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.

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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.”
From Our April 2016 Issue

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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
Read more

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.


Primaire républicaine: Les néoconservateurs sauveront-ils le parti démocrate ? (By pushing the neocons back to their liberal roots, will Trump help save the Democratic party ?)

5 mars, 2016
Un néoconservateur est un homme de gauche qui s’est fait braquer par la réalité. Un néolibéral est un homme de gauche qui s’est fait lui aussi agresser par la réalité, mais n’a pas porté plainte. Irving Kristol
Aussi loin que je me souvienne, j’ai été néo-quelque chose: néo-marxiste, néo-trotskyste, néo-gauchiste, néo-conservateur et, en religion, toujours néo–orthodoxe, même quand j’étais néo-trotskyste et néo-marxiste. Je vais finir néo-. Juste néo-, c’est tout. Néo-tiret-rien. Irving Kristol
Neo-conservatism is not at all hostile to the idea of a welfare state, but it is critical of the Great Society version of this welfare state. In general, it approves of those social reforms that, while providing needed security and comfort to the individual in our dynamic, urbanized society, do so with a minimum of bureaucratic intrusion in the individual’s affairs. Such reforms would include, of course, social security, unemployment insurance, some form of national health insurance, some kind of family assistance plan, etc. In contrast, it is skeptical of those social: programs that create vast and energetic bureaucracies to “solve social problems.” In short, while being for the welfare state, it is opposed to the paternalistic state. It also believes that this welfare state will best promote the common good if it is conceived in such a way, as not to go bankrupt. Irving Kristol (« What Is a ‘Neo-Conservative’?”, Newsweek, January 19, 1976)
La France n’est pas gouvernée par l’aile droite du PS, mais par des néoconservateurs, dans tous les domaines, à quelques exceptions près… D’ailleurs, leurs alliés sont désormais issus du bloc réactionnaire: déchéance de nationalité, état d’urgence, surenchère pénale, droit du travail. Pouria Amirshahi (député socialiste français)
Ne l’oublions pas : à l’exception du sénateur Joe Lieberman et de quelques autres, le parti démocrate s’est radicalement éloigné de la tradition qui fut celle de Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman et de John Kennedy, combattants de la guerre contre le totalitarisme. Tout acquis aux enfantillages post-modernes de l’anti-capitalisme, de la lutte des races et des sexes, et de l’utopie pacifiste, qui a gagné les cœurs d’artichauts des élites de l’Union européenne, ce parti Démocrate fait tout ce qu’il peut pour saboter la lutte contre l’Islam radical. Ses candidats sont à l’unisson de son idéologie. Hillary et Obama n’ont pas de grand désaccord sur le fond, seulement sur leur ambition. Hillary a levé tant de fonds, que sa campagne regorge d’argent. Obama aussi. Hollywood, fief traditionnel des Clinton, adoooore Obama, oui ma chère ! Quelle prestance ! Pour peu, on demanderait à Robert Redford ou à Brad Pitt de jouer son rôle dans le prochain film. C’est qu’Obama est soutenu par toute l’extrême-gauche la plus hystérique, celle qui prie ardemment pour que les Etats-Unis perdent toujours et partout, celle qui voit dans les Etats-Unis la source de tous les maux de la planète, y compris la Guerre de Cent Ans et les caries dentaires. Son pasteur, à Chicago, – Obama est sénateur de l’Illinois – est un agité du bonnet, raciste noir, ségrégationniste à rebours, ancien Black Muslim, – qui déclarait que le 11 septembre fut la punition (justifiée) de l’Amérique -, et qui s’attaque au « racisme sioniste », etc. On aura reconnu les antiennes fascisantes de l’extrême-gauche. Les fanatiques de la haine de l’Amérique se sont engagés à fond du côté du beau gosse. Hillary est trop modérée. Elle a voté, comme la plupart des sénateurs démocrates, qui se tortillent comme des bretzels pour nier l’avoir fait, les pouvoirs de guerre à Bush pour envahir l’Irak. Traîtresse ! Elle a beau se justifier, c’était par opportunisme, mes chéris ! (…) Qui emportera le concours de beauté ? Comme son mari, Hillary, gagnante et présidente, gouvernerait au gré des sondages, avec, à la différence de Bill, qui n’a qu’une idéologie, celle du narcissisme, un fort fond de gauchisme soixante-huitard, jamais renié et un amour immodéré de l’étatisme, façon nanny-state (l’Etat-nounou). Mais n’oublions pas que le Clintonisme, c’est une propension illimitée au mensonge au service d’une ambition narcissique démesurée. C’est une vénalité hors du commun, une aptitude singulière à corrompre tout ce qu’ils touchent, le tout couronné par la certitude indomptable que tout ce que je fais est légitime et inconditionnellement justifié. Bill et Hillary incarnent la génération de Woodstock dans ce qu’elle a de pire : I, me, me, mine, (Je, moi, moi, le mien), comme chantaient les Beatles. Laurent Murawiec
In fact, the original strand of neoconservatism didn’t pay any attention to foreign policy. Its earliest members were veterans of the anti-communist struggles who had reacted negatively to the leftward evolution of American liberalism in the 1960s. They were sociologists and political scientists who criticized the failures and unintended consequences of President Lyndon Johnson’s « Great Society » programs, especially the war on poverty. They also bemoaned the excesses of what Lionel Trilling called the « adversary culture » — in their view, individualistic, hedonistic, and relativistic — that had taken hold of the baby-boom generation on college campuses. Although these critics were not unconditional supporters of the free market and still belonged to the liberal camp, they did point out the limits of the welfare state and the naiveté of the boundless egalitarian dreams of the New Left. These thinkers found outlets in prestigious journals like Commentary and The Public Interest, founded in 1965 by Kristol and Daniel Bell (and financed by Warren Demian Manshel, who helped launch Foreign Policy a few years later). Intellectuals like Nathan Glazer, Seymour Martin Lipset, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, James Q. Wilson, and a few others took to the pages of these journals to offer a more prudent course for American liberalism. They were criticized for being too « timid and acquiescent » by their former allies on the left, among them Michael Harrington, who dubbed them « neoconservatives » to ostracize them from liberalism. Although some rejected the label, Kristol embraced it. He started constructing a school of thought, both by fostering a network of like-minded intellectuals (particularly around the American Enterprise Institute) and by codifying what neoconservatism meant. This latter mission proved challenging, as neoconservatism often seemed more like an attitude than a doctrine. Kristol himself always described it in vague terms, as a « tendency » or a « persuasion. » Even some intellectuals branded as part of the movement were skeptical that it existed. « Whenever I read about neoconservatism, » Bell once quipped, « I think, ‘That isn’t neoconservatism; it’s just Irving.’ » Regardless of what it was, neoconservatism started to achieve a significant impact on American public life, questioning the liberal take on social issues and advancing innovative policy ideas like school vouchers and the Laffer Curve. If the first generation of neoconservatives was composed of New York intellectuals interested in domestic issues, the second was formed by Washington Democratic operatives interested in foreign policy. This strand gave most of its DNA to latter-day neocons — and Kristol played only a tangential role. The second wave of neoconservatives came in reaction to the nomination of George McGovern as the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate. Cold War liberals deemed McGovern too far to the left, particularly in foreign policy. He suggested deep cuts in the defense budget, a hasty retreat from Vietnam, and a neo-isolationist grand strategy. New neocons coalesced around organizations like the Coalition for a Democratic Majority and the Committee on the Present Danger, journals like Norman Podhoretz’s Commentary (the enigmatic Podhoretz being the only adherent to neoconservatism in all its stages), and figures like Democratic Sen. Henry « Scoop » Jackson — hence their alternative label, the « Scoop Jackson Democrats. » These thinkers, like the original neoconservatives, had moved from left to right. Many of them, even if members of the Democratic Party, ended up working in the Reagan administration. Others joined the American Enterprise Institute and wrote for Commentary and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Moreover, some original neoconservatives, like Moynihan, became Scoop Jackson Democrats. Thus, the labels became interchangeable and the two movements seemed to merge. But this elided significant differences between them. On domestic issues, Scoop Jackson Democrats remained traditional liberals. In the 1970s, while Jackson was advocating universal health care and even the control of prices and salaries in times of crisis, Kristol was promoting supply-side economics and consulting for business associations and conservative foundations. On foreign-policy issues, Scoop Jackson Democrats emphasized human rights and democracy promotion, while Kristol was a classical realist. They agreed, however, on the necessity of a hawkish foreign and defense policy against the Soviet empire. (…) Although a few other neoconservatives followed Kristol’s realist line (Glazer and, to some extent, Jeane Kirkpatrick), for most of the others the idea of retrenching and playing a more modest international role disturbingly looked like the realpolitik that had led to détente and other distasteful policies. The vast majority of Scoop Jackson Democrats advocated a more assertive and interventionist posture and continued to favor at least a dose of democracy promotion (most notably Joshua Muravchik, Ben Wattenberg, Carl Gershman, Michael Ledeen, Elliott Abrams, Podhoretz, and others). Their legacy would prevail. Thus, the neocons — the third wave — were born in the mid-1990s. Their immediate predecessors, more so than the original neoconservatives, provided inspiration. But they developed their ideas in a new context where America had much more relative power. And this time, they were firmly planted on the Republican side of the spectrum. Kristol’s son, Bill, played a leading role, along with Robert Kagan, in this resurrection through two initiatives he launched — the Weekly Standard magazine and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a small advocacy think tank. Bill Kristol and Kagan initially rejected the « neoconservative » appellation, preferring « neo-Reaganism. » But the kinship with the second age, that of the Scoop Jackson Democrats, was undeniable, and there was a strong resemblance in terms of organizational forms and influence on public opinion. Hence the neoconservative label stuck. The main beliefs of the neocons — originated in a 1996 Foreign Affairs article by Kagan and Bill Kristol, reiterated by PNAC, and promulgated more recently by the Foreign Policy Initiative — are well-known. American power is a force for good; the United States should shape the world, lest it be shaped by inimical interests; it should do so unilaterally if necessary; the danger is to do too little, not too much; the expansion of democracy advances U.S. interests. But what was Irving Kristol’s view on these principles and on their application? Toward the end of his life, the elder Kristol tried to triangulate between his position and that of most neocons, arguing in 2003 that there exists « no set of neoconservative beliefs concerning foreign policy, only a set of attitudes » (including patriotism and the rejection of world government), and minimizing democracy promotion. But at this point, the movement’s center of gravity was clearly more interventionist and confident of the ability to enact (democratic) change through the application of American power than Kristol could countenance. He kept silent on the 2003 invasion of Iraq, while the Scoop Jackson Democrats and third-wave neocons cheered. Thus, ironically, when most people repeat the line about Kristol being « the godfather of neoconservatism, » they assume he was a neocon in the modern sense. But this ignores his realist foreign policy — while also obscuring the impressive intellectual and political legacy he leaves behind him on domestic issues. Justin Vaïsse
What happened to the evangelicals? They were supposed to be the bedrock of the Ted Cruz candidacy. Yet on Super Tuesday he lost them to Donald Trump. (…) How could this have happened? A more scripturally, spiritually flawed man than Trump would be hard to find. As several anti-Trump evangelical voices have argued, Christian witness cannot possibly support a thrice-married man with such an impressive list of sins, featuring especially spectacular displays of the seven deadlys. These theological arguments are both eloquent and impassioned but, in this season of fear and anxiety, beside the point. This time around, evangelicals are not looking for someone like them. They’re looking for someone who will protect them. They’ve tried backing exemplary Scripture-quoting Christians — without result. After Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum and considerations of Cruz himself, they are increasingly reluctant to support like-minded candidates who are nonetheless incapable of advancing their cause in a hostile political arena so dominated by secularism. They have no illusions about Trump. They have no expectations of religious uplift. What he offers them is not spirit but “muscle” (to borrow a word from the notorious former professor Melissa Click of the University of Missouri). (…) The message is clear: I may not be one of you. I can’t recite or even correctly cite Scripture. But I will patrol the borders of Christendom on your behalf. After all, who do you want out there — a choir boy or a tough guy with a loaded gun and a kick-ass demeanor? The essence of Trump’s appeal everywhere, far beyond evangelicals, is precisely the same: “I’m tough, I will protect you.” That’s why he remains so bulletproof. His lack of policy, the contradictory nature of his pronouncements that pass as policy — especially their capricious eruption and summary abandonment — have turned out to be an irrelevance. (…) That’s the reason none of the rhetorical outrages that would have destroyed another candidacy have even left a mark on Trump. (…) Which is why the only possible way to stop Trump is a full-scale, open-the-bomb-bay-doors attack on the very core of his appeal: his persona of the tough guy you can trust to protect you. It may be too late. But everything else will simply bounce off the Teflon. Charles Krauthammer
Big-government populism, small-government austerity, or conservative reform? It’s hard to believe that the United States, having resisted the siren song of socialism during its entire 20th-century heyday (the only major democracy to do so), should suddenly succumb to socialism’s charms a generation after its intellectual demise. Indeed, the prospect of socialist Bernie Sanders, whatever his current momentum, winning the Democratic nomination remains far-fetched. The Dems would be risking a November electoral disaster of historic dimensions. Yet there is no denying how far Sanders has pulled his party to the left — and how hard the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, has been racing to catch up. The Republicans, on the other hand, are dealing with a full-scale riot. The temptation they face is trading in a century of conservatism for Trumpism. The 2016 presidential race has turned into an epic contest between the ethno-nationalist populism of Donald Trump and traditional conservatism, though in two varieties: the scorched-earth fundamentalist version of Ted Cruz, and a reformist version, represented by Marco Rubio (and several so-called establishment candidates) and articulated most fully by non-candidate Paul Ryan and a cluster of highly productive thinkers and policy wonks dubbed “reformicons.” Trump insists that he’s a conservative, but in his pronouncements and policies, conservatism seems more of a rental — a three-story penthouse rental with Central Park view, to be sure — than an ideological home. Trump protests that Ronald Reagan, too, migrated from left to right. True, but Reagan’s transformation occurred in his 40s — not, as with Trump, in his 60s. In radically different ways, Trump and Sanders are addressing the deep anxiety stemming from the secular stagnation in wages and living standards that has squeezed the middle and working classes for a generation. Sanders locates the villainy in a billionaire class that has rigged both the economic and the political systems. Trump blames foreigners, most prominently those cunning Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, and Saudis who’ve been taking merciless advantage of us, in concert with America’s own leaders, who are, alternatively, stupid and incompetent or bought and corrupt. (…) Trump has limited concern for the central tenet of American conservatism (and most especially of the tea-party movement) — limited government. (…) Trump has not yet called Vladimir Putin wonderful, but he has taken a shine to the swaggering mini-czar who seems to run his trains on time. When informed that Putin kills opponents and journalists, Trump’s initial reaction was, “Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, also,” the kind of moronic what-about-the-Crusades moral equivalence that conservatives have railed against for decades. Although, to be fair, after some prompting, Trump did come out against the killing of journalists. (…) My personal preference is for the third ideological alternative, the reform conservatism that locates the source of our problems not in heartless billionaires or crafty foreigners, but in our superannuated, increasingly sclerotic 20th-century welfare-state structures. (…) Paired with a president like Rubio (or Chris Christie or Carly Fiorina, to go longshot), such an agenda would give conservatism its best opportunity since Reagan to become the country’s governing philosophy. Unless the GOP takes the populist leap. In which case, a conservative restoration will be a long time coming. Charles Krauthammer
The New Hampshire results have solidified the reigning cliché that the 2016 campaign is an anti-establishment revolt of both the Left and the Right. Largely overlooked, however, is the role played in setting the national mood by the seven-year legacy of the Obama presidency. Yes, you hear constant denunciations of institutions, parties, leaders, donors, lobbyists, influence peddlers. But the starting point of the bipartisan critique is the social, economic, and geopolitical wreckage all around us. Bernie Sanders is careful never to blame Obama directly, but his description of the America Obama leaves behind is devastating — a wasteland of stagnant wages, rising inequality, a sinking middle class, young people crushed by debt, the American Dream dying. Take away the Brooklyn accent and the Larry David mannerisms and you would have thought you were listening to a Republican candidate. After all, who’s been in charge for the last seven years? Donald Trump is even more colorful in describing the current “mess” and more direct in attributing it to the country’s leadership — most pungently, its stupidity and incompetence. Both candidates are not just anti-establishment but anti–status quo. The revolt is as much about the Obama legacy as it is about institutions. Look at New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton had made a strategic decision, as highlighted in the debates, to wrap herself in the mantle of the Obama presidency. Big mistake. She lost New Hampshire by three touchdowns. Beyond railing against the wreckage, the other commonality between the two big New Hampshire winners is in the nature of the cure they offer. Let the others propose carefully budgeted five-point plans. Sanders and Trump offer magic. Take Sanders’s New Hampshire victory speech. It promised the moon: college education, free; universal health care, free; world peace, also free because we won’t be “the policeman of the world” (mythical Sunni armies will presumably be doing that for us). Plus a guaranteed $15 minimum wage. All to be achieved by taxing the rich. Who can be against a “speculation” tax (whatever that means)? So with Trump. Leave it to him. Jobs will flow back in a rush from China, from Japan, from Mexico, from everywhere. Universal health care, with Obamacare replaced by “something terrific.” Veterans finally taken care of. Drugs stopped cold at the border. Indeed, an end to drug addiction itself. Victory upon victory of every kind. How? That question never comes up anymore. No one expects an answer. His will be done, on earth if not yet in heaven. Yes, people love Trump’s contempt for the “establishment” — which as far as I can tell means anything not Trump — but what is truly thrilling is the promise of a near-biblical restoration. As painless as Sanders’s. (…) There certainly is a crisis of confidence in the country’s institutions. But that’s hardly new. The current run of endemic distrust began with Vietnam and Watergate. Yet not in our lifetimes have the left and right populism of the Sanders and Trump variety enjoyed such massive support. The added factor is the Obama effect, the depressed and anxious mood of a nation experiencing its worst economic recovery since World War II and watching its power and influence abroad decline amid a willed global retreat. The result is a politics of high fantasy. Things can’t get any worse, we hear, so why not shake things up to their foundation? Anyone who thinks things can’t get any worse knows nothing. And risks everything. Charles Krauthammer
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
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)
I think we developed in the Republican Party a—well, you know, the buzzword for it is ‘neoconism.’ But I think what it is, it’s an ideology—it’s really an idealistic approach to things. But it’s a combination of idealism and, if you will, brute force. Brent Scowcroft
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
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)
Frum’s thesis (…) is that the conservative movement became enamored with the trappings of power during the Reagan presidency, and stopped making the argument that America’s problems stem from our sprawling and dilapidated welfare state. Instead conservatives, like Reagan, told Americans they could indeed have it all: tax cuts and entitlements, big government at half the price. Frum’s solution was for conservatives to step back from the Republican Party, care somewhat less about elections, and spend more time convincing Americans that a radical reduction in the size and scope of government is necessary and just. (…) What really interested me, though, was Frum’s typology of post-Reagan conservatives. He divides them into three groups. There are optimists, led by Jack Kemp. There are moralists, led by William J. Bennett. And there are nationalists, led by Pat Buchanan. Optimists say public policy is a matter of incentives. Human beings all want to do the right thing, but taxes and regulation get in the way. Cut taxes, reduce regulation, resurrect the gold standard, and people will flourish.For the moralists, incentives are not enough. Character counts. Crime, welfare, education matter more to a moralist than tax rates or Social Security. Government can and should foster a public morality. And if conservatives do not promote bourgeois values such as fidelity, thrift, discipline, modesty, and hard work, then liberals will use their social and political power to promote values of their own. Nationalists are concerned with the erosion of American sovereignty. Defense treaties commit us to wars we cannot win and should not fight. Trade agreements displace workers. Immigration alters the ethnic composition of the nation. The solution is to place “America first, and second, and third,” as Buchanan put it in the title of a famous National Interest essay. It is worth considering where these groups stand today. Kemp protégé Paul Ryan is clearly the leader of the optimists. Donald Trump is clearly the leader of the nationalists. But I can’t tell you who the leader of the moralists is. I can’t name a prominent conservative known for advocating public morality, a political leader who has taken a stand on crime, on welfare, on family policy, on education. A major education bill was recently signed into law with little fanfare and even less debate. The Powerball jackpot has grown to more than $236 million, and no one bats an eye, no Republican presidential candidate suggests that gambling harms the weak. Where did the moralists go? To some degree they were victims of their own success. Crime has fallen. Welfare was reformed. Standards and testing were written into education law. Other issues became more pressing. After 9/11, a lot of the moralists became heavily invested in foreign and defense policy. Defending the Iraq war, and advocating a strategy that could improve our situation there, was a full-time job. President Obama forced conservatives to adopt a defensive position—against Obamacare, against immigration reform, against the Iran deal. The disappointing endgame in Iraq, and the Republican elite’s drive to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and the diminishing returns from globalization created the conditions for a nationalist revival. This outcome is unfortunate. The moralists were once the most interesting and intellectually vibrant school of conservatism. They accurately identified a weakening of American self-confidence, a growing sense of entitlement and anomie, the importance of civil society and the cultural fabric. And they are needed once more. The conditions of our cities and suburbs, the state of our schools, the disintegration of the family, gun violence, opioid addiction, mental illness, pornography, welfare—these are subjects ripe for fresh policy analysis. Some of that work is being done. But it rarely finds expression in the public square. A new politics of character would incorporate the best insights of the other schools of conservatism while rejecting their excesses. It needn’t be beholden to the idea that tax cuts will generate enough revenue to pay for themselves. It would recognize that immigration and trade bring costs as well as benefits even as it condemns rhetorical excess. It would treat seriously the idea that government matters. And, perhaps most importantly, in the uncertain and turbulent political era we seem to be entering, a new politics of character would not be necessarily attached to one political party. Matthew Continetti
Like not a few revolutionary movements that have fallen on hard times, neoconservatism is experiencing a schism. Two camps are starting to face off over the question of the true faith, with the first embracing orthodoxy and the second heresy. The question they face is simple: Should the neocons continue to move right, serving as the advance guard of an embattled GOP? Or should neoconservatism become true to itself by returning to the center? Will the movement, in fact, morph back into what it was at its inception in the late 1960s when it belonged firmly to the Democratic Party—moderate on domestic issues and mildly hawkish on foreign policy? (…) The orthodox camp is based mostly in New York. It wants to combat the decadent liberal elites—the new class—that are supposedly corrupting the Republic. (…) The second and more novel camp consists of what might be called heretical reverters. Reverters dismiss the notion that America has not changed. One of the shrewdest and most perceptive neocons, Tod Lindberg of the Hoover Institution, noted in the Washington Post, “Here’s the stark reality: It is now harder for the Republican presidential candidate to get to 50.1 percent than for the Democrat.” The reverters—who include, among others, David Frum and David Brooks, and are largely based in Washington, D.C.—suggest that the GOP needs to get up to speed, to dump overboard the detritus that it has accumulated over the past several decades. (…) The argument of the reverters, at bottom, seems to be that neoconservatism needs to reboot. Indeed, the reverters even seem to have discovered a new female savior—Hillary Clinton. And so, if neoconservatism has a future, it’s in the Democratic more than the Republican Party. To understand this new development, it’s helpful to consider the arc of neoconservatism. In its original incarnation, neoconservatism’s salvation doctrine was to reconvert the Democratic Party to its anticommunist roots and a more sober view of social policy. Irving Kristol called for a “combination of the reforming spirit with the conservative ideal”—the notion that liberalism could conserve the best in conservatism. (…) There can be no doubt that as staunch cold warriors, or, if you prefer, liberal internationalists, the neocons viewed the Republican Party, which was led by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, both realists and promoters of détente, with unease. The neocons, who had started out as Trotskyists, espoused a social-democratic program in domestic policy. Essentially, they were Hubert Humphrey Democrats. The neocons clustered around Sen. Scoop Jackson, whose adviser was Richard Perle. They didn’t want détente with the GOP itself; they beseeched Democrats to decry their opponents as selling out human rights and American ideals. Then came Jimmy Carter. Despite Carter’s support for human rights abroad, the neocons bridled at his derogation of the communist threat and failure to support the shah of Iran from being overthrown by radical Islamists. The neocons became counterrevolutionaries. Their failure to create regime change in the Democratic Party meant that they began enlisting in the GOP. More precisely, they flocked to the banner of Ronald Reagan, a former New Deal Democrat turned conservative, or, in their eyes, the first neocon. (…) Once the evil empire imploded, the neocons embarked upon the new project of reconciling Jews and evangelicals within the GOP. Yet no matter how fervent their embrace of the GOP may have been, the neocons began to flirt with the Democratic Party once more when Bill Clinton was the nominee in 1992. This was the first sign of an alliance between the liberal hawks and neocons that would flourish during George W. Bush’s presidency. The neocons had found the realist George H.W. Bush wanting for his failure to topple Saddam Hussein, his attempts to curb Jewish settlements in the West Bank, his refusal to intervene in the Balkans, and his tepid response to Tiananmen Square. Clinton, by contrast, denounced the “butchers of Beijing” and seemed to offer the prospect of tough action in the Balkans against the Serbs. The refusal of Clinton to appoint any neocons, apart from providing Richard Schifter with the token position of assistant secretary for human rights, did little to maintain their ardor. Still, as Clinton’s second term neared its end, neoconservatives such as Norman Podhoretz, writing in National Review, assessed his tenure fairly favorably. As Podhoretz noted, Clinton had been no pushover: he intervened in the Balkans and launched missiles at Iraq. Moreover, he severely curbed welfare benefits. In short, the McGovern era had come to end with Clintonite centrism. (…) The new Popular Front forged between the neocons and liberal hawks collapsed during the Iraq War, however, as liberals bailed out once the war went south. Might there be a reunion, this time with the neocons courting the liberal hawks rather than the liberal hawks trying to court the neocons? The more conciliatory neocons have begun to send up signal flares. It isn’t simply David Brooks’s paeans to Obama. Robert Kagan has praised what he calls “Obama the Interventionist” in his Washington Post column: “Obama believes the world yearns to follow us, if only we restore our worthiness to lead. Personally, I like it.” Even the Weekly Standard has begun to reassess its seemingly intractable hostility to all things Clinton. Vigilant neocon-spotters will have noticed that the Standard featured not one but two items praising the idea of Hillary as secretary of state. (…) The fact is that the neocon passion for Hillary may not be as outlandish as it seems at first glance. For one thing, Hillary was instrumental in getting Madeleine Albright appointed secretary of state in 1997, and they remain close friends. (…) Whether or not Hillary actually behaves like a hawk in office is another question. She might seek to push peace talks on Israel and the Palestinians. Reaching an agreement with Iran would be a big feather in her cap. So would negotiating an arms-control deal with Russia in exchange for dismantling the Bush administration’s proposed missile-defense system in Eastern Europe. (…) But for now, the neocons touting a reversion to the movement’s original, more liberal precepts seem intent on creating a new chapter in the saga of a movement that has been repeatedly written off as dead. Perhaps reaching out to the Obama administration will help rejuvenate neoconservatism. It could prove to be a more comfortable fit than either side might anticipate. Jacob Heilbrunn
The loyalty of the neocons has always been to an ideology of American exceptionalism, not to a particular party. This is what separates the neocon conversion to Clinton from previous examples of Republicans endorsing Barack Obama. Colin Powell wasn’t making an ideological statement. He was making a practical one, based on his distaste for where the GOP was headed. For the neocons this is a much more heartfelt moment. They have invested decades in trying to reshape the GOP into their own image, and were quite successful at it. But now a formidable challenge is taking place as the GOP reverts to its traditional heritage. The impulse of the neocons to return to the Democratic Party should not be wholly surprising. In 1972, for example, Robert L. Bartley, the editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, wrote that the fledgling neoconservatives represented “something of a swing group between the two major parties.” He was right. The neoconservatives had their home in the Democratic Party in the 1960s. Then they marched rightward, in reaction to the rise of the adversary culture inside the Democratic Party. George McGovern’s run for the presidency in 1972, followed by the Jimmy Carter presidency, sent them into the arms of Ronald Reagan and the GOP. But it wasn’t until the George W. Bush presidency that the neocons became the dominant foreign policy force inside the GOP. They promptly proceeded to wreck his presidency by championing the war in Iraq. Today, having wrecked it, they are now threatening to bolt the GOP and support Hillary Clinton rather than Donald Trump for the presidency. Something like this scenario is what I predicted in the New York Times in July 2014. Trump wasn’t around then as a force inside the GOP. But already it seemed clear that some of the leading neocons such as Kagan were receptive to Clinton. Now, in a Washington Post column, Kagan has gone all in (…)  but he elides the fact that many of Trump’s positions are not all that different from what the GOP has espoused in the past when it comes to domestic issues. It is on foreign affairs where Trump represents a marked shift and it is this that truly troubles the neocon wing. Trump has made it clear that he’s dubious about foreign interventions. He’s indicated that he would treat with Russian president Vladimir Putin. His entire foreign policy credo, such as it is, seems to have a Jacksonian pedigree—don’t tread on me. For its part, neoconservatism has always had a nationalistic streak. But Trump represents everything that the neocons believed that they had purged from the GOP. He represents continuity with the Buchananite wing, the belief that America should tend to its own knitting before launching hopeless wars abroad.  When it comes to foreign policy, however, the second generation of neocons such as Kagan does not trace its lineage back to Ohio Senator Robert Taft but to the one that Republicans in the early 1950s reviled: the Truman administration. Here we come full circle. The origins of the neocons are in the Democratic Party. Should Clinton become the Democratic nominee and Trump the Republican one, a number of neocons may make common cause with Clinton. Watch Rubio’s ranks first. Jacob Heilbrunn
After nearly a decade in the political wilderness, the neoconservative movement is back, using the turmoil in Iraq and Ukraine to claim that it is President Obama, not the movement’s interventionist foreign policy that dominated early George W. Bush-era Washington, that bears responsibility for the current round of global crises. Even as they castigate Mr. Obama, the neocons may be preparing a more brazen feat: aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of American foreign policy. To be sure, the careers and reputations of the older generation of neocons — Paul D. Wolfowitz, L. Paul Bremer III, Douglas J. Feith, Richard N. Perle — are permanently buried in the sands of Iraq. And not all of them are eager to switch parties (…) But others appear to envisage a different direction — one that might allow them to restore the neocon brand, at a time when their erstwhile home in the Republican Party is turning away from its traditional interventionist foreign policy. (…) Consider the historian Robert Kagan, the author of a recent, roundly praised article in The New Republic that amounted to a neo-neocon manifesto. He has not only avoided the vitriolic tone that has afflicted some of his intellectual brethren but also co-founded an influential bipartisan advisory group during Mrs. Clinton’s time at the State Department. (…) Other neocons have followed Mr. Kagan’s careful centrism and respect for Mrs. Clinton. Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted in The New Republic this year that “it is clear that in administration councils she was a principled voice for a strong stand on controversial issues, whether supporting the Afghan surge or the intervention in Libya.” And the thing is, these neocons have a point. Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war; supported sending arms to Syrian rebels; likened Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to Adolf Hitler; wholeheartedly backs Israel; and stresses the importance of promoting democracy. (…) Of course, the neocons’ latest change in tack is not just about intellectual affinity. Their longtime home, the Republican Party, where presidents and candidates from Reagan to Senator John McCain of Arizona supported large militaries and aggressive foreign policies, may well nominate for president Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been beating an ever louder drum against American involvement abroad. In response, Mark Salter, a former chief of staff to Senator McCain and a neocon fellow traveler, said that in the event of a Paul nomination, “Republican voters seriously concerned with national security would have no responsible recourse” but to support Mrs. Clinton for the presidency. Still, Democratic liberal hawks, let alone the left, would have to swallow hard to accept any neocon conversion. (…) Far from ending, then, the neocon odyssey is about to continue. In 1972, Robert L. Bartley, the editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal and a man who championed the early neocon stalwarts, shrewdly diagnosed the movement as representing “something of a swing group between the two major parties.” Despite the partisan battles of the early 2000s, it is remarkable how very little has changed. Jacob Heilbrunn

Attention: un sauvetage peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où devant la montée apparemment irrésistible, y compris du côté des évangéliques, du démagogue Donald Trump …

Et le refus suicidaire des autres candidats de sacrifier leur ambition personnelle pour le bien de leur pays et de leur parti …

Tant l’establishment que nombre d’intellectuels républicains commencent à s’inquiéter

Pendant qu’un temps, avec Bernie Sanders, les Démocrates semblent avoir été tentés par le socialisme le plus radical …

Et que braqué à son tour par la réalité en France, un pouvoir socialiste se voit au contraire par l’un des siens qualifié de néoconservateur

Comment ne pas voir l’incroyable chassé croisé qui se dessine …

A l’instar de la menace, d’un des principaux théoriciens de la pensée néoconservatrice et jusqu’ici soutien de Rubio, de voter pour une Hillary Clinton à l’opportunisme pourtant aussi crasse que son passé …

Face à un parti républicain revenu semble-t-il à l’isolationnisme de ses débuts …

Retour finalement logique des néoconservateurs à leur bercail d’origine …

Ou, après la trahison Obama, juste retour des choses et du parti démocrate à ses véritables valeurs ?

Why Trump Is Panicking Robert Kagan

That neocons would exit the GOP to support Clinton was clear from the start.

Jacob Heilbrunn

February 26, 2016

Anyone looking for further converts to the Hillary Clinton campaign might do well to look at the Marco Rubio campaign. If Clinton is the leading liberal hawk, Rubio is the foremost neocon candidate. In 2014 National Review published an article about him titled “The neocons return.”

Whether it’s Cuba or Iran or Russia, he stakes out the most intransigent line: “I disagree with voices in my own party who argue we should not engage at all, who warn we should heed the words of John Quincy Adams not to go ‘abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.’” Not surprisingly, he’s surrounded himself with neocon advisers, ranging from Max Boot to Jamie Fly to Elliott Abrams.

If Donald Trump, as seems more than likely, prevails in the GOP primary, then a number of neocons may defect to the Clinton campaign. Already Robert Kagan announced in the Washington Post on Thursday that he intends to back Hillary Clinton if Donald Trump receives the GOP nomination. The fact is that the loyalty of the neocons has always been to an ideology of American exceptionalism, not to a particular party.

This is what separates the neocon conversion to Clinton from previous examples of Republicans endorsing Barack Obama. Colin Powell wasn’t making an ideological statement. He was making a practical one, based on his distaste for where the GOP was headed. For the neocons this is a much more heartfelt moment. They have invested decades in trying to reshape the GOP into their own image, and were quite successful at it. But now a formidable challenge is taking place as the GOP reverts to its traditional heritage.

The impulse of the neocons to return to the Democratic Party should not be wholly surprising. In 1972, for example, Robert L. Bartley, the editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, wrote that the fledgling neoconservatives represented “something of a swing group between the two major parties.” He was right. The neoconservatives had their home in the Democratic Party in the 1960s. Then they marched rightward, in reaction to the rise of the adversary culture inside the Democratic Party. George McGovern’s run for the presidency in 1972, followed by the Jimmy Carter presidency, sent them into the arms of Ronald Reagan and the GOP.

But it wasn’t until the George W. Bush presidency that the neocons became the dominant foreign policy force inside the GOP. They promptly proceeded to wreck his presidency by championing the war in Iraq. Today, having wrecked it, they are now threatening to bolt the GOP and support Hillary Clinton rather than Donald Trump for the presidency.

Something like this scenario is what I predicted in the New York Times in July 2014. Trump wasn’t around then as a force inside the GOP. But already it seemed clear that some of the leading neocons such as Kagan were receptive to Clinton. Now, in a Washington Post column, Kagan has gone all in.

He decries Republican obstructionism, antipathy to Obama, and the rise of Trump. The tone is apocalyptic. According to Kagan,

“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.”

This itself represents a curious case of neocon hyperbole. Kagan is an eloquent writer, but he elides the fact that many of Trump’s positions are not all that different from what the GOP has espoused in the past when it comes to domestic issues. It is on foreign affairs where Trump represents a marked shift and it is this that truly troubles the neocon wing.

Trump has made it clear that he’s dubious about foreign interventions. He’s indicated that he would treat with Russian president Vladimir Putin. His entire foreign policy credo, such as it is, seems to have a Jacksonian pedigree—don’t tread on me.

For its part, neoconservatism has always had a nationalistic streak. But Trump represents everything that the neocons believed that they had purged from the GOP. He represents continuity with the Buchananite wing, the belief that America should tend to its own knitting before launching hopeless wars abroad.  When it comes to foreign policy, however, the second generation of neocons such as Kagan does not trace its lineage back to Ohio Senator Robert Taft but to the one that Republicans in the early 1950s reviled: the Truman administration.

Here we come full circle. The origins of the neocons are in the Democratic Party. Should Clinton become the Democratic nominee and Trump the Republican one, a number of neocons may make common cause with Clinton. Watch Rubio’s ranks first.

Jacob Heilbrunn is editor of the National Interest.

Voir aussi:

The Next Act of the Neocons
Are Neocons Getting Ready to Ally With Hillary Clinton?

Jacob Heilbrunn

The New York Times

July 5, 2014

WASHINGTON —è  is the editor of the National Interest and the author of “They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons.”

Voir également:

Where Have All the Neocons Gone?
Having wrecked the Right, will neoconservatives revert to their left-wing origins or double down on the GOP?
Jacob Heilbrunn
The American conservative
January 12, 2009

As Barack Obama prepares to take the inaugural oath, it almost seems otiose to note that his victory represents a sweeping repudiation of the neoconservative movement. Though neocons such as Randy Scheunemann formed a kind of Praetorian Guard around John McCain during his presidential campaign, their truculent approach to foreign affairs sabotaged rather than strengthened McCain’s electoral appeal. The best that Sarah Palin, a foreign-policy neocon on training wheels, could do was to offer platitudes about standing by Israel. It seems safe to say, then, that the neocon credo is ready to be put out to pasture.

Or is it? One problem with this line of argument is that it’s been heard before—sometimes from the neoconservatives themselves. In 1988, after George H.W. Bush replaced Ronald Reagan, neocon lioness Midge Decter fretted, “are we a long, sour marriage held together for the kids and now facing an empty nest?” Then in the late 1990s, Norman Podhoretz delivered a valedictory for neoconservatism at the American Enterprise Institute. Neoconservatism, he announced, was a victim of its success. It no longer represented anything unique because the GOP had so thoroughly assimilated its doctrines. In 2004, a variety of commentators scrambled to pronounce a fresh obituary for neoconservatism. The disastrous course of the Iraq War, Foreign Policy editor Moisés Naím said, showed that the neoconservative dream had expired in the sands of Araby.

Yet the neocons show few signs of going away. The Iraq surge was devised by Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and spearheaded by William Luti, a protégé of Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney who is currently at the National Security Council. Its success has prompted some neocons to claim vindication for the Iraq War overall. Nor has the network of institutions that the neocons rely upon melted away, from the Hudson Institute, where Scooter Libby and Douglas J. Feith are now ensconced, to the Weekly Standard and Fox News.

It’s also the case that the realists inside the GOP feel more embattled than ever. Sen. Chuck Hagel has pretty much resigned from the GOP itself as well as from his Senate seat, denouncing Rush Limbaugh and others as retrograde conservatives. What’s more, former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, who has co-authored a new book with Zbigniew Brzezinski about the challenges facing the next president, has been informally advising Obama. Scowcroft told CNN, “I think we developed in the Republican Party a—well, you know, the buzzword for it is ‘neoconism.’ But I think what it is, it’s an ideology—it’s really an idealistic approach to things. But it’s a combination of idealism and, if you will, brute force.” As Scowcroft sees it, the neocons remain in control of the GOP. “Where do I go?” he recently asked me.

Still, if the neocons aren’t necessarily on the ropes, it would probably be equally mistaken to deny that something has changed. They have undeniably suffered a number of setbacks. The sun has set on the flagship neocon newspaper, the New York Sun, a victim of the financial crash. The citadel of neoconservatism, AEI, has ousted Michael Ledeen, Joshua Muravchik, and Reuel Marc Gerecht. Meanwhile, Robert Kagan has incorporated realist tenets into his writings, while David Frum, who co-wrote with Richard Perle the standard neocon foreign-policy text, An End to Evil, and who previously demanded the expulsion of allegedly unpatriotic conservatives from the conservative pantheon (a move Russell Baker called reminiscent of the Moscow purges), now seems to be hinting at, among other things, a reassessment of neocon foreign policy. “I cannot be blind,” he conceded in a farewell address to National Review Online last month, “to the evidence … that the foreign policy I supported has not yielded the success I would have wished to see.”

Looking ahead, the neocons do not have an obvious horse. In the past they have glommed on to everyone from Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson to Colin Powell, whom William Kristol briefly touted for president. Another problem is that George W. Bush himself has increasingly deviated from neoconservatism. With the fall of Donald Rumsfeld, on whom the neocons tried to blame the mismanaged Iraq War, Vice President Dick Cheney has lost out to the combination of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Even Kristol seems to have shed some of his habitual fervor, musing about the shortcomings of capitalism in his New York Times column and expressing the hope that Obama will put aright what has gone wrong.

The result has been something of an identity crisis in the ranks of the neocons. Like not a few revolutionary movements that have fallen on hard times, neoconservatism is experiencing a schism. Two camps are starting to face off over the question of the true faith, with the first embracing orthodoxy and the second heresy. The question they face is simple: Should the neocons continue to move right, serving as the advance guard of an embattled GOP? Or should neoconservatism become true to itself by returning to the center? Will the movement, in fact, morph back into what it was at its inception in the late 1960s when it belonged firmly to the Democratic Party—moderate on domestic issues and mildly hawkish on foreign policy?

The orthodox camp is based mostly in New York. It wants to combat the decadent liberal elites—the new class—that are supposedly corrupting the Republic. It views Barack Obama as a dangerous, unreconstructed 1960s-type radical and pins its hopes on Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Writing in the November issue of the British neocon journal Standpoint, Midge Decter, for example, upbraids Palin critics for their unwillingness to recognize her brilliance. Decter, a longtime foe of the feminist movement, depicts Palin as someone of unalloyed virtue who incarnates the Victorian virtues celebrated by Gertrude Himmelfarb. According to Decter, Palin is “young, handsome, clever, firmly married, a mother, a serious Christian, a right-to-lifer who has been successful at virtually everything … to which she has turned a hand or mind or body.” Obama, by contrast, offers “for those with ears old enough and practiced enough to hear … the same old prescriptions and cadences of the 1960s radical left.”

When it comes to the Iraq War, the followers of orthodoxy maintain, liberals deserve a pasting. Peter Wehner, a former Bush adviser and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, condemns opponents of the surge as congenitally hostile to the American creed: “Is it not fair to say that what was at work in them was an ideological antipathy not just to an American President, but to America’s cause?”

Decter’s son, John Podhoretz, who has been tapped to become editor of Commentary, in that magazine’s December issue raised the prospect of a radical Obama presidency. Podhoretz noted that Obama is “a man who has lived in and around elite universities since he was eighteen years old …” And Podhoretz’s surprising conclusion? The election did not repudiate the notion that America is a center-right country.

The second and more novel camp consists of what might be called heretical reverters. Reverters dismiss the notion that America has not changed. One of the shrewdest and most perceptive neocons, Tod Lindberg of the Hoover Institution, noted in the Washington Post, “Here’s the stark reality: It is now harder for the Republican presidential candidate to get to 50.1 percent than for the Democrat.” The reverters—who include, among others, David Frum and David Brooks, and are largely based in Washington, D.C.—suggest that the GOP needs to get up to speed, to dump overboard the detritus that it has accumulated over the past several decades. They want no part of Sarah Palin, seeing her as a recipe for electoral disaster. They also see the fate of the British Tories, who have wandered in the wilderness for years, as a cautionary tale. The argument of the reverters, at bottom, seems to be that neoconservatism needs to reboot. Indeed, the reverters even seem to have discovered a new female savior—Hillary Clinton. And so, if neoconservatism has a future, it’s in the Democratic more than the Republican Party.

To understand this new development, it’s helpful to consider the arc of neoconservatism. In its original incarnation, neoconservatism’s salvation doctrine was to reconvert the Democratic Party to its anticommunist roots and a more sober view of social policy. Irving Kristol called for a “combination of the reforming spirit with the conservative ideal”—the notion that liberalism could conserve the best in conservatism. Former Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley, who did much to smooth the path of the neocons into the GOP, astutely observed in 1972 that the neocons “are something of a swing group between the two major parties. Their political outlook is that of establishmentarians looking for an establishment worthy of the name, and many of them are longtime Democrats with new Republican leanings.”

There can be no doubt that as staunch cold warriors, or, if you prefer, liberal internationalists, the neocons viewed the Republican Party, which was led by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, both realists and promoters of détente, with unease. The neocons, who had started out as Trotskyists, espoused a social-democratic program in domestic policy. Essentially, they were Hubert Humphrey Democrats. The neocons clustered around Sen. Scoop Jackson, whose adviser was Richard Perle. They didn’t want détente with the GOP itself; they beseeched Democrats to decry their opponents as selling out human rights and American ideals.

Then came Jimmy Carter. Despite Carter’s support for human rights abroad, the neocons bridled at his derogation of the communist threat and failure to support the shah of Iran from being overthrown by radical Islamists. The neocons became counterrevolutionaries. Their failure to create regime change in the Democratic Party meant that they began enlisting in the GOP. More precisely, they flocked to the banner of Ronald Reagan, a former New Deal Democrat turned conservative, or, in their eyes, the first neocon. Neocons such as Elliott Abrams and Jeane Kirkpatrick landed posts in the Reagan administration, but the true believers on the outside weren’t satisfied. Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, and Midge Decter all chided Reagan for his pragmatism. Podhoretz even condemned him for “appeasement by any other name” for his policies in the Middle East and toward the Soviet Union. Later, Podhoretz claimed that Reagan was suffering from delusions about the Cold War, indulging in the “fantasy of communist collapse.” Once the evil empire imploded, the neocons embarked upon the new project of reconciling Jews and evangelicals within the GOP.

Yet no matter how fervent their embrace of the GOP may have been, the neocons began to flirt with the Democratic Party once more when Bill Clinton was the nominee in 1992. This was the first sign of an alliance between the liberal hawks and neocons that would flourish during George W. Bush’s presidency. The neocons had found the realist George H.W. Bush wanting for his failure to topple Saddam Hussein, his attempts to curb Jewish settlements in the West Bank, his refusal to intervene in the Balkans, and his tepid response to Tiananmen Square. Clinton, by contrast, denounced the “butchers of Beijing” and seemed to offer the prospect of tough action in the Balkans against the Serbs. The refusal of Clinton to appoint any neocons, apart from providing Richard Schifter with the token position of assistant secretary for human rights, did little to maintain their ardor. Still, as Clinton’s second term neared its end, neoconservatives such as Norman Podhoretz, writing in National Review, assessed his tenure fairly favorably. As Podhoretz noted, Clinton had been no pushover: he intervened in the Balkans and launched missiles at Iraq. Moreover, he severely curbed welfare benefits. In short, the McGovern era had come to end with Clintonite centrism. It was realist Republicans, to the consternation of William Kristol and Robert Kagan, who were denouncing Clinton for intervening abroad. The new Popular Front forged between the neocons and liberal hawks collapsed during the Iraq War, however, as liberals bailed out once the war went south.

Might there be a reunion, this time with the neocons courting the liberal hawks rather than the liberal hawks trying to court the neocons? The more conciliatory neocons have begun to send up signal flares. It isn’t simply David Brooks’s paeans to Obama. Robert Kagan has praised what he calls “Obama the Interventionist” in his Washington Post column: “Obama believes the world yearns to follow us, if only we restore our worthiness to lead. Personally, I like it.” Even the Weekly Standard has begun to reassess its seemingly intractable hostility to all things Clinton. Vigilant neocon-spotters will have noticed that theStandard featured not one but two items praising the idea of Hillary as secretary of state. The tone of both seemed to be “yes, we should.” Under the heading “Hail Clinton,” Michael Goldfarb, McCain’s deputy communications director during the campaign, blogged that she is “likely to be a nuisance to Obama whether she is inside or outside of his administration, but as our top diplomat she could reprise a role that made Powell a kingmaker in this year’s election. And perhaps she could even present the case for war with Iran to an insubordinate United Nations in the event that Obama’s personal diplomacy somehow fails to deter the mullahs from their present course.”

The Standard’s Noemie Emery went even further. In her view, “For the moment, Hillary Clinton will be the conservatives’ Woman in Washington, more attuned to their concerns on these issues than to those of the get-the-troops-home-now wing of her party, a strange turn of events for a woman whose husband was impeached by Republicans just ten years ago, and whose ascent that party had dreaded since she went to the Senate two years after that.” Indeed.

The fact is that the neocon passion for Hillary may not be as outlandish as it seems at first glance. For one thing, Hillary was instrumental in getting Madeleine Albright appointed secretary of state in 1997, and they remain close friends. Albright is a liberal interventionist of the first order. Her father, Josef Korbel, a former Czech diplomat, was a cold warrior. Albright herself ardently pushed for intervention in the Balkans, first as Clinton’s United Nations ambassador, then, more effectively, as secretary of state. Albright will have the opportunity to weigh in on hot-button foreign-policy issues such as relations with Russia.

In addition, Albright, together with former Clinton defense secretary William S. Cohen, has headed a U.S. Institute for Peace and Holocaust Museum task force on genocide. Its new report, released on Dec. 8, is called “Preventing Genocide.” It could prove almost as influential for the Obama administration as the neocon-inspired “Defense Planning Guidance” of 1992, which called for American unilateral domination of the world, was for George W. Bush’s presidency. Albright and Cohen’s document calls for the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Committee that would work with key national security officials. It further states that the director of national intelligence should “initiate the preparation of a National Intelligence Estimate on worldwide risks of genocide and mass atrocities.” Finally, it recommends that the secretary of defense and U.S. military leaders develop military guidance on genocide prevention and response and “incorporate it into Department of Defense (and interagency) policies, plans, doctrine, training, and lessons learned.” The report’s aims are noble, but it is essentially a stalking horse for liberal intervention. It would create a permanent bureaucracy with a vested interest in insisting upon armed interventionism whenever and wherever the U.S. pleases—the Congo, Georgia, Zimbabwe, Somalia, and so on.

Indeed, Hillary may appoint a number of liberal interventionists. Russia-expert Michael McFaul, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is an adviser to Obama and is reportedly angling for the post of assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor. In 2007, writing in the Washington Post, together with Abbas Milani, McFaul argued, “the United States must recommit to a policy of encouraging democratization inside Iran, because only a democratic regime will stop supporting terrorist groups abroad and repression at home.” McFaul also wants to push for democracy inside Russia. Another possible Clinton appointment might be Samantha Power, who has strenuously advocated more intervention backed by the United Nations. Power declared in Time in 2007 that as abuses mount in Burma and Darfur “a coalition of the concerned must insist that what is manifestly true of the economy is also true of human rights: in this age, there is no such thing as a purely ‘internal matter.’” How far removed is this from Bush’s rhetoric about freedom sweeping the globe in his second inaugural address?

Power’s conclusion epitomizes the distinction between the liberal interventionists and neocons on one side and realists on the other. Realists tend to believe that the internal nature of a state does not decisively affect its foreign-policy decisions. A democratic Iran might be no less likely than an authoritarian Iran to seek nuclear weapons. The country simply pursues its traditional national interests. Liberal interventionists take a different view. They want to expand democratic norms, by force if necessary, around the globe in the hopes of advancing the dream of a perpetual peace.

Whether or not Hillary actually behaves like a hawk in office is another question. She might seek to push peace talks on Israel and the Palestinians. Reaching an agreement with Iran would be a big feather in her cap. So would negotiating an arms-control deal with Russia in exchange for dismantling the Bush administration’s proposed missile-defense system in Eastern Europe.

But the notion that Obama will seek to roll back the American empire is a pipedream. It wasn’t McCain but Obama who declared on the campaign trail that America has to “lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good.”

This won’t prevent the unrepentant rump faction of the neocons from denouncing Obama as an appeaser, while looking to either Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich as possible standard-bearers. But for now, the neocons touting a reversion to the movement’s original, more liberal precepts seem intent on creating a new chapter in the saga of a movement that has been repeatedly written off as dead. Perhaps reaching out to the Obama administration will help rejuvenate neoconservatism. It could prove to be a more comfortable fit than either side might anticipate.
__________________________________________

Jacob Heilbrunn, whose book They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons has just appeared in paperback, is a senior editor at The National Interest.

Voir également:

For many years Kagan was a staple in the broad neo-conservative community. He was a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, but now the only Kagan on their list is his brother, Frederick, who also works on foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute. Robert also was a founding member with Bill Kristol and Dan Senor of the Foreign Policy Initiative, where he remains on its Board of Directors.

The anti-interventionist paleo-conservative historian Andrew Bacevich characterized him as “the chief neo-conservative foreign policy theorist.” In 2008, the British Guardian ran a profile of Kagan, claiming that for “large sections of the left, Kagan has been blamed for many things, prominent among them being one of the intellectual authors and cheerleaders for the US-led war in Iraq.” But even then, it appears that he was having trouble being pigeonholed; the author of the piece observed that he is “uncomfortable” with the title “neocon” and “insists he is ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ in a distinctly American tradition.” Now Kagan has freed himself to join Hillary in the ranks of progressives who get things done.

In May of 2014, writing in the New Republic, Kagan had a cover story titled “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire.” It was an important critique of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. In it he outlined what he called the “cracking” and perhaps “collapsing” of the old world order established at the end of World War II when American leadership predominated, helped to keep the world stable, and prevented the Soviet empire from spreading into Western Europe. He was unhappy that Obama and the American public were retreating from the belief that the United States had a “global responsibility” to stay strong and lead the world, writing that:

Unless Americans can be led back to an understanding of their enlightened self-interest, to see again how their fate is entangled with that of the world, then the prospects for a peaceful twenty-first century in which Americans and American principles can thrive will be bleak.

It was a powerful essay. After a forum where he discussed his article, I asked him if he thought it would have any influence on the president. He replied that he hoped so, but he doubted it. He was right to have that fear.

The New York  Times ran a feature story about the article, noting Kagan’s hope that it might spark an “interventionist revival.” Kagan’s article was read at the White House, and soon after Obama gave a speech at West Point in which the president presented a “narrower vision for American force in world affairs.” Obama’s speech confirmed to many observers that this was the president’s rebuttal to Kagan.

The article’s author, Jason Horowitz, also noted that Kagan referred to himself as a “liberal interventionist.”

The article also gave us a hint of Kagan’s relationship with Hillary Clinton, so that it should come as no surprise that today, he would publicly endorse her for president. In 2014, he saw her as a “vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes.” It also revealed that Kagan served with a group of bipartisan foreign policy intellectuals who advised her at the State Department, where his wife Victoria Nuland worked under Clinton as an assistant secretary of state. As for Clinton, he told the Times, “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy.”

The Times immediately followed up with another article by the editor of The National Interest, Jacob Heilbrunn, a fierce opponent of neo-conservatives and interventionism. He said Kagan and Secretary of State Clinton would be a perfect fit:

Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war; supported sending arms to Syrian rebels’ likened Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to Adolf Hitler; wholeheartedly backs Israel; and stresses the importance of promoting democracy.

Wanted: A New Politics of Character

I spent the weekend re-reading David Frum’s Dead Right. Published in 1995, Frum’s slim book is a gripping and devastating account of the failure of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to limit government. Frum’s thesis, which I do not believe he has ever recanted, is that the conservative movement became enamored with the trappings of power during the Reagan presidency, and stopped making the argument that America’s problems stem from our sprawling and dilapidated welfare state. Instead conservatives, like Reagan, told Americans they could indeed have it all: tax cuts and entitlements, big government at half the price. Frum’s solution was for conservatives to step back from the Republican Party, care somewhat less about elections, and spend more time convincing Americans that a radical reduction in the size and scope of government is necessary and just.

What really interested me, though, was Frum’s typology of post-Reagan conservatives. He divides them into three groups. There are optimists, led by Jack Kemp. There are moralists, led by William J. Bennett. And there are nationalists, led by Pat Buchanan.

Optimists say public policy is a matter of incentives. Human beings all want to do the right thing, but taxes and regulation get in the way. Cut taxes, reduce regulation, resurrect the gold standard, and people will flourish.

For the moralists, incentives are not enough. Character counts. Crime, welfare, education matter more to a moralist than tax rates or Social Security. Government can and should foster a public morality. And if conservatives do not promote bourgeois values such as fidelity, thrift, discipline, modesty, and hard work, then liberals will use their social and political power to promote values of their own.

Nationalists are concerned with the erosion of American sovereignty. Defense treaties commit us to wars we cannot win and should not fight. Trade agreements displace workers. Immigration alters the ethnic composition of the nation. The solution is to place “America first, and second, and third,” as Buchanan put it in the title of a famous National Interest essay.

It is worth considering where these groups stand today. Kemp protégé Paul Ryan is clearly the leader of the optimists. Donald Trump is clearly the leader of the nationalists. But I can’t tell you who the leader of the moralists is. I can’t name a prominent conservative known for advocating public morality, a political leader who has taken a stand on crime, on welfare, on family policy, on education. A major education bill was recently signed into law with little fanfare and even less debate. The Powerball jackpot has grown to more than $236 million, and no one bats an eye, no Republican presidential candidate suggests that gambling harms the weak.

Where did the moralists go? To some degree they were victims of their own success. Crime has fallen. Welfare was reformed. Standards and testing were written into education law. Other issues became more pressing. After 9/11, a lot of the moralists became heavily invested in foreign and defense policy. Defending the Iraq war, and advocating a strategy that could improve our situation there, was a full-time job. President Obama forced conservatives to adopt a defensive position—against Obamacare, against immigration reform, against the Iran deal. The disappointing endgame in Iraq, and the Republican elite’s drive to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and the diminishing returns from globalization created the conditions for a nationalist revival.

This outcome is unfortunate. The moralists were once the most interesting and intellectually vibrant school of conservatism. They accurately identified a weakening of American self-confidence, a growing sense of entitlement and anomie, the importance of civil society and the cultural fabric. And they are needed once more. The conditions of our cities and suburbs, the state of our schools, the disintegration of the family, gun violence, opioid addiction, mental illness, pornography, welfare—these are subjects ripe for fresh policy analysis. Some of that work is being done. But it rarely finds expression in the public square.

A new politics of character would incorporate the best insights of the other schools of conservatism while rejecting their excesses. It needn’t be beholden to the idea that tax cuts will generate enough revenue to pay for themselves. It would recognize that immigration and trade bring costs as well as benefits even as it condemns rhetorical excess. It would treat seriously the idea that government matters. And, perhaps most importantly, in the uncertain and turbulent political era we seem to be entering, a new politics of character would not be necessarily attached to one political party.

Voir encore:

Donald Trump: Defender of the Faith
Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
March 3 2016

What happened to the evangelicals? They were supposed to be the bedrock of the Ted Cruz candidacy. Yet on Super Tuesday he lost them to Donald Trump.

Cruz still did make a reasonably good showing, winning Alaska, Oklahoma and Texas, the latter by an impressive 17 points. But he didn’t have the great night he needed to put away Marco Rubio and emerge as Trump’s one remaining challenger.

Cruz had done all the groundwork to win evangelicals and sweep the South by putting together strong alliances with local pastors and leaders. And yet, outside Oklahoma and Texas, he lost them to Trump by stunning margins — by 21 points in Alabama, 13 in Georgia, 14 in Tennessee, 16 in Virginia and 36 in, of all places, Massachusetts.

How could this have happened? A more scripturally, spiritually flawed man than Trump would be hard to find. As several anti-Trump evangelical voices have argued, Christian witness cannot possibly support a thrice-married man with such an impressive list of sins, featuring especially spectacular displays of the seven deadlys.

These theological arguments are both eloquent and impassioned but, in this season of fear and anxiety, beside the point. This time around, evangelicals are not looking for someone like them. They’re looking for someone who will protect them.

They’ve tried backing exemplary Scripture-quoting Christians — without result. After Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum and considerations of Cruz himself, they are increasingly reluctant to support like-minded candidates who are nonetheless incapable of advancing their cause in a hostile political arena so dominated by secularism.

They have no illusions about Trump. They have no expectations of religious uplift. What he offers them is not spirit but “muscle” (to borrow a word from the notorious former professor Melissa Click of the University of Missouri).

The transaction was illuminated by Trump’s January speech at Liberty University. His earlier halfhearted attempts to pose as a fellow evangelical were amusing and entirely unconvincing. At Liberty, he made another such I’m-one-of-you gesture by citing a biblical verse in “Two Corinthians,” thereby betraying a risible lack of familiarity with biblical language and usage.

Yet elsewhere in the speech, he described how Christians abroad are being massacred and Christians here at home are under cultural and political siege. He pledged: “We’re going to protect Christianity.”

Interesting locution. Not just Christians, but Christianity itself. What Trump promises is to stand outside the churchyard gates and protect the faithful inside. He’s the Roman centurion standing between them and both barbarians abroad and aggressive secularists at home.

The message is clear: I may not be one of you. I can’t recite or even correctly cite Scripture. But I will patrol the borders of Christendom on your behalf. After all, who do you want out there — a choir boy or a tough guy with a loaded gun and a kick-ass demeanor?

Evangelicals answered resoundingly. They went for Trump in a rout.

The essence of Trump’s appeal everywhere, far beyond evangelicals, is precisely the same: “I’m tough, I will protect you.” That’s why he remains so bulletproof. His lack of policy, the contradictory nature of his pronouncements that pass as policy — especially their capricious eruption and summary abandonment — have turned out to be an irrelevance.

Who cares? His support has nothing to do with actual prescriptions. Tuesday night, the immigration issue ranked low among Republican voters’ concerns. Only about 10 percent deemed it their No. 1 issue. The political success of Trump’s draconian immigration stance lies not in the policy but in the attitude — a not-going-to-take-it-anymore defiance.

That’s the reason none of the rhetorical outrages that would have destroyed another candidacy have even left a mark on Trump. He mocks John McCain’s heroism, insults Carly Fiorina’s looks, fawns over Vladimir Putin — nothing. If anything, he gains support for fearless “telling it like it is” candor.

This is a man who three times last Sunday refused to disavow David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. No other candidate could survive that. Trump not only survives, he thrives. Two days later, he wins seven out of 11 Super Tuesday states and ascends to the threshold of presumptive nominee.

Which is why the only possible way to stop Trump is a full-scale, open-the-bomb-bay-doors attack on the very core of his appeal: his persona of the tough guy you can trust to protect you.

It may be too late. But everything else will simply bounce off the Teflon.

Voir de même:

Whither the GOP?
Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
January 28, 2016

Big-government populism, small-government austerity, or conservative reform? It’s hard to believe that the United States, having resisted the siren song of socialism during its entire 20th-century heyday (the only major democracy to do so), should suddenly succumb to socialism’s charms a generation after its intellectual demise. Indeed, the prospect of socialist Bernie Sanders, whatever his current momentum, winning the Democratic nomination remains far-fetched. The Dems would be risking a November electoral disaster of historic dimensions. Yet there is no denying how far Sanders has pulled his party to the left — and how hard the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, has been racing to catch up. The Republicans, on the other hand, are dealing with a full-scale riot. The temptation they face is trading in a century of conservatism for Trumpism. The 2016 presidential race has turned into an epic contest between the ethno-nationalist populism of Donald Trump and traditional conservatism, though in two varieties: the scorched-earth fundamentalist version of Ted Cruz, and a reformist version, represented by Marco Rubio (and several so-called establishment candidates) and articulated most fully by non-candidate Paul Ryan and a cluster of highly productive thinkers and policy wonks dubbed “reformicons.”
Trump insists that he’s a conservative, but in his pronouncements and policies, conservatism seems more of a rental — a three-story penthouse rental with Central Park view, to be sure — than an ideological home. Trump protests that Ronald Reagan, too, migrated from left to right. True, but Reagan’s transformation occurred in his 40s — not, as with Trump, in his 60s. In radically different ways, Trump and Sanders are addressing the deep anxiety stemming from the secular stagnation in wages and living standards that has squeezed the middle and working classes for a generation. Sanders locates the villainy in a billionaire class that has rigged both the economic and the political systems. Trump blames foreigners, most prominently those cunning Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, and Saudis who’ve been taking merciless advantage of us, in concert with America’s own leaders, who are, alternatively, stupid and incompetent or bought and corrupt.
Hence Trump’s most famous policy recommendations: anti-immigrant, including the forced deportation of 11 million people; anti-trade, with a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods and a 35 percent tariff on U.S. manufacturing moved to Mexico; and anti-Muslim, most notoriously a complete ban on entry into the U.S. Temporary only, we are assured, except that the ban applies “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” — a standard so indeterminate as to be meaningless.
Trump has limited concern for the central tenet of American conservatism (and most especially of the tea-party movement) — limited government. The most telling example is his whole-hearted support for “eminent domain,” i.e. the forcible appropriation by government of private property. Trump called it “wonderful.” Trump has limited concern for the central tenet of American conservatism — limited government. Trump has not yet called Vladimir Putin wonderful, but he has taken a shine to the swaggering mini-czar who seems to run his trains on time. When informed that Putin kills opponents and journalists, Trump’s initial reaction was, “Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, also,” the kind of moronic what-about-the-Crusades moral equivalence that conservatives have railed against for decades. Although, to be fair, after some prompting, Trump did come out against the killing of journalists. Cruz is often lumped with Trump in the “anti-establishment” camp. That suited Cruz tactically for a while, but it’s fairly meaningless, given that “establishment” can mean anything these days — and given the huge gulf between the political philosophies of the two men. Cruz is a genuine conservative — austere, indeed radical, so much so that he considers mainstream congressional conservatives apostates. And he finds Trump not conservative at all, as he is now furiously, belatedly insisting.
My personal preference is for the third ideological alternative, the reform conservatism that locates the source of our problems not in heartless billionaires or crafty foreigners, but in our superannuated, increasingly sclerotic 20th-century welfare-state structures. Their desperate need for reform has been overshadowed by the new populism, but Speaker Ryan is determined to introduce a serious reform agenda in this year’s Congress — boring stuff like welfare reform, health-care reform, tax reform, and institutional congressional reforms such as the return to “regular order.” Paired with a president like Rubio (or Chris Christie or Carly Fiorina, to go longshot), such an agenda would give conservatism its best opportunity since Reagan to become the country’s governing philosophy. Unless the GOP takes the populist leap. In which case, a conservative restoration will be a long time coming.

— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2016 The Washington Post Writers Group.

Voir aussi:

The three-cornered fight for the soul of the GOP
Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
February 11, 2016

The New Hampshire results have solidified the reigning cliché that the 2016 campaign is an anti-establishment revolt of both the Left and the Right. Largely overlooked, however, is the role played in setting the national mood by the seven-year legacy of the Obama presidency. Yes, you hear constant denunciations of institutions, parties, leaders, donors, lobbyists, influence peddlers. But the starting point of the bipartisan critique is the social, economic, and geopolitical wreckage all around us. Bernie Sanders is careful never to blame Obama directly, but his description of the America Obama leaves behind is devastating — a wasteland of stagnant wages, rising inequality, a sinking middle class, young people crushed by debt, the American Dream dying. Take away the Brooklyn accent and the Larry David mannerisms and you would have thought you were listening to a Republican candidate. After all, who’s been in charge for the last seven years? Donald Trump is even more colorful in describing the current “mess” and more direct in attributing it to the country’s leadership — most pungently, its stupidity and incompetence. Both candidates are not just anti-establishment but anti–status quo. The revolt is as much about the Obama legacy as it is about institutions. Look at New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton had made a strategic decision, as highlighted in the debates, to wrap herself in the mantle of the Obama presidency. Big mistake. She lost New Hampshire by three touchdowns.
Beyond railing against the wreckage, the other commonality between the two big New Hampshire winners is in the nature of the cure they offer. Let the others propose carefully budgeted five-point plans. Sanders and Trump offer magic. Take Sanders’s New Hampshire victory speech. It promised the moon: college education, free; universal health care, free; world peace, also free because we won’t be “the policeman of the world” (mythical Sunni armies will presumably be doing that for us). Plus a guaranteed $15 minimum wage. All to be achieved by taxing the rich. Who can be against a “speculation” tax (whatever that means)? Share article on Facebook share Tweet article tweet So with Trump. Leave it to him. Jobs will flow back in a rush from China, from Japan, from Mexico, from everywhere. Universal health care, with Obamacare replaced by “something terrific.” Veterans finally taken care of. Drugs stopped cold at the border. Indeed, an end to drug addiction itself. Victory upon victory of every kind. How? That question never comes up anymore. No one expects an answer. His will be done, on earth if not yet in heaven. Yes, people love Trump’s contempt for the “establishment” — which as far as I can tell means anything not Trump — but what is truly thrilling is the promise of a near-biblical restoration. As painless as Sanders’s.
In truth, Trump and Sanders are soaring not just by defying the establishment, but by defying logic and history. Sanders’s magic potion is socialism; Trump’s is Trump. The young Democrats swooning for Sanders appear unfamiliar with socialism’s century-long career, a dismal tale of ruination from Russia to Cuba to Venezuela. Indeed, are they even aware that China’s greatest reduction in poverty in human history correlates precisely with the degree to which it has given up socialism? Trump’s magic is toughness — toughness in a world of losers. The power and will of the caudillo will make everything right. Apart from the fact that strongman rule contradicts the American constitutional tradition of limited and constrained government, caudillo populism simply doesn’t work. It accounts in a large part for the relative backwardness of Africa and Latin America. In 1900, Argentina had a per capita income fully 70 percent of ours. After a 20th century wallowing in Peronism and its imitators, Argentina is a basket case, its per capita income now 23 percent of ours.
There certainly is a crisis of confidence in the country’s institutions. But that’s hardly new. The current run of endemic distrust began with Vietnam and Watergate. Yet not in our lifetimes have the left and right populism of the Sanders and Trump variety enjoyed such massive support. The added factor is the Obama effect, the depressed and anxious mood of a nation experiencing its worst economic recovery since World War II and watching its power and influence abroad decline amid a willed global retreat. The result is a politics of high fantasy. Things can’t get any worse, we hear, so why not shake things up to their foundation? Anyone who thinks things can’t get any worse knows nothing. And risks everything.

Voir également:

Mugged by reality
Once the warrior queen of neoconservatism, Jeane Kirkpatrick died a critic of Bush’s unilateralism. Her death illuminates the conflicting legacies of the movement she helped found.
Sidney Blumenthal

Salon

Dec 14, 2006

The death last week of Jeane Kirkpatrick — ambassador to the United Nations during Ronald Reagan’s first term and the highest-ranking neoconservative in his administration — coincided with President Bush’s rejection of the Baker-Hamilton Commission report on Iraq and his subsequent consultations with neoconservatives to entrench his belief in “victory.” But rather than providing a sobering but inspirational backdrop for Bush’s heroic stand against the foreign-policy establishment, Kirkpatrick’s passing illuminates the conflicting legacies of the ideological movement of which she was once an icon and the confusion that surrounds a president who demands certitudes.

In its obituary, the New York Times buried a surprising scoop about her last act of diplomacy, when she was sent by President Bush on a secret mission to Geneva in March 2003 to justify the invasion of Iraq to Arab foreign ministers. “The marching orders we received were to argue that preemptive war is legitimate,” Alan Gerson, her former general counsel, recalled. “She said: ‘No one will buy it. If that’s the position, count me out.’” Instead, she argued that Saddam Hussein was in violation of United Nations resolutions. Her hitherto unknown rejection of Bush’s unilateralism and extolling of international order apparently was her final commentary on neoconservatism.

“A neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality,” neoconservative godfather Irving Kristol remarked in a famously cynical line. At the time of her death, Kirkpatrick was a neoconservative mugged by reality and a shadow of her former ferocious self. Once the warrior queen of neoconservatism, she ended as an unexplained skeptic, less the Valkyrie than the world-weary doubter, akin to the disillusioned Francis Fukuyama but without the tears of an apologetic manifesto. She checked out silently, leaving no equivalent of a political testament.

Norman Podhoretz, who had been her editor at Commentary, disclosed near the end of an obituary he published in the Weekly Standard that she had grown disenchanted. “She had serious reservations about the prudence of the Bush Doctrine, which she evidently saw neither as an analogue of the Truman Doctrine nor as a revival of the Reaganite spirit in foreign policy,” he wrote. “Even so, she was clearly reluctant to join in the clamor against it, which for all practical purposes meant relegating herself to the sidelines.” But Podhoretz declined to reveal more details of her disapproval. Abruptly, he assumed the pose of a commissar, praising her “brilliant service on the ideological front” and awarded her “laurels” for what she “earned in World War III,” though “what I persist in calling World War IV” failed to “tempt her back into battle.” Comrade Podhoretz’s oblique admission of her absence “on the ideological front” and the posthumous anecdote in the Times obituary are the runes of her alienation.

Jeane Kirkpatrick first came to public attention when her article “Dictatorships and Double Standards” was published in Commentary in November 1979. The Georgetown University professor’s slashing attack on the Carter administration, appearing just as the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the Iranian hostage crisis began, became one of the principal theoretical documents of neoconservatism and platforms for the Reagan campaign. In this seminal piece, which immediately vaulted her to prominence, Kirkpatrick argued that Carter’s adherence to human rights undermined traditional authoritarian regimes allied with the United States in the Cold War. “Authoritarian” states, she posited, could slowly change into democratic ones, unlike “totalitarian” ones. “The history of this century provides no grounds for expecting that radical totalitarian regimes will transform themselves,” she wrote.

History has not been kind to most of her ideas. The opening sentence of her essay betrays it as a howling anachronism. “The failure of the Carter administration’s foreign policy is now clear to everyone,” Kirkpatrick began. But where was she going? Her devastating punch line was that Carter’s “crowning achievement has been to lay the groundwork for a transfer of the Panama Canal from the United States to a swaggering Latin dictator of Castroite bent.” It may be hard to remember that Carter’s Panama Canal Treaty was then a red-hot right-wing cause, especially seized upon by Reagan as a surrender of America’s Manifest Destiny, and that the supposed “Latin dictator” is long gone.

Kirkpatrick’s central idea that communism was implacably resistant to change was, of course, belied by the collapse of the Soviet Union. And Carter’s advancement of human rights is generally acknowledged as a contributing factor in its downfall. Kirkpatrick’s awestruck description of gathering Soviet strength, universally shared on the right, was a fundamental misreading of the symptoms of a rapidly decaying system entering its terminal crisis. But in its time her view about the perpetual survival of communism was accepted as an eternal verity.

It may also be little recalled that alongside her mocking of human rights and “moralism” as “continuous self-abasement,” Kirkpatrick ridiculed Carter for not invading Iran, even before the hostage taking. “Where once upon a time an American President might have sent Marines to assure the protection of American strategic interests, there is no room for force in this world of progress and self-determination,” she wrote.

Kirkpatrick’s record in office was as callous as her rhetoric was caustic. The barbarity of Reagan’s policies in Latin America is largely forgotten, while the sordid assault on constitutional government in the Iran-contra scandal that flowed from it is rarely discussed. Kirkpatrick was obsessively fixed on Central America as a decisive cockpit of the Cold War and helped direct the administration’s focus there. In the name of ideological struggle, she rallied support for authoritarian juntas throughout the Western Hemisphere.

On Dec. 2, 1980, a month after Reagan’s election, four Roman Catholic Maryknoll nuns, dedicated to assisting peasants in El Salvador, then ruled by a junta that had provoked a guerrilla insurgency, were murdered; independent investigations and a trial later proved that Salvadoran National Guardsmen killed them on orders from above. Two weeks after these targeted assassinations, Kirkpatrick, just named to the U.N. post, leapt to the defense of the junta. “I don’t think the government of El Salvador was responsible,” she declared. “The nuns were not just nuns; the nuns were political activists.”

Kirkpatrick was an ardent protector of the El Salvador junta, among other juntas from Guatemala (where the regime waged a genocidal war against Indian peasants) to Honduras, and from Chile to Argentina. (After the National Guard massacred more than 900 men, women and children in the Salvadoran village of El Mozote on Dec. 11, 1981, the Reagan administration sent Kirkpatrick’s closest neoconservative ally within the administration, Elliott Abrams, then assistant secretary of state for human rights, before a Senate committee to testify that the reports of slaughter at El Mozote, later proved conclusively, “were not credible.” (After pleading guilty to lying to Congress in the Iran-contra scandal, Abrams was pardoned; he is currently deputy national security advisor in charge of Middle East affairs.)

In August 1981, Kirkpatrick flew to Chile to meet with Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who had overthrown the democracy there eight years earlier. “Most pleasant,” said Kirkpatrick about their conversation. She announced that the Reagan administration’s intention was to “normalize completely its relations with Chile,” including reinstating arms sales. Two days after her visit, Pinochet used Kirkpatrick’s bestowal of legitimacy to expel the chairman of the Chilean Human Rights Commission and other prominent opposition leaders. One month later, Amnesty International issued a report noting that “torture still appears to be a systematic part of official policy.”

Kirkpatrick considered herself a special friend of the Argentine junta. On April 2, 1982, she attended a dinner at the Argentine Embassy in Washington. While she was there, the regime launched an invasion of the British-governed Falkland Islands off the Argentine coast. The Argentines took Kirkpatrick’s presence as evidence of tacit official approval. The Falklands war that followed between an authoritarian regime and a democracy, between countries led by a military strongman and a conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to whom Kirkpatrick was occasionally compared, had not been foreshadowed in Kirkpatrick’s theories. Nor did she imagine the overthrow of the Argentine junta when it lost the war.

Voir enfin:

Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire

What our tired country still owes the world

I.

Almost 70 years ago, a new world order was born from the rubble of World War II, built by and around the power of the United States. Today that world order shows signs of cracking, and perhaps even collapsing. The Russia-Ukraine and Syria crises, and the world’s tepid response, the general upheaval in the greater Middle East and North Africa, the growing nationalist and great-power tensions in East Asia, the worldwide advance of autocracy and retreat of democracy—taken individually, these problems are neither unprecedented nor unmanageable. But collectively they are a sign that something is changing, and perhaps more quickly than we may imagine. They may signal a transition into a different world order or into a world disorder of a kind not seen since the 1930s.

If a breakdown in the world order that America made is occurring, it is not because America’s power is declining—America’s wealth, power, and potential influence remain adequate to meet the present challenges. It is not because the world has become more complex and intractable—the world has always been complex and intractable. And it is not simply war-weariness. Strangely enough, it is an intellectual problem, a question of identity and purpose.

Many Americans and their political leaders in both parties, including President Obama, have either forgotten or rejected the assumptions that undergirded American foreign policy for the past seven decades. In particular, American foreign policy may be moving away from the sense of global responsibility that equated American interests with the interests of many others around the world and back toward the defense of narrower, more parochial national interests. This is sometimes called “isolationism,” but that is not the right word. It may be more correctly described as a search for normalcy. At the core of American unease is a desire to shed the unusual burdens of responsibility that previous generations of Americans took on in World War II and throughout the cold war and to return to being a more normal kind of nation, more attuned to its own needs and less to those of the wider world.

If this is indeed what a majority of Americans seek today, then the current period of retrenchment will not be a temporary pause before an inevitable return to global activism. It will mark a new phase in the evolution of America’s foreign policy. And because America’s role in shaping the world order has been so unusually powerful and pervasive, it will also begin a new phase in the international system, one that promises not to be marginally different but radically different from what we have known these past 70 years. Unless Americans can be led back to an understanding of their enlightened self-interest, to see again how their fate is entangled with that of the world, then the prospects for a peaceful twenty-first century in which Americans and American principles can thrive will be bleak.


To understand where America, and the world, may be heading, it is useful to remind ourselves where we have been—of the choices that Americans made decades ago and of the profound, world-changing consequences of those choices.

For Americans, the choice was never been between isolationism and internationalism. With their acquisitive drive for wealth and happiness, their love of commerce, their economic and (in earlier times) territorial expansiveness, and their universalistic ideology, they never had it in them to wall themselves off from the rest of the world. Tokugawa Japan and Ming China were isolationist. Americans have always been more like republican Rome or ancient Athens, a people and a nation on the move.

When, roughly 70 years ago, American foreign policy underwent a revolutionary transformation, it was not a transformation from isolationism to internationalism. What Americans had rejected before World War II was a steady global involvement, with commitments to other nations and responsibilities for the general well-being of the world. That was what the so-called “internationalists” of the time wanted for the United States. Theodore Roosevelt, John Hay, Henry Cabot Lodge, Elihu Root, Henry Stimson, Woodrow Wilson, and many others believed that Americans ought to take on a much bigger role in world affairs, as befitted their growing power. The United States had become “more and more the balance of power of the whole globe,” Roosevelt observed, and it ought to behave accordingly. And indeed, following the Spanish-American War and for the first two decades of the twentieth century, the United States did pursue a wider and deeper global involvement than it had ever done before, culminating in the dispatch of two million troops to France. When World War I ended, Wilson, like Roosevelt before him, ambitiously set out to make the United States a central player in world affairs. Beseeched by all the European powers after the war—for American financing aid to steady their economies and for American security guarantees against each other—Wilson wanted the United States to commit itself to an enduring global role. The world, he warned Americans, would be “absolutely in despair if America deserts it.” Wilson’s League of Nations (actually it had been Roosevelt’s idea first), although couched in the idealistic language of universal principles and collective security, was meant above all to serve as the vehicle for American power and influence in support of a new liberal world order.

But Americans rejected this role. Disillusioned by the compromises and imperfections of the Versailles Treaty, mourning the loss of more than 100,000 dead soldiers, skeptical about American participation in the league, and spurred on by Republicans eager to defeat Wilson and recapture the White House, a majority of Americans came to oppose not only the league but also the internationalists’ broad vision of America’s global role. This was no absentminded lapse back into nonexistent isolationist traditions. It was a deliberate decision to turn away from the increasingly active global involvement of the previous two decades, to adopt a foreign policy of far greater restraint, and above all to avoid future military interventions beyond the Western Hemisphere. Wilson’s Republican successors promised, and the American public welcomed, what Warren Harding called a “return to normalcy.”

Normalcy in the 1920s did not mean isolation. Americans continued to trade, to invest, and to travel overseas; their navy was equaled in size only by Britain’s, and had fleets in the Atlantic and the Pacific; and their diplomats pursued treaties to control the arms race and to “outlaw” war. Normalcy simply meant defining America’s national interests the way most other nations defined theirs. It meant defending the homeland, avoiding overseas commitments, preserving the country’s independence and freedom of action, and creating prosperity at home. The problems of Europe and Asia were not America’s problems, and they could be solved, or not solved, without American help. This applied to global economic issues as well. Harding wanted to “prosper America first,” and he did. The 1920s were boom years for the American economy, while Europe’s postwar economies stagnated.

To the vast majority of Americans, normalcy seemed a reasonable response to the world of the 1920s, after the enormous exertions of the Wilson years. There were no obvious threats on the horizon. Postwar Weimar Germany was a faltering republic more likely to collapse than to take another stab at continental dominance. Bolshevik Russia was wracked by civil war and economic crisis. Japan, though growing in power and ambition, was a fragile democracy with a seat on the League of Nations permanent council. To most Americans in the 1920s, the greatest risk to America came not from foreign powers but from those misguided “internationalists” and the greedy bankers and war profiteers who would involve the nation in foreign conflicts that were none of America’s business.

This consensus was broad, deep, and bipartisan, and Americans stayed on the course of normalcy for two full decades. They did so even as the world order—no longer upheld by the old combination of British naval might and a relatively stable balance of power in Europe and Asia—began to fray and then collapse. The Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931; Hitler’s rise to power in 1933; Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935; Germany’s remilitarization of the Rhineland, and the German and Italian intervention in the Spanish Civil War, in 1936; Japan’s invasion of central China in 1937; Hitler’s absorption of Austria, followed by his annexation and eventual conquest of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939—all these events troubled and at times appalled Americans. They were not ignorant of what was going on. Even back then information traveled widely and rapidly, and the newspapers and newsreels were filled with stories about each unfolding crisis. Reports of Mussolini’s dive-bombers dropping their ordnance on spear-carrying Ethiopians; Germany’s aerial bombing of the civilian population of Guernica; Japan’s rampage of rape, pillage, and murder in Nanking—they were horrific and regrettable. But they were not reasons for the United States to get involved. On the contrary, they were reasons for not getting involved. The worse things looked around the world, the more hopeless it all seemed, the less Americans wanted to have anything to do with it. The United States, it was widely believed, had no vital interests at stake in Manchuria, Ethiopia, Spain, or Czechoslovakia.

In fact, it was not clear that the United States had vital interests anywhere outside the Western Hemisphere. Even after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and the outbreak of a general European war that followed, respected American strategic thinkers, priding themselves on “realistic thinking,” the “banishment of altruism and sentiment” from their analysis, and “single-minded attention to the national interests,” advised that, with two oceans and a strong navy standing between America and every great power in the world, the United States was invulnerable.A Japanese attack on, say, Hawaii, they ruled out as literally impossible. Republican Senator Robert A. Taft felt confident in saying that no power “would be stupid enough” to attack the United States “from across thousands of miles of ocean.” Nor would the United States suffer appreciably if Nazi Germany did manage to conquer all of Europe, including Great Britain, which by 1940 the realists regarded as a foregone conclusion. Taft saw no reason why the United States could not trade and conduct normal diplomacy with a Europe dominated by Nazi Germany just as it had with Great Britain and France. As the historian Howard K. Beale put it, nations “do not trade with one another because they like each other’s governments but because both sides find the exchange of goods desirable.”

Holders of such views were tagged with the disparaging label of “isolationist,” but as Hans Morgenthau later pointed out, they believed at the time that they were upholding the “realist tradition of American foreign policy.” The United States should not range “over the world like a knight-errant,” Taft admonished, “[protecting] democracy and ideals of good faith and [tilting] like Don Quixote against the windmills of fascism.” Taft insisted on seeing the world as it was, not as idealists wished it to be. The European war was the product of “national and racial animosities” that had existed “for centuries” and would continue to exist “for centuries to come,” he argued. To make a difference in the war, the United States would have to send millions of troops across the ocean, make an impossible amphibious landing on shores heavily defended by German forces, and then march across Europe against the world’s strongest army. The very thought was inconceivable. Much as they might wish to help Europe, therefore, Americans had “no power, even if we have the will, to be its savior.”

This view was so dominant and so politically popular that Franklin Roosevelt spent his first years in office muzzling his internationalist instincts and vowing to keep America out of another war—“I hate war!” he roared in a famous address in 1936. After Munich, however, he grew panicked, sensing that the Western powers, Britain and France, had lost the will to stand up to Hitler. And so he began trying to warn Americans of what he regarded as the coming threat. Yet it was difficult to counter the realists’ hardheaded analysis. Roosevelt could not prove that American security was directly endangered by what was happening in Europe. He was left making a case that really did appeal more to sentiment and idealism than to demonstrable threats to the American homeland.

Even if the United States faced no immediate danger of military attack, Roosevelt argued, if Hitler, Mussolini, and Imperial Japan were allowed to have their way, the world would be a “shabby and dangerous place to live in—yes, even for Americans to live in.” America would become a “lone island” in a world dominated by the “philosophy of force.” The “institutions of democracy” would be placed at risk even if America’s security was not, because America would have to become an armed camp to defend itself. Roosevelt urged Americans to look beyond their immediate physical security. “There comes a time in the affairs of men,” he said, “when they must prepare to defend, not their homes alone, but the tenets of faith and humanity on which their churches, their governments, and their very civilization are founded. The defense of religion, of democracy, and of good faith among nations is all the same fight. To save one we must now make up our minds to save all.”

Such arguments, along with the fall of France and the Battle of Britain, did help convince Americans that they had a stake in the outcome of the European struggle, but it did not convince them to go to war. That decision followed only after Pearl Harbor. The Japanese attack, Hitler’s subsequent declaration of war, and America’s full-scale entry into the conflicts in both Europe and Asia were a traumatic shock to Americans, especially for those in positions of power. That which had been deemed impossible had proved possible, and long-held assumptions about American security in a troubled world collapsed in a single day.


The events of 1941 forced a fundamental reassessment not only of America’s global strategy but also of how to define America’s interests. Even as they waged the struggle against Germany and Japan, Roosevelt and his advisers during the war began thinking of how the postwar world ought to be shaped, and they took as their guide what they considered the lessons of the previous two decades.

The first had to do with security. The Japanese attack had proved that vast oceans and even a strong navy no longer provided adequate defense against attack. More broadly, there was the realization—or rather the rediscovery—of an old understanding: that the rise of a hostile hegemonic power on the Eurasian landmass could eventually threaten America’s core security interests as well as its economic well-being. As a corollary, there was the “lesson of Munich”: would-be aggressors in Eurasia had to be deterred before they became too strong to be stopped short of all-out war.

Another lesson was that the United States had an interest in political developments in Eurasia. Walter Lippmann argued that, for Americans to enjoy both “physical security” and the preservation of their “free way of life,” they had to ensure that “the other shore of the Atlantic” remained always in the hands of “friendly,” “trustworthy” democracies. For two decades, people had sneered at “Woodrow Wilson’s demand that the world must be made safe for democracy,” Lippmann commented, but Wilson had been right. Under the control of “free governments the shores and waters of the Atlantic” had become the “geographical center of human liberty.” The Atlantic Charter and Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms reflected this revived conviction that the well-being of democracy in the world was not only desirable but important to America’s security.

Then there was the global economy. In the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s, the United States had sought mostly domestic remedies for the Great Depression, raising its own tariffs, choking off lending abroad, refusing to join other nations in a common monetary policy, and generally protecting the American economy while ignoring the world economy. By 1941, however, Roosevelt and his advisers had concluded that both America’s prosperity and its security depended on a healthy world economy. Poverty and economic dislocation had played a major role in the rise of both Hitler and Bolshevism. The United States bore much of the blame, for although it had been the world’s leading economic power in the 1920s and 1930s, it had failed to play a constructive and responsible role in stabilizing the global economy.

Finally, there was the issue of American public support for global involvement. In the 1920s and 1930s, Americans had been allowed and even encouraged by their political leaders to believe that the United States was immune to the world’s troubles. They could not be allowed to fall back into such complacency. They could no longer regard events thousands of miles away as of no concern to them. To Roosevelt, assuring public support for a larger and more consistent American role in the world was going to be among the greatest challenges after the war. Americans had to understand, as Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in April 1943, that “the world problem cannot be solved if America does not accept its full share of responsibility in solving it.”


That share was to be sizeable. convinced that World War II had been the result not of any single incident but rather of the overall breakdown of world order, politically, economically, and strategically, American leaders set out to erect and sustain a new order that could endure. This time it was to be a world order built around American economic, political, and military power. Europeans had proved incapable of keeping the peace. Asia was entirely unstable on its own. Any new order would depend on the United States. It would become the center of a new economic system that would encourage open trade and provide financial assistance and loans to nations struggling to stay afloat. It would take a substantial and active part in the occupation and transformation of the defeated powers, ensuring that some form of democracy took root in place of the dictatorships that had led those nations to war. America would also have to possess preponderant military strength and when necessary deploy sufficient power to preserve stability and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Military force played a central part in the calculations of Roosevelt and his advisers as they set out to establish and defend the new liberal world order. “Peace must be kept by force,” Roosevelt insisted. There was “no other way.” He anticipated that an American occupation force of one million troops would be necessary to keep the peace in Europe, for at least a year and perhaps longer. During the war, the Joint Chiefs envisioned establishing military bases around the world in “areas well removed from the United States” so that any fighting would take place “nearer the enemy” rather than near American territory.

Roosevelt naturally hoped to avoid the repeated and extended deployment of American ground forces overseas, since he feared the public would not tolerate it. But he did expect that the United States would have to send at least planes and ships whenever called upon by the U.N. Security Council. As Cordell Hull insisted at the Dumbarton Oaks conference in 1944, American military forces had to be “available promptly, in adequate measure, and with certainty.” In fact, Roosevelt anticipated that requests from the Security Council would be so frequent that he did not want the president to have to go to Congress each time for approval of the use of force. The Security Council had to have “the power to act quickly and decisively to keep the peace by force, if necessary,” Roosevelt explained, and so the American representative had to be given advance authority to act.

Roosevelt supported the United Nations but was not a great believer in collective security. American power, he believed, would be the key. He saw the United Nations much as Wilson had seen the League of Nations, as a vehicle for U.S. global involvement. Indeed, as the historian Robert Dallek has noted, for Roosevelt the United Nations was partly meant to “obscure” the central role American power was to play in the new world order— obscure it, that is, from Americans.


II.

This new American grand strategy for the postwar world could not have been a more radical departure from “normalcy.” Its goals were not simply defense of the territory, prosperity, and sovereign independence of the American people, but also the promotion of a liberal world order that would defend not only America’s interests but those of many other nations as well. The rise of a Eurasian hegemon would threaten other nations long before it would threaten the United States, for instance, yet Americans now accepted primary responsibility for preventing it. The new strategy was not selfless or altruistic. American officials believed that it was in the best interest of the United States. But neither did it fit the normal definition of the “national interest.” As Dean Acheson explained, Americans had to learn to “operate in a pattern of responsibility which is greater than our own interests.” This was the real revolution in American foreign policy.

The new strategy was not directed at any particular nation or any specific threat—at least not at first. The Soviet Union had not yet emerged as the next great challenge to the new global order. During World War II, Roosevelt and most other top officials expected mutual cooperation with the Soviets after the war, and even as late as 1945, Acheson still believed in the possibility of partnership with Moscow. Rather than responding to a specific threat, the new grand strategy aimed at preventing a general collapse of global order, which meant supporting an open international economic system, enforcing principles of international behavior, supporting, where possible, democratic governments, encouraging a minimum of respect for human rights, as defined in the U.N. Charter, and generally promoting the kind of world that suited Americans and those who shared their beliefs.

This new and wide-ranging set of goals and responsibilities completely reoriented the posture of American foreign policy. Instead of essentially leaning back, waiting for threats to emerge, responding, and then pulling back again, the new strategy required a constant and pervasive forward involvement in the affairs of the world. The new economic strategy aimed to prevent economic crises before they resulted in revolution or despotism. The new military strategy aimed to discourage would-be aggressors before they became aggressors, or as Roosevelt put it, to “end future wars by stepping on their necks before they grow up.”

The new forward-leaning posture became especially pronounced as the postwar era transitioned into the cold war. The Marshall Plan aimed to shore up Western European economies and democracies before they collapsed and succumbed to communism. The Truman Doctrine aimed to bolster Greece and Turkey before they fell to communist subversion. When the communist revolution triumphed in China in 1949, American critics blamed the Truman administration for not doing enough to prevent it—a charge, fair or not, that no one would have thought to make before World War II. The unanticipated North Korean invasion of the South produced panic in Washington and, in the minds of Truman and his advisers, powerfully reinforced the “lesson of Munich.” Henceforth the United States would have to be vigilant and ready to act, with force, anywhere in the world.

All of this was precisely what the anti-interventionist critics had warned about in the 1930s. Taft, a thoughtful and intelligent man, had indeed predicted that, once sent off to the war, American forces would never come home again. Victory would prove as much a curse as a blessing. American troops, Taft had warned, “would have to police Europe or maintain the balance of power there by force of arms” indefinitely. Beale had cautioned that, if freedom and democracy were the goals, as Roosevelt claimed, then the United States was going to have to “maintain democracy by armed force on the Continent of Europe” and keep a “navy large enough to establish ‘freedom of the seas’ … on all the oceans of the world.” It was a prescription at once for bankruptcy and militarism at home and “unadulterated imperialism” abroad.

Roosevelt and other American statesmen originally hoped that the United States would not have to do everything by itself. Roosevelt planned to share global management among the “Four Policemen”—the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China. And Truman in 1945 was bound and determined to slash the defense budget and bring as many troops home as possible. Yet within two years after the war ended, the new world order was already teetering on the edge of collapse along with hopes for global partnership with the other great powers. Britain quickly signaled its inability to play its historic role, even in the Mediterranean. China descended into civil war and revolution. And the Soviet Union emerged not as a supporter of the new order but, to American eyes, as its greatest opponent. The result was the disheartening realization that the United States was going to carry the lion’s share of the burden, just as Taft had warned. As Acheson later put it, the United States was going to have to be “the locomotive at the head of mankind,” while the rest of the world was going to be “the caboose.”

Roosevelt had always worried that the American people would never accept such an expansive and seemingly open-ended global role. Three months before he died, in his last State of the Union address, in January 1945, he attempted to rally them for the task ahead. “In our disillusionment after the last war,” he reminded the American public, “we gave up the hope of gradually achieving a better peace because we had not the courage to fulfill our responsibilities in an admittedly imperfect world. We must not let that happen again, or we shall follow the same tragic road again—the road to a third world war.”


That was the last time, before 1989, that an American statesman would think of American global responsibilities without reference to the Soviet Union or to international communism. The onset of the cold war, the panicked American response to Soviet policies in Eastern Europe and in the Middle East, and the recurrent American paranoia about the danger of communist subversion at home answered FDR’s fears about public support. To many Americans, Soviet communism seemed an even more direct threat to their way of life than Hitler and the Nazis. Fighting it, therefore, proved an easier strategy to comprehend and support than shouldering “responsibilities in an admittedly imperfect world.” Although there was intense and often divisive debate over foreign policy during the cold war, and much dissent voiced by critics of anti-communist containment, especially during and just after the Vietnam war, a majority of Americans proved consistently willing to go to great lengths in the name of containing communism. In the late 1940s and 1950s, they provided billions of dollars for European reconstruction and made military alliances with former adversaries such as Japan and Germany and other European powers they had once disdained and mistrusted. They even extended nuclear guarantees to deter a Soviet conventional invasion of Europe, voluntarily making themselves targets of Soviet nuclear weapons in the event of a European war. In the 1950s and 1960s, they often spent 10 percent or more of their GDP on defense. They deployed hundreds of thousands of troops overseas, indefinitely, in Europe and Asia—almost a million during the Eisenhower years. They fought in costly wars in Korea and Vietnam, with uncertain and unsatisfying results.

Justifying everything in terms of the anti-communist struggle may have been, to borrow Acheson’s phrase, “clearer than truth,” but it worked. Fear of communism, combined with fear of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical threat, allowed a majority of Americans and American policymakers to view practically any policy directed against communist forces, or even against suspected communist forces, anywhere in the world as directly serving the nation’s vital interests. In 1965, even David Halberstam believed that preventing a communist victory in Vietnam was “vital to our national interest.” A decade and a half later, Jimmy Carter, who had come to office warning, not entirely unreasonably, against an “inordinate fear of communism,” was forced to announce a dramatic shift of policy in response to a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a country that not two Americans in a million could have found on a map and where no direct American interest could be identified, other than the fact that the Soviets were there. Yes, the general feeling went, the United States had taken on unprecedented global responsibilities, but it had done so because American interests were directly threatened by an unprecedented global challenge.

So Americans for more than four decades proved willing to support the expansive and active foreign policy that Roosevelt and his advisers had envisioned—indeed, probably much more than they envisioned—and the results were extraordinary. In the half-century following World War II, the United States successfully established, protected, and advanced a liberal world order, carving out a vast “free world” within which an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity could flower in Western Europe, East Asia, and the Western Hemisphere. Although tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union sometimes rose to dangerous levels, the period was characterized above all by peace among the great powers. The United States and the Soviet Union did not come to blows, and just as importantly, the American presence in Europe and East Asia put an end to the cycles of war that had torn both regions since the late nineteenth century. The number of democracies in the world grew dramatically. The international trading system expanded and deepened. Most of the world enjoyed an unprecedented prosperity. There was no shortage of disasters and near-disasters, as well as the two costly wars in Asia—but the strategy was largely successful, so much so that the Soviet empire finally collapsed or voluntarily withdrew, peacefully, under the pressure of the West’s economic and political success, and the liberal order then expanded to include the rest of Europe and most of Asia. All of this was the result of many forces—the political and economic integration of Europe, the success of Japan and Germany, and the rise of other successful Asian economies—but none of it would have been possible without a United States willing and able to play the abnormal and unusual role of preserver and defender of a liberal world order.


America’s ability to play this role at all was due lessto the special virtues of the American people than to some remarkable advantages that put the United States in a historically unique position. The most important advantage was geography. For centuries the world’s cockpits of conflict had been in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, where multiple powers shared common neighborhoods, jostled for primacy, and engaged in endless cycles of military competition and warfare. When the United States emerged as a great power at the end of the nineteenth century, it alone enjoyed fundamental security in a neighborhood in which it was already the unquestioned hegemon. This, along with its wealth and large population, gave the United States the ability to dispatch the bulk of its armed forces thousands of miles away to engage in protracted military operations. It also allowed the United States to station large numbers of troops permanently overseas if it so desired. And it could do all of this without leaving itself vulnerable to a neighboring power.

No other nation in the world was ever so situated. Even that other great island superpower, Great Britain, sat too close to the European continent to be invulnerable to attack, especially when the airplane and the long-range missile became major tools of warfare. Nor had Britain succeeded in securing its core strategic requirement: preventing the emergence of a hegemon on the continent. Although successful for two centuries in maintaining and managing its overseas empire, Britain failed to prevent the rise of German hegemony twice in the twentieth century, leading to two devastating wars that ultimately undid British global power. Britain failed because it had tried to play the role of balancer in Europe from “offshore.” Britons’ main concern was always defense of their far-flung empire, and they preferred to stay out of Europe if possible. Their inability or unwillingness to station troops on the continent in sufficient number, or at least reliably to guarantee that sufficient force would arrive quickly in an emergency, led would-be aggressors to calculate that decisive British military force would either not arrive on time or not arrive at all.

After World War II, Americans’ unique geographical advantage made possible an unprecedented global strategy. The United States was able to move beyond traditional national defense and beyond offshore balancing. It was able to become effectively both a European power and an Asian power, with troops permanently stationed “onshore” in both theaters simultaneously. The presence of American troops acted to remove doubt by potential aggressors that the United States would fight if its allies were attacked. For the next seven decades, this American presence enforced a general peace and stability in two regions that for at least a century had known almost constant great-power conflict.

Just as remarkable was the degree to which the rest of the nations in the liberal world generally accepted and even welcomed America’s overwhelming power. Again, the reason had as much to do with power and geography as with ideological affinity. It was true that for most nations in the world the United States appeared to be a relatively benign hegemon. But the core geopolitical reality was that other nations faced greater and more immediate threats from their neighbors than from the distant Americans. When those neighbors grew menacing, they looked to the United States as a natural partner—comforting for its ability to project power and defend them but comforting also for its distance.

The United States thus violated some of the cardinal rules of international relations. For decades, realists had believed that the only peaceful and stable world order was one based on a multipolar balance of power, a “concert” of nations poised in rough equilibrium in a system that all the players regarded as necessary and legitimate—like Europe in the years following the Congress of Vienna. This was the world with which Henry Kissinger felt comfortable and which he constantly predicted, even in the 1960s, was just right around the corner. Unipolarity was supposed to be inherently unstable and short-lived, because other great powers would always band together to balance against a power grown too strong—as had happened in Europe in response to the rise of France and Germany in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Richard Nixon expressed this alleged realist truism in a speech, no doubt penned under Kissinger’s influence, in 1972. “We must remember,” Nixon declared, that “the only time in the history of the world that we have had any extended period of peace is when there has been balance of power. It is when one nation becomes infinitely more powerful in relation to its potential competitor that the danger of war arises. So I believe in a world in which the United States is powerful. I think it will be a safer world and a better world if we have a strong, healthy United States, Europe, Soviet Union, China, Japan, each balancing.” But the United States was already disproving this thesis.

The broad acceptance of American power, best demonstrated by the large number of its allies and the absence of powerful nations joining the Soviet Union against it, created a unique situation in the world. No other nation in history had ever played such a role on a global scale, and arguably no other nation possibly could. The situation could not conform to a theory because it could not be replicated. It was sui generis.

Geography made it possible for the United States to play this unique role in the world, but as the 1920s and 1930s showed, the question of whether the United States would take it on was up to the American people. Nothing required them to play such an abnormal part in world affairs. During the cold war, they did it primarily out of fear of communism. But what would happen when the Soviet Union disappeared and the threat of communism vanished? The question seemed moot for four excruciatingly long decades when no one ever really expected the Soviet Union to give up the geopolitical competition. But the unanticipated fall of the Soviet empire and the collapse of international communism after 1989 inevitably raised anew the question of how to define America’s purpose and its interests in the absence of an obvious threat. Suddenly, Americans were back to where Roosevelt had left off in the early 1940s, when the challenge had been to avoid the mistakes of the 1920s and 1930s. But would anyone remember the original grand strategy, devised in the brief moment before the Soviet Union arose to dominate American strategic thinking? Would the original grand strategy still seem relevant at the end of the twentieth century? Or had Americans, as the political scientist Robert Osgood worried in the 1950s, “become so transfixed by their fears of communism” that they had forgotten “what they are for in their obsession with what they are against”?


III.

When the cold war ended, many did believe that the United States could finally unburden itself of the vast global responsibilities that it had shouldered for more than four decades. As in the 1920s, the world of the early 1990s seemed safe enough. The former Soviet Union was in a state of economic and political collapse; China, following the Tiananmen Square massacre, was diplomatically and economically isolated. Americans’ biggest concern at the time was the booming economy of Japan, which, as it turned out, was just about to fall into 20 years of stagnation. So what grave threat required America to continue its abnormal, outsized role in the world? Could not the United States return to being more of a normal nation with a more normal definition of its national interests?

In September 1990, in an article titled “A Normal Country in a Normal Time,” Jeane Kirkpatrick argued precisely that. With the Soviet Union collapsing, there was no longer a “pressing need for heroism and sacrifice.” The cold war had given foreign policy “an unnatural importance” in American life. The “foreign policy elite” had grown accustomed to thinking of the United States as having “expansive, expensive, global purposes” that “transcended … apparent American interests.” It was time for the United States “to focus again on its own national interests,” by which she meant national interests as “conventionally conceived”—“to protect its territory, wealth, and access to necessary goods; to defend its nationals.” This was the “normal condition for nations.”

Kirkpatrick expressed what many felt after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and not just the followers of Patrick Buchanan, who found much to praise in her essay. Francis Fukuyama also argued that with communism vanquished and democracy triumphant, there were no other great geopolitical or ideological challenges on the horizon. The chief threat of the future­—as he suggested in his famous essay “The End of History?”—would be boredom, the empty tediousness of life lived under a vapid, soul-killing Western liberalism. Others noted Paul Kennedy’s warnings about “imperial overstretch” and worried that America’s extensive global military commitments, no longer justified by a Soviet enemy, would put it at a disadvantage in a world where geoeconomics trumped geopolitics. Realists called for a sharp retraction of American military commitments overseas, the withdrawal of troops from Europe and Asia, and even a return to what they called the “offshore balancing” of the 1920s and 1930s.

Still, and remarkably, for the first two decades of the post-cold-war era the United States pursued the original pre-cold-war grand strategy. The event that set the tone for the next dozen years was comparatively minor. In August 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army invaded Kuwait, and in a matter of days conquered and annexed it. Brutal though the action was, by comparison with the seismic events of the bloody twentieth century, it was small beer. The border between the two nations, like most boundaries in the Arab world, had been arbitrarily drawn by the British Empire. Kuwait had been under Iraqi suzerainty under the Ottomans, and leaders in Baghdad had long regarded it as an Iraqi province. Saddam further justified the invasion as support for an allegedly popular (though largely manufactured) rebellion against the Kuwaiti royal family.

Inside and outside the Bush administration, self-described realists argued that the United States draw the line not at Kuwait but at Saudi Arabia. Kuwait’s oil was not that important, Colin Powell argued, and the risks of “a major confrontation” with Saddam and his army were high, so the “most prudent” option would be to defend the Saudis. “We can’t make a case for losing lives for Kuwait,” Powell argued, “but Saudi Arabia is different.” Dick Cheney worried that driving Saddam out of Kuwait was going to cost “one hell of a lot of money,” that Americans had a “short tolerance for war,” and that, after all, “the oil goes mostly to Japan.” James Baker took a similar view, as did a majority of Democrats in Congress, as did a majority of Americans. A poll taken in November 1990 showed that 51 percent of Americans were opposed to trying to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait by force and that only 37 percent were in favor of it. Most favored economic sanctions to punish Saddam.

Other Bush advisers, however, led by Brent Scowcroft, saw things differently. Saddam’s invasion, they believed, was “the first test of the postwar system.” For half a century the United States had taken the lead role in deterring and punishing would-be aggressors. Although driving Iraqi forces out of Kuwait would be “costly and risky,” Scowcroft feared that failure to do so would set “a terrible precedent—one that would only accelerate violent centrifugal tendencies—in this emerging ‘post-Cold War’ era.” Appeasement of aggression in one region would breed aggression elsewhere. To President Bush, it was all reminiscent of the 1930s. This time, he recalled in his memoirs, “I wanted no appeasement.” Speaking to the American people on the eve of war, Bush described American objectives not in terms of national interests but in terms of a “new world order,” in which “the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations.” Much like Roosevelt in 1939, he argued that “a world in which brutality and lawlessness are allowed to go unchecked isn’t the kind of world we’re going to want to live in.”

Thus did Roosevelt’s original grand strategy—the defense of a liberal world order against collapse, responding not to any single, specific threat but to whatever political, economic, or strategic challenges might arise—seem to reemerge after the long cold war. After 1990, the United States, despite occasional protectionist pressures at home, generally sought to expand free trade and worked in cooperation with other governments, even at moments of economic crisis, to prevent a collapse of the global economic system. The United States also undertook to expand its alliance system, especially in Central and Eastern Europe.

In the decade following the fall of the Berlin Wall, moreover, the United States also conducted a number of sizeable military operations—seven to be precise, roughly one every 17 months: in Panama (1989), Iraq (1991), Somalia (1992), Haiti (1994), Bosnia (1995), Iraq again (1998), and Kosovo (1999). None were a response to perceived threats to vital national interests. All aimed at defending and extending the liberal world order—by toppling dictators, reversing coups, and attempting to restore democracies in Panama and Haiti; preventing mass killing or starvation in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo; deterring or reversing aggression in the Persian Gulf in 1991; and attempting to prevent the proliferation of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 1998. When Bush sent 30,000 troops to remove the corrupt dictator Manuel Noriega, it was not, as George Will wrote approvingly at the time, in order to pursue national interests “narrowly construed,” but to fulfill “the rights and responsibilities that come with the possession of great power.” When Bush then carried out in Somalia what was arguably the most purely humanitarian, and therefore most purely selfless, intervention in American history, he told the public, “I understand that the United States alone cannot right the world’s wrongs.” But the “people of Somalia need … our help” and “some crises in the world cannot be resolved without American involvement.”

The United States, in short, was the “indispensable nation,” as Bill Clinton would proclaim—indispensable, that is, to the preservation of a liberal world order. Such was the thinking behind most of Clinton’s foreign policy initiatives: the enlargement of NATO, which included the extension of unprecedented military guarantees to such nations as Poland, the Czech Republic, and the Baltic states; the billions sent to try to save Boris Yeltsin’s faltering democratic experiment in Russia; and the intense focus on containing North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, designated as “rogue states” because they defied the principles of a liberal world order. Conflicts in remote and troubled parts of the world were not considered irrelevant to American interests but were viewed within this broader context. After the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995, Clinton officials argued, according to David Halberstam, that “Serb aggression” was intolerable— not because it threatened American interests directly, which obviously it did not, but because it tore at “the very fabric of the West.”

Even the American confrontation with Iraq, beginning in the late 1990s and culminating in the U.S. invasion in 2003, had begun as a world order issue, before it became subsumed by George W. Bush’s “War on Terror.” When President Clinton ordered four days of bombing and missile attacks against suspected Iraqi weapons production facilities at the end of 1998, he warned that, if Saddam were not stopped, “The community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists. … If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow.” In the twentieth century, Americans had “often made the difference between chaos and community, fear and hope. Now, in the new century, we’ll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past.” At the end of the day, George W. Bush’s decision to remove Saddam Hussein, whether that decision was wise or foolish, was driven more by concerns for world order than by narrow self-interest. Of all the American interventions of the post-cold-war era, only the invasion of Afghanistan could be understood as directly related to America’s own national security.

The long interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan certainly played a part in undermining American support, not just for wars but for the grand strategy that led to those wars. However, that support had been shaky from the beginning. Polls throughout the 1990s showed Americans wary of overseas interventions, even though the public generally supported their presidents when they used force. Opposition parties generally opposed the interventions undertaken by both Democratic and Republican presidents. Democrats voted against George H. W. Bush’s Persian Gulf war; Republicans opposed the Clinton administration’s interventions in Haiti and the Balkans as superfluous “international social work” and “nation-building” that were divorced from American national interests. Realists in the academy and the think tanks pecked away at successive administrations, warning of overreach and “imperialism.” Perhaps like the cartoon character that runs beyond the edge of the cliff and hangs with legs churning in the air before falling, support for the globally active policies of the 1990s was a kind of forward inertia, fueled by the energy of the late cold war, and gravity was eventually going to bring it to Earth.


The conventional wisdom these days is that Americans are war-weary. But it may be more accurate to say they are world-weary. During the cold war, after all, Americans had much greater reason for war-weariness—Korea and Vietnam were 14 times more costly in terms of American deaths than Afghanistan and Iraq—but they never fully rejected the global anti- communist containment strategy that had gotten them into the wars. Today’s mood seems more analogous to the 1920s. More than 50 percent of Americans today believe that the United States “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own”—the highest number ever recorded since Pew started asking the question 50 years ago.

At the core of this public attitude is no doubt the desire to avoid more wars. But as the 1920s and 1930s showed, a determination to stay out of war can affect broader foreign and economic policies. In the 1930s, the desire to avoid war led Congress to pass the Neutrality Acts, to prevent Americans from even trading with belligerents in a foreign war lest the United States be dragged in on one side or the other. Such an action may be inconceivable today, but the reasoning behind it is visible. Polls these days show that Americans are not only averse to using military force but also to actions short of war. More than 50 percent agreed that it was “more important” that the United States “not get too involved in the situation in Ukraine” than that it “take a firm stand” against Russia, which 29 percent found more important. Many of those not wanting to get “too involved” may fear that any involvement could eventually lead to a possible military confrontation—and they’re not entirely wrong. As in the 1920s and 1930s, Americans can see the slippery slope.


IV.

Historians often refer to the “maturing” of American foreign policy since the nineteenth century. But if nations can learn, they can also unlearn. These days it is hard to watch both the conduct and the discussion of American foreign policy and not sense a certain unlearning, a forgetting of the old lessons on which the grand strategy was premised. Perhaps this was inevitable. World War II is as distant from today’s “millennials” as the Civil War was from the generation of the 1930s. A generation that does not remember the cold war, but grew up knowing only Iraq and Afghanistan, is going to view America’s role in the world differently. Combine that with the older generations that have tired of playing the old role, and it is hardly surprising that enthusiasm is flagging. Americans today are not isolationists, any more than they were in the 1920s. They favor the liberal world order insofar as they can see how it touches them. But they are no longer prepared to sacrifice very much to uphold it.

This is understandable. Americans have been Atlas carrying the world on their shoulders. They can be forgiven for feeling the temptation to put it down. Under the best of circumstances, playing the role of upholder of the liberal world order was always a monumental task. At the dawn of the American era, Truman called it “the most terrible responsibility that any nation ever faced.” George Kennan was convinced that the American people were “not fitted, either institutionally or temperamentally, to be an imperial power in the grand manner.” Actually, he underestimated them, for Americans maintained their global commitments for decades, better than most nations.

Yet the burden has been immense, and not just the obvious costs in lives and treasure. Americans have spent vast amounts on defense budgets, more than all other major powers combined. Can’t U.S. allies carry more of the burden? The question has been asked since the dawn of the cold war, but the answer has always been: probably not. The same factors that have made the United States uniquely capable of supporting a world order—great wealth and power and the relative security afforded by geography—help explain why American allies have always been less capable and less willing. They have lacked the power and the security to see and act beyond their narrow interests. So where they failed before they will fail again. Even twenty-first-century Europeans, for all the wonders of their union, seem incapable of uniting against a predator in their midst, and are willing, as in the past, to have the weak devoured if necessary to save their own (financial) skins. There are moral costs, too. Like most people, Americans generally like to believe that they are behaving justly in the world, that they are on the side of the right. If possible, they like to have legal or institutional sanctions for their action, or at least the general approval of like-minded nations. On the two occasions in the past 100 years when the United States contemplated taking on a central role in global affairs, in 1918 and 1945, American leaders insisted on simultaneously creating world organizations that could, at least in theory, provide this legitimacy for American actions.

The problem is, the world lacks any genuine overarching legal or institutional authority, much less a democratic authority, to which all nations subordinate themselves. Questions of right and wrong are settled not according to impartial justice but usually according to the distribution of power in the system. Americans have usually had to use their power to enforce their idea of justice without any assurance beyond their own faith that they are right. This is a heavy moral burden for a democratic people to bear. In their domestic lives, Americans are accustomed to having that burden spread evenly across society. The people make the laws, the police enforce the laws, judges and juries mete out justice, and the prison officials carry out the punishment. But in the international sphere, Americans have had to act as judge, jury, police, and, in the case of military action, executioner. What gives the United States the right to act on behalf of a liberal world order? In truth, nothing does, nothing beyond the conviction that the liberal world order is the most just.

This moral conundrum was easier to ignore during the cold war, when every action taken, even in the most obscure corners of the world, was justified as being in defense of vital national interests. But actions taken in defense of world order are fraught with moral complexity. Americans and Europeans argue that Ukraine’s sovereignty should be inviolate and that the people of Ukraine should be allowed to pursue their aspirations to be part of Europe. Vladimir Putin justifies his invasion of Crimea on the grounds of ancient historical ties and in response to American and European meddling in Russia’s historical sphere of influence. Who is there to adjudicate between these competing claims of justice? Who can determine which side is right and which side is wrong? It does no good to invoke some allegedly superior twenty-first-century morality against an inferior nineteenth-century morality. No more in this century than in previous centuries is there either perfect morality or perfect justice to be found in the international system. Nor do great powers come to disputes with clean hands, in this or any other century. All are selfish; all are morally compromised. And indeed, the more power a nation has, the more it is likely to act in ways that cannot be squared with a Christian or Enlightenment morality.

Who is to say that even defense of the liberal world order is necessarily good? The liberal world order was never put to a popular vote. It was not bequeathed by God. It is not the endpoint of human progress, despite what our Enlightenment education tells us. It is a temporary and transient world order that suits the needs, interests, and above all the ideals of a large and powerful collection of people, but it does not necessarily fit the needs and desires of everyone. For decades many abroad and some Americans at home saw it as a form of Western imperialism, and many still do. Communism may have failed, but authoritarianism and autocracy live on. And it is that form of government, not democracy, that has been the norm throughout history. In recent decades the democracies, led by the United States and Europe, have had the power to shape the world. But who is to say that Putinism in Russia or the particular brand of authoritarianism practiced in China will not survive as far into the future as European democracy, which, outside of Great Britain, is itself only a little over a century old?

A liberal world order, like any world order, is something that is imposed, and as much as we in the West might wish it to be imposed by superior virtue, it is generally imposed by superior power. Putin seeks to impose his view of a world order, at least in Russia’s neighborhood, just as Europe and the United States do. Whether he succeeds or fails will probably not be determined merely by who is right and who is wrong. It will be determined by the exercise of power.

This is a disturbing thought for a nation that has grown weary of exercising power. Hans Morgenthau once observed that Americans are attracted to the “illusion that a nation can escape … from power politics,” that at some point “the final curtain would fall and the game of power politics would no longer be played.” Many escapes have been offered over the past two decades. In 1989, Fukuyama told Americans that with the end of history there would be no more “serious ideological competitors left to liberal democracy.” Liberal progress was inevitable, and therefore nothing need be done to promote or defend it. Such thoughts were echoed throughout the 1990s. The age of geopolitics had supposedly given way to the age of geoeconomics. What America needed in the new era was less “hard power” and more “soft power.”

Such was the reigning conventional wisdom, at least from the end of the cold war until 2008 and the beginning of the financial crisis. Then the paradigm shifted. Suddenly, instead of the end of history, it was the end of America, the end of the West. Triumphalism turned to declinism. From the post-cold-war utopia it became the post-American world. Yet this, too, turned out to be a form of escapism, for remarkably, whether the liberal world order was triumphing or America and the West were declining, the prescription remained the same: There was nothing to be done. Whereas before it had been unnecessary, and even wrong, for the United States to use its power to shape the world, now, suddenly, it was impossible, because the United States no longer had sufficient power.

Today more than 50 percent of Americans believe the United States plays “a less important and powerful role as a world leader than it did a decade ago.” One senses that, for many Americans, this decline is not a reason for panic but comes as something of a relief. Less power means fewer responsibilities. A sense of futility, today as much as in the 1920s and 1930s, is both an invitation and a justification for a return to normalcy.

The sense of futility has affected policymakers, too. Senior White House officials, especially the younger ones, look at problems like the struggle in Syria and believe that there is little if anything the United States can do. This is the lesson of their generation, the lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan: that America has neither the power nor the understanding nor the skill to fix problems in the world.

This is also escapism, however, for there is a myth embedded in this plea of futility. It is that wielding power effectively was ever any easier than it is today. With rose-colored glasses we look back at the cold war and imagine that the United States used to get others to do what it wanted, used to know what it was doing, and used to wield such overwhelming power that the world simply bent to its will or succumbed to its charms. But American policy during the cold war, despite its ultimate success, was filled with errors, folly, many near-disasters, and some disasters. From the beginning, allies proved rebellious, resentful, and unmanageable. American domestic politics made sensible policies difficult and sometimes impossible to sustain. The world economy, and the American economy, lurched from crisis to crisis. American military power was at its best a most uncertain instrument. In Vietnam, whether inevitably or because of bad policymaking in Washington, it failed miserably. In Korea, it almost suffered a complete catastrophe. The most successful presidents of the era, from Truman to Reagan, did not always seem successful to their contemporaries and suffered significant setbacks in their foreign policies. Can the architects of today’s foreign policies really believe that Acheson and his colleagues, or the policymakers in the Johnson or Nixon or Carter administrations, had an easier time of it?

Any nation’s foreign policy is bound to fail more often than it succeeds. The attempt to influence the behavior of people even in the domestic setting is difficult enough. To influence other peoples and other nations without simply annihilating them is the most difficult of all human tasks. It is also in the very nature of foreign policy, as in human affairs generally, that all solutions to problems only breed more problems. This is certainly true of all wars. There is no perfect ending to any war, even those fought with the clearest and most straightforward of objectives. The Civil War did not put an end to the terrible plight of blacks in America, though it cost over half a million lives. World War II ended with the Soviet Union in control of half of Europe and opened the way to another four decades of superpower confrontation.

When a nation uses its power to shape a world order, rather than merely for self-defense or conquest, the tenuousness of solutions is even more pronounced. Military actions for world order preservation are almost by definition limited both in scope and objectives. World order maintenance requires operating in the gray areas between victory and defeat. The measure of success is often not how wonderful the end result is, but whether the unsatisfying end result is better or worse than the outcome if there had been no action. To insist on outcomes that always achieve maximum ends at minimal cost is yet another form of escapism.


Today, however, Americans seem overwhelmed by the difficulty and complexity of it all. They yearn to return to what Niebuhr called “the innocency of irresponsibility,” or at least to a normalcy in which the United States can limit the scope of its commitments. In this way America has perhaps returned to the mood of the 1920s. There is a difference, however. In the 1920s, it was not America’s world order that needed shoring up. Americans felt, mistakenly as it turned out, that it was Britain’s and Europe’s job to preserve the world order they had created. Today, it is America’s world order that needs propping up. Will Americans decide that it matters this time, when only they have the capacity to sustain it?

You never miss the water ’til the well runs dry, or so the saying goes. One wonders whether Americans, including their representatives and their president, quite understand what is at stake. When President Obama first took office five years ago, Peter Baker of The New York Times reported that he intended to deal “with the world as it is rather than as it might be.” It is a standard realist refrain and has been repeated time and again by senior Obama officials as a way of explaining why he decided against pursuing some desirable but unreachable “ideal” in this place or that. What fewer and fewer seem to realize, however, is that the last 70 years have offered Americans and many others something of a reprieve from the world “as it is.”

Periods of peace and prosperity can make people forget what the world “as it is” really looks like, and to conclude that the human race has simply ascended to some higher plateau of being. This was the common view in Europe in the first decade of the twentieth century. At a time when there had not been a war between great powers in 40 years, or a major Europe-wide war in a century, the air was filled with talk of a new millennium in which wars among civilized nations had become impossible. Three-quarters of a century and two world wars and a cold war later, millennial thoughts return. Studies cited by Fareed Zakaria purport to show that some “transformation of international relations” has occurred. “Changes of borders by force” have dropped dramatically “since 1946.” The nations of Western Europe, having been responsible for two new wars a year for 600 years, had not even started one “since 1945.” Steven Pinker observes that the number of deaths from war, ethnic conflict, and military coups has declined—since 1945—and concludes that the human race has become “socialized” to prefer peace and nonviolence.

The dates when these changes supposedly began ought to be a tip-off. Is it a coincidence that these happy trends began when the American world order was established after World War II, or that they accelerated in the last two decades of the twentieth century, when America’s only serious competitor collapsed? Imagine strolling through Central Park and, after noting how much safer it had become, deciding that humanity must simply have become less violent—without thinking that perhaps the New York Police Department had something to do with it.

In fact, the world “as it is” is a dangerous and often brutal place. There has been no transformation in human behavior or in international relations. In the twenty-first century, no less than in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, force remains the ultima ratio. The question, today as in the past, is not whether nations are willing to resort to force but whether they believe they can get away with it when they do. If there has been less aggression, less ethnic cleansing, less territorial conquest over the past 70 years, it is because the United States and its allies have both punished and deterred aggression, have intervened, sometimes, to prevent ethnic cleansing, and have gone to war to reverse territorial conquest. The restraint showed by other nations has not been a sign of human progress, the strengthening of international institutions, or the triumph of the rule of law. It has been a response to a global configuration of power that, until recently, has made restraint seem the safer course.

When Vladimir Putin failed to achieve his goals in Ukraine through political and economic means, he turned to force, because he believed that he could. He will continue to use force so long as he believes that the payoff exceeds the cost. Nor is he unique in this respect. What might China do were it not hemmed in by a ring of powerful nations backed by the United States? For that matter, what would Japan do if it were much more powerful and much less dependent on the United States for its security? We have not had to find out the answers to these questions, not yet, because American predominance, the American alliance system, and the economic, political, and institutional aspects of the present order, all ultimately dependent on power, have mostly kept the lid closed on this Pandora’s box.

Nor have we had to find out yet what the world “as it is” would do to the remarkable spread of democracy. Skeptics of “democracy promotion” argue that the United States has often tried to plant democracy in infertile soil. They may be right. The widespread flowering of democracy around the world in recent decades may prove to have been artificial and therefore tenuous. As Michael Ignatieff once observed, it may be that “liberal civilization” itself “runs deeply against the human grain and is achieved and sustained only by the most unremitting struggle against human nature.” Perhaps this fragile democratic garden requires the protection of a liberal world order, with constant feeding, watering, weeding, and the fencing off of an ever-encroaching jungle. In the absence of such efforts, the weeds and the jungle may sooner or later come back to reclaim the land.

One wonders if even the current economic order reflects the world “as it is.” A world in which autocracies make ever more ambitious attempts to control the flow of information, and in which autocratic kleptocracies use national wealth and resources to further their private interests, may prove less hospitable to the kind of free flow of commerce the world has come to appreciate in recent decades.

In fact, from the time that Roosevelt and Truman first launched it, the whole project of promoting and defending a liberal world order has been a concerted effort not to accept the world “as it is.” The American project has aimed at shaping a world different from what had always been, taking advantage of America’s unique situation to do what no nation had ever been able to do. Today, however, because many Americans no longer recall what the world “as it is” really looks like, they cannot imagine it. They bemoan the burdens and failures inherent in the grand strategy but take for granted all the remarkable benefits.

Nor do they realize, perhaps, how quickly it can all unravel. The international system is an elaborate web of power relationships, in which every nation, from the biggest to the smallest, is constantly feeling for shifts or disturbances. Since 1945, and especially since 1989, the web has been geared to respond primarily to the United States. Allies observe American behavior and calculate America’s reliability. Nations hemmed in or threatened by American power watch for signs of growing or diminishing power and will. When the United States appears to retrench, allies necessarily become anxious, while others look for opportunities.

In recent years, the world has picked up unmistakable signals that Americans may no longer want to carry the burden of global responsibility. Others read the polls, read the president’s speeches calling for “nation-building at home,” see the declining defense budgets and defense capabilities, and note the extreme reticence, on the part of both American political parties, about using force. The world judges that, were it not for American war-weariness, the United States probably would by now have used force in Syria—just as it did in Kosovo, in Bosnia, and in Panama. President Obama himself recently acknowledged as much when he said, “It’s not that it’s not worth it. It’s that after a decade of war, you know, the United States has limits.” Such statements set the web vibrating. In East Asia, nations living in close proximity to an increasingly powerful China want to know whether Americans will make a similar kind of calculation when it comes to defending them; in the Middle East, nations worried about Iran wonder if they will be left to confront it alone; in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, American security guarantees are meaningless unless Americans are able and willing to meet them.

Are they? No one has taken a poll lately on whether the United States should come to the defense of its treaty allies in the event of a war between, say, China and Japan; or whether it should come to the defense of Estonia in a Ukraine-like conflict with Russia. The answers might prove interesting.

Meanwhile, the signs of the global order breaking down are all around us. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and seizure of Crimea was the first time since World War II that a nation in Europe had engaged in territorial conquest. If Iran manages to acquire a nuclear weapon, it will likely lead other powers in the region to do the same, effectively undoing the nonproliferation regime, which, along with American power, has managed to keep the number of nuclear-armed powers limited over the past half century. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia are engaged in a proxy war in Syria that, in addition to the 150,000 dead and the millions displaced, has further destabilized a region that had already been in upheaval. In East Asia, nervousness about China’s rise, combined with uncertainty about America’s commitment, is exacerbating tensions. In recent years the number of democracies around the world has been steadily declining, while the number of autocracies grows. If these trends continue, in the near future we are likely to see increasing conflict, increasing wars over territory, greater ethnic and sectarian violence, and a shrinking world of democracies.

How will Americans respond? If the test is once again to be “national interests” narrowly construed, then Americans may find all of this tolerable, or at least preferable to doing something to stop it. Could the United States survive if Syria remains under the control of Assad or, more likely, disintegrates into a chaos of territories, some of which will be controlled by jihadi terrorists? Could it survive if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, and if in turn Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt acquire nuclear weapons? Or if North Korea launches a war on the South? Could it survive in a world where China dominates much of East Asia, or where China and Japan resume their old conflict? Could it survive in a world where Russia dominates Eastern Europe, including not only Ukraine but the Baltic states and perhaps even Poland? Of course it could. From the point of view of strict “necessity” and narrow national interest, the United States could survive all of this. It could trade with a dominant China and work out a modus vivendi with a restored Russian empire. Those alarmed by such developments will be hard-pressed, as Roosevelt was, to explain how each marginal setback would affect the parochial interests of the average American. As in the past, Americans will be among the last to suffer grievously from a breakdown of world order. And by the time they do feel the effects, it may be very late in the day.

Looking back on the period before World War II, Robert Osgood, the most thoughtful of realist thinkers of the past century, discerned a critical element missing from the strategic analyses of the day. Mere rational calculations of the “national interest,” he argued, proved inadequate. Paradoxically, it was the “idealists,” those who were “most sensitive to the Fascist menace to Western culture and civilization,” who were “among the first to understand the necessity of undertaking revolutionary measures to sustain America’s first line of defense in Europe.” Idealism, he concluded, was “an indispensable spur to reason in leading men to perceive and act upon the real imperatives of power politics.” This was Roosevelt’s message, too, when he asked Americans to defend “not their homes alone, but the tenets of faith and humanity on which their churches, their governments, and their very civilization are founded.”

Perhaps Americans can be inspired in this way again, without the threat of a Hitler or an attack on their homeland. But this time they will not have 20 years to decide. The world will change much more quickly than they imagine. And there is no democratic superpower waiting in the wings to save the world if this democratic superpower falters.


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 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
But honestly, Donald Trump reminds me of the Kim Kardashian of politics – they’re both famous for being famous and the media plays along. Carly Fiorina
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
Some explanations for Donald Trump’s success emphasize his focus on supposedly working-class issues – namely, immigration and trade – after a refusal by the GOP “establishment” to address them. When the Wall Street Journal condemns his “crude assessment of the economic relationship with China” and sneers that his “pander[ing] to his party’s nativist wing… may have endeared him to one or two radio talk show hosts” but will prove an electoral disaster, the editors only underscore the base-to-establishment gap. Except I just did that thing where I tell you the quote is about one person and it is really about someone else. Those criticisms were leveled by the Wall Street Journal, but in 2012, at Mitt Romney. From early in the primaries, Romney took the unheard-of stance that China cheated on trade and should be aggressively confronted. He even called for retaliatory tariffs against continued currency manipulation and intellectual property theft. Similarly, on immigration, Romney was far to the right by the standards of either the 2012 or 2016 GOP fields. While his use of the phrase “self-deportation” was certainly inartful, the position was similar to the one Ted Cruz has since staked out. (Though Cruz may have shifted bizarrely rightward in the last 24 hours.) He stood by it right through the general-election debates with President Obama. The post-2012 effort by the GOP to reposition itself on immigration was not an extension of the Romney approach, but rather a reaction. (…) The real difference is that Romney held himself each day to the highest standards of decency and felt keenly the burdens of leadership, while Trump is an entertainer committed to delivering whatever irrational blather of insults, threats, and lies will earn the most retweets. Sometimes the blather may take the form of a “policy” proposal like mass deportation or a ban on Muslims, but that is still part of the show – not a suggestion for how to run the country. (…) Yes he has “tapped into anger,” but let’s stop pretending it is a rational anger at problems ignored. (…) The sad irony is this: the intelligentsia’s confidence that Trump would fade was in fact a strong sign of their respect for the judgment of the Republican base. If you are looking for the people who truly disdained those voters, find the pundits who predicted from the beginning that this guy might actually win. Yet by flocking to him now, Trump voters are ensuring they will be a punchline –​sometimes feared, but never respected –​ for years to come. Oren Cass
Si l’on regarde les élections américaines avec un regard français – et c’est ce que nous faisons tous malgré nous -, il représente le contrepoint parfait de ce que représentent les hommes politiques français. Et c’est pour cela que nous le soutenons. Il est un ovni pour la France. Il affiche sans honte son argent et affiche clairement ses idées. Concrètement, il n’a pas peur de renverser la table si besoin, ni de déplaire. On l’aime pour ce qu’il est, ou on le rejette entièrement. En plus de ses propos assumés, il a une véritable prestance, un charisme. Pour tout cela, il représente un électrochoc pour la vie politique française. En soutenant Donald Trump, nous revendiquons avant tout notre envie d’avoir un homme politique de cette trempe en France. (…) Nous ne soutenons pas Les Républicains, ni le Front national. Nous sommes avant tout des déçus de la politique telle qu’elle est pratiquée en France. On soutient Donald Trump pour changer cela. Mais la question n’est pas d’importer les États-Unis en France, il s’agit simplement de profiter de la montée de Donald Trump pour changer les choses chez nous. Les Français sont prêts à avoir un Trump à l’Élysée, j’en suis convaincu, mais il devra être assez solide pour ne pas renoncer à ses principes au nom d’une certaine bien pensance. Il ne doit pas avoir peur de mettre les pieds dans le plat. Vivien Hoch (porte-parole du comité de soutien de Donald Trump en France)
Il ne suffit pas, pour faire un bon président, d’effaroucher les bien-pensants, même si c’est une condition incontournable, ou d’avoir raison après tout le monde. Et puis est venue cette idée, peut-être devenue promesse depuis la publication de cet article, de ne plus laisser entrer les musulmans sur le sol des États-Unis. Je sais bien qu’il ne faut pas dire « les », il faut dire « des », j’ai compris la leçon. Oui, mais alors lesquels ? Telle est la question que Donald rétorque à nos indignations. Avant que des musulmans balancent des avions dans des tours ou que d’autres flinguent des handicapés, les uns comme les autres étaient de paisibles citoyens, des voisins sans histoires, des étudiants appréciés, ou des travailleurs honnêtes, car on ne peut, au pays de la troisième récidive et de la peine de mort, devenir terroriste après avoir fait carrière dans le banditisme. Comment faire, donc, pour distinguer les terroristes musulmans parmi les musulmans ? Et que faire si la mission s’avère impossible ? C’est en posant ces questions, que devrait se poser tout responsable politique qui s’est penché sur le vrai sens des mots « responsable » et « politique », que Donald est remonté dans mon estime. C’est en opposant à la liberté de circulation le principe de précaution (surtout utilisé pour nous empêcher de vivre libres, et qui pourrait bien, en l’occurrence, nous empêcher de mourir jeunes), qu’il est devenu mon candidat. La solution est radicale, entière, brutale, américaine et nous paraît folle, comme tout ce qui nous vient d’outre-Atlantique avec vingt ans d’avance, pour nous apparaître comme moderne, vingt ans après. Ainsi, les Américains ont fermé, au temps de la guerre froide, leur pays au communisme. On se souvient du maccarthysme et des questions risibles posées par les douaniers aux nouveaux arrivants, immigrés ou touristes : Appartenez-vous au crime organisé ? Êtes-vous membre du parti communiste ? Ils ont su, sous la réprobation du monde entier, éviter d’être contaminés par cette maladie du xxe siècle. Nous avons eu, en France et en Europe, une autre approche. Nous avons fait le pari que cette idéologie dangereuse et liberticide se dissoudrait dans la démocratie et dans l’économie de marché. Et nous avons gagné. Chez nous, il ne reste du communisme qu’un parti crépusculaire et folklorique, une curiosité européenne où se retrouvent des écrivains chics, idiots utiles du village souverainiste – utiles à qui, on se le demande ? On les lit avec bonheur quand ils ne parlent pas de politique. Mais alors deux questions se posent : le monde libre aura-t-il raison de l’islamisme comme il a eu raison du communisme ? Pouvons-nous attendre vingt ans pour le savoir ? Cyril Benassar
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 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

Attention: un accident industriel  pourrait en cacher un autre !

Alors qu’avec pas moins, entre la Russie, la Chine et l’Iran et sans compter les djiadistes, de trois menaces majeures à l’ordre post-guerre froide sous ses mandats …

L’un des probables pires présidents américains achève en cette dernière année qu’il lui reste à la Maison Blanche …

Entre promesses vides (Guantanamo) et visites à l’un ou l’autre dictateur de la planète (Cuba) …

La magistrale démonstration qu’un président noir pouvait être tout aussi mauvais qu’un président blanc …

Pendant que du côté républicain et notamment néoconservateur certains en sont même à menacer de voter démocrate

Comment ne pas voir, avec l’apparemment irrésistible et aussi rafraichissante qu’inquiétante ascension d’un champion de l’impolitiquement correct mais aussi des idées simples et des boniments comme Trump et sans parler du plus rouge que rouge Sanders, le même risque de l’arrivée comme il y a huit ans d’un nouvel accident industriel à la tête du Monde libre?

State of the World: Year Eight of Barack Obama
Charles Krauthammer
National review
February 25, 2016

(1) In the South China Sea, on a speck of land of disputed sovereignty far from its borders, China has just installed anti-aircraft batteries and stationed fighter jets. This after China landed planes on an artificial island it created on another disputed island chain (the Spratlys, claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam). These facilities now function as forward bases for Beijing to challenge seven decades of American naval dominance of the Pacific Rim. “China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea,” the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command told Congress on Tuesday. Its goal? “Hegemony in East Asia.”

(2) Syria. Russian intervention has turned the tide of war. Having rescued the Bashar al-Assad regime from collapse, relentless Russian bombing is destroying the rebel stronghold of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, creating a massive new wave of refugees and demonstrating to the entire Middle East what a Great Power can achieve when it acts seriously. The U.S. response? Repeated pathetic attempts by Secretary of State John Kerry to propitiate Russia (and its ally, Iran) in one collapsed peace conference after another. On Sunday, he stepped out to announce yet another “provisional agreement in principle” on “a cessation of hostilities” that the CIA director, the defense secretary, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs deem little more than a ruse.

(3) Ukraine. Having swallowed Crimea so thoroughly that no one even talks about it anymore, Russia continues to trample with impunity on the Minsk cease-fire agreements. Vladimir Putin is now again stirring the pot, intensifying the fighting, advancing his remorseless campaign to fracture and subordinate the Ukrainian state. Meanwhile, Obama still refuses to send the Ukrainians even defensive weapons.

(4) Iran. Last Thursday, Iran received its first shipment of S-300 anti-aircraft batteries from Russia, a major advance in developing immunity to any attack on its nuclear facilities. And it is negotiating an $8 billion arms deal with Russia that includes sophisticated combat aircraft. Like its ballistic missile tests, this conventional weapons shopping spree is a blatant violation of U.N. Security Council prohibitions. It was also a predictable — and predicted — consequence of the Iran nuclear deal that granted Iran $100 billion and normalized its relations with the world. The U.S. response? Words. Share article on Facebook share Tweet article tweet Unlike gravitational waves, today’s strategic situation is not hard to discern. 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.

Voir aussi:

The tough choices of overseas intervention
Victor Davis Hanson
Townhall
February 25, 2016

The United States has targeted a lot of rogues and their regimes in recent decades: Muammar Gadhafi, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, Manuel Noriega and the Taliban.

As a general rule over the last 100 years, any time the U.S. has bombed or intervened and then abruptly left the targeted country, chaos has followed. But when America has followed up its use of force with unpopular peacekeeping, sometimes American interventions have led to something better.

The belated entry of the United States into World War I saved the sinking Allied cause in 1917. Yet after the November 1918 armistice, the United States abruptly went home, washed its hands of Europe’s perennial squabbling and disarmed. A far bloodier World War II followed just two decades later.

It may have been wise or foolish for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to have intervened in Vietnam in 1963-1964 to try to save the beleaguered non-communist south. But after 10 years of hard fighting and a costly stalemate, it was nihilistic for America to abandon a viable South Vietnam to invading communist North Vietnam. Re-education camps, mass executions and boat people followed — along with more than 40 years of communist oppression.

The current presidential candidates are refighting the Iraq war of 2003. Yet the critical question 13 years later is not so much whether the United States should or should not have removed the genocidal Saddam Hussein, but whether our costly efforts at reconstruction ever offered any hope of a stable Iraq.

By 2011, Iraq certainly seemed viable. Only a few dozen American peacekeepers were killed in Iraq in 2011 — a total comparable to the number of U.S. soldiers who die in accidents in an average month.

The complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops in December 2011 abruptly turned what President Obama had dubbed a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant” Iraq — and what Vice President Joe Biden had called one of the administration’s “greatest achievements” — into a nightmarish wasteland.

Hillary Clinton bragged of the 2011 airstrikes in Libya and the eventual death of Gadhafi: “We came, we saw, he died.”

But destroying Gadhafi’s forces from the air and then abandoning Libya to terrorists and criminals only created an Islamic State recruiting ground. The Benghazi disaster was the nearly inevitable result of washing our hands of the disorder that we had helped to create.

In contrast, when the United States did not pack up and go home after its messy wars, our unpopular interventions often helped make life far better for all involved — and the U.S. and its allies more secure.

The United States inherited a mess in the Philippines in 1899 after the defeat of imperial Spain in the Spanish-American war. But after more than a decade of bloody counterinsurgency fighting, America finally birthed a Philippine national government that was given its independence after World War II.

President Harry Truman’s intervention to save South Korea from North Korean aggression quickly turned into a quagmire. Communist China soon launched a massive invasion into the Korean peninsula. By 1953 — at a cost of roughly 35,000 American lives, about eight times more U.S. fatalities than in Iraq — America had at least saved a viable South Korea.

President Eisenhower, facing re-election in 1956, resisted calls to pull American peacekeepers from the Demilitarized Zone and quit the detested “Truman’s war.”

More than 60 years after the U.S. saved South Korea, thousands of American peacekeepers still help protect a democratic and successful south from a nightmarish, totalitarian and nuclear north.

Some 60 million people died in World War II, a global war that the United States did not start and did not enter until 1941. Yet American power helped defeat the Axis aggressors.

Unlike the aftermath of World War I, the United States stayed on to help rebuild war-torn Europe and Asia after World War II. The Marshall Plan, the NATO alliance, the defeat of Soviet Union in the Cold War, the foundations of the later European Union, and Asian economic dynamism all followed — along with some 70 years of relative peace.

In 1999, President Clinton convinced the NATO alliance to bomb Serbia’s genocidal Slobodan Milosevic out of power and stop the mass killing in the Balkans. After Milosevic’s removal, only the presence of American-led NATO peacekeepers on the ground prevented another round of mass murder.

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.

 Voir également:

Trump, the EU crack-up and Israel
What accounts for the billionaire populist’s success?
Caroline Glick
The Jerusalem Post
02/25/16

After his smashing back-to-back victories in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries and the Nevada caucuses, going into next week’s Super Tuesday contests in 12 states, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump looks increasingly unbeatable.

What accounts for the billionaire populist’s success? And if Trump does become the next US president, what sort of leader will the former reality television star be? Trump is popular because he has a rare ability to channel the deep-seated frustrations that much of the American public harbors toward its political and cultural elites.

Trump’s presidential bid isn’t based on specific, defined economic or foreign policy platforms or plans. Indeed, it isn’t clear that he even has any.

Trump’s campaign is based on his capacity to resonate two deeply felt frustrations harbored by a large cross-section of American citizens.

As The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger explained recently, a very large group of Americans is frustrated – or enraged – by the intellectual and social terror exercised upon them by the commissars of political correctness.

Trump’s support levels rise each time he says something “politically incorrect.” His candidacy took off last summer when he promised to build a wall along the Mexican border. It rose again last November when, following the Islamic massacre in Paris, he said that if elected he will ban Muslim immigration to the US.

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.

This then brings us to the question of how a president Donald Trump would govern.

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.

The US is far from the only country steeped in uncertainty and frustration today.

Today, the peoples of Western Europe are behaving much like the Americans in their increased rejection of the political and cultural elites. Like Trump’s growing band of supporters, Western Europeans are increasingly embracing populists.

Whether these leaders come from the Right or the Left, they all make a similar pledge to restore their nations to a previous glory.

These promises are based as well on a common rejection of the European Union. Like their voters, populist European politicians believe that the EU is a bureaucratic monstrosity that has pulverized and seeks to blot out their national characters while it seizes their national sovereignty.

Due to this growing popular opposition to the EU, establishment leaders throughout Western Europe find themselves fighting for their political survival. Whether their desire to exit the EU owes to its open borders policies in the face of massive Muslim immigration or to the euro debt crisis, with each passing month, the very concept of a unified Europe loses its appeal for more and more Europeans.

On June 23, this growing disenchantment is liable to bring about the beginning of the EU’s breakup. That day, British voters will determine whether or not the United Kingdom will remain in the EU.

Popular London Mayor and Conservative MP Boris Johnson is now leading the campaign calling for Britain to leave the EU against the will of Prime Minister David Cameron and the Conservative party establishment.

In recent days, several commentators have claimed that Johnson is Britain’s Donald Trump.

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.

For Israel, instability is not necessarily a bad thing. For the past several years, we have consistently suffered under the stable, unswerving anti-Israel policies of both the EU and the Obama administration.

Our inability to influence these policies was brought home last week with the government’s announcement that it is renewing Israel’s diplomatic dialogue with the EU.

Following the EU’s announcement in November that it was implementing its bigoted, arguably unlawful labeling policy against Israeli goods produced beyond the 1949 armistice lines, the government announced that Israel was suspending its diplomatic dialogue with the EU. The government hoped that by forcing Europe to pay a diplomatic price for its hostility, Brussels would back down.

But as it turned out, the ban made no impact on the EU, whose only clear, consistent foreign policy is to oppose Israel. And so, last week, the government cried uncle and announced that it is reinstituting its diplomatic dialogue with the EU.

A senior official explained that Israel chose to end the dispute because it wished to avoid having the labeling policy used as an issue in the debate about the future of the EU. EU champions made it clear to Israeli officials that if the labeling issue wasn’t swept under the rug, then Israel would be liable to be blamed if EU member states opt to exit the union.

Clearly the government is right to seek to avoid having Israel used as an issue in the debates on the future of the EU. But then again, it is also clear that Israel’s foes – led by the likes of the Belgians – don’t need an excuse to attack us.

On the other hand, by backing down, Israel signaled to its European opponents that they can escalate their war against us with impunity.

Moreover, despite the threats of EU officials, it is fairly ridiculous to think that they future of the EU has anything to do with how Israel responds to its political war against us. The Europeans who wish to exit the EU, like those who wish to remain, feel the way they do because of issues that have little to do with Israel.

Beyond the narrow question of how to respond to the labeling assault, from Israel’s perspective, the rise of Trump like the rise of Johnson and the anti-EU forces in Europe indicates that in the coming years, both the US and Europe are likely to move in one of two directions – and Israel has to be prepared for both eventualities.

If the next US president is a Democrat, and if the EU remains intact, then Israel can expect for its relations with the US and the EU to remain in crisis mode for the foreseeable future.

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.

As for Europe, whereas the EU stalwarts will likely ratchet up their hostility toward Israel, and we may even see the likes of Sweden or Belgium cut off relations with us, states that leave the EU may be willing to vastly improve their bilateral relations with Israel diplomatically, economically and militarily.

Moreover, if the EU begins to break up, it is likely that the European economy will contract.

As Israel’s largest trading partner, a European recession will hurt Israel.

Whether Trump rises or falls, is defeated by a Republican rival or by a Democratic opponent, and whether or not the EU breaks apart or remains intact, Israel’s leaders need to prepare for the plausible scenarios of either prolonged crises in relations with the US, Europe or both, or turbulent relations that are unpredictable and subject to constant change with one or both of them.

Under these circumstances, the first conclusion that needs to be drawn is that now is not the time to expand our military dependence on the US. Consequently, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon should not conclude an agreement for expanded US security assistance to Israel for the next decade.

Beyond that, Israel needs to expand on the steps that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold are already taking to expand Israel’s network of alliances to Africa and Asia. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit this week marked just the latest achievement of this vital project. Israel’s diplomatic opening to Asia and Africa needs to be matched by similar military and economic openings and expansions of ties.

In the final analysis, Trump’s rise in America and the rise of the populists in Europe is yet another indication of the West’s growing identity crisis fueled by its economic, social, military and cultural weakness. Israel needs to read the writing on the wall and act appropriately lest we become a casualty of that identity crisis.

Voir encore:

Trump, Sanders and the American Rebellion
As institutions lose respect, voters think: Let’s take a chance.
Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal

Feb. 11, 2016
What is happening in American politics?

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. Gloria Steinem thought she owned feminism, thought she was feminism. She doesn’t and isn’t. The Clintons thought they owned the party—they don’t. Hedge-funders thought they owned the GOP. Too bad they forgot to buy the base!

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.

A few years ago I gave a lecture to a class at West Point, the text of which was: You are entering the only U.S. institution left standing. Your prime responsibility throughout your careers will be to keep it respected. I then told them about the Dreyfus case. They had not heard of it. I explained how that scandal rocked public faith in a previously exalted institution, the French army, doing it and France lasting damage. And so your personal integrity is of the utmost importance, I said, as day by day that integrity creates the integrity of the military. The cadets actually listened to that part.

I mention this to say 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.

To New Hampshire: The rejection of the establishment’s preferred candidates in both major parties is a big moment. It is also understandable, the result of 15 years of failed presidencies. It is a gesture of rebuke toward the political class—move aside.