellentes relations, nous travaillons concrètement en phase. Ainsi en est-il pour nos spécialistes de lutte antiterroriste avec les spécialistes tant français qu’européens. Mais ce n’est pas toujours le cas.

Par exemple nous communiquons à nos partenaires américains une information. Très souvent elle reste sans aucune réaction. Il y a quelques temps nous avions envoyé une information sur les frères Tsarnaev[iii]. Le premier document a été envoyé, résultat zéro. Puis un second document a été envoyé et nous recevons en réponse « ce n’est pas votre affaire car ils sont déjà citoyens américains nous nous débrouillerons seuls». Résultat il y a eu un acte terroriste aux États-Unis.

N’est-ce pas un exemple de ce qu’en négligeant la coopération dans cette sphère extrêmement sensible nous subissons des pertes ? Il faut s’occuper non de rhétorique politique mais chercher des issues à cette situation qui s’est installée entre autres en Syrie. Quelle issue et quelle solution ? Il n’y en a qu’une : il faut convaincre toutes les parties impliquées dans ce conflit de suivre la voie de solutions politiques.

Ainsi nous avons convenu avec le président Assad, et il l’a accepté, de privilégier la solution d’une nouvelle constitution, puis de mener des élections sur la base de cette constitution. Mais on ne parvient à convaincre absolument personne de cette solution. Si le peuple ne vote pas pour le président Assad, cela veut dire que démocratiquement il y aura un changement de pouvoir, non par le recours à la force depuis l’extérieur, mais par un strict contrôle international et un contrôle de l’ONU. Je ne comprends pas que l’on ne puisse pas s’accommoder avec cette forme démocratique de résolution d’un problème de pouvoir. Mais nous ne perdons pas notre optimisme, et espérons que d’une manière ou d’une autre nous réussirons à convaincre tous nos collègues et partenaires que c’est l’unique moyen de résoudre les problèmes.

Traduction MufasaRéseau International

Source : http://www.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53081

—————————————————-

[i] Le contexte de cette interview est un forum dans la petit ville de KOVROV, dans l’oblast de Vladimir.

[ii] Le bombardement des troupes syriennes par l’aviation US à Deir el Zor, suivit immédiatement d’un assaut de Daesh, EI et autres mercenaires. Assaut victorieux qui permet à ces derniers d’emporter une position très favorable dans l’est de la Syrie

[iii] Selon les autorités US ils seraient les auteurs de l’attentat de Boston.

Voir encore:

Double Standards for Aleppo and Gaza

Simon Plosker

Algemeiner

September 29, 2016

Make no mistake, the carnage taking place in Aleppo right now is a disgrace to the international community.

The Syrian government and Russian-backed forces are reportedly using chemical weapons, barrel bombs and increasingly powerful explosives to target innocent men, women and children. While rebel fighters have undoubtedly embedded themselves in the city in fortified positions, it appears that the civilian population is bearing the brunt of the conflict.

While there has been some condemnation from the UN, where are the protests on the streets of European capitals and where is the media frenzy about this disgrace?

Had Israel been involved, or had the IDF aimed one solitary munition at Aleppo, I think the response would be much different.

The international community’s condemnation of the Assad regime and Putin’s Russia is nothing compared to the vitriol leveled against Israel for its far more restrained (and completely justified) 2014 operation against Hamas in Gaza.

Unfortunately for the 250,000 residents of Aleppo, the city is not being attacked by the IDF. There are no leaflets being dropped warning civilians to evacuate areas in the line of fire. There is no “roof knocking” — where non-explosive devices are dropped on the roofs of targeted buildings to give civilians time to flee. And judging by the number of civilian casualties and the extent of the destruction in Syria, there is very little to no concern for the well-being of innocent civilians.

Aleppo is a testament to the double standards at play when it comes to the treatment of Israel’s military operations. There is, however, a caveat. The IDF should be held to higher standards than the militaries of both Syria and Russia.

And that is why The Sunday Times of London caught my eye recently. One story was headlined “Putin’s gigantic firebombs torch Aleppo.” Next to it was an article entitled, “RAF drone crew divert missile to save ‘civilian’ seconds from death.”

The dissonance between the two stories is striking. On one side, we have the alleged deployment by Russia of a weapon “capable of blasting a massive ball of flame across wide areas of Aleppo.” On the other, the release of a video by Britain’s Royal Air Force showing a drone missile aimed at ISIS terrorists being diverted at the last minute to avoid killing a civilian.

One side was indiscriminately firebombing, while the other was deliberately acting to prevent civilian casualties.

The RAF evidently felt that its tale was a positive story, which showed that its drone squadrons act both ethically and in accordance with international law. Why is this news? Israel released many videos from incidents where missiles targeting Hamas terrorists were diverted due to the presence of Palestinian civilians. So why then were Israel’s identical efforts not deemed newsworthy?

Granted, the Sunday Times is a British newspaper covering the British military, but the UK press has never been shy about devoting many column inches to Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli efforts to minimize civilian casualties go unreported or even ignored by the press, and Israel instead finds itself regularly judged in the court of public opinion, which is led by a lazy or hostile media.

So Israel is subjected not only to a different standard than the deplorable militaries of Syria and Russia, but even to a different standard than other Western militaries.

If and when the Syrian conflict comes to an end, will anyone be held to account for what certainly appear, at face value, to be genuine war crimes? Will there be a UN investigation and a Goldstone-style report? Will the International Criminal Court issue indictments? Given Russian involvement and the lack of American global power projection, it is unlikely that anyone will be held to account.

The next time open conflict between Israel and Hamas breaks out, will the parameters of judgment have changed as a result of the carnage in Aleppo and other parts of Syria? Or will Israel continue to be held to a standard of behavior unlike any other military in the world?

The likelihood is that nothing will have changed when it comes to how Israel is treated, and we will be left to conclude that, ultimately, the world will be outraged by Israel defending itself and its citizens irrespective of how ethically it behaves.

Simon Plosker is Managing Editor of HonestReporting

Voir de plus:

Syrie : des horreurs commises par des groupes armés

Amnesty international

[04/07/2016]

Les groupes armés implantés à Alep, Idlib et dans les environs, dans le nord de la Syrie, se livrent à des séries d’enlèvements, de tortures et d’exécutions sommaires.

Depuis cinq ans, nous avons recensé en détail les crimes de guerre et les crimes contre l’humanité commis à grande échelle par les forces gouvernementales syriennes. Nous avons également rendu compte des graves violations, y compris des crimes de guerre, imputables à l’EI et à d’autres groupes armés.

Si certains civils dans les zones contrôlées par les groupes armés de l’opposition ont pu au départ saluer le fait d’échapper au joug du régime syrien, l’espoir que ces groupes respecteraient les droits s’estompe au fur et à mesure qu’ils s’emparent des lois et commettent de graves violations.

Notre rapport Torture was my punishment: Abductions, torture and summary killings under armed group rule in Aleppo and Idleb, Syria, (anglais) offre un rare aperçu de ce qu’est la vie dans les zones contrôlées par les groupes armés d’opposition.

Les groupes armés en cause

Nous avons recensé les violences commises par cinq groupes armés qui contrôlent des régions des gouvernorats d’Alep et d’Idlib depuis 2012 :

  • Le mouvement Nour al Dine Zinki, du Front al Shamia et de la brigade 16, qui ont rejoint la coalition de groupes armés Conquête d’Alep (Fatah Halab) en 2015
  • Le Front al Nosra et le Mouvement islamique Ahrar al Sham à Idlib, qui ont rejoint la coalition de l’Armée de la conquête, en 2015

Le rapport apporte aussi un éclairage sur les institutions administratives et quasi-judiciaires mises en place par les groupes armés pour gouverner ces régions.

Une dure réalité pour les civils

Beaucoup des civils sous contrôle des groupes armés d’opposition à Alep, à Idlib et dans les environs vivent dans la peur constante d’être enlevés s’ils critiquent le comportement des groupes armés en place ou ne respectent pas les règles strictes imposées par certains.

À Alep et Idlib aujourd’hui, les groupes armés ont les coudées franches pour commettre des crimes de guerre et bafouer le droit international humanitiare en toute impunité.

Un système judiciaire « sur mesure »

Des groupes armés non étatiques comme le Front al Nosra, le Front al Shamia et le Mouvement islamique Ahrar al Sham définissent leurs propres « systèmes judiciaires » fondés sur la charia (loi islamique) dans les zones qu’ils contrôlent.
Ils mettent sur pied des bureaux chargés des poursuites, des forces de police et des centres de détention non officiels.
Ils nomment également des juges, dont certains ne connaissent pas la charia.

Mauvais traitements et crimes de guerre

Le Front al Nosra et le Mouvement islamique Ahrar al Sham notamment appliquent une interprétation stricte de la charia et imposent des sanctions équivalant à des actes de torture ou à des mauvais traitements pour des infractions présumées.
Certains groupes bénéficieraient du soutien des gouvernements du Qatar, de l’Arabie saoudite, de la Turquie et des États-Unis notamment, alors que des éléments prouvent qu’ils violent le droit international humanitaire (les lois de la guerre).

Militants des droits humains, minorités et mineurs pris pour cibles

Nous avons recensé 24 cas d’enlèvements par des groupes armés dans les gouvernorats d’Alep et d’Idlib entre 2012 et 2016.

Parmi les victimes figurent des militants pacifiques et même des mineurs, ainsi que des membres de minorités pris pour cibles uniquement en raison de leur religion. Des membres de la minorité kurde à Sheikh Maqsoud, quartier à majorité kurde de la ville d’Alep, figurent parmi les personnes enlevées, ainsi que des prêtres chrétiens ciblés en raison de leur religion.

Plusieurs journalistes et militants utilisant les réseaux sociaux qui rendent compte des violations des droits humains ont déclaré à nos chercheurs avoir été enlevés parce qu’ils avaient critiqué le comportement des groupes armés au pouvoir.
Beaucoup ont ensuite été libérés, sous la pression exercée par la population sur le groupe armé qui les avait enlevés.

Issa, 24 ans, militant utilisant les médias, a déclaré qu’il avait cessé de publier sur Facebook toute information susceptible de lui faire courir des risques après avoir reçu des menaces du Front al Nosra :

Ils contrôlent ce que nous pouvons et ne pouvons pas dire. Soit vous êtes d’accord avec leurs règles sociales et leurs politiques, soit vous disparaissez. Au cours des deux dernières années, j’ai été menacé à trois reprises par le Front al Nosra pour avoir critiqué sur Facebook leur manière de diriger.»

Bassel, avocat installé à Idlib, a été enlevé chez lui, à Marat al Numan, en novembre 2015, pour avoir critiqué le Front al Nosra :

J’étais content d’être enfin libéré du joug inique du gouvernement syrien, mais c’est bien pire aujourd’hui. J’ai critiqué publiquement le Front al Nosra sur Facebook… Le lendemain matin, ils sont venus chez moi me kidnapper.»

Ses ravisseurs l’ont retenu captif dans une maison abandonnée pendant 10 jours, puis l’ont finalement libéré après l’avoir contraint à renoncer à sa profession, le menaçant de ne jamais revoir sa famille s’il n’obtempérait pas.

Exécutions sommaires

Les informations recueillies établissent que des exécutions sommaires sont imputables au Front al Nosra, au Front al Shamia et à leurs « tribunaux » affiliés, ainsi qu’au Conseil judiciaire suprême, entité dans le gouvernorat d’Alep reconnue par plusieurs groupes armés comme l’unique autorité judiciaire de la région.

Parmi les victimes figurent des civils, dont un adolescent de 17 ans accusé d’être homosexuel et une femme accusée d’adultère, ainsi que des soldats capturés des forces gouvernementales syriennes, des membres des milices chabiha pro-gouvernementales, du groupe armé se désignant sous le nom d’État islamique (EI) et d’autres groupes rivaux.

Dans certains cas, les groupes armés ont procédé à des exécutions sommaires en place publique. Or, le droit international humanitaire interdit l’homicide délibéré de prisonniers, acte qui constitue un crime de guerre.

Lire aussi : Syrie: le gouvernement bombarde et affame ses citoyens« Saleh », capturé par le Front al Nosra en décembre 2014, a déclaré avoir vu cinq femmes qui, selon un gardien, étaient accusées d’adultère et ne seraient pardonnées « que dans la mort ». Par la suite, il a vu une vidéo montrant des combattants du Front al Nosra tuer l’une de ces femmes, en place publique, dans le cadre de ce qui s’apparentait à une exécution.

Faire pression sur les groupes armés


Les États-Unis, la France, le Qatar, la Turquie et l’Arabie saoudite
font partie des États membres du Groupe international de soutien à la Syrie, et participent à ce titre aux négociations sur la Syrie.
Ils doivent :
– faire pression sur les groupes armés pour qu’ils mettent fin aux violations et pour qu’ils respectent les lois de la guerre ;
– cesser tout transfert d’armes ou de soutien aux groupes qui se livrent à des crimes de guerre et à des violations flagrantes des droits fondamentaux.

La Russie et les États-Unis, ainsi que l’envoyé spécial des Nations unies en Syrie, doivent mettre l’accent, durant les pourparlers de paix de Genève, sur les détentions imputables aux forces gouvernementales et sur les enlèvements imputables aux groupes armés.

De son côté, le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU doit imposer des sanctions ciblées aux dirigeants des groupes armés qui se livrent à des crimes de guerre.

Voir enfin:

Heckuva Job

What Erdogan’s Pivot to Putin Means


Soft power: Vous avez dit nation de boutiquiers ? (How Britain became a soft power superpower)

12 septembre, 2016

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Great Britain’s medal tally at the Summer Olympics
Gold  Silver Bronze
gbmedals riomedals britmedals rio-qui-paye-le-mieux-ses-athletes-web-tete-0211186866405 unnamed3 unnamed4 unnamed5 unnamed7 unnamed6 unnamed9Aller fonder un vaste empire dans la vue seulement de créer un peuple d’acheteurs et de chalands semble, au premier coup d’oeil, un projet qui ne pourrait convenir qu’à une nation de boutiquiers. C’est cependant un projet qui accomoderait extrêmement mal une nation toute composée de gens de boutique mais qui convient parfaitement bien à une nation dont le gouvernement est sous l’influence des boutiquiers. Adam Smith
L’ Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers.
Napoléon
Les Anglais ont toujours quelque chose de nouveau que nous, on n’a pas ! Michaël D’Almeida
De l’Australie jusqu’à Trinidad et Tobago, le portrait de la reine Elisabeth II a orné les monnaies de 33 pays différents – plus que n’importe qui au monde. Le Canada fut le premier a utiliser l’image de la monarque britannique, en 1935, quand il a imprimé le portrait de la princesse, agée de 9 ans, sur son billet de 20 dollars. Au fil des années, 26 portraits d’Elisabeth II seront utilisés dans le Royaume-Uni et dans ses colonies, anciennes et actuelles et territoires – la plupart one été commandés dans le but express d’apparaitre sur des billets de banque. Toutefois, certains pays, comme la Rhodésie (aujourd’hui le Zimbabwe), Malte ou les Fidji, se sont servis de portraits déjà existants. La Reine est souvent montrée dans une attitude formelle, avec sa couronne et son spectre, bien que le Canada ou l’Australie préfère la représenter dans une simple robe et un collier de perles. Et alors que de nombreux pays mettent à jour leurs devises afin de refléter l’âge de la Reine, d’autres aiment la garder jeune. Lorsque le Belize a redessiné sa monnaie en 1980, il a choisi un portrait qui avait déjà 20 ans. Time
Un grand nombre de nations a conservé la reine comme chef d’Etat et elle est donc toujours représentée sur les billets de banques de nombreux pays. La Reine est présente sur les billets de 33 pays. Peter Symes
Of 31 sports, GB finished on the podium in 19 – a strike rate of just over 61%. That percentage is even better if you remove the six sports – basketball, football, handball, volleyball, water polo and wrestling – Britain were not represented in. Then it jumps to 76%. The United States won medals in 22 sports, including 16 swimming golds. In terms of golds, GB were way ahead of the pack, finishing with at least one in 15 sports, more than any other country, even the United States. GB dominated track cycling, winning six of 10 disciplines and collecting 11 medals in total, nine more than the Dutch and Germans in joint second. GB also topped the rowing table, with three golds – one more than Germany and New Zealand – and were third in gymnastics, behind the US and Russia. BBC
On July 14th an index of “soft power”—the ability to coax and persuade—ranked Britain as the mightiest country on Earth. If that was unexpected, there was another surprise in store at the foot of the 30-country index: China, four times as wealthy as Britain, 20 times as populous and 40 times as large, came dead last. (…) Britain scored highly in its “engagement” with the world, its citizens enjoying visa-free travel to 174 countries—the joint-highest of any nation—and its diplomats staffing the largest number of permanent missions to multilateral organisations, tied with France. Britain’s cultural power was also highly rated: though its tally of 29 UNESCO World Heritage sites is fairly ordinary, Britain produces more internationally chart-topping music albums than any other country, and the foreign following of its football is in a league of its own (even if its national teams are not). It did well in education, too—not because of its schools, which are fairly mediocre, but because its universities are second only to America’s, attracting vast numbers of foreign students.(…) Governance was the category that sank undemocratic China, whose last place was sealed by a section dedicated to digital soft-power—tricky to cultivate in a country that restricts access to the web. (…) But many of the assets that pushed Britain to the top of the soft-power table are in play. In the next couple of years the country faces a referendum on its membership of the EU; a slimmer role for the BBC, its prolific public broadcaster; and a continuing squeeze on immigration, which has already made its universities less attractive to foreign students. Much of Britain’s hard power was long ago given up. Its soft power endures—for now. The Economist
Although beaten to the top spot in this year’s index, the UK continues to boast significant advantages in its soft power resources. These include the significant role that continues to be played by both state-backed assets (i.e. BBC World Service, DfID, FCO and British Council) and private assets and global brands (e.g. Burberry and British Airways). Additionally, the British Council, institutions like the British Museum, and the UK’s higher education system are all pillars of British soft power. The UK’s rich civil society and charitable sector further contribute to British soft power. Major global organisations that contribute to development, disaster relief, and human rights reforms like Oxfam, Save the Children, and Amnesty International are key components in the UK’s overall ability to contribute to the global good – whether through the state, private citizens, or a network of diverse actors. The UK’s unique and enviable position at the heart of a number of important global networks and multi-lateral organisations continues to confer a significant soft power advantage. As a member of the G-7, G-20, UN Security Council, European Union, and the Commonwealth, Britain has a seat at virtually every international table of consequence. No other country rivals the UK’s diverse range of memberships in the world’s most influential organisations. In this context, a risk exists that the UK’s considerable soft power clout would be significantly diminished should it vote to leave the European Union. The soft power 30
The United States takes the top spot of the 2016 Soft Power 30, beating out last year’s first-place finisher, the United Kingdom. America topping the rankings this year is perhaps a strange juxtaposition to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, currently threatening to tear up long-held, bi-partisan principles of American foreign policy – like ending the US’s stated commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. On the other hand, President Obama’s final year as Commander-in-Chief has been a busy one for diplomatic initiatives. The President managed to complete his long-sought Iran Nuclear Deal, made progress on negotiating free trade agreements with partners across the Oceans Atlantic and Pacific, and re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba after decades of trying to isolate the Communist Caribbean Island. These major soft power plays have paid dividends for perceptions of the US abroad, as it finished higher in the international polling this year, compared to 2015. Perhaps not dragged down as much by attitudes to its foreign policy, the US’s major pillars of soft power have been free to shine, as measured in our Digital, Education, and Culture sub-indices. The US is home to the biggest digital platforms in the world, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, and the US State Department sets the global pace on digital diplomacy. Likewise, the US maintains its top ranking in the Culture and Education sub-indices this year. The US welcomed over 74 million international tourists last year, many of whom are attracted by America’s cultural outputs that are seemingly omnipresent around the globe. In terms of education, the US has more universities in the global top 200 than any other country in the world, which allows it to attract more international students than any other country – by some margin as well. (…) Home to many of the biggest tech brands in the world, the US is the global leader in digital technology and innovation. The Obama Administration and State Department developed the theory and practice of online-driven campaigning and ‘digital diplomacy’. The way the US has developed and leveraged digital diplomacy, gives the nation a significant soft power boost. (…) It’s not just foreign policy that can drag down the image of America. Regular news stories of police brutality, racial tension, gun violence, and a high homicide rate (compared to other developed countries) all remind the world that America has its faults on the home front too. Speaking of which, the forthcoming Presidential election will have leaders in a lot of world capitals nervous at prospect of a Trump presidency. The soft power 30
With nearly 84 million tourists arriving annually, France maintains the title of the world’s most visited country. Yet while the strength of its cultural assets – the Louvre, its cuisine, the Riviera – have helped it hold onto this title, the country remains vulnerable. In the last year, France made headlines for the horrific terror attacks that shook its capital. Since the beginning of his mandate, President François Hollande has struggled to revitalise the French economy. Unemployment has risen steadily, and businesses are weary of France’s seemingly over-regulated and overprotective market. Its “new-blood” Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, is labouring to shake things up. His newly announced political movement, En Marche! (Forward) hopes to break party lines and revive the Eurozone’s second largest economy. Only time can tell if the initiative will pay dividends. Until then, France can still count on its unequalled diplomatic prowess to safeguard its position near the top of the Soft Power 30. It remains a global diplomatic force, asserting its presence through one of the most extensive Embassy networks. (…) France’s soft power strengths lie in a unique blend of culture and diplomacy. It enjoys, for historic reasons, links to territories across the planet, making it the only nation with 12 time zones. Its network of cultural institutions, linguistic union “la Francophonie” and network of embassies allow it to engage like no other. Its top rank in the Engagement sub-index comes as no surprise. (…) France continues to struggle as a result of the global financial crisis and President Hollande’s failure to lift the nation’s economic competitiveness has delayed its full recovery. Germany’s economy, in comparison, makes France look in need of reform. The soft power 30
Le secret de la réussite made in Britain ? « C’est simple : l’argent », répond Steve Haake, le directeur du Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre à l’université de Sheffield Hallam. Depuis une vingtaine d’années, le Royaume-Uni a investi massivement dans le sport de haut niveau : 274 millions de livres (316 millions d’euros) rien que sur ces quatre dernières années pour les sports olympiques. C’est cinq fois plus qu’il y a vingt ans. Il faut remonter à l’humiliation des Jeux d’Atlanta en 1996 pour comprendre. Cette année-là, le pays termine 37e au tableau des médailles avec un seul titre olympique. Le premier ministre d’alors, John Major, décide d’intervenir. Ordre est donné d’investir dans le sport de haut niveau une large part de l’argent de la National Lottery, qui sert normalement à financer des actions caritatives ou culturelles. L’effet se fait sentir rapidement et le Royaume-Uni passe au dixième rang aux Jeux de Sydney en 2000. « Mais ça s’est vraiment accéléré en 2007, quand Londres a obtenu l’organisation des Jeux de 2012 », explique Steven Haake. Le financement a soudain triplé, avec une approche ultra-compétitive. Pas question de s’intéresser au développement du sport pour tous ou amateur. Chaque discipline financée reçoit un objectif chiffré de médailles olympiques. Les résultats sont immédiats : le Royaume-Uni finit quatrième à Pékin en 2008 (47 médailles) et troisième de « ses » Jeux, quatre ans plus tard, avec un record de 65 récompenses, dont 29 titres. Le système mis en place est ultra-élitiste. En cas d’échec d’une discipline, le financement est retiré. Ainsi, pour les Jeux de Londres, UK Sport, l’organisme qui supervise le haut niveau, finançait 27 sports différents. A une exception près, tous ceux qui n’ont pas eu de médaille ont vu leur enveloppe supprimée pour les quatre années suivantes. Le basket-ball, le handball, le volley-ball, l’haltérophilie masculine l’ont appris à leurs dépens… Seuls les résultats comptent. (…)« Le ratio de médailles par rapport au nombre de sports financés a augmenté, de 62 % à Londres à 80 % à Rio » Pour les Jeux de Rio, le Royaume-Uni a maintenu son soutien financier, contrairement à beaucoup de nations, qui ont relâché leurs efforts une fois les Jeux organisés chez elles. Mais l’aide a été encore plus ciblée : seules vingt disciplines ont reçu de l’argent, alors que l’enveloppe totale a augmenté de 3 %. « C’est un système impitoyable, reconnaît Girish Ramchandani, également de l’université Sheffield Hallam, spécialiste du financement dans le sport. Mais ça marche. Le ratio de médailles par rapport au nombre de sports financés a augmenté, de 62 % à Londres à 80 % à Rio. » (…) Cet argent qui coule à flots a permis aux athlètes de haut niveau de se concentrer uniquement sur leur sport. Les plus prometteurs touchent jusqu’à 28 000 livres (32 000 euros) par an, sans compter l’enveloppe que reçoit leur fédération pour payer les entraîneurs et les équipements. Qu’elle parait loin, l’époque où Daley Thompson, l’un des meilleurs décathloniens de tous les temps, devait rendre son survêtement aux couleurs britanniques après les Jeux de Los Angeles en 1984. Reste que l’argent n’explique pas tout. A Rio, nombre d’athlètes s’étonnent des succès britanniques et expriment des doutes quant à l’intégrité de certaines performances. Les prouesses de Mo Farah, qui a remporté la médaille d’or du 10 000 mètres, et espère décrocher celle du 5 000 mètres, dimanche 21 août, interrogent. Son entraîneur, Alberto Salazar, n’a-t-il pas été accusé lui-même de dopage par une enquête de la BBC, il y a un an ? La domination sans partage de l’équipe de cyclisme sur piste, avec douze médailles, dont six en or, fait aussi grincer des dents, alors que celle-ci avait été médiocre aux Championnats du monde organisés à Londres en mars. « Il faudrait demander la recette à nos voisins, car je n’arrive pas à comprendre. Ce sont des équipes qui ne font rien d’extraordinaire pendant quatre ans et, arrivées aux Jeux, elles surclassent tout le monde. C’est la première fois que je vis les Jeux en tant qu’entraîneur et je vois des choses… », s’interrogeait Laurent Gané, l’entraîneur de l’équipe de France, après le bronze de ses hommes dans une épreuve de vitesse dont ils étaient les rois il n’y a encore pas si longtemps. Off the record, on évoque un autre type de dopage, technologique, avec des hypothèses comme un engrenage dans les roues. Un bruit de moteur qui avait aussi parcouru les routes du Tour de France, dominé par Chris Froome (troisième de l’épreuve sur route à Rio) ces dernières années. Pour Steve Haake, de l’université de Sheffield Hallam, ces doutes sont compréhensibles dans le climat de scandales de dopage permanent. Mais il estime que l’explication est plus prosaïque : « Les équipes britanniques se concentrent sur les Jeux olympiques, qui sont la clé de leur financement. Alors, c’est normal qu’elles n’impressionnent pas aux Championnats du monde, qui ne sont pas leur priorité. » Et surtout, il estime que le système actuel, avec des financements garantis sur une, voire deux olympiades, permet de travailler dans la durée. « Ce qu’il se passe actuellement ne va pas s’arrêter à Rio. » Il y a de fortes chances que les concurrents des Britanniques jalousent encore leurs performances aux Jeux de Tokyo en 2020. Le Monde
Avec 66 médailles (dont 27 en or !), la Grande-Bretagne s’est hissée avec brio à la deuxième place du classement général des Jeux olympiques, dimanche 21 août. Elle a ainsi surclassé la Chine et la Russie, qui jouent habituellement des coudes avec les Etats-Unis. Cette performance des Britanniques n’est pas une parfaite surprise. Quatrième en 2008 à Pékin puis troisième en 2012 à domicile, la Grande-Bretagne compte désormais parmi les meilleures nations olympiques. Mais comment ses athlètes, arrivés dixièmes à Athènes en 2004, ont-ils réussi cette folle ascension ? La débâcle des Jeux d’Atlanta, en 1996, a créé un électrochoc. Cette année-là, la Team GB termine 36e, avec une seule médaille d’or. Le Premier ministre conservateur, John Major, décide de mettre un terme à cette humiliation sportive. Désormais, le sport de haut niveau britannique est financé par la Loterie nationale, qui lui reverse une partie de ses profits. Le programme s’est intensifié progressivement, pour atteindre 75% du budget total du sport britannique. Cette enveloppe s’élève ainsi à plus de 400 millions d’euros pour la période 2013-2017, afin de préparer les Jeux olympiques et paralympiques de Rio (…) En plus de la grosse cagnotte de la loterie, UK Sport, l’organisme qui gère la Team GB, a fait un choix « brutal mais efficace », explique encore le Guardian. Les fonds sont attribués en fonction des résultats. Les sports qui gagnent touchent plus que les autres, ce qui explique pourquoi l’aviron et le cyclisme, qui ont rapporté chacun quatre médailles d’or en 2012, ont depuis reçu respectivement 37 et 35 millions d’euros. L’haltérophilie, en revanche, a reçu un peu moins de 2 millions, selon le budget présenté par UK Sport. Les Britanniques appellent cela la « no compromise culture » (culture de l’intransigeance). « Les millions investis dans le sport olympique et paralympique ont un seul objectif : gagner des médailles », explique le Guardian. UK Sport investit dans les sports « en fonction de leur potentiel podium lors des deux prochains Jeux ». Ces sommes ont permis de professionnaliser des athlètes, qui peuvent donc se consacrer entièrement à leur discipline, mais aussi leurs entraîneurs. L’argent a également été investi dans la recherche et les équipements de pointe, pour le cyclisme notamment, dans lequel le matériel est particulièrement important. Le bureau des chercheurs de la Fédération britannique de cyclisme a même un nom : le « Secret Squirrel Club », chargé de mettre au point les guidons moulés, les peintures ultra-fines et les casques aérodynamiques qui peuvent offrir aux pistards quelques centièmes de seconde d’avance. Ces équipements peuvent faire la différence, ne serait-ce qu’en en mettant plein la vue aux adversaires. En envoyant une délégation très étoffée (…) c’est tout de même mathématique. Davantage de compétiteurs, c’est davantage de chances de médailles, surtout pour les pays riches. (…) Message reçu à Londres, qui a envoyé 366 athlètes à Rio. C’est moins que les 542 sportifs présentés en 2012, mais la Team GB jouait alors à domicile, bénéficiant de qualifications automatiques. Ils étaient 313 à Pékin en 2008, 271 à Athènes en 2004, 310 à Sydney en 2000, et 300 à Atlanta en 1996. A l’exception des Jeux de Londres, donc, la délégation de Grande-Bretagne-Irlande du Nord – sa dénomination officielle – présentée à Rio est la plus importante depuis les Jeux olympiques de Barcelone en 1992 (371 athlètes). En préparant en priorité les JO La stratégie britannique est bien différente de celle des Français. Francetv sport la résume ainsi : « Contrairement à la France qui entend jouer toutes les compétitions [championnats du monde, championnats d’Europe, JO…] à fond, les Britanniques sont prêts à en sacrifier certaines (…) La méthode agace et suscite la jalousie, de la part des Français notamment, qui ont dominé le classement en 1996 et 2000, et dont le bilan est, cette année, famélique (une seule médaille, en bronze). L’entraîneur Laurent Gané semble surpris de voir les Britanniques survoler les épreuves sur piste. « Ce sont des équipes qui ne font rien d’extraordinaire pendant quatre ans et, arrivées aux Jeux, elles surclassent tout le monde », s’étonne-t-il dans Le Monde. France infos

Vous avez dit nation de boutiquiers ?

Investissement massif issu de la loterie (400 millions), quasi-salarisation des athlètes (mais pas de primes individuelles),  mise exclusive et sans concession sur les seules disciplines gagnantes (35 millions d’euros pour le cyclisme,  1,5 million pour un tennis de table sans résultat), investissement dans la technologie de pointe et approche scientifique de la performance,  délégation très étoffée, priorité absolue aux JO (quitte à faire l’impasse sur les championnats du monde ou d’Europe) et concentration sur les sports les plus « payants »…

A l’heure où un pays à l’économie, la population et la superficie respectivement huit fois, cinq fois et 35 fois moindre fait quasiment jeu égal et avait même dépassé en influence ces deux dernières années la première puissance mondiale …

Et où avec l’auto-effacement  de ladite première puissance mondiale, le Moyen-Orient est à feu et à sang et une Russie et une Chine assoiffées de revanche menacent impunément les frontières de leurs voisins …

Comment ne pas voir l’ironie de la reprise et de la domination par l’ancienne puissance coloniale d’un concept (« sof power ») créé à l’origine par un Américain (Joseph Nye) en réponse à un historien britannique (Paul Kennedy) qui prédisait à la fin des années 80 l’inéluctabilité du déclin américain ?

Mais surtout le redoutable pragmatisme d’un pays qui il y a vingt ans ne finissait que 36e (pour une seule misérable médaille d’or) …

Et qui non content de laisser loin derrière (avec un avantage – excusez du peu – de pas moins de 18 médailles d’or !) une France au même poids démographique et économique …

Dépasse aujourd’hui en médailles la première population et la 2e puissance économique mondiales ?

Millions de la Loterie, choix drastiques et coups de chance : comment la Grande-Bretagne a raflé tant de médailles à RioLes Britanniques se sont hissés à la deuxième place du tableau des médailles, devant la Chine et la Russie. Mais comment ont-ils fait ?
Camille Caldini
France Tvinfos
21/08/2016Avec 66 médailles (dont 27 en or !), la Grande-Bretagne s’est hissée avec brio à la deuxième place du classement général des Jeux olympiques, dimanche 21 août. Elle a ainsi surclassé la Chine et la Russie, qui jouent habituellement des coudes avec les Etats-Unis. Cette performance des Britanniques n’est pas une parfaite surprise. Quatrième en 2008 à Pékin puis troisième en 2012 à domicile, la Grande-Bretagne compte désormais parmi les meilleures nations olympiques. Mais comment ses athlètes, arrivés dixièmes à Athènes en 2004, ont-ils réussi cette folle ascension ?En collectant des millions grâce à la Loterie
La débâcle des Jeux d’Atlanta, en 1996, a créé un électrochoc. Cette année-là, la Team GB termine 36e, avec une seule médaille d’or. Le Premier ministre conservateur, John Major, décide de mettre un terme à cette humiliation sportive. Désormais, le sport de haut niveau britannique est financé par la Loterie nationale, qui lui reverse une partie de ses profits.Le programme s’est intensifié progressivement, pour atteindre 75% du budget total du sport britannique. Cette enveloppe s’élève ainsi à plus de 400 millions d’euros pour la période 2013-2017, afin de préparer les Jeux olympiques et paralympiques de Rio, détaille le Guardian (en anglais). Les athlètes britanniques ont d’ailleurs été invités à dire tout le bien qu’ils pensaient de la Loterie nationale, « en insistant sur le lien entre l’achat d’un ticket et les chances de médailles », ajoute le quotidien.

En misant tout sur les gagnants

En plus de la grosse cagnotte de la loterie, UK Sport, l’organisme qui gère la Team GB, a fait un choix « brutal mais efficace », explique encore le Guardian. Les fonds sont attribués en fonction des résultats. Les sports qui gagnent touchent plus que les autres, ce qui explique pourquoi l’aviron et le cyclisme, qui ont rapporté chacun quatre médailles d’or en 2012, ont depuis reçu respectivement 37 et 35 millions d’euros. L’haltérophilie, en revanche, a reçu un peu moins de 2 millions, selon le budget présenté par UK Sport.

Les Britanniques appellent cela la « no compromise culture » (culture de l’intransigeance). « Les millions investis dans le sport olympique et paralympique ont un seul objectif : gagner des médailles », explique le Guardian. UK Sport investit dans les sports « en fonction de leur potentiel podium lors des deux prochains Jeux ».

En investissant dans la technologie de pointe

Ces sommes ont permis de professionnaliser des athlètes, qui peuvent donc se consacrer entièrement à leur discipline, mais aussi leurs entraîneurs. L’argent a également été investi dans la recherche et les équipements de pointe, pour le cyclisme notamment, dans lequel le matériel est particulièrement important. Le bureau des chercheurs de la Fédération britannique de cyclisme a même un nom : le « Secret Squirrel Club« , chargé de mettre au point les guidons moulés, les peintures ultra-fines et les casques aérodynamiques qui peuvent offrir aux pistards quelques centièmes de seconde d’avance.

Ces équipements peuvent faire la différence, ne serait-ce qu’en en mettant plein la vue aux adversaires. « Tout le monde regarde les vélos des autres », raconte en effet Laurent Gané, entraîneur de l’équipe de France de vitesse sur piste, au Monde. Et le relayeur Michaël D’Almeida le concède, dans le même quotidien : « Les Anglais ont toujours quelque chose de nouveau que nous, on n’a pas ! »

En envoyant une délégation très étoffée

La Chine le prouve à Rio, cela ne suffit pas. Mais c’est tout de même mathématique. Davantage de compétiteurs, c’est davantage de chances de médailles, surtout pour les pays riches. « Les pays les plus riches ont tendance à mieux réussir, non seulement parce qu’ils envoient davantage d’athlètes, mais aussi parce qu’ils sont mieux préparés », explique le journal canadien Toronto Star (article en anglais).

Message reçu à Londres, qui a envoyé 366 athlètes à Rio. C’est moins que les 542 sportifs présentés en 2012, mais la Team GB jouait alors à domicile, bénéficiant de qualifications automatiques. Ils étaient 313 à Pékin en 2008, 271 à Athènes en 2004, 310 à Sydney en 2000, et 300 à Atlanta en 1996. A l’exception des Jeux de Londres, donc, la délégation de Grande-Bretagne-Irlande du Nord – sa dénomination officielle – présentée à Rio est la plus importante depuis les Jeux olympiques de Barcelone en 1992 (371 athlètes).

En préparant en priorité les JO

La stratégie britannique est bien différente de celle des Français. Francetv sport la résume ainsi : « Contrairement à la France qui entend jouer toutes les compétitions [championnats du monde, championnats d’Europe, JO…] à fond, les Britanniques sont prêts à en sacrifier certaines (…) Et si le Royaume-Uni est aussi haut placé, c’est peut-être tout simplement grâce à cette stratégie du ‘tout pour les JO’. »  Cela semble payer. A Rio, le cyclisme a rapporté 12 médailles à la Team GB : 11 sur piste dont 6 en or, et une sur route. En 2008 et 2012, ils avaient déjà glané 8 médailles d’or.

La méthode agace et suscite la jalousie, de la part des Français notamment, qui ont dominé le classement en 1996 et 2000, et dont le bilan est, cette année, famélique (une seule médaille, en bronze). L’entraîneur Laurent Gané semble surpris de voir les Britanniques survoler les épreuves sur piste. « Ce sont des équipes qui ne font rien d’extraordinaire pendant quatre ans et, arrivées aux Jeux, elles surclassent tout le monde », s’étonne-t-il dans Le Monde. De là aux soupçons de dopage ou de tricherie technologique, il n’y a qu’un petit pas, que le coach français s’est retenu de faire, s’interrompant au milieu d’une phrase : « C’est la première fois que je vis les Jeux en tant qu’entraîneur et je vois des choses… »

En profitant des exclusions russes et des ratés chinois

Il faut bien l’admettre, il y a aussi une petite part de chance dans le succès de la Team GB, qui peut remercier la Russie et la Chine.

En 2012, la Russie talonnait la Grande-Bretagne, avec ses 81 médailles dont 23 en or. Pour Rio, le scandale du dopage organisé par l’Etat a contraint Moscou a réduire sa délégation : seulement 271 athlètes au lieu de 389 et aucun athlète paralympique. Conséquence directe : le compteur de médailles d’or russe s’est arrêté à 17. En athlétisme en particulier, cette absence russe a été une bénédiction pour la Team GB, qui avait terminé quatrième en 2012, derrière les Américains, les Russes et les Jamaïcains.

Un autre géant a trébuché à Rio, laissant à la Grande-Bretagne une chance de se hisser sur le podium final : la Chine. Le bilan mitigé de ses athlètes a presque tourné à l’affaire d’Etat à Pékin. La Chine a multiplié les contre-performances, au badminton, au plongeon et en gymnastique, des disciplines où elle a pourtant l’habitude de s’illustrer. L’équipe chinoise de gymnastique quitte Rio sans aucune médaille d’or, du jamais-vu depuis les JO de Los Angeles en 1984.

Voir aussi:

JO 2016 : comment les Britanniques ont acheté leurs médailles
Eric Albert

Le Monde

20.08.2016

La BBC est passée en mode surchauffe depuis une semaine. Sa « Team GB » réussit des Jeux olympiques impressionnants, engrange médaille après médaille, et les commentateurs de la chaîne publique se perdent en superlatifs et en compliments.
Avec 67 médailles, dont 27 en or, le Royaume-Uni a pris une surprenante deuxième place au tableau des nations, derrière les Etats-Unis (105 breloques) et loin devant la France – même population, même poids économique –, septième avec neuf médailles d’or.

Le secret de la réussite made in Britain ? « C’est simple : l’argent », répond Steve Haake, le directeur du Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre à l’université de Sheffield Hallam. Depuis une vingtaine d’années, le Royaume-Uni a investi massivement dans le sport de haut niveau : 274 millions de livres (316 millions d’euros) rien que sur ces quatre dernières années pour les sports olympiques. C’est cinq fois plus qu’il y a vingt ans.

Système ultra-élitiste
Il faut remonter à l’humiliation des Jeux d’Atlanta en 1996 pour comprendre. Cette année-là, le pays termine 37e au tableau des médailles avec un seul titre olympique. Le premier ministre d’alors, John Major, décide d’intervenir. Ordre est donné d’investir dans le sport de haut niveau une large part de l’argent de la National Lottery, qui sert normalement à financer des actions caritatives ou culturelles. L’effet se fait sentir rapidement et le Royaume-Uni passe au dixième rang aux Jeux de Sydney en 2000.

« Mais ça s’est vraiment accéléré en 2007, quand Londres a obtenu l’organisation des Jeux de 2012 », explique Steven Haake. Le financement a soudain triplé, avec une approche ultra-compétitive. Pas question de s’intéresser au développement du sport pour tous ou amateur. Chaque discipline financée reçoit un objectif chiffré de médailles olympiques. Les résultats sont immédiats : le Royaume-Uni finit quatrième à Pékin en 2008 (47 médailles) et troisième de « ses » Jeux, quatre ans plus tard, avec un record de 65 récompenses, dont 29 titres.

Le système mis en place est ultra-élitiste. En cas d’échec d’une discipline, le financement est retiré. Ainsi, pour les Jeux de Londres, UK Sport, l’organisme qui supervise le haut niveau, finançait 27 sports différents. A une exception près, tous ceux qui n’ont pas eu de médaille ont vu leur enveloppe supprimée pour les quatre années suivantes. Le basket-ball, le handball, le volley-ball, l’haltérophilie masculine l’ont appris à leurs dépens… Seuls les résultats comptent. Le mythique fair-play britannique appartient au passé.

« Le ratio de médailles par rapport au nombre de sports financés a augmenté, de 62 % à Londres à 80 % à Rio »
Pour les Jeux de Rio, le Royaume-Uni a maintenu son soutien financier, contrairement à beaucoup de nations, qui ont relâché leurs efforts une fois les Jeux organisés chez elles. Mais l’aide a été encore plus ciblée : seules vingt disciplines ont reçu de l’argent, alors que l’enveloppe totale a augmenté de 3 %. « C’est un système impitoyable, reconnaît Girish Ramchandani, également de l’université Sheffield Hallam, spécialiste du financement dans le sport. Mais ça marche. Le ratio de médailles par rapport au nombre de sports financés a augmenté, de 62 % à Londres à 80 % à Rio. »

L’équipe de plongeon britannique doit ainsi une fière chandelle à Tom Daley, médaillé de bronze à Londres. Grâce à ce succès sur le fil, la discipline a conservé son financement. Aujourd’hui, elle en récolte les fruits : à Rio, elle a déjà obtenu trois médailles, une de chaque couleur.

Cet argent qui coule à flots a permis aux athlètes de haut niveau de se concentrer uniquement sur leur sport. Les plus prometteurs touchent jusqu’à 28 000 livres (32 000 euros) par an, sans compter l’enveloppe que reçoit leur fédération pour payer les entraîneurs et les équipements. Qu’elle parait loin, l’époque où Daley Thompson, l’un des meilleurs décathloniens de tous les temps, devait rendre son survêtement aux couleurs britanniques après les Jeux de Los Angeles en 1984.

Scandales de dopage
Reste que l’argent n’explique pas tout. A Rio, nombre d’athlètes s’étonnent des succès britanniques et expriment des doutes quant à l’intégrité de certaines performances. Les prouesses de Mo Farah, qui a remporté la médaille d’or du 10 000 mètres, et espère décrocher celle du 5 000 mètres, dimanche 21 août, interrogent. Son entraîneur, Alberto Salazar, n’a-t-il pas été accusé lui-même de dopage par une enquête de la BBC, il y a un an ?

La domination sans partage de l’équipe de cyclisme sur piste, avec douze médailles, dont six en or, fait aussi grincer des dents, alors que celle-ci avait été médiocre aux Championnats du monde organisés à Londres en mars. « Il faudrait demander la recette à nos voisins, car je n’arrive pas à comprendre. Ce sont des équipes qui ne font rien d’extraordinaire pendant quatre ans et, arrivées aux Jeux, elles surclassent tout le monde. C’est la première fois que je vis les Jeux en tant qu’entraîneur et je vois des choses… », s’interrogeait Laurent Gané, l’entraîneur de l’équipe de France, après le bronze de ses hommes dans une épreuve de vitesse dont ils étaient les rois il n’y a encore pas si longtemps.

Off the record, on évoque un autre type de dopage, technologique, avec des hypothèses comme un engrenage dans les roues. Un bruit de moteur qui avait aussi parcouru les routes du Tour de France, dominé par Chris Froome (troisième de l’épreuve sur route à Rio) ces dernières années.

Pour Steve Haake, de l’université de Sheffield Hallam, ces doutes sont compréhensibles dans le climat de scandales de dopage permanent. Mais il estime que l’explication est plus prosaïque :

« Les équipes britanniques se concentrent sur les Jeux olympiques, qui sont la clé de leur financement. Alors, c’est normal qu’elles n’impressionnent pas aux Championnats du monde, qui ne sont pas leur priorité. »
Et surtout, il estime que le système actuel, avec des financements garantis sur une, voire deux olympiades, permet de travailler dans la durée. « Ce qu’il se passe actuellement ne va pas s’arrêter à Rio. » Il y a de fortes chances que les concurrents des Britanniques jalousent encore leurs performances aux Jeux de Tokyo en 2020.

Voir également:

Rio Olympics 2016: Team GB medal haul makes them a ‘superpower of sport’

Great Britain’s Olympic review

Great Britain is « one of the superpowers of Olympic sport » after its performance in Rio, according to UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl.

A total of 67 medals with 27 golds put Team GB second in the medal table – above China for the first time since it returned to the Games in 1984.

« It shows we are a force to be reckoned with in world sport, » Nicholl said.

Britain is the first country to improve on a home medal haul at the next Games, beating the 65 medals from London 2012.

They won gold medals across more sports than any other nation – 15 – and improved on their medal haul for the fifth consecutive Olympics.

The Queen offered her « warmest congratulations » for an « outstanding performance » in Rio, while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry said the team were an « inspiration to us all, young and old ».

The money behind the medals

UK Sport is the body responsible for distributing funds from national government to Olympic sports.

Team GB’s 67 medals in Brazil cost an average of just over £4m per medal in lottery and exchequer funding over the past four years – a reported cost of £1.09 per year for each Briton.

Nicholl added: « Half of the investment that we’re putting into Rio success also feeds into Tokyo [2020 Olympics]. We’re very confident that we’ve got a system here that’s working and that’s quite exceptional around the world. »

Chief executive of British Gymnastics Jane Allen told BBC Radio 5 live: « You wouldn’t want to be in some of the other countries at the moment, who are examining themselves.

« UK Sport has made those sports that receive the funding be accountable for their results. This is the end result in Rio – the country should expect a return for their investment, it is incredible. »

« It’s tough to imagine a stronger performance, » said Bill Sweeney, chief executive of the BOA.

« When you get into the [Olympic] village there’s been a real collective team spirit around Team GB – you just got a sense that this was a team that wanted to do something really special. »

Britain had been set a target by UK Sport to make Rio its most successful ‘away’ Olympics by beating the 47 medals from Beijing in 2008, but Nicholl said there had been an « aspirational » aim to surpass the achievements of London 2012.

Sweeney said he « wasn’t surprised » by the extent of the success, but that beating China « wasn’t on the radar » before the Games.

« China are a massive nation, aren’t they? Goodness knows how much money they spend on it, » he said.

« To be able to beat them is absolutely fantastic.

Sweeney said it would be difficult for Britain to replicate their position in the medal table at Tokyo 2020, at which he predicted hosts Japan, China, Russia and Australia would all improve.

How has China reacted?

China did top one table in Rio – that of fourth-place finishes, according to data from Gracenote Sports.

They had 25, with the US next on 20 and Britain third on 16.

Gracenote head of analysis Simon Gleave said China’s decline in medals from London 2012 « has been primarily due to the sports of badminton, artistic gymnastics and swimming ».

China Daily said: « In contrast with China’s previous obsession with gold medals, the general public is learning to enjoy the sports themselves rather than focusing on the medal count. Winning gold medals does not mean everything anymore in China. »

Swimmer Fu Yuanhui’s enthusiasm at winning a bronze medal « took Chinese viewers by surprise », said Global Times. « They are used to their athletes focusing in interviews on their desire to win glory for the country. »

Many users of the Chinese social media site Weibo posted messages using the hashtag #ThisTimeTheChinaTeamAreGolden, saying their athletes were still « the best » irrespective of their placing in their events.

Voir encore:

Rio Olympics 2016: How did Team GB make history?

Tom Fordyce

BBC

22 August 2016

It has been an Olympic fiesta like never before for Britain: their best medal haul in 108 years, second in the medal table, the only host nation to go on to win more medals at the next Olympics.

Never before has a Briton won a diving gold. Never before has a Briton won a gymnastics gold. There have been champions across 15 different sports, a spread no other country can get close to touching.

It enabled Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, the body responsible for distributing funds from national government to Olympic sports, to declare on the final day of competition in Rio that Britain was now a « sporting superpower ».

Only 20 years ago, GB were languishing 36th in the Atlanta Olympics medal table, their entire team securing only a single gold between them. This is the story of a remarkable transformation.

Biased judges or gracious defeat? What China thinks of GB going second
‘Superpower’ Team GB a ‘world force’

Money talks

As that nadir was being reached back in 1996, the most pivotal change of all had already taken place.

The advent of the National Lottery in 1994, and the decision of John Major’s struggling government to allocate significant streams of its revenue to elite Olympic sport, set in motion a funding spree unprecedented in British sport.

From just £5m per year before Atlanta, UK Sport’s spending leapt to £54m by Sydney 2000, where Britain won 28 medals to leap to 10th on the medal table. By the time of London 2012 – third in the medal table, 65 medals – that had climbed to £264m. Between 2013 and 2017, almost £350m in public funds will have been lavished on Olympic and Paralympic sports.

It has reinvigorated some sports and altered others beyond recognition.

Gymnastics, given nothing at all before Atlanta, received £5.9m for Sydney and £14.6m in the current cycle. In Rio, Max Whitlock won two gymnastics golds; his team-mates delivered another silver and three bronzes.

As a talented teenage swimmer, Adam Peaty relied on fundraising events laid on by family and friends to pay for his travel and training costs. That changed in 2012, when he was awarded a grant of £15,000 and his coach placed on an elite coaching programme. In Rio he became the first British male to win a swimming gold in 28 years.

There are ethical and economic debates raised by this maximum sum game. Team GB’s 67 medals won here in Brazil cost an average of £4,096,500 each in lottery and exchequer funding over the past four years.
Average cost of Games to each Briton
As determined by the Sport Industry Research Centre

At a time of austerity, that is profligate to some. To others, the average cost of this Olympic programme to each Briton – a reported £1.09 per year – represents extraordinary financial and emotional value. Joe Joyce’s super-heavyweight silver medal on Sunday was the 700th Olympic and Paralympic medal won by his nation since lottery funding came on tap.

« The funding is worth its weight in gold, » says Nicholl.

« It enables us to strategically plan for the next Games even before this one has started and makes sure we don’t lose any time. We can maintain the momentum of success for every athlete with medal potential through to the next Games. »

All in the detail

The idea of marginal gains has gone from novelty to cliche over the past three Olympic cycles, but three examples from Rio underline how essential to British success it remains.

In the build-up to these Olympics, a PhD student at the English Institute of Sport named Luke Gupta examined the sleep quality of more than 400 elite GB athletes, looking at the duration of their average sleep, issues around deprivation and then individual athletes’ perception of their sleep quality.

His findings resulted in an upgrading of the ‘sleep environment’ in the Team GB boxing training base in Sheffield – 37 single beds replaced by 33 double and four extra-long singles; sheets, duvets and pillows switched to breathable, quick drying fabrics; materials selected to create a hypo-allergenic barrier to allergens in each bedroom.

« On average, the boxers are sleeping for 24 minutes longer each night, » says former Olympic bronze medallist and now consultant coach Richie Woodhall.

« When you add it up over the course of a cycle it could be as much as 29 or 30 days’ extra sleep. That can be the difference between winning a medal or going out in the first round. »

In track cycling, GB physio Phil Burt and team doctor Richard Freeman realised saddle sores were keeping some female riders out of training.

Their response? To bring together a panel of experts – friction specialist, reconstructive surgeons, a consultant in vulval health – to advise on the waxing and shaving of pubic hair. In the six months before Rio not a single rider complained of saddle sores.

Then there is the lateral thinking of Danny Kerry, performance director to the Great Britain women’s hockey team that won gold in such spectacular fashion on Friday.

« Everyone puts a lot of time into the physiological effects of hockey, but what we’ve done in this Olympic cycle is put our players in an extremely fatigued state, and then ask them to think very hard at the same time, » Kerry told BBC Sport.

« We call that Thinking Thursday – forcing them to consistently make excellent decisions under that fatigue. We’ve done that every Thursday for a year. »

Britain won that gold on a penalty shootout, standing firm as their Dutch opponents, clear favourites for gold, missed every one of their four attempts.
Virtuous circles

Success has bred British success.

That hockey team featured Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh, in their fifth Olympic cycle, mentoring 21-year-old Lily Owsley, who scored the first goal in the final. A squad that won bronze in London were ready to go two better in Brazil.

« We’ve retained eight players who had medals around their necks already, » says Kerry. « We added another eight who have no fear.

« It gave us a great combination of those who know what it’s all about, and those who have no concept at all of what it’s all about, and have just gone out and played in ruthless fashion.

« We get carried away with some of the hard science around sport, but there’s so much value in how you use characters and how you bring those qualities and traits to the fore. You see that on the pitch. Leverage on the human beings as much as the science. »

In the velodrome, experience and expertise is being recycled with each successive Games.

Paul Manning was part of the team pursuit quartet that won bronze in Sydney, silver in Athens and gold in Beijing. As his riding career came towards the end, he was one of the first to graduate through the Elite Coaching Apprenticeship Programme, a two-year scheme that offered an accelerated route into high-performance coaching for athletes already in British Cycling’s system.

In Rio he coached the women’s pursuit team to their second gold in two Olympics, his young charge Laura Trott also winning omnium gold for the second Games in a row.

Then there is Heiko Salzwedel, head of the men’s endurance squad, back for his third spell with British Cycling having worked under the visionary Peter Keen from 2000 to 2002 and then Sir Dave Brailsford between 2008 and 2010.

Expertise developed, expertise retained. A culture where winning is expected, not just hoped for.

« We have got the talent in this country and we know that we can recruit and keep the very best coaches, sports scientists and sports medics, » says Nicholl.

« It is now a system that provides the very best support for that talent. »

Competitive advantages

Funding has not flowed to all British sports equally, because in some there is a greater chance of success than others.

On Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, Britain’s rowers dominated the regatta, winning three gold medals and two silvers.

With 43 athletes they also had the biggest team of any nation there. Forty-nine of the nations there qualified teams of fewer than 10 athletes. Thirty-two had a team of just one or two rowers.

Only nine other nations won gold. In comparison, 204 nations were represented in track and field competition at Rio’s Estadio Olimpico, and 47 nations won medals.

British efforts in the velodrome, where for the third Olympics on the bounce they ruled the boards, were fuelled by a budget over the four years from London of £30.2m, up even from the £26m they received in funding up to 2012.

In comparison, the US track cycling team – which won team pursuit silver behind Britain’s women, and saw Sarah Hammer once again push Trott hard for omnium gold, has only one full-time staff member, director Andy Sparks.

Then there is the decline of other nations who once battled with Britain for the upper reaches of the medal table, and frequently sat far higher.

In 2012, Russia finished fourth with 22 golds. They were third in 2008 and third again in 2004.

This summer, despite escaping a total ban on their athletes in the wake of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s McLaren Report, they finished with 19 golds for fourth, permitted to enter only one track and field athlete, Darya Klishina.

Australia, Britain’s traditional great rivals? Eighth in 2012, sixth in Beijing, fourth in Athens, 10th here in Brazil.

In Rio, 129 different British athletes have won an Olympic medal.

It is a remarkable depth and breadth of talent – a Games where 58-year-old Nick Skelton won a gold and 16-year-old gymnast Amy Tinkler grabbed a bronze, a fortnight where Jason Kenny won his sixth gold at the age of 28 and Mo Farah won his ninth successive global track title.

The abilities of those men and women has been backed up by similar aptitude in coaching and support.

In swimming there is Rebecca Adlington’s former mentor, Bill Furniss, who has taken a programme that won just one silver and two bronzes in London and, with a no-compromise strategy, taken them to their best haul at an Olympics since 1908.

In cycling, there has been the key hire of New Zealand sprint specialist Justin Grace, the coach behind Francois Pervis’ domination at the World Championships, a critical influence on Kenny, Callum Skinner, Becky James and Katy Marchant.

« We have got the talent in this country, and we know we can recruit and keep the very best coaches, sports scientists and sports medics, » says Nicholl.

« It is a system that provides the very best support for that talent. We do a lot in terms of people development. We are conscious when people are recruited to key positions as coaches they are not necessarily the finished article in their broader skills.

« We provide support so that coaches across sports can network and learn from each other. That improves their knowledge expertise and the support systems they’ve got. »

It is an intimidating thought for Britain’s competitors. After two decades of consistent improvement, Rio may not even represent the peak.

Voir encore:

‘Brutal but effective’: why Team GB has won so many Olympic medals

Sports that have propelled Britain up the medal table have received extra investment while others have had their funding cut altogether
Josh Halliday

15 August 2016

In the past 24 hours Team GB have rewritten their Olympic history, moving ahead of China into second place in the Rio 2016 medals table after winning a record-breaking five gold medals in a single day.
Team GB’s Olympic success: five factors behind their Rio medal rush

With Olympic champions in tennis, golf, gymnastics and cycling – and another assured in sailing – the team’s directors hailed national lottery funding and the legacy of London 2012 for the Rio goldrush. So how has funding in British sport changed in the run-up to Super Sunday?

UK Sport, which determines how public funds raised via the national lottery and tax are allocated to elite-level sport, has pledged almost £350m to Olympic and Paralympic sports between 2013 and 2017, up 11% on the run-up to London 2012.

Those sports that have fuelled the rise in Britain’s medal-table positions over the past eight years – athletics, boxing and cycling, for example – were rewarded with increased investment. “It’s a brutal regime, but it’s as crude as it is effective,” said Dr Borja Garcia, a senior lecturer in sports management and policy at Loughborough University.

Sports that failed to hit their 2012 medal target – including crowd-pleasers such as wrestling, table tennis and volleyball – either had their funding reduced or cut altogether. Has that affected their prospects in Rio? It may be too soon to tell, but so far swimming is the only sport that has won medals at this Olympics after having it funding cut post-2012.

The aim is quite simple: to ensure Great Britain becomes the first home nation to deliver more medals at the following away Games. As it stands after day nine on Sunday, Team GB has one more medal than at the equivalent stage in London – their most successful ever Games.

Swimming

Spearheaded by the gold medal-winning Adam Peaty, Team GB has already secured its biggest Olympic medal haul in the pool since 1984, but it was one of the elite sports to have its funding slashed from £25.1m to £20.8m after a disappointing London 2012, when its three medals missed the target of between five and seven.

With six medals so far in Rio – one gold and five silvers – it has already passed its target of five for this Olympic Games. Its national governing body, British Swimming, will hope to be rewarded for this success with an increase in funding before Tokyo 2020.

UK Sport funding for medal-winning Olympians is assured, but some of the clubs where they spend long hours training are struggling to survive. Peaty’s City of Derby swimming club was almost forced to close last year when two pools in the city shut down for nearly three months, its chairman, Peter Spink, said.

“If we hadn’t got the focus of the council back on to swimming, things would have got a lot worse for us,” he said. “Worst case, closure could have happened. I don’t think I felt we got that close fortunately but unless we did something drastic and worked our way through it then, if not closed, we would have been a very much diminished club.”

Steve Layton, the club’s secretary, credited the local authority for fixing a roof at one pool and reopening another that had previously been closed, but added that it was only a matter of time before one of the “not fit for purpose” facilities was permanently closed down.

The club is trying to raise sponsorship money through partnerships with local companies, he said, but has so far been unable to raise enough money to pay for coaches rather than rely on volunteers. The ultimate aim is to raise enough investment for an Olympic-standard 50m pool in Derby, so that the Adam Peatys of tomorrow are not confined to the city’s 25m pools.

“Swimming is not like football. It doesn’t draw the crowds and we are in times of austerity. We understand all that, but we are trying to get sponsorship to give us some support,” Layton said.

The grand rhetoric of an Olympic legacy after London 2012 did not add up to much for cities such as Derby, but Spink said he was hopeful now of more investment in swimming following Team GB’s success in Rio. “The legacy of the London Olympics was always a big thing. We saw that a little bit, but of late that has dwindled a bit. The issues we have in Derby demonstrate that there really wasn’t the appetite either in local or national government to fund sport in that way,” he said.

Cycling
Along with a knighthood for Bradley Wiggins, an increase in funding followed Team GB’s cycling success in London 2012. Their final tally of 12 medals exceeded the target of between six and 10, resulting in a boost to British Cycling’s coffers from £26m to £30.2m.

In Rio, Team GB has secured six medals – four gold and two silver – and smashed two world records, with both the women’s and men’s team pursuit taking gold. It is well on the way to reaching its final Rio target of between eight and 10 medals.

Gymnastics
Max Whitlock competes in the men’s pommel horse event final.

Max Whitlock’s heroics in the Olympics arena on Super Sunday ended a 116-year wait for a British gymnastics Olympic champion.

His double gold also boosted Team GB’s medal count in the sport to four, with Louis Smith winning silver in the pommel horse and Bryony Page becoming the first British woman to win an Olympic trampoline medal by claiming silver in Rio.

Having previously lost all of its elite-level funding, British gymnastics has experienced a steady increase in public investment over the past 20 years, from £5.9m at Sydney 2000 to £14.6m in the current cycle, after it benefited from a 36% funding increase after beating its medal target in London 2012.
Funding for individual athletes
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In addition to the funding given to each sport’s governing body, some elite stars – described by UK Sport as “podium-level athletes – also qualify for individual funding to help with living costs.

Medallists at the Olympic Games, senior world championships and Paralympics gold medallists can receive up to £28,000 a year in athlete performance awards funded by the national lottery.

Sportsmen and women who finish in the top eight in the Olympics can receive up to £21,500 a year. Future stars, those expected to win medals on the world or Olympic stage within four years, can get up to £15,000 a year.
Has it worked?

Most experts agree that UK Sports “no compromise” funding approach has underpinned Great Britain’s rise from 36th in the medal table in Atlanta in 1996 to third at London 2012.

“It’s a very rational, cold approach. Medals have gone up. British elite sport is certainly booming. The returns of medals per pound is there,” said Garcia.

Some critics, however, say UK Sport’s approach has gone too far and is damaging grassroots sport. They have argued that focusing disproportionately on sports such as cycling, sailing and rowing has meant those such as basketball risk withering because they were unable to demonstrate they would win a medal at either of the next two Olympics.
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“We can ask all the philosophical questions, which are valid. What about basketball, which has a lot of social potential in the inner cities? What about volleyball? What about fencing? Why focus on specific sports?” said Garcia.

“Participation is going down. Why do we invest all this money in all those medals? Just to get the medals? To get people active? To make Great Britain’s name known around the world? With a cold analysis of the objectives and the money invested, yes it has worked.

“I have some sympathy for UK Sport as an organisation. They were given the objectives and they delivered.”

In May, Sport England, which focuses on grassroots sport, unveiled a four-year strategy to target inactivity. More than a quarter of the population is officially defined as inactive because they do less than 30 minutes of activity a week, including walking.

The move is a lurch away from the earlier strategy, which was set before London 2012 and focused on getting more people to play more sport with only mixed results.

Severe cuts to local authority budgets are also squeezing resources at the grassroots level. Councils across England have been forced to make cuts since 2010, when grant funding for local authorities was cut by a fifth, more than twice the level of cuts to the rest of the UK public sector
Jazz Carlin celebrates after winning silver in the women’s 800m freestyle final.

Jazz Carlin celebrates winning silver in the women’s 800m freestyle final. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Many smaller, older swimming pools are being closed at a time when more people are being inspired to get in the water, thanks in part to Team GB medal winners Jazz Carlin, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor and Peaty.

The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) said this weekend that there had been a huge jump in the number of people searching online for their nearest leisure pool during the first few days of the Games.
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Alison Clowes, the ASA’s head of media, said 80,000 people had used its “poolfinder” app between 5 and 11 August – almost double the rate for the same period in July – and the ASA was getting dozens of phone inquiries too. “We’ve already seen a boost from our Olympic successes, which is great,” she said.

Meanwhile, the average level of swimming proficiency among schoolchildren requires improvement. ASA research shows that 52% of children leave school unable to swim 25 metres unaided.

Jennie Price, the chief executive of Sport England, said: “Watching our athletes achieving great things in Rio is truly inspirational, particularly for young people. Whether it encourages them to get more active, try something new or even strive for gold themselves one day, Team GB is making a massive contribution to sport back home.

“A relatively small number of sports feature regularly on prime-time TV, so for many the Olympic Games is the moment that catapults them onto the screens of the nation. We need to capitalise on that, for example with programmes like Backing the Best where Sport England supports young talented athletes at the beginning of their sporting careers.

“There will be new Max Whitlocks and Kath Graingers out there who Sport England will support through our funding of the talent system, but most won’t reach those heights. Our main aim is making sure all young people get a positive experience when they try a sport and whatever they choose to do, come away with the good basic skills and having had a great time.”

Soft power, hard power et smart power: le pouvoir selon Joseph Nye

Avec ce nouvel ouvrage, l’internationaliste américain poursuit sa réflexion sur la notion du pouvoir étatique au XXIe siècle. Après avoir défini le soft et le smart power, comment Joseph Nye voit-il le futur du pouvoir?

En Relations Internationales, rien n’exprime mieux le succès d’une théorie que sa reprise par la sphère politique. Au XXIe siècle, seuls deux exemples ont atteint cet état: le choc des civilisations de Samuel Huntington et le soft power de Joseph Nye. Deux théories américaines, reprises par des administrations américaines. Deux théories qui, de même, ont d’abord été commentées dans les cercles internationalistes, avant de s’ouvrir aux sphères politiques et médiatiques.

Le soft power comme réponse au déclinisme

Joseph Nye, sous-secrétaire d’Etat sous l’administration Carter, puis secrétaire adjoint à la Défense sous celle de Bill Clinton, avance la notion de soft power dès 1990 dans son ouvrage Bound to Lead. Depuis, il ne cesse de l’affiner, en particulier en 2004 avec Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. Initialement, le soft power, tel que pensé par Nye, est une réponse à l’historien britannique Paul Kennedy qui, en 1987, avance que le déclin américain est inéluctable[1]. Pour Nye, la thèse de Kennedy est erronée ne serait-ce que pour une raison conceptuelle: le pouvoir, en cette fin du XXe siècle, a muté. Et il ne peut être analysé de la même manière aujourd’hui qu’en 1500, date choisie par Robert Kennedy comme point de départ de sa réflexion. En forçant le trait, on pourrait dire que l’Etat qui aligne le plus de divisions blindées ou de têtes nucléaires n’est pas forcément le plus puissant. Aucun déclin donc pour le penseur américain, mais plus simplement un changement de paradigme.

Ce basculement de la notion de puissance est rendu possible grâce au concept même de soft power. Le soft, par définition, s’oppose au hard, la force coercitive, militaire le plus généralement, mais aussi économique, qui comprend la détention de ressources naturelles. Le soft, lui, ne se mesure ni en « carottes » ni en « bâtons », pour reprendre une image chère à l’auteur. Stricto sensu, le soft power est la capacité d’un Etat à obtenir ce qu’il souhaite de la part d’un autre Etat sans que celui-ci n’en soit même conscient « Co-opt people rather than coerce them »[2].

Time to get smart ?

Face aux (très nombreuses) critiques, en particulier sur l’efficacité concrète du soft power, mais aussi sur son évaluation, Joseph Nye va faire le choix d’introduire un nouveau concept: le smart power. La puissance étatique ne peut être que soft ou que hard. Théoriquement, un Etat au soft power développé sans capacité de se défendre militairement au besoin ne peut être considéré comme puissant. Tout au plus influent, et encore dans des limites évidentes. A l’inverse, un Etat au hard power important pourra réussir des opérations militaires, éviter certains conflits ou imposer ses vues sur la scène internationale pour un temps, mais aura du mal à capitaliser politiquement sur ces «victoires». L’idéal selon Nye ? Assez logiquement, un (savant) mélange de soft et de hard. Du pouvoir « intelligent »: le smart power.

Avec son dernier ouvrage, The Future of Power, Joseph Nye ne révolutionne pas sa réflexion sur le pouvoir. On pourrait même dire qu’il se contente de la récapituler et de se livrer à un (intéressant) exercice de prospective… Dans une première partie, il exprime longuement sa vision du pouvoir dans les relations internationales (chapitre 1) et s’attache ensuite à différencier pouvoir militaire (chapitre 2), économique (chapitre 3) et, bien sûr, soft power (chapitre 4). La seconde partie de l’ouvrage porte quant à elle sur le futur du pouvoir (chapitre 5), en particulier à l’aune du «cyber» (internet, cyber war et cyber attaques étatiques ou provenant de la société civile, etc.). Dans son 6e chapitre, Joseph Nye en revient, une fois encore, à la question, obsédante, du déclin américain. La littérature qu’il a déjà rédigée sur le sujet ne lui semblant sûrement pas suffisante, Joseph Nye reprend donc son bâton de pèlerin pour nous expliquer que non, décidément, les Etats-Unis sont loin d’être en déclin.

Vers la fin des hégémonies

Et il n’y va pas par quatre chemins: la fin de l’hégémonie américaine ne signifie en rien l’abrupte déclin de cette grande puissance qui s’affaisserait sous propre poids, voire même chuterait brutalement. La fin de l’hégémonie des Etats-Unis est tout simplement celle du principe hégémonique, même s’il reste mal défini. Il n’y aura plus de Rome, c’est un fait. Cette disparation de ce principe structurant des relations internationales est la conséquence de la revitalisation de la sphère internationale qui a fait émerger de nouveaux pôles de puissance concurrents des Etats-Unis. De puissants Etats commencent désormais à faire entendre leur voix sur la scène mondiale, à l’image du Brésil, du Nigeria ou encore de la Corée du sud, quand d’autres continuent leur marche forcée vers la puissance comme la Chine, le Japon et l’Inde. Malgré cette multipolarité, le statut prééminent des Etats-Unis n’est pas en danger. Pour Joseph Nye, un déclassement sur l’échiquier n’est même pas une possibilité envisageable et les différentes théories du déclin américain nous apprendraient davantage sur la psychologie collective que sur des faits tangibles à venir. «Un brin de pessimisme est simplement très américain»[3] ose même ironiser l’auteur.

Même la Chine ne semble pas, selon lui, en mesure d’inquiéter réellement les Etats-Unis. L’Empire du milieu ne s’édifiera pas en puissance hégémonique, à l’instar des immenses empires des siècles passés. Selon lui, la raison principale en est la compétition asiatique interne, principalement avec le Japon. Ainsi, « une Asie unie n’est pas un challenger plausible pour détrôner les Etats-Unis »[4] affirme-t-ilLes intérêts chinois et japonais, s’ils se recoupent finalement entre les ennemis intimes, ne dépasseront pas les antagonismes historiques entre les deux pays et la Chine ne pourra projeter l’intégralité de sa puissance sur le Pacifique, laissant ainsi une marge de manœuvre aux Etats-Unis.

Cette réflexion ne prend cependant pas en compte la dimension involontaire d’une union, par exemple culturelle à travers les cycles d’influence mis en place par la culture mondialisée[5]. Enfin, la Chine devra composer avec d’autres puissances galopantes, telle l’Inde. Et tous ces facteurs ne permettront pas à la Chine, selon Joseph Nye, d’assurer une transition hégémonique à son profit. Elle défiera les Etats-Unis sur le Pacifique, mais ne pourra prétendre porter l’opposition sur la scène internationale.

De la stratégie de puissance au XXIe siècle

Si la fin des alternances hégémoniques, et tout simplement de l’hégémonie, devrait s’affirmer comme une constante nouvelle des relations internationales, le XXIe siècle ne modifiera pas complètement la donne en termes des ressources et formes de la puissance. La fin du XXe siècle a déjà montré la pluralité de ses formes, comme avec le développement considérable du soft power via la culture mondialisée, et les ressources, exceptées énergétiques, sont pour la plupart connues. Désormais, une grande puissance sera de plus en plus définie comme telle par la bonne utilisation, et non la simple possession, de ses ressources et vecteurs d’influence. En effet, «trop de puissance, en termes de ressources, peut être une malédiction plus qu’un bénéfice, si cela mène à une confiance excessive et des stratégies inappropriées de conversion de la puissance».[6]

De là naît la nécessité pour les Etats, et principalement les Etats-Unis, de définir une véritable stratégie de puissance, de smart power. En effet, un Etat ne doit pas faire le choix d’une puissance, mais celui de la puissance dans sa globalité, sous tous ses aspects et englobant l’intégralité de ses vecteurs. Ce choix de maîtriser sa puissance n’exclue pas le recours aux autres nations. L’heure est à la coopération, voire à la copétition, et non plus au raid solitaire sur la sphère internationale. Même les Etats-Unis ne pourront plus projeter pleinement leur puissance sans maîtriser les organisations internationales et régionales, ni même sans recourir aux alliances bilatérales ou multilatérales. Ils sont voués à montrer l’exemple en assurant l’articulation politique de la multipolarité. Pour ce faire, les Etats-Unis devront aller de l’avant en conservant une cohésion nationale, malgré les déboires de la guerre en Irak, et en améliorant le niveau de vie de leur population, notamment par la réduction de la mortalité infantile. Cohésion et niveau de vie sont respectivement vus par l’auteur comme les garants d’un hard et d’un soft power durables. A contrario, l’immigration, décriée par différents observateurs comme une faiblesse américaine, serait une chance pour l’auteur car elle est permettrait à la fois une mixité culturelle et la propagation de l’american dream auprès des populations démunies du monde entier.

En face, la Chine, malgré sa forte population, n’a pas la chance d’avoir de multiples cultures qui s’influencent les unes les autres pour soutenir son influence culturelle. Le soft power américain, lui, a une capacité de renouvellement inhérente à l’immigration de populations, tout en s’appuyant sur «[des] valeurs [qui] sont une part intrinsèque de la politique étrangère américaine»[7].

Ces valeurs serviront notamment à convaincre les « Musulmans mondialisés » («Mainstream Muslims») de se ranger du côté de la démocratie, plutôt que d’Etats islamistes. De même, malgré les crises économiques et les ralentissements, l’économie américaine, si elle ne sert pas de modèle, devra rester stable au niveau de sa production, de l’essor de l’esprit d’entreprise et surtout améliorer la redistribution des richesses sur le territoire. Ces enjeux amèneront «les Etats-Unis [à]redécouvrir comment être une puissance intelligente»(p.234).

Le futur du pouvoir selon Joseph Nye

L’ouvrage de Joseph Nye, s’il apporte des éléments nouveaux dans la définition contemporaine de la puissance, permet également d’entrevoir le point de vue d’un Américain -et pas n’importe lequel…- sur le futur des relations internationales. L’auteur a conscience que:

«Le XXIe siècle débute avec une distribution très inégale [et bien évidemment favorable aux Etats-Unis] des ressources de la puissance»[8]

Pour autant, il se montre critique envers la volonté permanente de contrôle du géant américain. Certes, les forces armées et l’économie restent une nécessité pour la projection du hard power, mais l’époque est à l’influence. Et cette influence, si elle est en partie culturelle, s’avère être aussi politique et multilatérale. Le soft power prend du temps dans sa mise-en-œuvre, notamment lorsqu’il touche aux valeurs politiques, telle la démocratie. Ce temps long est gage de réussite, pour Joseph Nye, à l’inverse des tentatives d’imposition par Georges Bush Junior, qui n’avait pas compris que  les nobles causes peuvent avoir de terribles conséquences.

Dans cette quête pour la démocratisation et le partage des valeurs américaines, la coopération interétatique jouera un rôle central. Pour lui, les Etats-Unis sont non seulement un acteur majeur, mais ont surtout une responsabilité directe dans le développement du monde. La puissance doit, en effet, permettre de lutter pour ses intérêts, tout en relevant les grands défis du XXIe siècle communs à tous, comme la gestion de l’islam politique et la prévention des catastrophes économiques, sanitaires et écologiques. Les Etats-Unis vont ainsi demeurer le coeur du système international et, Joseph Nye d’ajouter:

«penser la transition de puissance au XXIe siècle comme la conséquence d’un déclin des Etats-unis est inexact et trompeur […] L’Amérique n’est pas en absolu déclin, et est vouée à rester plus puissant que n’importe quel autre Etat dans les décennies à venir»[9]

Comment dès lors résumer le futur des relations internationales selon Joseph Nye? Les Etats-Unis ne déclineront pas, la Chine ne les dépassera pas, des Etats s’affirmeront sur la scène mondiale et le XXIe siècle apportera son lot d’enjeux sans pour autant mettre à mal le statut central des Etats-Unis dans la coopération internationale. Dès lors, à en croire l’auteur, le futur de la puissance ne serait-il pas déjà derrière nous?

1 — Naissance et déclin des grandes puissances, Payot, 1989

2 — Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, Public Affairs, 2004, p. 5

3 — « A strand of cultural pessimism is simply very American » (p.156)

4 — « an allied Asia is not a plausible candidate to be the challenger that displaces the United-States » (p.166)

5 — Fregonese, Pierre-William, La hallyu coréenne ou l’opportunité d’un soft power asiatique, La Nouvelle Revue Géopolitique, n.122, août 2013

6 — « too much power (in terms of resources) can be a curse, rather than a benefit, if it leads to overconfidence and inappropriate strategies for power conversion » (p.207)

7 —« values are an intrinsic part of American foreign policy » (p.218)

8 — « The twenty-firt century began with a very unequal distribution of power resources » (p.157)

9 — « describing power transition in the twenty-first century as an issue of American decline is inaccurate and misleading […] America is not in absolute decline, and it is likely to remain more powerful than any single state in the coming decades ». (p.203)

 Voir aussi:

Power

Softly does it

The awesome influence of Oxbridge, One Direction and the Premier League

The Economist

Jul 18th 2015

HOW many rankings of global power have put Britain at the top and China at the bottom? Not many, at least this century. But on July 14th an index of “soft power”—the ability to coax and persuade—ranked Britain as the mightiest country on Earth. If that was unexpected, there was another surprise in store at the foot of the 30-country index: China, four times as wealthy as Britain, 20 times as populous and 40 times as large, came dead last.

Diplomats in Beijing won’t lose too much sleep over the index, compiled by Portland, a London-based PR firm, together with Facebook, which provided data on governments’ online impact, and ComRes, which ran opinion polls on international attitudes to different countries. But the ranking gathered some useful data showing where Britain still has outsized global clout.

Britain scored highly in its “engagement” with the world, its citizens enjoying visa-free travel to 174 countries—the joint-highest of any nation—and its diplomats staffing the largest number of permanent missions to multilateral organisations, tied with France. Britain’s cultural power was also highly rated: though its tally of 29 UNESCO World Heritage sites is fairly ordinary, Britain produces more internationally chart-topping music albums than any other country, and the foreign following of its football is in a league of its own (even if its national teams are not). It did well in education, too—not because of its schools, which are fairly mediocre, but because its universities are second only to America’s, attracting vast numbers of foreign students.

Britain fared least well on enterprise, mainly because it spends a feeble 1.7% of GDP on research and development (South Korea, which came top, spends 4%). And the quality of its governance was deemed ordinary, partly because of a gender gap that is wider than that of most developed countries, as measured by the UN. Governance was the category that sank undemocratic China, whose last place was sealed by a section dedicated to digital soft-power—tricky to cultivate in a country that restricts access to the web. The political star of social media, according to the index, is Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, whose Facebook page generates twice as many comments, shares and thumbs-ups as that of Barack Obama.

The index will cheer up Britain’s government, which has lately been accused of withdrawing from the world. But many of the assets that pushed Britain to the top of the soft-power table are in play. In the next couple of years the country faces a referendum on its membership of the EU; a slimmer role for the BBC, its prolific public broadcaster; and a continuing squeeze on immigration, which has already made its universities less attractive to foreign students. Much of Britain’s hard power was long ago given up. Its soft power endures—for now.

Voir également:

The U.S. Jumps to the Top of the World’s ‘Soft Power’ Index

Fortune

June 14, 2016

In an interview on Fox News on Monday, Donald Trump suggested that President Barack Obama was either weak, dumb, or nefarious, saying, “Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind.”

But President Obama’s work over the last eight years to reposition the U.S. as more diplomatic and less belligerent seems to be paying some dividends, at least according to a survey released today by the London PR firm Portland in partnership with Facebook.

In the Soft Power 30 report, an annual ranking of countries on their ability to achieve objectives through attraction and persuasion instead of coercion, the U.S. leapfrogged the U.K. and Germany to claim the top spot, while Canada, under its popular and photogenic new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, jumped France to claim fourth place.

Based on a theory of global political power developed by Joseph Nye, a Harvard political science professor, the survey uses both polling and digital data to rank countries on more than 75 metrics gathered under the three pillars of soft power: political values, culture, and foreign policy.

According to survey author Jonathan McClory, the U.S.’s jump to the top spot had a lot to do with the fact that President Obama’s last year as Commander-in-Chief was “a busy one for diplomatic initiatives.”

“The President managed to complete his long-sought Iran Nuclear Deal, made progress on negotiating free trade agreements with partners across the Oceans Atlantic and Pacific, and re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba after decades of trying to isolate the Communist Caribbean Island. These major soft power plays have paid dividends for perceptions of the U.S. abroad,” the author wrote.

The report also praised U.S. contributions in the digital world, via Facebook FB 0.81% , Twitter TWTR 0.11% , and the like, and the fact that it has more universities in the global top 200 than any other country.

The report did admit that U.S.’s rise was a bit odd, though, at least under current circumstances.

“America topping the rankings this year is perhaps a strange juxtaposition to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, currently threatening to tear up long-held, bi-partisan principles of American foreign policy—like ending the U.S.’s stated commitment to nuclear non-proliferation,” the author wrote.

The U.K.’s slip from the top spot seemed to have more to do with U.S. strength than its own weakness. “The U.K. continues to boast significant advantages in its soft power resources,” the report notes. Indeed, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron cited last year’s No. 1 ranking in the report as proof of his country’s international influence, the Financial Times reports.

But, the survey adds, Brexit could have devastating effects: “No other country rivals the U.K.’s diverse range of memberships in the world’s most influential organisations. In this context, a risk exists that the U.K.’s considerable soft power clout would be significantly diminished should it vote to leave the European Union.”

The ranking includes several surprising countries, like Russia (27th place). “With its annual military parades and occasional encroachments into European air and naval space, soft power might not spring to mind when thinking about the Russian Federation,” McClory writes. But, the report notes, Russia’s investment in the global, multilingual TV channel RT, as well as its diplomatic work in Syria, seem to be paying dividends.

Argentina climbed onto the list in the 30th and final spot, spurred by optimism that new, reform-minded President Mauricio Macri would further integrate it into the global diplomatic community. It was the only Latin American country other than Brazil to make the list.

 

It’s All About the Elizabeths

TIME

From Australia to Trinidad and Tobago, Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait has graced the currencies of 33 different countries — more than that of any other individual. Canada was the first to use the British monarch’s image, in 1935, when it printed the 9-year-old Princess on its $20 notes. Over the years, 26 different portraits of Elizabeth have been used in the U.K. and its current and former colonies, dominions and territories — most of which were commissioned with the direct purpose of putting them on banknotes. However, some countries, such as Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Malta and Fiji, used already existing portraits. The Queen is frequently shown in formal crown-and-scepter attire, although Canada and Australia prefer to depict her in a plain dress and pearls. And while many countries update their currencies to reflect the Queen’s advancing age, others enjoy keeping her young. When Belize redesigned its currency in 1980, it selected a portrait that was already 20 years old.

Voir de même:

The Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II
… as they appear on World Banknotes
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of the House of Windsor has been Queen of the United Kingdom since 1952, when she succeeded her father, King George VI, to the throne. Queen Elizabeth II, as the head of the Commonwealth of Nations, is also Head of State to many countries in the Commonwealth. Although She remains Head of State to many countries, over the years many member nations of the Commonwealth have adopted constitutions whereby The Queen is no longer Head of State.

Queen Elizabeth’s portrait undoubtedly appeared more often on the banknotes of Great Britain’s colonies, prior to the colonies gaining independence and the use of her portrait is not as common as it once was. However, there are a number of nations who retain her as Head of State and she is still portrayed on the banknotes of numerous countries. The Queen has been depicted on the banknotes of thirty-three issuing authorities, as well as on an essay prepared for Zambia. The countries and issuing authorities that have used portraits of The Queen are (in alphabetical order):Australia
Bahamas
Belize
Bermuda
British Caribbean Territories
British Honduras
Canada
Cayman Islands
Ceylon
Cyprus
East African Currency Board
East Caribbean States
Falkland Islands
Fiji
Gibraltar
Great Britain (Bank of England)
Guernsey
Hong Kong
Isle of Man
Jamaica
Jersey
Malaya and North Borneo
Malta
Mauritius
New Zealand
Rhodesia and Nyasaland
Rhodesia
Saint Helena
Scotland (Royal Bank of Scotland)
Seychelles
Solomon Islands
Southern Rhodesia
Trinidad and Tobago
Zambia (essay only)

Arguably, there is some duplication in this list, depending on how it is viewed. Should British Honduras and Belize be counted as one issuing authority? If not, then perhaps Belize should be broken into ‘Government of Belize’, ‘Monetary Authority of Belize’ and ‘Central Bank of Belize’. Similar arguments can be made for the amalgamation of British Caribbean Territories and the East Caribbean States, or for splitting Southern Rhodesia into ‘Southern Rhodesia Currency Board’ and ‘Central Africa Currency Board’. Such decisions can be made by collectors for their own reference, but this list of countries should satisfy most collectors.

In total, there have been twenty-six portraits used on the various banknotes bearing the likeness of Queen Elizabeth. This study identifies the twenty-six individual portraits that have been used and also identifies the numerous varieties of the engravings, which are based on the portraits. The varieties of portraits on the banknotes are due, in the main, to different engravers, but there are some varieties due to different photographs from a photographic session being selected by different printers or issuing authorities.

The list that follows this commentary identifies the twenty-six portraits, the photographer or artist responsible for the portrait (where possible), and the date the portrait was executed. Portraits used on the banknotes come from one of several sources. Most are official photographs that are distributed regularly by Buckingham Palace for use in the media and in public places. Some of the portraits have been especially commissioned, usually by the issuing authority, although, in the case of the two paintings adapted for use on the notes (Portraits 9 and 19), it was not the issuing authority that commissioned the paintings. In the case of the portraits used by the Bank of England, a number of the portraits have been drawn by artists without specific reference to any single portrait.

It is interesting to observe that many portraits of Her Majesty have been used some years after they were originally executed. There is often a delay in presenting a portrait on a banknote that is to be issued to the public, because of the time required to produce a note from the design stage. Therefore, it is unusual to see a portrait appear on a banknote in less than two years after the original portrait was executed.

However, some portraits are introduced onto banknotes many years after they were taken. Portrait 9, which is based on the famous painting by Pietro Annigoni, was completed in 1955 but did not appear on a banknote until 1961. The last countries to introduce this portrait to their notes were the Seychelles and Fiji, who placed the portrait on their 1968 issues. Similarly, Portrait 17 was taken at the time of Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 and made its first appearance on the notes of New Zealand in 1981, but it was only introduced to the notes of the Cayman Islands in 1991. Perhaps the longest delay in using a portrait belongs to Belize. Portrait 13 was taken in 1960 and first used on the New Zealand banknotes in 1967, which is in itself a reasonable delay. Belize introduced the image to its banknotes in 1980, some twenty years after the portrait was taken.

Apart from the portrait of Queen Elizabeth as a young girl on the Canadian 20-dollar notes of 1935, the earliest portrait used on the banknotes is Portrait 6, which appears on the Canadian notes issued in 1954. The portrait used for the Canadian notes was taken in 1951 when Elizabeth was yet to accede to the throne. Undoubtedly there was a touch of nationalism is the choice of the portrait, as the photographer, Yousuf Karsh, was a Canadian. Karsh was born in Turkish Armenia but found himself working in Quebec at the age of sixteen for his uncle, who was a portrait photographer. Karsh became one of the great portrait photographers of the twentieth century and took numerous photographs of The Queen, although this is his only portrait of Her Majesty to appear on a banknote.

Portrait 6 is particularly famous because the original engraving of The Queen, which appeared on the 1954 Canadian issues, showed a ‘devil’s head’ in her hair. After causing some embarrassment to the Bank of Canada, the image was re-engraved and the notes reprinted. Notes with the modified portrait appeared from 1955.

While there have been some very famous photographers to have taken The Queen’s portrait, Dorothy Wilding is the photographer to have taken most portraits for use on world banknotes. Wilding had been a court photographer for King George VI and many of the images of the King that can be found on banknotes, coins and postage stamps throughout the Commonwealth were copied from her photographs. On the accession of Queen Elizabeth, Wilding was granted the same duty by the new monarch. Shortly after Elizabeth became Queen many photographs of the new monarch were taken by Wilding. These photographs were required for images that could be used on coins, stamps, banknotes and for official portraits that could be hung in offices and public places.

In her autobiography, In Pursuit of Perfection, Wilding says of the images she created:
‘Of all the stamps of Queen Elizabeth II reproduced from my photographs, I think the two most outstanding are the one-cent North Borneo, and our own little everyday 2½d. It is interesting to see that the Group of Fiji Islanders have chosen to use for some of their stamps the head taken from the full length portrait of Annigoni … and for the others, one of my standard portraits which have been commonly used throughout the Colonial stamp issue of the present reign.’
From her description of the postage stamps, it is possible that Wilding was unaware her images were also being used on banknotes. The image on the North Borneo stamp, preferred by Wilding, is very similar to Portrait 3 but taken at a slightly different angle. The image on the English 2½d stamp is similarly akin to Portrait 4.

Anthony Buckley was another prolific photographer of The Queen, and his work is well represented in the engravings of Her Majesty on the banknotes. An English photographer, most of Buckley’s portraits were taken in the 1960s and 1970s. His work has also been adapted for use on numerous postage stamps throughout the world.

One of the interesting aspects to the portraits of Queen Elizabeth, which appear on world banknotes, is the style of portrait chosen by each issuing authority. How does each issuing authority wish to portray The Queen? Some of the portraits are formal, showing The Queen as a regal person, and some show her in relatively informal dress. While most issuing authorities have chosen to show The Queen in formal attire, the Bank of Canada has always shown The Queen without any formal regalia and always without a tiara. It has been suggested that this may be due to a desire to appease the French elements of Canada.

Australia originally opted to show Her Majesty in formal attire. Portrait 5 shows a profile of The Queen wearing the State Diadem and Portrait 12 shows Her Majesty in the Regalia of the Order of the Garter. When preparations were being made to commission a portrait for the introduction of decimal currency into Australia, the Chairman of the Currency Note Design Group advised that, for the illustration of The Queen (Portrait 12), the ‘General effect [is] to be regal, rather than « domestic » …’ However, the most recent portrait used on Australian banknotes (Portrait 21) shows The Queen in informal attire, perhaps even displaying a touch of ‘domesticity’. This is possibly a reflection of changing attitudes to the monarchy in Australia.

While Canada and Australia may opt to use informal images of The Queen, most issuing authorities continue to depict Her Majesty regally. In many portraits she is depicted wearing the Regalia of the Order of the Garter. In other portraits she is often dressed formally, wearing Her Royal Family Orders. In most portraits she is wearing some of her famous jewellery. In the following descriptions of the portraits, various tiaras, diadems, necklaces and jewellery worn by Her Majesty are described, although not all items have been identified.

Of interest, in the following descriptions, are the differences observed in the same portraits engraved by different security printers. In several instances the same portrait has been use by different security printers and the rendition of the portrait is noticeably variant for the notes prepared by the different companies. Portrait 4 gives a good example of the different renditions of the Dorothy Wilding portrait by Bradbury Wilkinson, Thomas De La Rue, Waterlow and Sons, and Harrisons.

Another example can be seen in Portrait 16, which is used on banknotes issued by Canada and the Solomon Islands. In the engraving used by the Solomon Islands, prepared by Thomas De La Rue, The Queen looks severe, but on the Canadian notes prepared by the British American Bank Note Company and by the Canadian Bank Note Company there is a suggestion of a smile. The Canadian notes achieve the difference by including a subtle shaded area on Her Majesty’s left cheek, just to the right of her mouth.

While there have been thirty-three issuing authorities to have prepared banknotes bearing The Queen’s portrait (excluding the Zambian essay), Fiji has used the most number of portraits, being six in total. Three issuing authorities have used five portraits: the Bank of England, Bermuda, and Canada.

The following list of portraits is ordered by the date on which the banknotes, on which the portraits appear, were first released into circulation, rather than the date on which the portraits were executed. Where the portrait was used by more than one issuing authority, the list of issuing authorities is ordered by the date on which the authority first used the portrait. Next to each issuing authority are the reference numbers from the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money (SCWPM, Volume 2, Ninth Edition and Volume 3, Eighth Edition) that indicate those notes of the issuing authority which bear the portrait.

Voir de plus:

Queen Elizabeth II has, of course, been pictured on British currency for much of her reign, but she has also appeared on the money of various British Commonwealth states and Crown dependencies. With such a long reign and so many nations issuing money with her image on it over the years, there are enough banknote portraits to construct a sort of aging timeline for the Queen. The age given below for each portrait is her age when the picture was made, which is not always the same as the year the banknote was issued (more information can be found at this interesting site maintained by international banknote expert Peter Symes). Here is Elizabeth through the years, on money.

1. Canada, 20 dollars, age 8

Navonanumis

She was just a princess then. Her picture appeared on Canadian banknotes long before anything issued by the Bank of England.

2. Canada, 1 dollar, age 25

Lithograving

From a portrait taken by a Canadian photographer the year before she ascended the throne.

3.  Jamaica, 1 pound, age 26

Numismondo

Newly queen.

4. Mauritius, 5 rupees, age 29

CollectionPpyowb

From a painting commissioned in the 1950s by the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, for Fishmongers’ Hall in London.

5. Cayman Islands, 100 dollars, age 34

Downies

Here she’s wearing the Russian style Kokoshnik tiara.

6. Australia, 1 dollar, age 38

Leftover Currency

Not long after this portrait was taken, she would meet the Beatles.

7. St. Helena, 5 pounds, age 40

MeBankNotes

Perfecting the art of looking casual while wearing bling.

8. Isle of Man, 50 pounds, age 51

Leftover Currency

More bling for this portrait from her Silver Jubilee.

9. Jersey, 1 pound, age 52

Leftover Currency

Wisdom, experience, soulful eyes.

10. Australia 5 dollars, age 58

Currency Guide

The confidence to go casual.

11. New Zealand, 20 dollars, age 60

1kpmr.com

Not the most flattering one. The green tint doesn’t help.

12. Gibraltar, 50 pounds, age 66

Leftover Currency

Silver hair and shiny diamonds. From a photograph taken at Buckingham Palace.

13. Fiji, 5 dollars, age 73

BanknoteWorld

More silver hair, more shiny diamonds, and not so much smoothing of the wrinkles.

14. Jersey, 100 pounds, age 78

Downies

Face lined, eyes sparkly. She is looking right at you, and she looks good.

15. Canada, 20 dollars, age 85

GDC.net

Back to Canada, where it all began, and where they like their Queen a bit laid back.


Repentance: C’est la faute à Jésus, imbécile ! (Between Mother Teresa and John Wayne: The moral double bind which the West and the world currently face is simply a contemporary manifestation of the tension that for centuries has hounded cultures under biblical influence)

28 mai, 2016
Time1993cherchez-femmehiroshima-pourquoi-le-japon-prefere-quobama-ne-sexcuse-pas-web-tete-021973685430ObamaGreetingsYairGolanHeroPolicemanbatmanvsupermanOn vit la vie en regardant en avant mais on ne peut la comprendre qu’en regardant en arrière. Kierkegaard
Ainsi les derniers seront les premiers, et les premiers seront les derniers. (…) Vous savez que les chefs des nations les tyrannisent, et que les grands les asservissent. Il n’en sera pas de même au milieu de vous. Mais quiconque veut être grand parmi vous, qu’il soit votre serviteur; et quiconque veut être le premier parmi vous, qu’il soit votre esclave. Jésus (Matthieu 20:16-27)
Vous avez appris qu’il a été dit: Tu aimeras ton prochain, et tu haïras ton ennemi. Mais moi, je vous dis: Aimez vos ennemis, bénissez ceux qui vous maudissent, faites du bien à ceux qui vous haïssent, et priez pour ceux qui vous maltraitent et qui vous persécutent, afin que vous soyez fils de votre Père qui est dans les cieux; car il fait lever son soleil sur les méchants et sur les bons, et il fait pleuvoir sur les justes et sur les injustes. Jésus (Matthieu 5: 43-45)
Ne croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus (Matthieu 10 : 34-36)
Vous ne réfléchissez pas qu’il est dans votre intérêt qu’un seul homme meure pour le peuple, et que la nation entière ne périsse pas. Caïphe (Jean 11: 50)
Une nation ne se régénère que sur un monceau de cadavres. Saint-Just
L’arbre de la liberté doit être revivifié de temps en temps par le sang des patriotes et des tyrans. Jefferson
Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons! Rouget de Lisle
Ils disent: nous avons mis à mort le Messie, Jésus fils de Marie, l’apôtre de dieu. Non ils ne l’ont point tué, ils ne l’ont point crucifié, un autre individu qui lui ressemblait lui fut substitué, et ceux qui disputaient à son sujet ont été eux-mêmes dans le doute, ils n’ont que des opinions, ils ne l’ont pas vraiment tué. Mais Dieu l’a haussé à lui, Dieu est le puissant, Dieu est le sage. Le Coran (Sourate IV, verset 157-158)
Où est Dieu? cria-t-il, je vais vous le dire! Nous l’avons tué – vous et moi! Nous tous sommes ses meurtriers! Mais comment avons-nous fait cela? Comment avons-nous pu vider la mer? Qui nous a donné l’éponge pour effacer l’horizon tout entier? Dieu est mort! (…) Et c’est nous qui l’avons tué ! (…) Ce que le monde avait possédé jusqu’alors de plus sacré et de plus puissant a perdu son sang sous nos couteaux (…) Quelles solennités expiatoires, quels jeux sacrés nous faudra-t-il inventer? Nietzsche
« Dionysos contre le « crucifié » : la voici bien l’opposition. Ce n’est pas une différence quant au martyr – mais celui-ci a un sens différent. La vie même, son éternelle fécondité, son éternel retour, détermine le tourment, la destruction, la volonté d’anéantir pour Dionysos. Dans l’autre cas, la souffrance, le « crucifié » en tant qu’il est « innocent », sert d’argument contre cette vie, de formulation de sa condamnation. (…) L’individu a été si bien pris au sérieux, si bien posé comme un absolu par le christianisme, qu’on ne pouvait plus le sacrifier : mais l’espèce ne survit que grâce aux sacrifices humains… La véritable philanthropie exige le sacrifice pour le bien de l’espèce – elle est dure, elle oblige à se dominer soi-même, parce qu’elle a besoin du sacrifice humain. Et cette pseudo-humanité qui s’institue christianisme, veut précisément imposer que personne ne soit sacrifié. Nietzsche
Je condamne le christia­nisme, j’élève contre l’Église chrétienne la plus terrible de toutes les accusa­tions, que jamais accusateur ait prononcée. Elle est la plus grande corruption que l’on puisse imaginer, elle a eu la volonté de la dernière corruption possible. L’Église chrétienne n’épargna sur rien sa corruption, elle a fait de toute valeur une non-valeur, de chaque vérité un mensonge, de chaque intégrité une bassesse d’âme (…) L’ « égalité des âmes devant Dieu », cette fausseté, ce prétexte aux rancunes les plus basses, cet explosif de l’idée, qui finit par devenir Révo­lution, idée moderne, principe de dégénérescence de tout l’ordre social — c’est la dynamite chrétienne… (…) Le christianisme a pris parti pour tout ce qui est faible, bas, manqué (…) La pitié entrave en somme la loi de l’évolution qui est celle de la sélection. Elle comprend ce qui est mûr pour la disparition, elle se défend en faveur des déshérités et des condamnés de la vie. Par le nombre et la variété des choses manquées qu’elle retient dans la vie, elle donne à la vie elle-même un aspect sombre et douteux. On a eu le courage d’appeler la pitié une vertu (— dans toute morale noble elle passe pour une faiblesse —) ; on est allé plus loin, on a fait d’elle la vertu, le terrain et l’origine de toutes les vertus. Nietzsche
A l’origine, la guerre n’était qu’une lutte pour les pâturages. Aujourd’hui la guerre n’est qu’une lutte pour les richesses de la nature. En vertu d’une loi inhérente, ces richesses appartiennent à celui qui les conquiert. Les grandes migrations sont parties de l’Est. Avec nous commence le reflux, d’Ouest en Est. C’est en conformité avec les lois de la nature. Par le biais de la lutte, les élites sont constamment renouvelées. La loi de la sélection naturelle justifie cette lutte incessante en permettant la survie des plus aptes. Le christianisme est une rébellion contre la loi naturelle, une protestation contre la nature. Poussé à sa logique extrême, le christianisme signifierait la culture systématique de l’échec humain. Hitler
Jésus a tout fichu par terre. Le Désaxé (Les braves gens ne courent pas les rues, Flannery O’Connor)
Depuis que l’ordre religieux est ébranlé – comme le christianisme le fut sous la Réforme – les vices ne sont pas seuls à se trouver libérés. Certes les vices sont libérés et ils errent à l’aventure et ils font des ravages. Mais les vertus aussi sont libérées et elles errent, plus farouches encore, et elles font des ravages plus terribles encore. Le monde moderne est envahi des veilles vertus chrétiennes devenues folles. Les vertus sont devenues folles pour avoir été isolées les unes des autres, contraintes à errer chacune en sa solitude.  G.K. Chesterton
La Raison sera remplacée par la Révélation. À la place de la Loi rationnelle et des vérités objectives perceptibles par quiconque prendra les mesures nécessaires de discipline intellectuelle, et la même pour tous, la Connaissance dégénérera en une pagaille de visions subjectives (…) Des cosmogonies complètes seront créées à partir d’un quelconque ressentiment personnel refoulé, des épopées entières écrites dans des langues privées, les barbouillages d’écoliers placés plus haut que les plus grands chefs-d’œuvre. L’Idéalisme sera remplacé par Matérialisme. La vie après la mort sera un repas de fête éternelle où tous les invités auront 20 ans … La Justice sera remplacée par la Pitié comme vertu cardinale humaine, et toute crainte de représailles disparaîtra … La Nouvelle Aristocratie sera composée exclusivement d’ermites, clochards et invalides permanents. Le Diamant brut, la Prostituée Phtisique, le bandit qui est bon pour sa mère, la jeune fille épileptique qui a le chic avec les animaux seront les héros et héroïnes du Nouvel Age, quand le général, l’homme d’État, et le philosophe seront devenus la cible de chaque farce et satire. Hérode (Pour le temps présent, oratorio de Noël, W. H. Auden, 1944)
Just over 50 years ago, the poet W.H. Auden achieved what all writers envy: making a prophecy that would come true. It is embedded in a long work called For the Time Being, where Herod muses about the distasteful task of massacring the Innocents. He doesn’t want to, because he is at heart a liberal. But still, he predicts, if that Child is allowed to get away, « Reason will be replaced by Revelation. Instead of Rational Law, objective truths perceptible to any who will undergo the necessary intellectual discipline, Knowledge will degenerate into a riot of subjective visions . . . Whole cosmogonies will be created out of some forgotten personal resentment, complete epics written in private languages, the daubs of schoolchildren ranked above the greatest masterpieces. Idealism will be replaced by Materialism. Life after death will be an eternal dinner party where all the guests are 20 years old . . . Justice will be replaced by Pity as the cardinal human virtue, and all fear of retribution will vanish . . . The New Aristocracy will consist exclusively of hermits, bums and permanent invalids. The Rough Diamond, the Consumptive Whore, the bandit who is good to his mother, the epileptic girl who has a way with animals will be the heroes and heroines of the New Age, when the general, the statesman, and the philosopher have become the butt of every farce and satire. »What Herod saw was America in the late 1980s and early ’90s, right down to that dire phrase « New Age. » (…) Americans are obsessed with the recognition, praise and, when necessary, the manufacture of victims, whose one common feature is that they have been denied parity with that Blond Beast of the sentimental imagination, the heterosexual, middle-class white male. The range of victims available 10 years ago — blacks, Chicanos, Indians, women, homosexuals — has now expanded to include every permutation of the halt, the blind and the short, or, to put it correctly, the vertically challenged. (…) Since our newfound sensitivity decrees that only the victim shall be the hero, the white American male starts bawling for victim status too. (…) European man, once the hero of the conquest of the Americas, now becomes its demon; and the victims, who cannot be brought back to life, are sanctified. On either side of the divide between Euro and native, historians stand ready with tarbrush and gold leaf, and instead of the wicked old stereotypes, we have a whole outfit of equally misleading new ones. Our predecessors made a hero of Christopher Columbus. To Europeans and white Americans in 1892, he was Manifest Destiny in tights, whereas a current PC book like Kirkpatrick Sale’s The Conquest of Paradise makes him more like Hitler in a caravel, landing like a virus among the innocent people of the New World. Robert Hughes (24.06.2001)
La vérité biblique sur le penchant universel à la violence a été tenue à l’écart par un puissant processus de refoulement. (…) La vérité fut reportée sur les juifs, sur Adam et la génération de la fin du monde. (…) La représentation théologique de l’adoucissement de la colère de Dieu par l’acte d’expiation du Fils constituait un compromis entre les assertions du Nouveau Testament sur l’amour divin sans limites et celles sur les fantasmes présents en chacun. (…) Même si la vérité biblique a été de nouveau  obscurcie sur de nombreux points, (…) dénaturée en partie, elle n’a jamais été totalement falsifiée par les Églises. Elle a traversé l’histoire et agit comme un levain. Même l’Aufklärung critique contre le christianisme qui a pris ses armes et les prend toujours en grande partie dans le sombre arsenal de l’histoire de l’Eglise, n’a jamais pu se détacher entièrement de l’inspiration chrétienne véritable, et par des détours embrouillés et compliqués, elle a porté la critique originelle des prophètes dans les domaines sans cesse nouveaux de l’existence humaine. Les critiques d’un Kant, d’un Feuerbach, d’un Marx, d’un Nietzsche et d’un Freud – pour ne prendre que quelques uns parmi les plus importants – se situent dans une dépendance non dite par rapport à l’impulsion prophétique. Raymund Schwager
The gospel revelation gradually destroys the ability to sacralize and valorize violence of any kind, even for Americans in pursuit of the good. (…) At the heart of the cultural world in which we live, and into whose orbit the whole world is being gradually drawn, is a surreal confusion. The impossible Mother Teresa-John Wayne antinomy Times correspondent (Lance) Morrow discerned in America’s humanitarian 1992 Somali operation is simply a contemporary manifestation of the tension that for centuries has hounded those cultures under biblical influence. Gil Bailie
Dans la Bible, c’est la victime qui a le dernier mot et cela nous influence même si nous ne voulons pas rendre à la Bible l’hommage que nous lui devons. René Girard
Je crois que le moment décisif en Occident est l’invention de l’hôpital. Les primitifs s’occupent de leurs propres morts. Ce qu’il y a de caractéristique dans l’hôpital c’est bien le fait de s’occuper de tout le monde. C’est l’hôtel-Dieu donc c’est la charité. Et c’est visiblement une invention du Moyen-Age. René Girard
Notre monde est de plus en plus imprégné par cette vérité évangélique de l’innocence des victimes. L’attention qu’on porte aux victimes a commencé au Moyen Age, avec l’invention de l’hôpital. L’Hôtel-Dieu, comme on disait, accueillait toutes les victimes, indépendamment de leur origine. Les sociétés primitives n’étaient pas inhumaines, mais elles n’avaient d’attention que pour leurs membres. Le monde moderne a inventé la « victime inconnue », comme on dirait aujourd’hui le « soldat inconnu ». Le christianisme peut maintenant continuer à s’étendre même sans la loi, car ses grandes percées intellectuelles et morales, notre souci des victimes et notre attention à ne pas nous fabriquer de boucs émissaires, ont fait de nous des chrétiens qui s’ignorent. René Girard
L’inauguration majestueuse de l’ère « post-chrétienne » est une plaisanterie. Nous sommes dans un ultra-christianisme caricatural qui essaie d’échapper à l’orbite judéo-chrétienne en « radicalisant » le souci des victimes dans un sens antichrétien. (…) Jusqu’au nazisme, le judaïsme était la victime préférentielle de ce système de bouc émissaire. Le christianisme ne venait qu’en second lieu. Depuis l’Holocauste, en revanche, on n’ose plus s’en prendre au judaïsme, et le christianisme est promu au rang de bouc émissaire numéro un. René Girard
Dans la foi musulmane, il y a un aspect simple, brut, pratique qui a facilité sa diffusion et transformé la vie d’un grand nombre de peuples à l’état tribal en les ouvrant au monothéisme juif modifié par le christianisme. Mais il lui manque l’essentiel du christianisme : la croix. Comme le christianisme, l’islam réhabilite la victime innocente, mais il le fait de manière guerrière. La croix, c’est le contraire, c’est la fin des mythes violents et archaïques. René Girard
Tu vois, ce que nous appelons Dieu dépend de notre tribu, Clark Joe, parce que Dieu est tribal; Dieu prend parti! Aucun homme dans le ciel n’est intervenu quand j’étais petit pour me délivrer du poing et des abominations de papa. J’ai compris depuis longtemps que Si Dieu est tout puissant, il ne peut pas être tout bienveillant. Et s’il est tout bienveillant, il ne peut pas être tout puissant. Et toi non plus ! Lex Luthor
Cette sorte de pouvoir est dangereux. (…) Dans une démocratie, le bien est une conversation et non une décision unilatérale. Sénatrice Finch (personnage de Batman contre Superman)
La bonne idée de ce nouveau film des écuries DC Comics, c’est de mettre en opposition deux conceptions de la justice, en leur donnant vie à travers l’affrontement de deux héros mythiques. (…) Superman et Batman ne sont pas des citoyens comme les autres. Ce sont tous les deux des hors-la-loi qui œuvrent pour accomplir le Bien. Néanmoins, leur rapport à la justice n’est pas le même: l’un incarne une loi supérieure, l’autre cherche à échapper à l’intransigeance des règles pour mieux faire corps avec le monde. Le personnage de Superman évoque une justice divine transcendante, ou encore supra-étatique. À plusieurs reprises, le film met en évidence le défaut de cette justice surhumaine, trop parfaite pour notre monde. Superman est un héros kantien, pour qui le devoir ne peut souffrir de compromission. Cette rigidité morale peut alors paradoxalement conduire à une vertu vicieuse, trop sûre d’elle même. On reprochait au philosophe de Königsberg sa morale de cristal, parfaite dans ses intentions mais prête à se briser au contact de la dure réalité. Il en va de même pour Superman et pour sa bonne volonté, qui vient buter sur la brutalité de ses adversaires et sur des dilemmes moraux à la résolution impossible. Le personnage de Batman incarne quant à lui une justice souple, souterraine, infra-étatique et peut-être trop humaine. Le modèle philosophique le plus proche est celui de la morale arétique du philosophe Aristote. Si les règles sont trop rigides, il faut privilégier, à la manière du maçon qui utilise comme règle le fil à plomb qui s’adapte aux contours irréguliers, une vertu plus élastique. Plutôt que d’obéir à des impératifs catégoriques, le justicier est celui qui sait s’adapter et optimiser l’agir au cas particulier. Paradoxalement, cette justice de l’ombre peut aller jusqu’à vouloir braver l‘interdit suprême ; le meurtre; puisque Batman veut en finir avec Superman. (…) De la même façon, le film pose dès le départ, à travers les discours d’une sénatrice, le problème critique du recours au super-héros. Ce dernier déresponsabilise l’homme, court-circuite le débat démocratique et menace par ses super-pouvoirs toute possibilité d’un contre-pouvoir. Les « Watchmen », adaptation plus subtile de l’oeuvre de Alan Moore par le même Zack Snyder posait déjà la question : « Who watches the Watchmen ? » Le Nouvel Obs
Benzema est un grand joueur, Ben Arfa est un grand joueur. Mais Deschamps, il a un nom très français. Peut-être qu’il est le seul en France à avoir un nom vraiment français. Personne dans sa famille n’est mélangé avec quelqu’un, vous savez. Comme les Mormons en Amérique. Eric Cantona
 As often as not in Israel, military leaders and security officials are to the left of the public and their civilian leadership. (…) At a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day earlier this month, Yair Golan, Israel’s deputy chief of staff, compared trends in Israeli society to Germany in the 1930s. When Mr. Netanyahu rebuked him—correctly—for defaming Israel and cheapening the memory of the Holocaust, Mr. Ya’alon leapt to the general’s defense and told officers that they should feel free to speak their minds in public. Hence his ouster. At stake here is no longer the small question about Sgt. Azariah, where the military establishment is in the right. It’s the greater question of civilian-military relations, where Israel’s military leaders are dead wrong. A security establishment that feels no compunction about publicly telling off its civilian masters is on the road to becoming a law unto itself—the Sparta of Mr. Tyler’s imagination, albeit in the service of leftist goals.(…) It was Israel’s security establishment, led by talented former officers such as Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, that led Israelis down the bloody cul-de-sac formerly called the peace process. If their views are no longer regarded as sacrosanct, it’s a sign of Israel’s political maturity, not decline. There’s a larger point here, relevant not only to Israel, about the danger those who believe themselves to be virtuous pose to those who merely wish to be free. In the Middle East, the virtuous are often the sheikhs and ayatollahs, exhorting the faithful to murder for the sake of God. In the West, the virtuous are secular elites imposing what Thomas Sowell once called “the vision of the anointed” on the benighted masses. Mr. Lieberman is nobody’s idea of an ideal defense minister. And both he and his boss are wrong when it comes to the shameful case of Sgt. Azariah. But those who believe that Israel must remain a democracy have no choice but to take Mr. Netanyahu’s side. Bret Stephens
La scène est surréaliste. Montrant le contre-champ des images qui ont circulé toute la journée et sur lesquelles ont peut voir un véhicule de police incendié par des casseurs en marge de la manifestation « anti-flic » ce mercredi 18 mai à Paris, la séquence permet de mesurer la violence qui s’est abattue sur ces policiers (…). Avant que le véhicule disparaisse dans les flammes, on peut le voir arriver sur le quai de Valmy, alors que la circulation est perturbée par les manifestants. La patrouille se retrouve donc bloquée, sans issue, constituant une cible de choix pour les casseurs les plus déterminés. Un individu attaque à coups de pieds la vitre côté conducteur, alors que divers projectiles commencent à pleuvoir. Les jeunes encagoulés vont alors ensuite entreprendre de se servir d’objets plus lourds, comme des bornes anti-stationnement, pour attaquer le véhicule. À force de coups répétés, la vitre arrière se brise et l’un d’eux entreprend de jeter un objet enflammé dans l’habitacle, alors toujours occupé par les policiers. Quand le conducteur du véhicule sort, il est pris à partie par un manifestant qui lui assène plusieurs coups de bâtons. L’agent de police garde son calme, esquivant les coups jusqu’à tourner les talons. Huffington Post
Je serais ravi de les rencontrer pour les remercier d’être dans ce pays, et présenter mes excuses auprès d’eux au nom du Parti républicain pour Donald Trump. Bob Bennett
Une chose m’effraie. C’est de relever les processus nauséabonds qui se sont déroulés en Europe en général et plus particulièrement en Allemagne, il y a 70, 80 et 90 ans. Et de voir des signes de cela parmi nous en cette année 2016. La Shoah doit inciter à une réflexion fondamentale sur la façon dont on traite ici et maintenant l’étranger, l’orphelin et la veuve.  Il n’y a rien de plus simple que de haïr l’étranger, rien de plus simple que de susciter les peurs et d’intimider… Yaïr Golan (chef d’état major de l’armée israélienne)
L’ensemble du musée célèbre une forme d’année « zéro » du Japon, passé soudain, en août 1945, du statut d’agresseur brutal de l’Asie à celui de victime. Non loin de là, dans le mémorial pour les victimes de la bombe atomique, construit au début des années 2000 par le gouvernement, quelques lignes expliquent vaguement « qu’à un moment, au XXe siècle, le Japon a pris le chemin de la guerre » et que « le 8 décembre 1941, il a initié les hostilités contre les Etats-Unis, la Grande-Bretagne et d’autres ». Nulle évocation de la colonisation brutale de la région par les troupes nippones au début des années trente. Rien sur les massacres de civils et les viols de masse commis en Chine, à Nankin. Pas une ligne sur le sort des milliers de jeunes femmes asiatiques transformées en esclaves sexuelles pour les soldats nippons dans la région. Aucune mise en perspective permettant aux visiteurs japonais de tenter un travail de mémoire similaire à celui réussi en Allemagne dès la fin du conflit. Les enfants japonais n’ont pas d’équivalent de Dachau à visiter. Beaucoup ont, un temps, espéré que Barack Obama bouleverserait cette lecture, qui a été confortée par des années d’un enseignement et d’une culture populaire expliquant que le pays et son empereur, Hirohito, avaient été entraînés malgré eux par une poignée de leaders militaires brutaux. Le dirigeant allait, par un discours de vérité, forcer le Japon à se regarder dans le miroir. Mais le président américain a déjà annoncé qu’il ne prononcerait pas à Hiroshima les excuses symboliques qui auraient pu contraindre les élites nippones à entamer une introspection sur leur vision biaisée de l’histoire. Le responsable devrait essentiellement se concentrer sur un discours plaidant pour un monde sans armes nucléaires, au grand soulagement du Premier ministre nippon, Shinzo Abe, qui estime que son pays a, de toute façon, suffisamment demandé pardon et fait acte de contrition. (…) S’ils craignent que la venue du président américain à Hiroshima n’incite le Japon à se cloîtrer dans cette amnésie et cette victimisation, les partisans d’un réexamen du passé nippon veulent encore croire que la seule présence de Barack Obama alimentera un débat sur la capacité de Tokyo à entamer une démarche similaire auprès de ses grands voisins asiatiques et de son allié américain. Déjà, mercredi soir, des médias ont embarrassé Shinzo Abe en le questionnant publiquement sur son éventuelle visite du site américain de Pearl Harbor, à Hawaii. Le 7 décembre 1941, cette base américaine fut attaquée par surprise par l’aéronavale japonaise et 2.403 Américains furent tués au cours du raid, qui reste vécu comme un traumatisme aux Etats-Unis. Les médias sud-coréens et chinois vont, eux, défier le Premier ministre japonais d’oser venir dans leur pays déposer des fleurs sur des monuments témoins de l’oppression nippone d’autrefois. A quand une visite de Shinzo Abe à Nankin, demanderont-ils. Jamais, répondra le gouvernement conservateur. En déstabilisant Pékin, qui nourrit sa propagande des trous de mémoire de Tokyo, un tel geste symbolique témoignerait pourtant d’une maturité du Japon plus marquée et lui donnerait une aura nouvelle dans l’ensemble de l’Asie-Pacifique. Yann Rousseau
Formuler des excuses pour un chef d’Etat reste très compliqué, Barack Obama ne serait sans doute pas hostile à l’idée d’exprimer des regrets pour les souffrances infligées, mais d’un point de vue diplomatique, s’excuser revient à ouvrir un débat historique qui n’a jamais existé. Lorsque la guerre s’est terminée, une sorte de compromis a été établi entre les Américains et les Japonais, visant à ne plus évoquer le mal fait dans les deux camps. Guibourg Delamotte
I’m not too proud of Hollywood these days with the immorality that is shown in pictures, and the vulgarity. I just have a feeling that maybe Hollywood needs some outsiders to bring back decency and good taste to some of the pictures that are being made. Ronald Reagan (1989)
An advertent and sustained foreign policy uses a different part of the brain from the one engaged by horrifying images. If Americans had seen the battles of the Wilderness and Cold Harbor on TV screens in 1864, if they had witnessed the meat-grinding carnage of Ulysses Grant’s warmaking, then public opinion would have demanded an end to the Civil War, and the Union might well have split into two countries, one of them farmed by black slaves. (…) The Americans have ventured intoSomalia in a sort of surreal confusion, first impersonating Mother Teresa and now John Wayne. it would help to clarify that self-image, for to do so would clarify the mission, and then to recast the rhetoric of the enterprise. Lance Morrow (1993)
It is never too soon to learn to identify yourself as a victim. Such, at least, is the philosophy of today’s college freshman orientation, which has become a crash course in the strange new world of university politics. Within days of arrival on campus, « new students » (the euphemism of choice for « freshmen ») learn the paramount role of gender, race, ethnicity, class and sexual orientation in determining their own and others’ identity. Most important, they are provided with the most critical tool of their college career: the ability to recognize their own victimization. Heather Mac Donald (24.09.1992)
All the patched clothes seen around town recently were not a result of the present recession, nor yet of nostalgia for the Great Depression of the 1930’s, when patching clothes was a necessity. Today’s patches are all about status and style.Christian Francis Roth’s clothes have intricate patch inserts that are part of Mr. Roth’s designs. Patched jeans have been around since the 1960’s. The newer ones are imitating Mr. Roth’s more expensive designs with appliqued patches that don’t cost as much. And not to be confused with those styles are the rap-style patches with fringed — or frayed — edges on denim clothes. New York Times
Bailie livre une sorte d’Apocalypse — « révélation » où il ne s’agit pas tant de montrer la violence que de la dire — de la dire dans des termes irrécusables alors que, précisément, toute l’histoire de l’humanité pourrait se résumer en cette tentative pour taire la violence, pour nier qu’elle fonde toute société, et qu’elle doit être dépassée. Choix de taire ou de dire, choix de sacraliser ou de démasquer pour toujours. Un livre qui (…) révèle avec tant de clarté et de lucidité les « choses cachées » depuis la fondation du monde : il nous révèle dans un aujourd’hui pressant des choix qui nous concernent. Il traque le sens qui se cache au coeur des monstres sacrés ( ! ) de la littérature ou des faits retentissants de notre actualité. Impossible d’échapper à l’interpellation, de ne pas re-considérer toutes ces « choses » et surtout ce sujet — la violence — qui fait tellement partie de notre quotidien qu’on en oublie son vrai visage. (…) un cheminement révélateur pour parcourir des sentiers que nous empruntons : la littérature, la philosophie, la politique, la culture, l’information, bref, tout ce qui fait de nous des membres de cette humanité convoquée pour une lecture violente de notre heure. (…) La Violence révélée propose une analyse de la crise anthropologique, culturelle et historique que traversent les sociétés contemporaires, à la lumière de l’oeuvre de René Girard. Dans La Violence et le sacré, puis Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde, Girard avait montré le rôle essentiel de la violence pour les sociétés : un meurtre fondateur est à l’origine de la société. Girard met en évidence la logique victimaire : pour assurer la cohésion, le groupe désigne un bouc émissaire et défoule la violence sur lui — violence qui devient sacrée puisque ritualisée. Le meurtre et le sacrifice rituel renforcent les liens de la communauté qui échappe ainsi au chaos de la violence désorganisée. La violence sur le bouc émissaire a donc une fonction cathartique. Elle reste de la violence mais elle est dépouillée de son effet anarchique et destructeur. Les mythes garderaient mémoire de ce sacrifice mais tairaient la violence faite à la victime en la rationalisant : « le mythe ferme la bouche et les yeux sur certains événements » [p. 50]. Voilà donc le grand « mensonge », relayé par les rituels, des religions archaïques qui sont incapables de découvrir le mécanisme victimaire qui les fonde. Un autre concept girardien fondamental est celui du « désir mimétique ». Les passions (jalousie, envie, convoitise, ressentiment, rivalité, mépris, haine) qui conduisent à des comportements violents trouvent leur origine dans ce désir mimétique. Dans l’acceptation girardienne du terme, le désir représente l’influence que les autres ont sur nous ; le désir, « c’est ce qui arrive aux rapports humains quand il n’y a plus de résolution victimaire, et donc plus de polarisations vraiment unanimes, susceptibles de déclencher cette résolution » [Girard, cité p. 128]. La « mimesis », souvent traduite par « imitation » (ce qui est inexact, ainsi que le souligne Bailie, car ce terme comporte une dimension volontaire alors que ce n’est pas conscient) est cette « propension qu’a l’être humain à succomber à l’influence des désirs positifs, négatifs, flatteurs ou accusateurs exprimés par les autres » [p. 68]. Personne n’échappe à cette logique. D’où l’effet de foule qui exacerbe les comportements mimétiques. La rivalité qui naît de la mimesis — on désire ce que désire l’autre — oblige à résoudre le conflit en le déplaçant sur une victime. Or le Christianisme démonte le schéma sacrificiel en révélant l’innocence de la victime : la Croix révèle et dénonce la violence sacrificielle. Elle met à nu l’unanimité fallacieuse de la foule en proie au mimétisme collectif et la violence contagieuse : la foule, elle, « ne sait pas ce qu’elle fait », pour reprendre les paroles du Christ en croix. Jésus propose une voie hors de la logique des représailles et de la vengeance en invitant à « tendre l’autre joue ». La non-violence révèle à la violence sa propre nature et la désarme. A partir des concepts girardiens, Bailie examine les conséquences de la révélation évangélique pour la société humaine. Il entreprend l’exploration systématique de l’histoire de l’humanité et sa tentative pour sortir du schéma de la violence sacrificielle. Son hypothèse centrale est que « la compassion d’origine biblique pour les victimes paralyse le système du bouc émissaire dont l’humanité dépend depuis toujours pour sa cohésion sociale. Mais la propension des êtres humains à résoudre les tensions sociales aux dépens d’une victime de substitution reste » [p. 75]. Ce que les Ecritures « doivent accomplir, c’est une conversion du coeur de l’homme qui permettra à l’humanité de se passer de la violence organisée sans pour autant s’abîmer dans la violence incontrôlée, dans la violence de l’Apocalypse » [p. 31]. Or qu’en est-il ? La Bible, en proposant la compassion pour les victimes, a permis « l’éclosion de la première contre-culture du monde, que nous appelons la ‘‘culture occidentale’’ » [p. 150]. La Bible, notre « cahier de souvenirs » [p. 214], est une chronique des efforts accomplis par l’homme pour renoncer aux formes primitives de religion et aux rituels sacrificiels, et s’extirper des structures de la violence sacrée. Ainsi, avec Abraham, le sacrifice humain est abandonné ; les commandements de Moise indiquent la voie hors du désir mimétique (« tu ne convoiteras pas » car c’est la convoitise qui mène à la rivalité et la violence). Baillie s’attarde sur le récit biblique car pour lui il contient une valeur anthropologique essentielle ; il permet en effet d’observer « les structures et la dynamique de la vie culturelle et religieuse conventionnelles de l’humanité et d’être témoin de la façon dont ces structures s’effondrent sous le poids d’une révélation incompatible avec elles » [p. 186]. Peut-être peut-on parler de prototype de l’avènement de l’humanité à elle-même. Dans la Bible, la révélation est en cours et l’on peut mesurer les conséquences déstabilisantes sur le peuple de cette révélation. Pas un hasard, donc, que le Christ se soit incarné dans la tradition hébraïque déjà aux prises avec la révélation. (…) Les Evangiles, donc, ont rendu moralement et culturellement problématique le recours au système sacrificiel. Toutefois, « les passions mimétiques qu’il pouvait jadis contrôler ont pris de l’ampleur, jusqu’à provoquer la crise sociale, psychologique et spirituelle que nous connaissons » [p. 131]. L’Occident, en effet, est sorti du schéma de la violence sacrificielle, mais son impossibilité à embrasser le modèle proposé par l’Evangile a pour conséquence la descente dans la violence première. La distinction morale entre « bonne violence » et « mauvaise violence » n’est plus « un impératif catégorique » [p. 81]. Puisque nous vivons dans un monde où la violence a perdu son prestige moral et religieux, « La violence a gagné en puissance destructrice » [p. 70] : elle a perdu «  son pouvoir de fonder la culture et de la restaurer » [p. 72]. L’effondrement de la distinction cruciale entre violence officielle et violence officieuse se révèle par exemple dans le fait que les policiers ne sont plus respectés (Bailie oppose cela à la scène finale de Lord of the Flies où les enfants sont arrêtés dans leur frénésie de violence par la simple vue de l’officier de marine : son « autorité morale » bloque le chaos). Donc, puisque le violence a perdu son aura religieuse, « la fascination que suscite sa contemplation n’entraîne plus le respect pour l’institution sacrée qui en est à l’origine. Au contraire, le spectacle de la violence servira de modèle à des violences du même ordre » [p. 104]. De la violence thérapeutique, on risque fort de passer à une violence gratuite, voire ludique. A l’instar du Christ qui utilise les paraboles pour « révéler les choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde  » [p.  24], Bailie utilise des citations tirées de la presse contemporaine « de façon à montrer quelles formes prend la révélation de la violence dans le monde d’aujourd’hui » [p. 24]. Bailie note plusieurs résurgences du « religieux », dans le culte du nationalisme par exemple. Le nationalisme fournit en effet une forme de transcendance sociale qui renforce le sentiment communautaire, et devient un « ersatz de sacré » [p. 277] qui conduit encore à la violence sur des « boucs émissaires ». Il note aussi comment la rhétorique de la guerre légitime (mythifie même) la violence. Ainsi ce général salvadorien chargé du massacre de femmes et d’enfants en 1981 s’adresse à son armée en ces termes : « Ce que nous avons fait hier et le jour d’avant, ça s’appelle la guerre. C’est ça, la guerre […] Que les choses soient claires, il est hors de question qu’on vous entende gémir et vous lamenter sur ce que vous avez fait […] c’est la guerre, messieurs. C’est ça la guerre » [p. 280]. La philosophie même, pour Bailie, participerait du sacré mais n’en serait peut-être que le simulacre car « elle a érigé des formes de rationalité dont la tâche a été d’empêcher la prise de conscience de la vérité » [p. 271]. D’ou son impasse en tant que vraie transcendance. Dans le combat entre les forces du sacrificiel et de la violence collective, et la « déconstruction à laquelle se livre l’Evangile » [p. 282], qu’en est-il de l’autre protagoniste du combat, celui qui représente la révélation évangélique ? Sa puissance est d’un autre ordre. Bailie la voit à l’oeuvre, par exemple, dans deux moments, le chant d’une victime sur la montagne de la Cruz, et la prière d’un Juif à Buchenwald : « Paix à tous les hommes de mauvaise volonté  ! Qu’il y ait une fin à la vengeance, à l’exigence de châtiments et de représailles » [p. 284]. Et Bailie de conclure : « si nous ne trouvons le repos auprès de Dieu, c’est notre propre inquiétude qui nous servira de transcendance » [p. 284]. Le texte de l’Apocalypse « révèle » ce que les hommes risquent de faire « s’ils continuent, dans un monde désacralisé et sans garde-fou sacrificiel, de tenir pour rien la mise en garde évangélique contre la vengeance » [p. 32]. La seule façon d’éviter que l’Apocalypse ne devienne une réalité est d’accueillir l’impératif évangélique de l’amour. Pour Girard, « l’humanité est confrontée à un choix […] explicite et même parfaitement scientifique entre la destruction totale et le renoncement total à la violence » [p. 32]. A sa suite, Bailie identifie deux alternatives : soit un retour à la violence sacrée dans un contexte religieux non biblique, soit une révolution anthropologique que la révélation chrétienne a générée. Il s’agira donc d’arriver à résister au mal pour en empêcher la propagation : « la seule façon d’éviter la transcendance fictive de la violence et de la contagion sociale est une autre forme de transcendance religieuse au centre de laquelle se trouve un dieu qui a choisi de subir la violence plutôt que de l’exercer » [p. 84]. Marie Liénard

Vous avez dit double contrainte ?

Premier réseau social du monde contraint de s’excuser d’avoir censuré la photo en bikini d’un mannequin clairement obèse, sénateur américain implorant le pardon des musulmans de la planète entière pour la proposition de moratorium migratoire du candidat de son propre parti face à la menace du terrorisme islamiste, président israélien accusé de dérive belliciste face à la folie meurtrière de ses voisins djihadistes par ses propres généraux, policier français astreint à une abnégation quasi-christique face à des militants d’extrême-gauche prêts à l’incinérer vivant, sélectionneur de l’équipe de France de football suspecté de port de nom trop français, superhéros sommés de répondre des conséquences du moindre de leurs  actes…

En ces temps tellement étranges …

Qu’on n’en remarque même plus l’incroyable singularité …

Où le président de la plus grande puissance de la planète se voit à la fois reproché de ne pas s’être excusé pour Hiroshima et Nagasaki …

Et secrètement remercié de n’avoir pas ce faisant impliqué ses hôtes dans  la ronde sans fin des excuses …

Comment ne pas voir …

Avec la véritable et hélas méconnue mise à jour de l’Apocalypse qu’avait fait il y a plus de vingt ans le girardien Gil Bailie (La violence révélée : l’humanité à l’heure du choix) …

Et derrière l’apparemment irrépressible montée du chaos que nous connaissons …

L’influence délétère et bimillénaire de « l’immortelle flétrissure de l’humanité » et de cette « rebellion contre la loi naturelle » qu’avaient si bien repéré Nietzsche et son émule Hitler

A savoir ce maudit christianisme qui avec les conséquences potentiellement apocalyptiques que l’on sait …

Est en train d’imposer bientôt à la planète entière comme l’avait aussi prédit Auden

Son irresponsable et incontrôlable inversion de toutes les hiérarchies et de toutes les valeurs ?

La Violence révélée : l’humanité à l’heure du choix
Gil Bailie
Traduction Claude Chastagner
Castelnau-le-Lez : Climats, 2004.
25 euros, 290 pages + notes, ISBN 2-84158-254-X.

Marie Liénard
Ecole polytechnique

Le titre ne laisse rien présager de la richesse de l’ouvrage. Il semble en effet sacrifier à l’effet d’une mode qui a rendu la thématique de la violence omniprésente. Certes l’avant-propos de René Girard attire l’attention. On garde en mémoire la révolution opérée par La Violence et le sacré (1972) dont les concepts fondateurs — désir mimétique et bouc émissaire — font presque partie du langage courant. Le sous-titre, l’humanité à l’heure du choix, laisse entendre une certaine urgence — et intrigue.

Bailie livre une sorte d’Apocalypse — « révélation » où il ne s’agit pas tant de montrer la violence que de la dire — de la dire dans des termes irrécusables alors que, précisément, toute l’histoire de l’humanité pourrait se résumer en cette tentative pour taire la violence, pour nier qu’elle fonde toute société, et qu’elle doit être dépassée. Choix de taire ou de dire, choix de sacraliser ou de démasquer pour toujours.

Un livre qui bouscule, intellectuellement d’abord. Un livre difficile, comme nous en avertit Girard dans son avant-propos. Difficile, ensuite, en ce qu’il révèle avec tant de clarté et de lucidité les « choses cachées » depuis la fondation du monde : il nous révèle dans un aujourd’hui pressant des choix qui nous concernent. Il traque le sens qui se cache au coeur des monstres sacrés ( ! ) de la littérature ou des faits retentissants de notre actualité. Impossible d’échapper à l’interpellation, de ne pas re-considérer toutes ces « choses » et surtout ce sujet — la violence — qui fait tellement partie de notre quotidien qu’on en oublie son vrai visage.

On ne peut que regretter que ce rendez-vous ne parvienne aux lecteurs non anglophones que neuf ans après la parution du livre aux Etats-Unis sous le titre Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads en 1995 (The Crossroad Publishing Company). Par ailleurs, on se plait à imaginer ce que l’auteur aurait à dire — révéler — des récents événements, de l’après 11 septembre en particulier.

Pour moi, donc, un livre incontournable pour quiconque s’intéresse à aujourd’hui — à l’aujourd’hui d’un monde dans lequel nous sommes « embarqués », dirait Pascal. Livre à laisser et à reprendre, sans doute. Mais un cheminement révélateur pour parcourir des sentiers que nous empruntons : la littérature, la philosophie, la politique, la culture, l’information, bref, tout ce qui fait de nous des membres de cette humanité convoquée pour une lecture violente de notre heure.

Le livre contient 14 chapitres suivis de notes (pas de bibliographie). Dans l’avant-propos, René Girard avertit que « La Violence révélée parle de la crise spirituelle que traverse notre époque » [p. 11], et qu’il s’agit d’un « livre magnifique sur le christianisme et sur la culture contemporaire … un superbe ouvrage de critique littéraire » [p. 12]. L’éditeur Frédéric Joly le présente comme un « ouvrage de critique sociale profondément original » [p. 6]. Finalement, seul le lecteur, avec ses convictions et ses intérêts, pourra se situer avec justesse.

La Violence révélée propose une analyse de la crise anthropologique, culturelle et historique que traversent les sociétés contemporaires, à la lumière de l’oeuvre de René Girard. Dans La Violence et le sacré, puis Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde, Girard avait montré le rôle essentiel de la violence pour les sociétés : un meurtre fondateur est à l’origine de la société. Girard met en évidence la logique victimaire : pour assurer la cohésion, le groupe désigne un bouc émissaire et défoule la violence sur lui — violence qui devient sacrée puisque ritualisée. Le meurtre et le sacrifice rituel renforcent les liens de la communauté qui échappe ainsi au chaos de la violence désorganisée. La violence sur le bouc émissaire a donc une fonction cathartique. Elle reste de la violence mais elle est dépouillée de son effet anarchique et destructeur. Les mythes garderaient mémoire de ce sacrifice mais tairaient la violence faite à la victime en la rationalisant : « le mythe ferme la bouche et les yeux sur certains événements » [p. 50]. Voilà donc le grand « mensonge », relayé par les rituels, des religions archaïques qui sont incapables de découvrir le mécanisme victimaire qui les fonde.

Un autre concept girardien fondamental est celui du « désir mimétique ». Les passions (jalousie, envie, convoitise, ressentiment, rivalité, mépris, haine) qui conduisent à des comportements violents trouvent leur origine dans ce désir mimétique. Dans l’acceptation girardienne du terme, le désir représente l’influence que les autres ont sur nous ; le désir, « c’est ce qui arrive aux rapports humains quand il n’y a plus de résolution victimaire, et donc plus de polarisations vraiment unanimes, susceptibles de déclencher cette résolution » [Girard, cité p. 128]. La « mimesis », souvent traduite par « imitation » (ce qui est inexact, ainsi que le souligne Bailie, car ce terme comporte une dimension volontaire alors que ce n’est pas conscient) est cette « propension qu’a l’être humain à succomber à l’influence des désirs positifs, négatifs, flatteurs ou accusateurs exprimés par les autres » [p. 68]. Personne n’échappe à cette logique. D’où l’effet de foule qui exacerbe les comportements mimétiques. La rivalité qui naît de la mimesis — on désire ce que désire l’autre — oblige à résoudre le conflit en le déplaçant sur une victime.

Or le Christianisme démonte le schéma sacrificiel en révélant l’innocence de la victime : la Croix révèle et dénonce la violence sacrificielle. Elle met à nu l’unanimité fallacieuse de la foule en proie au mimétisme collectif et la violence contagieuse : la foule, elle, « ne sait pas ce qu’elle fait », pour reprendre les paroles du Christ en croix. Jésus propose une voie hors de la logique des représailles et de la vengeance en invitant à « tendre l’autre joue ». La non-violence révèle à la violence sa propre nature et la désarme.

A partir des concepts girardiens, Bailie examine les conséquences de la révélation évangélique pour la société humaine. Il entreprend l’exploration systématique de l’histoire de l’humanité et sa tentative pour sortir du schéma de la violence sacrificielle. Son hypothèse centrale est que « la compassion d’origine biblique pour les victimes paralyse le système du bouc émissaire dont l’humanité dépend depuis toujours pour sa cohésion sociale. Mais la propension des êtres humains à résoudre les tensions sociales aux dépens d’une victime de substitution reste » [p. 75]. Ce que les Ecritures « doivent accomplir, c’est une conversion du coeur de l’homme qui permettra à l’humanité de se passer de la violence organisée sans pour autant s’abîmer dans la violence incontrôlée, dans la violence de l’Apocalypse » [p. 31]. Or qu’en est-il ?

La Bible, en proposant la compassion pour les victimes, a permis « l’éclosion de la première contre-culture du monde, que nous appelons la ‘‘culture occidentale’’ » [p. 150]. La Bible, notre « cahier de souvenirs » [p. 214], est une chronique des efforts accomplis par l’homme pour renoncer aux formes primitives de religion et aux rituels sacrificiels, et s’extirper des structures de la violence sacrée. Ainsi, avec Abraham, le sacrifice humain est abandonné ; les commandements de Moise indiquent la voie hors du désir mimétique (« tu ne convoiteras pas » car c’est la convoitise qui mène à la rivalité et la violence). Baillie s’attarde sur le récit biblique car pour lui il contient une valeur anthropologique essentielle ; il permet en effet d’observer « les structures et la dynamique de la vie culturelle et religieuse conventionnelles de l’humanité et d’être témoin de la façon dont ces structures s’effondrent sous le poids d’une révélation incompatible avec elles » [p. 186]. Peut-être peut-on parler de prototype de l’avènement de l’humanité à elle-même. Dans la Bible, la révélation est en cours et l’on peut mesurer les conséquences déstabilisantes sur le peuple de cette révélation.

Pas un hasard, donc, que le Christ se soit incarné dans la tradition hébraïque déjà aux prises avec la révélation. Bailie relit le Nouveau Testament en montrant comment le Christ déjoue le mécanisme de victimisation mimétique. Face à la Trinité divine, Bailie décrit une trinité diabolique : « diabolos », « satan », « skandalov » [p. 225]. Il rappelle l’étymologie du diable (celui qui divise), de Satan (celui qui accuse) et de « scandale » (offense, obstacle). Le diabolos sème la discorde en déclenchant les passions mimétiques ; le satan, c’est l’accusateur — celui qui désigne le bouc émissaire ; le scandalov, c’est le piège de l’indignation qui peut engendrer précisément ce qui l’avait provoquée. Or le Christ désamorce en proposant pardon, miséricorde et amour. Bailie propose une lecture extrêmement intéressante du passage de la femme adultère (en particulier du rapport de Jésus à la foule : en l’obligeant à sortir de l’anonymat, il désamorce la contagion violente) ; de la différence entre le ministère de Jean et celui du Christ, de la multiplication des Pains (« Jésus ouvrit leur coeur et, en retour, la foule ouvrit ses sacs » [p.  230]) ; Jésus invite à « sortir du cocon culturel » [p. 238]) ; de Barabbas , le « fils du père » face au Christ, «  le fils du Père » [p. 239]. Le récit évangélique annonce comment passer du logos de la violence au Logos d’amour.

Les Evangiles, donc, ont rendu moralement et culturellement problématique le recours au système sacrificiel. Toutefois, « les passions mimétiques qu’il pouvait jadis contrôler ont pris de l’ampleur, jusqu’à provoquer la crise sociale, psychologique et spirituelle que nous connaissons » [p. 131]. L’Occident, en effet, est sorti du schéma de la violence sacrificielle, mais son impossibilité à embrasser le modèle proposé par l’Evangile a pour conséquence la descente dans la violence première. La distinction morale entre « bonne violence » et « mauvaise violence » n’est plus « un impératif catégorique » [p. 81]. Puisque nous vivons dans un monde où la violence a perdu son prestige moral et religieux, « La violence a gagné en puissance destructrice » [p. 70] : elle a perdu «  son pouvoir de fonder la culture et de la restaurer » [p. 72]. L’effondrement de la distinction cruciale entre violence officielle et violence officieuse se révèle par exemple dans le fait que les policiers ne sont plus respectés (Bailie oppose cela à la scène finale de Lord of the Flies où les enfants sont arrêtés dans leur frénésie de violence par la simple vue de l’officier de marine : son « autorité morale » bloque le chaos). Donc, puisque le violence a perdu son aura religieuse, « la fascination que suscite sa contemplation n’entraîne plus le respect pour l’institution sacrée qui en est à l’origine. Au contraire, le spectacle de la violence servira de modèle à des violences du même ordre » [p. 104]. De la violence thérapeutique, on risque fort de passer à une violence gratuite, voire ludique.

A l’instar du Christ qui utilise les paraboles pour « révéler les choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde  » [p.  24], Bailie utilise des citations tirées de la presse contemporaine « de façon à montrer quelles formes prend la révélation de la violence dans le monde d’aujourd’hui » [p. 24]. Bailie note plusieurs résurgences du « religieux », dans le culte du nationalisme par exemple. Le nationalisme fournit en effet une forme de transcendance sociale qui renforce le sentiment communautaire, et devient un « ersatz de sacré » [p. 277] qui conduit encore à la violence sur des « boucs émissaires ». Il note aussi comment la rhétorique de la guerre légitime (mythifie même) la violence. Ainsi ce général salvadorien chargé du massacre de femmes et d’enfants en 1981 s’adresse à son armée en ces termes : « Ce que nous avons fait hier et le jour d’avant, ça s’appelle la guerre. C’est ça, la guerre […] Que les choses soient claires, il est hors de question qu’on vous entende gémir et vous lamenter sur ce que vous avez fait […] c’est la guerre, messieurs. C’est ça la guerre » [p. 280]. La philosophie même, pour Bailie, participerait du sacré mais n’en serait peut-être que le simulacre car « elle a érigé des formes de rationalité dont la tâche a été d’empêcher la prise de conscience de la vérité » [p. 271]. D’ou son impasse en tant que vraie transcendance.

Dans le combat entre les forces du sacrificiel et de la violence collective, et la « déconstruction à laquelle se livre l’Evangile » [p. 282], qu’en est-il de l’autre protagoniste du combat, celui qui représente la révélation évangélique ? Sa puissance est d’un autre ordre. Bailie la voit à l’oeuvre, par exemple, dans deux moments, le chant d’une victime sur la montagne de la Cruz, et la prière d’un Juif à Buchenwald : « Paix à tous les hommes de mauvaise volonté  ! Qu’il y ait une fin à la vengeance, à l’exigence de châtiments et de représailles » [p. 284].

Et Bailie de conclure : « si nous ne trouvons le repos auprès de Dieu, c’est notre propre inquiétude qui nous servira de transcendance » [p. 284]. Le texte de l’Apocalypse « révèle » ce que les hommes risquent de faire « s’ils continuent, dans un monde désacralisé et sans garde-fou sacrificiel, de tenir pour rien la mise en garde évangélique contre la vengeance » [p. 32]. La seule façon d’éviter que l’Apocalypse ne devienne une réalité est d’accueillir l’impératif évangélique de l’amour. Pour Girard, « l’humanité est confrontée à un choix […] explicite et même parfaitement scientifique entre la destruction totale et le renoncement total à la violence » [p. 32]. A sa suite, Bailie identifie deux alternatives : soit un retour à la violence sacrée dans un contexte religieux non biblique, soit une révolution anthropologique que la révélation chrétienne a générée. Il s’agira donc d’arriver à résister au mal pour en empêcher la propagation : « la seule façon d’éviter la transcendance fictive de la violence et de la contagion sociale est une autre forme de transcendance religieuse au centre de laquelle se trouve un dieu qui a choisi de subir la violence plutôt que de l’exercer » [p. 84].

Bailie est amené, au cours de son exposé, à traiter de plusieurs phénomènes contemporains. Son analyse offre ainsi un éclairage stimulant sur la place de la superstition et de ses nouvelles formes dans nos sociétés (il rejoindrait en cela des remarques de Carl Sagan dans A Candle in the Dark par exemple), ou le culte des stars et autres célébrités télévisuelles. La lecture qu’il fait de l’intervention en Somalie [pp. 33-36] — et de la réaction du public américain aux victimes somaliennes puis américaines  — éclaire, indirectement, la situation iraquienne ; l’opinion publique américaine, après s’être enthousiasmée pour « free the Iraki people », a fait preuve du même retournement. La décision du gouvernement américain de ne pas montrer les images que Michael Moore montrera dans son film ne relève pas seulement de la censure ou du balisage du journalisme de guerre, ou même d’une « politique du mensonge », comme le suggèrerait l’analyse de Baillie. Par ailleurs, son hypothèse peut arriver à rendre compte du choc moral ressenti au cours d’une exécution publique, même si on sait que la victime est coupable, à cause de « l’innocence structurelle » de la victime isolée [p. 100]. Enfin son analyse de la portée mythique de la rhétorique de la guerre invite à reconsidérer la « War on Terror » et les discours qui se rattachent aux interventions militaires. Lynn Spigel suggère ainsi dans American Quarterly de juin 2004 : « Whatever one thinks about Bush’s speech, it is clear that the image of suffering female victims was a powerful emotional ploy through which he connected his own war plan to a sense of moral righteousness and virtue » [« Entertainment Wars », p. 248].

D’autre part, à l’heure où la référence religieuse dans la Constitution européenne a donné l’occasion de réfléchir à ce qui fondait l’Occident, le livre de Bailie offre quelques pistes de réflexion. Dans un autre registre, les questions soulevées par la définition girardienne du désir nous interpellent au moment où l’on parle d’individualisme et de développement personnel (et du coaching qui y est associé). D’autre part, en mettant à nu les désordres engendrés par le désir mimétique et ses corollaires (envie et ambition par exemple) Bailie jette un éclairage pertinent sur la logique de la performance et de la compétitivité de nos sociétés : on mesure déjà le potentiel destructeur de cette dynamique dans un contexte économique où le profit est devenu le seul impératif catégorique.

Enfin, l’ouvrage propose des remarques intéressantes — même si elles sont un peu rapides — pour considérer le rapport entre sexualité et violence [p. 206] ; question au coeur, entre autres, du débat sur la pornographie et son évolution vers des contenus très violents.

Dans son avant-propos, Girard introduit le livre en indiquant qu’il s’agit « d’une pièce essentielle d’un combat intellectuel et spirituel aux conséquences capitales pour notre avenir » [p.  11]. Comme tout combat, il est animé, parfois emporté dans la logique de sa propre légitimité. Cette passion amène par moments l’auteur à des redites : maladresse ? geste pédagogique envers un lecteur qu’il risque de perdre, ou qui risque de se perdre ? volonté de convaincre ? En tout cas, signe d’une pensée « au travail », selon son expression.

Dans les remerciements, Bailie mentionne sa rencontre avec Howard Thurman qui lui aurait dit : « Ne te demande pas ce dont le monde a besoin. Demande-toi ce qui te fait vivre et te fait agir, parce que ce dont le monde a besoin, c’est de gens vivants » [p. 15]. La lecture de ce livre nous invite à être des « gens vivants » — vivants dans le choix à faire entre la fascination et le dégoût, ou l’accueil d’une révélation qui nous dévoile la violence pour la dévisager et faire entendre son cri sans chercher à la faire taire. Ainsi, enfin, nous saurons ce que nous faisons…

Voir aussi:

The Fraying Of America
Robert Hughes
Time

June 24, 2001

Just over 50 years ago, the poet W.H. Auden achieved what all writers envy: making a prophecy that would come true. It is embedded in a long work called For the Time Being, where Herod muses about the distasteful task of massacring the Innocents. He doesn’t want to, because he is at heart a liberal. But still, he predicts, if that Child is allowed to get away, « Reason will be replaced by Revelation. Instead of Rational Law, objective truths perceptible to any who will undergo the necessary intellectual discipline, Knowledge will degenerate into a riot of subjective visions . . . Whole cosmogonies will be created out of some forgotten personal resentment, complete epics written in private languages, the daubs of schoolchildren ranked above the greatest masterpieces. Idealism will be replaced by Materialism. Life after death will be an eternal dinner party where all the guests are 20 years old . . . Justice will be replaced by Pity as the cardinal human virtue, and all fear of retribution will vanish . . . The New Aristocracy will consist exclusively of hermits, bums and permanent invalids. The Rough Diamond, the Consumptive Whore, the bandit who is good to his mother, the epileptic girl who has a way with animals will be the heroes and heroines of the New Age, when the general, the statesman, and the philosopher have become the butt of every farce and satire. »What Herod saw was America in the late 1980s and early ’90s, right down to that dire phrase « New Age. » A society obsessed with therapies and filled with distrust of formal politics, skeptical of authority and prey to superstition, its political language corroded by fake pity and euphemism. A nation like late Rome in its long imperial reach, in the corruption and verbosity of its senators, in its reliance on sacred geese (those feathered ancestors of our own pollsters and spin doctors) and in its submission to senile, deified Emperors controlled by astrologers and extravagant wives. A culture that has replaced gladiatorial games, as a means of pacifying the mob, with high-tech wars on television that cause immense slaughter and yet leave the Mesopotamian satraps in full power over their wretched subjects.

Mainly it is women who object, for due to the prevalence of their mystery- religions, the men are off in the woods, affirming their manhood by sniffing one another’s armpits and listening to third-rate poets rant about the moist, hairy satyr that lives inside each one of them. Meanwhile, artists vacillate between a largely self-indulgent expressiveness and a mainly impotent politicization, and the contest between education and TV — between argument and persuasion by spectacle — has been won by TV, a medium now more debased in America than ever before, and more abjectly self-censoring than anywhere in Europe.

The fundamental temper of America tends toward an existential ideal that can probably never be reached but can never be discarded: equal rights to variety, to construct your life as you see fit, to choose your traveling companions. It has always been a heterogeneous country, and its cohesion, whatever cohesion it has, can only be based on mutual respect. There never was a core America in which everyone looked the same, spoke the same language, worshipped the same gods and believed the same things.

America is a construction of mind, not of race or inherited class or ancestral territory. It is a creed born of immigration, of the jostling of scores of tribes that become American to the extent to which they can negotiate accommodations with one another. These negotiations succeed unevenly and often fail: you need only to glance at the history of racial relations to know that. The melting pot never melted. But American mutuality lives in recognition of difference. The fact remains that America is a collective act of the imagination whose making never ends, and once that sense of collectivity and mutual respect is broken, the possibilities of American-ness begin to unravel.

If they are fraying now, it is at least in part due to the prevalence of demagogues who wish to claim that there is only one path to virtuous American- ness: paleoconservatives like Jesse Helms and Pat Robertson who think this country has one single ethic, neoconservatives who rail against a bogey called multiculturalism — as though this culture was ever anything but multi! — and pushers of political correctness who would like to see grievance elevated into automatic sanctity.

BIG DADDY IS TO BLAME

Americans are obsessed with the recognition, praise and, when necessary, the manufacture of victims, whose one common feature is that they have been denied parity with that Blond Beast of the sentimental imagination, the heterosexual, middle-class white male. The range of victims available 10 years ago — blacks, Chicanos, Indians, women, homosexuals — has now expanded to include every permutation of the halt, the blind and the short, or, to put it correctly, the vertically challenged.

Forty years ago, one of the epic processes in the assertion of human rights started unfolding in the U.S.: the civil rights movement. But today, after more than a decade of government that did its best to ignore the issues of race when it was not trying to roll back the gains of the ’60s, the usual American response to inequality is to rename it, in the hope that it will go away. We want to create a sort of linguistic Lourdes, where evil and misfortune are dispelled by a dip in the waters of euphemism. Does the cripple rise from his wheelchair, or feel better about being stuck in it, because someone back in the early days of the Reagan Administration decided that, for official purposes, he was « physically challenged »?

Because the arts confront the sensitive citizen with the difference between good artists, mediocre ones and absolute duffers, and since there are always more of the last two than the first, the arts too must be politicized; so we cobble up critical systems to show that although we know what we mean by the quality of the environment, the idea of quality in aesthetic experience is little more than a paternalist fiction designed to make life hard for black, female and gay artists.

Since our newfound sensitivity decrees that only the victim shall be the hero, the white American male starts bawling for victim status too. Hence the rise of cult therapies teaching that we are all the victims of our parents, that whatever our folly, venality or outright thuggishness, we are not to be blamed for it, since we come from « dysfunctional families. » The ether is jammed with confessional shows in which a parade of citizens and their role models, from LaToya Jackson to Roseanne Arnold, rise to denounce the sins of their parents. The cult of the abused Inner Child has a very important use in modern America: it tells you that nothing is your fault, that personal grievance transcends political utterance.

The all-pervasive claim to victimhood tops off America’s long-cherished culture of therapeutics. Thus we create a juvenile culture of complaint in / which Big Daddy is always to blame and the expansion of rights goes on without the other half of citizenship: attachment to duties and obligations. We are seeing a public recoil from formal politics, from the active, reasoned exercise of citizenship. It comes because we don’t trust anyone. It is part of the cafard the ’80s induced: Wall Street robbery, the savings and loan scandal, the wholesale plunder of the economy, an orgy released by Reaganomics that went on for years with hardly a peep from Congress — events whose numbers were so huge as to be beyond the comprehension of most people.

Single-issue politics were needed when they came, because they forced Washington to deal with, or at least look at, great matters of civic concern that it had scanted: first the civil rights movement, and then the environment, women’s reproductive rights, health legislation, the educational crisis. But now they too face dilution by a trivialized sense of civic responsibility. What are your politics? Oh, I’m antismoking. And yours? Why, I’m starting an action committee to have the suffix -man removed from every word in every book in the Library of Congress. And yours, sir? Well, God told me to chain myself to a fire hydrant until we put a fetus on the Supreme Court.

In the past 15 years the American right has had a complete, almost unopposed success in labeling as left-wing ordinary agendas and desires that, in a saner polity, would be seen as ideologically neutral, an extension of rights implied in the Constitution. American feminism has a large repressive fringe, self- caricaturing and often abysmally trivial, like the academic thought police who recently managed to get a reproduction of Goya’s Naked Maja removed from a classroom at Pennsylvania State University; it has its loonies who regard all sex with men, even with consent, as a politicized form of rape. But does this in any way devalue the immense shared desire of millions of American women to claim the right of equality to men, to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace, to be accorded the reproductive rights to be individuals first and mothers second?

The ’80s brought the retreat and virtual disappearance of the American left as a political, as distinct from a cultural, force. It went back into the monastery — that is, to academe — and also extruded out into the art world, where it remains even more marginal and impotent. Meanwhile, a considerable and very well-subsidized industry arose, hunting the lefty academic or artist in his or her retreat. Republican attack politics turned on culture, and suddenly both academe and the arts were full of potential Willie Hortons. The lowbrow form of this was the ire of figures like Senator Helms and the Rev. Donald Wildmon directed against National Endowment subventions for art shows they thought blasphemous and obscene, or the trumpetings from folk like David Horowitz about how PBS should be demolished because it’s a pinko-liberal-anti- Israel bureaucracy.

THE BATTLES ON CAMPUS

The middle-to-highbrow form of the assault is the ongoing frenzy about political correctness, whose object is to create the belief, or illusion, that a new and sinister McCarthyism, this time of the left, has taken over American universities and is bringing free thought to a stop. This is flatly absurd. The comparison to McCarthyism could be made only by people who either don’t know or don’t wish to remember what the Senator from Wisconsin and his pals actually did to academe in the ’50s: the firings of tenured profs in mid- career, the inquisitions by the House Committee on Un-American Activities on the content of libraries and courses, the campus loyalty oaths, the whole sordid atmosphere of persecution, betrayal and paranoia. The number of conservative academics fired by the lefty thought police, by contrast, is zero. There has been heckling. There have been baseless accusations of racism. And certainly there is no shortage of the zealots, authoritarians and scramblers who view PC as a shrewd career move or as a vent for their own frustrations.

In cultural matters we can hardly claim to have a left and a right anymore. Instead we have something more akin to two puritan sects, one masquerading as conservative, the other posing as revolutionary but using academic complaint as a way of evading engagement in the real world. Sect A borrows the techniques of Republican attack politics to show that if Sect B has its way, the study of Milton and Titian will be replaced by indoctrination programs in the works of obscure Third World authors and West Coast Chicano subway muralists, and the pillars of learning will forthwith collapse. Meanwhile, Sect B is so stuck in the complaint mode that it can’t mount a satisfactory defense, since it has burned most of its bridges to the culture at large.

In the late ’80s, while American academics were emptily theorizing that language and the thinking subject were dead, the longing for freedom and . humanistic culture was demolishing European tyranny. Of course, if the Chinese students had read their Foucault, they would have known that repression is inscribed in all language, their own included, and so they could have saved themselves the trouble of facing the tanks in Tiananmen Square. But did Vaclav Havel and his fellow playwrights free Czechoslovakia by quoting Derrida or Lyotard on the inscrutability of texts? Assuredly not: they did it by placing their faith in the transforming power of thought — by putting their shoulders to the immense wheel of the word. The world changes more deeply, widely, thrillingly than at any moment since 1917, perhaps since 1848, and the American academic left keeps fretting about how phallocentricity is inscribed in Dickens’ portrayal of Little Nell.

The obsessive subject of our increasingly sterile confrontation between the two PCs — the politically and the patriotically correct — is something clumsily called multiculturalism. America is a place filled with diversity, unsettled histories, images impinging on one another and spawning unexpected shapes. Its polyphony of voices, its constant eddying of claims to identity, is one of the things that make America America. The gigantic, riven, hybridizing, multiracial republic each year receives a major share of the world’s emigration, legal or illegal.

To put the argument for multiculturalism in merely practical terms of self- interest: though elites are never going to go away, the composition of those elites is not necessarily static. The future of American ones, in a globalized economy without a cold war, will rest with people who can think and act with informed grace across ethnic, cultural, linguistic lines. And the first step in becoming such a person lies in acknowledging that we are not one big world family, or ever likely to be; that the differences among races, nations, cultures and their various histories are at least as profound and as durable as the similarities; that these differences are not divagations from a European norm but structures eminently worth knowing about for their own sake. In the world that is coming, if you can’t navigate difference, you’ve had it.

Thus if multiculturalism is about learning to see through borders, one can be all in favor of it. But you do not have to listen to the arguments very long before realizing that, in quite a few people’s minds, multiculturalism is about something else. Their version means cultural separatism within the larger whole of America. They want to Balkanize culture.

THE AUTHORITY OF THE PAST

This reflects the sense of disappointment and frustration with formal politics, which has caused many people to look to the arts as a field of power, since they have power nowhere else. Thus the arts become an arena for complaint about rights. The result is a gravely distorted notion of the political capacity of the arts, just at the moment when — because of the pervasiveness of mass media — they have reached their nadir of real political effect.

One example is the inconclusive debate over « the canon, » that oppressive Big Bertha whose muzzle is trained over the battlements of Western Civ at the black, the gay and the female. The canon, we’re told, is a list of books by dead Europeans — Shakespeare and Dante and Tolstoy and Stendhal and John Donne and T.S. Eliot . . . you know, them, the pale, patriarchal penis people. Those who complain about the canon think it creates readers who will never read anything else. What they don’t want to admit, at least not publicly, is that most American students don’t read much anyway and quite a few, left to their own devices, would not read at all. Their moronic national baby-sitter, the TV set, took care of that. Before long, Americans will think of the time when people sat at home and read books for their own sake, discursively and sometimes even aloud to one another, as a lost era — the way we now see rural quilting bees in the 1870s.

The quarrel over the canon reflects the sturdy assumption that works of art are, or ought to be, therapeutic. Imbibe the Republic or Phaedo at 19, and you will be one kind of person; study Jane Eyre or Mrs. Dalloway, and you will be another. For in the literary zero-sum game of canon-talk, if you read X, it means that you don’t read Y. This is a simple fancy.

So is the distrust of the dead, as in « dead white male. » Some books are deeper, wider, fuller than others, and more necessary to an understanding of our culture and ourselves. They remain so long after their authors are dead. Those who parrot slogans like « dead white male » might reflect that, in writing, death is relative: Lord Rochester is as dead as Sappho, but not so moribund as Bret Easton Ellis or Andrea Dworkin. Statistically, most authors are dead, but some continue to speak to us with a vividness and urgency that few of the living can rival. And the more we read, the more writers we find who do so, which is why the canon is not a fortress but a permeable membrane.

The sense of quality, of style, of measure, is not an imposition bearing on literature from the domain of class, race or gender. All writers or artists carry in their mind an invisible tribunal of the dead, whose appointment is an imaginative act and not merely a browbeaten response to some notion of authority. This tribunal sits in judgment on their work. They intuit their standards from it. From its verdict there is no appeal. None of the contemporary tricks — not the fetishization of the personal, not the attempt to shift the aesthetic into the political, not the exhausted fictions of avant-gardism — will make it go away. If the tribunal weren’t there, every first draft would be a final manuscript. You can’t fool Mother Culture.

That is why one rejects the renewed attempt to judge writing in terms of its presumed social virtue. Through it, we enter a Marxist never-never land, where all the most retrograde phantoms of Literature as Instrument of Social Utility are trotted forth. Thus the Columbia History of the American Novel declares Harriet Beecher Stowe a better novelist than Herman Melville because she was « socially constructive » and because Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped rouse Americans against slavery, whereas the captain of the Pequod was a symbol of laissez-faire capitalism with a bad attitude toward whales.

With the same argument you can claim that an artist like William Gropper, who drew those stirring cartoons of fat capitalists in top hats for the New Masses 60 years ago, may have something over an artist like Edward Hopper, who didn’t care a plugged nickel for community and was always painting figures in lonely rooms in such a way that you can’t be sure whether he was criticizing alienation or affirming the virtues of solitude.

REWRITING HISTORY

It’s in the area of history that PC has scored its largest successes. The reading of history is never static. There is no such thing as the last word. And who could doubt that there is still much to revise in the story of the European conquest of North and South America that historians inherited? Its basic scheme was imperial: the epic advance of civilization against barbarism; the conquistador bringing the cross and the sword; the red man shrinking back before the cavalry and the railroad. Manifest Destiny. The notion that all historians propagated this triumphalist myth uncritically is quite false; you have only to read Parkman or Prescott to realize that. But after it left the histories and sank deep into popular culture, it became a potent myth of justification for plunder, murder and enslavement.

So now, in reaction to it, comes the manufacture of its opposite myth. European man, once the hero of the conquest of the Americas, now becomes its demon; and the victims, who cannot be brought back to life, are sanctified. On either side of the divide between Euro and native, historians stand ready with tarbrush and gold leaf, and instead of the wicked old stereotypes, we have a whole outfit of equally misleading new ones. Our predecessors made a hero of Christopher Columbus. To Europeans and white Americans in 1892, he was Manifest Destiny in tights, whereas a current PC book like Kirkpatrick Sale’s The Conquest of Paradise makes him more like Hitler in a caravel, landing like a virus among the innocent people of the New World.

The need for absolute goodies and absolute baddies runs deep in us, but it drags history into propaganda and denies the humanity of the dead: their sins, their virtues, their failures. To preserve complexity, and not flatten it under the weight of anachronistic moralizing, is part of the historian’s task.

You cannot remake the past in the name of affirmative action. But you can find narratives that haven’t been written, histories of people and groups that have been distorted or ignored, and refresh history by bringing them in. That is why, in the past 25 years, so much of the vitality of written history has come from the left. When you read the work of the black Caribbean historian C.L.R. James, you see a part of the world break its long silence: a silence not of its own choosing but imposed on it by earlier imperialist writers. You do not have to be a Marxist to appreciate the truth of Eric Hobsbawm’s claim that the most widely recognized achievement of radical history « has been to win a place for the history of ordinary people, common men and women. » In America this work necessarily includes the histories of its minorities, which tend to break down complacent nationalist readings of the American past.

By the same token, great changes have taken place in the versions of American history taught to schoolchildren. The past 10 years have brought enormous and hard-won gains in accuracy, proportion and sensitivity in the textbook treatment of American minorities, whether Asian, Native, black or ^ Hispanic. But this is not enough for some extremists, who take the view that only blacks can write the history of slavery, only Indians that of pre- European America, and so forth.

That is the object of a bizarre document called the Portland African- American Baseline Essays, which has never been published as a book but, in photocopied form, is radically changing the curriculums of school systems all over the country. Written by an undistinguished group of scholars, these essays on history, social studies, math, language and arts and science are meant to be a charter of Afrocentrist history for young black Americans. They have had little scrutiny in the mainstream press. But they are popular with bureaucrats like Thomas Sobol, the education commissioner in New York State — people who are scared of alienating black voters or can’t stand up to thugs like City College professor Leonard Jeffries. Their implications for American education are large, and mostly bad.

WAS CLEOPATRA BLACK?

The Afrocentrist claim can be summarized quite easily. It says the history of the cultural relations between Africa and Europe is bunk — a prop for the fiction of white European supremacy. Paleohistorians agree that intelligent human life began in the Rift Valley of Africa. The Afrocentrist goes further: the African was the cultural father of us all. European culture derives from Egypt, and Egypt is part of Africa, linked to its heart by the artery of the Nile. Egyptian civilization begins in sub-Saharan Africa, in Ethiopia and the Sudan.

Hence, argued the founding father of Afrocentrist history, the late Senegalese writer Cheikh Anta Diop, whatever is Egyptian is African, part of the lost black achievement; Imhotep, the genius who invented the pyramid as a monumental form in the 3rd millennium B.C., was black, and so were Euclid and Cleopatra in Alexandria 28 dynasties later. Blacks in Egypt invented hieroglyphics, and monumental stone sculpture, and the pillared temple, and the cult of the Pharaonic sun king. The habit of European and American historians of treating the ancient Egyptians as other than black is a racist plot to conceal the achievements of black Africa.

No plausible evidence exists for these claims of Egyptian negritude, though it is true that the racism of traditional historians when dealing with the cultures of Africa has been appalling. Most of them refused to believe African societies had a history that was worth telling. Here is Arnold Toynbee in A Study of History: « When we classify mankind by color, the only one of the primary races . . . which has not made a single creative contribution to any of our 21 civilizations is the black race. »

No black person — indeed, no modern historian of any race — could read such bland dismissals without disgust. The question is, How to correct the record? Only by more knowledge. Toynbee was writing more than 50 years ago, but in the past 20 years, immense strides have been made in the historical scholarship of both Africa and African America. But the upwelling of research, the growth of Black Studies programs, and all that goes with the long-needed expansion of the field seem fated to be plagued by movements like Afrocentrism, just as there are always cranks nattering about flying saucers on the edges of Mesoamerican archaeology.

To plow through the literature of Afrocentrism is to enter a world of claims about technological innovation so absurd that they lie beyond satire, like those made for Soviet science in Stalin’s time. Afrocentrists have at one time or another claimed that Egyptians, alias Africans, invented the wet-cell battery by observing electric eels in the Nile; and that late in the 1st millennium B.C., they took to flying around in gliders. (This news is based not on the discovery of an aircraft in an Egyptian tomb but on a silhouette wooden votive sculpture of the god Horus, a falcon, that a passing English businessman mistook some decades ago for a model airplane.) Some also claim that Tanzanians 1,500 years ago were smelting steel with semiconductor technology. There is nothing to prove these tales, but nothing to disprove them either — a common condition of things that didn’t happen.

THE REAL MULTICULTURALISM

Nowhere are the weaknesses and propagandistic nature of Afrocentrism more visible than in its version of slave history. Afrocentrists wish to invent a sort of remedial history in which the entire blame for the invention and practice of black slavery is laid at the door of Europeans. This is profoundly unhistorical, but it’s getting locked in popular consciousness through the new curriculums.

It is true that slavery had been written into the basis of the classical world. Periclean Athens was a slave state, and so was Augustan Rome. Most of their slaves were Caucasian. The word slave meant a person of Slavic origin. By the 13th century slavery spread to other Caucasian peoples. But the African % slave trade as such, the black traffic, was an Arab invention, developed by traders with the enthusiastic collaboration of black African ones, institutionalized with the most unrelenting brutality, centuries before the white man appeared on the African continent, and continuing long after the slave market in North America was finally crushed.

Naturally this is a problem for Afrocentrists, especially when you consider the recent heritage of Black Muslim ideas that many of them espouse. Nothing in the writings of the Prophet forbids slavery, which is why it became such an Arab-dominated business. And the slave traffic could not have existed without the wholehearted cooperation of African tribal states, built on the supply of captives generated by their relentless wars. The image promulgated by pop- history fictions like Roots — white slavers bursting with cutlass and musket into the settled lives of peaceful African villages — is very far from the historical truth. A marketing system had been in place for centuries, and its supply was controlled by Africans. Nor did it simply vanish with Abolition. Slave markets, supplying the Arab emirates, were still operating in Djibouti in the 1950s; and since 1960, the slave trade has flourished in Mauritania and the Sudan. There are still reports of chattel slavery in northern Nigeria, Rwanda and Niger.

But here we come up against a cardinal rule of the PC attitude to oppression studies. Whatever a white European male historian or witness has to say must be suspect; the utterances of an oppressed person or group deserve instant credence, even if they’re the merest assertion. The claims of the victim do have to be heard, because they may cast new light on history. But they have to pass exactly the same tests as anyone else’s or debate fails and truth suffers. The PC cover for this is the idea that all statements about history are expressions of power: history is written only by the winners, and truth is political and unknowable.

The word self-esteem has become one of the obstructive shibboleths of education. Why do black children need Afrocentrist education? Because, its promoters say, it will create self-esteem. The children live in a world of media and institutions whose images and values are created mainly by whites. The white tradition is to denigrate blacks. Hence blacks must have models that show them that they matter. Do you want your children to love themselves? Then change the curriculum. Feed them racist claptrap a la Leonard Jeffries, about . how your intelligence is a function of the amount of melanin in your skin, and how Africans were sun people, open and cooperative, whereas Europeans were ice people, skulking pallidly in caves.

It is not hard to see why these claims for purely remedial history are intensifying today. They are symbolic. Nationalism always wants to have myths to prop itself up; and the newer the nationalism, the more ancient its claims. The invention of tradition, as Eric Hobsbawm has shown in detail, was one of the cultural industries of 19th century Europe. But the desire for self-esteem does not justify every lie and exaggeration and therapeutic slanting of evidence that can be claimed to alleviate it. The separatism it fosters turns what ought to be a recognition of cultural diversity, or real multiculturalism, tolerant on both sides, into a pernicious symbolic program. Separatism is the opposite of diversity.

The idea that European culture is oppressive in and of itself is a fallacy that can survive only among the fanatical and the ignorant. The moral and intellectual conviction that inspired Toussaint-Louverture to focus the rage of the Haitian slaves and lead them to freedom in 1791 came from his reading of Rousseau and Mirabeau. When thousands of voteless, propertyless workers the length and breadth of England met in their reading groups in the 1820s to discuss republican ideas and discover the significance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, they were seeking to unite themselves by taking back the meanings of a dominant culture from custodians who didn’t live up to them.

Americans can still take courage from their example. Cultural separatism within this republic is more a fad than a serious proposal; it is not likely to hold. If it did, it would be a disaster for those it claims to help: the young, the poor and the black. Self-esteem comes from doing things well, from discovering how to tell a truth from a lie and from finding out what unites us as well as what separates us. The posturing of the politically correct is no more a guide to such matters than the opinions of Simon Legree.

Voir également:

Welcome, Freshman! Oppressor or Oppressed?

Heather Mac Donald

The Wall Street Journal

Sep. 29, 1992

It is never too soon to learn to identify yourself as a victim. Such, at least, is the philosophy of today’s college freshman orientation, which has become a crash course in the strange new world of university politics. Within days of arrival on campus, « new students » (the euphemism of choice for « freshmen ») learn the paramount role of gender, race, ethnicity, class and sexual orientation in determining their own and others’ identity. Most important, they are provided with the most critical tool of their college career: the ability to recognize their own victimization.

An informal survey shows that two themes predominate at freshmen orientation programs – oppression and difference — foreshadowing the leitmotifs of the coming four years. Orientations present a picture of college life in which bias lurks around every corner. This year, for example, the University of California at Berkeley changed the focus of its freshman orientation from « stereotyping » to « racism, homophobia, status-ism, sexism, and age-ism. » According to Michele Frasier, assistant director of the new student program at Berkeley, the program organizers « wanted to talk more specifically about specific issues the students will face ». The objective of the emphasis on discrimination is « to make students aware [of the] issues they need to think about, so they’re not surprised when they face them. »

Various Forms of ‘Isms’

Dartmouth’s assistant dean of freshmen, Tony Tillman, offered no less bleak a vision of the academic community. A mandatory program for freshmen, « Social Issues, » presented skits on « the issues first year students face, » which he defined as « the various forms of ‘isms’: sexism, racism, classism, etc. » If the content of the skits overlapped, such overlap was, according to Mr. Tillman, unavoidable. The experience of discrimination cannot be compartmentalized: « It’s not as if today, I have a racist experience, tomorrow, a sexist [one] . In any one day, one may be up against several issues. Some issues of sexism have a racist foundation, and vice versa. »

The point of the program (and, indeed, of much of the subsequent education at Dartmouth and other schools) is to « try to weave a common thread » through these various instances of oppression. If one can’t fit oneself into the victim role, however, today’s freshmen orientation offers an alternative: One can acknowledge oneself as the oppressor. Columbia University brought in a historian from the National Museum of American History in Washington to perform, in effect, an ideological delousing of the students. Her mission, as she said in her speech, was to help students recognize their own beliefs that foster inequality. By describing the stereotypes in American society that support racism and prejudice, she hoped to give students a chance to « re-evaluate [and] learn new things. »

Learning to see yourself as a victim is closely tied to seeing yourself as different. At Columbia, freshmen heard three of their classmates read essays on what being different–gay, black and Asian American – had meant in their lives. According to assistant dean Michael Fenlon, « the goal is to initiate an awareness of difference and the implications of difference for the Columbia community. And this is not a one-shot program. We expect it will continue through their four years here, not just in the classrooms, but in the residence halls, on the playing fields, and in every aspect of student life. »

« Faces of Community, » a program organized by Stanford’s « multicultural educator, » presented freshmen with a panel of students and staff who each embodied some officially recognized difference. James Wu, orientation coordinator of Stanford’s Residential Education program, says that the « Faces » program « gives students a sense that everyone’s different. » At Bowdoin, the assistant to the president for multicultural programs hosted a brown-bag lunch for freshmen entitled « Defining Diversity: Your Role in Racial-Consciousness Raising, Cultural Differences, and Cross-Cultural Social Enhancers. » Oberlin shows its new students a performance piece on « differences in race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and culture, » and follows up with separate orientation programs for Asian-Americans, blacks, Latinos, and gay, lesbian and bisexual students.

The presupposition behind the contemporary freshman initiation is the need for political re-education. Columbia’s assistant dean for freshmen, Kathryn Balmer, explained that « you can’t bring all these people together and say, ‘Now be one big happy community,’ without some sort of training…. It isn’t an ideal world, so we need to do some education. » That students have somehow managed for years to form a college community in the absence of such « education » has apparently escaped administrative attention.

Stanford’s outgoing multicultural educator, Greg Ricks, revealed the dimensions of the task: « White students need help to understand what it means to be white in a multicultural community. We have spent a lot of money and a lot of time trying to help students of color, and women students, and gay and disabled students to figure out what it means for them. But for the white heterosexual male who feels disconnected and marginalized by multiculturalism, we’ve got to do a lot of work here. »

* * *

Obsessive Emphasis on Difference If all this sounds more appropriate for a war-crimes trial than for the first year of college, the incoming student can at least look forward to one unexpected area of freedom at Duke. According to President Brodie, « gender » is a « preference » that should be respected. Anyone who feels oppressed by their chromosomes can apparently simply « prefer » to be of the opposite sex. »

Today’s freshman orientations, prelude to the education to come, raise one of the great unexplained mysteries of our time: how the obsessive emphasis on « difference » and victimization will lead to a more unified, harmonious culture. Students who have been taught from day one to identify themselves and their peers with one or another oppressed or oppressing group are already replicating those group divisions in their intellectual and social lives.

* * *

Ms. Mac Donald is a lawyer living in New York.

Voir encore:

Hiroshima : pourquoi le Japon préfère qu’Obama ne s’excuse pas

Barack Obama a choisi de ne pas prononcer d’excuses, au grand soulagement de Shinzo Abe et des élites japonaises, tant cette tragédie occulte encore aujourd’hui le vrai rôle du Japon pendant la guerre.
Yann Rousseau
Les Echos

Au Japon, c’est la saison des voyages scolaires. Jeudi, à la veille de la visite historique de Barack Obama, premier président américain en exercice à venir dans la ville martyre, des milliers d’élèves de primaire et de secondaire se pressaient dans les allées du musée de la Paix d’Hiroshima pour tenter d’appréhender le drame.

Ils ont vu les statues de cire, à taille réelle, représentant des enfants brûlés vifs dans les trois secondes qui ont suivi l’explosion, le 6 août 1945, de la bombe atomique « Little Boy » au-dessus de la ville. Plus loin, des restes de peau et d’ongles prélevés par une mère sur le cadavre de son fils. Et des images atroces, en noir et blanc, de corps irradiés. Dans le dernier couloir, ils ont signé un livret appelant la communauté internationale à renoncer aux armes nucléaires. Enfin, ils sont ressortis effarés par la violence et l’inhumanité du drame qu’a vécu leur nation il y a soixante et onze ans. A aucun moment, ils n’auront été exposés aux causes du drame.

L’ensemble du musée célèbre une forme d’année « zéro » du Japon, passé soudain, en août 1945, du statut d’agresseur brutal de l’Asie à celui de victime. Non loin de là, dans le mémorial pour les victimes de la bombe atomique, construit au début des années 2000 par le gouvernement, quelques lignes expliquent vaguement « qu’à un moment, au XXe siècle, le Japon a pris le chemin de la guerre » et que « le 8 décembre 1941, il a initié les hostilités contre les Etats-Unis, la Grande-Bretagne et d’autres ».

Pas d’excuses, pas d’introspection

Nulle évocation de la colonisation brutale de la région par les troupes nippones au début des années trente. Rien sur les massacres de civils et les viols de masse commis en Chine, à Nankin. Pas une ligne sur le sort des milliers de jeunes femmes asiatiques transformées en esclaves sexuelles pour les soldats nippons dans la région. Aucune mise en perspective permettant aux visiteurs japonais de tenter un travail de mémoire similaire à celui réussi en Allemagne dès la fin du conflit. Les enfants japonais n’ont pas d’équivalent de Dachau à visiter.

Beaucoup ont, un temps, espéré que Barack Obama bouleverserait cette lecture, qui a été confortée par des années d’un enseignement et d’une culture populaire expliquant que le pays et son empereur, Hirohito, avaient été entraînés malgré eux par une poignée de leaders militaires brutaux. Le dirigeant allait, par un discours de vérité, forcer le Japon à se regarder dans le miroir. Mais le président américain a déjà annoncé qu’il ne prononcerait pas à Hiroshima les excuses symboliques qui auraient pu contraindre les élites nippones à entamer une introspection sur leur vision biaisée de l’histoire. Le responsable devrait essentiellement se concentrer sur un discours plaidant pour un monde sans armes nucléaires, au grand soulagement du Premier ministre nippon, Shinzo Abe, qui estime que son pays a, de toute façon, suffisamment demandé pardon et fait acte de contrition.

Il est vrai que plusieurs responsables politiques japonais ont, au fil des décennies, formulé des excuses fortes pour les exactions commises par l’armée impériale avant et pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Mais autant de dirigeants ont fait douter, ces dernières années, de la sincérité de ces regrets. Plusieurs membres de l’actuel gouvernement ont eux aussi flirté avec un révisionnisme malsain. Des ministres proches de la droite nationaliste continuent aussi de se rendre plusieurs fois par an au sanctuaire shinto de Yasukuni, à Tokyo, considéré à Pékin et Séoul comme le symbole odieux du passé militariste du Japon. Ils y honorent les 2,5 millions de morts pour le Japon dans les derniers grands conflits, mais aussi 14 criminels de guerre condamnés pour leurs exactions dans la région lors de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Et l’exécutif n’émet jamais de communiqué clarifiant sa position sur ces visites controversées.

Amnésie et victimisation

S’ils craignent que la venue du président américain à Hiroshima n’incite le Japon à se cloîtrer dans cette amnésie et cette victimisation, les partisans d’un réexamen du passé nippon veulent encore croire que la seule présence de Barack Obama alimentera un débat sur la capacité de Tokyo à entamer une démarche similaire auprès de ses grands voisins asiatiques et de son allié américain. Déjà, mercredi soir, des médias ont embarrassé Shinzo Abe en le questionnant publiquement sur son éventuelle visite du site américain de Pearl Harbor, à Hawaii. Le 7 décembre 1941, cette base américaine fut attaquée par surprise par l’aéronavale japonaise et 2.403 Américains furent tués au cours du raid, qui reste vécu comme un traumatisme aux Etats-Unis.

Les médias sud-coréens et chinois vont, eux, défier le Premier ministre japonais d’oser venir dans leur pays déposer des fleurs sur des monuments témoins de l’oppression nippone d’autrefois. A quand une visite de Shinzo Abe à Nankin, demanderont-ils. Jamais, répondra le gouvernement conservateur. En déstabilisant Pékin, qui nourrit sa propagande des trous de mémoire de Tokyo, un tel geste symbolique témoignerait pourtant d’une maturité du Japon plus marquée et lui donnerait une aura nouvelle dans l’ensemble de l’Asie-Pacifique.

Voir de plus:

Hiroshima : Obama a-t-il tort de ne pas s’excuser pour la bombe atomique ?
Metronews
23-05-2016

POLITIQUE – A quatre jours de sa visite à Hiroshima, le président américain a prévenu qu’il ne s’excuserait pas pour le mal causé par le bombardement de la ville à l’arme atomique en 1945. Guibourg Delamotte, maître de conférences en sciences politiques au département Japon à Inalco, nous explique les raisons de ce refus.

Barack Obama a-t-il raison de ne pas s’excuser pour Hiroshima ?

Barack Obama se rendra à Hiroshima ce vendredi à l’issue d’un sommet des chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement du G7 organisé à Ise-Shima, dans le centre du Japon. Il sera le premier président américain en exercice à mettre les pieds dans la ville ravagée par l’attaque nucléaire américaine du 6 août 1945. Ce matin-là, à 8h15, un bombardier américain, l’Enola Gay, larguait au-dessus d’Hiroshima la première bombe atomique de l’histoire, tuant 75 000 personnes d’un coup.

Aussi symbolique soit aujourd’hui le geste de Barack Obama, il n’en reste pas moins refréné. Le chef d’Etat a en effet prévenu dans une déclaration à la chaîne japonaise NHK qu’il ne présenterait pas d’excuses. « Non, car je pense qu’il est important de reconnaître qu’en pleine guerre, les dirigeants doivent prendre toutes sortes de décisions ». Et de poursuivre : »C’est le rôle des historiens de poser des questions et de les examiner mais je sais, ayant moi-même été à ce poste depuis sept ans et demi, que tout dirigeant prend des décisions très difficiles, en particulier en temps de guerre ».

►Les Japonais aussi disposaient d’un « outil nucléaire »

De nombreux historiens ont pourtant établi, au fil des décennies, que la bombe atomique n’avait pas joué de rôle majeur pour gagner la Seconde guerre mondiale, le Japon ayant à l’époque, déjà décidé de capituler. Qu’en est-il vraiment ?

Contacté par metronews, Guibourg Delamotte, maître de conférences en sciences politiques au département Japon à Inalco, rappelle que les Japonais disaient également disposer « d’un outil nucléaire » à cette époque. D’autre part, « les effets de la bombe nucléaire sur la santé n’étaient pas encore connus. Les Américains eux-mêmes sous-estimaient les risques et restaient à quelques centaines de mètres des essais réalisés dans le désert, avec pour seule protection des lunettes de soleil ».

►Pourquoi Barack Obama ne s’excuse-t-il pas ?

« Formuler des excuses pour un chef d’Etat reste très compliqué », explique Guibourg Delamotte. « Barack Obama ne serait sans doute pas hostile à l’idée d’exprimer des regrets pour les souffrances infligées, mais d’un point de vue diplomatique, s’excuser revient à ouvrir un débat historique qui n’a jamais existé. Lorsque la guerre s’est terminée, une sorte de compromis a été établi entre les Américains et les Japonais, visant à ne plus évoquer le mal fait dans les deux camps ». Les Américains laissaient les Japonais tranquilles, en échange de quoi ces derniers ne demandaient pas d’excuses.

►A-t-il tort de ne pas le faire ?

Selon une enquête réalisée par l’agence japonaise Kyodo, 78,3%  des 115 survivants des attaques atomiques d’Hiroshima et de Nagasaki ne demandent pas d’excuses. « La visite du président américain constitue un geste de réconciliation symbolique et une reconnaissance du mal fait aux Japonais par les Américains », estime la spécialiste. Et de conclure : « Ne pas s’excuser est une sage décision diplomatique ».

Voir également:

Obama à Hiroshima : si, si, les USA s’excusent parfois, du bout des lèvres
Le président américain l’a annoncé : il ne s’excusera pas pour Hiroshima. Les Américains n’aiment pas la repentance. Cela leur est pourtant arrivé de présenter des excuses, tardivement et sans publicité.
Pascal Riché
Nouvel Obs

23 mai 2016

La visite d’un président américain à Hiroshima, le 27 mai prochain, est une première historique. Mais Barack Obama n’ira pas plus loin : il ne s’excusera pas au nom des Etats-Unis. Il l’a déclaré à la télévision japonaise NHK, en expliquant que dans le brouillard de la guerre, les leaders prenaient des décisions très difficiles.
Les Américains détestent l’exercice des excuses, cela n’entre pas dans le cadre dessiné par leurs ambitions universalistes : la grande puissance modèle, gardienne des valeurs démocratiques et humanistes, ne peut avoir commis de crimes. S’excuser n’est jamais neutre pour l’identité d’un pays : c’est une entaille portée à la narration qu’on essaye d’imposer.

Il est toutefois arrivé aux Etats-Unis, à quelques rares reprises, de présenter des excuses d’Etat. La plupart du temps à reculons et sans tambour ni trompette.

1. Le massacre des indiens

Il a fallu attendre avril 2009 pour qu’un début de repentance soit officiellement exprimé. Et encore : ces excuses n’ont pas été claironnées, elles n’ont pas été clamées lors d’une cérémonie devant les chefs des tribus indiennes réunies sur la colline du Capitole. Elles ont été camouflées dans un recoin des 67 pages de la loi portant sur le budget de la Défense pour 2010.

Les médias n’ont même pas été invités à assister à la signature, par Barack Obama le 19 décembre 2009, de cette résolution par laquelle le peuple américain s’excuse des « violences » et des « mauvais traitements » subies par les peuples natifs. Une repentance en catimini.

2. L’esclavage

Il aura fallu attendre 143 ans après l’abolition de l’esclavage pour que les Etats-Unis formulent des excuses. Mais sans grande publicité, sans signature présidentielle et en deux temps. En 2008, avant l’élection présidentielle qui a porté Obama à la Maison Blanche, la chambre des représentants a voté une première résolution ; puis, après l’investiture d’Obama, le Sénat a a son tour voté un texte allant dans le même sens.

Les deux n’ont pas été fusionnés et le président n’a pas eu à les signer. Ces textes n’ont donc, pour reprendre une comparaison faite par The Atlantic,  « pas plus de poids que des résolutions félicitant l’équipe victorieuse du Super Bowl ».

Auparavant, Bill Clinton avait exprimé pour la première fois des « regrets » et George W. Bush, à Gorée, avait qualifié l’esclavage « d’un des plus grands crime de l’histoire« , mais sans aller plus loin.

3. Les camps d’internement de Japonais

En 1988, le Congrès a voté une résolution pour présenter des excuses concernant les rafles de japonais après Pearl Harbour en 1942. Toutes les familles japonaises ou d’origine japonaise, devenues subitement suspectes, avaient été jetées dans des camps d’internement sans autre forme de procès. La majorité des parlementaires républicains a voté contre cette résolution qui déplore une « injustice fondamentale », présente des « excuses au nom du peuple américain » et prévoit une indemnisation pour les survivants et descendants des victimes. Mais la très grande majorité des démocrates a voté pour et Ronald Reagan l’a signée le 10 août, en s’en félicitant malgré les réserves de son camp : « Je pense que c’est une belle journée ».

4. les recherches sur la syphilis

Un médecin prélève du sang sur des « cobayes » à Tuskegee (Archives nationales)

Ces excuses aussi sont passées par un discours présidentiel. Bill Clinton, en 1997 a demandé pardon pour l’étude Tuskegee sur la syphilis. Un monstrueux programme de recherche sur l’évolution de la maladie, engagé dans les années 30 et se poursuivant sur plusieurs décennies, qui passait par des expérimentations sur des métayers noirs d’Alabama atteints de la maladie. On leur refusait tout traitement comme la pénicilline, tout en leur faisant croire qu’ils étaient soignés. Le scandale a fini par éclater dans les années 1970 mais il a fallu encore attendre 20 ans avant d’obtenir des excuses de la Maison Blanche :

« Le peuple américain est désolé, pour les pertes, pour les années de souffrance. Vous n’aviez rien fait de mal, vous avez été gravement victimes d’une mauvaise action. Je présente des excuses et je suis désolé qu’elles aient mis tant de temps à venir ».

Par ailleurs, en octobre 2010, Barack Obama s’est excusé publiquement, auprès du peuple du Guatemala, pour les recherches sur la syphilis pratiquées dans les années 1940 sur 1.500 citoyens de ce pays. Ces cobayes avaient été sciemment infectés par le virus de la Syphilis afin d’étudier l’efficacité de la pénicilline.

5. Les coups d’Etat et les coups tordus à l’étranger

Sur ces sujets là, très sensibles, les Etats-Unis sont très avares de repentance. En 1993, Bill Clinton s’est excusé, au nom des Etats-Unis, pour le coup d’Etat à Hawai en 1893. La reine Lili’uokalani, suspectée de vouloir prendre trop d’indépendance vis-à-vis des occidentaux, avait été déposée à la suite d’un débarquement américain.

Bill Clinton signe les excuses américaines pour avoir organisé un coup d’Etat en 1893 à Hawai (Willima J.Clinton Library)

Mais c’est une exception à la règle. Les Etats-Unis ne se sont jamais excusé d’avoir aidé les dictatures en Amérique latine dans les années 70. Du bout des lèvres, le 24 mars 2016, à Buenos Aires, devant la liste des noms des victimes de la dictature militaire gravés sur le mur du Parc de la Mémoire, Barack Obama a admis que les Etats-Unis « avaient tardé à défendre les droits de l’homme en Argentine et dans d’autres pays ». De même, on attend toujours les excuses américaines pour avoir soutenu l’apartheid en Afrique du Sud, envoyé du napalm au Vietnam. Ou lâché des bombes atomiques sur Hiroshima et Nagasaki.

Mais des excuses vis-à-vis d’un autre pays sont des opérations qui se discutent à deux, et celui qui « coince » n’est pas toujours celui auquel on pense. En 2011, il était déjà question d’une visite d’Obama à Hiroshima et d’excuses publiques. Mais comme on peut le lire dans un télégramme diplomatique dévoilé par Wikileaks, le gouvernement japonais a alors nettement repoussé l’idée, qui risquait notamment selon lui de renforcer dans son opinion publique le camp des antinucléaires.

Voir de plus:

Dying GOP Senator spends his last days apologizing to Muslims for Trump

This story epitomizes how hysterical and thoughtless the public discourse is nowadays. Trump is presented by the late Bob Bennett and the Daily Beast as an “Islamophobe” — someone with an irrational hatred of or fear of Islam and Muslims. In reality, he hasn’t said anything about Islam at all except that clearly there is a “problem,” and there obviously is. He has called for a temporary moratorium on Muslim immigration as an attempt to stop Islamic jihadis from entering the country. Did Bennett address that problem? Not from the looks of this story. Did Bennett propose an alternative method for keeping jihadis out of the country? No, and neither have any of the others who have likened Trump to Hitler for suggesting this. We are apparently just supposed to allow Muslims into the country without question, and accept that there will be jihad mass murder attacks in the U.S., because the alternative — appearing “racist,” even though Islam is not a race — is far worse. Death before political incorrectness.

“Dying GOP Senator Apologizes to Muslims for Donald Trump,” by Tim Mak, Daily Beast, May 18, 2016:

Bob Bennett spent his last days letting Muslims know how sorry he was that an Islamophobe had become his party’s all-but-certain nominee.

Former GOP senator Bob Bennett lay partially paralyzed in his bed on the fourth floor of the George Washington University Hospital. He was dying.

Not 48 hours had passed since a stroke had complicated his yearlong fight against pancreatic cancer. The cancer had begun to spread again, necessitating further chemotherapy. The stroke had dealt a further blow that threatened to finish him off.

Between the hectic helter-skelter of nurses, doctors, and well wishes from a long-cultivated community of friends and former aides, Bennett faced a quiet moment with his son Jim and his wife Joyce.

It was not a moment for self-pity.

Instead, with a slight slurring in his words, Bennett drew them close to express a dying wish: “Are there any Muslims in the hospital?” he asked.

“I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country, and apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump,” Bennett told his wife and son, both of whom relayed this story to The Daily Beast.

The rise of Donald Trump had appalled the three-term Utah senator, a Republican who fell victim to the tea-party wave of the 2010 midterms. His vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, had alienated many conservative activists in his state, who chose lawyer Mike Lee as the GOP nominee for Senate instead.

But as Bennett reflected on his life and legacy in mid-April, following the stroke, he wasn’t focused on the race that ended his political career. Instead, he brought up the issue of Muslims in America—over and over again.

He mentioned it briefly in a hospital interview with the Deseret News, a Utah news outlet. “There’s a lot of Muslims here in this area. I’m glad they’re here,” the former senator told the newspaper in April, describing them as “wonderful.”

“In the last days of his life this was an issue that was pressing in his mind… disgust for Donald Trump’s xenophobia,” Jim Bennett said. “At the end of his life he was preoccupied with getting things done that he had felt was left undone.”

Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants from America had outraged the former senator, his wife Joyce said, triggering his instincts to do what he could on a personal level. They ultimately did not canvass the hospital, but Bennett had already made an effort in his last months of life.

As they traveled from Washington to Utah for Christmas break, Bennett approached a woman wearing a hijab in the airport.

“He would go to people with the hijab [on] and tell them he was glad they were in America, and they were welcome here,” his wife said. “He wanted to apologize on behalf of the Republican Party.”

“He was astonished and aghast that Donald Trump had the staying power that he had… He had absolutely no respect for Donald Trump, and I think got angry and frustrated when it became clear that the party wasn’t going to steer clear of Trumpism,” his son relayed.

Bennett’s Mormon faith also played into his beliefs on Trump and Muslims: the billionaire’s proposal to ban Muslims prompted the LDS Church to issue a statement in support of religious freedom, quoting its founder saying he would “die in defending the rights… of any denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.”

“That was something my father felt very keenly—recognizing the parallel between the Mormon experience and the Muslim experience. [He] wanted to see these people treated with kindness, and not ostracized,” Jim Bennett said….

He died Wednesday, May 4.

Voir de même:

Israël : des généraux de Tsahal se mettent le pays à dos

En comparant l’atmosphère en Israël à celle de l’Allemagne des années 1930, le chef d’état-major de l’armée a mis en colère le gouvernement et l’opinion.

Danièle Kriegel

 Le Point
09/05/2016

PHOTO. Facebook s’excuse pour avoir censuré l’image d’un mannequin grande taille

24/05/2016
RÉSEAUX SOCIAUX – Facebook a dû faire machine arrière après avoir interdit la photographie d’un mannequin aux formes généreuses en bikini dans une publicité australienne destinée à promouvoir l’image positive du corps, jugeant que le corps en question était montré sous un jour « indésirable« . Le réseau social a ensuite présenté ses excuses aux organisateurs expliquant avoir mal jaugé la publicité.

Facebook avait, dans un premier temps, bloqué la publicité de l’association de Melbourne « Cherchez la femme » pour un événement baptisé « graisse et féminisme », disant que la photo contrevenait à ses règlements.

Une publicité qui ne répondait pas « à leurs critères »

Lorsque les organisateurs se sont inquiétés de la décision, Facebook a expliqué que la publicité ne répondait pas à leurs critères en matière de santé et de fitness car « l’image dépeint un corps ou des parties du corps d’une manière indésirable ». « Les publicités de ce type ne sont pas permises car elles entraînent chez ceux qui les voient une mauvaise image d’eux-mêmes », écrit Facebook à l’une des organisatrices de l’événement Jessamy Gleeson, qui a publié sur internet une capture d’écran de la lettre.

Mme Gleeson s’est dit abasourdie que Facebook « ne sache apparemment pas que des rondes, des femmes qui se décrivent comme grosses, peuvent se sentir très bien dans leur peau ». Elle a appelé les internautes à « crier fort contre quiconque tenterait de nous dire que certains corps sont plus désirables que d’autres ».

« Facebook n’a pas tenu compte du fait que notre événement va aborder l’image corporelle positive, qui peut concerner tous les types de corps, mais dans notre cas en l’occurrence les gros corps », ajoute-t-elle.

Voir aussi:
T’as vu ?

Pour Facebook, un mannequin grande taille ne peut pas être une icône de pub

WEB Facebook a bloqué la promotion d’un message en raison d’une photo jugée «inopportune»…

Le message en question était censé promouvoir un panel de discussion nommé « Le féminisme et les gros ». Plutôt raccord, donc. Mais Facebook a considéré que la pub montrait le corps « de manière inopportune ». Il a donc bloqué la diffusion du message auprès d’un large public, ce que permet le réseau social contre rémunération, sans pour autant le supprimer. « Les publicités ne doivent pas faire la promotion d’un état de santé ou d’un poids parfait ou à l’inverse non désirable », justifie ainsi l’entreprise dans un message à l’adresse de Cherchez la Femme. Avant de préciser : « Les pubs comme celle-ci ne sont pas admises parce qu’elles mettent les spectateurs mal à l’aise. »

Une réponse trollissime

De quoi faire « enrager » le groupe australien, contacté par The Telegraph. D’autant que Facebook lui conseille d’utiliser à la place une image « d’une activité pertinente [au regard du sujet], comme la course ou le vélo ». « Facebook ignore le fait que notre événement consiste à discuter du corps… et conclut que nous mettons les femmes mal à l’aise en postant la photo d’un mannequin grande taille », soupire un porte-parole de Cherchez la Femme.

Prenant le réseau social au mot, le groupe a changé la photo de son post promotionnel. Sur sa nouvelle image, un vélo… chevauché par une femme ronde.

Voir encore:

Le fonc­tion­naire âgé de 29 ans a fait preuve d’un sang-froid incroyable alors que sa vie était en danger. Les inter­nautes lui rendent hommage.

 Luca Andreolli

VSD

19 mai 2016

Hier, une mani­fes­ta­tion assez inédite s’est tenue à Paris. Les syndi­cats de police ont appelé les repré­sen­tants des forces de l’ordre à dénon­cer la « haine anti-flics » qui semble se répandre dans les diffé­rents cortèges orga­ni­sés contre la loi Travail depuis des semaines. Cette contre-offen­sive poli­cière fait direc­te­ment écho au slogan « Tout le monde déteste la police », crié à tue-tête par les mani­fes­tants les plus véhé­ments. L’idée était ainsi d’ap­pe­ler « au soutien de la popu­la­tion » et à la condam­na­tion des groupes orga­ni­sés de « casseurs » qui sévissent dans les rues de France. Ce coup de commu­ni­ca­tion bien orches­tré a été renforcé par la viru­lence de jeunes mani­fes­tants, qui ont, quant à eux, tenu à se réunir en marge du rassem­ble­ment poli­cier, malgré les inter­dic­tions formu­lées par la préfec­ture.

Et une fois de plus, la situa­tion a dégé­néré. Preuve de la gravité des faits commis, une enquête a même été ouverte pour « tenta­tive d’ho­mi­cide volon­taire » suite à l’at­taque d’une voiture de police, qui a débou­ché sur l’inter­pel­la­tion de cinq personnes. La scène a déjà fait le tour du monde et choqué l’opi­nion publique. Elle a été filmée par une caméra embarquée, offrant un point de vue simi­laire à celui des assaillants. La séquence a été postée sur Youtube et a été vision­née plus de 245 000 fois. Elle a donné lieu à de nombreuses réuti­li­sa­tions, notam­ment sur Twit­ter, où des inter­nautes ont isolé quelques courts passages pour en faire des GIF ou des Vine, c’est-à-dire des vidéos de quelques secondes.

Dans ce flot de conte­nus très expli­cites, on découvre une violence inouïe. Une voiture de poli­ciers se retrouve isolée dans une rue proche de la place de la Répu­blique, où déboulent des dizaines de mani­fes­tants hostiles. Beau­coup sont masqués par des écharpes ou des cagoules. Les insultes pleuvent et les coups sur la carlingue commencent à défer­ler. À l’in­té­rieur, les deux fonc­tion­naires (un homme et une femme) sont en très fâcheuse posture. Mais ils ne peuvent rien faire, étant bloqués par la file de voitures qui les précèdent. Soudain, un casseur assène un violent coup de pied dans la vitre du conduc­teur, qui explose en mille morceaux. Un autre se préci­pite pour s’en prendre direc­te­ment au poli­cier coincé à l’in­té­rieur. Puis, c’est au tour de la plage arrière d’être prise d’as­saut.

Plusieurs projec­tiles sont utili­sés pour malme­ner les forces de l’ordre, notam­ment des bornes anti-station­ne­ment. Un objet incen­diaire est fina­le­ment balancé à l’in­té­rieur du véhi­cule, qui commence à prendre feu. Le conduc­teur semble alors char­ger son arme, avant de sortir pour sauver sa peau. On découvre une carrure impo­sante se déga­ger de ce brasier. Mais pas las d’har­ce­ler les poli­ciers, un casseur se présente avec un long bâton pour frap­per de nouveau le fonc­tion­naire. Celui-ci ne se démonte pas pour autant. Il somme son agres­seur de s’ar­rê­ter. Ce dernier, décon­te­nancé par le gaba­rit de son oppo­sant, semble esquis­ser un geste de recul, mais tente malgré tout d’as­sé­ner d’autres coups. Le poli­cier choi­sit de parer chaque tenta­tive, sans attaquer, en se conten­tant simple­ment d’avan­cer de quelques pas pour dissua­der le casseur de conti­nuer. Il est fina­le­ment secouru par des collègues et s’échappe calme­ment et sans se retour­ner, lais­sant la voiture s’em­bra­ser derrière lui.

Une preuve de courage et un sang-froid unani­me­ment salués depuis par de nombreux Twit­tos, qui ont notam­ment utilisé le mot dièse #KungFuFigh­ting. Quant au « héros » du jour, peu d’in­for­ma­tions sur lui ont filtré. Le préfet de Paris, Bernard Cadot, a simple­ment précisé que le poli­cier de 29 ans était un adjoint de sécu­rité, membre de « la brigade du péri­phé­rique », et que l’agres­sion dont il a été victime s’est produite en rentrant d’in­ter­ven­tion. Même s’il a échappé au pire et ne souffre que de bles­sures super­fi­cielles, il a néan­moins passé la nuit en obser­va­tion à l’hô­pi­tal Bégin de Saint-Mandé. Le ministre de l’In­té­rieur, Bernard Caze­neuve, lui a d’ailleurs visite pour « louer son courage abso­lu­ment formi­dable, comme la plupart des poli­ciers qui sont mobi­li­sés dans la période ».

Voir aussi:

Equipe de France : Cantona accuse Deschamps d’être trop français
Valeurs actuelles
26 Mai 2016

Accusations. L’ancien joueur de l’équipe de France, Eric Cantona, a attaqué violemment le sélectionneur des Bleus Didier Deschamps. Il lui reproche un nom « très français » et une famille qui n’est « pas mélangée, comme les Mormons ». Il l’accuse de n’avoir pas convoqué dans le groupe les attaquants Karim Benzema et Hatem Ben Arfa en raison de leurs origines.

Eric Cantona n’a pas sa langue dans sa poche, même quand il s’agit de jeter des accusations pour le moins étranges. Dans une interview au Guardian, l’ancienne star de Manchester United s’en est pris à Didier Deschamps, le sélectionneur de l’équipe de France : « Benzema est un grand joueur, Ben Arfa est un grand joueur. Mais Deschamps, il a un nom très français. Peut-être qu’il est le seul en France à avoir un nom vraiment français. Personne dans sa famille n’est mélangé avec quelqu’un, vous savez. Comme les Mormons en Amérique. Je ne suis pas surpris qu’il ait utilisé la situation de Benzema pour ne pas le prendre. Surtout après que Valls ait dit qu’il ne devrait pas jouer pour la France. Ben Arfa est peut-être le meilleur joueur en France aujourd’hui, mais il a des origines. Je suis autorisé à m’interroger à propos de ça ».
Des propos à peine surprenants pour l’ancien joueur de l’équipe de France, habitué des sorties hasardeuses et investi dans la lutte contre le racisme. Plus tard dans l’interview, il en a rajouté lorsqu’on lui a demandé si les choix de Didier Deschamps étaient racistes : « Peut-être non, peut-être oui. Pourquoi pas ? Une chose est sûre, Benzema et Ben Arfa sont deux des meilleurs joueurs français et ne seront pas à l’Euro. Et pour sûr, Benzema et Ben Arfa ont des origines nord-africaines. Donc le débat est ouvert ».

En équipe de France, d’autres excellents joueurs
Eric Cantona fait preuve de mauvaise foi dans ses propos. Si Karim Benzema n’est pas sélectionné malgré son excellent niveau, c’est en raison de son implication dans un chantage à la sextape à l’encontre de l’un de ses anciens coéquipiers en bleu, Mathieu Valbuena. L’attaquant du Real Madrid, s’il n’est plus sous contrôle judiciaire, reste mis en examen dans cette affaire. Quant à Hatem Ben Arfa, il sort effectivement d’une saison brillante avec son club de Nice. Mais la concurrence en attaque est très rude chez les Bleus. Affirmer que ces deux joueurs sont les meilleurs joueurs français est discutable. Antoine Griezmann joue par exemple la finale de la Ligue des champions samedi prochain, et a pris une place de leader dans l’une des meilleures équipes d’Europe, l’Atletico Madrid. On peut également citer des joueurs comme Paul Pogba ou Blaise Matuidi, deux joueurs français très cotés qui participeront à l’Euro.

Voir enfin:

Je condamne le christia­nisme
Friedrich Nietzsche

L’Antréchrist

(1895)

Je termine ici et je prononce mon jugement. Je condamne le christia­nisme, j’élève contre l’Église chrétienne la plus terrible de toutes les accusa­tions, que jamais accusateur ait prononcée. Elle est la plus grande corruption que l’on puisse imaginer, elle a eu la volonté de la dernière corruption possible. L’Église chrétienne n’épargna sur rien sa corruption, elle a fait de toute valeur une non-valeur, de chaque vérité un mensonge, de chaque intégrité une bassesse d’âme.

Qu’on ose encore me parler de ses bienfaits « humanitaires ». Supprimer une misère était contraire à sa plus profonde utilité, elle vécut de misères, elle créa des misères pour s’éterniser… Le ver du péché par exemple : une misère dont l’Église seulement enrichit l’huma­nité ! — L’ « égalité des âmes devant Dieu », cette fausseté, ce prétexte aux rancunes les plus basses, cet explosif de l’idée, qui finit par devenir Révo­lution, idée moderne, principe de dégénérescence de tout l’ordre social — c’est la dynamite chrétienne… les bienfaits « humanitaires » du christia­nisme ! Faire de l’humanitas une contradiction, un art de pollution, une aversion, un mépris de tous les instincts bons et droits ! Cela serait pour moi des bienfaits du christianisme ! — Le parasitisme, seule pratique de l’Église, buvant, avec son idéal d’anémie et de sainteté, le sang, l’amour, l’espoir en la vie ; l’au-delà, négation de toute réalité ; la croix, signe de ralliement pour la conspiration la plus souterraine qu’il y ait jamais eue, — conspiration contre la santé, la beauté, la droiture, la bravoure, l’esprit, la beauté d’âme, contre la vie elle-même…

Je veux inscrire à tous les murs cette accusation éternelle contre le chris­tianisme, partout où il y a des murs, — j’ai des lettres qui rendent voyants même les aveugles… J’appelle le christianisme l’unique grande calamité, l’unique grande perversion intérieure, l’unique grand instinct de haine qui ne trouve pas de moyen assez venimeux, assez clandestin, assez souterrain, assez petit — je l’appelle l’unique et l’immortelle flétrissure de l’humanité…


Doctrine Obama: Attention, un angélisme peut en cacher un autre (Passionless presidency: A hundred years on, Hobbesian optimist Obama comes up with his own version of Angell’s Great Illusion of the supposed futility of hard power)

25 mars, 2016
grande-illusion-movie-posterDisgrace2ObamaWaveOTangoApologizer in chief on DDaygun-laws
Speak softlyNe croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus (Matthieu 10 : 34-36)
Le monde moderne n’est pas mauvais : à certains égards, il est bien trop bon. Il est rempli de vertus féroces et gâchées. Lorsqu’un dispositif religieux est brisé (comme le fut le christianisme pendant la Réforme), ce ne sont pas seulement les vices qui sont libérés. Les vices sont en effet libérés, et ils errent de par le monde en faisant des ravages ; mais les vertus le sont aussi, et elles errent plus férocement encore en faisant des ravages plus terribles. Le monde moderne est saturé des vieilles vertus chrétiennes virant à la folie.  G.K. Chesterton
Nous appelions l’Amérique de nos voeux et nous sommes exaucés: même nos « problèmes », désormais, sont américains. René Girard
Nous sommes encore proches de cette période des grandes expositions internationales qui regardait de façon utopique la mondialisation comme l’Exposition de Londres – la « Fameuse » dont parle Dostoievski, les expositions de Paris… Plus on s’approche de la vraie mondialisation plus on s’aperçoit que la non-différence ce n’est pas du tout la paix parmi les hommes mais ce peut être la rivalité mimétique la plus extravagante. René Girard
L’erreur est toujours de raisonner dans les catégories de la « différence », alors que la racine de tous les conflits, c’est plutôt la « concurrence », la rivalité mimétique entre des êtres, des pays, des cultures. La concurrence, c’est-à-dire le désir d’imiter l’autre pour obtenir la même chose que lui, au besoin par la violence. Sans doute le terrorisme est-il lié à un monde « différent » du nôtre, mais ce qui suscite le terrorisme n’est pas dans cette « différence » qui l’éloigne le plus de nous et nous le rend inconcevable. Il est au contraire dans un désir exacerbé de convergence et de ressemblance. (…) Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. Mais les tours détruites occupaient autant d’étrangers que d’Américains. Et par leur efficacité, par la sophistication des moyens employés, par la connaissance qu’ils avaient des Etats-Unis, par leurs conditions d’entraînement, les auteurs des attentats n’étaient-ils pas un peu américains ? On est en plein mimétisme.Ce sentiment n’est pas vrai des masses, mais des dirigeants. Sur le plan de la fortune personnelle, on sait qu’un homme comme Ben Laden n’a rien à envier à personne. Et combien de chefs de parti ou de faction sont dans cette situation intermédiaire, identique à la sienne. Regardez un Mirabeau au début de la Révolution française : il a un pied dans un camp et un pied dans l’autre, et il n’en vit que de manière plus aiguë son ressentiment. Aux Etats-Unis, des immigrés s’intègrent avec facilité, alors que d’autres, même si leur réussite est éclatante, vivent aussi dans un déchirement et un ressentiment permanents. Parce qu’ils sont ramenés à leur enfance, à des frustrations et des humiliations héritées du passé. Cette dimension est essentielle, en particulier chez des musulmans qui ont des traditions de fierté et un style de rapports individuels encore proche de la féodalité. (…) Cette concurrence mimétique, quand elle est malheureuse, ressort toujours, à un moment donné, sous une forme violente. A cet égard, c’est l’islam qui fournit aujourd’hui le ciment qu’on trouvait autrefois dans le marxisme.  René Girard
Si j’étais juif et étais né en Allemagne et y gagnais ma vie, je revendiquerais l’Allemagne comme ma patrie au même titre que le plus grand des gentils Allemands et le défierais de m’abattre ou de me jeter au cachot; je refuserais d’être expulsé ou soumis à toute mesure discriminatoire. Et pour cela, je n’attendrais pas que mes coreligionaires se joignent à moi dans la résistance civile mais serais convaincu qu’à la fin ceux-ci ne manqueraient pas de suivre mon exemple. Si un juif ou tous les juifs acceptaient la prescription ici offerte, ils ne pourraient être en plus mauvaise posture que maintenant. Et la souffrance volontairement subie leur apporterait une force et une joie intérieures que ne pourraient leur apporter aucun nombre de résolutions de sympathie du reste du monde. Gandhi (le 26 Novembre 1938)
Il vous faut abandonner les armes que vous avez car elles n’ont aucune utilité pour vous sauver vous ou l’humanité. Vous inviterez Herr Hitler et signor Mussolini à prendre ce qu’ils veulent des pays que vous appelez vos possessions…. Si ces messieurs choisissent d’occuper vos maisons, vous les évacuerez. S’ils ne vous laissent pas partir librement, vous vous laisserez abattre, hommes, femmes et enfants, mais vous leur refuserez toute allégeance. Gandhi (conseil aux Britanniques, 1940)
Des juifs sont persécutés, volés, maltraités, torturés, assassinés. Et vous, Mahatma Gandhi, dites que leur position dans le pays où ils souffrent tout ceci est un parallèle exact avec la position des Indiens en Afrique du sud au moment où vous inauguriez votre célèbre « force de la vérité » ou « force de la campagne d’âme » (Satyagraha) (…) Mais, Mahatma, savez-vous ou ne savez-vous pas ce qu’est un camp de concentration et ce qui s’y passe? Martin Buber
Les Etats-Unis étaient allés au Viêt-nam pour porter un coup d’arrêt à ce qu’ils estimaient être un complot communiste centralisé, et ils échouèrent. De l’échec de l’Amérique, Moscou déduisit ce que les tenants de la théorie des dominos avaient tant redouté, à savoir que la corrélation historique des forces avait tourné en sa faveur. En conséquence, l’URSS essaya d’étendre son hégémonie au Yémen, en Angola, en Ethiopie, et enfin en Afghanistan. Mais elle découvrit, ce faisant, que les réalités géopolitiques s’appliquaient autant aux sociétés communistes qu’à leurs soeurs capitalistes. De fait, étant moins élastique, le surengagement soviétique n’engendra pas une catharsis, comme en Amérique, mais la désintégration. Les événements auraient-ils évolué dans la même direction si l’Amérique s’était contentée de rester passive en comptant sur l’évolution de l’histoire pour se charger du défi communiste ? Ou bien cette démission aurait-elle créé un élan et une certitude de l’inéluctabilité de la victoire, chez les communistes, suffisants pour retarder, voire conjurer, l’effondrement soviétique ? La question reste posée. Quelle que soit la réponse des experts, l’homme d’Etat ne peut adopter la démission comme principe d’action politique. Il peut apprendre à modérer sa confiance dans ses évaluations et à faire la part des imprévus; mais compter sur la chute éventuelle d’un adversaire menaçant est une politique qui n’offre aucun réconfort aux millions de victimes immédiates et transforme l’art de gouverner en un pari téméraire sur l’intuition. Henry Kissinger (Diplomatie, 1994)
Norman Angell establishes this apparent paradox, in so far as the economic problem is concerned, by showing that wealth in the economically civilized world is founded upon credit and commercial contract (these being the outgrowth of an economic interdependence due to the increasing division of labour and greatly developed communication). If credit and commercial contract are tampered with in an attempt at confiscation, the credit-dependent wealth is undermined, and its collapse involves that of the conqueror; so that if conquest is not to be self-injurious it must respect the enemy’s property, in which case it becomes economically futile. Thus the wealth of conquered territory remains in the hands of the population of such territory. When Germany annexed Alsace, no individual German secured a single mark’s worth of Alsatian property as the spoils of war. Conquest in the modern world is a process of multiplying by x, and then obtaining the original figure by dividing by x. For a modern nation to add to its territory no more adds to the wealth of the people of such nation than it would add to the wealth of Londoners if the City of London were to annex the county of Hertford. Wikipedia
La Grande Illusion (titre original : The Great Illusion) est un livre de Norman Angell paru en 1910. Une première version est publiée en 1909 en Angleterre sous le titre Europe’s Optical Illusion. Cet essai défend la thèse selon laquelle une guerre ne peut plus éclater grâce au poids du crédit présent partout dans le monde ou que, si elle éclate, elle serait courte. Cela contribua au fait que la population européenne n’était pas prête à la guerre. Traduit simultanément dans de très nombreux pays, cette analyse de Norman Angell est contredite par le déclenchement de la Première Guerre mondiale. Cependant en 1933, Angell fait paraître une nouvelle version de son livre qui lui vaut le prix Nobel de la paix la même année. Il y modifie son analyse d’avant-guerre : selon lui, une nation ne gagne pas à déclarer la guerre pour des raisons économiques. Wikipedia
A sa sortie en 1937, le long métrage est jugé comme un film de gauche pacifiste en faveur du rapprochement entre les peuples. Le personnage du juif Rosenthal est apprécié parce qu’il est censé battre en brèche les antisémites en montrant que les Juifs font la guerre comme tout le monde. Au lendemain de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, certains journalistes se déchaînent contre le film. Le personnage cupide de Rosenthal révèle l’antisémitisme banal et populaire des Français de l’entre-deux-guerres. Les gestes d’amitié entre soldats français et allemands sont vécus comme annonciateurs du régime de Vichy et comme une invitation à la collaboration. Il faudra attendre la Nouvelle Vague pour voir le film réhabilité et porté aux nues par des cinéastes comme François Truffaut, grand admirateur de Jean Renoir. Le jeune metteur en scène interprète alors le film de façon rétrospective, à la lumière de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Il pense que la grande illusion est de penser en 1918 que c’est la dernière guerre. Et de citer les derniers dialogues du film :  Maréchal : Il faut bien qu’on la finisse cette putain de guerre… en espérant que c’est la dernière. Rosenthal : Ah, tu te fais des illusions ! Marc Ferro
La Grande illusion évoque la fin du règne de l’aristocratie dans l’armée en soulignant le déclin de la cavalerie à l’issue de la Première Guerre mondiale. Les portraits croisés du Capitaine de Boeldieu et de Von Rauffenstein illustrent admirablement cette idée. (…) A la sortie du film aux Usa en 1938, Jean Renoir déclara : parce que je suis pacifiste, j’ai réalisé La Grande illusion. Pour moi, un vrai pacifiste, c’est un Français, un Américain, un Allemand authentique. Ce pacifisme fut parfois interprété à tort comme un antimilitarisme. (…) La Grande illusion fut nommé aux Oscar dans la catégorie meilleur film en 1939. Un fait rarissime pour un film étranger. Le jury du Festival de Venise (1937) n’osa attribuer que le prix de la Meilleure contribution artistique à La Grande illusion. Mais cette récompense provoqua tout de même la colère des autorités mussoliniennes et nazies. Le film fut même censuré en Italie et en Allemagne. Le titre du film a été emprunté au livre homonyme de Norman Angell datant de 1911. Cet auteur, prix Nobel de la paix en 1933, y développait la théorie que la guerre n’apporte aucun avantage, même aux vainqueurs. Suite à l’interdiction en France du film à partir de 1940 pour son absence d’idéologie patriotique, Jean Renoir prend la décision d’en modifier certains segments. En 1946, il décide de couper la scène d’amour entre Jean Gabin et Dita Parlo, ainsi qu’une autre séquence où le personnage juif de Rosenthal donne du chocolat à une sentinelle allemande. Il est vraisemblable que le couple formé par un Français et une Allemande semblait insupportable après l’occupation allemande et la collaboration. Quant à la scène de Rosenthal, elle a dû paraître antisémite. Jean Renoir et Charles Spaak ont été attaqués en justice par l’écrivain Jean des Vallières (10), ancien aviateur et prisonnier, pour le plagiat de son œuvre Kavalier Scharnhorst. Trame ressemblante, même scène de prisonniers travestis, même utilisation de la chanson Il était un petit navire et de l’expression streng verboten, entre autres coïncidences. Finalement, les deux scénaristes furent blanchis de cette accusation. A noter que l’affaire se régla toutefois par le versement à Jean des Vallières d’une somme dont le montant demeure secret. La Grande illusion fut très apprécié aux Usa à sa sortie. Jean Renoir affirme que le bon accueil qui lui fut réservé lors de son exil Outre-atlantique en 1940 est dû à ce film. La Grande illusion reçut un accueil mitigé dans les démocraties occidentales. Tandis que le Ministre socialiste Paul-Henri Spaak (qui se trouve être le frère de Charles Spaak, scénariste de ce film) l’interdit en Belgique, Winston Churchill le condamne en Grande-Bretagne. A l’inverse, le président des Etats-Unis Roosevelt se fait projeter le long métrage le 11 novembre 1937 et déclare : tous les démocrates du monde devraient voir ce film. Citebd
Il y a des rencontres parfois inopportunes, souvent gênantes. Celles qui laissent des taches indélébiles dans les mémoires d’un chef d’Etat. Ces dîners avec le diable pour lesquels, en dépit de toutes les longues cuillères utilisées, les démocraties perdent chaque fois un peu de leur éclat. On se souvient de la réception par François Mitterrand du dictateur polonais Wojciech Jaruzelski, en 1985, une visite qui avait“troublé” le Premier ministre de l’époque, Laurent Fabius, ou celle de Fidel Castro, en 1995. Dans les carnets de bal présidentiels, figurent aussi (entre autres) la longue amitié entre la France de Jacques Chirac et Saddam Hussein, l’ancien maître de l’Irak, l’invitation du très contesté président zimbabwéen Robert Mugabe, la tente de Kadhafi plantée dans les jardins de l’hôtel de Marigny, en 2007, ou la venue de Bachar El-Assad au défilé du 14-Juillet, en 2008… Sans parler de la longue liste des voyages présidentiels dans ces pays où les droits des citoyens sont bafoués mais les contrats commerciaux convoités, comme ceux menés tambour battant par Manuel Valls en Egypte et en Arabie Saoudite début octobre. La chute du mur de Berlin, l’effondrement de l’Union soviétique, le décollage économique de la Chine ou les “printemps arabes” avaient pu donner l’illusion que la démocratie était au coin de la rue. Erreur. Les carrefours de l’Histoire sont jonchés d’embûches. La montée des peurs et les nouveaux désordres mondiaux incitent aujourd’hui nos régimes à de nouvelles alliances, à de nouveaux compromis. Quitte à être moins regardants sur la qualité de nos amis. Pis, au nom d’une prétendue stabilité, il faudrait non seulement dîner mais aussi passer de petits arrangements avec les autocrates. Mais ce retour à la mode de la realpolitik ne doit pas faire illusion : si celle-ci a pour objet de nous rassurer, elle a aussi ses limites, précisément celles qu’exposait Benjamin Franklin il y a deux siècles et demi : “Ceux qui abandonnent la liberté pour acheter une sécurité temporaire ne méritent ni la liberté ni la sécurité. » Cette phrase datée de 1855 (sic) est inscrite sur une plaque du socle de la statue de la Liberté.  Courrier international
Le président améri­cain Barack Obama s’est rendu à Cuba, accom­pa­gné de sa femme, Michelle et de ses deux filles, Sasha et Malia, 14 et 17 ans, pour offi­cia­li­ser la norma­li­sa­tion des rela­tions entre les deux pays. Au cours de ce dépla­ce­ment symbo­lique et histo­rique, la famille Obama est appa­rue plus complice que jamais. Dès la descente de l’avion prési­den­tiel, ce dimanche 20 mars, les quatre membres de la famille Obama étaient déten­dus et souriant. Leur visite de trois jours à Cuba, censée offi­cia­li­ser le réchauf­fe­ment des rela­tions entre l’île et les Etats-Unis, montre une nouvelle fois leur capa­cité à rester spon­ta­nés au milieu des rigueurs proto­co­laires. Les robes fleu­ries de Michelle, l’en­thou­siasme de Barack au match de base­ball, les talents de traduc­trice de Malia, l’aî­née de leurs filles… Chacun de leurs gestes étaient scru­tés, mais ils ont sans conteste réussi l’exer­cice de séduc­tion, toujours avec leur décon­trac­tion légen­daire. Barack Obama est ainsi devenu le premier président améri­cain en exer­cice à se rendre à Cuba depuis près de 90 ans. C’était l’oc­ca­sion pour lui, à 10 mois de la fin de son mandat, de confir­mer le dégel avec La Havane, engagé fin 2014, mais aussi pour le président cubain, Raul Castro, de plai­der une nouvelle fois pour la suppres­sion de l’em­bargo écono­mique qui péna­lise son île depuis 1962. A côté de ce contexte diplo­ma­tique solen­nel, la famille Obama s’est égale­ment adon­née avec une joie non dissi­mu­lée à la décou­verte de l’île ; de la vieille ville de La Havane, avec ses monu­ments histo­riques et ses jardins, à l’équipe de base­ball natio­nale cubaine. (…) En voyant les photos de la famille Obama à Cuba, on croi­rait presque assis­ter aux vacances d’une famille comme les autres, si ce n’est les jour­na­listes et les offi­ciels cubains que l’on aperçoit parfois à leurs côtés. Malia et Sasha profi­taient de quelques jours de Spring break (vacances de prin­temps), avant de retour­ner en cours. C’était d’ailleurs peut être les dernières vacances en famille pour Malia, qui devrait quit­ter les siens pour entrer à l’uni­ver­sité, à l’au­tomne prochain. Gala
En visite offi­cielle en Argen­tine, le président Obama s’est livré à une démons­tra­tion de tango au bras d’une grande danseuse, tandis que sa femme Michelle esquis­sait elle aussi quelques pas avec un danseur profes­sion­nel. (…) Après avoir conquis les médias en famille lors de leur visite histo­rique à Cuba, les Obama ont laissé leur deux filles retour­ner en cours, et ont rejoint l’Ar­gen­tine pour une visite offi­cielle de deux jours. Ce jeudi 24 mars, le couple devrait assis­ter aux commé­mo­ra­tions du 40e anni­ver­saire du coup d’Etat de 1976. Là encore, la présence du président améri­cain est forte­ment symbo­lique, puisque les Etats-Unis soute­naient à l’époque l’ins­tau­ra­tion de la dicta­ture mili­taire en Argen­tine. S’il n’a pas prononcé de mea-culpa offi­ciel, Barack Obama a souli­gné que l’in­gé­rence améri­caine était révo­lue, et que son pays n’était pas « à court d’au­to­cri­tique ». Il a aussi dit préfé­rer « la démo­cra­tie à la dicta­ture ». Alter­ner décla­ra­tions fortes et petits happe­nings média­tiques, voici la diplo­ma­tie selon Obama. Gala
Par conséquent, tout ce qui résulte d’un temps de guerre, où tout homme est l’ennemi de tout homme, résulte aussi d’un temps où les hommes vivent sans autre sécurité que celle que leur propre force et leur propre capacité d’invention leur donneront. Dans un tel état, il n’y a aucune place pour un activité laborieuse, parce que son fruit est incertain; et par conséquent aucune culture de la terre, aucune navigation, aucun usage de marchandises importées par mer, aucune construction convenable, aucun engin pour déplacer ou soulever des choses telles qu’elles requièrent beaucoup de force; aucune connaissance de la surface de la terre, aucune mesure du temps; pas d’arts, pas de lettres, pas de société, et, ce qui le pire de tout, la crainte permanente, et le danger de mort violente; et la vie de l’homme est solitaire, indigente, dégoûtante, animale et brève. Thomas Hobbes
Ceux qui abandonnent la liberté pour acheter une sécurité temporaire ne méritent ni la liberté ni la sécurité. Benjamin Franklin
The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact. Justice Robert Jackson (1949)
En ce qui concerne notre défense commune, nous refusons de faire le choix erroné entre notre sécurité, d’une part, et nos idéaux, de l’autre. Barack Hussein Obama (discours d’investiture, 21 janvier 2009)
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)
Nous vivons dans une époque de changement extraordinaire – le changement qui est le remodelage de la façon dont nous vivons, la façon dont nous travaillons, notre planète et de notre place dans le monde. Il est le changement qui promet d’étonnantes percées médicales, mais aussi des perturbations économiques qui grèvent les familles de travailleurs. Cela promet l’éducation des filles dans les villages les plus reculés, mais aussi relie des terroristes qui fomentent séparés par un océan de distance. Il est le changement qui peut élargir l’occasion, ou élargir les inégalités. Et que cela nous plaise ou non, le rythme de ce changement ne fera que s’accélérer. L’Amérique s’est faite par le biais de grands changements avant – la guerre et la dépression, l’afflux d’immigrants, les travailleurs qui luttent pour un accord équitable, et les mouvements pour les droits civiques. Chaque fois, il y a eu ceux qui nous disaient de craindre l’avenir; qui prétendaient que nous ne pourrions freiner le changement, promettant de restaurer la gloire passée si nous venons de quelque groupe ou une idée qui menaçait l’Amérique sous contrôle. Et à chaque fois, nous avons surmonté ces craintes. Nous ne sommes pas, selon les mots de Lincoln, à adhérer aux « dogmes du passé calme. » Au lieu de cela nous avons pensé de nouveau, et de nouveau agi. Nous avons fait le travail de changement pour nous, étendant toujours la promesse de l’Amérique vers l’extérieur, à la prochaine frontière, à de plus en plus de gens. Et parce que nous l’avons fait – parce que nous avons vu des opportunités là où d’autres ne voyaient que péril – nous sommes sortis plus forts et mieux qu’avant. Ce qui était vrai, alors peut être vrai aujourd’hui. Nos atouts uniques en tant que nation – notre optimisme et notre éthique de travail, notre esprit de découverte et d’innovation, notre diversité et de l’engagement à la règle de droit – ces choses nous donnent tout ce dont nous avons besoin pour assurer la prospérité et la sécurité pour les générations à venir. En fait, il est cet esprit qui a fait le progrès de ces sept dernières années possible. Il est comment nous avons récupéré de la pire crise économique depuis des générations. Il est comment nous avons réformé notre système de soins de santé, et réinventé notre secteur de l’énergie; comment nous avons livré plus de soins et les avantages pour nos troupes et les anciens combattants, et comment nous avons obtenu la liberté dans tous les états d’épouser la personne que nous aimons. Mais ces progrès ne sont pas inévitables. Il est le résultat de choix que nous faisons ensemble. Et nous sommes confrontés à ces choix en ce moment. Allons-nous répondre aux changements de notre temps avec la peur, le repli sur soi en tant que nation, et en nous tournant les uns contre les autres en tant que peuple ? Ou allons-nous affronter l’avenir avec confiance dans ce que nous sommes, ce que nous représentons, et les choses incroyables que nous pouvons faire ensemble ? Donc, nous allons parler de l’avenir, et de quatre grandes questions que nous avons en tant que pays à répondre – peu importe qui sera le prochain président, ou qui contrôlera le prochain Congrès. Tout d’abord, comment pouvons-nous donner à chacun une chance équitable de l’occasion et de la sécurité dans cette nouvelle économie ? Deuxièmement, comment pouvons-nous mettre la technologie pour nous, et non contre nous – surtout quand cela concerne la résolution de problèmes urgents comme le changement climatique? Troisièmement, comment pouvons-nous garder l’Amérique en sécurité et conduire le monde sans en devenir le policier ? (…) Il y a soixante ans, quand les Russes nous ont battus dans l’espace, nous ne niions pas que Spoutnik était là-haut. Nous ne disputions pas sur la science, ou aller à réduire notre budget de recherche et développement. Nous avons construit un programme spatial presque du jour au lendemain, et douze ans plus tard, nous marchions sur la lune. Cet esprit de découverte est dans notre ADN. Nous sommes Thomas Edison et Carver les frères Wright et George Washington. Nous sommes Grace Hopper et Katherine Johnson et Sally Ride. Nous sommes tous les immigrants et entrepreneurs de Boston à Austin à la Silicon Valley dans la course à façonner un monde meilleur. Et au cours des sept dernières années, nous avons nourri cet esprit. (…) Je vous ai dit plus tôt tous les discours sur le déclin économique de l’Amérique est de l’air chaud politique. Eh bien, il en est pareil de toute la rhétorique d’entendre dire que nos ennemis deviennent plus forts et que l’Amérique est en train de devenir plus faible. Les Etats-Unis d’Amérique sont la nation la plus puissante de la Terre. Point final. Ce n’ est même pas proche. Nous dépensons plus sur nos militaires que les huit pays suivants combinés. Nos troupes sont la force de combat la plus belle dans l’histoire du monde. Aucune nation n’ose nous défier ou nos alliés attaquer parce qu’ils savent que ce serait leurn perte. Les enquêtes montrent notre position dans le monde est plus élevée que lorsque je fus élu à ce poste, et quand il vient à chaque question internationale importante, les gens du monde ne regardent pas Pékin ou Moscou  – ils nous appellent. Comme quelqu’un qui commence chaque journée par un briefing sur le renseignement, je sais que cela est un moment dangereux. Mais cela ne cause de la puissance américaine diminution ou une superpuissance imminente. Dans le monde d’aujourd’hui, nous sommes moins menacés par les empires du mal et plus par les Etats défaillants. Le Moyen-Orient passe par une transformation qui va se jouer pour une génération, enracinée dans les conflits qui remontent à des millénaires. Les difficultés économiques soufflent d’une économie chinoise en transition. Même que leurs contrats de l’économie, la Russie verse des ressources pour soutenir l’Ukraine et la Syrie – Unis qu’ils voient glisser hors de leur orbite. Et le système international que nous avons construit après la Seconde Guerre mondiale a maintenant du mal à suivre le rythme de cette nouvelle réalité. Il est à nous pour aider à refaire ce système. Et cela signifie que nous devons établir des priorités. La priorité numéro un est de protéger le peuple américain et aller après les réseaux terroristes. Les deux d’Al-Qaïda et maintenant ISIL posent une menace directe pour notre peuple, parce que dans le monde d’aujourd’hui, même une poignée de terroristes qui ne donnent aucune valeur à la vie humaine, y compris leur propre vie, peut faire beaucoup de dégâts. Ils utilisent l’Internet pour empoisonner l’esprit des individus à l’intérieur de notre pays; ils sapent nos alliés. Mais comme nous nous concentrons sur la destruction ISIL, over-the-top on affirme que cela est la troisième guerre mondiale qui vient jouer dans leurs mains. Messes de combattants à l’arrière de camionnettes et âmes tordues traçage dans des appartements ou des garages posent un énorme danger pour les civils et doivent être arrêtés. Mais ils ne menacent pas notre existence nationale. Voilà ce que l’histoire ISIL veut dire; Voilà le genre de propagande qu’ils utilisent pour recruter. Nous ne devons pas les faire augmenter pour montrer que nous sommes sérieux, et nous ne devons repousser nos alliés essentiels dans ce combat en faisant l’écho  du mensonge que ISIL est représentant d’une des plus grandes religions du monde. Nous avons juste besoin de les appeler ce qu’ils sont – des tueurs et des fanatiques qui doivent être extirpés, traqués et détruits. (…) Nous ne pouvons pas essayer de prendre le relais et de reconstruire tous les pays qui tombent dans la crise. Cela ne se veut pas le leadership; qui est une recette pour un bourbier, déversant du sang américain et le trésor qui nous affaiblit finalement. C’ est la leçon du Vietnam, de l’Irak – et nous devrions avoir appris par l’entreprise. Heureusement, il y a une approche plus intelligente, une stratégie patiente et disciplinée qui utilise tous les éléments de notre puissance nationale. Elle dit que l’Amérique agira toujours, seule si nécessaire, pour protéger notre peuple et nos alliés; mais sur des questions d’intérêt mondial, nous mobiliserons le monde pour travailler avec nous, et s’assurer que les autres pays fassent leur part. Voilà notre approche de conflits comme la Syrie, où nous travaillons en partenariat avec les forces locales et conduisant efforts internationaux pour aider cette société brisée à poursuivre une paix durable. Voilà pourquoi nous avons construit une coalition mondiale, avec des sanctions et la diplomatie de principe, pour empêcher un Iran nucléaire. A l’heure où nous parlons, l’Iran a réduit son programme nucléaire, expédié ses stocks d’uranium, et le monde a évité une autre guerre. (…) Voilà la force. Voilà le leadership. Et ce genre de leadership dépend de la puissance de notre exemple. (…) Voilà pourquoi nous devons rejeter toute politique qui vise les personnes en raison de la race ou de la religion. Ce ne sont pas une question de politiquement correct. Il est une question de comprendre ce qui nous rend forts. Le monde nous respecte pas seulement pour notre arsenal; il nous respecte pour notre diversité et notre ouverture et de la façon dont nous respectons toutes les religions. Sa Sainteté, François, dit ce corps de l’endroit même je me tiens ce soir que « d’imiter la haine et la violence des tyrans et des meurtriers est le meilleur moyen de prendre leur place. » Quand les politiciens insultent les musulmans, quand une mosquée est vandalisée, ou un enfant victime d’intimidation, qui ne nous rend pas plus sûr. Cela ne la raconte comme il est. Il est tout simplement faux. Il nous diminue dans les yeux du monde. Il rend plus difficile à atteindre nos objectifs. Et il trahit qui nous sommes en tant que pays. (…) Ce ne sera pas facile. Notre modèle de démocratie est difficile. Mais je peux vous promettre que dans un an à partir de maintenant, quand je ne tiens plus ce bureau, je serai là avec vous en tant que citoyen – inspiré par ces voix de l’équité et de la vision, de courage et de bonne humeur et de gentillesse qui ont aidé l’Amérique voyager si loin. Voix qui nous aident à nous voyons pas en premier lieu comme noir ou blanc ou asiatique ou latino, non pas comme gay ou hétéro, immigrant ou natifs; pas tant que démocrates ou républicains, mais en tant que premier Américains, liés par une croyance commune. La Voix du Dr King aurait cru avoir le dernier mot – voix de la vérité désarmée et l’amour inconditionnel. Ils sont là, ces voix. Ils ne reçoivent pas beaucoup d’attention, ils ne sollicitent pas, mais ils sont en train de faire le travail ce pays a besoin de faire. (…) Voilà l’Amérique que je connais. Voilà le pays que nous aimons. Lucide. Grand coeur. Optimiste que la vérité désarmée et l’amour inconditionnel auront le dernier mot. Voilà ce qui me rend si optimiste sur notre avenir. À cause de toi. Je crois en toi. Voilà pourquoi je suis ici convaincu que l’état de notre Union est forte. Merci, que Dieu vous bénisse, et que Dieu bénisse les Etats-Unis d’Amérique. Barack Hussein Obama
C’est un bon jour parce qu’une nouvelle fois nous voyons ce qu’il est possible de faire grâce à une diplomatie américaine forte. Ces choses nous rappellent ce que nous pouvons obtenir quand nous agissons avec force et sagesse. Barack Hussein Obama
Les démocraties doivent avoir le courage de reconnaître quand elles ne sont pas à la hauteur de leurs idéaux. Et nous avons mis du temps à donner de la voix pour la défense des droits de l’homme. Barack Hussein Obama
Surtout, nous voyons comment le récent débat a été brouillé par deux buts opposés pris comme absolus. D’un côté, on trouve ceux qui n’ont cure des défis nouveaux posés par le terrorisme et qui n’accepteraient guère de faire passer la sécurité nationale avant la transparence. De l’autre, il y a ceux dont l’opinion peut se résumer en deux mots : « Tout est permis ». Leurs arguments suggèrent que le but de la lutte antiterroriste peut être utilisé pour justifier tous les moyens utilisés et que le président devrait avoir tout pouvoir pour faire ce qu’il veut, à condition, bien sûr, que ce soit un président ayant les mêmes idées qu’eux… Ces deux camps peuvent défendre sincèrement leurs opinions, mais ni l’un ni l’autre n’a raison. Le peuple américain n’est pas partisan d’un absolu et il ne m’a pas élu pour plaquer une idéologie rigide sur nos problèmes. Il sait que nous ne devons ni sacrifier notre sécurité à nos valeurs, ni sacrifier nos valeurs à notre sécurité, dans la mesure où nous traitons les questions difficiles avec honnêteté, soin et une dose de bon sens. Barack Hussein Obama (Musée des archives nationales, 21 mai 2009)
Il y a un manuel de stratégie à Washington que les présidents sont censés utiliser. (…) Et le manuel de stratégie prescrit des réponses aux différents événements, et ces réponses ont tendance à être des réponses militarisées. (…) Au milieu d’un défi international comme la Syrie, vous êtes jugé sévèrement si vous ne suivez pas le manuel de stratégie, même s’il y a de bonnes raisons. (…) Je suis très fier de ce moment.  Le poids écrasant de la sagesse conventionnelle et la machinerie de notre appareil de sécurité nationale était allés assez loin. La perception était que ma crédibilité était en jeu, que la crédibilité de l’Amérique était en jeu. Et donc pour moi d’appuyer sur le bouton arrêt à ce moment-là, je le savais, me coûterait cher politiquement. Le fait que je pouvais me débarrasser des pressions immédiates et réfléchir sur ce qui  était dans l’intérêt de l’Amérique, non seulement à l’égard de la Syrie, mais aussi à l’égard de notre démocratie, a été une décision très difficile – et je crois que finalement, ce fut la bonne décision à prendre. (…) Je suppose que vous pourriez me qualifier de réaliste qui croit que nous ne pouvons pas soulager toute la misère du monde. Barack Hussein Obama
Dans le passé, il y avait une division entre droite et gauche, entre capitalisme et communisme. Soyez plus pragmatiques, choisissez ce qui fonctionne. Barack Hussein Obama
Parce que la société israélienne a tellement bien réussi économiquement, elle a je pense, à partir d’une position de force, été moins fondée à faire des concessions. D’un autre côté, les Palestiniens, à cause de leur faiblesse, n’ont pas la cohésion politique et l’organisation pour entrer en négociations et se sentir capables d’obtenir ce qu’ils veulent — et ainsi chacune des parties reste à part dans son coin. Barack Hussein Obama
We were ready to step into the strong current of history and answer a new call for our country, but the call never came. Instead of a call to service, we were asked to shop. Barack Hussein Obama (2008)
One of my proudest moments as president was watching Boston respond after the Boston Marathon attack because they taught America a lesson. They grieved; I was there for the memorial. We apprehended those who had carried this out, but a few days later folks were out shopping. Barack Hussein Obama (2016)
On peut parler aujourd’hui d’invasion arabe. C’est un fait social. Combien d’invasions l’Europe a connu tout au long de son histoire ! Elle a toujours su se surmonter elle-même, aller de l’avant pour se trouver ensuite comme agrandie par l’échange entre les cultures. Pape François
Présider la République, c’est ne pas inviter les dictateurs en grand appareil à Paris. François Hollande (janvier 2012, Le Bourget)
Moi, président de la République, les ministres ne pourraient pas cumuler leurs fonctions avec un mandat local…  …parce que je considère qu’ils devraient se consacrer pleinement à leurs tâches. François Hollande
Légion d’honneur pour le prince héritier Saoudien. 154 exécutions l’an dernier dans son pays. (…) Voilà pourquoi j’ai refusé la Légion d’Honneur. Sophie Marceau
Like Carter in the 1970s, Obama comes from the old-fashioned Jeffersonian wing of the Democratic Party, and the strategic goal of his foreign policy is to reduce America’s costs and risks overseas by limiting U.S. commitments wherever possible. He’s a believer in the notion that the United States can best spread democracy and support peace by becoming an example of democracy at home and moderation abroad. More than this, Jeffersonians such as Obama think oversize commitments abroad undermine American democracy at home. Large military budgets divert resources from pressing domestic needs; close association with corrupt and tyrannical foreign regimes involves the United States in dirty and cynical alliances; the swelling national-security state threatens civil liberties and leads to powerful pro-war, pro-engagement lobbies among corporations nourished on grossly swollen federal defense budgets. (…) Obama seeks a quiet world in order to focus his efforts on domestic reform — and to create conditions that would allow him to dismantle some of the national-security state inherited from the Cold War and given new life and vigor after 9/11. Preferring disarmament agreements to military buildups and hoping to substitute regional balance-of-power arrangements for massive unilateral U.S. force commitments all over the globe, the president wishes ultimately for an orderly world in which burdens are shared and the military power of the United States is a less prominent feature on the international scene. While Wilsonians believe that no lasting stability is possible in a world filled with dictatorships, Jeffersonians like Obama argue that even bad regimes can be orderly international citizens if the incentives are properly aligned. Syria and Iran don’t need to become democratic states for the United States to reach long-term, mutually beneficial arrangements with them. And it is North Korea’s policies, not the character of its regime, that pose a threat to the Pacific region. At this strategic level, Obama’s foreign policy looks a little bit like that of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. In Afghanistan and Iraq, he hopes to extract U.S. forces from costly wars by the contemporary equivalent of the « Vietnamization » policy of the Nixon years. He looks to achieve an opening with Iran comparable to Nixon’s rapprochement with communist China. Just as Nixon established a constructive relationship with China despite the radical « Red Guard » domestic policies Chinese leader Mao Zedong was pursuing at the time, Obama does not see ideological conflict as necessarily leading to poor strategic relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic. Just as Nixon and Kissinger sought to divert international attention from their retreat in Indochina by razzle-dazzle global diplomacy that placed Washington at the center of world politics even as it reduced its force posture, so too the Obama administration hopes to use the president’s global popularity to cover a strategic withdrawal from the exposed position in the Middle East that it inherited from the Bush administration. (…) Yet as Obama is already discovering, any president attempting such a Jeffersonian grand strategy in the 21st century faces many challenges. In the 19th-century heyday of Jeffersonian foreign policy in American politics, it was easier for U.S. presidents to limit the country’s commitments. Britain played a global role similar to that of the United States today, providing a stable security environment and promoting international trade and investment. Cruising as a free rider in the British world system allowed Americans to reap the benefits of Britain’s world order without paying its costs. As British power waned in the 20th century, Americans faced starker choices. With the British Empire no longer able to provide political and economic security worldwide, the United States had to choose between replacing Britain as the linchpin of world order with all the headaches that entailed or going about its business in a disorderly world. In the 1920s and 1930s, Americans gave this latter course a try; the rapid-fire series of catastrophes — the Great Depression, World War II, Stalin’s bid for Eurasian hegemony — convinced virtually all policymakers that the first course, risky and expensive as it proved, was the lesser of the two evils. Indeed, during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first two terms, the United States pursued essentially Jeffersonian policies in Europe and Asia, avoiding confrontations with Germany and Japan. The result was the bloodiest war in world history, not a stable condominium of satisfied powers. (…) It is not only Americans who will challenge the new American foreign policy. Will Russia and Iran respond to Obama’s conciliatory approach with reciprocal concessions — or, emboldened by what they interpret as American weakness and faltering willpower, will they keep pushing forward? Will the president’s outreach to the moderate majority of Muslims around the world open an era of better understanding, or will the violent minority launch new attacks that undercut the president’s standing at home? Will the president’s inability to deliver all the Israeli concessions Arabs would like erode his credibility and contribute to even deeper levels of cynicism and alienation across the Middle East? Can the president execute an orderly reduction in the U.S. military stake in Iraq and Afghanistan without having hostile forces fill the power vacuum? Will Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez be so impressed with American restraint under Obama that he moderates his own course and ceases to make anti Yanquismo a pillar of his domestic and international policy? Will other countries heed the president’s call to assume more international responsibility as the United States reduces its commitments — or will they fail to fulfill their obligations as stakeholders in the international system, A Jeffersonian policy of restraint and withdrawal requires cooperation from many other countries, but the prospect of a lower American profile may make others less, rather than more, willing to help the United States. There is an additional political problem for this president, one that he shares with Carter. In both cases, their basic Jeffersonian approach was balanced in part by a strong attraction to idealistic Wilsonian values and their position at the head of a Democratic Party with a distinct Wilsonian streak. A pure Jeffersonian wants to conserve the shining exceptionalism of the American democratic experience and believes that American values are rooted in U.S. history and culture and are therefore not easily exportable. For this president, that is too narrow a view. Like Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama doesn’t just love the United States for what it is. He loves what it should — and can — be. Leadership is not the art of preserving a largely achieved democratic project; governing is the art of pushing the United States farther down the road toward the still-distant goal of fulfilling its mission and destiny. Obama may well believe what he said in his inaugural speech — « we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals » — but as any president must he is already making exactly those tradeoffs. Why else refuse to meet the Dalai Lama? Why else pledge support to the corrupt regime of President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan or aid Pakistan despite the dismal track record of both the civil and military arms of the Pakistani government when it comes to transparent use of U.S. resources? Did the administration not renew its efforts to build a relationship with the regime in Tehran even as peaceful democratic protesters were being tortured and raped in its jails? Is Obama not taking « incentives » to Khartoum, a regime that has for more than a decade pursued a policy in Darfur that the U.S. government has labeled genocidal? It is hard to reconcile the transcendent Wilsonian vision of America’s future with a foreign policy based on dirty compromises with nasty regimes. If the government should use its power and resources to help the poor and the victims of injustice at home, shouldn’t it do something when people overseas face extreme injustice and extreme peril? The Obama administration cannot easily abandon a human rights agenda abroad. The contradiction between the sober and limited realism of the Jeffersonian worldview and the expansive, transformative Wilsonian agenda is likely to haunt this administration as it haunted Carter’s, most fatefully when he rejected calls to let the shah of Iran launch a brutal crackdown to remain in power. Already the Wilsonians in Obama’s camp are muttering darkly about his failure to swiftly close the Guantánamo prison camp, his fondness for government secrecy, his halfhearted support for investigating abuses of the past administration, and his failure to push harder for a cap-and-trade bill before the Copenhagen summit. In the 21st century, American presidents have a new set of questions to consider. The nature of the international system and the place of the United States in it will have to be rethought as new powers rise, old ones continue to fade, and attention shifts from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The rapid technological development that is the hallmark of our era will reshape global society at a pace that challenges the ability of every country in the world to manage cascading, accelerating change. (…) At their best, Jeffersonians provide a necessary element of caution and restraint in U.S. foreign policy, preventing what historian Paul Kennedy calls « imperial overstretch » by ensuring that America’s ends are proportionate to its means. We need this vision today more than ever: If Obama’s foreign policy collapses — whether sunk by Afghanistan or conflicts not yet foreseen — into the incoherence and reversals that ultimately marked Carter’s well-meaning but flawed approach, it will be even more difficult for future presidents to chart a prudent and cautious course through the rough seas ahead. Walter Russell Mead
President Obama (…) believes history follows some predetermined course, as if things always get better on their own. Obama often praises those he pronounces to be on the “right side of history.” He also chastises others for being on the “wrong side of history” — as if evil is vanished and the good thrives on autopilot. When in 2009 millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest the thuggish theocracy, they wanted immediate U.S. support. Instead, Obama belatedly offered them banalities suggesting that in the end, they would end up “on the right side of history.” Iranian reformers may indeed end up there, but it will not be because of some righteous inanimate force of history, or the prognostications of Barack Obama. Obama often parrots Martin Luther King Jr.’s phrase about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. But King used that metaphor as an incentive to act, not as reassurance that matters will follow an inevitably positive course. Another of Obama’s historical refrains is his frequent sermon about behavior that doesn’t belong in the 21st century. At various times he has lectured that the barbarous aggression of Vladimir Putin or the Islamic State has no place in our century and will “ultimately fail” — as if we are all now sophisticates of an age that has at last transcended retrograde brutality and savagery. In Obama’s hazy sense of the end of history, things always must get better in the manner that updated models of iPhones and iPads are glitzier than the last. In fact, history is morally cyclical. Even technological progress is ethically neutral. It is a way either to bring more good things to more people or to facilitate evil all that much more quickly and effectively. In the viciously modern 20th century — when more lives may have been lost to war than in all prior centuries combined — some 6 million Jews were put to death through high technology in a way well beyond the savagery of Attila the Hun or Tamerlane. Beheading in the Islamic world is as common in the 21st century as it was in the eighth century — and as it will probably be in the 22nd. The carnage of the Somme and Dresden trumped anything that the Greeks, Romans, Franks, Turks, or Venetians could have imagined. (…) What explains Obama’s confusion? A lack of knowledge of basic history explains a lot. (…) Obama once praised the city of Cordoba as part of a proud Islamic tradition of tolerance during the brutal Spanish Inquisition — forgetting that by the beginning of the Inquisition an almost exclusively Christian Cordoba had few Muslims left. (…) A Pollyannaish belief in historical predetermination seems to substitute for action. If Obama believes that evil should be absent in the 21st century, or that the arc of the moral universe must always bend toward justice, or that being on the wrong side of history has consequences, then he may think inanimate forces can take care of things as we need merely watch. In truth, history is messier. Unfortunately, only force will stop seventh-century monsters like the Islamic State from killing thousands more innocents. Obama may think that reminding Putin that he is now in the 21st century will so embarrass the dictator that he will back off from Ukraine. But the brutish Putin may think that not being labeled a 21st-century civilized sophisticate is a compliment. In 1935, French foreign minister Pierre Laval warned Joseph Stalin that the Pope would admonish him to go easy on Catholics — as if such moral lectures worked in the supposedly civilized 20th century. Stalin quickly disabused Laval of that naiveté. “The Pope?” Stalin asked, “How many divisions has he got?” There is little evidence that human nature has changed over the centuries, despite massive government efforts to make us think and act nicer. What drives Putin, Boko Haram, or ISIS are the same age-old passions, fears, and sense of honor that over the centuries also moved Genghis Khan, the Sudanese Mahdists, and the Barbary pirates. Obama’s naive belief in predetermined history — especially when his facts are often wrong — is a poor substitute for concrete moral action. Victor Davis Hanson
In fact, there is a predictable pattern to Obama’s foreign policy. The president has an adolescent, romantic view of professed revolutionary societies and anti-Western poseurs — and of his own ability uniquely to reach out and win them over. In the most superficial sense, Obama demonstrates his empathy for supposedly revolutionary figures of the non-Western world through gratuitous, often silly remarks about Christianity and Western colonial excesses, past and present. He apologizes with talk of our “own dark periods” and warns of past U.S. “dictating”; he contextualizes; he ankle-bites the very culture he grew up and thrived in, as if he can unapologetically and without guilt enjoy the West’s largesse only by deriding its history and values. (…) Reminiscent of college naïfs with dorm-room posters of Che Guevara, Obama mythologizes about the underappreciated multicultural “Other” that did everything from fuel the Western Renaissance and Enlightenment to critique Christian excesses during the Inquisition. In truth, what he delivers is only a smoother and more refined version of Al Sharpton’s incoherent historical riff on “astrology” and “Greek homos.” Obama refuses to concede that Islam can become a catalyst for radical killers and terrorists, and he has a starry-eyed crush on those who strike anti-Western poses and have turned their societies upside down on behalf of the proverbial people. Keep that in mind, and it makes sense that, during the Egyptian turmoil, Obama was intent on ousting the pro-Western kleptocrat Hosni Mubarak and investing in the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the dark anti-democratic history of Mohamed Morsi and the Brothers and their agenda of Islamicizing the most populous country in the Arab world. For Obama, such zealotry is evidence of their legitimacy and the justice of their efforts to overturn the established hierarchies of old Egypt. Moammar Qaddafi was a monster and a thug. But in fear both of radical Islamists and of the implications for Libya of the Western military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and eager to have Western knowhow rehabilitate his ailing oil and gas industry, he had reached out to the West and ceased his support for international terrorists. But ridding Libya of the cartoonish and geriatric Qaddafi and allowing it to be overrun by stern revolutionary Islamists was again in tune with Obama’s rose-colored view of the Middle East. One of the many reasons why Obama pulled all U.S. troops out of a stable and secure Iraq at the end of 2011 was that its democracy was, in his eyes, tainted by its American birthing and its associations with George W. Bush. Such a hazy belief that Western influence and power are undeserved and inordinate made it initially impossible for Obama to condemn ISIS as growing and dangerous rather than dismiss it as “jayvees.” Putin perhaps should study Iran’s PR effort and its aggression in Lebanon and Yemen. If he would only cut out the guns, tigers, and “macho shtick,” and instead mouth shibboleths about the oppressed minorities in Crimea and Ukraine and the need for revolutionary fairness, he might be reset yet again. His crimes were not so much naked invasions of his neighbors, as aggression in the most un-Iranian fashion of a right-wing kleptocrat and thug. Again, nothing Putin has done is all that different from what Iran did in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. No one could quite figure out why Obama bragged of his “special relationship” with Turkey’s prime minister Recep Erdogan. Erdogan, after all, is systematically destroying free expression in Turkey. He has bragged that he got off the bus of democracy when he no longer found any utility in it — and he has openly romanticized the Ottoman imperialists. A once-staunch NATO ally, Turkey has turned into a virulently anti-Israeli and anti-American society that has spiked tensions in the eastern Mediterranean with Cyprus, Greece, and Israel. But, again, the redeeming virtue was that Erdogan was taking Turkey in a new and revolutionary direction, trying to massage the Arab Revolution as its spiritual mentor, and becoming point nation in hatred of Israel. In other words, Turkey was churning and evolving, and, for Obama, that apparently was a good thing. Without asking anything in return from Cuba — such as releasing political prisoners or allowing free expression — Obama by executive order is normalizing relations with the Castro brothers, who are allied with fascist Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. He keeps saying that 50 years of containment have “failed,” as if successfully curbing Cuba’s revolutionary aspirations abroad was a bad thing, and siding with dissidents in its gulags was counterproductive. For Obama, the Castros are authentic anti-colonialists. They perhaps may have broken a few too many eggs to make their egalitarian omelets, but their regime is certainly preferable to what is envisioned by loud Cuban exiles in America or troublemakers like imprisoned Cuban refuseniks. (…) Keep in mind this juvenile view of the revolutionary non-West, and there is a clarity of sorts in American foreign policy. Honduran leftist president Manuel Zelaya, when he tried to overturn the constitution and earned the wrath of the Honduran Supreme Court, the military, and the National Congress, nonetheless won the support of the Obama administration. For Obama, in the struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Israel is a Westernized colonial construct and a proponent of Western neo-liberal capitalism. The PA and Hamas, in contrast, are seen both as the downtrodden in need of community-organizing help and as authentic peoples whose miseries are not self-induced and the wages of tribalism, statism, autocracy, fundamentalism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism, but rather the results of Israeli occupation, colonialism, and imperialism. Obama may not articulate this publicly, but these are the assumptions that explain his periodic blasts against Netanyahu and his silence about the autocratic Palestinian Authority and the murderous Hamas. In such a landscape, the current Iranian talks make perfect sense. Obama was in no mood in the spring of 2009 to vocally support a million, pro-Western Iranian dissidents who took to the streets in anger over the theocracy’s rigged elections, calling for transparency and human rights. He snubbed them as if they were neoconservative democracy zealots. In his eyes, their false consciousness did not allow them to fully appreciate their own suffering at the hands of past American imperialists. In Obama’s worldview, the Iranian mullahs came to power through revolution and were thus far more authentic anti-Western radicals, with whom only someone like Obama — prepped by the Harvard Law Review, Chicago organizing, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s pulpit, and the most liberal voting record during a brief stint in the U.S. Senate — could empathize and negotiate. Why would Iranian idealists and democrats be foolish enough to spoil Obama’s unique diplomatic gymnastics? Traditional analyses deconstruct the Obama administration’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and are aghast at the naïveté — no stop to ongoing uranium enrichment, no open or surprise inspections, no conditions to be met before sanctions are scaled back, no prohibitions against the marriage of nuclear-weapon technology and intercontinental-missile development. But that is to misunderstand the Obama worldview. He is less worried about a nuclear Iran and what it will do to a mostly pro-Western Gulf or Israel, or to other traditional U.S. interests, than about the difficulties he faces in bringing Iran back into the family of nations as an authentic revolutionary force that will school the West on regional justice. (“There’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.”) Iran will assume its natural revolutionary role as regional power broker in the Middle East; and, almost alone, it is not beholden to any Western power. In some sense, Obama views the rest of the world in the same way as he views America: a rigged order in which the oppressed who speak truth to power are systematically mischaracterized and alienated — and in need of an empathetic voice on the side of overdue revolutionary accounting. The chief danger in Obama’s romantic view of revolutionary societies is that nothing in their histories suggests that these regimes will ever cease aggression or adopt internal reforms. Cuba will still stir up revolution in Latin America and ally itself with anti-American regimes. Iran will still subsidize Hezbollah and Hamas — and, soon, in the fashion of a nuclear power. Turkey will still try to carve out Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influence at someone else’s expense and destroy secular traditions. And one-election, one-time Islamic movements will still attempt to set up theocracies the moment they snatch power. And at no point does Obama ever empathize with thousands of dissidents rotting in Cuban and Palestinian jails, or homosexuals and feminists persecuted in Iran or journalists in Turkey. The only distinction between these illiberal movements and the unromantic Putin’s Russia is their more wily professions of revolutionary fervor, which apparently have fooled or captivated the Obama administration. For Obama, in the struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Israel is a Westernized colonial construct and a proponent of Western neo-liberal capitalism. The PA and Hamas, in contrast, are seen both as the downtrodden in need of community-organizing help and as authentic peoples whose miseries are not self-induced and the wages of tribalism, statism, autocracy, fundamentalism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism, but rather the results of Israeli occupation, colonialism, and imperialism. Obama may not articulate this publicly, but these are the assumptions that explain his periodic blasts against Netanyahu and his silence about the autocratic Palestinian Authority and the murderous Hamas. In such a landscape, the current Iranian talks make perfect sense. Obama was in no mood in the spring of 2009 to vocally support a million, pro-Western Iranian dissidents who took to the streets in anger over the theocracy’s rigged elections, calling for transparency and human rights. He snubbed them as if they were neoconservative democracy zealots. In his eyes, their false consciousness did not allow them to fully appreciate their own suffering at the hands of past American imperialists. In Obama’s worldview, the Iranian mullahs came to power through revolution and were thus far more authentic anti-Western radicals, with whom only someone like Obama — prepped by the Harvard Law Review, Chicago organizing, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s pulpit, and the most liberal voting record during a brief stint in the U.S. Senate — could empathize and negotiate. Why would Iranian idealists and democrats be foolish enough to spoil Obama’s unique diplomatic gymnastics? Traditional analyses deconstruct the Obama administration’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and are aghast at the naïveté — no stop to ongoing uranium enrichment, no open or surprise inspections, no conditions to be met before sanctions are scaled back, no prohibitions against the marriage of nuclear-weapon technology and intercontinental-missile development. But that is to misunderstand the Obama worldview. He is less worried about a nuclear Iran and what it will do to a mostly pro-Western Gulf or Israel, or to other traditional U.S. interests, than about the difficulties he faces in bringing Iran back into the family of nations as an authentic revolutionary force that will school the West on regional justice. (“There’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.”) Iran will assume its natural revolutionary role as regional power broker in the Middle East; and, almost alone, it is not beholden to any Western power. In some sense, Obama views the rest of the world in the same way as he views America: a rigged order in which the oppressed who speak truth to power are systematically mischaracterized and alienated — and in need of an empathetic voice on the side of overdue revolutionary accounting. The chief danger in Obama’s romantic view of revolutionary societies is that nothing in their histories suggests that these regimes will ever cease aggression or adopt internal reforms. Cuba will still stir up revolution in Latin America and ally itself with anti-American regimes. Iran will still subsidize Hezbollah and Hamas — and, soon, in the fashion of a nuclear power. Turkey will still try to carve out Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influence at someone else’s expense and destroy secular traditions. And one-election, one-time Islamic movements will still attempt to set up theocracies the moment they snatch power. And at no point does Obama ever empathize with thousands of dissidents rotting in Cuban and Palestinian jails, or homosexuals and feminists persecuted in Iran or journalists in Turkey. The only distinction between these illiberal movements and the unromantic Putin’s Russia is their more wily professions of revolutionary fervor, which apparently have fooled or captivated the Obama administration. Victor Davis Hanson
The phrase “hostile symbiosis” has been used to describe the state of our own tissues all of the same parentage, all thriving best when working for the common good, and yet each ready to take advantage of the rest, should opportunity offer. There is a profound truth embodied in the  phrase. Every symbiosis is in its degree underlain by hostility, and only by proper regulation and often elaborate adjustment, can the state of mutual benefit be maintained. Even in human affairs, partnerships for mutual benefit are not so easily kept up, in spite of men being endowed with intelligence and so being able to grasp the meaning of such a relation. But in lower organisms, there is no such comprehension to help keep the relationship going. Mutual partnerships are adaptations as blindly entered into and as unconsciously brought about as any others. They work by virtue of complicated physical and chemical adjustments between the two partners and between the whole partnership and its environment; alter that adjustment, and the partnership may dissolve, as blindly and automatically as it was entered into. Wells, Herbert George, Julian S. Huxley, and George Philip Wells
There is a virtually universal conviction that the constitutional rights of the People and the powers of the State exist along an axial spectrum. An increase in one means a diminution of the other. On this spectrum we imagine a needle oscillating between two poles, moving toward the pole of the State’s power in times of national emergency or toward the pole of the People’s liberty in times of tranquility. . . . A corollary to this conviction is the widely held belief that intelligence and law enforcement agencies constitute a threat to civil liberties. (…) If we are to protect our civil rights and civil liberties against such threats, the aggressive use of informants, surveillance, wiretaps, searches, interrogations, and even group-based profiling must be measured not only against the liberties these practices constrict, but also with respect to the liberties they may protect. (…) the question here, in the Wars against Terror as with any discussion to prosecute a war, becomes: Are the rights of the People greater or lesser than they would otherwise have been if the decision to go to war had not been taken? It is obvious, but no less a half-truth for being obvious, that the rights of the British peoplewere less in 1940 than in 1936, owing to the decision of their government to oppose Nazi aggression in Europe. The appropriate analysis, however, asks whether the rights of the British were less in 1940, not than they were in 1936, but than they would have been in 1940 if their government had decided to give Hitler a free hand in Europe. Philip Bobbit
B. Franklin n’affirmait rien de ce que nous pensons lorsque nous citons ses mots. Ils apparaissent originellement dans une lettre de 1755 que B. Franklin est censé avoir écrit au nom de l’Assemblée de Pennsylvanie à l’intention du gouverneur colonial durant la Guerre de Conquête. La lettre était une salve dans la lutte de pouvoir entre le gouverneur et l’Assemblée à propos du financement de la sécurité à la frontière, alors que l’Assemblée souhaitait taxer les terres de la famille Penn, qui gouvernait la Pennsylvanie de loin, de manière à lever des fonds pour la défense contre les attaques des Français et des Indiens. À la demande de la famille, le gouverneur émit son veto contre les actions de l’Assemblée. Donc pour commencer, B. Franklin n’écrivait pas dans la situation d’un sujet à qui il serait demandé de céder sa liberté à un gouvernement, mais en sa qualité de législateur à qui il est demandé de renoncer à son pouvoir de taxer des terres théoriquement sous sa juridiction. En d’autres termes, la « liberté essentielle » à laquelle se réfère B. Franklin n’est pas ce à quoi nous nous référons aujourd’hui à propos des libertés civiles mais, plutôt, au droit de l’auto-gouvernance d’un corps législatif dans l’intérêt de la sécurité collective. De plus, l’« [obtention] d’une petite sécurité temporaire » que récrimine B. Franklin n’est pas la cession d’un pouvoir à un gouvernement Leviathan en échange de quelque promesse de protection envers une menace extérieure ; car dans la lettre de B. Franklin, le mot « acquérir » ne semble pas être une métaphore. En insistant pour assujettir les terres Penn aux impôts, l’Assemblée était accusée par le gouverneur de bloquer l’affectation des fonds pour la défense de la frontière — ce qui justifiait ainsi son intervention. Par ailleurs, la famille Penn offrit plus tard de l’argent pour la défense de la frontière aussi longtemps que l’Assemblée voulait reconnaître qu’elle n’avait pas le pouvoir de taxer ses terres. B. Franklin a donc contesté le choix qui s’imposait au corps législatif, entre d’un côté être capable de rassembler des fonds pour défendre la frontière et, de l’autre, conserver son droit à l’auto-gouvernance — et il critiqua le gouverneur d’avoir suggéré qu’on devait être prêt à renoncer au second pour obtenir le premier. En somme, B. Franklin n’évoquait pas la tension entre le pouvoir du gouvernement et la liberté individuelle. Il faisait plutôt référence à l’auto-gouvernance efficace au service de la sécurité en tant que liberté même, réfractaire à la marchandisation. Nonobstant la manière dont la citation est arrivée jusqu’à nous, B. Franklin conçevait sur le même plan les droits à la liberté et à la sécurité de la Pennsylvanie. Benjamin Wittes
The balance metaphor lives, paradoxically enough, even in our attempts to reject it. Opponents of new security measures will often vocally eschew the balance metaphor — insisting that we can be both “safe and free” or, as President Obama put it in his inaugural address, that we can “reject as false the choice  between our safety and our ideals.” (…) Indeed, the idea that we retain security by holding fast to our ideals, not by compromising on them, is a recurrent theme in Obama’s rhetoric — and in a lot of rhetoric on the political Left. Yet in these very attempts to reject a “choice” between the two goods and to assert their  congruence, Obama tends to end up describing the very balancing he seems to reject. The balance metaphor has a way of rising out of the ashes of its very rejection. The image of balance arises especially vividly in the context of surveillance, where every augmentation of government power is said to come at some cost to liberty. The relationship between surveillance and liberty has taken on special importance as the internet has continued its exponential growth and as personal data concerning individuals has proliferated. The question of how aggressively governments can police and monitor the use of communications and other technological architectures has necessarily arisen alongside these platforms — with the balance metaphor invariably hovering over the discussion. Proponents of more aggressive surveillance justify such steps as necessary and imposing only allowable costs in light of some compelling governmental or societal security need. Opponents criticize them as excessive enhancements of governmental power, which we take at the expense of freedom or privacy. We seldom stop and ask the question of whether and when our surveillance programs are really coming at the expense of liberty at all; or whether the relationship might be more complicated than that — indeed, whether some of these programs might even enhance liberty. (…) In place of balance, I wish to propose a different, more complicated, metaphor, one drawn not from the scales of justice but from evolutionary biology — albeit from an archaic source in that field. We should think of liberty and security, I shall argue, as existing in a kind of a “hostile symbiosis” with one another — that is, mutually dependent and yet also, under certain circumstances, mutually threatening. This vision of the relationship offers greater analytical clarity than does the balance metaphor. As we shall see, it also offers an important degree of policy guidance as to what sort of enhancements of government security powers will and will not threaten liberty. (….) Having opened this paper with a famed quotation on the liberty-security relationship that, in context, means something very different from the meaning its many quoters assume, let me conclude with another: Justice Robert Jackson’s warning that “There is danger that, if the [Supreme] Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.” Jackson’s quotation is often cited as a kind of flip side of Franklin’s — with Franklin assumed to have been warning that one should not give up liberty in the name of security and Jackson assumed to have been warning conversely that one protects liberty too strongly at great risk to security. The trouble is that just as Franklin was saying something else entirely, Jackson was not saying anything this crude either — which is probably why the rest of his remarkable passage tends to get left out of the quotation (…) In other words, like Franklin, Jackson was actually denying a stark balancing of liberty interests and security interests and asserting an essential congruence between them. He was, in fact, critiquing the court for assuming that allowing the government leeway would necessarily come at the expense of meaningful freedom. His critique of the court was that by denying authorities the ability to maintain minimal conditions of order, it was empowering people who disbelieved in both freedom and order. The suicide pact to which he referred was the choice of anarchy with neither liberty nor security over a regime of ordered freedom. That’s actually much more similar to than different from what Franklin was asking for two hundred years earlier. Both were, after all, arguing for the ability of local democratic communities to protect their security — and liberty — through reasonable self-government. First Amendment law has long since passed by Jackson’s specific point about what sort of utterances should and should not trigger liability for their propensity to cause violence. But his larger point stands. In the hostile symbiosis between liberty and security, one doesn’t maximize one partner at the other’s expense. They are locked together — embracing, choking, supporting each other, endangering each other. The doctrinaire embrace of one to the other’s detriment will always ultimately disserve both. Benjamin Wittes
Nous sommes au début du XXe siècle, au cœur de cette période que nombre d’éco­nomistes qualifient de « première mon­dialisation», une période d’expansion du commerce et d’intensification des échanges de capitaux. Jamais les liens économiques entre la France et l’Alle­magne n’ont été aussi importants. La guerre est donc devenue impossible où, si par malheur, elle éclatait, elle ne pour­rait qu’être brève. C’est juste du bon sens nous sommes tellement civilisés et nous avons tellement besoin les uns des autres ! La thèse est en vogue ; elle conduit, du moins jusqu’en 1910, à un affaiblissement de la défense française. La France est elle-aussi aujourd’hui frappée du syndrome de Norman Angell, cet homme politique britannique qui, dans sa Grande illusion, développe la thèse fallacieuse de la paix par l’impé­ratif économique ? En 1945, 80 millions de morts plus tard, après le double suicide collectif d’une partie de l’humanité, le bon sens revient, tel que Freud l’avait exprimé quelques décennies auparavant « On ne peut pas guérir l’homme de la guerre.» Nous devons remercier l’Europe. Sincèrement. Parce que l’idée même de l’Europe a donné aux peuples européens soixante-dix ans de paix, ce qui n’était ja­mais arrivé dans l’Histoire. Mais nous devons désormais nous réveiller de ce rêve parce qu’il porte désormais en lui le germe même de sa mort. Le rêve européen, c’est de croire qu’il est universel, c’est de croire qu’il est l’idéal qui dépasse les autres et étouffe toutes les vieilles raisons de la guerre – toujours les mêmes depuis que Thucydite les recensaient: la peur, l’honneur et l’intérêt, c’est de croire que les ressources du monde sont pour tous infinies comme elles semblent l’être pour nous. Le rêve européen, c’est de croire qu’il fait tache d’huile. Et bien non : il s’arrête à nos limes au-delà desquelles force est désormais de reconnaître que notre civilisation n’a pas eu les effets escomptés, au-delà desquelles la barbarie existe dans ses formes les plus obscènes ! Le rêve européen est par lui-même une Grande Illusion. La paix européenne n’a pas tué la guerre, loin de là, mais elle a donné aux Européens – et particulièrement aux Français si bien protégés du monde extérieur au bout de la péninsule Europe – l’idée qu’elle l’était.Et donc que les dépenses liées à la guerre, les dépenses de défense étaient au mieux inutiles, au pire illégitimes. À quoi peut bien servir de conserver une défense solide puisque, d’évidence, la guerre ne menace plus et que nous sommes protégés ? Général Vincent Desportes
It really is the case that the character of presidents shape their policy. And when you read the interview a second time, you realize that the driving force isn’t Obama’s worldview on foreign policy. It’s Obama himself. And in particular, there’s one consistent theme, whatever issue or trouble spot you’re talking about: It’s somebody else’s fault. (…) None of these viewpoints are indefensible on their own merits, and all of them have at least a grain of truth in them (except for the last one). But together, they paint quite the picture — of someone disconnected from reality and sure of his own perfection. (…) there’s always been something grating and, at the end of the day, unseemly, about Obama’s performance of himself as The Most Thoughtful Man in Washington. Obama came to national prominence vowing to heal our partisan divide. He did it through a rhetorical style that can be summed up as « I have understood you. » He was so good at making speeches where he could restate opponents’ views that they thought he really could see things from their own perspective; only later did people catch on that the whole sentence is « I have understood you, but I’m not going to budge. » (…) In a similar way, Obama’s performance of his own thoughtfulness and rumination becomes unbearable once you realize that he will turn around thoughts in his head, but never end up changing them. There’s an almost dizzying feeling when you realize something you thought was profound turns out to be incredibly shallow. (…) The cake is taken by the part of the piece that drove the most headlines: Obama’s statement that he was « very proud » of one of the most indefensible moments in his presidency, the moment when he refused to enforce his « red line » in Syria and stood by while Assad gassed his own people. (…) Nevermind the merits of the action. Why is Obama proud of his decision? Because it had the best outcome? No, because of the way he thought through the decision. Obama thinks his decision was good because of the way he reached it. The most salient aspect of the decision is not how it affected millions of Syrians, or the international norm against the use of weapons of mass destruction in warfare (and the credibility of the United States as the lone superpower and guarantor of international norms writ large), with incalculable potential ripple effects, it is how the whole thing played out in the theater that is the mind of Barack Obama. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

Attention: un angélisme peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où obsédé par son fameux héritage dans les derniers mois de son deuxième et dernier mandat …

Un leader du monde libre aux accents messianiques mutiplie les danses avec les dictateurs

Comme, en ce vendredi saint et entre un pas de tango et une absolution du communisme, les gestes de repentance

Pendant qu’entre le laissez venir à moi les petits migrants de son homologue allemande en novembre dernier, la bénédiction par le pape François de l’invasion arabe qui en a résulté et les légions d’honneur aux décapiteurs de Ryad, l’Europe paie à nouveau au prix fort l’irresponsabilité de ses dirigeants et se voit livrée aux pires chantages  du maitre du double langage turc  …

Comment ne pas repenser, suite au dernier d’une série d’entretiens que le président américain vient d’accorder au magazine The Atlantic

Où il se vante notamment d’avoir finalement rompu avec le « manuel de stratégie de Washington », abandonnant, après l’Irak il y a cinq ans, la Syrie au chaos que l’on sait …

A la thèse qui avait assuré il y a un siècle à la veille de la première des Grandes guerres son éternelle place dans l’histoire au si bien nommé économiste britannique Norman Angell …

A savoir, sous un titre qui donnera à Renoir l’un des ses plus grands chefs d’oeuvre, celle de la futilité de toute guerre … ?

The All-Spock-No-Kirk President
Obama talks foreign policy—revealing that he misunderstands the office he occupies.
William A. Galston
WSJ
March 15, 2016

Sen. Marco Rubio has argued repeatedly that President Obama “knows exactly what he’s doing.” Mr. Rubio does not intend that as a compliment. Now, thanks to a remarkable series of presidential interviews with Jeffrey Goldberg, we see that the Florida senator is correct, at least when it comes to foreign policy. The real issue is how we and future historians will judge Mr. Obama’s world view and the policies it undergirds.

In a striking phrase, Mr. Goldberg characterizes the president as a “Hobbesian optimist.” On the one hand, Mr. Goldberg says, Mr. Obama has a “tragic realist’s understanding of sin, cowardice, and corruption, and a Hobbesian appreciation of how fear shapes human behavior.” On the other, he “consistently . . . professes optimism that the world is bending toward justice.”

The question is whether Hobbesian optimism is a remarkable synthesis of apparent opposites or an elegant oxymoron. If you genuinely believe, as did theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, whom President Obama admires, that original sin is “the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith,” then you cannot believe that human nature progresses toward justice. At most you can hope that our species gradually becomes wiser about institutional arrangements that constrain the evils of which we are capable.

History has been cruel to many such hopes. In 1910, the British journalist and politician Norman Angell published “The Great Illusion,” a book arguing that the integration of European economies had grown to an extent that rendered war among them futile and self-defeating. In 1920, the League of Nations was designed to preserve the peace in the aftermath of the “war to end all wars.”

More recently, the European Union was supposed to create inexorable momentum toward ever greater prosperity and solidarity throughout a continent dedicated to democracy and human rights. Against this backdrop, we cannot know whether the Middle Eastern “tribalism” that Mr. Obama deplores is an atavism or a harbinger.

Consistent with his progressivist understanding of history, the president offers a strong defense of what we have come to call soft power: “Diplomacy and technocrats and bureaucrats . . . are helping to keep America safe.” He is right, but he carries the point much too far. “Real power,” he asserts, means that “you can get what you want without having to exert violence.” Not so; military power is just as real as diplomatic and economic power, and sometimes it is the only thing than can work. Unlike Vladimir Putin, Mr. Obama has consistently ignored the ways in which the military balance on the ground shapes what is diplomatically possible.

Progressives typically think of themselves as rationalists, and Mr. Obama is no exception. He prides himself on his ability to maintain a stance of cool, impartial reflection even when others are succumbing to emotion and prejudice. According to Mr. Goldberg, the president frequently reminds his staff that “terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents, and falls in bathtubs.” This is true enough, but one wonders whether it is the right way for someone in Mr. Obama’s position to approach the issue.

His advisers are said to worry that their boss will seem “insensitive to the fears of the American people.” And well they might, because many Americans experience his dispassion in precisely that manner. In the one moment of presidential self-criticism Mr. Goldberg reveals in his lengthy Atlantic article, Mr. Obama reflects that “there are times where I have not been attentive enough to feelings and emotions and politics in communicating what we’re doing.” Regrettably, the all-Spock-no-Kirk formula has had the effect of vacating political space now being seized by its antithesis.

I was surprised (perhaps I should not have been) by Mr. Goldberg’s report that the president “secretly disdains” the Washington foreign-policy establishment. Mr. Obama seems to believe that because he was right about Iraq while most of the establishment was wrong, it follows that he will be right in every other instance of disagreement.

But not all conventional wisdom is false, just because it is widely held. Credibility is important, for example. Saying one thing and then doing another has consequences.

If Mr. Goldberg’s narrative is accurate, the president’s announcement of a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons by Syria’s president surprised his advisers, including the secretary of defense. And when he announced that there would be no attack without prior congressional authorization, his senior aides—including his national security adviser and his secretary of state—were shocked, as were the leaders of our closest allies throughout the world.

These events exemplify a sentiment that pervades Mr. Goldberg’s entire article—Mr. Obama’s belief that the conduct of foreign policy involves little more than correct judgments by the president. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the office he occupies. Our greatest presidents have understood that a sustainable foreign policy requires persuasion directed to political and intellectual elites and, most important, to the American people.

In an era characterized by deep distrust of government, Mr. Obama’s failure to take public explanation seriously stands out in high relief.

Voir encore:

The Clueless Presidency
Stephen Hayward
Powerline
March 16, 2016

If you cast your mind back to 1979 or so, one of the signs that Jimmy Carter was washed up was a long cover story in The Atlantic by James Fallows, who had been one of Carter’s speechwriters, called “The Passionless Presidency.” “[T]here was a mystery to be explained about Jimmy Carter,” Fallows wrote, “the contrast between the promise and popularity of his first months in office and the disappointment so widely felt later on.”

I’ve been waiting for someone on the center-left like Fallows to write a similar long-form treatment of what’s wrong with Obama for a long while now. I think we have a short version of it today from Bill Galston in the Wall Street Journal. Galston is a smart, moderate liberal. (The fact that he’s said nice things about me—see below— does not affect my judgment at all! No! It doesn’t!)

Galston’s column today, “The All-Spock-No-Kirk President” (here’s a Google portal for non-WSJ subscribers), is the rough equivalent of the old Fallows piece. Galston, who was a student of political philosophy with Allan Bloom among others, is clearly appalled by Obama’s naïvete, if you read carefully between the lines here (heh—an inside joke), especially the thought that Obama is a “Hobbesian optimist,” as revealed in the now notorious Jeffrey Goldberg interview from last week:

The question is whether Hobbesian optimism is a remarkable synthesis of apparent opposites or an elegant oxymoron. If you genuinely believe, as did theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, whom President Obama admires, that original sin is “the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith,” then you cannot believe that human nature progresses toward justice. At most you can hope that our species gradually becomes wiser about institutional arrangements that constrain the evils of which we are capable.

History has been cruel to many such hopes. In 1910, the British journalist and politician Norman Angell published “The Great Illusion,” a book arguing that the integration of European economies had grown to an extent that rendered war among them futile and self-defeating. In 1920, the League of Nations was designed to preserve the peace in the aftermath of the “war to end all wars.” . . .

Consistent with his progressivist understanding of history, the president offers a strong defense of what we have come to call soft power: “Diplomacy and technocrats and bureaucrats . . . are helping to keep America safe.” He is right, but he carries the point much too far. “Real power,” he asserts, means that “you can get what you want without having to exert violence.” Not so; military power is just as real as diplomatic and economic power, and sometimes it is the only thing than can work. Unlike Vladimir Putin, Mr. Obama has consistently ignored the ways in which the military balance on the ground shapes what is diplomatically possible.
Galston’s final judgment is:

In an era characterized by deep distrust of government, Mr. Obama’s failure to take public explanation seriously stands out in high relief.

Welcome back to the “passionless presidency.” Except that Mr. Obama’s real passion was to move the country left, at which he has had some success.

LE SYNDROME DE NORMAN ANGELL

Le général Vincent Desportes dénonce ici l’utopie de l’Europe qui la conduit à dés­armer alors que la guerre est loin d’être morte.
Eté 2015

Nous sommes au début du XXe siècle, au cœur de cette période que nombre d’éco­nomistes qualifient de « première mon­dialisation», une période d’expansion du commerce et d’intensification des échanges de capitaux. Jamais les liens économiques entre la France et l’Alle­magne n’ont été aussi importants. La guerre est donc devenue impossible où, si par malheur, elle éclatait, elle ne pour­rait qu’être brève. C’est juste du bon sens nous sommes tellement civilisés et nous avons tellement besoin les uns des autres ! La thèse est en vogue ; elle conduit, du moins jusqu’en 1910, à un affaiblissement de la défense française.

La France est elle-aussi aujourd’hui frappée du syndrome de Norman Angell, cet homme politique britannique qui, dans sa Grande illusion, développe la thèse fallacieuse de la paix par l’impé­ratif économique ? En 1945, 80 millions de morts plus tard, après le double suicide collectif d’une partie de l’humanité, le bon sens revient, tel que Freud l’avait exprimé quelques décennies auparavant « On ne peut pas guérir l’homme de la guerre.»

Nous devons remercier l’Europe. Sincèrement. Parce que l’idée même de l’Europe a donné aux peuples européens soixante-dix ans de paix, ce qui n’était ja­mais arrivé dans l’Histoire.

Mais nous devons désormais nous réveiller de ce rêve parce qu’il porte désormais en lui le germe même de sa mort. Le rêve européen, c’est de croire qu’il est universel, c’est de croire qu’il est l’idéal qui dépasse les autres et étouffe toutes les vieilles raisons de la guerre – toujours les mêmes depuis que Thucydite les recensaient : la peur, l’honneur et l’intérêt, c’est de croire que les ressources du monde sont pour tous infinies comme elles semblent l’être pour nous. Le rêve européen, c’est de croire qu’il fait tache d’huile. Et bien non : il s’arrête à nos limes au-delà desquelles force est désormais de reconnaître que notre civilisation n’a pas eu les effets escomptés, au-delà desquelles la barbarie existe dans ses formes les plus obscènes !

Le rêve européen est par lui-même une Grande Illusion. La paix européenne n’a pas tué la guerre, loin de là, mais elle a donné aux Européens – et particulièrement aux Français si bien protégés du monde extérieur au bout de la péninsule Europe – l’idée qu’elle l’était. Et donc que les dépenses liées à la guerre, les dépenses de défense étaient au mieux inutiles, au pire illégitimes.

À quoi peut bien servir de conserver une défense solide puisque, d’évidence, la guerre ne menace plus et que nous sommes protégés ?

L’Europe semble être passée au-delà de son « point culminant » – pour reprendre le concept de Clausewitz -, cette ligne immatérielle au-delà de laquelle son idéal l’affaiblit et porte en lui-même le germe de sa mort.

Un récent rapport parlementaire britannique condamnait le «somnambulisme » de l’Europe face aux risques portés par la crise ukrainienne : le mot, hélas, est juste ..

Obama: L’Arabie Saoudite impatiente d’entrainer les États Unis dans des guerres sectaires

Intellivoire

10 mars 2016

Le président Barack Obama estime que l’Arabie saoudite,  a besoin d’apprendre à «partager» la région avec son ennemi juré, l’Iran, et que les deux pays sont  coupables d’avoir alimenté des guerres par procuration en Syrie, en Irak et au Yémen.

« La concurrence entre les Saoudiens et les Iraniens, a contribué à alimenter les guerres par procuration et le chaos en Syrie et en Irak et au Yémen, nous oblige à dire à nos amis, ainsi qu’aux Iraniens, qu’ils ont besoin de trouver une voie efficace pour partager la région et instituer une sorte de paix froide « , a déclaré Obama

Dans une série d’entretiens avec le magazine Atlantic qui a été publiée jeudi, Obama a déclaré qu’un certain nombre d’alliés américains dans le golfe Persique – ainsi qu’en Europe -sont des  «profiteurs  »  qui sont impatients d’entrainer les  Etats-Unis dans des conflits sectaires qui ne sont pas nécessairement liés aux  intérêts américains.

Il a affiché peu de sympathie pour les Saoudiens, qui se sont dit menacés par l’accord nucléaire conclu avec Iran. Au cours de l’interview avec Jeffrey Goldberg, correspondant national du magazine, Obama a déclaré que les Saoudiens « ont besoin de trouver un mécanisme efficace pour partager la région et instituer une sorte de paix froide ». S’exprimant sur l’idée de les soutenir contre l’Iran, le président a déclaré “cela signifierait que nous devons intervenir et utiliser notre pouvoir militaire pour régler des comptes.  Et cela ne serait pas dans l’intérêt des États-Unis, ni du Moyen-Orient. »

« Vous avez des pays qui ne parviennent pas à fournir la prospérité et des opportunités à leurs peuples. Vous avez une violence, l’idéologie extrémiste, ou des idéologies, qui sont diffusées à volonté sur les médias sociaux », at-il dit. « Vous avez des pays qui ont très peu de traditions civiques, de sorte que lorsque les régimes autocratiques commencent à s’effriter, le seul principe d’organisation qui reste est le sectarisme  »

La frustration d’Obama avec une grande partie du monde arabe n’est pas nouvelle, mais rarement elle a été si brutale. Il a inscrit ses observations dans le cadre de sa stratégie pour extraire les États-Unis du bourbier sanglant du Moyen-Orient afin que la nation puisse se concentrer sur les parties les plus prometteuses, à croissance plus rapide du monde, comme l’Asie et l’Amérique latine.

Obama a également déclaré que son soutien à l’intervention militaire de l’Otan en Libye avait été une « erreur », en partie à cause de son jugement erroné sur le fait que la Grande-Bretagne et la France allaient fournir plus de soutien à l’opération. Il a défendu son refus de ne pas appliquer sa propre ligne rouge contre le président syrien, Bachar el-Assad.

« Il y a un manuel de stratégie à Washington que les présidents sont censés utiliser », a déclaré Obama. « Et le manuel de stratégie prescrit des réponses aux différents événements, et ces réponses ont tendance à être des réponses militarisées. »

Ce consensus, selon le Président Obama peut conduire à de mauvaises décisions. « Au milieu d’un défi international comme la Syrie, » at-il dit, « vous êtes jugé sévèrement si vous ne suivez pas le manuel de stratégie, même s’il y a de bonnes raisons. »

Obama a aussi commenté sa décision d’annuler les frappes militaires annoncées contre la Syrie. « Je suis très fier de ce moment, » tout en mentionnant « Le poids écrasant de la sagesse conventionnelle et la machinerie de notre appareil de sécurité nationale était aller assez loin. » «La perception était que ma crédibilité était en jeu, que la crédibilité de l’Amérique était en jeu » . « Et donc pour moi d’appuyer sur le bouton arrêt à ce moment-là, je le savais, me coûterait cher politiquement », at-il ajouté. «Le fait que je pouvais me débarrasser des pressions immédiates et réfléchir sur ce qui  était dans l’intérêt de l’Amérique, non seulement à l’égard de la Syrie, mais aussi à l’égard de notre démocratie, a été une décision très difficile – et je crois que finalement, ce fut la bonne décision à prendre « , at-il poursuivi. Selon Obama , Ce fut le moment qu’ il croit  avoir finalement rompu avec le « manuel de stratégie de Washington. »

« Je suppose que vous pourriez me qualifier de réaliste qui croit que nous ne pouvons pas soulager toute la misère du monde », at-il dit. Obama s’est décrit comme un internationaliste et un idéaliste. Par-dessus tout, Obama est apparu fatigué des demandes constantes et les attentes placées sur les États-Unis. . . « Les profiteurs m’exaspèrent » a-t-il dit .

Il a mis la France et la Grande-Bretagne dans cette catégorie, tout au moins dans le cadre  l’opération en Libye. Le Premier ministre David Cameron, de la Grande-Bretagne, at-il dit, était distrait par d’autres questions, alors que le président Nicolas Sarkozy de France « voulait se vanter de sa campagne aérienne, en dépit du fait que nous avions neutralisé les défenses aériennes. »

Voir également:

Victor Davis Hanson
April 14, 2015
His foreign-policy errors result not from incompetence but from a conscious agenda. Lots of questions arise about the muddled foreign policy of the Obama administration. Critics suggest that America’s friends have now become enemies, and enemies friends. Others cite incompetence and naïveté rather than deliberate agendas as the cause of American decline, and of growing global chaos from Libya to Ukraine. But, in fact, there is a predictable pattern to Obama’s foreign policy. The president has an adolescent, romantic view of professed revolutionary societies and anti-Western poseurs — and of his own ability uniquely to reach out and win them over. In the most superficial sense, Obama demonstrates his empathy for supposedly revolutionary figures of the non-Western world through gratuitous, often silly remarks about Christianity and Western colonial excesses, past and present. He apologizes with talk of our “own dark periods” and warns of past U.S. “dictating”; he contextualizes; he ankle-bites the very culture he grew up and thrived in, as if he can unapologetically and without guilt enjoy the West’s largesse only by deriding its history and values.
In lieu of reading or speaking a foreign language, or knowing much about geography (Austrians speak Austrian, the death camps were Polish, the Indian Ocean Maldives are the politically correct name of the Falklands, cities along the U.S. Atlantic Coast are Gulf ports, etc.), Obama adopts, in the manner of a with-it English professor, hokey accentuation to suggest an in-the-know fides anytime he refers to the Taliban, Pakistan, or Teheran. Reminiscent of college naïfs with dorm-room posters of Che Guevara, Obama mythologizes about the underappreciated multicultural “Other” that did everything from fuel the Western Renaissance and Enlightenment to critique Christian excesses during the Inquisition. In truth, what he delivers is only a smoother and more refined version of Al Sharpton’s incoherent historical riff on “astrology” and “Greek homos.” Obama refuses to concede that Islam can become a catalyst for radical killers and terrorists, and he has a starry-eyed crush on those who strike anti-Western poses and have turned their societies upside down on behalf of the proverbial people. Keep that in mind, and it makes sense that, during the Egyptian turmoil, Obama was intent on ousting the pro-Western kleptocrat Hosni Mubarak and investing in the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the dark anti-democratic history of Mohamed Morsi and the Brothers and their agenda of Islamicizing the most populous country in the Arab world. For Obama, such zealotry is evidence of their legitimacy and the justice of their efforts to overturn the established hierarchies of old Egypt. Moammar Qaddafi was a monster and a thug. But in fear both of radical Islamists and of the implications for Libya of the Western military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and eager to have Western knowhow rehabilitate his ailing oil and gas industry, he had reached out to the West and ceased his support for international terrorists. But ridding Libya of the cartoonish and geriatric Qaddafi and allowing it to be overrun by stern revolutionary Islamists was again in tune with Obama’s rose-colored view of the Middle East. One of the many reasons why Obama pulled all U.S. troops out of a stable and secure Iraq at the end of 2011 was that its democracy was, in his eyes, tainted by its American birthing and its associations with George W. Bush. Such a hazy belief that Western influence and power are undeserved and inordinate made it initially impossible for Obama to condemn ISIS as growing and dangerous rather than dismiss it as “jayvees.” Putin perhaps should study Iran’s PR effort and its aggression in Lebanon and Yemen. If he would only cut out the guns, tigers, and “macho shtick,” and instead mouth shibboleths about the oppressed minorities in Crimea and Ukraine and the need for revolutionary fairness, he might be reset yet again. His crimes were not so much naked invasions of his neighbors, as aggression in the most un-Iranian fashion of a right-wing kleptocrat and thug. Again, nothing Putin has done is all that different from what Iran did in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
No one could quite figure out why Obama bragged of his “special relationship” with Turkey’s prime minister Recep Erdogan. Erdogan, after all, is systematically destroying free expression in Turkey. He has bragged that he got off the bus of democracy when he no longer found any utility in it — and he has openly romanticized the Ottoman imperialists. A once-staunch NATO ally, Turkey has turned into a virulently anti-Israeli and anti-American society that has spiked tensions in the eastern Mediterranean with Cyprus, Greece, and Israel. But, again, the redeeming virtue was that Erdogan was taking Turkey in a new and revolutionary direction, trying to massage the Arab Revolution as its spiritual mentor, and becoming point nation in hatred of Israel. In other words, Turkey was churning and evolving, and, for Obama, that apparently was a good thing. Without asking anything in return from Cuba — such as releasing political prisoners or allowing free expression — Obama by executive order is normalizing relations with the Castro brothers, who are allied with fascist Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. He keeps saying that 50 years of containment have “failed,” as if successfully curbing Cuba’s revolutionary aspirations abroad was a bad thing, and siding with dissidents in its gulags was counterproductive. For Obama, the Castros are authentic anti-colonialists. They perhaps may have broken a few too many eggs to make their egalitarian omelets, but their regime is certainly preferable to what is envisioned by loud Cuban exiles in America or troublemakers like imprisoned Cuban refuseniks. When the aging Nicaraguan Communist Daniel Ortega — of $3,000 Manhattan sunglasses fame — dressed Obama down in a 50-minute rant about Yanqui imperialism and neo-colonialism, Obama offered a lame, “I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.” Note the message: The problem was not Ortega’s conspiracist diatribe, or his scapegoating the United States for his own self-inflicted pathologies. Ortega’s error was instead having the audacity to suggest that Obama, an American, was guilty by association. Obama thus corrected him only in the sense that the current American president was too young to have abetted American sin, not that America was not sinful. A more savvy Raul Castro, who unleashed another rambling rant reminiscent of Ortega’s, at least made it a point to exempt Obama from association with all his usual anti-American targets. Keep in mind this juvenile view of the revolutionary non-West, and there is a clarity of sorts in American foreign policy. Honduran leftist president Manuel Zelaya, when he tried to overturn the constitution and earned the wrath of the Honduran Supreme Court, the military, and the National Congress, nonetheless won the support of the Obama administration.

For Obama, in the struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Israel is a Westernized colonial construct and a proponent of Western neo-liberal capitalism. The PA and Hamas, in contrast, are seen both as the downtrodden in need of community-organizing help and as authentic peoples whose miseries are not self-induced and the wages of tribalism, statism, autocracy, fundamentalism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism, but rather the results of Israeli occupation, colonialism, and imperialism. Obama may not articulate this publicly, but these are the assumptions that explain his periodic blasts against Netanyahu and his silence about the autocratic Palestinian Authority and the murderous Hamas. In such a landscape, the current Iranian talks make perfect sense. Obama was in no mood in the spring of 2009 to vocally support a million, pro-Western Iranian dissidents who took to the streets in anger over the theocracy’s rigged elections, calling for transparency and human rights. He snubbed them as if they were neoconservative democracy zealots. In his eyes, their false consciousness did not allow them to fully appreciate their own suffering at the hands of past American imperialists. In Obama’s worldview, the Iranian mullahs came to power through revolution and were thus far more authentic anti-Western radicals, with whom only someone like Obama — prepped by the Harvard Law Review, Chicago organizing, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s pulpit, and the most liberal voting record during a brief stint in the U.S. Senate — could empathize and negotiate. Why would Iranian idealists and democrats be foolish enough to spoil Obama’s unique diplomatic gymnastics? Traditional analyses deconstruct the Obama administration’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and are aghast at the naïveté — no stop to ongoing uranium enrichment, no open or surprise inspections, no conditions to be met before sanctions are scaled back, no prohibitions against the marriage of nuclear-weapon technology and intercontinental-missile development. But that is to misunderstand the Obama worldview. He is less worried about a nuclear Iran and what it will do to a mostly pro-Western Gulf or Israel, or to other traditional U.S. interests, than about the difficulties he faces in bringing Iran back into the family of nations as an authentic revolutionary force that will school the West on regional justice. (“There’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.”) Iran will assume its natural revolutionary role as regional power broker in the Middle East; and, almost alone, it is not beholden to any Western power. In some sense, Obama views the rest of the world in the same way as he views America: a rigged order in which the oppressed who speak truth to power are systematically mischaracterized and alienated — and in need of an empathetic voice on the side of overdue revolutionary accounting. The chief danger in Obama’s romantic view of revolutionary societies is that nothing in their histories suggests that these regimes will ever cease aggression or adopt internal reforms. Cuba will still stir up revolution in Latin America and ally itself with anti-American regimes. Iran will still subsidize Hezbollah and Hamas — and, soon, in the fashion of a nuclear power. Turkey will still try to carve out Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influence at someone else’s expense and destroy secular traditions. And one-election, one-time Islamic movements will still attempt to set up theocracies the moment they snatch power. And at no point does Obama ever empathize with thousands of dissidents rotting in Cuban and Palestinian jails, or homosexuals and feminists persecuted in Iran or journalists in Turkey. The only distinction between these illiberal movements and the unromantic Putin’s Russia is their more wily professions of revolutionary fervor, which apparently have fooled or captivated the Obama administration. — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.

AFP
24 Mar 2016

 

Le président des Etats-Unis Barack Obama à Buenos Aires, le 23 mars 2016

 

Pour la première fois, un président des Etats-Unis rend hommage aux victimes de la dictature militaire, qui a fait régner la terreur de 1976 à 1983: Barack Obama se recueille jeudi au Parc de la mémoire de Buenos Aires.

La visite d’Obama coïncide avec les 40 ans du coup d’Etat du 24 mars 1976, difficile à avaler pour les militants anti-dictature. La controverse a été apaisée par une promesse de la Maison-Blanche d’ouvrir des archives de la CIA et de l’armée américaine sur cette période sombre de l’histoire du pays sud-américain.

Pensant que les militaires étaient le meilleur rempart contre l’avancée de mouvements de gauche, Washington a soutenu de nombreuses dictatures en Amérique latine, et en Argentine, avant que le démocrate Jimmy Carter imprime un virage démocratique.

Mercredi, Barack Obama n’a pas explicitement fait de mea culpa, demandé pardon ou admis le lien de son pays avec la dictature.

Il a cependant souligné que l’époque des changements forcés était révolue, que les Etats-Unis, n’étaient « pas à court d’autocritique » et dit préférer « la démocratie à la dictature ».

Au Parc de la mémoire, la liste des noms des personnes tuées ou portées disparues est interminable pour l’année 1976, année d’une répression.

Au total, près de 9.000 noms sont gravés sur les murs du Parc de la Mémoire, qui borde l’estuaire du Rio de la Plata, où des opposants ont été jetés, parfois vivants, depuis des avions militaires.

– Epilogue dans les Andes –

Lors de la précédente visite d’un chef d’Etat américain à Buenos Aires, Bill Clinton en 1997, la question de la dictature n’était pas au programme de la visite. Les militaires bénéficiaient à l’époque d’une loi d’amnistie.

Depuis, les ex-présidents Nestor et Cristina Kirchner ont imposé en Argentine un devoir de mémoire. Ils ont été jugés depuis, et des centaines purgent actuellement des peines de prison.

Le président des Etats-Unis Barack Obama (à gauche) et le président argentin Mauricio Macri lors d’une conférence de presse commune, à Buenos Aires le 23 mars 2016

Avant Obama, le président français François Hollande s’était rendu au Parc de la Mémoire, fin février.

La dictature argentine, la plus sanglante d’Amérique du sud, a duré sept ans. Les deux premières années ont été marquées par la répression féroce de militants de l’ERP ou des Montoneros, deux mouvements de guérilla qui avaient opté pour la lutte armée contre le pouvoir.

La visite officielle se terminera au Parc de la Mémoire. Obama s’envolera à la mi-journée pour Bariloche, dans la Cordillère des Andes, où il a prévu une randonnée en montagne.

Jeudi soir il repartira pour Washington, concluant une visite de quatre jours en Amérique latine, placée sous le signe de la réconciliation.

A Cuba, il a plaidé pour la levée de l’embargo, appelant le Congrès américain dominé par les républicains à rallier sa position, et pour plus de liberté à Cuba, l’île communiste dirigée par les frères Castro depuis 1959.

En Argentine, après douze années d’une présidence qu’il a jugée « anti-américaine », Barack Obama a apporté son soutien au président de centre-droit Mauricio Macri, au pouvoir depuis trois mois, qui a déjà remis l’Argentine sur les rails de l’économie internationale.

Pour le président américain, ces mesures vont permettre à la 3e économie d’Amérique latine de retrouver la croissance, après deux ans de stagnation.

Barack Obama danse un tango lors d’un dîner au centre culturel Kirchner à Buenos Aires, le 23 mars 2016

Mercredi à Buenos Aires, il a bu un maté, l’infusion traditionnelle prisée des Argentins, assisté à un spectacle de tango, mais regretté de ne pas pouvoir rencontrer la vedette du football argentin Lionel Messi.

Lors d’un échange avec de jeunes Argentins, le président américain a conseillé de s’émanciper des doctrines politiques: « Dans le passé, il y avait une division entre droite et gauche, entre capitalisme et communisme ». « Soyez plus pragmatiques, choisissez ce qui fonctionne ».

 

Nos amis autocrates

Courrier international
11/11/2015

Il y a des rencontres parfois inopportunes, souvent gênantes. Celles qui laissent des taches indélébiles dans les mémoires d’un chef d’Etat. Ces dîners avec le diable pour lesquels, en dépit de toutes les longues cuillères utilisées, les démocraties perdent chaque fois un peu de leur éclat. On se souvient de la réception par François Mitterrand du dictateur polonais Wojciech Jaruzelski, en 1985, une visite qui avait“troublé” le Premier ministre de l’époque, Laurent Fabius, ou celle de Fidel Castro, en 1995. Dans les carnets de bal présidentiels, figurent aussi (entre autres) la longue amitié entre la France de Jacques Chirac et Saddam Hussein, l’ancien maître de l’Irak, l’invitation du très contesté président zimbabwéen Robert Mugabe, la tente de Kadhafi plantée dans les jardins de l’hôtel de Marigny, en 2007, ou la venue de Bachar El-Assad au défilé du 14-Juillet, en 2008…

Sans parler de la longue liste des voyages présidentiels dans ces pays où les droits des citoyens sont bafoués mais les contrats commerciaux convoités, comme ceux menés tambour battant par Manuel Valls en Egypte et en Arabie Saoudite début octobre. La chute du mur de Berlin, l’effondrement de l’Union soviétique, le décollage économique de la Chine ou les “printemps arabes” avaient pu donner l’illusion que la démocratie était au coin de la rue. Erreur. Les carrefours de l’Histoire sont jonchés d’embûches.

La montée des peurs et les nouveaux désordres mondiaux incitent aujourd’hui nos régimes à de nouvelles alliances, à de nouveaux compromis. Quitte à être moins regardants sur la qualité de nos amis. Pis, au nom d’une prétendue stabilité, il faudrait non seulement dîner mais aussi passer de petits arrangements avec les autocrates. Mais ce retour à la mode de la realpolitik ne doit pas faire illusion : si celle-ci a pour objet de nous rassurer, elle a aussi ses limites, précisément celles qu’exposait Benjamin Franklin il y a deux siècles et demi : “Ceux qui abandonnent la liberté pour acheter une sécurité temporaire ne méritent ni la liberté ni la sécurité.*”

* Cette phrase datée de 1755 est inscrite sur une plaque du socle de la statue de la Liberté.  

—————

L’Occident tenté par les despotes

Face à une instabilité grandissante, les Occidentaux semblent prêts à soutenir n’importe quel autocrate au nom de la sécurité. Une stratégie à courte vue, estime l’ancienne responsable de la diplomatie espagnole.

 Ana Palacio
Courrier international
12/11/2015
Autrefois interrogé sur le soutien de l’Amérique au dictateur nicaraguayen Anastasio Somoza, le président Franklin D. Roosevelt aurait dit-on répondu :“Somoza est peut-être un salopard, mais c’est notre salopard.” Qu’il soit authentique ou non, ce trait d’esprit résume l’approche adoptée depuis bien longtemps par l’Occident dans une grande partie du monde – et qui a sous-tendu la politique étrangère américaine tout au long de la guerre froide.

Mais plus récemment, une approche encore plus troublante semble avoir émergé, consistant pour les dirigeants occidentaux à se contenter non pas de leur “propre salopard”, mais tout simplement de n’importe quel salopard en mesure d’imposer une stabilité, quel qu’en soit le prix.

On se serait attendu à ce que l’expérience oriente les dirigeants occidentaux vers une direction opposée. Après tout, les années passant, le clientélisme de la guerre froide s’est révélé loin d’être idéal. En effet, dans bien des situations – chah d’Iran, Lon Nol au Cambodge, Augusto Pinochet au Chili, ou encore Mobutu Sese Seko en république démocratique du Congo, pour ne citer que quelques exemples –, ce choix n’a engendré à long terme qu’insécurité et désordre.

Désespoir

Seulement voilà, nous vivons une époque de désespoir. Incapables de contenir les violences, les souffrances et le chaos qui engloutissent le Moyen-Orient et une partie de l’Afrique du Nord – et dont les conséquences se font de plus en plus ressentir en Europe –, les dirigeants occidentaux retombent aujourd’hui dans le piège de la guerre froide. Ils ne souhaitent plus qu’une seule chose : pouvoir compter sur la présence d’un acteur – et désormais quasiment n’importe qui – capable de faire respecter l’ordre.

C’est sans doute dans le cas de la Syrie que ce désespoir apparaît le plus clairement. Après avoir insisté pendant des années sur le problème que représentait le président syrien Bachar El-Assad, de plus en plus de responsables et stratèges occidentaux estiment finalement qu’il pourrait bien faire partie de la solution – ou du moins participer à une transition.

Le mois dernier, la chancelière allemande Angela Merkel a souligné la nécessité d’intégrer Assad aux discussions sur l’avenir de la Syrie. De même, le secrétaire d’Etat John Kerry et le Premier ministre britannique David Cameron attribuent tous deux un rôle à Assad dans le cadre d’une éventuelle transition. Le Premier ministre espagnol Mariano Rajoy est allé jusqu’à déclarer que le monde devrait“compter sur” Assad dans la lutte contre l’Etat islamique.

Anarchie

Qu’il découle du réalisme ou de la résignation, ce changement d’approche illustre un profond désir de stabilité – désir accentué, notamment en Europe, par l’existence d’un nouveau vide de gouvernance en Libye. Ce même désir a d’ores et déjà conduit l’Occident à soutenir le régime d’Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi en Egypte, sans exercer de véritable pression en direction de réformes de la part du régime.  

Face à un contexte d’anarchie, cet empressement visant l’instauration d’une stabilité par tous les moyens nécessaires est compréhensible. Il s’agit néanmoins d’une pente glissante. Et cette tentation se fonde en réalité sur une fausse dichotomie entre autocratie et instabilité.Bien entendu, les personnalités autoritaires telles que le président russe Vladimir Poutine ont profondément intérêt à promouvoir cette dichotomie. Comme l’a récemment expliqué l’analyste politique bulgare Ivan Krastev, le président Poutine – depuis longtemps allié d’Assad – fait activement valoir l’idée selon laquelle les efforts occidentaux de promotion d’une bonne gouvernance n’auraient conduit qu’à l’instabilité.

Mais la tyrannie n’est jamais véritablement stable, et certainement pas à long terme. Le désir de respect et de dignité humaine – pierre angulaire d’une bonne gouvernance – ne peut être étouffé, et encore moins à l’heure où les populations bénéficient d’un accès sans précédent à l’information via Internet et les technologies mobiles.

Ainsi la bonne gouvernance constitue-t-elle la clé d’une stabilité à long terme.

Cultiver une société civile dynamique

Néanmoins, tout comme la stabilité, la bonne gouvernance ne peut être imposée depuis l’extérieur ; il lui faut se développer de manière organique, et reposer sur les racines solides d’une société.

Cela ne signifie pas que les gouvernements occidentaux ne peuvent agir en la matière. Au contraire, en contribuant à cultiver une société civile dynamique au niveau local et national, les forces externes peuvent jouer un rôle important dans la construction de solides fondations sous-tendant une bonne gouvernance dans les pays en crise.

Le Quartet du dialogue national en Tunisie – groupement d’organisations de la société civile, récompensé cette année par un prix Nobel de la paix – démontre toute l’efficacité que peut produire une société civile énergique dans le soutien à la stabilité. Si elle entend faire réellement la différence dans la stabilisation des régions les plus troublées du monde actuel, la communauté aurait tout intérêt à prendre pour modèle la Tunisie (et à demeurer engagée dans le maintien du cap entrepris par le pays en direction d’une démocratie stable) plutôt que tomber dans le piège des mises en garde formulées par Poutine autour de la Syrie et de la Libye.  

Ana Palacio

Ana Palacio a été ministre des Affaires étrangères de l’Espagne de 2002 à 2004 et première vice-présidente de la Banque mondiale. La tribune ci-dessus a été publiée par la plateforme Project Syndicate, traduite de l’anglais par Martin Morel.

Photos – Obama à Cuba : une visite histo­rique et des vacances fami­liales

Gala
23 mars 2016

Le président améri­cain Barack Obama s’est rendu à Cuba, accom­pa­gné de sa femme, Michelle et de ses deux filles, Sasha et Malia, 14 et 17 ans, pour offi­cia­li­ser la norma­li­sa­tion des rela­tions entre les deux pays. Au cours de ce dépla­ce­ment symbo­lique et histo­rique, la famille Obama est appa­rue plus complice que jamais.

Dès la descente de l’avion prési­den­tiel, ce dimanche 20 mars, les quatre membres de la famille Obama étaient déten­dus et souriant. Leur visite de trois jours à Cuba, censée offi­cia­li­ser le réchauf­fe­ment des rela­tions entre l’île et les Etats-Unis, montre une nouvelle fois leur capa­cité à rester spon­ta­nés au milieu des rigueurs proto­co­laires. Les robes fleu­ries de Michelle, l’en­thou­siasme de Barack au match de base­ball, les talents de traduc­trice de Malia, l’aî­née de leurs filles… Chacun de leurs gestes étaient scru­tés, mais ils ont sans conteste réussi l’exer­cice de séduc­tion, toujours avec leur décon­trac­tion légen­daire.

Barack Obama est ainsi devenu le premier président améri­cain en exer­cice à se rendre à Cuba depuis près de 90 ans. C’était l’oc­ca­sion pour lui, à 10 mois de la fin de son mandat, de confir­mer le dégel avec La Havane, engagé fin 2014, mais aussi pour le président cubain, Raul Castro, de plai­der une nouvelle fois pour la suppres­sion de l’em­bargo écono­mique qui péna­lise son île depuis 1962. A côté de ce contexte diplo­ma­tique solen­nel, la famille Obama s’est égale­ment adon­née avec une joie non dissi­mu­lée à la décou­verte de l’île ; de la vieille ville de La Havane, avec ses monu­ments histo­riques et ses jardins, à l’équipe de base­ball natio­nale cubaine.

Malia Obama, 17 ans, s’est même amusée à servir de traduc­trice à son père, qui n’était visi­ble­ment pas aussi à l’aise qu’elle en espa­gnol. Le photo­graphe offi­ciel de la Maison-Blanche, Pete Souza, a immor­ta­lisé l’un de ces moments de compli­cité dans un restau­rant de la Havane, avant de le poster sur son compte Insta­gram. « Le président et sa fille Malia partagent un fou rire, alors que Malia traduit l’es­pa­gnol pour son père dans un restau­rant de la vieille ville » a-t-il indiqué en légende.

En voyant les photos de la famille Obama à Cuba, on croi­rait presque assis­ter aux vacances d’une famille comme les autres, si ce n’est les jour­na­listes et les offi­ciels cubains que l’on aperçoit parfois à leurs côtés. Malia et Sasha profi­taient de quelques jours de Spring break (vacances de prin­temps), avant de retour­ner en cours. C’était d’ailleurs peut être les dernières vacances en famille pour Malia, qui devrait quit­ter les siens pour entrer à l’uni­ver­sité, à l’au­tomne prochain.

The biggest problem with U.S. foreign policy? Obama’s own preening self-regard
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry
The Week
March 14, 2016

The Barack Obama show is in town again. The president likes nothing so much as to demonstrate how profound and thoughtful he is, and he recently decided to do it by granting an interview to one of his favorite journalists, The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, to whom he explained his thinking and legacy on foreign policy. The long interview is full of great nuggets and quotes and has been the talk of DC. One cannot help but read it and feel that the biggest problem with U.S. foreign policy in the Obama era has been what can only be called Obama’s preening self-regard.

Let’s get some things out of the way first. I’ve always tried to shy away from the character attacks that so many of my fellow conservatives engage in when it comes to Obama. Although I disagree with him on many, many issues of policy, he has always seemed like a smart, likeable, well-intentioned guy, which is already saying a lot for a politician. And it’s certainly the case that some conservatives haven’t had a very good critique of the Obama era, seeing everything through the lens of a worldview that sees force and confrontation as the answer to every problem.

But it really is the case that the character of presidents shape their policy. And when you read the interview a second time, you realize that the driving force isn’t Obama’s worldview on foreign policy. It’s Obama himself. And in particular, there’s one consistent theme, whatever issue or trouble spot you’re talking about: It’s somebody else’s fault.

Why has Libya been such a disaster? Because the Europeans didn’t pull their weight.

Why are America’s Sunni allies so discontented with the Obama administration? Because they’re free riders who want to use American military might to solve their sectarian gripes. (Another way to phrase it might be: « Expect their main ally to help them in their struggle with their adversaries. » Have they no shame?)

Why are Sunni and Shia at each other’s throats all over the Middle East? Did the United States embolden Iran by negotiating the nuclear deal or by failing to sign a new status of forces agreement with Iraq? Surely you jest! No, the Middle East is on fire because of « tribalism. » The president can’t do anything about that, can he?

Why didn’t the reset with Russia work? Well, Putin is too dumb to realize that it’s in his own self-interest to play nice with America. (Although Obama generously grants that « he’s not completely stupid. »)

Why was the West wrong-footed in Ukraine? Well, Ukraine is always going to be vulnerable to Russia anyway.

Any regrets over calling ISIS a « JV team »? Well, intelligence analysts said ISIS was « marginal. »

Why isn’t there peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Because Netanyahu is too scared to reach out to the Palestinians. Forget the fact that Fatah has rejected every serious peace overture by the Israelis, and that Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is quite intent on genocide against Jews.

None of these viewpoints are indefensible on their own merits, and all of them have at least a grain of truth in them (except for the last one). But together, they paint quite the picture — of someone disconnected from reality and sure of his own perfection.

To be sure, all presidents have very large egos — it’s a requirement of aspiring to the job. And politicians will never admit to a mistake unless they have a metaphorical gun to their head. But there’s always been something grating and, at the end of the day, unseemly, about Obama’s performance of himself as The Most Thoughtful Man in Washington.

Obama came to national prominence vowing to heal our partisan divide. He did it through a rhetorical style that can be summed up as « I have understood you. » He was so good at making speeches where he could restate opponents’ views that they thought he really could see things from their own perspective; only later did people catch on that the whole sentence is « I have understood you, but I’m not going to budge. » (Which isn’t to say that Obama is wholly to blame for the partisan rancor of his years.) In a similar way, Obama’s performance of his own thoughtfulness and rumination becomes unbearable once you realize that he will turn around thoughts in his head, but never end up changing them. There’s an almost dizzying feeling when you realize something you thought was profound turns out to be incredibly shallow.

The cake is taken by the part of the piece that drove the most headlines: Obama’s statement that he was « very proud » of one of the most indefensible moments in his presidency, the moment when he refused to enforce his « red line » in Syria and stood by while Assad gassed his own people. His rationale is worth quoting in full:

« I’m very proud of this moment, » he told me. « The overwhelming weight of conventional wisdom and the machinery of our national-security apparatus had gone fairly far. The perception was that my credibility was at stake, that America’s credibility was at stake. And so for me to press the pause button at that moment, I knew, would cost me politically. And the fact that I was able to pull back from the immediate pressures and think through in my own mind what was in America’s interest, not only with respect to Syria but also with respect to our democracy, was as tough a decision as I’ve made — and I believe ultimately it was the right decision to make. »

This was the moment the president believes he finally broke with what he calls, derisively, the »Washington playbook. » [The Atlantic]

Nevermind the merits of the action. Why is Obama proud of his decision? Because it had the best outcome? No, because of the way he thought through the decision. Obama thinks his decision was good because of the way he reached it. The most salient aspect of the decision is not how it affected millions of Syrians, or the international norm against the use of weapons of mass destruction in warfare (and the credibility of the United States as the lone superpower and guarantor of international norms writ large), with incalculable potential ripple effects, it is how the whole thing played out in the theater that is the mind of Barack Obama.

Ultimately, Obama’s legacy will be written by history, and we will not be able to appreciate it until many years hence, if then. But we can at least be certain of one thing: For as long as he lives, Barack Obama will feel good about it. And that doesn’t make me feel good at all.

Voir par ailleurs:

The Syrian Civil War
Kurds to Declare “Federal Region” in Syria Syria’s dominant Kurdish party, the PYD, declared that it will announce plans for a federal, autonomous region as early as Thursday. Reuters has more:

The announcement had been expected on Wednesday but was postponed for “logistical reasons” and because of demands from local Arab and Assyrian communities for reassurances that the federal arrangement will not mean separation from Syria, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict.[..]

Syrian Kurdish groups and their allies have already carved out three autonomous zones, or cantons, known as Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin. Their capture of the town of Tel Abyad from Islamic State last year created territorial contiguity between the Jazeera and Kobani areas.

Afrin is separated from the other two cantons by roughly 100 km of territory, much of it still held by Islamic State.
So there’s more fighting ahead. And while they’re not (yet) talking about secession, there is a fair bit of autonomy envisaged:

Nassan said a federal arrangement would widen “the framework of self-administration which the Kurds and others have formed”, and the political system would represent all ethnic groups living in the area of its authority.

The system envisions “areas of democratic self-administration” that will manage their own economic, security and defense affairs, according to a document drafted by a committee in preparation for the meeting and seen by Reuters.
But how pluralistic and how democratic an autonomous Syrian Kurdistan is will have a lot to do with who shepherds it into being. On that front, some bad news: as TAI Editor Adam Garfinkle recently noted, the PYD has ties to the KGB going back to the Cold War, and of late the Russians have in many ways been the best friends of the Syrian Kurds, who already have a “mission” in Moscow. The Kremlin reportedly welcomed the recent news.

The U.S. has been relatively supportive of the Syrian Kurds as well, but that support has basically boiled down to “please would you fight ISIS for us? Thanks.” Our eroded credibility in the region, and Russia’s elevated profile, will make dealing with this news tricky. So too will our essentially ambivalent attitude toward Kurdish independence aspirations, and our official support for the fantastic goal of seeing united, peaceful, democratic Syria and Iraq restored to their ante bellum borders.

Our relationship with the Syrian Kurds is, of course, complicated by our NATO ally Turkey. Ankara is not at all pleased with the Syrian Kurdish announcement:

Turkey, whose conflict with the Kurdish PKK has escalated in recent months, said such moves were not acceptable. “Syria’s national unity and territorial integrity is fundamental for us. Outside of this, unilateral decisions cannot have validity,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Reuters.

The PYD has been left out of the Geneva peace talks, in line with the wishes of Turkey, which sees it as an extension of the PKK group that is waging an insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
This Turkish hostility could take many forms; few of them are likely to be conducive to regional harmony. Even worse: in the course of a recent speech speech in which he compared the Kurds to the Armenians in 1915, Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu pointedly conflated the Syrian Kurdish cooperation with Moscow with internal disloyalty by Turkish Kurds. The spectre of worsened internal ethnic violence in Turkey haunts this announcement.

Then there’s the Syrian regime’s reaction (so far negative, but deals may be possible). Iraq and Iran also have Kurdish minorities and will have an interest in the precedent set by the newest attempt at a Kurdish semi-state. And the Kurdish move will complicate the calculations of the Sunni Gulf Arabs, ISIS, and the other Syrian rebels in ways that can’t yet fully be foreseen.

So anyone who thought that the Russians pulling out of Syria, combined with the Geneva peace talks getting under way, meant that we could finally forget about the bloody mess that is the Syrian Civil War probably doesn’t appreciate just what a complicated mess the conflict has left in its wake. This thing is far from over, and lasting peace is anything but assured.

Voir de même:

Et les Kurdes créèrent les Hauts-de-Syrie
La Turquie voit son cauchemar prendre forme
Gil Mihaely
est historien et directeur de la publication de Causeur
Causeur

Moscou a donné le coup d’envoi du démantèlement de la Syrie, dont les premiers bénéficiaires seront les Kurdes. Et les Turcs risquent de payer la facture plein pot.

Il y a quelques jours, une source que la presse a qualifiée de « diplomate du Conseil de sécurité des Nations-Unies » a fait cette déclaration : « Tout en insistant sur la préservation de l’intégrité territoriale de la Syrie, en la maintenant ainsi comme un seul pays, il y a naturellement toutes sortes de modèles différents de structure fédérale qui pourraient, dans certains cas, reposer sur un centre très, très faible et beaucoup d’autonomie pour différentes régions ».

Puisque cette source anonyme est très probablement membre de la délégation russe auprès de l’ONU, cette phrase dessine les possibles contours de la solution politique de la guerre civile syrienne. Et, comme pour le prouver,  quelques jours après la publication de cette indiscrétion, Poutine a annoncé le début du retrait de ses troupes déployées en Syrie : un message clair adressé à Assad lui signifiant que son rêve d’un retour à la Syrie d’avant ne faisait pas partie des objectifs russes. Et voilà qu’aujourd’hui nous apprenons – quelle coïncidence ! – l’existence d’un projet de fédéralisation des trois zones contrôlées par les Kurdes au nord-est de la Syrie. Cette région que les Arabes nomment Jezireh et les Kurdes Rojava sera dirigée par un gouvernement ayant charge la gestion de l’économie et la sécurité, mais aussi une fonction plus régalienne : la défense.

Un responsable kurde a également indiqué qu’une conférence se tenait actuellement à Rmeilanv (dans la région de Hassaké, nord-est de la Syrie, à 700 kilomètres de Damas), pour approuver ce système d’autonomie officiellement baptisé « Fédération démocratique du Rojava ». Cerise sur le baklawa, l’initiative – qui n’est pas pour déplaire à Moscou – s’est immédiatement attiré les foudres d’Ankara. Pour la Turquie, le PYD (Parti de l’union démocratique), parti des Kurdes syriens à la manœuvre, ne diffère guerre du PKK (Parti des travailleurs du Kurdistan), qu’Ankara considère comme une organisation terroriste. Dans le même temps, une grande partie de l’Est turc, à dominante kurde, vit sous état de siège depuis la crispation des rapports entre Erdogan et le PKK.

Sur le front diplomatique syrien, si Ankara a pu empêcher la participation du PYD aux négociations de Genève, les Turcs voient se réaliser leur pire cauchemar sur le terrain : la constitution d’un Kurdistan syrien autonome. Déjà, à l’été 2014, lorsqu’elles tergiversaient pendant l’assaut de l’Etat islamique contre la ville kurde syrienne de Kobané, les autorités turques avaient préféré choisir un moindre mal : plutôt Daech qu’un Kurdistan quasi-indépendant de Damas qui donneraient des idées aux Kurdes de Turquie !

Aujourd’hui, presque la moitié de la frontière syro-turque se trouve sous contrôle kurde, mais, ce qui est encore plus important, le coup d’envoi quasi officiel du démantèlement de la Syrie vient d’être donné. Reste à trouver les Sykes-Picot du XXe siècle : Lavrov et Kerry ? En tout cas, la Turquie d’Erdogan n’a aucune envie de jouer le rôle autrefois dévolu aux Kurdes : le dindon de la farce diplomatique

Voir enfin:

The Obama Doctrine

The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.

Jeffrey Goldberg

The Atlantic
April 2016

Friday, August 30, 2013, the day the feckless Barack Obama brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower—or, alternatively, the day the sagacious Barack Obama peered into the Middle Eastern abyss and stepped back from the consuming void—began with a thundering speech given on Obama’s behalf by his secretary of state, John Kerry, in Washington, D.C. The subject of Kerry’s uncharacteristically Churchillian remarks, delivered in the Treaty Room at the State Department, was the gassing of civilians by the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
Obama on …

Why he’s proud of not striking Assad in 2013
The necessity of pivoting from the Middle East to Asia and other regions
Why Ukraine will always be vulnerable to Russian domination
Resisting John Kerry’s requests to attack Syrian-regime targets
Why Saudi Arabia should share the Middle East with Iran
How ISIS is like the Joker
Why Putin is “not completely stupid”
How France and Great Britain contributed to the mess in Libya
Why ISIS isn’t an existential threat, but climate change is
Why he resents Netanyahu’s lectures

Obama, in whose Cabinet Kerry serves faithfully, but with some exasperation, is himself given to vaulting oratory, but not usually of the martial sort associated with Churchill. Obama believes that the Manichaeanism, and eloquently rendered bellicosity, commonly associated with Churchill were justified by Hitler’s rise, and were at times defensible in the struggle against the Soviet Union. But he also thinks rhetoric should be weaponized sparingly, if at all, in today’s more ambiguous and complicated international arena. The president believes that Churchillian rhetoric and, more to the point, Churchillian habits of thought, helped bring his predecessor, George W. Bush, to ruinous war in Iraq. Obama entered the White House bent on getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan; he was not seeking new dragons to slay. And he was particularly mindful of promising victory in conflicts he believed to be unwinnable. “If you were to say, for instance, that we’re going to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and build a prosperous democracy instead, the president is aware that someone, seven years later, is going to hold you to that promise,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser, and his foreign-policy amanuensis, told me not long ago.

But Kerry’s rousing remarks on that August day, which had been drafted in part by Rhodes, were threaded with righteous anger and bold promises, including the barely concealed threat of imminent attack. Kerry, like Obama himself, was horrified by the sins committed by the Syrian regime in its attempt to put down a two-year-old rebellion. In the Damascus suburb of Ghouta nine days earlier, Assad’s army had murdered more than 1,400 civilians with sarin gas. The strong sentiment inside the Obama administration was that Assad had earned dire punishment. In Situation Room meetings that followed the attack on Ghouta, only the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, cautioned explicitly about the perils of intervention. John Kerry argued vociferously for action.

“As previous storms in history have gathered, when unspeakable crimes were within our power to stop them, we have been warned against the temptations of looking the other way,” Kerry said in his speech. “History is full of leaders who have warned against inaction, indifference, and especially against silence when it mattered most.”
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Kerry counted President Obama among those leaders. A year earlier, when the administration suspected that the Assad regime was contemplating the use of chemical weapons, Obama had declared: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime … that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

Despite this threat, Obama seemed to many critics to be coldly detached from the suffering of innocent Syrians. Late in the summer of 2011, he had called for Assad’s departure. “For the sake of the Syrian people,” Obama said, “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” But Obama initially did little to bring about Assad’s end.

He resisted demands to act in part because he assumed, based on the analysis of U.S. intelligence, that Assad would fall without his help. “He thought Assad would go the way Mubarak went,” Dennis Ross, a former Middle East adviser to Obama, told me, referring to the quick departure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, a moment that represented the acme of the Arab Spring. But as Assad clung to power, Obama’s resistance to direct intervention only grew. After several months of deliberation, he authorized the CIA to train and fund Syrian rebels, but he also shared the outlook of his former defense secretary, Robert Gates, who had routinely asked in meetings, “Shouldn’t we finish up the two wars we have before we look for another?”
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Portrait of a Presidential Mind

The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who is the most dispositionally interventionist among Obama’s senior advisers, had argued early for arming Syria’s rebels. Power, who during this period served on the National Security Council staff, is the author of a celebrated book excoriating a succession of U.S. presidents for their failures to prevent genocide. The book, A Problem From Hell, published in 2002, drew Obama to Power while he was in the U.S. Senate, though the two were not an obvious ideological match. Power is a partisan of the doctrine known as “responsibility to protect,” which holds that sovereignty should not be considered inviolate when a country is slaughtering its own citizens. She lobbied him to endorse this doctrine in the speech he delivered when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, but he declined. Obama generally does not believe a president should place American soldiers at great risk in order to prevent humanitarian disasters, unless those disasters pose a direct security threat to the United States.

Power sometimes argued with Obama in front of other National Security Council officials, to the point where he could no longer conceal his frustration. “Samantha, enough, I’ve already read your book,” he once snapped.
Obama in the Oval Office, where, two and a half years ago, he shocked national-security aides by calling off air strikes on Syria (Ruven Afanador)

Obama, unlike liberal interventionists, is an admirer of the foreign-policy realism of President George H. W. Bush and, in particular, of Bush’s national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft (“I love that guy,” Obama once told me). Bush and Scowcroft removed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1991, and they deftly managed the disintegration of the Soviet Union; Scowcroft also, on Bush’s behalf, toasted the leaders of China shortly after the slaughter in Tiananmen Square. As Obama was writing his campaign manifesto, The Audacity of Hope, in 2006, Susan Rice, then an informal adviser, felt it necessary to remind him to include at least one line of praise for the foreign policy of President Bill Clinton, to partially balance the praise he showered on Bush and Scowcroft.

At the outset of the Syrian uprising, in early 2011, Power argued that the rebels, drawn from the ranks of ordinary citizens, deserved America’s enthusiastic support. Others noted that the rebels were farmers and doctors and carpenters, comparing these revolutionaries to the men who won America’s war for independence.
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Obama on the World

Obama flipped this plea on its head. “When you have a professional army,” he once told me, “that is well armed and sponsored by two large states”—Iran and Russia—“who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict …” He paused. “The notion that we could have—in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces—changed the equation on the ground there was never true.” The message Obama telegraphed in speeches and interviews was clear: He would not end up like the second President Bush—a president who became tragically overextended in the Middle East, whose decisions filled the wards of Walter Reed with grievously wounded soldiers, who was helpless to stop the obliteration of his reputation, even when he recalibrated his policies in his second term. Obama would say privately that the first task of an American president in the post-Bush international arena was “Don’t do stupid shit.”

Obama’s reticence frustrated Power and others on his national-security team who had a preference for action. Hillary Clinton, when she was Obama’s secretary of state, argued for an early and assertive response to Assad’s violence. In 2014, after she left office, Clinton told me that “the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.” When The Atlantic published this statement, and also published Clinton’s assessment that “great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Obama became “rip-shit angry,” according to one of his senior advisers. The president did not understand how “Don’t do stupid shit” could be considered a controversial slogan. Ben Rhodes recalls that “the questions we were asking in the White House were ‘Who exactly is in the stupid-shit caucus? Who is pro–stupid shit?’ ” The Iraq invasion, Obama believed, should have taught Democratic interventionists like Clinton, who had voted for its authorization, the dangers of doing stupid shit. (Clinton quickly apologized to Obama for her comments, and a Clinton spokesman announced that the two would “hug it out” on Martha’s Vineyard when they crossed paths there later.)
Video: Obama’s “Red Line” That Wasn’t
Inside the president’s last-minute decision not to bomb Syria in 2013

Syria, for Obama, represented a slope potentially as slippery as Iraq. In his first term, he came to believe that only a handful of threats in the Middle East conceivably warranted direct U.S. military intervention. These included the threat posed by al‑Qaeda; threats to the continued existence of Israel (“It would be a moral failing for me as president of the United States” not to defend Israel, he once told me); and, not unrelated to Israel’s security, the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. The danger to the United States posed by the Assad regime did not rise to the level of these challenges.

Given Obama’s reticence about intervention, the bright-red line he drew for Assad in the summer of 2012 was striking. Even his own advisers were surprised. “I didn’t know it was coming,” his secretary of defense at the time, Leon Panetta, told me. I was told that Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly warned Obama against drawing a red line on chemical weapons, fearing that it would one day have to be enforced.
Debating the Obama Doctrine
Analysts respond to our April cover story and assess the president’s foreign policy
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Kerry, in his remarks on August 30, 2013, suggested that Assad should be punished in part because the “credibility and the future interests of the United States of America and our allies” were at stake. “It is directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the United States when it says something. They are watching to see if Syria can get away with it, because then maybe they too can put the world at greater risk.”

Ninety minutes later, at the White House, Obama reinforced Kerry’s message in a public statement: “It’s important for us to recognize that when over 1,000 people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99 percent of humanity says should not be used even in war, and there is no action, then we’re sending a signal that that international norm doesn’t mean much. And that is a danger to our national security.”

It appeared as though Obama had drawn the conclusion that damage to American credibility in one region of the world would bleed into others, and that U.S. deterrent credibility was indeed at stake in Syria. Assad, it seemed, had succeeded in pushing the president to a place he never thought he would have to go. Obama generally believes that the Washington foreign-policy establishment, which he secretly disdains, makes a fetish of “credibility”—particularly the sort of credibility purchased with force. The preservation of credibility, he says, led to Vietnam. Within the White House, Obama would argue that “dropping bombs on someone to prove that you’re willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force.”

American national-security credibility, as it is conventionally understood in the Pentagon, the State Department, and the cluster of think tanks headquartered within walking distance of the White House, is an intangible yet potent force—one that, when properly nurtured, keeps America’s friends feeling secure and keeps the international order stable.

In White House meetings that crucial week in August, Biden, who ordinarily shared Obama’s worries about American overreach, argued passionately that “big nations don’t bluff.” America’s closest allies in Europe and across the Middle East believed Obama was threatening military action, and his own advisers did as well. At a joint press conference with Obama at the White House the previous May, David Cameron, the British prime minister, had said, “Syria’s history is being written in the blood of her people, and it is happening on our watch.” Cameron’s statement, one of his advisers told me, was meant to encourage Obama toward more-decisive action. “The prime minister was certainly under the impression that the president would enforce the red line,” the adviser told me. The Saudi ambassador in Washington at the time, Adel al-Jubeir, told friends, and his superiors in Riyadh, that the president was finally ready to strike. Obama “figured out how important this is,” Jubeir, who is now the Saudi foreign minister, told one interlocutor. “He will definitely strike.”

Obama had already ordered the Pentagon to develop target lists. Five Arleigh Burke–class destroyers were in the Mediterranean, ready to fire cruise missiles at regime targets. French President François Hollande, the most enthusiastically pro-intervention among Europe’s leaders, was preparing to strike as well. All week, White House officials had publicly built the case that Assad had committed a crime against humanity. Kerry’s speech would mark the culmination of this campaign.

But the president had grown queasy. In the days after the gassing of Ghouta, Obama would later tell me, he found himself recoiling from the idea of an attack unsanctioned by international law or by Congress. The American people seemed unenthusiastic about a Syria intervention; so too did one of the few foreign leaders Obama respects, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. She told him that her country would not participate in a Syria campaign. And in a stunning development, on Thursday, August 29, the British Parliament denied David Cameron its blessing for an attack. John Kerry later told me that when he heard that, “internally, I went, Oops.”

Obama was also unsettled by a surprise visit early in the week from James Clapper, his director of national intelligence, who interrupted the President’s Daily Brief, the threat report Obama receives each morning from Clapper’s analysts, to make clear that the intelligence on Syria’s use of sarin gas, while robust, was not a “slam dunk.” He chose the term carefully. Clapper, the chief of an intelligence community traumatized by its failures in the run-up to the Iraq War, was not going to overpromise, in the manner of the onetime CIA director George Tenet, who famously guaranteed George W. Bush a “slam dunk” in Iraq.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council, including Susan Rice and John Kerry (second and third from left), in December 2014. (Pete Souza / White House)

While the Pentagon and the White House’s national-security apparatuses were still moving toward war (John Kerry told me he was expecting a strike the day after his speech), the president had come to believe that he was walking into a trap—one laid both by allies and by adversaries, and by conventional expectations of what an American president is supposed to do.

Many of his advisers did not grasp the depth of the president’s misgivings; his Cabinet and his allies were certainly unaware of them. But his doubts were growing. Late on Friday afternoon, Obama determined that he was simply not prepared to authorize a strike. He asked McDonough, his chief of staff, to take a walk with him on the South Lawn of the White House. Obama did not choose McDonough randomly: He is the Obama aide most averse to U.S. military intervention, and someone who, in the words of one of his colleagues, “thinks in terms of traps.” Obama, ordinarily a preternaturally confident man, was looking for validation, and trying to devise ways to explain his change of heart, both to his own aides and to the public. He and McDonough stayed outside for an hour. Obama told him he was worried that Assad would place civilians as “human shields” around obvious targets. He also pointed out an underlying flaw in the proposed strike: U.S. missiles would not be fired at chemical-weapons depots, for fear of sending plumes of poison into the air. A strike would target military units that had delivered these weapons, but not the weapons themselves.

Obama also shared with McDonough a long-standing resentment: He was tired of watching Washington unthinkingly drift toward war in Muslim countries. Four years earlier, the president believed, the Pentagon had “jammed” him on a troop surge for Afghanistan. Now, on Syria, he was beginning to feel jammed again.

When the two men came back to the Oval Office, the president told his national-security aides that he planned to stand down. There would be no attack the next day; he wanted to refer the matter to Congress for a vote. Aides in the room were shocked. Susan Rice, now Obama’s national-security adviser, argued that the damage to America’s credibility would be serious and lasting. Others had difficulty fathoming how the president could reverse himself the day before a planned strike. Obama, however, was completely calm. “If you’ve been around him, you know when he’s ambivalent about something, when it’s a 51–49 decision,” Ben Rhodes told me. “But he was completely at ease.”

Not long ago, I asked Obama to describe his thinking on that day. He listed the practical worries that had preoccupied him. “We had UN inspectors on the ground who were completing their work, and we could not risk taking a shot while they were there. A second major factor was the failure of Cameron to obtain the consent of his parliament.”

The third, and most important, factor, he told me, was “our assessment that while we could inflict some damage on Assad, we could not, through a missile strike, eliminate the chemical weapons themselves, and what I would then face was the prospect of Assad having survived the strike and claiming he had successfully defied the United States, that the United States had acted unlawfully in the absence of a UN mandate, and that that would have potentially strengthened his hand rather than weakened it.”

The fourth factor, he said, was of deeper philosophical importance. “This falls in the category of something that I had been brooding on for some time,” he said. “I had come into office with the strong belief that the scope of executive power in national-security issues is very broad, but not limitless.”

Obama knew his decision not to bomb Syria would likely upset America’s allies. It did. The prime minister of France, Manuel Valls, told me that his government was already worried about the consequences of earlier inaction in Syria when word came of the stand-down. “By not intervening early, we have created a monster,” Valls told me. “We were absolutely certain that the U.S. administration would say yes. Working with the Americans, we had already seen the targets. It was a great surprise. If we had bombed as was planned, I think things would be different today.” The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who was already upset with Obama for “abandoning” Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt, fumed to American visitors that the U.S. was led by an “untrustworthy” president. The king of Jordan, Abdullah II—already dismayed by what he saw as Obama’s illogical desire to distance the U.S. from its traditional Sunni Arab allies and create a new alliance with Iran, Assad’s Shia sponsor—complained privately, “I think I believe in American power more than Obama does.” The Saudis, too, were infuriated. They had never trusted Obama—he had, long before he became president, referred to them as a “so-called ally” of the U.S. “Iran is the new great power of the Middle East, and the U.S. is the old,” Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador in Washington, told his superiors in Riyadh.

Obama’s decision caused tremors across Washington as well. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the two leading Republican hawks in the Senate, had met with Obama in the White House earlier in the week and had been promised an attack. They were angered by the about-face. Damage was done even inside the administration. Neither Chuck Hagel, then the secretary of defense, nor John Kerry was in the Oval Office when the president informed his team of his thinking. Kerry would not learn about the change until later that evening. “I just got fucked over,” he told a friend shortly after talking to the president that night. (When I asked Kerry recently about that tumultuous night, he said, “I didn’t stop to analyze it. I figured the president had a reason to make a decision and, honestly, I understood his notion.”)

The next few days were chaotic. The president asked Congress to authorize the use of force—the irrepressible Kerry served as chief lobbyist—and it quickly became apparent in the White House that Congress had little interest in a strike. When I spoke with Biden recently about the red-line decision, he made special note of this fact. “It matters to have Congress with you, in terms of your ability to sustain what you set out to do,” he said. Obama “didn’t go to Congress to get himself off the hook. He had his doubts at that point, but he knew that if he was going to do anything, he better damn well have the public with him, or it would be a very short ride.” Congress’s clear ambivalence convinced Biden that Obama was correct to fear the slippery slope. “What happens when we get a plane shot down? Do we not go in and rescue?,” Biden asked. “You need the support of the American people.”

Amid the confusion, a deus ex machina appeared in the form of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. At the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, which was held the week after the Syria reversal, Obama pulled Putin aside, he recalled to me, and told the Russian president “that if he forced Assad to get rid of the chemical weapons, that that would eliminate the need for us taking a military strike.” Within weeks, Kerry, working with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, would engineer the removal of most of Syria’s chemical-weapons arsenal—a program whose existence Assad until then had refused to even acknowledge.
The moment Obama decided not to enforce his red line and bomb Syria, he broke with what he calls, derisively, “the Washington playbook.” This was his liberation day.

The arrangement won the president praise from, of all people, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, with whom he has had a consistently contentious relationship. The removal of Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpiles represented “the one ray of light in a very dark region,” Netanyahu told me not long after the deal was announced.

John Kerry today expresses no patience for those who argue, as he himself once did, that Obama should have bombed Assad-regime sites in order to buttress America’s deterrent capability. “You’d still have the weapons there, and you’d probably be fighting isil” for control of the weapons, he said, referring to the Islamic State, the terror group also known as isis. “It just doesn’t make sense. But I can’t deny to you that this notion about the red line being crossed and [Obama’s] not doing anything gained a life of its own.”

Obama understands that the decision he made to step back from air strikes, and to allow the violation of a red line he himself had drawn to go unpunished, will be interrogated mercilessly by historians. But today that decision is a source of deep satisfaction for him.

“I’m very proud of this moment,” he told me. “The overwhelming weight of conventional wisdom and the machinery of our national-security apparatus had gone fairly far. The perception was that my credibility was at stake, that America’s credibility was at stake. And so for me to press the pause button at that moment, I knew, would cost me politically. And the fact that I was able to pull back from the immediate pressures and think through in my own mind what was in America’s interest, not only with respect to Syria but also with respect to our democracy, was as tough a decision as I’ve made—and I believe ultimately it was the right decision to make.”

This was the moment the president believes he finally broke with what he calls, derisively, the “Washington playbook.”

“Where am I controversial? When it comes to the use of military power,” he said. “That is the source of the controversy. There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions. In the midst of an international challenge like Syria, you get judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons why it does not apply.”

I have come to believe that, in Obama’s mind, August 30, 2013, was his liberation day, the day he defied not only the foreign-policy establishment and its cruise-missile playbook, but also the demands of America’s frustrating, high-maintenance allies in the Middle East—countries, he complains privately to friends and advisers, that seek to exploit American “muscle” for their own narrow and sectarian ends. By 2013, Obama’s resentments were well developed. He resented military leaders who believed they could fix any problem if the commander in chief would simply give them what they wanted, and he resented the foreign-policy think-tank complex. A widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as “Arab-occupied territory.”
Obama talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to the opening session of the G20 in Antalya in November of 2015. (Cem Oksuz / Reuters)
For some foreign-policy experts, even within his own administration, Obama’s about-face on enforcing the red line was a dispiriting moment in which he displayed irresolution and naïveté, and did lasting damage to America’s standing in the world. “Once the commander in chief draws that red line,” Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director and then as secretary of defense in Obama’s first term, told me recently, “then I think the credibility of the commander in chief and this nation is at stake if he doesn’t enforce it.” Right after Obama’s reversal, Hillary Clinton said privately, “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.”

“Assad is effectively being rewarded for the use of chemical weapons, rather than ‘punished’ as originally planned.” Shadi Hamid, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, wrote for The Atlantic at the time. “He has managed to remove the threat of U.S. military action while giving very little up in return.”

Even commentators who have been broadly sympathetic to Obama’s policies saw this episode as calamitous. Gideon Rose, the editor of Foreign Affairs, wrote recently that Obama’s handling of this crisis—“first casually announcing a major commitment, then dithering about living up to it, then frantically tossing the ball to Congress for a decision—was a case study in embarrassingly amateurish improvisation.”

Obama’s defenders, however, argue that he did no damage to U.S. credibility, citing Assad’s subsequent agreement to have his chemical weapons removed. “The threat of force was credible enough for them to give up their chemical weapons,” Tim Kaine, a Democratic senator from Virginia, told me. “We threatened military action and they responded. That’s deterrent credibility.”

History may record August 30, 2013, as the day Obama prevented the U.S. from entering yet another disastrous Muslim civil war, and the day he removed the threat of a chemical attack on Israel, Turkey, or Jordan. Or it could be remembered as the day he let the Middle East slip from America’s grasp, into the hands of Russia, Iran, and isis.

I first spoke with obama about foreign policy when he was a U.S. senator, in 2006. At the time, I was familiar mainly with the text of a speech he had delivered four years earlier, at a Chicago antiwar rally. It was an unusual speech for an antiwar rally in that it was not antiwar; Obama, who was then an Illinois state senator, argued only against one specific and, at the time, still theoretical, war. “I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein,” he said. “He is a brutal man. A ruthless man … But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors.” He added, “I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.”

This speech had made me curious about its author. I wanted to learn how an Illinois state senator, a part-time law professor who spent his days traveling between Chicago and Springfield, had come to a more prescient understanding of the coming quagmire than the most experienced foreign-policy thinkers of his party, including such figures as Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry, not to mention, of course, most Republicans and many foreign-policy analysts and writers, including me.

Since that first meeting in 2006, I’ve interviewed Obama periodically, mainly on matters related to the Middle East. But over the past few months, I’ve spent several hours talking with him about the broadest themes of his “long game” foreign policy, including the themes he is most eager to discuss—namely, the ones that have nothing to do with the Middle East.

“isis is not an existential threat to the United States,” he told me in one of these conversations. “Climate change is a potential existential threat to the entire world if we don’t do something about it.” Obama explained that climate change worries him in particular because “it is a political problem perfectly designed to repel government intervention. It involves every single country, and it is a comparatively slow-moving emergency, so there is always something seemingly more urgent on the agenda.”

At the moment, of course, the most urgent of the “seemingly more urgent” issues is Syria. But at any given moment, Obama’s entire presidency could be upended by North Korean aggression, or an assault by Russia on a member of nato, or an isis-planned attack on U.S. soil. Few presidents have faced such diverse tests on the international stage as Obama has, and the challenge for him, as for all presidents, has been to distinguish the merely urgent from the truly important, and to focus on the important.

My goal in our recent conversations was to see the world through Obama’s eyes, and to understand what he believes America’s role in the world should be. This article is informed by our recent series of conversations, which took place in the Oval Office; over lunch in his dining room; aboard Air Force One; and in Kuala Lumpur during his most recent visit to Asia, in November. It is also informed by my previous interviews with him and by his speeches and prolific public ruminations, as well as by conversations with his top foreign-policy and national-security advisers, foreign leaders and their ambassadors in Washington, friends of the president and others who have spoken with him about his policies and decisions, and his adversaries and critics.
Leon Panetta (left) attends a press briefing on military strategy in January 2012. Panetta, then Obama’s secretary of defense, has criticized the president’s failure to enforce the Syrian red line. (Aharaz N. Ghanbari / AP)

Over the course of our conversations, I came to see Obama as a president who has grown steadily more fatalistic about the constraints on America’s ability to direct global events, even as he has, late in his presidency, accumulated a set of potentially historic foreign-policy achievements—controversial, provisional achievements, to be sure, but achievements nonetheless: the opening to Cuba, the Paris climate-change accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and, of course, the Iran nuclear deal. These he accomplished despite his growing sense that larger forces—the riptide of tribal feeling in a world that should have already shed its atavism; the resilience of small men who rule large countries in ways contrary to their own best interests; the persistence of fear as a governing human emotion—frequently conspire against the best of America’s intentions. But he also has come to learn, he told me, that very little is accomplished in international affairs without U.S. leadership.

Obama talked me through this apparent contradiction. “I want a president who has the sense that you can’t fix everything,” he said. But on the other hand, “if we don’t set the agenda, it doesn’t happen.” He explained what he meant. “The fact is, there is not a summit I’ve attended since I’ve been president where we are not setting the agenda, where we are not responsible for the key results,” he said. “That’s true whether you’re talking about nuclear security, whether you’re talking about saving the world financial system, whether you’re talking about climate.”

One day, over lunch in the Oval Office dining room, I asked the president how he thought his foreign policy might be understood by historians. He started by describing for me a four-box grid representing the main schools of American foreign-policy thought. One box he called isolationism, which he dismissed out of hand. “The world is ever-shrinking,” he said. “Withdrawal is untenable.” The other boxes he labeled realism, liberal interventionism, and internationalism. “I suppose you could call me a realist in believing we can’t, at any given moment, relieve all the world’s misery,” he said. “We have to choose where we can make a real impact.” He also noted that he was quite obviously an internationalist, devoted as he is to strengthening multilateral organizations and international norms.

I told him my impression was that the various traumas of the past seven years have, if anything, intensified his commitment to realist-driven restraint. Had nearly two full terms in the White House soured him on interventionism?

“For all of our warts, the United States has clearly been a force for good in the world,” he said. “If you compare us to previous superpowers, we act less on the basis of naked self-interest, and have been interested in establishing norms that benefit everyone. If it is possible to do good at a bearable cost, to save lives, we will do it.”

If a crisis, or a humanitarian catastrophe, does not meet his stringent standard for what constitutes a direct national-security threat, Obama said, he doesn’t believe that he should be forced into silence. He is not so much the realist, he suggested, that he won’t pass judgment on other leaders. Though he has so far ruled out the use of direct American power to depose Assad, he was not wrong, he argued, to call on Assad to go. “Oftentimes when you get critics of our Syria policy, one of the things that they’ll point out is ‘You called for Assad to go, but you didn’t force him to go. You did not invade.’ And the notion is that if you weren’t going to overthrow the regime, you shouldn’t have said anything. That’s a weird argument to me, the notion that if we use our moral authority to say ‘This is a brutal regime, and this is not how a leader should treat his people,’ once you do that, you are obliged to invade the country and install a government you prefer.”

“I am very much the internationalist,” Obama said in a later conversation. “And I am also an idealist insofar as I believe that we should be promoting values, like democracy and human rights and norms and values, because not only do they serve our interests the more people adopt values that we share—in the same way that, economically, if people adopt rule of law and property rights and so forth, that is to our advantage—but because it makes the world a better place. And I’m willing to say that in a very corny way, and in a way that probably Brent Scowcroft would not say.

“Having said that,” he continued, “I also believe that the world is a tough, complicated, messy, mean place, and full of hardship and tragedy. And in order to advance both our security interests and those ideals and values that we care about, we’ve got to be hardheaded at the same time as we’re bighearted, and pick and choose our spots, and recognize that there are going to be times where the best that we can do is to shine a spotlight on something that’s terrible, but not believe that we can automatically solve it. There are going to be times where our security interests conflict with our concerns about human rights. There are going to be times where we can do something about innocent people being killed, but there are going to be times where we can’t.”

If Obama ever questioned whether America really is the world’s one indispensable nation, he no longer does so. But he is the rare president who seems at times to resent indispensability, rather than embrace it. “Free riders aggravate me,” he told me. Recently, Obama warned that Great Britain would no longer be able to claim a “special relationship” with the United States if it did not commit to spending at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense. “You have to pay your fair share,” Obama told David Cameron, who subsequently met the 2 percent threshold.

Part of his mission as president, Obama explained, is to spur other countries to take action for themselves, rather than wait for the U.S. to lead. The defense of the liberal international order against jihadist terror, Russian adventurism, and Chinese bullying depends in part, he believes, on the willingness of other nations to share the burden with the U.S. This is why the controversy surrounding the assertion—made by an anonymous administration official to The New Yorker during the Libya crisis of 2011—that his policy consisted of “leading from behind” perturbed him. “We don’t have to always be the ones who are up front,” he told me. “Sometimes we’re going to get what we want precisely because we are sharing in the agenda. The irony is that it was precisely in order to prevent the Europeans and the Arab states from holding our coats while we did all the fighting that we, by design, insisted” that they lead during the mission to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power in Libya. “It was part of the anti–free rider campaign.”

The president also seems to believe that sharing leadership with other countries is a way to check America’s more unruly impulses. “One of the reasons I am so focused on taking action multilaterally where our direct interests are not at stake is that multilateralism regulates hubris,” he explained. He consistently invokes what he understands to be America’s past failures overseas as a means of checking American self-righteousness. “We have history,” he said. “We have history in Iran, we have history in Indonesia and Central America. So we have to be mindful of our history when we start talking about intervening, and understand the source of other people’s suspicions.”
Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro at the Summit of the Americas last spring (Pete Souza / White House)

In his efforts to off-load some of America’s foreign-policy responsibilities to its allies, Obama appears to be a classic retrenchment president in the manner of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Retrenchment, in this context, is defined as “pulling back, spending less, cutting risk, and shifting burdens to allies,” Stephen Sestanovich, an expert on presidential foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, explained to me. “If John McCain had been elected in 2008, you would still have seen some degree of retrenchment,” Sestanovich said. “It’s what the country wanted. If you come into office in the middle of a war that is not going well, you’re convinced that the American people have hired you to do less.” One difference between Eisenhower and Nixon, on the one hand, and Obama, on the other, Sestanovich said, is that Obama “appears to have had a personal, ideological commitment to the idea that foreign policy had consumed too much of the nation’s attention and resources.”

I asked Obama about retrenchment. “Almost every great world power has succumbed” to overextension, he said. “What I think is not smart is the idea that every time there is a problem, we send in our military to impose order. We just can’t do that.”

But once he decides that a particular challenge represents a direct national-security threat, he has shown a willingness to act unilaterally. This is one of the larger ironies of the Obama presidency: He has relentlessly questioned the efficacy of force, but he has also become the most successful terrorist-hunter in the history of the presidency, one who will hand to his successor a set of tools an accomplished assassin would envy. “He applies different standards to direct threats to the U.S.,” Ben Rhodes says. “For instance, despite his misgivings about Syria, he has not had a second thought about drones.” Some critics argue he should have had a few second thoughts about what they see as the overuse of drones. But John Brennan, Obama’s CIA director, told me recently that he and the president “have similar views. One of them is that sometimes you have to take a life to save even more lives. We have a similar view of just-war theory. The president requires near-certainty of no collateral damage. But if he believes it is necessary to act, he doesn’t hesitate.”

Those who speak with Obama about jihadist thought say that he possesses a no-illusions understanding of the forces that drive apocalyptic violence among radical Muslims, but he has been careful about articulating that publicly, out of concern that he will exacerbate anti-Muslim xenophobia. He has a tragic realist’s understanding of sin, cowardice, and corruption, and a Hobbesian appreciation of how fear shapes human behavior. And yet he consistently, and with apparent sincerity, professes optimism that the world is bending toward justice. He is, in a way, a Hobbesian optimist.
Video: Jeffrey Goldberg speaks with Ben Rhodes
Jeffrey Goldberg speaks to Deputy National-Security Adviser Ben Rhodes about the United States’ new ties with Cuba and its impact on American foreign policy at large. Watch the full-length conversation with Ben Rhodes here.

The contradictions do not end there. Though he has a reputation for prudence, he has also been eager to question some of the long-standing assumptions undergirding traditional U.S. foreign-policy thinking. To a remarkable degree, he is willing to question why America’s enemies are its enemies, or why some of its friends are its friends. He overthrew half a century of bipartisan consensus in order to reestablish ties with Cuba. He questioned why the U.S. should avoid sending its forces into Pakistan to kill al-Qaeda leaders, and he privately questions why Pakistan, which he believes is a disastrously dysfunctional country, should be considered an ally of the U.S. at all. According to Leon Panetta, he has questioned why the U.S. should maintain Israel’s so-called qualitative military edge, which grants it access to more sophisticated weapons systems than America’s Arab allies receive; but he has also questioned, often harshly, the role that America’s Sunni Arab allies play in fomenting anti-American terrorism. He is clearly irritated that foreign-policy orthodoxy compels him to treat Saudi Arabia as an ally. And of course he decided early on, in the face of great criticism, that he wanted to reach out to America’s most ardent Middle Eastern foe, Iran. The nuclear deal he struck with Iran proves, if nothing else, that Obama is not risk-averse. He has bet global security and his own legacy that one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism will adhere to an agreement to curtail its nuclear program.
“Dropping bombs on someone to prove that you’re willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force.”

It is assumed, at least among his critics, that Obama sought the Iran deal because he has a vision of a historic American-Persian rapprochement. But his desire for the nuclear agreement was born of pessimism as much as it was of optimism. “The Iran deal was never primarily about trying to open a new era of relations between the U.S. and Iran,” Susan Rice told me. “It was far more pragmatic and minimalist. The aim was very simply to make a dangerous country substantially less dangerous. No one had any expectation that Iran would be a more benign actor.”

I once mentioned to obama a scene from The Godfather: Part III, in which Michael Corleone complains angrily about his failure to escape the grasp of organized crime. I told Obama that the Middle East is to his presidency what the Mob is to Corleone, and I started to quote the Al Pacino line: “Just when I thought I was out—”

“It pulls you back in,” Obama said, completing the thought.

The story of Obama’s encounter with the Middle East follows an arc of disenchantment. In his first extended spree of fame, as a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama often spoke with hope about the region. In Berlin that summer, in a speech to 200,000 adoring Germans, he said, “This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East.”

The next year, as president, he gave a speech in Cairo meant to reset U.S. relations with the world’s Muslims. He spoke about Muslims in his own family, and his childhood years in Indonesia, and confessed America’s sins even as he criticized those in the Muslim world who demonized the U.S. What drew the most attention, though, was his promise to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was then thought to be the central animating concern of Arab Muslims. His sympathy for the Palestinians moved the audience, but complicated his relations with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister—especially because Obama had also decided to bypass Jerusalem on his first presidential visit to the Middle East.

When I asked Obama recently what he had hoped to accomplish with his Cairo reset speech, he said that he had been trying—unsuccessfully, he acknowledged—to persuade Muslims to more closely examine the roots of their unhappiness.

“My argument was this: Let’s all stop pretending that the cause of the Middle East’s problems is Israel,” he told me. “We want to work to help achieve statehood and dignity for the Palestinians, but I was hoping that my speech could trigger a discussion, could create space for Muslims to address the real problems they are confronting—problems of governance, and the fact that some currents of Islam have not gone through a reformation that would help people adapt their religious doctrines to modernity. My thought was, I would communicate that the U.S. is not standing in the way of this progress, that we would help, in whatever way possible, to advance the goals of a practical, successful Arab agenda that provided a better life for ordinary people.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron, flanked by U.K. officials, attends dinner at the White House in January 2015. (Pete Souza / White House)

Through the first flush of the Arab Spring, in 2011, Obama continued to speak optimistically about the Middle East’s future, coming as close as he ever would to embracing the so-called freedom agenda of George W. Bush, which was characterized in part by the belief that democratic values could be implanted in the Middle East. He equated protesters in Tunisia and Tahrir Square with Rosa Parks and the “patriots of Boston.”

“After decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be,” he said in a speech at the time. “The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders … Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest.”

But over the next three years, as the Arab Spring gave up its early promise, and brutality and dysfunction overwhelmed the Middle East, the president grew disillusioned. Some of his deepest disappointments concern Middle Eastern leaders themselves. Benjamin Netanyahu is in his own category: Obama has long believed that Netanyahu could bring about a two-state solution that would protect Israel’s status as a Jewish-majority democracy, but is too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so. Obama has also not had much patience for Netanyahu and other Middle Eastern leaders who question his understanding of the region. In one of Netanyahu’s meetings with the president, the Israeli prime minister launched into something of a lecture about the dangers of the brutal region in which he lives, and Obama felt that Netanyahu was behaving in a condescending fashion, and was also avoiding the subject at hand: peace negotiations. Finally, the president interrupted the prime minister: “Bibi, you have to understand something,” he said. “I’m the African American son of a single mother, and I live here, in this house. I live in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I do.” Other leaders also frustrate him immensely. Early on, Obama saw Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, as the sort of moderate Muslim leader who would bridge the divide between East and West—but Obama now considers him a failure and an authoritarian, one who refuses to use his enormous army to bring stability to Syria. And on the sidelines of a nato summit in Wales in 2014, Obama pulled aside King Abdullah II of Jordan. Obama said he had heard that Abdullah had complained to friends in the U.S. Congress about his leadership, and told the king that if he had complaints, he should raise them directly. The king denied that he had spoken ill of him.

In recent days, the president has taken to joking privately, “All I need in the Middle East is a few smart autocrats.” Obama has always had a fondness for pragmatic, emotionally contained technocrats, telling aides, “If only everyone could be like the Scandinavians, this would all be easy.”

The unraveling of the Arab Spring darkened the president’s view of what the U.S. could achieve in the Middle East, and made him realize how much the chaos there was distracting from other priorities. “The president recognized during the course of the Arab Spring that the Middle East was consuming us,” John Brennan, who served in Obama’s first term as his chief counterterrorism adviser, told me recently.

But what sealed Obama’s fatalistic view was the failure of his administration’s intervention in Libya, in 2011. That intervention was meant to prevent the country’s then-dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, from slaughtering the people of Benghazi, as he was threatening to do. Obama did not want to join the fight; he was counseled by Joe Biden and his first-term secretary of defense Robert Gates, among others, to steer clear. But a strong faction within the national-security team—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, who was then the ambassador to the United Nations, along with Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and Antony Blinken, who was then Biden’s national-security adviser—lobbied hard to protect Benghazi, and prevailed. (Biden, who is acerbic about Clinton’s foreign-policy judgment, has said privately, “Hillary just wants to be Golda Meir.”) American bombs fell, the people of Benghazi were spared from what may or may not have been a massacre, and Qaddafi was captured and executed.

But Obama says today of the intervention, “It didn’t work.” The U.S., he believes, planned the Libya operation carefully—and yet the country is still a disaster.

Why, given what seems to be the president’s natural reticence toward getting militarily ensnarled where American national security is not directly at stake, did he accept the recommendation of his more activist advisers to intervene?

“The social order in Libya has broken down,” Obama said, explaining his thinking at the time. “You have massive protests against Qaddafi. You’ve got tribal divisions inside of Libya. Benghazi is a focal point for the opposition regime. And Qaddafi is marching his army toward Benghazi, and he has said, ‘We will kill them like rats.’

“Now, option one would be to do nothing, and there were some in my administration who said, as tragic as the Libyan situation may be, it’s not our problem. The way I looked at it was that it would be our problem if, in fact, complete chaos and civil war broke out in Libya. But this is not so at the core of U.S. interests that it makes sense for us to unilaterally strike against the Qaddafi regime. At that point, you’ve got Europe and a number of Gulf countries who despise Qaddafi, or are concerned on a humanitarian basis, who are calling for action. But what has been a habit over the last several decades in these circumstances is people pushing us to act but then showing an unwillingness to put any skin in the game.”

“Free riders?,” I interjected.

“Free riders,” he said, and continued. “So what I said at that point was, we should act as part of an international coalition. But because this is not at the core of our interests, we need to get a UN mandate; we need Europeans and Gulf countries to be actively involved in the coalition; we will apply the military capabilities that are unique to us, but we expect others to carry their weight. And we worked with our defense teams to ensure that we could execute a strategy without putting boots on the ground and without a long-term military commitment in Libya.

“So we actually executed this plan as well as I could have expected: We got a UN mandate, we built a coalition, it cost us $1 billion—which, when it comes to military operations, is very cheap. We averted large-scale civilian casualties, we prevented what almost surely would have been a prolonged and bloody civil conflict. And despite all that, Libya is a mess.”

Mess is the president’s diplomatic term; privately, he calls Libya a “shit show,” in part because it’s subsequently become an isis haven—one that he has already targeted with air strikes. It became a shit show, Obama believes, for reasons that had less to do with American incompetence than with the passivity of America’s allies and with the obdurate power of tribalism.

“When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong,” Obama said, “there’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up,” he said. He noted that Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, lost his job the following year. And he said that British Prime Minister David Cameron soon stopped paying attention, becoming “distracted by a range of other things.” Of France, he said, “Sarkozy wanted to trumpet the flights he was taking in the air campaign, despite the fact that we had wiped out all the air defenses and essentially set up the entire infrastructure” for the intervention. This sort of bragging was fine, Obama said, because it allowed the U.S. to “purchase France’s involvement in a way that made it less expensive for us and less risky for us.” In other words, giving France extra credit in exchange for less risk and cost to the United States was a useful trade-off—except that “from the perspective of a lot of the folks in the foreign-policy establishment, well, that was terrible. If we’re going to do something, obviously we’ve got to be up front, and nobody else is sharing in the spotlight.”

Obama also blamed internal Libyan dynamics. “The degree of tribal division in Libya was greater than our analysts had expected. And our ability to have any kind of structure there that we could interact with and start training and start providing resources broke down very quickly.”

Libya proved to him that the Middle East was best avoided. “There is no way we should commit to governing the Middle East and North Africa,” he recently told a former colleague from the Senate. “That would be a basic, fundamental mistake.”

President Obama did not come into office preoccupied by the Middle East. He is the first child of the Pacific to become president—born in Hawaii, raised there and, for four years, in Indonesia—and he is fixated on turning America’s attention to Asia. For Obama, Asia represents the future. Africa and Latin America, in his view, deserve far more U.S. attention than they receive. Europe, about which he is unromantic, is a source of global stability that requires, to his occasional annoyance, American hand-holding. And the Middle East is a region to be avoided—one that, thanks to America’s energy revolution, will soon be of negligible relevance to the U.S. economy.

It is not oil but another of the Middle East’s exports, terrorism, that shapes Obama’s understanding of his responsibilities there. Early in 2014, Obama’s intelligence advisers told him that isis was of marginal importance. According to administration officials, General Lloyd Austin, then the commander of Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, told the White House that the Islamic State was “a flash in the pan.” This analysis led Obama, in an interview with The New Yorker, to describe the constellation of jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria as terrorism’s “jayvee team.” (A spokesman for Austin told me, “At no time has General Austin ever considered isil a ‘flash in the pan’ phenomenon.”)
Mess is the president’s diplomatic term for what U.S. intervention left behind in Libya; privately, he calls it a “shit show.”

But by late spring of 2014, after isis took the northern-Iraq city of Mosul, he came to believe that U.S. intelligence had failed to appreciate the severity of the threat and the inadequacies of the Iraqi army, and his view shifted. After isis beheaded three American civilians in Syria, it became obvious to Obama that defeating the group was of more immediate urgency to the U.S. than overthrowing Bashar al-Assad.

Advisers recall that Obama would cite a pivotal moment in The Dark Knight, the 2008 Batman movie, to help explain not only how he understood the role of isis, but how he understood the larger ecosystem in which it grew. “There’s a scene in the beginning in which the gang leaders of Gotham are meeting,” the president would say. “These are men who had the city divided up. They were thugs, but there was a kind of order. Everyone had his turf. And then the Joker comes in and lights the whole city on fire. isil is the Joker. It has the capacity to set the whole region on fire. That’s why we have to fight it.”

The rise of the Islamic State deepened Obama’s conviction that the Middle East could not be fixed—not on his watch, and not for a generation to come.

On a rainy Wednesday in mid-November, President Obama appeared on a stage at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (apec) summit in Manila with Jack Ma, the founder of the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, and a 31-year-old Filipina inventor named Aisa Mijeno. The ballroom was crowded with Asian CEOs, American business leaders, and government officials from across the region. Obama, who was greeted warmly, first delivered informal remarks from behind a podium, mainly about the threat of climate change.

Obama made no mention of the subject preoccupying much of the rest of the world—the isis attacks in Paris five days earlier, which had killed 130 people. Obama had arrived in Manila the day before from a G20 summit held in Antalya, Turkey. The Paris attacks had been a main topic of conversation in Antalya, where Obama held a particularly contentious press conference on the subject.

The traveling White House press corps was unrelenting: “Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?” one reporter asked. This was followed by “Could I ask you to address your critics who say that your reluctance to enter another Middle East war, and your preference of diplomacy over using the military, makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies?” And then came this imperishable question, from a CNN reporter: “If you’ll forgive the language—why can’t we take out these bastards?” Which was followed by “Do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?”

As the questions unspooled, Obama became progressively more irritated. He described his isis strategy at length, but the only time he exhibited an emotion other than disdain was when he addressed an emerging controversy about America’s refugee policy. Republican governors and presidential candidates had suddenly taken to demanding that the United States block Syrian refugees from coming to America. Ted Cruz had proposed accepting only Christian Syrians. Chris Christie had said that all refugees, including “orphans under 5,” should be banned from entry until proper vetting procedures had been put in place.

This rhetoric appeared to frustrate Obama immensely. “When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted,” Obama told the assembled reporters, “that’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”
“Aren’t the Saudis your friends?” the prime minister asked. Obama smiled. “It’s complicated.”

Air Force One departed Antalya and arrived 10 hours later in Manila. That’s when the president’s advisers came to understand, in the words of one official, that “everyone back home had lost their minds.” Susan Rice, trying to comprehend the rising anxiety, searched her hotel television in vain for CNN, finding only the BBC and Fox News. She toggled between the two, looking for the mean, she told people on the trip.

Later, the president would say that he had failed to fully appreciate the fear many Americans were experiencing about the possibility of a Paris-style attack in the U.S. Great distance, a frantic schedule, and the jet-lag haze that envelops a globe-spanning presidential trip were working against him. But he has never believed that terrorism poses a threat to America commensurate with the fear it generates. Even during the period in 2014 when isis was executing its American captives in Syria, his emotions were in check. Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s closest adviser, told him people were worried that the group would soon take its beheading campaign to the U.S. “They’re not coming here to chop our heads off,” he reassured her. Obama frequently reminds his staff that terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents, and falls in bathtubs do. Several years ago, he expressed to me his admiration for Israelis’ “resilience” in the face of constant terrorism, and it is clear that he would like to see resilience replace panic in American society. Nevertheless, his advisers are fighting a constant rearguard action to keep Obama from placing terrorism in what he considers its “proper” perspective, out of concern that he will seem insensitive to the fears of the American people.
Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry look on during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris in December. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

The frustration among Obama’s advisers spills over into the Pentagon and the State Department. John Kerry, for one, seems more alarmed about isis than the president does. Recently, when I asked the secretary of state a general question—is the Middle East still important to the U.S.?—he answered by talking exclusively about isis. “This is a threat to everybody in the world,” he said, a group “overtly committed to destroying people in the West and in the Middle East. Imagine what would happen if we don’t stand and fight them, if we don’t lead a coalition—as we are doing, by the way. If we didn’t do that, you could have allies and friends of ours fall. You could have a massive migration into Europe that destroys Europe, leads to the pure destruction of Europe, ends the European project, and everyone runs for cover and you’ve got the 1930s all over again, with nationalism and fascism and other things breaking out. Of course we have an interest in this, a huge interest in this.”

When I noted to Kerry that the president’s rhetoric doesn’t match his, he said, “President Obama sees all of this, but he doesn’t gin it up into this kind of—he thinks we are on track. He has escalated his efforts. But he’s not trying to create hysteria … I think the president is always inclined to try to keep things on an appropriate equilibrium. I respect that.”

Obama modulates his discussion of terrorism for several reasons: He is, by nature, Spockian. And he believes that a misplaced word, or a frightened look, or an ill-considered hyperbolic claim, could tip the country into panic. The sort of panic he worries about most is the type that would manifest itself in anti-Muslim xenophobia or in a challenge to American openness and to the constitutional order.

The president also gets frustrated that terrorism keeps swamping his larger agenda, particularly as it relates to rebalancing America’s global priorities. For years, the “pivot to Asia” has been a paramount priority of his. America’s economic future lies in Asia, he believes, and the challenge posed by China’s rise requires constant attention. From his earliest days in office, Obama has been focused on rebuilding the sometimes-threadbare ties between the U.S. and its Asian treaty partners, and he is perpetually on the hunt for opportunities to draw other Asian nations into the U.S. orbit. His dramatic opening to Burma was one such opportunity; Vietnam and the entire constellation of Southeast Asian countries fearful of Chinese domination presented others.

In Manila, at apec, Obama was determined to keep the conversation focused on this agenda, and not on what he viewed as the containable challenge presented by isis. Obama’s secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, told me not long ago that Obama has maintained his focus on Asia even as Syria and other Middle Eastern conflicts continue to flare. Obama believes, Carter said, that Asia “is the part of the world of greatest consequence to the American future, and that no president can take his eye off of this.” He added, “He consistently asks, even in the midst of everything else that’s going on, ‘Where are we in the Asia-Pacific rebalance? Where are we in terms of resources?’ He’s been extremely consistent about that, even in times of Middle East tension.”

After Obama finished his presentation on climate change, he joined Ma and Mijeno, who had seated themselves on nearby armchairs, where Obama was preparing to interview them in the manner of a daytime talk-show host—an approach that seemed to induce a momentary bout of status-inversion vertigo in an audience not accustomed to such behavior in their own leaders. Obama began by asking Ma a question about climate change. Ma, unsurprisingly, agreed with Obama that it was a very important issue. Then Obama turned to Mijeno. A laboratory operating in the hidden recesses of the West Wing could not have fashioned a person more expertly designed to appeal to Obama’s wonkish enthusiasms than Mijeno, a young engineer who, with her brother, had invented a lamp that is somehow powered by salt water.

“Just to be clear, Aisa, so with some salt water, the device that you’ve set up can provide—am I right?—about eight hours of lighting?,” Obama asked.

“Eight hours of lighting,” she responded.

Obama: “And the lamp is $20—”

Mijeno: “Around $20.”

“I think Aisa is a perfect example of what we’re seeing in a lot of countries—young entrepreneurs coming up with leapfrog technologies, in the same ways that in large portions of Asia and Africa, the old landline phones never got set up,” Obama said, because those areas jumped straight to mobile phones. Obama encouraged Jack Ma to fund her work. “She’s won, by the way, a lot of prizes and gotten a lot of attention, so this is not like one of those infomercials where you order it, and you can’t make the thing work,” he said, to laughter.

The next day, aboard Air Force One en route to Kuala Lumpur, I mentioned to Obama that he seemed genuinely happy to be onstage with Ma and Mijeno, and then I pivoted away from Asia, asking him if anything about the Middle East makes him happy.

“Right now, I don’t think that anybody can be feeling good about the situation in the Middle East,” he said. “You have countries that are failing to provide prosperity and opportunity for their people. You’ve got a violent, extremist ideology, or ideologies, that are turbocharged through social media. You’ve got countries that have very few civic traditions, so that as autocratic regimes start fraying, the only organizing principles are sectarian.”

He went on, “Contrast that with Southeast Asia, which still has huge problems—enormous poverty, corruption—but is filled with striving, ambitious, energetic people who are every single day scratching and clawing to build businesses and get education and find jobs and build infrastructure. The contrast is pretty stark.”

In Asia, as well as in Latin America and Africa, Obama says, he sees young people yearning for self-improvement, modernity, education, and material wealth.

“They are not thinking about how to kill Americans,” he says. “What they’re thinking about is How do I get a better education? How do I create something of value?”

He then made an observation that I came to realize was representative of his bleakest, most visceral understanding of the Middle East today—not the sort of understanding that a White House still oriented around themes of hope and change might choose to advertise. “If we’re not talking to them,” he said, referring to young Asians and Africans and Latin Americans, “because the only thing we’re doing is figuring out how to destroy or cordon off or control the malicious, nihilistic, violent parts of humanity, then we’re missing the boat.”

Obama’s critics argue that he is ineffective in cordoning off the violent nihilists of radical Islam because he doesn’t understand the threat. He does resist refracting radical Islam through the “clash of civilizations” prism popularized by the late political scientist Samuel Huntington. But this is because, he and his advisers argue, he does not want to enlarge the ranks of the enemy. “The goal is not to force a Huntington template onto this conflict,” said John Brennan, the CIA director.

Both François Hollande and David Cameron have spoken about the threat of radical Islam in more Huntingtonesque terms, and I’ve heard that both men wish Obama would use more-direct language in discussing the threat. When I mentioned this to Obama he said, “Hollande and Cameron have used phrases, like radical Islam, that we have not used on a regular basis as our way of targeting terrorism. But I’ve never had a conversation when they said, ‘Man, how come you’re not using this phrase the way you hear Republicans say it?’ ” Obama says he has demanded that Muslim leaders do more to eliminate the threat of violent fundamentalism. “It is very clear what I mean,” he told me, “which is that there is a violent, radical, fanatical, nihilistic interpretation of Islam by a faction—a tiny faction—within the Muslim community that is our enemy, and that has to be defeated.”

He then offered a critique that sounded more in line with the rhetoric of Cameron and Hollande. “There is also the need for Islam as a whole to challenge that interpretation of Islam, to isolate it, and to undergo a vigorous discussion within their community about how Islam works as part of a peaceful, modern society,” he said. But he added, “I do not persuade peaceful, tolerant Muslims to engage in that debate if I’m not sensitive to their concern that they are being tagged with a broad brush.”
Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington, D.C., April 2015 (Pete Souza / White House)

In private encounters with other world leaders, Obama has argued that there will be no comprehensive solution to Islamist terrorism until Islam reconciles itself to modernity and undergoes some of the reforms that have changed Christianity.

Though he has argued, controversially, that the Middle East’s conflicts “date back millennia,” he also believes that the intensified Muslim fury of recent years was encouraged by countries considered friends of the U.S. In a meeting during apec with Malcolm Turnbull, the new prime minister of Australia, Obama described how he has watched Indonesia gradually move from a relaxed, syncretistic Islam to a more fundamentalist, unforgiving interpretation; large numbers of Indonesian women, he observed, have now adopted the hijab, the Muslim head covering.

Why, Turnbull asked, was this happening?

Because, Obama answered, the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs have funneled money, and large numbers of imams and teachers, into the country. In the 1990s, the Saudis heavily funded Wahhabist madrassas, seminaries that teach the fundamentalist version of Islam favored by the Saudi ruling family, Obama told Turnbull. Today, Islam in Indonesia is much more Arab in orientation than it was when he lived there, he said.

“Aren’t the Saudis your friends?,” Turnbull asked.

Obama smiled. “It’s complicated,” he said.

Obama’s patience with Saudi Arabia has always been limited. In his first foreign-policy commentary of note, that 2002 speech at the antiwar rally in Chicago, he said, “You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East—the Saudis and the Egyptians—stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality.” In the White House these days, one occasionally hears Obama’s National Security Council officials pointedly reminding visitors that the large majority of 9/11 hijackers were not Iranian, but Saudi—and Obama himself rails against Saudi Arabia’s state-sanctioned misogyny, arguing in private that “a country cannot function in the modern world when it is repressing half of its population.” In meetings with foreign leaders, Obama has said, “You can gauge the success of a society by how it treats its women.”

His frustration with the Saudis informs his analysis of Middle Eastern power politics. At one point I observed to him that he is less likely than previous presidents to axiomatically side with Saudi Arabia in its dispute with its archrival, Iran. He didn’t disagree.

“Iran, since 1979, has been an enemy of the United States, and has engaged in state-sponsored terrorism, is a genuine threat to Israel and many of our allies, and engages in all kinds of destructive behavior,” the president said. “And my view has never been that we should throw our traditional allies”—the Saudis—“overboard in favor of Iran.”

But he went on to say that the Saudis need to “share” the Middle East with their Iranian foes. “The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians—which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen—requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace,” he said. “An approach that said to our friends ‘You are right, Iran is the source of all problems, and we will support you in dealing with Iran’ would essentially mean that as these sectarian conflicts continue to rage and our Gulf partners, our traditional friends, do not have the ability to put out the flames on their own or decisively win on their own, and would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East.”

One of the most destructive forces in the Middle East, Obama believes, is tribalism—a force no president can neutralize. Tribalism, made manifest in the reversion to sect, creed, clan, and village by the desperate citizens of failing states, is the source of much of the Muslim Middle East’s problems, and it is another source of his fatalism. Obama has deep respect for the destructive resilience of tribalism—part of his memoir, Dreams From My Father, concerns the way in which tribalism in post-colonial Kenya helped ruin his father’s life—which goes some distance in explaining why he is so fastidious about avoiding entanglements in tribal conflicts.

“It is literally in my DNA to be suspicious of tribalism,” he told me. “I understand the tribal impulse, and acknowledge the power of tribal division. I’ve been navigating tribal divisions my whole life. In the end, it’s the source of a lot of destructive acts.”

While flying to Kuala Lumpur with the president, I recalled a passing reference he had once made to me about the Hobbesian argument for strong government as an antidote to the unforgiving state of nature. When Obama looks at swathes of the Middle East, Hobbes’s “war of all against all” is what he sees. “I have a recognition that us serving as the Leviathan clamps down and tames some of these impulses,” Obama had said. So I tried to reopen this conversation with an unfortunately prolix question about, among other things, “the Hobbesian notion that people organize themselves into collectives to stave off their supreme fear, which is death.”

Ben Rhodes and Joshua Earnest, the White House spokesman, who were seated on a couch to the side of Obama’s desk on Air Force One, could barely suppress their amusement at my discursiveness. I paused and said, “I bet if I asked that in a press conference my colleagues would just throw me out of the room.”

“I would be really into it,” Obama said, “but everybody else would be rolling their eyes.”

Rhodes interjected: “Why can’t we get the bastards?” That question, the one put to the president by the CNN reporter at the press conference in Turkey, had become a topic of sardonic conversation during the trip.

I turned to the president: “Well, yeah, and also, why can’t we get the bastards?”

He took the first question.

“Look, I am not of the view that human beings are inherently evil,” he said. “I believe that there’s more good than bad in humanity. And if you look at the trajectory of history, I am optimistic.

“I believe that overall, humanity has become less violent, more tolerant, healthier, better fed, more empathetic, more able to manage difference. But it’s hugely uneven. And what has been clear throughout the 20th and 21st centuries is that the progress we make in social order and taming our baser impulses and steadying our fears can be reversed very quickly. Social order starts breaking down if people are under profound stress. Then the default position is tribe—us/them, a hostility toward the unfamiliar or the unknown.”

He continued, “Right now, across the globe, you’re seeing places that are undergoing severe stress because of globalization, because of the collision of cultures brought about by the Internet and social media, because of scarcities—some of which will be attributable to climate change over the next several decades—because of population growth. And in those places, the Middle East being Exhibit A, the default position for a lot of folks is to organize tightly in the tribe and to push back or strike out against those who are different.

“A group like isil is the distillation of every worst impulse along these lines. The notion that we are a small group that defines ourselves primarily by the degree to which we can kill others who are not like us, and attempting to impose a rigid orthodoxy that produces nothing, that celebrates nothing, that really is contrary to every bit of human progress—it indicates the degree to which that kind of mentality can still take root and gain adherents in the 21st century.”

So your appreciation for tribalism’s power makes you want to stay away?, I asked. “In other words, when people say ‘Why don’t you just go get the bastards?,’ you step back?”

“We have to determine the best tools to roll back those kinds of attitudes,” he said. “There are going to be times where either because it’s not a direct threat to us or because we just don’t have the tools in our toolkit to have a huge impact that, tragically, we have to refrain from jumping in with both feet.”

I asked Obama whether he would have sent the Marines to Rwanda in 1994 to stop the genocide as it was happening, had he been president at the time. “Given the speed with which the killing took place, and how long it takes to crank up the machinery of the U.S. government, I understand why we did not act fast enough,” he said. “Now, we should learn from that. I actually think that Rwanda is an interesting test case because it’s possible—not guaranteed, but it’s possible—that this was a situation where the quick application of force might have been enough.”

He related this to Syria: “Ironically, it’s probably easier to make an argument that a relatively small force inserted quickly with international support would have resulted in averting genocide [more successfully in Rwanda] than in Syria right now, where the degree to which the various groups are armed and hardened fighters and are supported by a whole host of external actors with a lot of resources requires a much larger commitment of forces.”

Obama-administration officials argue that he has a comprehensible approach to fighting terrorism: a drone air force, Special Forces raids, a clandestine CIA-aided army of 10,000 rebels battling in Syria. So why does Obama stumble when explaining to the American people that he, too, cares about terrorism? The Turkey press conference, I told him, “was a moment for you as a politician to say, ‘Yeah, I hate the bastards too, and by the way, I am taking out the bastards.’ ” The easy thing to do would have been to reassure Americans in visceral terms that he will kill the people who want to kill them. Does he fear a knee-jerk reaction in the direction of another Middle East invasion? Or is he just inalterably Spockian?

“Every president has strengths and weaknesses,” he answered. “And there is no doubt that there are times where I have not been attentive enough to feelings and emotions and politics in communicating what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”

But for America to be successful in leading the world, he continued, “I believe that we have to avoid being simplistic. I think we have to build resilience and make sure that our political debates are grounded in reality. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the value of theater in political communications; it’s that the habits we—the media, politicians—have gotten into, and how we talk about these issues, are so detached so often from what we need to be doing that for me to satisfy the cable news hype-fest would lead to us making worse and worse decisions over time.”
Obama with Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba, at the APEC summit in the Phillippines last November—days after ISIS killed 130 people in Paris (Aaron Favila / AP)

As Air Force One began its descent toward Kuala Lumpur, the president mentioned the successful U.S.-led effort to stop the Ebola epidemic in West Africa as a positive example of steady, nonhysterical management of a terrifying crisis.

“During the couple of months in which everybody was sure Ebola was going to destroy the Earth and there was 24/7 coverage of Ebola, if I had fed the panic or in any way strayed from ‘Here are the facts, here’s what needs to be done, here’s how we’re handling it, the likelihood of you getting Ebola is very slim, and here’s what we need to do both domestically and overseas to stamp out this epidemic,’ ” then “maybe people would have said ‘Obama is taking this as seriously as he needs to be.’ ” But feeding the panic by overreacting could have shut down travel to and from three African countries that were already cripplingly poor, in ways that might have destroyed their economies—which would likely have meant, among other things, a recurrence of Ebola. He added, “It would have also meant that we might have wasted a huge amount of resources in our public-health systems that need to be devoted to flu vaccinations and other things that actually kill people” in large numbers in America.

The plane landed. The president, leaning back in his office chair with his jacket off and his tie askew, did not seem to notice. Outside, on the tarmac, I could see that what appeared to be a large portion of the Malaysian Armed Forces had assembled to welcome him. As he continued talking, I began to worry that the waiting soldiers and dignitaries would get hot. “I think we’re in Malaysia,” I said. “It seems to be outside this plane.”

He conceded that this was true, but seemed to be in no rush, so I pressed him about his public reaction to terrorism: If he showed more emotion, wouldn’t that calm people down rather than rile them up?

“I have friends who have kids in Paris right now,” he said. “And you and I and a whole bunch of people who are writing about what happened in Paris have strolled along the same streets where people were gunned down. And it’s right to feel fearful. And it’s important for us not to ever get complacent. There’s a difference between resilience and complacency.” He went on to describe another difference—between making considered decisions and making rash, emotional ones. “What it means, actually, is that you care so much that you want to get it right and you’re not going to indulge in either impetuous or, in some cases, manufactured responses that make good sound bites but don’t produce results. The stakes are too high to play those games.”
“ISIS is not an existential threat to the United States. Climate change is a potential existential threat to the entire world if we don’t do something about it.”

With that, Obama stood up and said, “Okay, gotta go.” He headed out of his office and down the stairs, to the red carpet and the honor guard and the cluster of Malaysian officials waiting to greet him, and then to his armored limousine, flown to Kuala Lumpur ahead of him. (Early in his first term, still unaccustomed to the massive military operation it takes to move a president from one place to another, he noted ruefully to aides, “I have the world’s largest carbon footprint.”)

The president’s first stop was another event designed to highlight his turn to Asia, this one a town-hall meeting with students and entrepreneurs participating in the administration’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. Obama entered the lecture hall at Taylor’s University to huge applause. He made some opening remarks, then charmed his audience in an extended Q&A session.

But those of us watching from the press section became distracted by news coming across our phones about a new jihadist attack, this one in Mali. Obama, busily mesmerizing adoring Asian entrepreneurs, had no idea. Only when he got into his limousine with Susan Rice did he get the news.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (left) and Secretary of State John Kerry (center) listen as Obama speaks about the Ebola epidemic in September 2014. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

Later that evening, I visited the president in his suite at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur. The streets around the hotel had been sealed. Armored vehicles ringed the building; the lobby was filled with swat teams. I took the elevator to a floor crowded with Secret Service agents, who pointed me to a staircase; the elevator to Obama’s floor was disabled for security reasons. Up two flights, to a hallway with more agents. A moment’s wait, and then Obama opened the door. His two-story suite was outlandish: Tara-like drapes, overstuffed couches. It was enormous and lonely and claustrophobic all at once.

“It’s like the Hearst Castle,” I observed.

“Well, it’s a long way from the Hampton Inn in Des Moines,” Obama said.

ESPN was playing in the background.

When we sat down, I pointed out to the president a central challenge of his pivot to Asia. Earlier in the day, at the moment he was trying to inspire a group of gifted and eager hijab-wearing Indonesian entrepreneurs and Burmese innovators, attention was diverted by the latest Islamist terror attack.

A writer at heart, he had a suggestion: “It’s probably a pretty easy way to start the story,” he said, referring to this article.

Possibly, I said, but it’s kind of a cheap trick.

“It’s cheap, but it works,” Obama said. “We’re talking to these kids, and then there’s this attack going on.”

The split-screen quality of the day prompted a conversation about two recent meetings he’d held, one that generated major international controversy and headlines, and one that did not. The one that drew so much attention, I suggested, would ultimately be judged less consequential. This was the Gulf summit in May of 2015 at Camp David, meant to mollify a crowd of visiting sheikhs and princes who feared the impending Iran deal. The other meeting took place two months later, in the Oval Office, between Obama and the general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong. This meeting took place only because John Kerry had pushed the White House to violate protocol, since the general secretary was not a head of state. But the goals trumped decorum: Obama wanted to lobby the Vietnamese on the Trans-Pacific Partnership—his negotiators soon extracted a promise from the Vietnamese that they would legalize independent labor unions—and he wanted to deepen cooperation on strategic issues. Administration officials have repeatedly hinted to me that Vietnam may one day soon host a permanent U.S. military presence, to check the ambitions of the country it now fears most, China. The U.S. Navy’s return to Cam Ranh Bay would count as one of the more improbable developments in recent American history. “We just moved the Vietnamese Communist Party to recognize labor rights in a way that we could never do by bullying them or scaring them,” Obama told me, calling this a key victory in his campaign to replace stick-waving with diplomatic persuasion.

I noted that the 200 or so young Southeast Asians in the room earlier that day—including citizens of Communist-ruled countries—seemed to love America. “They do,” Obama said. “In Vietnam right now, America polls at 80 percent.”
Obama visits a refugee center in Kuala Lumpur on a tour through Southeast Asia last fall. He sees the region as more integral to America’s future than the Middle East. (Susan Walsh / AP)

The resurgent popularity of America throughout Southeast Asia means that “we can do really big, important stuff—which, by the way, then has ramifications across the board,” he said, “because when Malaysia joins the anti-isil campaign, that helps us leverage resources and credibility in our fight against terrorism. When we have strong relations with Indonesia, that helps us when we are going to Paris and trying to negotiate a climate treaty, where the temptation of a Russia or some of these other countries may be to skew the deal in a way that is unhelpful.”

Obama then cited America’s increased influence in Latin America—increased, he said, in part by his removal of a region-wide stumbling block when he reestablished ties with Cuba—as proof that his deliberate, nonthreatening, diplomacy-centered approach to foreign relations is working. The alba movement, a group of Latin American governments oriented around anti-Americanism, has significantly weakened during his time as president. “When I came into office, at the first Summit of the Americas that I attended, Hugo Chávez”—the late anti-American Venezuelan dictator—“was still the dominant figure in the conversation,” he said. “We made a very strategic decision early on, which was, rather than blow him up as this 10-foot giant adversary, to right-size the problem and say, ‘We don’t like what’s going on in Venezuela, but it’s not a threat to the United States.’ ”

Obama said that to achieve this rebalancing, the U.S. had to absorb the diatribes and insults of superannuated Castro manqués. “When I saw Chávez, I shook his hand and he handed me a Marxist critique of the U.S.–Latin America relationship,” Obama recalled. “And I had to sit there and listen to Ortega”—Daniel Ortega, the radical leftist president of Nicaragua—“make an hour-long rant against the United States. But us being there, not taking all that stuff seriously—because it really wasn’t a threat to us”—helped neutralize the region’s anti-Americanism.

The president’s unwillingness to counter the baiting by American adversaries can feel emotionally unsatisfying, I said, and I told him that every so often, I’d like to see him give Vladimir Putin the finger. It’s atavistic, I said, understanding my audience.

“It is,” the president responded coolly. “This is what they’re looking for.”

He described a relationship with Putin that doesn’t quite conform to common perceptions. I had been under the impression that Obama viewed Putin as nasty, brutish, and short. But, Obama told me, Putin is not particularly nasty.

“The truth is, actually, Putin, in all of our meetings, is scrupulously polite, very frank. Our meetings are very businesslike. He never keeps me waiting two hours like he does a bunch of these other folks.” Obama said that Putin believes his relationship with the U.S. is more important than Americans tend to think. “He’s constantly interested in being seen as our peer and as working with us, because he’s not completely stupid. He understands that Russia’s overall position in the world is significantly diminished. And the fact that he invades Crimea or is trying to prop up Assad doesn’t suddenly make him a player. You don’t see him in any of these meetings out here helping to shape the agenda. For that matter, there’s not a G20 meeting where the Russians set the agenda around any of the issues that are important.”

Russia’s invasion of Crimea in early 2014, and its decision to use force to buttress the rule of its client Bashar al-Assad, have been cited by Obama’s critics as proof that the post-red-line world no longer fears America.

So when I talked with the president in the Oval Office in late January, I again raised this question of deterrent credibility. “The argument is made,” I said, “that Vladimir Putin watched you in Syria and thought, He’s too logical, he’s too rational, he’s too into retrenchment. I’m going to push him a little bit further in Ukraine.”

Obama didn’t much like my line of inquiry. “Look, this theory is so easily disposed of that I’m always puzzled by how people make the argument. I don’t think anybody thought that George W. Bush was overly rational or cautious in his use of military force. And as I recall, because apparently nobody in this town does, Putin went into Georgia on Bush’s watch, right smack dab in the middle of us having over 100,000 troops deployed in Iraq.” Obama was referring to Putin’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, a former Soviet republic, which was undertaken for many of the same reasons Putin later invaded Ukraine—to keep an ex–Soviet republic in Russia’s sphere of influence.

“Putin acted in Ukraine in response to a client state that was about to slip out of his grasp. And he improvised in a way to hang on to his control there,” he said. “He’s done the exact same thing in Syria, at enormous cost to the well-being of his own country. And the notion that somehow Russia is in a stronger position now, in Syria or in Ukraine, than they were before they invaded Ukraine or before he had to deploy military forces to Syria is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of power in foreign affairs or in the world generally. Real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence. Russia was much more powerful when Ukraine looked like an independent country but was a kleptocracy that he could pull the strings on.”

Obama’s theory here is simple: Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one, so Russia will always be able to maintain escalatory dominance there.

“The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-nato country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do,” he said.

I asked Obama whether his position on Ukraine was realistic or fatalistic.

“It’s realistic,” he said. “But this is an example of where we have to be very clear about what our core interests are and what we are willing to go to war for. And at the end of the day, there’s always going to be some ambiguity.” He then offered up a critique he had heard directed against him, in order to knock it down. “I think that the best argument you can make on the side of those who are critics of my foreign policy is that the president doesn’t exploit ambiguity enough. He doesn’t maybe react in ways that might cause people to think, Wow, this guy might be a little crazy.”

“The ‘crazy Nixon’ approach,” I said: Confuse and frighten your enemies by making them think you’re capable of committing irrational acts.

“But let’s examine the Nixon theory,” he said. “So we dropped more ordnance on Cambodia and Laos than on Europe in World War II, and yet, ultimately, Nixon withdrew, Kissinger went to Paris, and all we left behind was chaos, slaughter, and authoritarian governments that finally, over time, have emerged from that hell. When I go to visit those countries, I’m going to be trying to figure out how we can, today, help them remove bombs that are still blowing off the legs of little kids. In what way did that strategy promote our interests?”

But what if Putin were threatening to move against, say, Moldova—another vulnerable post-Soviet state? Wouldn’t it be helpful for Putin to believe that Obama might get angry and irrational about that?
Video: Jeffrey Goldberg speaks with James Bennet about “The Obama Doctrine.”
Jeffrey Goldberg speaks with James Bennet about the process of collecting interviews and writing “The Obama Doctrine.”

“There is no evidence in modern American foreign policy that that’s how people respond. People respond based on what their imperatives are, and if it’s really important to somebody, and it’s not that important to us, they know that, and we know that,” he said. “There are ways to deter, but it requires you to be very clear ahead of time about what is worth going to war for and what is not. Now, if there is somebody in this town that would claim that we would consider going to war with Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, they should speak up and be very clear about it. The idea that talking tough or engaging in some military action that is tangential to that particular area is somehow going to influence the decision making of Russia or China is contrary to all the evidence we have seen over the last 50 years.”

Obama went on to say that the belief in the possibilities of projected toughness is rooted in “mythologies” about Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy.

“If you think about, let’s say, the Iran hostage crisis, there is a narrative that has been promoted today by some of the Republican candidates that the day Reagan was elected, because he looked tough, the Iranians decided, ‘We better turn over these hostages,’ ” he said. “In fact what had happened was that there was a long negotiation with the Iranians and because they so disliked Carter—even though the negotiations had been completed—they held those hostages until the day Reagan got elected. Reagan’s posture, his rhetoric, etc., had nothing to do with their release. When you think of the military actions that Reagan took, you have Grenada—which is hard to argue helped our ability to shape world events, although it was good politics for him back home. You have the Iran-Contra affair, in which we supported right-wing paramilitaries and did nothing to enhance our image in Central America, and it wasn’t successful at all.” He reminded me that Reagan’s great foe, Daniel Ortega, is today the unrepentant president of Nicaragua.

Obama also cited Reagan’s decision to almost immediately pull U.S. forces from Lebanon after 241 servicemen were killed in a Hezbollah attack in 1983. “Apparently all these things really helped us gain credibility with the Russians and the Chinese,” because “that’s the narrative that is told,” he said sarcastically. “Now, I actually think that Ronald Reagan had a great success in foreign policy, which was to recognize the opportunity that Gorbachev presented and to engage in extensive diplomacy—which was roundly criticized by some of the same people who now use Ronald Reagan to promote the notion that we should go around bombing people.”

In a conversation at the end of January, I asked the president to describe for me the threats he worries about most as he prepares, in the coming months, to hand off power to his successor.

“As I survey the next 20 years, climate change worries me profoundly because of the effects that it has on all the other problems that we face,” he said. “If you start seeing more severe drought; more significant famine; more displacement from the Indian subcontinent and coastal regions in Africa and Asia; the continuing problems of scarcity, refugees, poverty, disease—this makes every other problem we’ve got worse. That’s above and beyond just the existential issues of a planet that starts getting into a bad feedback loop.”

Terrorism, he said, is also a long-term problem “when combined with the problem of failed states.”

What country does he consider the greatest challenge to America in the coming decades? “In terms of traditional great-state relations, I do believe that the relationship between the United States and China is going to be the most critical,” he said. “If we get that right and China continues on a peaceful rise, then we have a partner that is growing in capability and sharing with us the burdens and responsibilities of maintaining an international order. If China fails; if it is not able to maintain a trajectory that satisfies its population and has to resort to nationalism as an organizing principle; if it feels so overwhelmed that it never takes on the responsibilities of a country its size in maintaining the international order; if it views the world only in terms of regional spheres of influence—then not only do we see the potential for conflict with China, but we will find ourselves having more difficulty dealing with these other challenges that are going to come.”

Many people, I noted, want the president to be more forceful in confronting China, especially in the South China Sea. Hillary Clinton, for one, has been heard to say in private settings, “I don’t want my grandchildren to live in a world dominated by the Chinese.”

“I’ve been very explicit in saying that we have more to fear from a weakened, threatened China than a successful, rising China,” Obama said. “I think we have to be firm where China’s actions are undermining international interests, and if you look at how we’ve operated in the South China Sea, we have been able to mobilize most of Asia to isolate China in ways that have surprised China, frankly, and have very much served our interest in strengthening our alliances.”

A weak, flailing Russia constitutes a threat as well, though not quite a top-tier threat. “Unlike China, they have demographic problems, economic structural problems, that would require not only vision but a generation to overcome,” Obama said. “The path that Putin is taking is not going to help them overcome those challenges. But in that environment, the temptation to project military force to show greatness is strong, and that’s what Putin’s inclination is. So I don’t underestimate the dangers there.”
Obama returned to a point he had made repeatedly to me, one that he hopes the country, and the next president, absorbs: “You know, the notion that diplomacy and technocrats and bureaucrats somehow are helping to keep America safe and secure, most people think, Eh, that’s nonsense. But it’s true. And by the way, it’s the element of American power that the rest of the world appreciates unambiguously. When we deploy troops, there’s always a sense on the part of other countries that, even where necessary, sovereignty is being violated.”

Over the past year, John Kerry has visited the White House regularly to ask Obama to violate Syria’s sovereignty. On several occasions, Kerry has asked Obama to launch missiles at specific regime targets, under cover of night, to “send a message” to the regime. The goal, Kerry has said, is not to overthrow Assad but to encourage him, and Iran and Russia, to negotiate peace. When the Assad alliance has had the upper hand on the battlefield, as it has these past several months, it has shown no inclination to take seriously Kerry’s entreaties to negotiate in good faith. A few cruise missiles, Kerry has argued, might concentrate the attention of Assad and his backers. “Kerry’s looking like a chump with the Russians, because he has no leverage,” a senior administration official told me.

The U.S. wouldn’t have to claim credit for the attacks, Kerry has told Obama—but Assad would surely know the missiles’ return address.

Obama has steadfastly resisted Kerry’s requests, and seems to have grown impatient with his lobbying. Recently, when Kerry handed Obama a written outline of new steps to bring more pressure to bear on Assad, Obama said, “Oh, another proposal?” Administration officials have told me that Vice President Biden, too, has become frustrated with Kerry’s demands for action. He has said privately to the secretary of state, “John, remember Vietnam? Remember how that started?” At a National Security Council meeting held at the Pentagon in December, Obama announced that no one except the secretary of defense should bring him proposals for military action. Pentagon officials understood Obama’s announcement to be a brushback pitch directed at Kerry.
Obama has bet that the price of direct U.S. action in Syria would be higher than the price of inaction.

One day in January, in Kerry’s office at the State Department, I expressed the obvious: He has more of a bias toward action than the president does.

“I do, probably,” Kerry acknowledged. “Look, the final say on these things is in his hands … I’d say that I think we’ve had a very symbiotic, synergistic, whatever you call it, relationship, which works very effectively. Because I’ll come in with the bias toward ‘Let’s try to do this, let’s try to do that, let’s get this done.’ ”

Obama’s caution on Syria has vexed those in the administration who have seen opportunities, at different moments over the past four years, to tilt the battlefield against Assad. Some thought that Putin’s decision to fight on behalf of Assad would prompt Obama to intensify American efforts to help anti-regime rebels. But Obama, at least as of this writing, would not be moved, in part because he believed that it was not his business to stop Russia from making what he thought was a terrible mistake. “They are overextended. They’re bleeding,” he told me. “And their economy has contracted for three years in a row, drastically.”
Obama meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the White House in February of 2015. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

In recent National Security Council meetings, Obama’s strategy was occasionally referred to as the “Tom Sawyer approach.” Obama’s view was that if Putin wanted to expend his regime’s resources by painting the fence in Syria, the U.S. should let him. By late winter, though, when it appeared that Russia was making advances in its campaign to solidify Assad’s rule, the White House began discussing ways to deepen support for the rebels, though the president’s ambivalence about more-extensive engagement remained. In conversations I had with National Security Council officials over the past couple of months, I sensed a foreboding that an event—another San Bernardino–style attack, for instance—would compel the United States to take new and direct action in Syria. For Obama, this would be a nightmare.

If there had been no Iraq, no Afghanistan, and no Libya, Obama told me, he might be more apt to take risks in Syria. “A president does not make decisions in a vacuum. He does not have a blank slate. Any president who was thoughtful, I believe, would recognize that after over a decade of war, with obligations that are still to this day requiring great amounts of resources and attention in Afghanistan, with the experience of Iraq, with the strains that it’s placed on our military—any thoughtful president would hesitate about making a renewed commitment in the exact same region of the world with some of the exact same dynamics and the same probability of an unsatisfactory outcome.”

Are you too cautious?, I asked.

“No,” he said. “Do I think that had we not invaded Iraq and were we not still involved in sending billions of dollars and a number of military trainers and advisers into Afghanistan, would I potentially have thought about taking on some additional risk to help try to shape the Syria situation? I don’t know.”

What has struck me is that, even as his secretary of state warns about a dire, Syria-fueled European apocalypse, Obama has not recategorized the country’s civil war as a top-tier security threat.

Obama’s hesitation to join the battle for Syria is held out as proof by his critics that he is too naive; his decision in 2013 not to fire missiles is proof, they argue, that he is a bluffer.

This critique frustrates the president. “Nobody remembers bin Laden anymore,” he says. “Nobody talks about me ordering 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan.” The red-line crisis, he said, “is the point of the inverted pyramid upon which all other theories rest.”

One afternoon in late January, as I was leaving the Oval Office, I mentioned to Obama a moment from an interview in 2012 when he told me that he would not allow Iran to gain possession of a nuclear weapon. “You said, ‘I’m the president of the United States, I don’t bluff.’ ”

He said, “I don’t.”

Shortly after that interview four years ago, Ehud Barak, who was then the defense minister of Israel, asked me whether I thought Obama’s no-bluff promise was itself a bluff. I answered that I found it difficult to imagine that the leader of the United States would bluff about something so consequential. But Barak’s question had stayed with me. So as I stood in the doorway with the president, I asked: “Was it a bluff?” I told him that few people now believe he actually would have attacked Iran to keep it from getting a nuclear weapon.

“That’s interesting,” he said, noncommittally.

I started to talk: “Do you—”

He interrupted. “I actually would have,” he said, meaning that he would have struck Iran’s nuclear facilities. “If I saw them break out.”

He added, “Now, the argument that can’t be resolved, because it’s entirely situational, was what constitutes them getting” the bomb. “This was the argument I was having with Bibi Netanyahu.” Netanyahu wanted Obama to prevent Iran from being capable of building a bomb, not merely from possessing a bomb.

“You were right to believe it,” the president said. And then he made his key point. “This was in the category of an American interest.”

I was reminded then of something Derek Chollet, a former National Security Council official, told me: “Obama is a gambler, not a bluffer.”
Ruven Afanador

The president has placed some huge bets. Last May, as he was trying to move the Iran nuclear deal through Congress, I told him that the agreement was making me nervous. His response was telling. “Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”

In the matter of the Syrian regime and its Iranian and Russian sponsors, Obama has bet, and seems prepared to continue betting, that the price of direct U.S. action would be higher than the price of inaction. And he is sanguine enough to live with the perilous ambiguities of his decisions. Though in his Nobel Peace Prize speech in 2009, Obama said, “Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later,” today the opinions of humanitarian interventionists do not seem to move him, at least not publicly. He undoubtedly knows that a next-generation Samantha Power will write critically of his unwillingness to do more to prevent the continuing slaughter in Syria. (For that matter, Samantha Power will also be the subject of criticism from the next Samantha Power.) As he comes to the end of his presidency, Obama believes he has done his country a large favor by keeping it out of the maelstrom—and he believes, I suspect, that historians will one day judge him wise for having done so.

Inside the West Wing, officials say that Obama, as a president who inherited a financial crisis and two active wars from his predecessor, is keen to leave “a clean barn” to whoever succeeds him. This is why the fight against isis, a group he considers to be a direct, though not existential, threat to the U.S., is his most urgent priority for the remainder of his presidency; killing the so-called caliph of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is one of the top goals of the American national-security apparatus in Obama’s last year.

Of course, isis was midwifed into existence, in part, by the Assad regime. Yet by Obama’s stringent standards, Assad’s continued rule for the moment still doesn’t rise to the level of direct challenge to America’s national security.

This is what is so controversial about the president’s approach, and what will be controversial for years to come—the standard he has used to define what, exactly, constitutes a direct threat.

Obama has come to a number of dovetailing conclusions about the world, and about America’s role in it. The first is that the Middle East is no longer terribly important to American interests. The second is that even if the Middle East were surpassingly important, there would still be little an American president could do to make it a better place. The third is that the innate American desire to fix the sorts of problems that manifest themselves most drastically in the Middle East inevitably leads to warfare, to the deaths of U.S. soldiers, and to the eventual hemorrhaging of U.S. credibility and power. The fourth is that the world cannot afford to see the diminishment of U.S. power. Just as the leaders of several American allies have found Obama’s leadership inadequate to the tasks before him, he himself has found world leadership wanting: global partners who often lack the vision and the will to spend political capital in pursuit of broad, progressive goals, and adversaries who are not, in his mind, as rational as he is. Obama believes that history has sides, and that America’s adversaries—and some of its putative allies—have situated themselves on the wrong one, a place where tribalism, fundamentalism, sectarianism, and militarism still flourish. What they don’t understand is that history is bending in his direction.

“The central argument is that by keeping America from immersing itself in the crises of the Middle East, the foreign-policy establishment believes that the president is precipitating our decline,” Ben Rhodes told me. “But the president himself takes the opposite view, which is that overextension in the Middle East will ultimately harm our economy, harm our ability to look for other opportunities and to deal with other challenges, and, most important, endanger the lives of American service members for reasons that are not in the direct American national-security interest.”

If you are a supporter of the president, his strategy makes eminent sense: Double down in those parts of the world where success is plausible, and limit America’s exposure to the rest. His critics believe, however, that problems like those presented by the Middle East don’t solve themselves—that, without American intervention, they metastasize.

At the moment, Syria, where history appears to be bending toward greater chaos, poses the most direct challenge to the president’s worldview.

George W. Bush was also a gambler, not a bluffer. He will be remembered harshly for the things he did in the Middle East. Barack Obama is gambling that he will be judged well for the things he didn’t do.

Voir de plus:

The Carter Syndrome

Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy

January/February 2010

Neither a cold-blooded realist nor a bleeding-heart idealist, Barack Obama has a split personality when it comes to foreign policy. So do most U.S. presidents, of course, and the ideas that inspire this one have a long history at the core of the American political tradition. In the past, such ideas have served the country well. But the conflicting impulses influencing how this young leader thinks about the world threaten to tear his presidency apart — and, in the worst scenario, turn him into a new Jimmy Carter.

Obama’s long deliberation over the war in Afghanistan is a case study in presidential schizophrenia: After 94 days of internal discussion and debate, he ended up splitting the difference — rushing in more troops as his generals wanted, while calling for their departure to begin in July 2011 as his liberal base demanded. It was a sober compromise that suggests a man struggling to reconcile his worldview with the weight of inherited problems. Like many of his predecessors, Obama is not only buffeted by strong political headwinds, but also pulled in opposing directions by two of the major schools of thought that have guided American foreign-policy debates since colonial times.

In general, U.S. presidents see the world through the eyes of four giants: Alexander Hamilton, Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson. Hamiltonians share the first Treasury secretary’s belief that a strong national government and a strong military should pursue a realist global policy and that the government can and should promote economic development and the interests of American business at home and abroad. Wilsonians agree with Hamiltonians on the need for a global foreign policy, but see the promotion of democracy and human rights as the core elements of American grand strategy. Jeffersonians dissent from this globalist consensus; they want the United States to minimize its commitments and, as much as possible, dismantle the national-security state. Jacksonians are today’s Fox News watchers. They are populists suspicious of Hamiltonian business links, Wilsonian do-gooding, and Jeffersonian weakness.

Moderate Republicans tend to be Hamiltonians. Move right toward the Sarah Palin range of the party and the Jacksonian influence grows. Centrist Democrats tend to be interventionist-minded Wilsonians, while on the left and the dovish side they are increasingly Jeffersonian, more interested in improving American democracy at home than exporting it abroad.

Some presidents build coalitions; others stay close to one favorite school. As the Cold War ended, George H.W. Bush’s administration steered a largely Hamiltonian course, and many of those Hamiltonians later dissented from his son’s war in Iraq. Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s mixed Hamiltonian and Wilsonian tendencies. This dichotomy resulted in bitter administration infighting when those ideologies came into conflict — over humanitarian interventions in the Balkans and Rwanda, for example, and again over the relative weight to be given to human rights and trade in U.S. relations with China.

More recently, George W. Bush’s presidency was defined by an effort to bring Jacksonians and Wilsonians into a coalition; the political failure of Bush’s ambitious approach created the context that made the Obama presidency possible.

Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those rare and electrifying moments that waken Jacksonian America and focus its attention on the international arena. The U.S. homeland was not only under attack, it was under attack by an international conspiracy of terrorists who engaged in what Jacksonians consider dishonorable warfare: targeting civilians. Jacksonian attitudes toward war were shaped by generations of conflict with Native American peoples across the United States and before that by centuries of border conflict in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Against « honorable » enemies who observe the laws of war, one is obliged to fight fair; those who disregard the rules must be hunted down and killed, regardless of technical niceties.

When the United States is attacked, Jacksonians demand action; they leave strategy to the national leadership. But Bush’s tough-minded Jacksonian response to 9/11 — invading Afghanistan and toppling the Taliban government that gave safe haven to the plotters — gave way to what appeared to be Wilsonian meddling in Iraq. Originally, Bush’s argument for overthrowing Saddam Hussein rested on two charges that resonated powerfully with Jacksonians: Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction, and he had close links with al Qaeda. But the war dragged on, and as Hussein’s fabled hoards of WMD failed to appear and the links between Iraq and al Qaeda failed to emerge, Bush shifted to a Wilsonian rationale. This was no longer a war of defense against a pending threat or a war of retaliation; it was a war to establish democracy, first in Iraq and then throughout the region. Nation-building and democracy-spreading became the cornerstones of the administration’s Middle East policy.

Bush could not have developed a strategy better calculated to dissolve his political support at home. Jacksonians historically have little sympathy for expensive and risky democracy-promoting ventures abroad. They generally opposed the humanitarian interventions in Somalia, Bosnia, and Haiti during the Clinton years; they did not and do not think American young people should die and American treasure should be scattered to spread democracy or protect human rights overseas. Paradoxically, Jacksonians also opposed « cut and run » options to end the war in Iraq even as they lost faith in both Bush and the Republican Party; they don’t like wars for democracy, but they also don’t want to see the United States lose once troops and the national honor have been committed. In Bush’s last year in office, a standoff ensued: The Democratic congressional majorities were powerless to force change in his Iraq strategy and Bush remained free to increase U.S. troop levels, yet the war itself and Bush’s rationale for it remained deeply unpopular.

Enter Obama. An early and consistent opponent of the Iraq war, Obama was able to bring together the elements of the Democratic Party’s foreign-policy base who were most profoundly opposed to (and horrified by) Bush’s policy. Obama made opposition to the Iraq war a centerpiece of his eloquent campaign, drawing on arguments that echoed U.S. anti-war movements all the way back to Henry David Thoreau’s opposition to the Mexican-American War.

Like Carter in the 1970s, Obama comes from the old-fashioned Jeffersonian wing of the Democratic Party, and the strategic goal of his foreign policy is to reduce America’s costs and risks overseas by limiting U.S. commitments wherever possible. He’s a believer in the notion that the United States can best spread democracy and support peace by becoming an example of democracy at home and moderation abroad. More than this, Jeffersonians such as Obama think oversize commitments abroad undermine American democracy at home. Large military budgets divert resources from pressing domestic needs; close association with corrupt and tyrannical foreign regimes involves the United States in dirty and cynical alliances; the swelling national-security state threatens civil liberties and leads to powerful pro-war, pro-engagement lobbies among corporations nourished on grossly swollen federal defense budgets.

While Bush argued that the only possible response to the 9/11 attacks was to deepen America’s military and political commitments in the Middle East, Obama initially sought to enhance America’s security by reducing those commitments and toning down aspects of U.S. Middle East policy, such as support for Israel, that foment hostility and suspicion in the region. He seeks to pull U.S. power back from the borderlands of Russia, reducing the risk of conflict with Moscow. In Latin America, he has so far behaved with scrupulous caution and, clearly, is hoping to normalize relations with Cuba while avoiding collisions with the « Bolivarian » states of Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia.

Obama seeks a quiet world in order to focus his efforts on domestic reform — and to create conditions that would allow him to dismantle some of the national-security state inherited from the Cold War and given new life and vigor after 9/11. Preferring disarmament agreements to military buildups and hoping to substitute regional balance-of-power arrangements for massive unilateral U.S. force commitments all over the globe, the president wishes ultimately for an orderly world in which burdens are shared and the military power of the United States is a less prominent feature on the international scene.

While Wilsonians believe that no lasting stability is possible in a world filled with dictatorships, Jeffersonians like Obama argue that even bad regimes can be orderly international citizens if the incentives are properly aligned. Syria and Iran don’t need to become democratic states for the United States to reach long-term, mutually beneficial arrangements with them. And it is North Korea’s policies, not the character of its regime, that pose a threat to the Pacific region.

At this strategic level, Obama’s foreign policy looks a little bit like that of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. In Afghanistan and Iraq, he hopes to extract U.S. forces from costly wars by the contemporary equivalent of the « Vietnamization » policy of the Nixon years. He looks to achieve an opening with Iran comparable to Nixon’s rapprochement with communist China. Just as Nixon established a constructive relationship with China despite the radical « Red Guard » domestic policies Chinese leader Mao Zedong was pursuing at the time, Obama does not see ideological conflict as necessarily leading to poor strategic relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic. Just as Nixon and Kissinger sought to divert international attention from their retreat in Indochina by razzle-dazzle global diplomacy that placed Washington at the center of world politics even as it reduced its force posture, so too the Obama administration hopes to use the president’s global popularity to cover a strategic withdrawal from the exposed position in the Middle East that it inherited from the Bush administration.

This is both an ambitious and an attractive vision. Success would reduce the level of international tension even as the United States scales back its commitments. The United States would remain, by far, the dominant military power in the world, but it would sustain this role with significantly fewer demands on its resources and less danger of war.

Yet as Obama is already discovering, any president attempting such a Jeffersonian grand strategy in the 21st century faces many challenges. In the 19th-century heyday of Jeffersonian foreign policy in American politics, it was easier for U.S. presidents to limit the country’s commitments. Britain played a global role similar to that of the United States today, providing a stable security environment and promoting international trade and investment. Cruising as a free rider in the British world system allowed Americans to reap the benefits of Britain’s world order without paying its costs.

As British power waned in the 20th century, Americans faced starker choices. With the British Empire no longer able to provide political and economic security worldwide, the United States had to choose between replacing Britain as the linchpin of world order with all the headaches that entailed or going about its business in a disorderly world. In the 1920s and 1930s, Americans gave this latter course a try; the rapid-fire series of catastrophes — the Great Depression, World War II, Stalin’s bid for Eurasian hegemony — convinced virtually all policymakers that the first course, risky and expensive as it proved, was the lesser of the two evils.

Indeed, during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first two terms, the United States pursued essentially Jeffersonian policies in Europe and Asia, avoiding confrontations with Germany and Japan. The result was the bloodiest war in world history, not a stable condominium of satisfied powers. Since that time, Jeffersonians have had to come to terms with the vast set of interlocking political, economic, and military commitments that bind the United States to its role in the postwar era. Jeffersonian instincts call for pruning these commitments back, but it is not always easy to know where to cut.

The other schools are generally skeptical about reducing American commitments. Wilsonians interpret Jeffersonian restraint as moral cowardice. Why, they ask, did Obama refuse to meet the sainted Dalai Lama on his way to kowtow to the dictators in Beijing? Jacksonians think it is cowardice pure and simple. And why not stand up to Iran? Hamiltonians may agree with Jeffersonian restraint in particular cases — they don’t want to occupy Darfur either — but sooner or later they attack Jeffersonians for failing to develop and project sufficient American power in a dangerous world. Moreover, Hamiltonians generally favor free trade and a strong dollar policy; in current circumstances Hamiltonians are also pushing fiscal restraint. Obama will not willingly move far or fast enough to keep them happy.

The widespread criticism of Obama’s extended Afghanistan deliberations is a case in point. To a Jeffersonian president, war is a grave matter and such an undesirable course that it should only be entered into with the greatest deliberation and caution; war is truly a last resort, and the costs of rash commitments are more troubling than the costs of debate and delay. Hamiltonians would be more concerned with executing the decision swiftly and with hiding from other powers any impression of division among American counsels. But Obama found harsh critics on all sides: Wilsonians recoiled from the evident willingness of the president to abandon human rights or political objectives to settle the war. Jacksonians did not understand what, other than cowardice or « dithering, » could account for his reluctance to support the professional military recommendation. And the most purist of the Jeffersonians — neoisolationists on both left and right — turned on Obama as a sellout. Jeffersonian foreign policy is no bed of roses.

In recent history, Jeffersonian foreign policy has often faced attacks from all the other schools of thought. Kissinger’s policy of détente was blasted on the right by conservative Republicans who wanted a stronger stand against communism and on the left by human rights Democrats who hated the cynical regional alliances the Nixon Doctrine involved (with the shah of Iran, for example). Carter faced many of the same problems, and the image of weakness and indecision that helped doom his 1980 run for re-election is a perennial problem for Jeffersonian presidents. Obama will have to leap over these hurdles now, too.

It is not only Americans who will challenge the new American foreign policy. Will Russia and Iran respond to Obama’s conciliatory approach with reciprocal concessions — or, emboldened by what they interpret as American weakness and faltering willpower, will they keep pushing forward? Will the president’s outreach to the moderate majority of Muslims around the world open an era of better understanding, or will the violent minority launch new attacks that undercut the president’s standing at home? Will the president’s inability to deliver all the Israeli concessions Arabs would like erode his credibility and contribute to even deeper levels of cynicism and alienation across the Middle East? Can the president execute an orderly reduction in the U.S. military stake in Iraq and Afghanistan without having hostile forces fill the power vacuum? Will Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez be so impressed with American restraint under Obama that he moderates his own course and ceases to make anti Yanquismo a pillar of his domestic and international policy? Will other countries heed the president’s call to assume more international responsibility as the United States reduces its commitments — or will they fail to fulfill their obligations as stakeholders in the international system?

A Jeffersonian policy of restraint and withdrawal requires cooperation from many other countries, but the prospect of a lower American profile may make others less, rather than more, willing to help the United States.

There is an additional political problem for this president, one that he shares with Carter. In both cases, their basic Jeffersonian approach was balanced in part by a strong attraction to idealistic Wilsonian values and their position at the head of a Democratic Party with a distinct Wilsonian streak. A pure Jeffersonian wants to conserve the shining exceptionalism of the American democratic experience and believes that American values are rooted in U.S. history and culture and are therefore not easily exportable.

For this president, that is too narrow a view. Like Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama doesn’t just love the United States for what it is. He loves what it should — and can — be. Leadership is not the art of preserving a largely achieved democratic project; governing is the art of pushing the United States farther down the road toward the still-distant goal of fulfilling its mission and destiny.

Obama may well believe what he said in his inaugural speech — « we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals » — but as any president must he is already making exactly those tradeoffs. Why else refuse to meet the Dalai Lama? Why else pledge support to the corrupt regime of President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan or aid Pakistan despite the dismal track record of both the civil and military arms of the Pakistani government when it comes to transparent use of U.S. resources? Did the administration not renew its efforts to build a relationship with the regime in Tehran even as peaceful democratic protesters were being tortured and raped in its jails? Is Obama not taking « incentives » to Khartoum, a regime that has for more than a decade pursued a policy in Darfur that the U.S. government has labeled genocidal?

It is hard to reconcile the transcendent Wilsonian vision of America’s future with a foreign policy based on dirty compromises with nasty regimes. If the government should use its power and resources to help the poor and the victims of injustice at home, shouldn’t it do something when people overseas face extreme injustice and extreme peril? The Obama administration cannot easily abandon a human rights agenda abroad. The contradiction between the sober and limited realism of the Jeffersonian worldview and the expansive, transformative Wilsonian agenda is likely to haunt this administration as it haunted Carter’s, most fatefully when he rejected calls to let the shah of Iran launch a brutal crackdown to remain in power. Already the Wilsonians in Obama’s camp are muttering darkly about his failure to swiftly close the Guantánamo prison camp, his fondness for government secrecy, his halfhearted support for investigating abuses of the past administration, and his failure to push harder for a cap-and-trade bill before the Copenhagen summit.

Over time, these rumblings of discontent will grow, and history will continue to throw curveballs at him. Can this president live with himself if he fails to prevent a new round of genocide in the Great Lakes region of Africa? Can he wage humanitarian war if all else fails? Can he make these tough decisions quickly and confidently when his closest advisors and his political base are deeply and hopelessly at odds?

The Jeffersonian concern with managing America’s foreign policy at the lowest possible level of risk has in the past helped presidents develop effective grand strategies, such as George Kennan’s early Cold War idea of containment and the early 19th-century Monroe Doctrine. If successful, Obama’s restructuring of American foreign policy would be as influential as these classic strategic designs.

Recent decades, however, have seen diminishing Jeffersonian influence in U.S. foreign policy. Americans today perceive problems all over the world; the Jeffersonian response often strikes people as too passive. Kennan’s modest form of containment quickly lost ground to Dean Acheson’s more muscular and militarized approach of responding to Soviet pressure by building up U.S. and allied forces in Europe and Asia. The Nixon-Kissinger policy of détente was repudiated by both the Republican and Democratic parties. Carter came into the White House hoping to end the Cold War, but by the end of his tenure he was supporting the resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, increasing the defense budget, and laying the groundwork for an expanded U.S. presence in the Middle East.

In the 21st century, American presidents have a new set of questions to consider. The nature of the international system and the place of the United States in it will have to be rethought as new powers rise, old ones continue to fade, and attention shifts from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The rapid technological development that is the hallmark of our era will reshape global society at a pace that challenges the ability of every country in the world to manage cascading, accelerating change.

With great dignity and courage, Obama has embarked on a difficult and uncertain journey. The odds, I fear, are not in his favor, and it is not yet clear that his intuitions and instincts amount to the kind of grand design that statesmen like John Quincy Adams and Henry Kissinger produced in the past. But there can be no doubt that American foreign policy requires major rethinking.

At their best, Jeffersonians provide a necessary element of caution and restraint in U.S. foreign policy, preventing what historian Paul Kennedy calls « imperial overstretch » by ensuring that America’s ends are proportionate to its means. We need this vision today more than ever: If Obama’s foreign policy collapses — whether sunk by Afghanistan or conflicts not yet foreseen — into the incoherence and reversals that ultimately marked Carter’s well-meaning but flawed approach, it will be even more difficult for future presidents to chart a prudent and cautious course through the rough seas ahead.

Voir enfin:

The Passionless Presidency

The trouble with Jimmy Carter’s Administration

James Fallows
The Atlantic Monthly

May 1979

In the spring of 1978, as the primary election season drew near, Jimmy Carter began a long march across the country, ready to help off-year Democratic candidates who might later reciprocate by helping him. This was a tiring trip, which caught the President at a tired time.

Within the previous month, he had traveled halfway around the world and across the country many times. More of the same lay immediately ahead. On the first leg of this trip, in Chicago, Carter made an interminable appearance at a Cook County Democratic banquet speaking briefly to party members in six separate ballrooms, then launching into an hour-long address in the main hall.

Of the many things being demanded of him, Carter was tired most of all of giving speeches. He told Jody Powell, who passed the word to me as the presidential speechwriter, to change the plans for his appearance next day before the Illinois state legislature in Springfield. We should release the text of the speech that we had prepared—a sobersided discussion of the « iron triangle » of bureaucratic interests, congressional committees, and outside lobbying groups that kept things in the government from ever being reformed—but, Carter said, he did not intend to deliver it. Instead, he would stand before the legislators, endorse the sentiments expressed in the advance text, and then take questions from the floor.

In the Springfield capitol building the next morning, I sat among the reporters and watched the revised plan unfold. Carter announced his intentions and read introductory comments from his note cards—and then, unexpectedly, he began talking in a deeper register, a more heartfelt style; a graceful natural cadence replaced his familiar singsong. Carter was speaking once more as he had spoken during the campaign, not about a specific policy or the rationale behind his acts, but about himself, his values, the emotions he felt day by day. He had once referred to his job as « one big multiple choice exam, » and he told the rapt crowd about the tests he would soon face. He told them of his difficulties— »It is not easy to negotiate with the Russians on a SALT agreement…. A Panama Canal treaty was not a popular thing. » The Mideast arms sales were « almost impossible to resolve to the satisfaction of the American people. It took a lot of courage to make those decisions. »

Carter told them of his faith in the American people, whose goodness he had seen in the small towns. Our people, he said, are « basically decent, basically honest, basically have great common sense. » And he was determined to reflect those virtues. He had been a businessman, a farmer, in touch with the cells and organs of American life. As the American people would respond to hard questions, so would he. As they were hardworking and honest and brave, so too must he be.

Carter then began taking questions, but I stopped listening; so much that had puzzled me was becoming clear. Sixteen months into his Administration, there was a mystery to be explained about Jimmy Carter: the contrast between the promise and popularity of his first months in office and the disappointment so widely felt later on. Part of this had to do with the inevitable end of the presidential honeymoon, with the unenviable circumstances Carter inherited, with the fickleness of the press. But much more of it grew directly from the quality Carter displayed that morning in Illinois. He was speaking with gusto because he was speaking about the subject that most inspired him: not what he proposed to do, but who he was. Where Lyndon Johnson boasted of schools built and children fed, where Edward Kennedy holds out the promise of the energies he might mobilize and the ideas he might enact, Jimmy Carter tells us that he is a good man. His positions are correct, his values sound. Like Marshal Petain after the fall of France, he has offered his person to the nation. This is not an inconsiderable gift; his performance in office shows us why it’s not enough.

After two and a half years in Carter’s service, I fully believe him to be a good man. With his moral virtues and his intellectual skills, he is perhaps as admirable a human being as has ever held the job. He is probably smarter, in the College Board sense, than any other President in this century. He grasps issues quickly. He made me feel confident that, except in economics, he would resolve technical questions lucidly, without distortions imposed by cant or imperfect comprehension.

He is a stable, personally confident man, whose quirks are few. He told the several Rhodes scholars on his staff that he had not won one of the scholarships, that this had been a great disappointment to him, but that he’d made out all right, heh, heh, hadn’t he? He tends to exaggerate his background (« I am a nuclear physicist »; « I directed the Head Start program in Georgia ») and to tamper with truth on small matters. As character flaws go, these are small change. Apart from occasional profanity, I saw him form no argument and strike no pose that would make him look a hypocrite if publicly revealed. I was not one of his confidants, and my intention to return to journalism was widely known; certain things were shielded from my view. But some things cannot be hidden, and in other administrations I know I would have seen more subterfuge and deception than I detected here.

Carter is usually patient, less vindictive than the political norm, blessed with a sense of perspective about the chanciness of life and the transience of its glories and pursuits. I left his service feeling that if moral choices faced him, he would resolve them fairly, that when questions of life and death, of nuclear war and human destruction were laid upon his desk, he would act on them calmly, with self-knowledge, free of interior demons that might tempt him to act rashly or to prove at terrible cost that he was a man. One factor in our choice of Presidents is their soundness in the ultimate moments of decision, when the finger is poised over the button and the future of the race is stake. Of all contenders on the horizon, none would be saner or surer than Carter in those moments. In his ability to do justice case by case, he would be the ideal non-lawyer for the Supreme Court; if I had to choose one politician to sit at the Pearly Gates and pass judgment on my soul, Jimmy Carter would be the one.

But if he has the gift of virtue, there are other gifts he lacks.

One is sophistication. It soon became clear, in ways I shall explain, that Carter and those closest to him to him took office in profound ignorance of their jobs. They were ignorant of the possibilities and the most likely pitfalls. They fell prey to predictable dangers and squandered precious time.

The second is the ability to explain his goals and thereby to offer an object for loyalty larger than himself.

The third, and most important, is the passion to convert himself from a good man into an effective one, to learn how to do the job. Carter often seemed more concerned with taking the correct position than with learning how to turn that position into results. He seethed with frustration when plans were rejected, but felt no compulsion to do better next time. He did not devour history for its lessons, surround himself with people who could do what he could not, or learn from others that fire was painful before he plunged his hand into the flame.

I make these observations with sadness but without rancor, for I have no reason to feel bitter. Other politicians are notorious for browbeating or humiliating their speechwriters; Jimmy Carter was always decent to me. I wish that more of the impressions I took away were bright. My interest as a journalist is to report what I saw, and to explain why I think it happened.

became involved with Carter in the summer of 1976, when (so it seemed) the hardest electoral battles were behind him and the opportunists were climbing aboard. I had voted for him in the Texas primary, written with measured sympathy about his cause, and found myself rounded up in the general massing of troops once he clinched the nomination.

I worked for him enthusiastically and was proud to join his Administration, for I felt that he, alone among candidates, might look past the tired formulas of left and right and offer something new. These early hopes impose a special burden of explanation on people like me; before we find fault, we must explain why we thought things would be different. Carter had no experience in Washington or in foreign affairs; to blame him for that now seems somehow unfair. He had been unpopular as governor of Georgia; why should it be different in the White House? On paper, as a provincial businessman and one-term governor, Carter promised to perform just about the way he has.

But there were two factors that made many of us ignore these paper limitations. One was Carter’s remarkable charm in face-to-face encounters. All politicians must be charming to some degree, but Carter’s performance on first intimate meeting was something special. His intelligence and magnetism soon banished thoughts of the limits of his background. When working at the White House, I often felt persuaded by Carter’s argument—and, even more, of his personal merit—while talking with him, although I knew, on reflection, that his argument was wrong. This was not simply the malleability of a young employee; I met very few people who, having sat and talked with Carter by themselves or in groups of two or three, did not come away feeling they had dealt with a formidable man.

He was fully aware of this power and used it whenever he could. Early in the campaign, when trying to convince people that his candidacy was not a joke, he placed high hopes on his meetings with newspaper editorial boards. After Gerald Rafshoon’s arrival in the White House, Carter invited editors and publishers to dinner, usually to good effect. He always felt in foreign affairs that if he could only get his adversaries into the room with him, he could win them over. This he demonstrated most spectacularly with Sadat and Begin at Camp David and in his dramatic and courageous resuscitation of the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations this year. Lyndon Johnson had the same faith in his famous « treatment, » but it was based on his intimate knowledge of the other party, which told him how to flatter, threaten, and cajole. Carter’s faith was in himself, and in the impression he would create.

The other factor was a subtler thing, though clearly visible in retrospect. I always thought Carter awkward at the deliberate manipulation of symbols, but he was a genius at using a phrase, a gesture, a code word that his listeners assumed to be of greater significance than it was. He led call-and-response like a preacher in a black church; he talked with environmentalists about the sins of the Corps of Engineers; he told the American legion about his family’s three centuries of military service; and he told everyone in back-room meetings that, while he could not promise a single appointment to a single person, « I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the choices I make, » and « I think you’ll agree with what I do 95 percent of the time. » Espying these chunks in the water, each onlooker viewed them as tips of icebergs, indicating vast, hidden extensions below.

I realize now how people were led on by these hints; I was led on myself by the hope that Carter might make sense of the swirl of liberal and conservative sentiment then muddying the political orthodoxy. Never did I feel it more strongly than after my first meeting with Carter, in August 1976, when he was receiving petitioners in Plains. Shortly after I joined the campaign staff, I accompanied a friend and former employer, Ralph Nader, when he went to call on Carter. From 9 P.M. until long past midnight on a steamy summer night, I sat in the back of Carter’s study while Nader delivered a lecture on the way the government works. What Boswell must have felt when Burke and Johnson had their fine moments I thought I was feeling then, as Nader distilled into three hours the lessons of a dozen years. They were not programmatic, or even « liberal, » points, but practical warnings about the way administrations went wrong. Carter must do everything possible to eliminate third-party payment systems, Nader said; they always bust the budget. He must find ways around the unions’ guild mentality if he wanted to put poor teenagers to work and to rebuild the cities. He must control, from his first moment on the job, the way he spent his time, so that when the crises came, as they inevitably would, his other efforts would go on. He must avoid the ancient seductions of foreign affairs, and must constantly search for ways to make the people in government feel that he was looking over their shoulders day after day, encouraging, inspecting, reproving, an ever-present focus for loyalty and healthy fear.

Nader did most of the talking that evening, but when Carter spoke it was to show that he understood. With his complementary examples, his nodded assents, Carter hinted that he might come to office not only with the usual freight of campaign promises but also with the kind of practical sophistication most people acquire only when it is time to retire and write their memoirs. That is the difference with state governors, I remember telling myself in my exhilaration that night. While senators are prancing about with new ideas and noble intentions, governors see what happens when the payroll is met, the program administered, the intention converted to result. The last governor to become President was Franklin Roosevelt, and I told my friends that summer that Carter had at least the same potential to leave the government forever changed by his presence: not by expanding federal responsibilities, as Roosevelt had done, or by continuing the trend of the Great Society, but by transforming the government, as in the 1930s, to reflect the needs of these different times. Franklin Roosevelt radiated confidence, or the illusion of confidence, to a nation ready and eager to be reassured. Jimmy Carter—so I thought—might be able to point out a new political direction to a nation all too ready to be led.

here were other promising signs. When Carter stressed that he had made this work in Georgia, I thought he had learned from hard experience about the perils of organizational life. I thought that, like his mentor Hyman Rickover, or Northrup Parkinson, he would stay one step ahead of staff jealousies, information blockages, monopolization of his time. When I heard him recommend, early in the campaign, junking the mortgage tax deductions I assumed that Carter must have thought deeply about the tax system, deeply enough to understand that the average man lost far more than he gained through this deduction, that he would come out far ahead if it and similar exemptions were removed and the general tax rates lowered. For what other reason would a candidate bring up this subject, knowing how difficult the point is to explain and the uproar it was sure to provoke, unless he envisioned a basic change in the tax system and was ready to teach the public about it?

When I read his famous Law Day speech of 1974 the upbraiding of lawyers that led Hunter S. Thompson to canonize Carter in Rolling Stone, I thought he must understand the excesses of a legal system that siphons off so much of the nation’s talent. I thought he must be aware of the burdens that privilege bring that the nation’s most comfortable and professionalized groups must look beyond their Mercedes and their Perrier.

When Hamilton Jordan was quoted as saying that « this government is going to be run by people you’ve never heard of, » and that if Cyrus Vance should become secretary of state and Zbigniew Brzezinski the national security adviser, the Administration could be considered a failure and he would quit, I thought those close to Carter had reflected on the permanence of the governing groups in Washington, the similarity of their backgrounds, and the success of their self-protection. I thought they understood the importance of bringing in other talented people—other Jimmy Carters, and other Jody Powells.

When Carter spoke about a strong defense, but promised to cut five billion dollars or more from the defense budget, I took it not as campaign hyperbole but as proof that he recognized the danger of setting military budgets by ideology or platitude and the need to base them on case-by-case judgments about threats to our security and ways to respond.

And when I heard Jimmy Carter reflect on his aims and ideas as he did with such refreshing intelligence during the TV interview with Bill Moyers in May 1976 in the less-publicized portions of the notorious Playboy interview, I thought he understood that people recognized frankness, that they would respond to a leader who respected their intelligence and did not talk down to them.

Perhaps this list is a testament to nothing more than my own naivete; but here and there among the items the reader may recognize a signal that he also picked up from listening to Carter, a feeling that he shared. Those memories may be refreshed by looking back to Carter’s first « town meeting » in Clinton, Massachusetts where he demonstrated not only his poise under fire but his ability to make contact, to communicate, to lead. « In his first two months as President, Jimmy Carter has achieved a triumph of communications in the arena of public opinion, » David Broder wrote in the Washington Post after that town meeting. « He has transformed himself from the very shaky winner of a campaign into a very popular President whose mastery of the mass media has given him real leverage with which to govern. »

But by the time Bert Lance resigned as budget director in September 1977, most of the original hopes had departed as well. These weren’t the tips of icebergs we seeing; they were pieces of ice.

he first jarring note was struck after two months in office, when large pay increases were allotted to the White House staff. Many people got a raise just by joining; Carter could have hired everyone for half the starting pay; except for a few lawyers such as Robert Lipshutz and Jack Watson, those entering public service were making no financial sacrifices. I was twenty-seven years old when I started working at the White House. The year before, I had made about $20,000 as a magazine writer. On Inauguration Day, my pay rose by 87.5 percent, to $37,500. Two months later, with the general pay increase, it went up another $5000, to $42,500. After two more unpublicized, automatic, « cost of living » raises, I was earning $47,500 when I resigned at the end of November 1978.

Of all complaints about Carter, overpayment is the most ironic, for he was the most notorious tightwad in town. But it was a sadly typical complaint, for it showed that Carter’s inner values mattered less than his naivete about organizations and the effect of symbolic acts. By going along with the pay increases, Carter gave the clearest possible sign that it would be business as usual in his Administration. His later talk about inflation would be forever undermined by this demonstration that restraint did not start at home. When I traveled around the country speaking on the Administration’s behalf, I knew what one of the first, and most venomous, questions would be: Why should the citizen making $20,000 be taxed to provide a raise for someone making $47,500?

The scene was set for the first raise by a pay increase the Congress had voted for itself and upper-level civil servants. Carter had the choice of accepting it for the White House, deferring or reducing it, or turning it down flat. For advice Carter looked to an « executive committee » made up of the nine top-ranking and highest-paid assistants (Jordan, Powell, Brzezinski, Lipshutz, Watson, Stuart Eizenstat, James Schlesinger, Midge Costanza, and Frank Moore). All nine were making $44,600 and were authorized by the bill to advance to $57,500. Their deliberations were awkward (or so we heard in office gossip), no one eager to be the first to ask for the raise, until Midge Costanza said that she, for one, could use the money. The committee first provided for its own, each member offering to sacrifice $1500 of the authorized $12,900 raise (bringing their salaries to $56,000), and then agreed that those further down the ladder should demonstrate greater restraint. The lower the pay to begin with, the more of the raise would be kicked back. Those who made $37,500, like me, gave up half of a $10,000 raise—and those who made less than $37,500 got no raise at all.

Carter could easily have bullied the executive committee and the rest of the staff into forgoing all the raises. During the primary campaign, when each day’s spending depended on the previous day’s take, Carter had made frugality seem stylish. Staff members boasted about staying in friends’ houses rather than in hotels, and prided themselves on fueling fund-raising parties with peanuts and wine for a fraction of the usual cost. In the more luxurious setting of the White House, the task would be harder, but Carter could have argued the need for symbolic restraint, his own preference for moderation—or simply his discomfort at seeing those who make policy for the nation go from the 98th percentile of income to the 99th. Then he would have demonstrated that economy in government was more than talk; instead, he bred skepticism outside the government and greed within. I charged into Jody Powell’s office when I found out about my $5000 kickback, outraged by this « gyp, » until I realized just what I was saying. From that point on, people making $40,000 and $50,000 succumbed to self-pity because others were making more.

There came other signs that Carter was not alert to bureaucratic perils. If there is any constant in the literature of presidential performance, it is that the President must husband his time. If he is distracted from the big choices by the torrent of petty details, the big choices will not get made—or will be resolved by their own internal logic, not by the wishes of those who have been elected to lead. Carter came into office determined to set a rational plan for his time, but soon showed in practice that he was still the detail-man used to running his own warehouse, the perfectionist accustomed to thinking that to do a job right you must do it yourself. He would leave for a weekend at Camp David laden with thick briefing books, would pore over budget tables to check the arithmetic, and, during his first six months in office, would personally review all requests to use the White House tennis court. (Although he flatly denied to Bill Moyers in his November 1978 interview that he had ever stooped to such labors, the in-house tennis enthusiasts, of whom I was perhaps the most shameless, dispatched brief notes through his secretary asking to use the court on Tuesday afternoons while he was at a congressional briefing, or a Saturday morning, while he was away. I always provided spaces where he could check Yes or No; Carter would make his decision and send the note back, initialed J.)

After six months had passed, Carter learned that this was ridiculous, as he learned about other details he would have to pass by if he was to use his time well. But his preference was still to try to do it all—to complain that he was receiving too many memos and that they were too long, but to act nonetheless on everything that reached his desk. He believed in the clean-desk philosophy. During his first month, he said, « Unless there’s a holocaust, I’ll take care of everything the same day it comes in. » When he moved toward the more usual presidential course—letting his aides worry about the details, and acting on their advice—he neglected the usual corollary, which is that the aide should live or die on the quality of his judgment. His counsel, Robert Lipshutz, examined the comptroller’s report on Bert Lance in August 1977 and told Carter it presented a clean bill of health. At that, Carter flew down from Camp David to say, « Bert, I’m proud of you. » In the lower reaches of the staff, the dismay at Lipshutz’s interpretation was exceeded only by the incredulity that he suffered no visible sanction or remonstrance for his poor advice. Indeed, the criticism Lipshutz received in the press made Powell and Jordan all the more dogged in their defense of him. Lipshutz was one of THEM, one of the southern boys, being persecuted by a hostile northern press.

It often seemed to me that « history, » for Carter and those closest to him, consisted of Vietnam and Watergate; if they could avoid the errors, as commonly understood, of those two episodes, they would score well. No military intervention, no dirty tricks, no tape recorders on the premises, and no « isolation » of the President. When it came to setting up the House, this meant avoiding a recreation of the « Berlin Wall, » the Haldeman-Ehrlichman bulkhead that had blocked out Nixon’s other assistants. Carter stressed that his nine main aides had equal access to him, and that another two dozen people (of whom I was one) had free access in memos, if not in the flesh.

This arrangement reflected not only Carter’s reading of recent history but also his personal style. His affections were constant toward his retinue of loyal helpers: he did not scramble to hire someone with a talent that Powell, Eizenstadt, Jordan, or Rafshoon did not happen to possess. None of them would have made a good chief of staff, so that function simply did not enter into the organization chart. Carter would do it himself, as he would everything else, whether it be the Administration’s long-range planning or improving the grammar in the proclamations we wrote for him. By the end of first year, this system had become more or less workable; everyone had learned whom to call to get a telegram sent, which congressmen to notify when news of a home-town project was released, what speeches were required when Carter took a trip. But a year was wasted as we blindly groped for answers and did for ourselves what a staff coordinator could have done.

The huzzahs that attended Gerald Rafshoon’s arrival in mid-1978 as the man who was going to bring order into the process only highlighted the primitive state of affairs that had prevailed. I had no objections to Rafshoon’s projects, because—contrary perhaps to public impression—they were so elementary and so dearly needed. Soon after Rafshoon arrived, for example, Carter decided to veto a defense bill because of its provision for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Rafshoon made sure that the speechwriters wrote up brief « tallking points » about the veto, and that these were distributed to every official who had a speech to make. Six months earlier, no one would have taken the responsibility for that obviously useful step.

A far graver managerial error was that of « Cabinet government, » another outgrowth of Carter’s truncated historical view. Like no other President since Eisenhower, Carter seemed to think that organizations would run in practice as they did on paper: people would perform their assigned functions and seek no orders; orders, once given, would be carried out; when people were asked to direct specific bureaus or departments their loyalties would still lie with the larger interests of the Administration. Recent history was taken by Carter to prove his point: one of Nixon’s worst sins was his abuse of Cabinet departments—he stacked them with political flunkies and destroyed the secretaries’ control over their own shops. With Watergate over and Nixon deposed, « Cabinet government » became a good-government rallying cry. Carter took up the cry, eagerly accepting a naive book by Stephen Hess which proposed that the secret of efficient government was to give Cabinet secretaries free rein.

The book—and the policy—were wrong because they omitted the necessary caveat: if a President wants to allow Cabinet secretaries full day-to-day control, he must make special, almost daily efforts to find out how that control is being used. Otherwise, when a President declares « hands off the departments, » a depressingly predictable sequence will begin. The White House staff will defer to the departments—until the first big calamity happens. A secretary might play to the department’s constituents rather than the President’s—as Patricia Harris of Housing and Urban Development was suspected of doing with her truculent demands for more money for housing programs. A big scandal might arise—at the General Services Administration, for example, or at Labor or Health, Education and Welfare, where they seem to crop up regularly. A secretary might appear to be building his own empire—as Joseph Califano was suspected of doing at HEW, with his LBJ-like determination that everyone in his department work only for him. Deception, inefficiency, a dozen other ills infecting the various government departments, whatever the origin, will make a President angry. He will feel frustrated, as John Kennedy has been portrayed as feeling when he discovered, during the Cuban missile crisis, that his orders to remove our missiles from Turkey had been ignored. [See note below]. He will feel especially frustrated if, like Carter, he has put extra stress on governmental performance and results. If he cares about his policies and his political future, he will feel compelled to act. He will send in his own people, good loyal people, to « get the job done right. » That is what Richard Nixon did, even after making claims more fulsome than Carter’s about his Cabinet « with the extra dimension, » and it is what Jimmy Carter began doing in 1978. At Camp David he held a session with Cabinet officers and told them to stop freewheeling and start following the White House lead. Hamilton Jordan began holding weekly meetings with Cabinet representatives, and took to dressing down those who had most offended against the company line. Tim Kraft, an old campaign hand, started controlling appointments to the second- and third-level jobs in the departments—appointments which, the first time around, had been left entirely in the secretaries’ hands. The pendulum swung the White House way, as it had so often before.

Note from previous paragraph: This has become a piece of Kennedy-era mythology without solid basis in fact. President Kennedy may have suggested at some time well before the missile crisis that thought be given to removing the missiles from Turkey. It is almost certain, however, that no presidential order was given, and there is no available evidence that a plan for such removal was drawn up before those Six Days in October 1962. More than mere time was wasted; all the relationships were poisoned by the clumsy experiment of the first several months. Department officials began to think of the White House as the enemy, not as a source of patronage. In turn, those in the White House blamed their problems on evil people in the departments, not on foreseeable, preventable bureaucratic trends. Cabinet secretaries were judged more and more on their personal styles. The hot dogs, the show-offs—Califano, Harris, Blumenthal—came to be detested for those qualities. When preparing for a bill-signing ceremony involving HEW, I asked whether Califano would attend. « He never does anything for us, » Rafshoon said. « Why should we do something for him? » The warmth was reserved for such men as Cyrus Vance and Harold Brown, whose departments were so inherently strong that they could afford to be modest, self-effacing gentlemen, tugging deferentially at their forelocks and seeming embarrassed when the spotlight fell on them.

here was one other indication that Carter had missed a familiar lesson about the management of his time. No matter what his original intentions, foreign problems were sure to preoccupy him deeply. Like every other President who has served since the United States became a world power, he would inevitably be drawn into the whirlpool of foreign affairs. Already on his desk when he arrived were the SALT negotiations, the Middle East tensions, accommodation with China, eruptions in Africa, and the chronic economic pressures imposed by the oil-producing nations and our ever-richer allies. Additional crises would make these more, not less, demanding as his term wore on.

There were also the familiar allurements of foreign affairs: the trips on fabulous Air Force One, the flourishes, twenty-one-gun salutes, and cheering multitudes along the motorcade routes. More important was the freedom to negotiate with foreign leaders without constant interference or nit-picking from congressmen and senators, the heady dips into worldly secrets in rooms lined with lead to protect against eavesdroppers—all the excitement and trappings that go with dealing in momentous global matters that can mean life or death for all mankind.

But Carter was not only preoccupied by the serious international problems that lay before him; he—and those around him—became virtually transfixed by them. The President seemed to foresee neither the temptations nor the demands of foreign policy, nor the ways to prevent them from stealing his concentration away from other pressing business of his office. As he grew more deeply involved in his international human rights campaign, the Panama Canal negotiations, the delicacy of detente with Russia, and especially his quest for peace in the Middle East, his efforts on the domestic front suffered from his inattention. Returning from a triumphal journey to Nigeria or Germany, his eyes would noticeably glaze as he forced himself to discuss such a matter as reorganization of the Commerce Department. The exhilaration that followed the Camp David agreement seemed to dull even further his appetite for home affairs. Next on his plate after Camp David was the most pressing domestic issue of all—inflation—but he appeared bored and impatient through high-level deliberations over what to do about it, unhappy with the half steps his advisers served up, and plainly eager to return to shaping international history.

uring the first year came other indications that Carter did not really know what he wanted to do in such crucial areas as taxes, welfare, energy, and the reorganization of the government. In each of these areas, Carter’s passionate campaign commitments turned out to be commitments to generalities, not to specific programs or policies. After taking office, he commissioned panels of experts to tell him what to do, usually giving them instructions no more detailed than his repeated exhortation to « Be bold! »

Carter had said during the campaign that he would develop a national energy plan, and in his first fireside chat he said that James Schlesinger would come up with one within ninety days. Later, Carter came to understand that strict deadlines, while occasionally useful for prodding the bureaucracy, could also be destructive, in that they might force him to go ahead with half-baked ideas. He learned that through the example of the energy plan. Pleading urgency, Schlesinger obtained Carter’s permission to work in total secrecy. Neither anyone else on the White House staff nor members of the Congress could pry information from him. For some matters, this approach made sense; there were technical answers to such questions as how much solar energy could be produced. But the major decisions about energy were political, not technical: who would bear what part of the burden, where the balance would be set between producer and consumer, the environment and fuel production. If Carter himself had no clear predisposition on questions, then any rush project should have been directed not by technicians but by politicians, who could balance the different interests, argue over deals, see just where the compromises must be made. Instead, Schlesinger developed his technically plausible energy plan in a political vacuum, submitting it to the scrutiny of Carter’s other advisers and the members of Congress only after all the basic choices had been made. To Carter and Schlesinger, solving the energy problem must originally have seemed like solving a cube root. Once they had the right answer, they thought their work would be done.

I reserved my highest hopes for tax reform; in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, Carter said that all his life he had heard about tax reform, but somehow it never happened. This time it was going to happen—and we could depend on it.

As the plan took shape, Carter gave firm instructions to the Treasury; he had learned his lesson about dangers of deadlines and the need for political consultation. The deadline was delayed time and again as Carter sent the Treasury back to the drawing board. Secretary Blumenthal sent out feelers to the tax committees in Congress as Carter prepared to make final choices. But when the plan was unveiled and suffered immediate shelling from the likes of Senator Russell Long and Representative Al Ullman, Carter reacted as if this were an inexplicable development, rather than one that could have been foreseen, and prepared for, from the very start. In his talk with Nader, Carter had said that he could never sell a tax reform or a governmental reorganization if he tried to do it piecemeal, since the 5 percent of the people who would suffer from each change would be more dogged in their opposition than the 95 percent who might benefit. He seemed to forget all that when the time came to explain his tax plan to the public or sell it on Capitol Hill.

Carter, who was able to learn from experience in a once-burned, twice-shy way, showed no inclination to prevent the burns by seeking associates who had been there before. Nowhere was he surer to need help than in his dealings with the Congress. His experience there was minimal, his campaign tone had been hostile, his skin crawled at the thought of the time-consuming consultations and persuasion that might be required to bring a legislator around. He did not know how congressmen talked, worked, and thought, how to pressure them without being a bully or flatter them without seeming a fool. He needed help from someone who knew all those things, who had spent time absorbing that culture. But for his congressional liaison, he chose a Georgian named Frank Moore, a man whose general aptitude was difficult for anyone outside the first circle to detect, and who had barely laid eyes upon the Capitol before Inauguration Day.

lthough Carter himself wakes up each morning popping with ideas, very few others in the Administration have been induced by him or by themselves to feel any passion to do. Most of the « Georgians, » those who have been with Carter long enough to feel a personal commitment to his success, owe their first loyalty to the welfare and advancement of Jimmy Carter. In that they are little different from JFK’s Irish Mafia, or LBJ’s Texas Rangers, or any other group that has ever served a President. What makes them different is that they seem to have nothing in second place, no axes they are particularly eager to grind in their years in government. If there has been little abuse of power, it may be because they have so little sense of what power is and how it might be exercised. For at least two years, there was virtually no interest in using the power of patronage to create a network of loyalty toward or service to the President throughout the executive branch. On the contrary, the intimate Carter hands looked on such networks as the DAR might look, less eager to make new friends than to enjoy the honor of having been there at the start.

In other administrations, there have been assistants whose interest in policy was faint—Dave Powers for Kennedy, Pa Watson for Roosevelt, Marvin Watson for LBJ—but this time there is almost no one at the upper level (apart from Eizenstat and Brzezinski, the designated hitters for policy) with a serious interest in how the public’s business is performed. It is as if the entire staff consisted of Pa or Marvin Watsons, devoted to nothing more than what their boss has decided to do. In the White House mess, on the airplane rides, around the halls, there might be desultory talk about the importance of the Panama Canal vote or how much The Boss wanted welfare reform, but it was mainly talk about personalities, gossip, items of substance that were interesting only because Carter had said they interested him. In two years in the government, I had not one serious or impassioned discussion with a member of the senior staff about what all those countless government programs meant, which of them, if any, really worked, how the government might be changed. I think it must have been different in other days.

I do not particularly admire people who can say, as Jack Valenti did in his silly book A Very Human President, that « working on the White House staff is the ultimate seduction, » but I came to think that emotion of that sort might be a necessary ingredient for getting the job done. There was so little of that glimmer and drive in this White House that I began to realize that the absence of passion was as serious a weakness as the lack of sophistication.

I started to wonder about the difference between a good man and an inspiring one; about why Jimmy Carter, who would surely outshine most other leaders in the judgment of the Lord, had such trouble generating excitement, not only in the nation but even among the members of his own staff. One explanation is that Carter has not given us an idea to follow. The central idea of the Carter Administration is Jimmy Carter himself, his own mixture of traits, since the only thing that finally gives coherence to the items of his creed is that he happens to believe them all. Hubert Humphrey might have carried out Lyndon Johnson’s domestic policies; Gerald Ford, the foreign policies of Richard Nixon. But no one could carry out the Carter program, because Carter has resisted providing the overall guidelines that might explain what his program is.

I came to think that Carter believes fifty things, but no one thing. He holds explicit, thorough positions on every issue under the sun, but he has no large view of the relations between them, no line indicating which goals (reducing unemployment? human rights?) will take precedence over which (inflation control? a SALT treaty?) when the goals conflict. Spelling out these choices makes the difference between a position and a philosophy, but it is an act foreign to Carter’s mind. He is a smart man but not an intellectual in the sense of liking the play of ideas, of pushing concepts to their limits to examine their implications. Values that others would find contradictory complement one another in his mind. During the campaign, he used to say that our nation was the first to provide « complete compatability » between liberty and equality. This pained me more than anything else he said. I sent him notes and told him in person that these two terms were like city and country, heaven and hell: the tensions between them shape much of American society. But Carter continued to make the same statement, and I realized it was not because he was vulgarizing his ideas for the crowd, but because he genuinely believed what he said.

Carter thinks in lists, not arguments; as long as items are there, their order does not matter, nor does the hierarchy among them. Whenever he gave us an outline for a speech, it would consist of six or seven subjects (« inflation, » « need to fight waste ») rather than a theme or tone. His Inaugural address, which he wrote almost entirely by himself, is an illustration of this approach and a prime example of his style. Whenever he edited a speech, he did so to cut out the explanatory portions and add « meat » in the form of a list of topics. One speech, before a hostile crowd in Houston was first conceived as a defense of his energy policy. At the last moment, Carter sent in two lists, from which we were to restructure the speech. The first was entitled « What We Will Do, » and included: « 1) defense capability second to none: 2) cut down govern regulation—write in plain English—make authors sign. 3) fight inflation—protect budget from waste spending—working with Congress but veto if necessary! 4) balance budget 5) cut taxes 6) reform welfare system 7) civil service reform—veterans preference 8) Turkey arms embargo, NATO southern flank 9) SALT-CTB-NATO 10) improve cities, education, agriculture (exports). »

The second list was entitled « What We’ve Done » « 1) cut unemployment— +5 1/2 million jobs since 1/77 2) Dept. of Energy 3) begun reorganization 4) NATO strengthened 5) human rights 6) agriculture bill. »

or certain aspects of his job—the analyst and manager parts—Carter’s method serve him well. He makes decisions about solar power installations and the B-1 on the basis of output, payload, facts, not abstract considerations. But for the part of his job that involves leadership, Carter’s style of thought cripples him. He thinks he « leads » by choosing the correct policy; but he fails to project a vision larger than the problem he is tackling at the moment.

In domestic policy, this caused frustration, since it thwarted all attempts to explain a domestic philosophy. In foreign policy, it opened the door to genuine tragedy, for it left Carter unable to defend the course he had taken. Carter did not choose the circumstances in which he operates: our dependence on foreign oil, our economic vulnerability to our allies, the resistance to military intervention left over from Vietnam. Under these difficult circumstances, he has tried to set a steady, prudent policy, keeping his eye on our real national interest, not acting out of bluff or bravado, steadfastly pursuing the things that we need and ignoring those that we don’t or that we can’t control. The policy should win him respect: but because Carter cannot explain what he is doing, he is an easy mark for a Moynihan or a Reagan or a Connally who can speak with passion about the decline of American power. Jimmy Carter’s oratorical failures could come to discredit a « restrained » foreign policy as thoroughly as (and more tragically than) George McGovern’s « demogrant » proposal discredited further inquiry into the guaranteed annual income.

The clearest example of this difficulty was Carter’s speech at the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1978. The speech was intended to set the record straight on U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union, which was then very muddied because of the varied comments coming from Brzezinski and Vance. It was widely, and correctly, assumed that there were two different outlooks within Government, Vance’s emphasis on a SALT treaty and Brzezinsky’s habitual pugnaciousness in the face of the Soviet Union. Vance had sent a memo to Carter arguing the need for a presidential speech to explain Policy; Carter agreed and asked Brzezinski, Vance, Andrew Young, Stansfield Turner, and several other advisers to submit memos suggesting the tone and content of the speech.

Carter then assembled the speech essentially by stapling Vance’s memo to Brzezinski’s, without examining the tensions between them. When he finished rewording the memos, the speech was done. It had an obvious break in the middle, like the splice in a film; as one newsman who had read the advance text said, after hearing Carter come to the end of the conciliatory material and move into the Brzezinski section, « And now—War! » The Washington Post’s story the next morning was titled « Two Different Speeches, » an accurate and obvious interpretation, but one that galled Carter and those around him. Hadn’t he laid it all out for them, all the elements of his thought, all his views? What more could they want?

Carter’s problems as an explainer were compounded by his tendency to talk down to his audience. He didn’t do this when speaking extemporaneously—at those times he used words from the engineering books and Brzezinski’s fanciest theories—but he couldn’t avoid it in his prepared speeches. While working on the first fireside chat, I received a lecture from the President. I should not use words such as « cynical, » because average people wouldn’t understand them. Carter said that whenever he worked on a speech he thought of a man at a certain gas station in Georgia (not his brother). If that man couldn’t understand it, it should be changed. Instead of « cynical, » I should use the word « callous. » « Working people understand callouses. They see their hands get hard. »

The sentiment was admirable but too broad. When simplifying words Carter too often simplified ideas as well. I always thought the public could tell the difference between a clear, simple image—such as Franklin Roosevelt’s garden hose to symbolize Lend-Lease—and a deceptively simple thought. When they heard Carter’s constant talk of harmony, respect among nations, happy times at home, the men at the gas stations knew they were hearing less than the full truth.

Nor did he distinguish among the audiences he had to address. For some—but only a few—of his televised appeals, it was important that a speech be understood by every hearer. In most other cases, that was a false goal. In a television interview in 1960, Walter Lippmann said that an effective President « must be articulate. He must be able to talk in language which is not the lowest common denominator, but the best. What you must lead in the country are the best of the country and they will carry it on down. There’s no use of the President trying to talk down to a fellow who can just about read and write. Let somebody else do that. He must talk to the people who teach the man to read and write. » I came to believe very deeply in a hierarchy of information and attitudes. Once an idea took hold in the serious magazines and the editorial pages, it would make its way down through the news columns, the reports in Time and Newsweek, and eventually to the television commentators, who shape most people’s view of public affairs. In many cases, the real audience for a speech should be not the 5000 people who are present for the occasion but the editors, academics, politicians, and columnists who will read the text and adjust their view of the President accordingly. Such speeches are the best, sometimes the only, way a President can show that he understands the complications in his policies, the problems ahead, the hard questions that have been raised about his course. Except for one or two speeches on foreign policy—where he was more willing in general to buy the conventional wisdom than he was in domestic affairs—Carter never consented to such speeches.

ll these oratorical problems were made worse by his refusal to learn how to speak. By his natural gifts, Carter is a good off-the-cuff speaker and a poor formal orator, and he never bestirred himself to improve in either way. It seemed to me the height of arrogance that Carter refused oral practice before his campaign debates against Gerald Ford.

To the day I left the White House, he never really practiced a speech—not in the sense of subjecting his performance to the scrutiny of others and letting them say plainly how he must change. Before a big speech, Carter would read through the text once or twice—once into a little cassette tape recorder he could play back to himself, once with the TV lights on, after which Jerry Rafshoon would say, « That was good, » or « Go a little slower. » One of Carter’s excuses for not practicing more was that his voice wore out, and three or four rehearsals would have left him unable to deliver the speech. The first lesson in any speech class is that hoarseness indicates a strained speaking style; barring illness, it is a sign all by itself that the style should be changed. The correction is easy, but not until you admit you might be doing it wrong. John Kennedy’s hour of practice to get Ich bin ein Berliner down straight was embarrassing to him, revealing too clearly the limits of his linguistic gift. But Kennedy spent that hour, and while the practice is forgotten, the phrase lives on. When we prepared a German couplet (« Alle Menschen werden Brüder wo dein sanffter Flügel weilt, » from Schiller’s « Ode to Joy » ) for Carter’s speech in Bonn, he had the interpreter, Harry Obst, read it into a cassette, which Carter could listen to by himself, in his cabin at the front of the plane, and practice without Obst there to tell him he was doing it wrong. As a result, the couplet, perhaps the most famous in all of German letters left the crowd looking around in puzzlement about what the American President was trying to say.

hrough most of my last year at the White House, I kept asking myself, Why should a man as well-meaning and intelligent as Carter blithely forgo the lessons of experience and insist on rediscovering fire, the lever, the wheel? Why not temper the fresh view he brought with the practiced knowledge of those who had passed this way before? Why, in a man whose language was peppered with « bold » and « competent » and « superb, » was there so little passion to learn how to do the job?

The first clue to the solution of these questions was Carter’s cast of mind: his view of problems as technical, not historical, his lack of curiosity about how the story turned out before. He wanted to analyze the « correct » answer, not to understand the intangible irrational forces that had skewed all previous answers. When he spoke of cleaning up the bureaucracy, he spoke like a Peace Corps volunteer explaining hygiene in Malaysia, imagining that such scientific insights had never occurred to the listeners before. When he said that, this time, tax reform was going to happen, it was not because he had carefully studied the tales of past failures and learned how to surmount them, but because he had ignored them so totally as to thinks his approach had never been tried. In two years the only historical allusions I heard Carter use with frequency were Harry Truman’s rise from the depths of the polls and the effect of Roosevelt’s New Deal on the southern farm. The rest of Roosevelt’s record, especially his style of educating the public and getting the most out of his employees, was uncharted territory to the leaders of the Administration. Once, at dinner, Jody Powell was drawn into bitter argument with of my historically minded friends. As Powell fulminated against the sins and arrogance of reporters, my friend warned him that people would think of him as another Spiro Agnew if he went on that way. « We weren’t here then, » Powell replied—and Powell, who was a graduate student in history and who prides himself on his Civil War scholarship, is the most sensitive to history of all those around the President.

Carter occasionally read history—he loved David McCullough’s book on the Panama Canal—but history had not become a part of him. Shortly before I left, I was startled to see, in Carter’s private study, shelves crammed with books on American history. Later I read that he had decided history was important, and that he needed a better background for his job. This realization came at the same time as did many others—about Cabinet government, the need for staff coordination, the value of Washington’s old hands. Half of one term had been wasted before Carter absorbed what I had thought he knew on the first day.

There was a second clue, more obvious during the first year, when Carter’s southernness was still novel. Beneath the jokes about peanuts and grits lurked the notion of the southerner as moron; Carter was determined to prove that he and his associates had not stepped straight out of Dogpatch. During the campaign, he had enjoyed receiving the busloads of eastern experts, wrinkled and cranky after the three-hour ride from Atlanta to Plains—knowing that they’d tell their friends at Brookings and Harvard about the brilliance of the simple country boy, knowing also that they’d call him a dumb southern redneck when he made his first mistake.

The Georgians saw this prejudice behind every fight—in the use of the phrase « the Georgians, » brother Billy’s rise as the stereotypical idiot from the south, and, most of all, in the savagery visited upon Bert Lance. Between the two levels of the Administration, there was very little discussion of Lance. Those on the lower tier—non-southerners, mainly, careerists who would be in Washington when Carter was long gone—gossiped among themselves about how many days Lance had left. Those on the upper tier—Georgians, Lance’s friends—grumbled among themselves about how unfair it all was. Bert was being destroyed, they knew, because he was an outsider who had not changed his southern ways. Jody Powell immediately, and intelligently, apologized for his attempt to discredit Lance’s accuser, Charles Percy, but he privately felt that he, like Lance, had been a victim of the insiders’ game. His story about Percy accepting rides on a corporate aircraft was wrong, but just a little wrong, Powell felt; he had only missed a few of the details. But because Percy was an insider while Powell and Lance were not as yet, the press ate the southerners alive. Frank Moore’s problems, too, were written off to anti-southern snobbery. Although it was hard to deny the evidence of Moore’s repeated missteps, this was an officially unmentionable topic at the White House, like Hamilton Jordan’s early comments about Vance and Brzezinski, and Carter’s promise to cut the defense budget. Powell and Jordan defended him with angry, knee-jerk loyalty, for Moore, unlike his critics, and unlike the sneering members of the junior staff, was one of them. His survival was part of the South’s survival; together, all who had come from Georgia would prove they could do it their way.

Like this southern defensiveness, Carter’s notion of populism and privilege gave him a reason to resist learning things in the usual way. His « populism » was no straightforward sentiment. He was more comfortable with businessmen and bankers than with the community organizers who protested against them; when he vacationed on St. Simons Island at the home of Smith Bagley, the Reynolds tobacco heir, he felt completely at ease. His « populism » was reflected in his pride, even arrogance, about having seen all sides of life close-up in his small town, and in his disdain for the elite, « socially prominent » (a favorite phrase) professionals whose privilege shielded them from such knowledge. At one meeting on welfare reform, he dressed down a team of experts from HEW who were lecturing him about the unemployability of the underclass. These were the people he had lived with, Carter said; they may not have been educated, some may have been lazy and drunk, but most of them understood the meaning of dignity, self-sufficiency, and work. No one could miss Carter’s real message: unlike anyone else in the room, he was talking about people he had seen.

o group better exemplified what Carter despised than the Washington mandarins—the Cliffords, Califanos, Valentis, and Kissingers—who had come to do good and stayed to do well. Before joining Carter’s Cabinet, Califano was making half a million dollars yearly as a lawyer, Valenti, nearly that much at the Motion Picture Association. They had their names in the society columns and their children in private schools; they protected each other with networks of mutual support. Joseph Alsop might be discredited in journalism, but not in Washington, because he was a charming guest at Katharine Graham’s. The Iranian ambassador lost his job and his country, but he would never lack for friends in Washington because of the years of caviar and champagne.

These were the people Carter was talking about when he told the Democratic convention that « too many have had to suffer at the hands of a political and economic elite who have shaped decisions and never had to account for mistakes or suffer from injustice. » They happened also to be the people who knew how Washington worked.

Carter was right in railing against their insularity; I attributed much of his success in the primaries to the voters’ suspicion that there was a conspiracy of self-protection at work in the capital. But the insiders were right to scoff at him, for they understood how much he did not know. His problem as he took office was like China’s on the eve of modernization: how to get the technical know-how without accepting the cultural detritus, how to get the steel mills without the discos, the computers without Larry Flynt. Carter needed the insiders’ wisdom about the power game if he was to succeed in office—but he needed to remember why he, instead of one of them, had been elected. maintaining this balance required a keen awareness of how much he needed to acquire, and an even keener sense of what he needed to avoid. The tragedy of Jimmy Carter was that he knew neither.

At the start of the Administration, as in the general election campaign, Carter and his captains felt omniscient; they had done what no one else had know how to do. Why should they take pains to listen to those who had designed the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Great Society? The town was theirs for the taking; it would have required nothing more than allowing the old warriors a chance to help. But Powell and Jordan and Carter let these people know that they could go to hell. Where had they been, with all their sage advice, when the campaign was out of money and no one knew who Jimmy Carter was? What were they doing when Carter was drawing crowds of ten and twenty in tiny Iowa towns? Spite is an expensive luxury in government, but Carter thought he could afford it, not realizing then how badly his operating account would soon be overdrawn.

Carter paid the price for this arrogance with the blunders of the first year; then, burned enough, he began reaching out. Clark Clifford became Lance’s champion; Anne Wexler and Robert Strauss joined the White House staff. There were informal brainstorming sessions with those who had been though all the cycles before. But Carter’s people made the second mistake, forgetting what made them different at the start.

Ten days after I left the White House, I went to a Redskins game in Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Across the field, in the box of Redskins owner Edward Bennett Williams, sat a casual sampling of Washington’s permanent ruling groups—the Post’s editor, Benjamin Bradlee, Joe Califano, Senator Muskie, Art Buchwald, other friends. Next to Williams sat someone new to the scene: Hamilton Jordan, wearing a suit. If he had been there two years earlier, it would have been a cheering sign that the outsiders knew how to get what they needed. Coming when it did, it made me think that the earlier hostility had been more defensive reverse snobbery. Now that Carter’s people were sure they’d be accepted, they were glad to join the club.

That same week, President Carter granted a second television interview to Bill Moyers. In the first, in May 1976, everything that was new and original in Carter’s intelligence had come across like a fresh breeze. This time, Carter sounded like all the grizzled veterans he had defeated in 1976. Moyers asked him about inflation, and whether the fight against it wouldn’t throw people out of work—the poor, the black, those most recently employed. The Carter of the first interview would have said, of course, that was true, that the agony of the job lay in choosing between such evils. This time, after two years in office, Carter answered « no »—fighting inflation would not cost people their jobs, the question was simply wrong. It was the sort of answer other politicians might have given, because, having now seen what they saw before, Carter had grown like them in basic ways. never again would he preach sweeping tax reform, scorn incrementalism, pretend that the government could be changed. Like Hamilton Jordan, he was ill prepared to maintain what was best in him while learning what he needed to know.

hese clues told me part of the answer, but there was one part missing, the most fundamental of them all. Carter’s willful ignorance, his blissful tabula rasa, could—to me—be explained only by a combination of arrogance, complacency, and—dread thought—insecurity at the core of his mind and soul.

For a while, I thought the arrogance was the unfortunate by-product of life in a small town. If his secure position and effortless supremacy in Plains had made Carter calmer than Nixon or Kennedy, it seemed also to have given him too high an estimation of his own gifts. It would have helped him to have spent a little while in a law firm in Boston, or with a movie company in Los Angeles, or as a broker in New York, to acquire that edge of neurosis and compulsion to get the best ideas out of the people on his staff. That Jimmy Carter would have been a less pleasant person; a different background might have denied him the very traits that are now his greatest strength. But it might also have made new ideas seem crucial to him; it would not have left him satisfied, as the real Jimmy Carter too often is, with what burbles up in the usual bureaucratic fashion and with the people who happen to come to hand. In Plains, he had run the business himself, relied entirely upon himself. He did not need to search constantly for people to push and test him, because his unpushed abilities were good enough.

This characteristic could be called complacency—the last word one associates with the Jimmy Carter of the speed-reading lessons, the carefully timed jogs around the South Lawn, the typed-up list of the classical music he will be listening to during the day. But while Carter accepts challenges to his ideas and is pleased to improve his mind, he stubbornly, complacently resists attempts to challenge his natural style.

t some stage in our lives, we learn to depend on others for the challenges that will make us do our best—or we manage to resist those challenges while privately correcting our defects. I shrink before the prospect of pop psychology from a journalist, but it seemed to me that things were so ordered in Jimmy Carter’s universe that he never faced such challenges.

Carter has virtually no one in the White House with the right combination of age, experience, and personal standing to challenge him seriously. Robert Lipshutz is gentle and unassertive; Robert Strauss knows the sources of his power and the limits of his role; Walter Mondale assents to Carter’s preference for harmony above all other virtues; Zbigniew Brzezinski marvels to the President about his fresh and powerful insight into complicated foreign issues. That is why I thought it a tragedy that Bert Lance had to leave; in my one brush with footnote-history, playing tennis with Lance, Carter, and Jordan the day that Lance resigned, I could see that Lance behaved with Carter in a way that no one else could. They were friends, who jabbed and teased with as much equality as is possible when one of the friends is President. Carter’s only peers now are his wife, Rosalynn, who has given no sign of thinking that anything her husband might do could be wrong, and Charles Kirbo, who stops by for a visit every few weeks.

Those who are close enough to Carter to speak to him frankly—Powell, Jordan, Rafshoon, perhaps Moore—either believe so totally in the rightness of his style, or are so convinced that it will never change, that they never bother to suggest that he spend his time differently, deal with people differently, think of his job in a different way. Even that handful speaks to him in tones more sincerely deferential than those the underlings use. No one outside this handful ever has an opportunity to shoot the breeze with Carter, to talk with no specific purpose and no firm limit on time.

If he persists in walling himself off from challenge and disorder, Jimmy Carter will ensure that great potential is all he’ll ever have. Teaching himself by trial and error, refusing to look ahead, Carter stumbles toward achievements that might match his abilities and asks us to respect him because his intentions be been good. I grant him that respect, but know the root of my disappointment. I thought we were getting a finished work, not a handsome block of marble that the chisel never touched.

What do you think? Discuss this article in the Politics & Society conference of Post & Riposte.

James Fallows, chief White House speechwriter for President Carter’s first two years in office, is Washington editor of The Atlantic. Copyright © 1979 by James Fallows. All rights reserved. The Atlantic Monthly; May 1979; Vol. 243, No. 5; pp. 33-48.


Primaires républicaines: Faites confiance, mais vérifiez (Trust but verify: Republicans need to adopt Reagan’s approach as Donald Trump moves closer to the Republican nomination)

4 mars, 2016

SocietyNous avons écouté la sagesse d’une vieille maxime russe. Même si je ne garantis pas ma prononciation, la maxime est ‘Doveryai pas proveryai’, ‘Faites confiance, mais vérifiez’.  Ronald Reagan (1987)
Reagan was the only politician I ever met who really wanted to know not, ‘What did the Kremlin think?’ but, ‘What did the Russians think?’ No one had ever told the president of the United States that the Russians were religious. I think that humanized the Russians for him in a way that he could understand. (…) I think it was perhaps the most important thing I told him. (…) I was having lunch with Mr. Reagan and Mrs. Reagan jst before Reijkiavik (…) I said: ‘You know the Russians often like to talk in proverbs and there’s one that might be useful. “You’re an actor, you can learn it in a minute, ‘Trust, but verify.’ And he leaped on it and so did Mrs. Reagan. And then he made it a hit and it has passed into the American lexicon. Suzanne Massie
Ultimately, perhaps more so than anywhere in the world, actions will matter more than words. In the case of the Assad regime, President Reagan’s old adage about “Trust but verify” – “Doveryai no proveryai,” I think, is the saying – that is in need of an update. And we have committed here to a standard that says, “Verify and verify.” John Kerry
Je suis convaincu que si cet accord-cadre mène à un accord total et définitif, notre pays, nos alliés et le monde seront plus en sécurité. L’Iran sera « plus inspecté que n’importe quel autre pays dans le monde. Si l’Iran triche, le monde le saura. Si nous voyons quelque chose de louche, nous mènerons des inspections.  Cet accord n’est pas basé sur la confiance, il est basé sur des vérifications sans précédent. Barack Hussein Obama
Mes feuilles d’impôt sont extrêmement compliquées. Donald Trump
Donald Trump cache une bombe dans sa déclaration de revenus. Je pense qu’il y a quelque chose là. Soit il est loin d’être aussi riche qu’il le dit, soit il n’a pas payé le niveau d’impôts que nous devrions attendre de lui. Peut-être qu’il n’a pas donné de l’argent aux anciens combattants ou aux personnes handicapées, comme il le prétend. Vous savez, on est à présent mi-février et nous n’avons toujours pas vu les déclarations de revenus de Donald Trump, Marco Rubio ou Ted Cruz. Chaque fois qu’il est interrogé sur le sujet de ses impôts, il élude et remet à plus tard en disant : ‘On y travaille’». Les électeurs ont le droit de voir ces déclarations d’impôts avant de décider qui devrait être le candidat investi par le parti. Mitt Romney
The weakness in our key political institutions is bipartisan. The Republicans are suffering from an establishment power vacuum that has allowed a demagogue to very nearly take control of the party; and the Democratic establishment, constantly trailed by an air of scandal and suspicion, is unable to engender much enthusiasm from its base. It’s still not clear which of the two parties will win the demolition derby that the 2016 election has become. But it’s looking more and more that no matter which party ‘wins’ this bizarre election contest, the clear loser is the United States. Walter Russell Mead
Our political system is in deep trouble, and while one can think of some procedural fixes that could help (superdelegates on the Republican side, stronger and more impartial enforcement of government rules on information security and conflict of interest in the case of the Clinton machine) the real problems are more dangerous and harder to treat: A moral and spiritual collapse that has frayed the bonds between the country’s ordinary people and those who seek to lead them, a hollowing out of institutions from Congress and political parties to local churches and civic life, and the disintegration of a shared national intellectual and cultural framework for discussing the issues that confront us. As we approach a critical presidential election at a time of global turmoil and disorder, the state of our union is not strong.Qu’on se souvienne des présidentielles de 2000 – Bush avait été un étudiant pas très assidu, quoique diplômé de la prestigieuse université de Yale; mais il avait été bambocheur et buveur – la grande presse faisait florès du moindre verre de whisky jamais avalé. Aujourd’hui, elle passe au microscope le moindre pas de la famille Palin, et s’acharne à trouver tous les poux du monde dans la tête du gouverneur de l’Alaska. Les media se sont transformées en une machine à faire élire Obama, qui est donc à la fois le candidat du Parti démocrate et du Parti de la presse. Laurent Murawiec
Dans ce contexte local plus que trouble, Peraica affirme que la montée au firmament d’Obama n’a pu se faire « par miracle ». (…) « La presse a protégé Barack Obama comme un petit bébé. Elle n’a pas sorti les histoires liées à ses liens avec Rezko », s’indigne Peraica. Le Figaro
Ce n’est peut-être pas une bonne chose pour l’Amérique, mais une très bonne affaire pour CBS. Sérieusement, qui aurait pu espérer la campagne que nous avons actuellement ? L’argent continue d’affluer et c’est marrant (…) Je n’ai jamais vu quelque chose comme ça, et cette année va être très bonne pour nous. C’est terrible à dire mais continue Donald, continue ! Leslie Moonves (PDG de CBS)
Ronald Reagan famously said that “trust, but verify” was the proper way to deal with someone who has a record of credibility problems. Republicans need to adopt Reagan’s approach as Donald Trump moves closer to the Republican nomination. A political party that didn’t demand the public release of Donald Trump’s tax returns could be committing electoral suicide. In his 40-year business career, he has assembled an empire of great complexity along with a serial record of credibility problems. In other words, he often “makes stuff up.” This is a man who said, under oath, in a 2008 libel suit he later lost: “My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with the markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings.” The federal candidate financial-disclosure forms Trump points reporters to are not audited for accuracy or completeness. Republican voters, GOP officials, and all Americans should demand that Donald Trump release his tax returns, something he refuses to do with the flimsiest of excuses. If he doesn’t release them, no one should be surprised if a leak of the juiciest details comes from the Obama administration before the November election. John Fund

Et si enfin on écoutait Reagan ?

A l’heure où entre l’irresponsabilité intéressée de médias majoritairement de gauche et le refus suicidaire des candidats républicains de sacrifier leur ambition personnelle pour le bien de leur pays et de leur parti …

Rien ne semble désormais capable d’arrêter, tant la révolte gronde d’une bonne partie du peuple américain face à bientôt huit ans d’imposture Obama,  un rouleau compresseur Trump qui n’a pourtant toujours pas tenu sa promesse de révéler un bilan fiscal que tout le monde devine bien en deçà de tout soupçon …

Pendant que du côté démocrate, les questions se multiplient sur la fiabilité de Madame Clinton

Comment ne pas voir avec la National Review et entre catastrophe réalisée (Obama) et catastrophe annoncée (Trump) …

La nécessité plus forte que jamais d’appliquer la fameuse phrase fétiche de Reagan empruntée, via sa conseillère Suzanne Massie, à la sagesse proverbiale russe …

Et si ignomineusement détournée trente ans plus tard on le sait tant par le secrétaire d’Etat John Kerry avec l’affaire des armes chimiques syriennes que par le président Obama sur l’accord nucléaire iranien

« Faites confiance, mais vérifiez » ?

If Trump Won’t Release Tax Returns, His Delegates Should Abstain on First Ballot
John Fund

National Review

March 3, 2016

Ronald Reagan famously said that “trust, but verify” was the proper way to deal with someone who has a record of credibility problems. Republicans need to adopt Reagan’s approach as Donald Trump moves closer to the Republican nomination.

A political party that didn’t demand the public release of Donald Trump’s tax returns could be committing electoral suicide. In his 40-year business career, he has assembled an empire of great complexity along with a serial record of credibility problems. In other words, he often “makes stuff up.” This is a man who said, under oath, in a 2008 libel suit he later lost: “My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with the markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings.”

The federal candidate financial-disclosure forms Trump points reporters to are not audited for accuracy or completeness.

Republican voters, GOP officials, and all Americans should demand that Donald Trump release his tax returns, something he refuses to do with the flimsiest of excuses. If he doesn’t release them, no one should be surprised if a leak of the juiciest details comes from the Obama administration before the November election. And the odds that anyone in the government would pay a penalty for that? Ask Lois Lerner, the comfortably retired former IRS official at the heart of the scandal involving discrimination against conservative non-profit groups.

“Most returns of his are probably offers rather than final positions,” David Herzog, a tax-law professor at Valparaiso University, told the Wall Street Journal. “I would guess that Trump did not start cleaning up how he reported his income [before deciding to run]. His past returns are probably a treasure trove.” That means a trove for Democrats in the fall. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s tax returns were relatively straightforward for someone who was rich, but he was nonetheless savaged over them both before and after he belatedly released them six weeks before the election.

“A candidate has a moral obligation to his supporters and staff not to have them blindsided by negative information,” says Morton Blackwell, a Republican national committeeman who has trained tens of thousands of staffers for campaigns. Donald Trump’s response is that his tax returns are “very beautiful,” but not so much so that he can release even those that predate any current audit.

If Donald Trump won’t release his tax returns prior to the GOP convention, the delegates pledged to him on the first ballot should abstain from giving him their votes. Other than their vote not counting, there are no realistic consequences for any delegate doing so on the first ballot. A few states make breaking the first-ballot pledge rule a misdemeanor, but no one is ever prosecuted. In theory, state leaders could exact political retribution but such discipline is rarely exercised.

In a large number of states, between 30 and 60 percent of Trump delegates won’t be personal supporters of the Manhattan mogul (ditto with the alternates elected to accompany the delegates and vote for them if they can’t).

Delegates will have been selected at county confabs and state conventions or by party insiders, in a ritual that for decades has rewarded faithful party servants and elected officeholders. Delegates pledged to any candidate on the first ballot are not bound to follow that candidate on votes on changing rules, honoring delegate credentials, or even the vice-presidential balloting. As Benjamin Ginsberg, an election lawyer who’s been involved in GOP presidential politics for seven straight elections, says: “This situation can unsettle any convention and would require whip operations like no candidate has had for generations.”

Here’s how one Republican strategist explained the situation in his state: Donald Trump won the February 20 South Carolina primary with 32 percent of the vote but because he carried every congressional district, he won all 50 delegates. But as in almost all states, no actual people have been chosen to fill those slots yet. “There are mostly phantom delegates,” argues Elaine Kamarck, a Brookings Institution scholar and author of The Primary Games. “Understanding this is critical to understanding why this wild election year may get wilder still.” She writes that it is unclear what “would actually happen on the floor of the convention if some Trump delegates decided to vote for someone else.” But the Republican convention experts I talked to largely argued that if a delegate and his or her alternate chose not to vote, Trump would receive one fewer vote.

In South Carolina, the actual delegates will be selected at a state-party convention in April. The delegates eligible to vote were selected last year at district meetings. No one else is eligible. “I can guarantee you that Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott will have more say on who gets elected a delegate than Donald Trump will at that convention,” the strategist told me. He predicted that only 15 to 20 of the 50 actual delegates will be dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporters. The same ratio would probably apply to the alternates elected at the convention. “That means they will be open to persuasion if it looks like Trump is a sure loser in the fall or if he commits even more horrendous gaffes in the next four and a half months.”

Henry Olsen, a scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of The Four Faces of the Republican Party, told me he expects that, in some states, actual Trump supporters will be even less of a presence.

“Look at places like Colorado and North Dakota, where in 2012 Santorum won the caucuses but got cleaned out of the delegates,” he says. “I think the party elites will be even more thorough in their delegate vetting this time around than in 2012, where Mitt was pretty much assured of the nomination when the delegates were chosen.”

In some states, the Trump people will have a chance to get voters to attend county, district, and state meetings that help elect delegates. But they might be at a disadvantage. Political consultant Shari Williams told me that, in this week’s Colorado caucuses, she “had the distinct impression the Trump people weren’t up to speed in organizing.” Indeed, a survey of many states by Politico found that “Trump’s campaign remains the ramshackle, build-as-you-go organization that it has been from the beginning.” That might be fine for the “shock and awe” stage of the primaries, but it might not serve well in the detail-oriented work of selecting actual delegates.

In many states, Trump isn’t retaining the staffers who built his vote totals. His top Iowa leaders are no longer under contract and Trump state directors in Georgia and Texas, the two biggest delegate prizes on Super Tuesday, have left the campaign.

I spoke with several Donald Trump supporters in Washington, D.C., this week who were attending the Conservative Political Action Conference. They uniformly were outraged at any suggestion that Trump would be denied delegate votes though abstentions or failures to vote. But many agreed that his failure to release his tax returns was troubling, and it would be exploited by Democrats in the fall.

Many political experts don’t think Donald Trump will arrive at the Cleveland convention with the 1,237 delegates he needs to be nominated. To win that majority, Trump needs to win over 40 percent of the popular vote in the primaries and caucuses — a level of support he has achieved so far only in Alabama and Massachusetts. He can always then try to cut deals with other candidates for more support. But if he starts losing votes because some of his delegates are abstaining, such deals might become more difficult to consummate. Even if he secures a narrow majority before Cleveland, pressure in the form of abstaining delegates should be put on him to secure complete release of his tax returns.

Scenarios such as this might appear unlikely, but, as Mitt Romney pointed out in a speech on Thursday, “the rules of political history have pretty much all been shredded during this campaign.” The political rules at a convention should respect the voice of the people. But they should not become a straitjacket that endangers a political party’s chances of winning. Bob Beauprez, a former congressman and 2014 GOP candidate for governor of Colorado, told me: “We need answers and accountability. I think the idea of abstaining till we get them is a very good one.”

Delegates withholding their support from Donald Trump until he delivered on his year-old promise to release his tax returns would be safeguarding the party’s interests and applying pressure to clear up a potentially explosive issue in the fall campaign.

— John Fund is NRO’s national-affairs correspondent.

Voir aussi:

Primaire américaine : l’ex-candidat Romney attaque Trump sur ses impôts
Le Parisien

25 Févr. 2016

Donald Trump cache «une bombe» dans sa déclaration de revenus.

C’est ce qu’a affirmé Mitt Romney, candidat républicain à la présidentielle américaine de 2012, mercredi, sur Fox News. Il accuse le milliardaire, favori de la primaire de son parti, d’éluder les questions sur ses impôts.

«Je pense qu’il y a quelque chose là, écrit-il. Soit il est loin d’être aussi riche qu’il le dit, soit il n’a pas payé le niveau d’impôts que nous devrions attendre de lui. Peut-être qu’il n’a pas donné de l’argent aux anciens combattants ou aux personnes handicapées, comme il le prétend.»

Si ces accusations sont avérées, la candidature de Donald Trump pourrait être compromise. Le milliardaire est en tête dans la course à la primaire républicaine à la Maison Blanche après ses succès dans le New Hampshire, la Caroline du Sud et le Nevada, au grand dam de nombreux cadres du parti républicain qui le considèrent trop extrême dans ses positions.

Trump répond violemment

«Vous savez, on est à présent mi-février et nous n’avons toujours pas vu les déclarations de revenus de Donald Trump, Marco Rubio ou Ted Cruz», a insisté Mitt Romney, ciblant également les deux autres favoris dans la course à l’investiture. «Chaque fois qu’il est interrogé sur le sujet de ses impôts, il (ndlr : Donald Trump) élude et remet à plus tard en disant : ‘On y travaille’», a-t-il insisté. Selon lui, «les électeurs ont le droit de voir ces déclarations d’impôts avant de décider qui devrait être le candidat investi par le parti». Romney, avait lui-même été abondamment questionné sur sa déclaration de revenus durant la campagne en 2012.

Dans son style caractéristique, Donald Trump s’est empressé de répondre sur Twitter : «Mitt Romney, qui a totalement foiré une élection qui aurait dû être gagnée et dont les déclarations d’impôts l’ont fait passer pour un idiot, joue maintenant au dur», s’est-il gaussé. «Quand Mitt Romney m’a demandé de le soutenir la dernière fois, il était tellement maladroit et ridicule qu’on aurait tous dû savoir qu’il ne pouvait pas gagner», a-t-il encore lancé sur le réseau social.

Malgré ces réticences, l’ancien candidat de 2012, aujourd’hui retiré de la vie politique, a convenu que Donald Trump était le favori dans la course à la nomination chez les républicains : «Pour les autres personnes encore en course, la marge de manoeuvre devient de plus en plus étroite», a-t-il conclu.

Trump plaît tous azimuts
Les chances de Donald Trump s’améliorent car il a prouvé qu’il n’était pas le candidat d’une faction. Il est arrivé premier aux primaires de trois Etats très différents : le New Hampshire, où plus d’un quart des votants étaient «modérés» ; la Caroline du Sud, où les trois quarts étaient chrétiens évangéliques; et le Nevada, où 15% des votants n’étaient pas blancs, la plus forte proportion de minorités à ce jour aux primaires républicaines. Systématiquement, Donald Trump réalise son meilleur score parmi les Américains ayant moins que le bac. Mais il domine aussi chez les diplômés.

Voir également:

Reagan and Gorbachev Sign Missile Treaty and Vow to Work for Greater Reductions

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 — With fervent calls for a new era of peaceful understanding, President Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev today signed the first treaty reducing the size of their nations’ nuclear arsenals.

The President and the Soviet leader, beginning three days of talks aimed at even broader reductions, pledged to build on the accord by striving toward what Mr. Gorbachev called  »the more important goal, » reducing long-range nuclear weapons.

In their White House conversations, the leaders were said to have reviewed their previous proposals aimed at furthering those negotiations, and they established an arms-control working group of ranking officials to hold parallel sessions.

‘Mine is Mikhail’

An immediate mood of warmth was established as the two leaders agreed this morning to call each other by their first names, a White House official said. He quoted the President as telling Mr. Gorbachev,  »My first name is Ron. »

Mr. Gorbachev answered,  »Mine is Mikhail. »

 »When we’re working in private session, » Mr. Reagan reportedly said,  »we can call each other that. »

The new treaty, which provides for the dismantling of all Soviet and American medium- and shorter-range missiles, establishes the most extensive system of weapons inspection ever negotiated by the two countries, including placing technicians at sensitive sites on each other’s territory.

The Mood for Talking

The signing, the fruition of years of negotiation, set the mood for two and a half hours of talks between the leaders. The talks were  »very serious, substantive discussions, » Secretary of State George P. Shultz said tonight before a formal dinner in the White House.

The visit to Washington by Mr. Gorbachev was the first by a Soviet leader since Leonid I. Brezhnev was here 14 years ago, and it took on immediate drama as Mr. Reagan, who entered office with deep suspicions of the Soviet Union, welcomed Mr. Gorbachev on the South Lawn of the White House.

 »I have often felt that our people should have been better friends long ago, » he told his guest as they stood facing the Washington Monument across an array of full-dress military honor guards. Mr. Gorbachev received a 21-gun salute usually reserved for chiefs of state.

Mr. Gorbachev plunged energetically into a round of talks and public appearances. He met twice with the President, attended a formal dinner at the White House and met with a group of American public figures and intellectuals at the Soviet Embassy.

‘Lively’ Rights Discussion

The morning discussion, in which Mr. Reagan raised human rights issues, was  »a very lively session, » according to Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman. He described Mr. Gorbachev as  »animated » and Mr. Reagan as  »forceful. » Another official said there was  »no give » by Mr. Gorbachev on Jewish emigration or other rights issues.

Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev both exuded warmth, with Mr. Reagan quoting Russian proverbs, Mr. Gorbachev quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson and both men exchanging frequent smiles in what seemed to be a spirit of satisfaction and expectation.

Seated side by side at a massive wooden table used by Lincoln’s Cabinet, they signed English- and Russian-language versions of the treaty at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, attended by about 250 invited guests, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Cabinet, Congressional leaders, ranking Soviet officials and others.

 »We can only hope that this history-making agreement will not be an end in itself, » President Reagan said,  »but the beginning of a working relationship that will enable us to tackle the other issues, urgent issues, before us: strategic offensive nuclear weapons, the balance of conventional forces in Europe, the destructive and tragic regional conflicts that beset so many parts of our globe, and respect for the human and natural rights that God has granted to all men. » The Road from Catastrophe

Mr. Gorbachev echoed some of those sentiments.  »For everyone, and above all for our two great powers, » he said,  »the treaty whose text is on this table offers a big chance, at last, to get onto the road leading away from the threat of catastrophe.

 »It is our duty to take full advantage of that chance and move together toward a nuclear free world, which holds out for our children and grandchildren, and for their children and grandchildren, the promise of a fulfilling and happy life, without fear and without a senseless waste of resources on weapons of destruction. »

If approved by the Senate, the accord would require the dismantling within three years of all 1,752 Soviet and 859 American missiles with ranges of 300 to 3,400 miles and their nuclear warheads. It also provides for stationing inspection teams at sensitive sites on each other’s soil, with the right to make a certain number of short-notice inspections elsewhere each year for 13 years.

Although much debate is expected in the Senate, Republican and Democratic leaders there say they believe the treaty will be approved, perhaps with amendments, reservations or understandings attached. Senator Bob Dole, Republican of Kansas and the minority leader, who is running for President, has remained uncommitted.

Jesse Helms of North Carolina, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is strongly opposed to the accord. He declined an invitation to attend the signing ceremony, a White House official said.

Perplexed by Opposition

Mr. Gorbachev, meeting with a group of American intellectuals and public figures, expressed bewilderment at the opposition to the treaty.  »I cannot comprehend those who have taken up the cudgels against the newly found elements of mutual understanding and cooperation that have appeared in preparation for the signing of the treaty, » he said.

Mr. Reagan, who had some sharp exchanges with conservatives on the subject last week, laced his statements today with references to the need for realism and the avoidance of illusions, an apparent effort to allay the concerns of some conservatives that he is growing soft on the Russians.

 »I have often felt that our people should have been better friends long ago, » Mr. Reagan declared during the arrival ceremony on the South Lawn.  »But let us have the courage to recognize that there are weighty differences between our Governments and systems – differences that will not go away by wishful thinking or expressions of good will, no matter how sincerely delivered. »

At various times, both leaders referred to the Soviet-American alliance against Germany during World War II. And Mr. Gorbachev, at the arrival ceremony, also summoned the call of history to enhance the aura of this summit meeting.

 »History has charged the Governments of our countries, and the two of us, Mr. President, with a solemn duty to justify the hopes of Americans and Soviet people, and of people the world over, to undo the logic of the arms race by working together in good faith. »

A choice was offered, Mr. Gorbachev declared:  »Fears and prejudice inherited from the cold war and leading to confrontation, or common sense, which calls for action to ensure the survival of civilization. »

At the signing ceremony, Mr. Reagan emphasized the extensive verification procedures that would enable both sides to monitor compliance with the treaty.  »We have listened to the wisdom in an old Russian maxim, » Mr. Reagan said.  »Though my pronunciation may give you difficulty, the maxim is, ‘Doveryai no proveryai,’ ‘trust but verify.’  »

Mr. Gorbachev interrupted, laughing.  »You repeat that at every meeting, » he said.  »I like it, » Mr. Reagan replied. Mr. Gorbachev, who arrived in Washington on Monday afternoon, began his public day with a full-dress welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn. There were military honor guards, cannon salutes, trumpet fanfares and the playing of the two countries’ national anthems.

Then Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Reagan met privately in the Oval Office, each accompanied only by two note-takers and an interpreter. They were joined later by senior aides. Mr. Fitzwater, the White House spokesman, said they discussed human rights and arms control and reviewed the agenda, setting up two working groups.

One group, on arms control, is headed by Paul H. Nitze, special adviser to the President, and Marshal Sergei F. Akhrameyev, chief of the Soviet General Staff. Another group, to deal with regional conflicts, human rights and bilateral issues, is headed by Rozanne L. Ridgway, Assistant Secretary for European and Canadian Affairs, and a Deputy Soviet Foreign Minister, Aleksandr A. Bessmertnykh.

The two leaders held talks again this afternoon.

Although Mr. Reagan has said he would press the Soviet leader on human rights, the President made only brief public remarks on the issue.

 »On the table will be not only arms reduction, but also human rights issues about which the American people and their government are deeply committed, » Mr. Reagan said at the arrival ceremony.  »These are fundamental issues of political morality that touch on the most basic of human concerns. »

In a broadcast address after the treaty signing, the President declared:  »Let us remember that genuine international confidence and security are inconceivable without open societies with freedom of information, freedom of conscience, the right to publish and the right to travel. »

The missile treaty eliminates only a small percentage of weapons that are not very important to either country, and it leaves untouched the vast long-range strategic nuclear forces of each side. But the accord is widely seen as an important symbolic and psychological step. Some conservatives oppose it in the belief that Soviet compliance cannot be verified and that it leaves Western Europe exposed to a superior Soviet conventional force.

Mr. Gorbachev said today that he hoped to work toward agreements on reducing conventional forces in Europe, as well as a treaty eliminating chemical weapons.

 »We have some real, legitimate concerns » about the arms treaty, Senator Dole said.  »The bottom line for most Republicans is that we want to support the President; we will do our Constitutional duty, and we see no reason why the role must conflict. »

Mr. Dole announced the formation of a Republican task force to coordinate  »expeditious consideration » of the treaty.

At the East Room signing ceremony, with Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev looking on from the front row, the two leaders laboriously put their signatures to the parchment-quality paper on which the treaty is printed.

Then, with an impish smile, Mr. Gorbachev asked Mr. Reagan if he might like to exchange pens, so each could have the other’s as a souvenir. They did, shook hands and walked from the room down a magenta-carpeted hallway.

Voir encore:

Global Politics
Suzanne Massie taught President Ronald Reagan this important Russian phrase: ‘Trust, but verify’

PRI’s The World

March 07, 2014
Producer Nina Porzucki (follow)

The year was 1984. It was the height of the Cold War and Russian historian Suzanne Massie will never forget the moment she got a call from the White House.

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

President Ronald Reagan had read her book, Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia, and invited Massie to the Oval Office to brief him on the Russian worldview.

That first meeting, in January 1984, was the first in a series of closed-door meetings that would continue until 1988 — through some of the tensest moments of the Cold War.

Massie’s conversations with Reagan are the subject of her latest book, Trust, but Verify: Reagan, Russia, and Me.

“Reagan was the only politician I ever met who really wanted to know not, ‘What did the Kremlin think?’ but, ‘What did the Russians think?’” said Massie.

One of the first things she spoke to the president about was the importance of the Russian Orthodox Church. In Massie’s description of that first meeting with Reagan, speaking about the Russian religious point of view was an ‘aha’ moment for the president.

“No one had ever told the president of the United States that the Russians were religious, » Massie said. « I think that humanized the Russians for him in a way that he could understand. »

After that moment, according to Massie, the president began to talk privately about religion with Russian General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.

“I think it was perhaps the most important thing I told him,” Massie said.

However, we might recognize another important thing that Massie told President Reagan. That is, the Russian proverb « Trust, but verify. »

The old Russian expression came up while Massie was having lunch with the president right before he left for the 1986 Reykjavίk Summit with Gorbachev.

“You know the Russians often like to talk in proverbs and there’s one that might be useful,” Massie told the president. “You’re an actor, you can learn it in a minute, ‘Trust, but verify.’”

That phrase has since passed into the American lexicon.

After advising President Reagan throughout the Cold War, Massie is disturbed by the recent turn of events in Crimea.

“Ukraine did not exist as an independent country until 1991. And it had not been ‘taken over’ by Russia. It was part of Russia,” Massie said.

Kiev, she says, was the birthplace of Russian civilization.

“It has been Russian since the Ninth Century. Crimea was won by Russia from the Ottoman Turks,” Massie said.

Massie insists that she’s not arguing for Putin, but she brings up the issue of Russia’s sphere of influence. She compares the current Russian invasion of Crimea to the US invasion of Grenada in 1983.

“It’s wise to remember when there was Grenada, where suddenly Soviets were building airfields, Ronald Reagan did not hesitate one second when he sent the Marines. And he said he was protecting the American students — there were only a handful of medical students. We considered that our sphere of influence,” said Massie. “We seem now, today, to have denied the Russians any right to a sphere of influence. We don’t recognize or consider that they have a sphere of influence, too.”

Voir de plus:

2016 AND BEYOND
The State of Our Union Is Bleak

The American interest

While all eyes are (understandably) focused on the GOP’s spectacular presidential meltdown, the Democratic Party’s problems are quietly mounting.

Consider two stories from yesterday’s papers. The first, in the New York Times, on plummeting turnout in the Democratic primaries:
Democratic turnout has fallen drastically since 2008, the last time the party had a contested primary, with roughly three million fewer Democrats voting in the 15 states that have held caucuses or primaries through Tuesday, according to unofficial election results tallied through Wednesday afternoon.

… Some Democrats now worry that Mrs. Clinton will have difficulty matching the surge in new black, Hispanic and young voters who came to the polls for President Obama in 2008 and 2012.
And the second, in the Washington Post on the latest turn in the ongoing investigation into possible misconduct by the presumptive Democratic nominee:

The Justice Department has granted immunity to a former State Department staffer, who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private email server, as part of a criminal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information, according to a senior law enforcement official.
These stories should remind us that the weakness in our key political institutions is bipartisan. The Republicans are suffering from an establishment power vacuum that has allowed a demagogue to very nearly take control of the party; and the Democratic establishment, constantly trailed by an air of scandal and suspicion, is unable to engender much enthusiasm from its base. It’s still not clear which of the two parties will win the demolition derby that the 2016 election has become. But it’s looking more and more that no matter which party ‘wins’ this bizarre election contest, the clear loser is the United States.

Our political system is in deep trouble, and while one can think of some procedural fixes that could help (superdelegates on the Republican side, stronger and more impartial enforcement of government rules on information security and conflict of interest in the case of the Clinton machine) the real problems are more dangerous and harder to treat: A moral and spiritual collapse that has frayed the bonds between the country’s ordinary people and those who seek to lead them, a hollowing out of institutions from Congress and political parties to local churches and civic life, and the disintegration of a shared national intellectual and cultural framework for discussing the issues that confront us. As we approach a critical presidential election at a time of global turmoil and disorder, the state of our union is not strong.

Voir enfin:

National Security
Justice Dept. grants immunity to staffer who set up Clinton email server
The Justice Department granted immunity to the former State Department staffer who set up Hillary Clinton’s private email server at her home. Here’s what the FBI is looking to investigate and what it means for the Democratic presidential front-runner. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)
Adam Goldman

The Washington Post

March 2 2016

The Justice Department has granted immunity to a former State Department staffer, who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private email server, as part of a criminal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information, according to a senior law enforcement official.

The official said the FBI had secured the cooperation of Bryan Pagliano, who worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign before setting up the server in her New York home in 2009.

As the FBI looks to wrap up its investigation in the coming months, agents are likely to want to interview Clinton and her senior aides about the decision to use a private server, how it was set up, and whether any of the participants knew they were sending classified information in emails, current and former officials said.

[Clinton personally paid State Department staffer to maintain server]

The inquiry comes against a political backdrop in which Clinton is the favorite to secure the Democratic nomination for the presidency.
Confused about the investigations around Hillary Clinton? Here are the basics.
Play Video1:13
There are at least three ongoing investigations into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State. Here’s an explanation of who is investigating, and why. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

So far, there is no indication that prosecutors have convened a grand jury in the email investigation to subpoena testimony or documents, which would require the participation of a U.S. attorney’s office.

Spokesmen at the FBI and Justice Department would not discuss the investigation. Pagliano’s attorney, Mark J. MacDougall, also declined to comment.

In a statement, Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said: “As we have said since last summer, Secretary Clinton has been cooperating with the Department of Justice’s security inquiry, including offering in August to meet with them to assist their efforts if needed.”

He also said the campaign is “pleased” that Pagliano, who invoked his Fifth Amendment rights before a congressional panel in September, is now cooperating with prosecutors. The campaign had encouraged Pagliano to testify before Congress.

As part of the inquiry, law enforcement officials will look at the potential damage had the classified information in the emails been exposed. The Clinton campaign has described the probe as a security review. But current and former officials in the FBI and at the Justice Department have said investigators are trying to determine whether a crime was committed.

“There was wrongdoing,” said a former senior law enforcement official. “But was it criminal wrongdoing?”

[Hillary Clinton gains a new unlikely ally in email controversy: Colin Powell]
Takeaways from Hillary Clinton’s e-mails
View Photos
Clinton has come under fire for using a private e-mail address during her time as secretary of state. The emails are being screened and released in batches. Here are some things we’ve learned from them.

Clinton has since apologized for what happened: “Yes, I should have used two email addresses, one for personal matters and one for my work at the State Department. Not doing so was a mistake. I’m sorry about it, and I take full responsibility.”

Any decision to charge someone would involve Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who told Congress when asked last month about the email inquiry: “That matter is being handled by career independent law enforcement agents, FBI agents, as well as the career independent attorneys in the Department of Justice. They follow the evidence, they look at the law and they’ll make a recommendation to me when the time is appropriate.”

She added, “We will review all the facts and all the evidence and come to an independent conclusion as how to best handle it.”

Current and former officials said the conviction of retired four-star general and CIA director David H. Petraeus for mishandling classified information is casting a shadow over the email investigation.

The officials said they think that Petraeus’s actions were more egregious than those of Clinton and her aides because he lied to the FBI, and classified information he shared with his biographer contained top secret code words, identities of covert officers, war strategy and intelligence capabilities. Prosecutors initially threatened to charge him with three felonies, including conspiracy, violating the Espionage Act and lying to the FBI. But after negotiations, Petraeus pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information.

[Why the Clinton email scandal and Petraeus leak are not really alike]

He was fined $100,000 and sentenced to two years of probation. FBI officials were angered by the deal and predicted it would affect the outcome of other cases involving classified information.

Petraeus “was handled so lightly for his offense there isn’t a whole lot you can do,” said a former U.S. law enforcement official who oversaw counterintelligence investigations and described the email controversy as “a lesser set of circumstances.”

The State Department has been analyzing the contents of Clinton’s correspondence, as it has prepared 52,000 pages of Clinton’s emails for public release in batches, a process that began in May and concluded Monday. The State Department has said 2,093 of Clinton’s released emails were redacted in all or part because they contained classified material, the vast majority of them rated “confidential,” the lowest level of sensitivity in the classification system.

Clinton and the State Department have said that none of the material was marked classified at the time it was sent. However, it is the responsibility of individual government officials to properly handle sensitive material.

The email investigation is being conducted by FBI counterintelligence agents and supervised by the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

In a letter filed last month in federal court as part of ongoing civil litigation over Clinton’s emails, the FBI confirmed that it was “working on matters related to former Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email server.” The agency declined to publicly detail the investigation’s “specific focus, scope or potential targets.”

On Tuesday, FBI Director James B. Comey said he was “very close” to the investigation.

Former federal prosecutor Glen Kopp said it is not surprising that agents want to interview Clinton and her aides.

“They are within the zone of interest of the investigation,” he said.

A request to interview her would have to be reviewed by top level officials at both the FBI and the Justice Department, a former official said.

As part of those interviews, the FBI would also seek to establish that Clinton and her aides understood the policies and protocols for handling classified information, former officials said.

Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, declined to comment.

Kendall, who also has represented President Bill Clinton and Petraeus, has navigated similar issues in other cases. During the investigation of President Clinton by independent counsel Ken Starr, for instance, Kendall rebuffed several requests for interviews.

[Hillary Clinton’s incomplete timeline on her personal e-mail account]

The president was then subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury. In a deal brokered by Kendall, the subpoena was withdrawn and Clinton testified voluntarily in 1998.

Former prosecutors said investigators were probably feeling the pressure of time because of the election. Take action before the election, they said, and you risk being perceived as trying to influence the result. Take action after and face criticism for not letting voters know there was an issue with their preferred candidate.

“The timing is terrible whether you do it before or after,” Kopp said.

The issue of Clinton’s use of a private email server was referred to the FBI in July after the Office of the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community determined that some of the emails that traversed Clinton’s server contained classified material.

Emails that contain material now deemed classified were authored by Clinton but also by many of her top aides, including Jacob Sullivan, who was her director of policy planning and her deputy chief of staff. He is now advising Clinton’s campaign on foreign policy and is thought to be a likely candidate for national security adviser if she is elected president.

The State Department has said that, at the request of intelligence agencies, it has classified 22 Clinton emails as “top secret” and will not release those emails, even in redacted form. “Top secret” is the highest level of classification, reserved for material whose release could cause “exceptionally grave damage to the national security.”

I. Charles McCullough III, the inspector general of the intelligence community, has indicated that some of the material intelligence officials have reviewed contained information that was classified at the time it was sent; the State Department has indicated that it has not analyzed whether the material should have been marked classified when it was sent, only whether it requires classification before being released now.

Rosalind S. Helderman, Julie Tate and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.


Primaires républicaines: Et si les Américains avaient refusé de débarquer sur les plages de Normandie ? (World can’t afford America sitting out the rest of the 21st century, Rubio)

29 février, 2016
Apologizer in chief on DDay

Durant les années où Sidney [Poitier] n’a sorti aucun film. Disons en 1962 ou 1963, aucun Noir n’a protesté. Pourquoi ? Parce que nous avions d’autres choses plus importantes contre lesquelles nous lever. Nous étions trop occupés à être violés et lynchés pour nous soucier de qui gagnait le prix du meilleur réalisateur. Vous savez, quand votre grand-mère se balance à une branche d’arbre, le cadet de vos soucis est l’Oscar du meilleur court-métrage documentaire étranger. Chris Rock
Ce film a donné une voix aux survivants. Et l’Oscar amplifie cette voix, en espérant qu’elle devienne une chorale qui résonnera jusqu’au Vatican. Pape François, il est temps de protéger les enfants et de rétablir la foi. Michael Sugar
By going to Cuba while he is still in office, Mr. Obama is showing Havana that he will continue to make enough progress that it will be difficult for the next president to change course from restoring ties with Cuba — and he is proving to Congress that the president still has a lot of executive authority to change foreign policy. Pam Falk (CBS News)
Obama is selling out pro-democracy dissidents in Cuba to take one last contemptuous potshot at Congress. That’s certainly in line with the legacy that he’s building thus far in his presidency. Hot air
Ce n’est peut-être pas une bonne chose pour l’Amérique, mais une très bonne affaire pour CBS. Sérieusement, qui aurait pu espérer la campagne que nous avons actuellement ? L’argent continue d’affluer et c’est marrant (…) Je n’ai jamais vu quelque chose comme ça, et cette année va être très bonne pour nous. C’est terrible à dire mais continue Donald, continue ! Leslie Moonves (PDG de CBS)
Is there some rule that demands that only movie stars, investment bankers, and tech moguls, who live in houses of more than 5,000 square feet or fly on private jets, have earned the right to lecture hoi polloi on their bad habits that lead to global warming? Is barbecuing a steak worse than burning up 5 gallons of aviation fuel a minute?… To watch the Super Bowl, Oscar, or Grammy festivities is to receive a pop sermon from mansion-residing multimillionaires about just how unfair are the race, class, and gender biases of the world in which they somehow made fortunes. In Weimar America, that Will Smith has a 25,000 square-foot mansion, but not a 2016 Oscar nomination, is proof of endemic racism and deprivation. Victor Davis Hanson
Barack Obama is the Dr. Frankenstein of the supposed Trump monster. If a charismatic, Ivy League-educated, landmark president who entered office with unprecedented goodwill and both houses of Congress on his side could manage to wreck the Democratic Party while turning off 52 percent of the country, then many voters feel that a billionaire New York dealmaker could hardly do worse. If Obama had ruled from the center, dealt with the debt, addressed radical Islamic terrorism, dropped the politically correct euphemisms and pushed tax and entitlement reform rather than Obamacare, Trump might have little traction. A boring Hillary Clinton and a staid Jeb Bush would most likely be replaying the 1992 election between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush — with Trump as a watered-down version of third-party outsider Ross Perot. But America is in much worse shape than in 1992. And Obama has proved a far more divisive and incompetent president than George H.W. Bush. Little is more loathed by a majority of Americans than sanctimonious PC gobbledygook and its disciples in the media. And Trump claims to be PC’s symbolic antithesis. Making Machiavellian Mexico pay for a border fence or ejecting rude and interrupting Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a press conference is no more absurd than allowing more than 300 sanctuary cities to ignore federal law by sheltering undocumented immigrants. Putting a hold on the immigration of Middle Eastern refugees is no more illiberal than welcoming into American communities tens of thousands of unvetted foreign nationals from terrorist-ridden Syria. In terms of messaging, is Trump’s crude bombast any more radical than Obama’s teleprompted scripts? Trump’s ridiculous view of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a sort of « Art of the Deal » geostrategic partner is no more silly than Obama insulting Putin as Russia gobbles up former Soviet republics with impunity. Obama callously dubbed his own grandmother a « typical white person, » introduced the nation to the racist and anti-Semitic rantings of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and petulantly wrote off small-town Pennsylvanians as near-Neanderthal « clingers. » Did Obama lower the bar for Trump’s disparagements? Certainly, Obama peddled a slogan, « hope and change, » that was as empty as Trump’s « make America great again. » (…) How does the establishment derail an out-of-control train for whom there are no gaffes, who has no fear of The New York Times, who offers no apologies for speaking what much of the country thinks — and who apparently needs neither money from Republicans nor politically correct approval from Democrats? Victor Davis Hanson
People wonder what accounts for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Maybe the better question is how the Obama years could not have produced a Trump and Sanders. Both the Republican and, to a lesser extent, Democratic parties have elements now who want to pull down the temple. But for all the politicized agitation, both these movements, in power, would produce stasis—no change at all. Donald Trump would preside over a divided government or, as he has promised and un-promised, a trade war with China. Hillary or Bernie will enlarge the Obama economic regime. Either outcome guarantees four more years of at best 2% economic growth. That means more of the above. That means 18-year-olds voting for the first time this year will face historically weak job opportunities through 2020 at least. Under any of these three, an Americanized European social-welfare state will evolve because Washington—and this will include many “conservatives”—will answer still-rising popular anger with new income redistributions. And for years afterward, Barack Obama will stroll off the 18th green, smiling. Mission, finally, accomplished. Daniel Henninger
We’re in the midst of a rebellion. The bottom and middle are pushing against the top. It’s a throwing off of old claims and it’s been going on for a while, but we’re seeing it more sharply after New Hampshire. This is not politics as usual, which by its nature is full of surprise. There’s something deep, suggestive, even epochal about what’s happening now. I have thought for some time that there’s a kind of soft French Revolution going on in America, with the angry and blocked beginning to push hard against an oblivious elite. It is not only political. Yes, it is about the Democratic National Committee, that house of hacks, and about a Republican establishment owned by the donor class. But establishment journalism, which for eight months has been simultaneously at Donald Trump’s feet (“Of course you can call us on your cell from the bathtub for your Sunday show interview!”) and at his throat (“Trump supporters, many of whom are nativists and nationalists . . .”) is being rebelled against too. Their old standing as guides and gatekeepers? Gone, and not only because of multiplying platforms. (…) All this goes hand in hand with the general decline of America’s faith in its institutions. We feel less respect for almost all of them—the church, the professions, the presidency, the Supreme Court. The only formal national institution that continues to score high in terms of public respect (72% in the most recent Gallup poll) is the military (…) we are in a precarious position in the U.S. with so many of our institutions going down. Many of those pushing against the system have no idea how precarious it is or what they will be destroying. Those defending it don’t know how precarious its position is or even what they’re defending, or why. But people lose respect for a reason. (…) It’s said this is the year of anger but there’s a kind of grim practicality to Trump and Sanders supporters. They’re thinking: Let’s take a chance. Washington is incapable of reform or progress; it’s time to reach outside. Let’s take a chance on an old Brooklyn socialist. Let’s take a chance on the casino developer who talks on TV. In doing so, they accept a decline in traditional political standards. You don’t have to have a history of political effectiveness anymore; you don’t even have to have run for office! “You’re so weirdly outside the system, you may be what the system needs.” They are pouring their hope into uncertain vessels, and surely know it. Bernie Sanders is an actual radical: He would fundamentally change an economic system that imperfectly but for two centuries made America the wealthiest country in the history of the world. In the young his support is understandable: They have never been taught anything good about capitalism and in their lifetimes have seen it do nothing—nothing—to protect its own reputation. It is middle-aged Sanders supporters who are more interesting. They know what they’re turning their backs on. They know they’re throwing in the towel. My guess is they’re thinking something like: Don’t aim for great now, aim for safe. Terrorism, a world turning upside down, my kids won’t have it better—let’s just try to be safe, more communal. A shrewdness in Sanders and Trump backers: They share one faith in Washington, and that is in its ability to wear anything down. They think it will moderate Bernie, take the edges off Trump. For this reason they don’t see their choices as so radical. (…) The mainstream journalistic mantra is that the GOP is succumbing to nativism, nationalism and the culture of celebrity. That allows them to avoid taking seriously Mr. Trump’s issues: illegal immigration and Washington’s 15-year, bipartisan refusal to stop it; political correctness and how it is strangling a free people; and trade policies that have left the American working class displaced, adrift and denigrated. Mr. Trump’s popularity is propelled by those issues and enabled by his celebrity. (…) Mr. Trump is a clever man with his finger on the pulse, but his political future depends on two big questions. The first is: Is he at all a good man? Underneath the foul mouthed flamboyance is he in it for America? The second: Is he fully stable? He acts like a nut, calling people bimbos, flying off the handle with grievances. Is he mature, reliable? Is he at all a steady hand? Political professionals think these are side questions. “Let’s accuse him of not being conservative!” But they are the issue. Because America doesn’t deliberately elect people it thinks base, not to mention crazy. Peggy Noonan
Politicians have, since ancient Greece, lied, pandered, and whored. They have taken bribes, connived, and perjured themselves. But in recent times—in the United States, at any rate—there has never been any politician quite as openly debased and debauched as Donald Trump. Truman and Nixon could be vulgar, but they kept the cuss words for private use. Presidents have chewed out journalists, but which of them would have suggested that an elegant and intelligent woman asking a reasonable question was dripping menstrual blood? LBJ, Kennedy, and Clinton could all treat women as commodities to be used for their pleasure, but none went on the radio with the likes of Howard Stern to discuss the women they had bedded and the finer points of their anatomies. All politicians like the sound of their own names, but Roosevelt named the greatest dam in the United States after his defeated predecessor, Herbert Hoover. Can one doubt what Trump would have christened it? That otherwise sober people do not find Trump’s insults and insane demands outrageous (Mexico will have to pay for a wall! Japan will have to pay for protection!) says something about a larger moral and cultural collapse. His language is the language of the comments sections of once-great newspapers. Their editors know that the online versions of their publications attract the vicious, the bigoted, and the foulmouthed. But they keep those comments sections going in the hope of getting eyeballs on the page. (…) The current problem goes beyond excruciatingly bad manners. What we increasingly lack, and have lacked for some time, is a sense of the moral underpinning of republican (small r) government. Manners and morals maintain a free state as much as laws do, as Tocqueville observed long ago, and when a certain culture of virtue dies, so too does something of what makes democracy work. Old-fashioned words like integrity, selflessness, frugality, gravitas, and modesty rarely rate a mention in modern descriptions of the good life—is it surprising that they don’t come up in politics, either? (…) Trump’s rise is only one among many signs that something has gone profoundly amiss in our popular culture.It is related to the hysteria that has swept through many campuses, as students call for the suppression of various forms of free speech and the provision of “safe spaces” where they will not be challenged by ideas with which they disagree. The rise of Trump and the fall of free speech in academia are equal signs that we are losing the intellectual sturdiness and honesty without which a republic cannot thrive. (…) The rot is cultural. It is no coincidence that Trump was the star of a “reality” show. He is the beneficiary of an amoral celebrity culture devoid of all content save an omnipresent lubriciousness. He is a kind of male Kim Kardashian, and about as politically serious. In the context of culture, if not (yet) politics, he is unremarkable; the daily entertainments of today are both tawdry and self-consciously, corrosively ironic. Ours is an age when young people have become used to getting news, of a sort, from Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, when an earlier generation watched Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley. It is the difference between giggling with young, sneering hipsters and listening to serious adults. Go to YouTube and look at old episodes of Profiles in Courage, if you can find them—a wildly successful television series based on the book nominally authored by John F. Kennedy, which celebrated an individual’s, often a politician’s, courage in standing alone against a crowd, even a crowd with whose politics the audience agreed. The show of comparable popularity today is House of Cards. Bill Clinton has said that he loves it. American culture is, in short, nastier, more nihilistic, and far less inhibited than ever before. It breeds alternating bouts of cynicism and hysteria, and now it has given us Trump. The Republican Party as we know it may die of Trump. If it does, it will have succumbed in part because many of its leaders chose not to fight for the Party of Lincoln, which is a set of ideas about how to govern a country, rather than an organization clawing for political and personal advantage. What is at stake, however, is something much more precious than even a great political party. To an extent unimaginable for a very long time, the moral keel of free government is showing cracks. It is not easy to discern how we shall mend them. Eliot Cohen
Three major have-not powers are seeking to overturn the post-Cold War status quo: Russia in Eastern Europe, China in East Asia, Iran in the Middle East. All are on the march. To say nothing of the Islamic State, now extending its reach from Afghanistan to West Africa. The international order built over decades by the United States is crumbling. In the face of which, what does Obama do? Go to Cuba. Yes, Cuba. A supreme strategic irrelevance so dear to Obama’s anti-anti-communist heart. The international order built over decades by the United States is crumbling. Is he at least going to celebrate progress in human rights and democracy — which Obama established last year as a precondition for any presidential visit? Of course not. When has Obama ever held to a red line? Indeed, since Obama began his “historic” normalization with Cuba, the repression has gotten worse. Last month, the regime arrested 1,414 political dissidents, the second-most ever recorded. No matter. Amid global disarray and American decline, Obama sticks to his cherished concerns: Cuba, Guantanamo (about which he gave a rare televised address this week), and, of course, climate change. Obama could not bestir himself to go to Paris in response to the various jihadi atrocities — sending Kerry instead “to share a big hug with Paris” (as Kerry explained) with James Taylor singing “You’ve Got a Friend” — but he did make an ostentatious three-day visit there for climate change. More Foreign Policy The Costs of Abandoning Messy Wars Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad Are Running U.S. Syria Policy With Disasters Everywhere, It’s Time to Take Foreign Policy Seriously Again So why not go to Havana? Sure, the barbarians are at the gates and pushing hard knowing they will enjoy but eleven more months of minimal American resistance. But our passive president genuinely believes that such advances don’t really matter — that these disrupters are so on the wrong side of history, that their reaches for territory, power, victory are so 20th century. Of course, it mattered greatly to the quarter-million slaughtered in Syria and the millions more exiled. It feels all quite real to a dissolving Europe, an expanding China, a rising Iran, a metastasizing jihadism. Not to the visionary Obama, however. He sees far beyond such ephemera. He knows what really matters: climate change, Gitmo, and Cuba. With time running out, he wants these to be his legacy. Indeed, they will be. Charles Krauthammer
Donald Trump has rightly reminded us during his campaign that Americans are sick and tired of costly overseas interventions. But what Trump forgets is that too often the world does not always enjoy a clear choice between good and bad, wise and stupid. Often the dilemma is the terrible choice between ignoring mass murderer, as in Rwanda or Syria; bombing and leaving utter chaos, as in Libya; and removing monsters, then enduring the long ordeal of trying to leave something better, as in Afghanistan and Iraq. The choices are all awful. But the idea that America can bomb a rogue regime, leave and expect something better is pure fantasy. Victor Davis Hanson
The candidacy of Donald Trump is the open sewer of American conservatism. This Super Tuesday, polls show a plurality of GOP voters intend to dive right into it, like the boy in the “Slumdog Millionaire” toilet scene. And they’re not even holding their noses. In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has endorsed the Code Pink view of the Iraq War (Bush lied; people died). He has cited and embraced an aphorism of Benito Mussolini. (“It’s a very good quote,” Mr. Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd.) He has refused to release his “very beautiful” tax returns. And he has taken his time disavowing the endorsement of onetime Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke—offering, by way of a transparently dishonest excuse, that “I know nothing about David Duke.” Mr. Trump left the Reform Party in 2000 after Mr. Duke joined it. None of this seems to have made the slightest dent in Mr. Trump’s popularity. If anything it has enhanced it. In the species of political pornography in which Mr. Trump trafficks, the naughtier the better. The more respectable opinion is scandalized by whatever pops out of the Donald’s mouth, the more his supporters cheer him for sticking it to the snobs and the scolds. The more Mr. Trump traduces the old established lines of decency, the more he affirms his supporters’ most shameless ideological instincts. Those instincts have moved beyond the usual fare of a wall with Mexico, a trade war with China, Mr. Trump’s proposed Muslim Exclusion Act, or his scurrilous insinuations about the constitutionality of Ted Cruz’s or Marco Rubio’s presidential bids. What too many of Mr. Trump’s supporters want is an American strongman, a president who will make the proverbial trains run on time. This is a refrain I hear over and over again from Trump supporters, who want to bring a businessman’s efficiency to the federal government. If that means breaking with a few democratic niceties, so be it. (…) Mr. Trump exemplifies a new political wave sweeping the globe—leaders coming to power through democratic means while avowing illiberal ends. Hungary’s Viktor Orban is another case in point, as is Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Trump presidency—neutral between dictatorships and democracies, opposed to free trade, skeptical of traditional U.S. defense alliances, hostile to immigration—would mark the collapse of the entire architecture of the U.S.-led post-World War II global order. We’d be back to the 1930s, this time with an America Firster firmly in charge. That’s the future Mr. Trump offers whether his supporters realize it or not. Bill Buckley and the other great shapers of modern conservatism—Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, Robert Bartley and Irving Kristol—articulated a conservatism that married economic dynamism to a prudent respect for tradition, patriotism and openness to the wider world. Trumpism is the opposite of this creed: moral gaucherie plus economic nationalism plus Know Nothingism. It is the return of the American Mercury, minus for now (but only for now) the all-but inevitable anti-Semitism. It would be terrible to think that the left was right about the right all these years. Nativist bigotries must not be allowed to become the animating spirit of the Republican Party. If Donald Trump becomes the candidate, he will not win the presidency, but he will help vindicate the left’s ugly indictment. It will be left to decent conservatives to pick up the pieces—and what’s left of the party. Bret Stephens
The many millions of Americans who are sick of being called racist, chauvinist, homophobic, privileged or extremist every time they breathe feel that in Trump they have found their voice. Then there is that gnawing sense that under Obama, America has been transformed from history’s greatest winner into history’s biggest sucker. (…) Trump’s continuous exposition on his superhuman deal-making talents speaks to this fear. Trump’s ability to viscerally connect to the deep-seated concerns of American voters and assuage them frees him from the normal campaign requirement of developing plans to accomplish his campaign promises. (…) Trump’s supporters don’t care that his economic policies contradict one another. They don’t care that his foreign policy declarations are a muddle of contradictions. They hate the establishment and they want to believe him. (…) Because he knows how to viscerally connect to the public, Trump will undoubtedly be a popular president. But since he has no clear philosophical or ideological underpinning, his policies will likely be inconsistent and opportunistic.(…) In this, a Trump presidency will be a stark contrast to Obama’s hyper-ideological tenure in office. So, too, his presidency will be a marked contrast to a similarly ideologically driven Clinton or Sanders administration, since both will more or less continue to enact Obama’s domestic and foreign policies. (…) Like Trump, Johnson is able to tap into deep-seated public dissatisfaction with the political and cultural elites and serve as a voice for the disaffected. (…) If Johnson is able to convince a majority of British voters to support an exit from the EU, then several other EU member states are likely to follow in Britain’s wake. The exit of states from the EU will cause a political and economic upheaval in Europe with repercussions far beyond its borders. Just as a Trump presidency will usher in an era of high turbulence and uncertainty in US economic and foreign policies, so a post-breakup EU and Western Europe will replace Brussels’ consistent policies with policies that are more varied, and unstable. (…) If Trump is elected president and if Britain leads the charge of nations out of the EU, then Israel can expect its relations with both the US and Europe to be marked by turbulence and uncertainty that can lead in a positive direction or a negative direction, or even to both directions at the same time. (…) Just as Trump has stated both that he will support Israel and be neutral toward Israel, so we can expect for Trump to stand by Israel one day and to rebuke it angrily, even brutally, the next day. (…) So, too, under Trump, the US may send forces to confront Iran one day, only to announce that Trump is embarking on negotiations to get a sweetheart deal with the ayatollahs the next. Or perhaps all of these things will happen simultaneously. Caroline Glick
Les États-Unis semblent ne plus vouloir se laisser absorber par des crises qui ne correspondent pas à leur vision nouvelle de leurs intérêts nationaux. À Washington, les partisans d’un retrait des zones considérées comme « non-stratégiques » impriment leur marque. S’expliquent sans doute ainsi plusieurs épisodes politiques récents, notamment la non-réplique par frappes face à l’utilisation des armes chimiques par le régime de Damas, quelles qu’aient été les déclarations faites auparavant. Les causes de cette attitude font penser qu’il s’agit d’une tendance assez durable. Elle se fonde sur la volonté parfaitement compréhensible de recentrer la politique étrangère américaine sur ce qui est perçu comme ses principaux intérêts, notamment économiques, qui se trouveraient désormais davantage en Asie. Cette évolution s’appuie probablement aussi sur la nouvelle donne énergétique – les États-Unis vont redevenir exportateurs nets d’hydrocarbures. Cela fait suite, j’en suis absolument convaincu puisque cela résulte de conversations que j’ai avec les dirigeants actuels, au lourd traumatisme des interventions en Irak et en Afghanistan, au coût humain et financier extrêmement lourd pour un résultat guère probant. Il faut ajouter à tous ces déterminants la tendance actuelle – ce n’est pas simplement le cas d’ailleurs en Amérique – plutôt « isolationniste » de son opinion publique. Ce choix, qui je le répète est parfaitement compréhensible de la part des dirigeants actuels américains, comporte, compte tenu du rôle majeur des États-Unis, de nombreuses conséquences. Personne n’a aujourd’hui la capacité de prendre le relai des Américains, en particulier sur le plan militaire. Un désengagement américain, compte tenu de la puissance des États-Unis, c’est un désengagement tout court. Ce qui peut laisser des crises majeures « livrées à elles-mêmes ». (…) Nous comprenons parfaitement la réticence américaine à envoyer de nouveau des troupes sur le terrain moyen-oriental. Dans bien des cas, nous jugerions une autre attitude contraire aux intérêts de la région comme aux nôtres. Il ne peut s’agir de cela. Ce dont il s’agit, c’est d’éviter le vide stratégique qui risque de se créer, notamment au Moyen-Orient, et qui est favorisé par la perception, de la part des acteurs, que la vraie priorité américaine se trouve désormais ailleurs. J’entends cette inquiétude chez plusieurs partenaires importants de la France, qui intègrent de plus en plus dans leurs calculs, dans leurs prévisions, dans leurs réflexions, l’hypothèse qu’ils sont ou qu’ils vont être livrés à eux-mêmes dans le traitement de crises qui sont pourtant d’intérêt global. Laurent Fabius (13 novembre 2013)
Kagan — the preeminent neoconservative scholar and author who made headlines when President Obama improbably cited his article on “The Myth of American Decline,” and again when his cover story for The New Republic critiquing Obama’s foreign policy zipped through the West Wing — has had a major influence on Rubio’s worldview. The former adviser to politicians from Jack Kemp to Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton says he spoke with Rubio on and off during his first two years in office, and Rubio cited Kagan’s 2012 book The World America Made in his remarks at the Brookings Institution later that year. In the book, Kagan argues that world orders are transient, and that the world order that has been shaped by the United States since the end of World War II — defined by freedom, democracy, and capitalism — will crumble if American power wanes. But he also posits that the modern world order rests not on America’s cherished ideals — respect for individual rights and human dignity — but on economic and military power, and that its preservation requires bolstering America’s hard power. The National Review (2014)
There is no denying that a globally engaged America comes at a steep price. But the history of our still young nation is full of warnings that a lack of American engagement comes with an even higher price of its own. We only have to look at the bloody history of the twentieth century to see the price that America, and the world, pays when we ignore mounting problems. When we have listened to voices urging us to look inward, we have failed to meet threats growing abroad until it was almost too late. And now, we are on the verge of repeating that mistake once again. Other nations are not sitting idly by waiting for America to, as President Obama termed it, “nation build at home.” Many of our nation’s adversaries and rivals have been emboldened by our uncertain foreign policy. So as instability spreads and tyrants flourish, our allies want to know whether America can still be counted on to confront these common challenges. Whether we will continue to be a beacon to the rest of the world. Just last week I read a speech on this very topic. But it was not delivered by some American neoconservative commentator, but rather by the Foreign Minister of France. He said about us, and I quote the English translation, “Nobody can take over from the Americans, especially from a military point of view. Given the power of the United States, an American ‘disengagement’ – if this would be the proper way to qualify it – is a global disengagement, with the risk of letting major crises fester on their own.” End quote. We are often led to think that other nations are tired of the role America has played in global affairs. But in fact, it is the fear of a disengaged America that worries countries all over the world. (…) Some on both the left and the right try to portray our legacy as one of an aggressive tyrant constantly meddling in the world’s crises. But ask around the world and you’ll find that our past use of military might has a different legacy. Our legacy is a crumbled wall in Berlin. It’s the millions of Afghan children – including many girls – now able to attend school for the first time. It’s vibrant democracies and steadfast allies such as Germany, Japan and South Korea. Our legacy is that of a nation that for two centuries has planted its feet and pushed out against the walls of tyranny, oppression and injustice that constantly threaten to close in on the world, and has sought to replace these forces with the spread of liberty, free enterprise, and respect for human rights. (…) From his first days in office, President Obama has seemed unsure of the role that American power and principles should play around the world. He has failed to understand that in foreign policy, the timing and decisiveness of our actions matter almost as much as how we engage. The President has spoken about the need to shift American foreign policy away from the conflicts of the Middle East and place increased focus on Asia. But our foreign policy cannot be one that picks and chooses which regions to pay attention to and which to ignore. In fact, our standing as a world power depends on our ability to engage globally anywhere and at anytime our interests are at stake. (…) The results have been devastating. We are left with the high likelihood of the worst possible outcome: a divided Syria, with a pro-Iran murderous dictator in control of part of the country, and radical jihadists in control of much of the rest.  Our closest allies in the region are now openly questioning the value of our friendship. (…) The President’s failure to negotiate a security cooperation agreement with Iraq was yet another instance in which this administration ambled aimlessly through a situation that should have prompted careful strategic maneuvering. It ensured the return of Al Qaeda to Iraq and the creeping authoritarianism of a Maliki government increasingly in the sway of Tehran. And in Afghanistan, the White House has often shown a lack of commitment that has put at risk the very real gains we and the Afghans have made. Libya, Syria, Iraq and maybe soon Afghanistan are haunting examples of the sad and predictable results that have come when this administration has gotten the policy – and just as importantly – the timing wrong. (…) We should start by acknowledging the fact that a strong and engaged America has been a force of tremendous good in the world. This can be done easily by imagining the sort of world we would live in today had America sat out the 20th Century. Imagine if the beaches of Normandy were never touched by American boots. Imagine if our foreign aid had not helped alleviate many of the world’s worst crises. Imagine if nuclear proliferation had continued unfettered by U.S. influence. It is no exaggeration to say that the majority of the world’s democracies may not exist had America remained disengaged. Marco Rubio (20 nov. 2013)

Attention: un héritage peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où obsédé par son héritage et après avoir accordé l’arme nucléaire aux bouchers iraniens, le président Obama prépare, au mépris tant du Congrès de son propre pays que des dissidents cubains, son énième danse avec les dictateurs

Et où rien ne semble désormais capable d’arrêter le rouleau compresseur Trump tant la révolte d’une bonne partie du peuple américain est grande face au véritable accident industriel que s’est révélé être la présidence Obama …

Pendant que face à la formidable créature – entre soutien, pour le plus grand profit des médias qui prétendent s’en offusquer, d’un ancien leader du KKK et citations de Mussolini – du Dr. Obamastein, les deux derniers recours qui restent ne se sont toujours pas sérieusement attaqué à ses véritables vulnérabilités notamment sur le plan fiscal et surtout se refusent toujours à sacrifier leur ambition personnelle pour le bien de leur pays …

Et que contre le politiquement correct ambiant, des oscars si décriés viennent de remettre tant un pape si volontiers donneur de leçons que nos croisés noirs multimillionnaires de la diversité à leur place en récompensant par deux fois un film dénonçant la longue omerta sur la pédophilie de prêtres catholiques et un réalisateur mexicain

Comment ne pas repenser à un autre héritage celui-là oublié …

Que rappelaient il y a trois ans tant indirectement le ministre français des affaires étrangères Laurent Fabius

Qu’explicitement et à quelques jours de distance le futur candidat aux primaires républicaines Marco Rubio

Suite, entre l’Irak et la Syrie, aux deux des décisions les plus catastrophiques de l’actuelle Administration américaine …

A savoir celui de l’engagement américain du 20e siècle sans lequel le Monde libre actuel n’aurait pas été possible ?

Et donc comment ne pas voir aussi …

Tant pour rattraper ce qui peut l’être des dégâts des deux mandats Obama …

Que prévenir ceux d’une éventuelle et potentiellement tout aussi catastrophique présidence Trump …

La nécessité de la candidature de celui dont les meilleurs politologues américains du moment, comme l’ancien conseiller de Reagan Robert Kagan, pensent et disent le plus grand bien ?

Nov 20 2013
Rubio Delivers Major Foreign Policy Speech At AEI
Rubio: “Diplomacy, foreign assistance and military intervention are tools at our disposal. But foreign policy cannot be simply about tactics. It must be strategic, with a clear set of goals that guide us in deciding how to apply our influence. These goals should be to protect and defend our people, to promote liberty and human rights throughout the world, and to advance the enduring pursuit of peace for all mankind.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
“Restoring Principle: A Foreign Policy Worthy of the American Dream”
Remarks As Prepared For Delivery
American Enterprise Institute
Washington, D.C.
November 20, 2013

Thank you very much to AEI for hosting me today. This Institute has been at the center of the debate about American foreign policy for decades, and the work your scholars produce on a daily basis has been a great help to me throughout my efforts on these issues in the United States Senate.

Like so many times before, our country is engaged in a robust debate about the future of America’s role in the world.

As we engage in this debate, those of us entrusted with a role in our government must remember that the nature and extent of our involvement abroad isn’t just some academic discussion. Our decisions directly impact each and every American, often in personal and profound ways.

Over the last twelve years, thousands have lost mothers, fathers, sons and daughters as part of our effort to defeat terrorism and bring freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan. And these sacrifices have left many Americans feeling understandably weary. The effort has taken longer and cost far more than expected, and we are heartbroken each time we learn the name of another brave American who will not return home.

Many are also discouraged by the news coming out of the Middle East. The disputes in this region seem to pit one bad actor against another, leaving us with doubts about whether we should pick a side at all. And despite the sacrifices we have made, America remains the target of hatred and anger in the Arab street.

Add to these concerns the fact that, for many Americans, a focus on other nations seems misplaced when there are so many problems at home. This leads many to question whether our government should spend time and resources on the freedom and security of someone an ocean away. After all, what do we gain from such involvement?

These are all understandable sentiments. And they have created an opening for voices that have long desired to disengage and isolate America from the world. Their rhetoric is more careful than the isolationists of the past. But their actions speak clearly. On issue after issue, these voices have used the increasing uncertainty abroad and the economic insecurity at home to argue that it’s best for America to stay on the sidelines.

There is no denying that a globally engaged America comes at a steep price. But the history of our still young nation is full of warnings that a lack of American engagement comes with an even higher price of its own.

We only have to look at the bloody history of the twentieth century to see the price that America, and the world, pays when we ignore mounting problems. When we have listened to voices urging us to look inward, we have failed to meet threats growing abroad until it was almost too late. And now, we are on the verge of repeating that mistake once again.

Other nations are not sitting idly by waiting for America to, as President Obama termed it, “nation build at home.” Many of our nation’s adversaries and rivals have been emboldened by our uncertain foreign policy.

So as instability spreads and tyrants flourish, our allies want to know whether America can still be counted on to confront these common challenges. Whether we will continue to be a beacon to the rest of the world.

Just last week I read a speech on this very topic. But it was not delivered by some American neoconservative commentator, but rather by the Foreign Minister of France. He said about us, and I quote the English translation, “Nobody can take over from the Americans, especially from a military point of view. Given the power of the United States, an American ‘disengagement’ – if this would be the proper way to qualify it – is a global disengagement, with the risk of letting major crises fester on their own.” End quote.

We are often led to think that other nations are tired of the role America has played in global affairs. But in fact, it is the fear of a disengaged America that worries countries all over the world.

Meanwhile, at home, foreign policy is too often covered in simplistic terms. Many only recognize two points of view: “doves”, who seek to isolate us from the world, participating in global events only when there is a direct physical threat to the safety of our homeland; and “hawks”, who believe we should use our mighty military strength to intervene in response to practically every crisis.

These labels are obsolete. They come from the world of the past.

The time has now come for a new vision for America’s role abroad- one that reflects the reality of the world we live in today.

It begins by being proud of what we have achieved as a nation. Some on both the left and the right try to portray our legacy as one of an aggressive tyrant constantly meddling in the world’s crises.

But ask around the world and you’ll find that our past use of military might has a different legacy. Our legacy is a crumbled wall in Berlin. It’s the millions of Afghan children – including many girls – now able to attend school for the first time. It’s vibrant democracies and steadfast allies such as Germany, Japan and South Korea.

Our legacy is that of a nation that for two centuries has planted its feet and pushed out against the walls of tyranny, oppression and injustice that constantly threaten to close in on the world, and has sought to replace these forces with the spread of liberty, free enterprise, and respect for human rights.

These principles are also advanced by other elements of American influence – those that don’t require any military might.

For example, consider the countless lives we’ve saved from the scourge of AIDS in Africa through the PEPFAR program. Or consider the economic mobility created by American trade and investment.

These accomplishments prove that, while military might may be our most eye-catching method of involvement abroad, it is far from being our most often utilized. In most cases, the decisive use of diplomacy, foreign assistance, and economic power are the most effective ways to achieve our interests and stop problems before they spiral into crises.

Our uses of these methods should vastly outnumber our uses of force. But force used with clear, achievable objectives must always remain a part of our foreign policy toolbox. Because, while we always prefer peace over conflict, sometimes our enemies choose differently.

Sometimes military engagement is our best option. And sometimes it’s our only option.

In those instances, it must be abundantly clear to both our allies and our adversaries that we will not hesitate to engage unparalleled military might on behalf of our security, the security of our allies and our interests around the world.

Diplomacy, foreign assistance and military intervention are tools at our disposal. But foreign policy cannot be simply about tactics. It must be strategic, with a clear set of goals that guide us in deciding how to apply our influence.

These goals should be to protect and defend our people, to promote liberty and human rights throughout the world, and to advance the enduring pursuit of peace for all mankind.

A strategic foreign policy vision based on these principles is what I hope to offer here today.

In order to do this, we must first admit that this administration lacks a clear strategic foreign policy.

From his first days in office, President Obama has seemed unsure of the role that American power and principles should play around the world. He has failed to understand that in foreign policy, the timing and decisiveness of our actions matter almost as much as how we engage.

The President has spoken about the need to shift American foreign policy away from the conflicts of the Middle East and place increased focus on Asia. But our foreign policy cannot be one that picks and chooses which regions to pay attention to and which to ignore. In fact, our standing as a world power depends on our ability to engage globally anywhere and at anytime our interests are at stake.

But this administration’s lack of an overriding vision of our role in the world has impeded our ability to do this effectively. And nowhere is this failure more evident than in the President’s handling of policy toward Central Asia and the Middle East.

For example, when he first took office, President Obama hoped that kind words would dissuade the regime in Tehran from its pursuit of nuclear weapons. And so in June of 2009, while Iranians were being gunned down by their rulers in the streets, the President hesitated to offer any words of support because he didn’t want to offend Iran’s leaders.

Also that summer, he waited for months before agreeing to provide our commanders in Afghanistan with the troops they requested. He also put a time limit on the surge of forces, which undermined our efforts and invited our enemies to wait us out. He seemed to regret the tough rhetoric of his campaign, when he promised day after day that Afghanistan was a “war we must win.”

In early 2011, when waves of peaceful protests began to sweep dictators from power across the region, this administration’s lack of a strategic foreign policy left it uncertain of how to respond.

When a peaceful revolution was met with brute force in Libya, the President hesitated for months before helping to overthrow the Qaddafi regime. And afterward, he provided almost no support to those Libyans who wanted to establish a representative, law-abiding government. As a result, chaos replaced tyranny and four Americans, including our ambassador, were murdered with impunity. And now Libya is becoming a safe haven for terrorists and a source of instability in the region.

The debacle in Syria also illustrates the cost of President Obama’s lack of a strategic foreign policy. More than two years ago, I urged the President to exercise American influence at a time when we clearly had the ability to shape the outcome of the Syrian war – not through military action, but by working with an opposition that was not yet dominated by an influx of Al Qaeda-linked extremists.

But it was only when Bashar al-Assad employed chemical weapons, blatantly crossing the President’s own red line, that the conflict finally got a measurable – though very small — response from the White House. But by then, it was too late.

Because he never took the time before to explain how and why the conflict in Syria should matter to America, he was unable to rally the nation to support military intervention. I voted against President Obama’s plan for military action because he had no strategy beyond symbolic missile strikes. Nor did he explain what would happen following these strikes, which were publicly promised to be “unbelievably small,” when Assad would inevitably emerge to boast that his regime had survived our use of force. Ultimately, the President was forced to abandon these plans and turn to Vladimir Putin to broker a solution.

The results have been devastating.

We are left with the high likelihood of the worst possible outcome: a divided Syria, with a pro-Iran murderous dictator in control of part of the country, and radical jihadists in control of much of the rest.  Our closest allies in the region are now openly questioning the value of our friendship.

Our best options now are to alleviate the strain on our allies in the region through additional humanitarian assistance, to explore other ways of pressuring the Assad regime with sanctions, to cut off financial flows to extremists in the opposition, and to see if we can still find moderate elements to train and equip.

The President’s failure to negotiate a security cooperation agreement with Iraq was yet another instance in which this administration ambled aimlessly through a situation that should have prompted careful strategic maneuvering. It ensured the return of Al Qaeda to Iraq and the creeping authoritarianism of a Maliki government increasingly in the sway of Tehran. And in Afghanistan, the White House has often shown a lack of commitment that has put at risk the very real gains we and the Afghans have made.

Libya, Syria, Iraq and maybe soon Afghanistan are haunting examples of the sad and predictable results that have come when this administration has gotten the policy – and just as importantly – the timing wrong.

Now, clearly we can’t undo what’s been done. But we need to ask ourselves, “What can we do about this going forward?”

We should start by acknowledging the fact that a strong and engaged America has been a force of tremendous good in the world. This can be done easily by imagining the sort of world we would live in today had America sat out the 20th Century.

Imagine if the beaches of Normandy were never touched by American boots. Imagine if our foreign aid had not helped alleviate many of the world’s worst crises. Imagine if nuclear proliferation had continued unfettered by U.S. influence. It is no exaggeration to say that the majority of the world’s democracies may not exist had America remained disengaged.

Next we must acknowledge that there are threats to America today that are just as dire, just as pressing as any we faced in the last century.

Guided by these two realities, we must construct a strategic foreign policy that keeps Americans safe, promotes our national interests, and remains true to our guiding principles of liberty and human rights.

Such a strategy must be based on the idea that our highest priority is the safety of the American people. That is why there is no more important use of our influence and power than to prevent rogue regimes and terrorist groups from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. If states with sinister intentions, or that are under the influence of extremist groups, were to acquire nuclear weapons, they would become largely immune to external pressure. And they would surely spark other nations to join this so-called “nuclear club.”

This new arms race would dramatically increase the chances of nuclear war and render most of our other foreign objectives meaningless.

Consider Iran’s desire to gain nuclear weapons and North Korea’s continued investment in its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Both threaten regional and global stability, and of course the safety of billions around the world, including here in America.

When it comes to Iran, we should make no mistake: its leaders want nuclear weapons because they want to become the most dominant power in the Middle East.

Many in the region are looking to us for leadership. But too many of our allies and strategic partners see our foreign policy as a riddle and our actions as inconsistent with our rhetoric. They only see movements toward disengagement and feel that we’re overly eager to negotiate a deal with Iran.

We must demonstrate a willingness to maintain an unwavering position of strength in all talks, because Iran’s goal at the negotiating table has never been peace, but rather to win relief from sanctions without making irreversible concessions. We need to make absolutely clear to Iran’s leaders that sanctions will continue to increase until they agree to completely abandon any enrichment or reprocessing capability.  We must also remember that those sitting across the table from us, however modern they may seem, are the representatives of a brutal regime that continues its sponsorship of terrorism and deprives its people of their fundamental rights.

Another key to tackling the challenges posed by these nuclear rogues is maintaining an effective deterrent, not merely hoping that unilateral disarmament will lead the Irans or North Koreas of the world to follow our lead.  We should seek to establish flexible, adaptable groups of like-minded states to counter the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction, rather than solely relying on arms control agreements that are often not worth the paper they’re written on.

We must also address the threat posed by those regimes that may lack advanced capabilities, but that remain determined to undermine our strategic interests.

For example, we have seen the strong grip that anti-American sentiments have on some Latin American governments. Venezuela and Bolivia in particular have developed a troubling affinity for Iran. And Cuba was recently caught trafficking in weapons systems with North Korea in blatant violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions.

Despite these actions, the White House has remained passive as these nations and their anti-American allies assault the freedom of their own people and undermine the stability of their neighbors.

But this administration has shown more than just a reluctance to stand up to our enemies; it has also shown a reluctance to stand with our friends.

Look no further than Latin America to see examples of the benefits of rewarding our friends. Our support of our democratic allies in Colombia and Mexico are two examples of how patience and principles pay off.

We need to build on this progress by considering a new security agreement for the Western Hemisphere that includes our Canadian and Latin American partners and allows us to work together to solve the more difficult problems facing our region.

For instance, we should consider ways to expand cooperation among our security forces. This would enable us to better focus our efforts to stop illicit human, narcotics and weapons trafficking in the hemisphere.

On the energy front, the Western Hemisphere needs to establish itself as a democratic, peaceful and stable alternative to the Middle East. Approving the Keystone pipeline and authorizing the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Agreement are good first steps. We should also continue to cultivate the shale revolution here in the United States and leverage it to increase our geopolitical presence.

We’ve seen that great things can be achieved when the United States partners with key allies. This lesson extends to Asia as well, where the bedrock of our interests in furthering peace, security, liberty and prosperity is our alliances with democratic governments.

This administration’s rhetorical focus on the Asian region is welcome. But as China rises and becomes increasingly assertive, many of its neighbors look to the United States’ handling of events in the Middle East – and the cuts to our defense budget – and remain unconvinced that America is going to be there if the going gets tough.

This is unfortunate, because there are real success stories in the region. Japan is a perennial reminder of how democracy and free enterprise can transform a foreign power from a dangerous adversary into a lasting friend. Now, the Abe government is examining ways in which Japan can use its military outside of narrow self-defense missions. We should wholeheartedly support these efforts.

Taiwan shows that traditional Chinese culture and democracy can coexist and even flourish.  We should explore ways to deepen our relationship with Taiwan through bilateral trade agreements and by working together on economic reforms so that they can eventually join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Together with Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, and others, our goal is not to “contain” China. But rather to ensure that China’s rise remains peaceful.

We celebrate the fact that millions of people in China have emerged from generations of poverty into the middle class. We remain hopeful that China’s leaders would use their growing influence to engage as a responsible world power. But we cannot ignore their increasingly assertive and illegitimate territorial claims. And we cannot ignore the human rights violations that happen as a matter of state policy.

Our renewed focus on Asia does not need to come at the expense of our longstanding alliances in Europe. We can and must do both.

In Europe, we need to build on the expanding community of close American allies that are essential economic and strategic partners.  Key to this goal is ensuring that our efforts to engage with Russia do not undermine our allies, many of whom face threats from their much larger neighbor to the east.

We must establish a consistent willingness to speak out when the Russian government steps over the line, particularly with regard to human rights abuses.

This should be part of a broader initiative on America’s part to retain our legacy as the world’s leading defender of human rights. For all the progress we have made in promoting the dignity of every man, woman and child, there are still outrageous human rights abuses occurring in all parts of the world — yes, even here in America.

Consider modern day slavery in the form of human trafficking, which subjects the most vulnerable to a life of bondage and abuse. This is a problem that America must do more to combat, not just abroad but in our very own backyards. Modern day slavery exists in every state in America, including my home state of Florida.

Another human rights outrage that remains prevalent around the world is the systematic, often violent persecution of religious minorities. Christians in particular are increasingly targeted for persecution throughout the world. Protecting the rights of every person to worship in accordance with their faith must always be a clear priority of the United States, and that will require us to speak firmly to our adversaries and frankly to our friends.

Furthermore, when it comes to human rights and humanitarian causes, we must put our money where our mouth is by conditioning our foreign assistance to reflect our values and interests.

Consider the good that America has done to alleviate suffering in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. Our nation is providing the Filipino people with desperately needed humanitarian assistance, and has deployed some of our men and women in uniform to assist with the effort. Our people are also demonstrating how the power of private charitable giving can be just as influential as our government aid dollars.

Also on the foreign aid front, I am currently working to ensure that our assistance to Egypt is conditioned so that it advances our long-term goal of a stable, democratic Egypt, something that will not be possible if we recklessly cut all assistance to that country.

For all the good that American foreign aid does, I believe there is an even clearer and bolder gift we can offer to the cause of human rights. And that is the spread of liberty.

America’s success in remaining a beacon for freedom has been due in part to our extensive public diplomacy efforts.

But we should continue to come up with creative ways to utilize new technologies that aid in the spread of news and information. Because ultimately, as we’ve seen with the Arab Spring, ease of communication and the spread of knowledge has proven a surefire way to spark the fire of liberty.

But tyrants know this, too. Cuba is a case in point.

They have successfully worked to restrict their people’s access to information in a variety of ways, including strictly controlling Internet access. We should transition our information programs from focusing only on content to focusing on access as well, particularly access that’s not subject to regime scrutiny.

In addition to easing the flow of knowledge and communication around the world, we need to ensure progress is made in easing the flow of commerce. Expanding free and fair trade will create job opportunities for our own people and will have a profound impact in lowering poverty abroad. Concluding TPP with our Asian partners and TTIP with Europe should both be top priorities given their potential to reinvigorate our alliances in key regions and spread economic opportunity at home.

Congress must avoid the false allure of protectionist policies. America’s economic might has always been linked to our openness. We can work to maintain this openness by extending access to our Visa Waiver Program to key allies such as South Korea, Poland, and others in Central Europe.

We must find ways to make the visa application process less burdensome for those wishing to travel and do business in the United States. For instance, many Brazilians are interested in visiting Florida’s tourist attractions, but take their business elsewhere due to onerous visa procedures. Simplifying this process would be a positive move toward friendly nations and a boon to our nation’s economy.

These proposals I’ve just discussed are investments in our future.  All are tools that can be utilized to prevent crises and, if necessary, respond once they occur. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, diplomacy and global engagement will fail to prevent or solve a threat to our security. And in those instances we need to have the world’s most advanced intelligence capabilities.

We must respond to the valid concerns of Americans who are alarmed by reports regarding their civil liberties, but we must distinguish these reasonable concerns from conspiracy theories sparked by Edward Snowden. This man is a traitor who has sought assistance and refuge from some of the world’s most notorious violators of liberty and human rights.

Our intelligence programs need to be carefully monitored and controlled.  But we do need them. Because terrorists don’t use carrier pigeons. They use cell phones and the Internet, adapting the latest technologies to aid their malign intent. We need to be prepared to intercept the messages of those who wish us harm, while not interfering in the affairs of ordinary citizens.

Those of us tasked with providing oversight to these programs, starting with the President, need to be honest with the American people about the daily threats that we face. We must explain why these programs, in a limited and carefully managed form, are necessary to protect the security of all Americans.

Similarly, our fiscal challenges at home have even caused some, including a few Republicans, to question why so much defense spending is necessary. I believe the Department of Defense, like any government agency, should be efficient and eliminate all waste from its budget. But the fact is that President Obama has been making dangerous cuts to the defense budget since entering office. Our uniformed military leaders and the past three Secretaries of Defense all agree that these cuts, when coupled with those imposed by sequestration, threaten military preparedness.

This would lead to the same problems we faced in the 90’s. These massive cuts will tempt our adversaries to test us, scare our allies, and leave America vulnerable to attack.

To lift the sequester we must find a real, lasting solution to the true cause of our growing national debt: the unsustainable path of important programs like Medicare and Social Security.

None of this will be easy. It will be tempting to think we can ignore chaos abroad and shift more resources to projects at home.

But America must not fail to recognize her vital role in the world.

During the 20th Century, our power, our influence and most importantly our example, has been the preeminent driver of the spread of liberty and peace throughout the globe.

But now we find ourselves in a new century. And voices in both parties argue that we can no longer afford to play this role. And that even if we could, it is not our place to do so.

But this is not a new argument. It is an old one. It is a failed one.

History has proven time and again that when a powerful nation loses or abandons its role in the world, it leaves behind a vacuum that other nations will rush to fill.

And so I ask you: if America stops leading, who will fill the vacuum we leave behind? Is there a candidate nation for this role that can offer the security and benevolence that America can? Is there any other nation we can trust to spread the values of liberty and peace and democracy? There is not.

In our hearts, Americans understand this. But we are tired from the conflicts of the last decade. We are frustrated that our efforts are so often unappreciated. And we wonder – with all the problems that need addressing here in America – why should we focus so much energy abroad?

The answer is that foreign policy is domestic policy. So much of what happens here at home is directly related to what is happening abroad.

When liberty and economic prosperity spread, they create markets for our products, visitors to our tourist destinations, partners for our businesses, investors for our ideas, and jobs for our people.

But when liberty is denied and economic desperation take root, it affects us here at home. It breeds radicalism and terror. It drives illegal immigration. It leads to humanitarian crises that we are compelled to address.

Many understand this. But we are made anxious by the polling and trends that show an increasingly skeptical public. It is important for those of us that share this vision for an active America to remember that we need to bring the American people with us. Americans, especially those outside this city, need their leaders to make a compelling case for the importance of international engagement.

This is important because, in the end, these successes abroad belong to the entirety of the American people. It is the American people who for generations have manned America’s military, defended our freedom and built our economic might. It is the American people who’ve engaged the world through private, charitable, and religious efforts, and have represented this country overseas in greater ways than any diplomat can hope to.

The darkness of tyranny and oppression always seems to spread with discouraging ease. Sadly, this darkness will always be a dominant force in our world. But we must never allow it to become the dominant force in our world.

We can do that. Because as we’ve seen, the light of liberty can drive this darkness away. It can illuminate the potential of a nation. It can brighten the stability of a region. It can reveal the hope of a lasting peace.

Every American can agree that the light of peace and liberty would benefit our world. But who will spread it if not America?

There is no other nation that can. And that is why, despite the challenges we face here at home, America must continue to hold this torch. America must continue to lead the way.

Voir aussi:

The Neocons Return

Eliana Johnson

October 6, 2014

Meet their 2016 candidate, Marco Rubio. The neocons are back. That is, at least in Marco Rubio’s world. The Florida senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate has, since his election in 2010, regularly consulted with and sought the advice of top neoconservative writers and policymakers, several of whom served in the administration of George W. Bush.

His loose circle of advisers includes former national-security adviser Stephen Hadley, former deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, Brookings Institution scholar and former Reagan-administration aide Robert Kagan, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and former Missouri senator Jim Talent.

To this group, beating back the rising tide of non-interventionism in the Republican party is a top priority, and they consider Rubio a candidate, if not the candidate, capable of doing so. “I think it’s very important that any isolationist arguments be defeated well and be defeated early,” says a neoconservative foreign-policy expert who talks with Rubio frequently.

Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, a war in Israel, and the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have in the course of a few months made the American public, and especially Republican-primary voters, more hawkish. Some argue that these events have dimmed the prospects that Kentucky senator Rand Paul, who has carved out a niche for himself as the leading non-interventionist in the Republican party, could seize the nomination. Unquestionably, the crises have boosted Rubio’s stock.

“We’re in an international crisis of really significant proportions, the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades,” says the Brookings Institution’s Kagan. “We’ve all been very sympathetic to people worried about going crosswise with the Republican base, but I really think we’re past that. From my perspective, I’m only going to be interested in people who are willing to say the hard things.” For Kagan, that includes arguing for an increase in the defense budget and being frank both about the need to use force when necessary and about America’s role as the world’s preeminent power.

But it’s not just current events that have drawn serious foreign-policy thinkers to Rubio. Since his election four years ago, the first-term senator has consistently articulated a robust internationalist position closest to that of George W. Bush. His outside advisers say he impressed them from the beginning as somebody who took foreign affairs seriously; since then he has built up a record of accomplishment during his four years in the Senate, where he serves on the foreign-relations and intelligence committees.

The experts I spoke with made it clear they have not signed up with Rubio, and nearly all speak with, and speak highly of, other potential candidates. But it is Rubio who garners their highest praise.

“From very early on he was clearly someone who was deciding to take foreign policy seriously,” says Kagan, “I thought he spoke remarkably intelligently.”

Elliott Abrams first spoke with Rubio when he was running for the Senate in 2010. “We had a mutual friend who said to me, ‘He has no experience in the Middle East, but obviously it’s a big issue in Florida, would you be willing to talk to him?’” Abrams says. “We got on the phone, and he said, ‘Let’s do it this way: Let me tell you what I think about the Middle East, and then you tell me what I’ve left out that’s important and what I’ve got wrong.’” Rubio, Abrams says, didn’t have anything wrong. “I was really impressed,” he tells me. “I don’t think there are very many state politicians who could have, off the cuff, done a six-or-seven minute riff on the Middle East.”

Rubio’s disciplined and methodical approach to foreign policy — he has articulated his views over the past two years in several speeches around the world — presents a stark contrast, say multiple foreign-policy experts, to that of his tea-party colleague Ted Cruz. A Cruz adviser last week told National Journal that the Texas senator will almost certainly mount a presidential bid in 2016 and plans to run on a “foreign-policy platform.”

“Whereas Rubio clearly has some views that he has considered and articulated, my sense of Cruz is that he is much less formed by conviction,” says one foreign-policy expert who has met with both potential candidates. “His background was really more on the domestic side.”

Cruz has repeatedly said he embraces a Reaganite foreign policy. He made headlines in recent weeks for walking out of an event when a group of Arab Christians booed his vocal defense of Israel, and he has used his seat on the Armed Services Committee to travel abroad during his time in office. But those I spoke with were, across the board, unimpressed. They universally characterized his worldview as shallow, opportunistic, and ever shifting to where he perceives the base of the party to be.

A former senior Bush administration defense official criticized the Texas senator in particular for his failure, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, to advocate for raising the defense budget. “He’s basically not done anything that I’m aware of to put an end to the hemorrhaging in the Defense Department, so it rings a little hollow,” he says. “It’s one thing to posture, it’s another thing to have a consistent policy. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t develop one. I don’t want to write him up as a lost cause, but he has a long way to go before he could be considered on the same bar as Rubio, considered to have a coherent world view.”

Over the summer, Rubio was briefed on the findings of the National Defense Panel, led by former Missouri senator Jim Talent and former undersecretary of defense for policy Eric Edelman, and the senator used a major speech last month to sound the alarm about the recent cuts to the defense budget and argue for ramping it back up.

Kagan — the preeminent neoconservative scholar and author who made headlines when President Obama improbably cited his article on “The Myth of American Decline,” and again when his cover story for The New Republic critiquing Obama’s foreign policy zipped through the West Wing — has had a major influence on Rubio’s worldview.

The former adviser to politicians from Jack Kemp to Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton says he spoke with Rubio on and off during his first two years in office, and Rubio cited Kagan’s 2012 book The World America Made in his remarks at the Brookings Institution later that year. In the book, Kagan argues that world orders are transient, and that the world order that has been shaped by the United States since the end of World War II — defined by freedom, democracy, and capitalism — will crumble if American power wanes. But he also posits that the modern world order rests not on America’s cherished ideals — respect for individual rights and human dignity — but on economic and military power, and that its preservation requires bolstering America’s hard power.

Rubio has echoed that view over the past two years. “We should start by acknowledging the fact that a strong and engaged America has been a force of tremendous good in the world,” Rubio said in Washington, D.C., last year. “This can be done easily by imagining the sort of world we would live in today had America sat out the 20th century.” He pushed back in December last year, in a speech he gave in London about the lasting importance of the transatlantic alliance, on those he described as “weary from decades of global engagement.” In Seoul, South Korea, a month later, he lamented that many in Congress are “increasingly skeptical about why America needs to remain so active in international affairs.”

Rubio’s views are strikingly similar to those that guided George W. Bush as he began navigating the post-9/11 world. “Foreign policy is domestic policy,” Rubio told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in November of last year. “When liberty is denied and economic desperation take root, it affects us here at home. It breeds radicalism and terror. It drives illegal immigration. It leads to humanitarian crises that we are compelled to address.” It was Bush who in his 2002 National Security Strategy argued that “the distinction between domestic and foreign affairs is increasingly diminishing,” because “events beyond America’s borders have a greater impact inside them.”

The key difference, according to Kagan, is that Bush, who campaigned in 2000 on a platform of scaling back American involvement in the world, “had a revelation after September 11,” whereas Rubio comes by his position more organically.

However unfairly, Bush’s approach to foreign affairs has become inextricably associated with the invasion of Iraq, and few Republicans are willing to stand wholeheartedly behind it anymore. I asked a Rubio aide if the senator fears associating himself too closely with the Bush clan or with Bush’s foreign policy, and whether Rubio might be making himself vulnerable to an attack that a Rubio presidency would be George W. Bush’s third term. No, the aide replies, adding that “a lot of the foreign-policy issues that the next president is going to deal with are different than they were 20 years ago.”

Regardless, Rubio may indeed become vulnerable to the charge that he is another neocon like Bush, surrounded by some of the same people and informed by essentially the same views.

The day when Republican-primary voters go to the polls is still a long way off, but it feels as if a number of conservative foreign-policy thinkers have already cast their vote.

— Eliana Johnson is Washington editor of National Review.

 Voir encore:

Staring at the Conservative Gutter

Donald Trump gives credence to the left’s caricature of bigoted conservatives.

In the late 1950s, Bill Buckley decreed that nobody whose name appeared on the masthead of the American Mercury magazine would be published in the pages of National Review. The once-illustrious Mercury of H.L. Mencken had become a gutter of far-right anti-Semites. Buckley would not allow his magazine to be tainted by them.

The word for Buckley’s act is “lustration,” and for two generations it upheld the honor of the mainstream conservative movement. Liberals may have been fond of claiming that Republicans were all closet bigots and that tax cuts were a form of racial prejudice, but the accusation rang hollow because the evidence for it was so tendentious.

Not anymore. The candidacy of Donald Trump is the open sewer of American conservatism. This Super Tuesday, polls show a plurality of GOP voters intend to dive right into it, like the boy in the “Slumdog Millionaire” toilet scene. And they’re not even holding their noses.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has endorsed the Code Pink view of the Iraq War (Bush lied; people died). He has cited and embraced an aphorism of Benito Mussolini. (“It’s a very good quote,” Mr. Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd.) He has refused to release his “very beautiful” tax returns. And he has taken his time disavowing the endorsement of onetime Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke—offering, by way of a transparently dishonest excuse, that “I know nothing about David Duke.” Mr. Trump left the Reform Party in 2000 after Mr. Duke joined it.

None of this seems to have made the slightest dent in Mr. Trump’s popularity. If anything it has enhanced it. In the species of political pornography in which Mr. Trump trafficks, the naughtier the better. The more respectable opinion is scandalized by whatever pops out of the Donald’s mouth, the more his supporters cheer him for sticking it to the snobs and the scolds. The more Mr. Trump traduces the old established lines of decency, the more he affirms his supporters’ most shameless ideological instincts.

Those instincts have moved beyond the usual fare of a wall with Mexico, a trade war with China, Mr. Trump’s proposed Muslim Exclusion Act, or his scurrilous insinuations about the constitutionality of Ted Cruz’s or Marco Rubio’s presidential bids.

What too many of Mr. Trump’s supporters want is an American strongman, a president who will make the proverbial trains run on time. This is a refrain I hear over and over again from Trump supporters, who want to bring a businessman’s efficiency to the federal government. If that means breaking with a few democratic niceties, so be it.

Mr. Trump is happy to indulge the taste. “I hear the Rickets [sic] family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $’s against me,” Mr. Trump tweeted Feb. 22 about the Ricketts family of T.D. Ameritrade fame. “They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!” What happens when Mr. Trump starts sending similar tweets as president? The question isn’t an idle one, since the candidate has also promised to “open up the libel laws” as president so he can more easily sue hostile journalists. Is trashing the First Amendment another plank in making America great again?

No wonder Mr. Trump earns such lavish praise not only from Mr. Duke or Vladimir Putin, but also from French ur-fascist Jean Marie Le Pen, who once described Nazi Germany’s gas chambers as “a detail of history” and now says that if he were American he’d vote for Mr. Trump, “may God protect him.” With the instinct of house flies, they recognize the familiar smell, and they want more of it.

Mr. Trump exemplifies a new political wave sweeping the globe—leaders coming to power through democratic means while avowing illiberal ends. Hungary’s Viktor Orban is another case in point, as is Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Trump presidency—neutral between dictatorships and democracies, opposed to free trade, skeptical of traditional U.S. defense alliances, hostile to immigration—would mark the collapse of the entire architecture of the U.S.-led post-World War II global order. We’d be back to the 1930s, this time with an America Firster firmly in charge.

That’s the future Mr. Trump offers whether his supporters realize it or not. Bill Buckley and the other great shapers of modern conservatism—Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, Robert Bartley and Irving Kristol—articulated a conservatism that married economic dynamism to a prudent respect for tradition, patriotism and openness to the wider world. Trumpism is the opposite of this creed: moral gaucherie plus economic nationalism plus Know Nothingism. It is the return of the American Mercury, minus for now (but only for now) the all-but inevitable anti-Semitism.

It would be terrible to think that the left was right about the right all these years. Nativist bigotries must not be allowed to become the animating spirit of the Republican Party. If Donald Trump becomes the candidate, he will not win the presidency, but he will help vindicate the left’s ugly indictment. It will be left to decent conservatives to pick up the pieces—and what’s left of the party.

Voir enfin:

Rubio Echoes Neoconservative Views in Foreign Policy Address

Nina Burleigh , Emily Cadei

Newsweek

On 5/14/15

Appearing before an elite foreign policy crowd in New York, Marco Rubio looked and sounded like the recipient of a Rotary Club scholarship reciting his essay—even leading off with a reference to JFK. “President Kennedy, like most presidents before and since, understood what our current president does not,” the Florida senator opened. “American strength is a means of preventing war, not promoting it. And that weakness, on the other hand, is the friend of danger and the enemy of peace.”

The youthful Republican with the muscular foreign policy appears to be the designated rehabilitator of the neoconservative philosophy, which took a beating after the Iraq War. Although he might be better called a neo-neocon, Rubio is willing to tweak the playbook to suit the times. He flip-flopped on Iraq, saying he wouldn’t have supported the invasion knowing the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction was bad. (In March, when asked on Fox, he supported it.)

Rubio has been burnishing his foreign policy credibility with a slot on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, showing up even at sparsely attended meetings. He has been outspoken on international human trafficking and relations with Latin America. In the midst of the Arab Spring, the rookie senator was an early supporter both of bombing Libya and arming Syria’s rebels. And with concerns about national security rising again—particularly among Republican voters—his neo-neocon views have helped him seize the spotlight and boosted his standing in the 2016 presidential campaign.

In New York on Wednesday, the senator called for more American leadership in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations. He made his case in both military and moral terms and denigrated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy as “a disaster.”

“Today, our nation faces a greater threat of terrorist attack than any time since September 11, 2001,” he wrote in an op-ed this week supporting the Patriot Act’s data collection programs. As a candidate, Rubio is reportedly close to receiving significant financial support from billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, a leading GOP fundraiser and hawk.

In his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, he presented “three pillars” that he said would be the foundations of his foreign policy if elected. He called for bigger military budgets and an extension of the Patriot Act’s bulk data collection program; support for America’s economic activity abroad, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a promise of military action to back up any challenges to American interests abroad; and third, “moral clarity to back up America’s core values”—a nice-sounding if vague goal that includes ensuring repressed minorities and women abroad know that America is aware of their suffering.

He painted the Obama administration’s foreign policy as weak and confused. Answering a question from the audience about Clinton’s record as secretary of state, Rubio charged that she had “misunderstood Putin,” waited too long and did too little on Libya, and had been “negligent” toward Latin America. He called her “the chief architect and spokesman of a foreign policy that will go down in history as a disaster.”

Rubio was a vocal presence on the Senate floor during last week’s Iran sanctions debate, trying to toughen a bill giving Congress the right to review any nuclear deal. His “poison pill” amendment—requiring Israel to recognize Israel as a condition of any agreement—failed, but it gave him a platform to prove his being simpatico with the hard-line leaders in the Jewish state. He’s also been speaking out about the need to reauthorize Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the part of the 2001 law used to authorize the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk collection of phone records, first exposed by Edward Snowden. There’s bipartisan support for reform of that law, and one of Rubio’s 2016 rivals, Senator Rand Paul, has promised to filibuster the reauthorization debate. But Rubio has strongly supported the spy agency.

After his speech, in an interview on stage with Charlie Rose, Rubio exhibited an easy but firm grasp of numerous international complexities, from the shifting national alliances and failed states in the Middle East, to Chinese claims to islands in the South China Sea, to Castro’s Cuba. He called Putin’s use of military might a fig leaf to cover that country’s failed economy.

He passed up a chance to criticize either the man who is likely to be his main foe in the crowded GOP primary, Jeb Bush, or his brother, President George W. Bush. Asked whether he would have invaded Iraq, knowing what we know now, that there were no weapons of mass destruction, Rubio said no—an answer that Jeb Bush couldn’t bring himself to utter earlier this week. Rubio managed to throw in a good word for W. too. “Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it,” he said.

Rubio tossed off a few dubious claims. One was charging that Obama is holding back on attacking ISIS to avoid challenging Iran. When Charlie Rose pointed out that American drones have reportedly killed two of the self-proclaimed caliphate top leaders, Rubio contended that the U.S. position against ISIS still hasn’t been aggressive enough.

The president, Rubio said, had always “viewed American engagement abroad as a cause of friction. The notion was that we had problems around the world because there were grievances against the United States because of something we had done,” he said. “Iran’s problem with America is not just grievance, it’s ideological. It’s their belief that they want to be a dominant power in and export their revolution.”

Rubio then repeated a contention he made previously—and for which the Washington Post awarded him “three Pinocchios”—that Obama didn’t “firmly support” Iranians who wanted democracy during the so-called Green Revolution of 2009, when Iran’s leaders rigged the election. In fact, Obama publicly criticized the Iranian electoral process. “Rubio appears to have created a cartoon version of the White House reaction to the Green Revolution,” the Washington Post commented when he first made the same claim.

An audience member asked whether his view of Iran matched that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I view them as the same threat he does, but the difference is he lives a lot closer to them than I do.” Iran’s leaders have long publicly called for eliminating Israel, and Rubio noted that one of its leaders even issued a detailed tweet about how to accomplish that.

It was a measure of Rubio’s momentum (polls show his numbers up in Iowa, New Hampshire and nationally) and how seriously he is taken that the room was packed with big-name journalists and marquee foreign policy figures. Among those who lobbed questions at him were New York lawyer Zoë Baird, nominated by Bill Clinton for attorney general, but whose bid was withdrawn over unpaid nanny taxes, and conservative British author Niall Ferguson, who asked whether “radical Islam” is the ideological equivalent of the communist threat that Kennedy and Reagan faced.

Communism tried to create nation-states, Rubio replied, whereas radical Islam differs in that it can’t govern. “They do a terrible job of picking up the garbage, and providing services, but they are very brutal.” He said the key was to deny them safe havens—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and parts of Africa. “We cannot allow safe havens to emerge anywhere in the world…where these groups can set up camp and establish themselves,” Rubio said.

Journalists were not allowed to ask questions, but as Rubio was shaking hands, one asked him whether he had changed his mind on the Iraq War. Rubio ignored the repeated question, and retreated with a small entourage to a safe haven of his own, an anteroom near the stage.


Primaires américaines: Attention, un accident industriel pourrait en cacher un autre (Rage against the PC machine: After 8 years of Dr. Obamastein, are Americans ready to pour their hopes into another totally uncertain vessel ?)

26 février, 2016
Obamastein
TrumpRevolution
donald_trump_kim_kardashian
The revolution will not be televised The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat
The revolution will be no re-run brothers; The revolution will be live …
Gil Scott-Heron
La femme serait vraiment l’égale de l’homme le jour où, à un poste important, on désignerait une femme incompétente. Françoise Giroud (Le Monde, 11.03.83)
After seizing a large segment of Iraq and Syria, beheading Western hostages on camera and slaughtering civilians in the heart of Paris, ISIS has eclipsed its extremist rival as the biggest brand in global jihad. But U.S. officials tell NBC News that al Qaeda — though its core in Pakistan has been degraded by years of CIA drone strikes — is now experiencing renewed strength through its affiliates, led by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen and the Nusra Front in Syria. (…) Both branches have expanded their territorial holdings over the last year amid civil wars. Russian air strikes against the Nusra Front, and CIA drone attacks on AQAP leaders, have set them back, but have not come close to destroying them. Al Qaeda has not managed to attack a Western target recently, but it continues to inspire plots. There is no evidence December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California was directed by al Qaeda, but Syed Rizwan Farook, who carried out the attack with his wife Tashfeen Malik, appears to have been radicalized by al Qaeda long before the rise of ISIS. He was a consumer of videos by al Qaeda’s Somalia affiliate and the AQAP preacher Anwar al Awlaki, court records show. Al Qaeda attacks on hotels in Burkina Faso in January and Mali in November, which together killed dozens of people, appeared to affirm the threat posed by the terror group’s Saharan branch, al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, or AQIM. (…) intelligence officials are also « concerned al Qaeda could reestablish a significant presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, if regional counterterrorism pressure deceases. » In Yemen, AQAP has benefitted from the power vacuum created by the Houthi rebels’ uprising, and the air war on the Houthis by Saudi Arabia. « Jabhat al Nusra is a core component of the al Qaeda network and probably poses the most dangerous threat to the U.S. from al Qaeda in the coming years, » the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, said in a recent report. « Al Qaeda is pursuing phased, gradual, and sophisticated strategies that favor letting ISIS attract the attention — and attacks — of the West while it builds the human infrastructure to support and sustain major gains in the future and for the long term. » (…) Hoffman, who served as the CIA’s Scholar-in-Residence for Counterterrorism, calls Nusra « even more dangerous and capable than ISIS. » Al Qaeda is watching ISIS « take all the heat and absorb all the blows while al Qaeda quietly re-builds its military strength, » he said. NBC
The number of Cubans entering the United States nearly doubled last year, compared with the year before. That trend shows no signs of slowing. More Cubans are coming to the United States because they fear that a thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations will end a longstanding policy granting legal status to any Cuban national who reaches dry land in the United States. (…) Obama is headed to Havana on March 21, the first U.S. president to do so in 88 years. Cuellar supports the President’s efforts to improve relations between the two countries, but he hopes Obama addresses the migration issue while in Havana, as well as the lack of political freedoms on the island and other human rights issues. That’s a sentiment shared by many of the migrants waiting to see an immigration officer at the Laredo border crossing. « I hope he talks to the real people, » says Melian, the migrant waiting at the Laredo border crossing. « I hope he doesn’t allow himself to be fooled by the Castros as they fooled the world for many years. » CNN
Barack Obama is the Dr. Frankenstein of the supposed Trump monster. If a charismatic, Ivy League-educated, landmark president who entered office with unprecedented goodwill and both houses of Congress on his side could manage to wreck the Democratic Party while turning off 52 percent of the country, then many voters feel that a billionaire New York dealmaker could hardly do worse. If Obama had ruled from the center, dealt with the debt, addressed radical Islamic terrorism, dropped the politically correct euphemisms and pushed tax and entitlement reform rather than Obamacare, Trump might have little traction. A boring Hillary Clinton and a staid Jeb Bush would most likely be replaying the 1992 election between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush — with Trump as a watered-down version of third-party outsider Ross Perot. But America is in much worse shape than in 1992. And Obama has proved a far more divisive and incompetent president than George H.W. Bush. Little is more loathed by a majority of Americans than sanctimonious PC gobbledygook and its disciples in the media. And Trump claims to be PC’s symbolic antithesis. Making Machiavellian Mexico pay for a border fence or ejecting rude and interrupting Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a press conference is no more absurd than allowing more than 300 sanctuary cities to ignore federal law by sheltering undocumented immigrants. Putting a hold on the immigration of Middle Eastern refugees is no more illiberal than welcoming into American communities tens of thousands of unvetted foreign nationals from terrorist-ridden Syria. In terms of messaging, is Trump’s crude bombast any more radical than Obama’s teleprompted scripts? Trump’s ridiculous view of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a sort of « Art of the Deal » geostrategic partner is no more silly than Obama insulting Putin as Russia gobbles up former Soviet republics with impunity. Obama callously dubbed his own grandmother a « typical white person, » introduced the nation to the racist and anti-Semitic rantings of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and petulantly wrote off small-town Pennsylvanians as near-Neanderthal « clingers. » Did Obama lower the bar for Trump’s disparagements? Certainly, Obama peddled a slogan, « hope and change, » that was as empty as Trump’s « make America great again. » (…) How does the establishment derail an out-of-control train for whom there are no gaffes, who has no fear of The New York Times, who offers no apologies for speaking what much of the country thinks — and who apparently needs neither money from Republicans nor politically correct approval from Democrats? Victor Davis Hanson
So what to do now? The Republicans’ creation will soon be let loose on the land, leaving to others the job the party failed to carry out. For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be. Robert Kagan
People wonder what accounts for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Maybe the better question is how the Obama years could not have produced a Trump and Sanders. Both the Republican and, to a lesser extent, Democratic parties have elements now who want to pull down the temple. But for all the politicized agitation, both these movements, in power, would produce stasis—no change at all. Donald Trump would preside over a divided government or, as he has promised and un-promised, a trade war with China. Hillary or Bernie will enlarge the Obama economic regime. Either outcome guarantees four more years of at best 2% economic growth. That means more of the above. That means 18-year-olds voting for the first time this year will face historically weak job opportunities through 2020 at least. Under any of these three, an Americanized European social-welfare state will evolve because Washington—and this will include many “conservatives”—will answer still-rising popular anger with new income redistributions. And for years afterward, Barack Obama will stroll off the 18th green, smiling. Mission, finally, accomplished. Daniel Henninger
We’re in the midst of a rebellion. The bottom and middle are pushing against the top. It’s a throwing off of old claims and it’s been going on for a while, but we’re seeing it more sharply after New Hampshire. This is not politics as usual, which by its nature is full of surpris