Coward Old Universe…

by Jeremy G.

Posts Tagged ‘World Politics’

Global Conundrum

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on July 10, 2008


This week’s Economist cover serves two purposes: 1) It shows that the British have a sense of humor after all (this is coming from a man who holds a French passport and should thus not be underestimated) and 2) describe the global disarray in which we find ourselves today.  Indeed, consider any single international institution.  No challenge it faces is a standalone question or is independent of a wide set of other issues related to another institution’s scope of action.

This debate emerges as the G8 meets in Japan.  This meeting has triggered additional critiques against the G8, considered as irrelevant in the wake of the rise of India, China, … and the rest of the world.  This criticism is founded.  But an often-advocated strategy, which consists in opening up the institution to new powers, may seem like common sense but is inappropriate in my opinion.  In fact, there is another school of thought. 

In fact, Edouard Balladur, Phillip Bobbitt and Jim Hoagland have all pled for a tightening of the G8 into a G2 or G3.  A strategy that would consisting in tightening the group around two or three key actors would yield more cohesiveness among a set of (more or less) homogeneous powers, and would allow greater discussions between different blocks, as other nations will find it advantageous to organize and find grounds for a coalition.


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Note to Turkey: Be Smarter Than Us…

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on October 17, 2007


It is quite hard to understand the logic that drove the decision of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee to vote on an event that occurred 85 years ago, does not concern the U.S. nor its policy, and which does not seem to bear any urgency given today’s international context.  The resolution, which was approved with 27 votes against 21, determined that Turkey committed a genocide against the Armenian people during the First World War.

The resolution caused a national outcry in Turkey, leading officials to recall the country’s ambassador to the U.S. for “consultation”.  Even if American foreign policy should not be elaborated in function of potential outcries and others’ oversensitivities – not many resolutions would be voted in that case – it is hard to understand the urgency behind this decision, which is just adding more trouble to the current strains the two countries have experienced since 2003.    Some are already bad-mouthing over the Democrats’ responsability in this fiasco and are hinting that this may be a way to give Republicans yet another hard time with Foreign Policy.  Nevertheless, in practice, it is hard to imagine how Democrats could have reached this decision without realizing that the potential long-term damage could impede their geopolitical flexibility if they win the White House in 2008. 

This is why this resolution is ill-advised, no matter how one spins it.  It has limited Washington’s ability to influence Turkish policies in Northern Iraq, where a pseudo-Kurdish state has emerged as the only success story of the 2003 American intervention.  Tensions are now growing on Turkey’s Iraqi border.  Indeed, Turkey has displayed great suspicion towards the new Kurdish state that it considers as a potential safehaven for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a mouvement considered as terrorist by the U.S. and Turkey.

According to the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Database, the last criminal actions led by the PKK occurred in the summer of 2006, when the terrorist movement attacked business, government and police targets in Turkey.  Thus Turkish authorities have legitimate reasons to be wary of the movement.

However, Turkey is as a significant stakeholder as any other country in the region, when it comes to the Iraqi issue.  By intervening in Northern Iraq, Turkey could destabilize the only region of Iraq that could provide a positive sign in the region.

America broke this relationship.  It’s time for some fixing, and allowing Turkey to destabilize Northern Iraq through a military dimension is not an answer.  In such circumstances, one could hope that Turkey will be pragmatic enough to use the situation to its own advantage, without resisting calls for a dialogue with the Kurds.  Paradoxically enough, one solution may be summed up in just two words, and you’re not going to like it: nuclear energy.



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The end of Palestine?

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on June 27, 2007


Who’s fault is it? That’s an issue that has come up repeatedly. Bret Stephens probably provides the best answer in the Wall Street Journal today, but says little about the future. He only points out a fact that scares a whole lot of people: The very notion of Palestine might have died with Hamas’s coup two weeks ago.

If little is said about the future, it is most certainly because the West finds itself in a very unpleasant situation. First, the U.S., and George W. Bush, who advocated a profound change in Palestinian politics back in 2003, actively participated in Arafat’s estrangement, and was the first – and rightfully so – to denounce Hamas’s win in January 2006. So, back to square one and support for the PA? Strange situation, as Robert Satloff points out.

Next in line in this unpleasant situation is the European Union, who accepted the U.S.’s condemnation – and rightfully so – of Hamas, but must now face the monstrous dilemma it created: Choose between corruption and terrorism, knowing that the first nourishes the second. Voices are speaking out, including this one in France – although with a taint of distasteful moral relativism, as Israel, Iran and Hamas are treated on the very same level, but then again, this is the Quai d’Orsay talking… Now, Europe must deal with decades of inaction in the region. Lebanon, under Syrian rule, was the first issue to blow up in our faces. Palestine is second.

So… Where do we go from now? Historical irony let this period coincide with Blair’s departure from Downing Street. My intuition is that Blair‘s legacy will be openness to act on the international stage, and not accept historical fatalism – although some time will need to fly by before he is actually granted such legacy. It’s almost a shame that his departure coincides with Sarkozy’s arrival, as one would have liked to see how the two men’s international willingness – on the issues of Darfur and the European Construction for instance – would have been combined in practice.

But, in all likelihood, Blair will not disappear, and be named the Quartet‘s Ambassador in the Middle East. Perhaps this will be a way for the West to intervene directly in Palestine, and not let “fate” decide what occurs. And perhaps this will avoid today’s dilemma, because it is reasonable to believe that we – Palestinians included – do not need to choose between corruption and terrorism.

Posted in International Willingness, Middle East, World Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

War in Gaza

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on June 19, 2007



Two schools of thoughts compete to explain Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip last week. On the one hand, many commentators and militants of the Palestinian cause indicate that the recent events were inevitable, given the state of the asphixiation – the recurrent “Gaza is an open-sky prison” argument. On the other, many more commentators in the West point out that given the nature of terrorist movement Hamas, it’s almost surprising that this military coup did not occur earlier.

Beyond this – yet again – classic split, there are two observations that must be made. 

Fouad Ajami sums up best the first observations:

The political maxim that people get the leaders they deserve must be reckoned too cruel to apply to the Palestinians. Before Hamas, for four decades, the vainglorious Yasir Arafat refused to tell his people the basic truths of their political life. Amid the debacles, he remained eerily joyous; he circled the globe, offering his people the false sense that they could be spared the consequences of terrible decisions.

In fact, there is a disturbing gap with regards to the way the Palestinian élite has been treated by the international community and the effective benefits the Palestinian population has drawn from international support.  The outbreak of violence between Fatah and Hamas last week was the result of a decade-long practice of corruption and disregard for fellow citizens on the part of the Palestinian Authority.  As resentment grew stronger, it became increasingly harder for the Palestinian authority to check the discontent.  The longer one prevents an abscess from bursting, the more painful it is when this actually occurs.  Hamas‘ victory in the January 2006 elections was just a first step.

The second lesson is fairly obvious one, but seems to be systematically forgotten throughout the Middle East and in Europe: Violent groups are a threat to everyone in the long run, even to those who harbor them.  Like Lebanon with Hezbollah, Palestine is paying the hard price for composing with Hamas and following the oldest – yet faulty – maxim in the book that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend”.  Leaving such groups as Hezbollah and Hamas develop just weakened the states that habored them, as well as the neighboring countries that allowed for this to happen – Egypt being first in line. 

By the way, from this perspective, the  “Gaza is an open-sky prison” argument is a fairly interesting one: Doesn’t it entail an equal responsability for both Israel and Egypt?  Such a reality has been poorly relayed recently, as no emphasis has been put on the very low level of help provided in general by Arab states to the Palestinians.  It is really hard in this context to believe that the Palestinian people has what it deserves.

Posted in Israel, Palestine, World Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Le plus grand comique du monde…

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on June 5, 2007


Dans un interview au Figaro, Vladimir Poutine fait part de sa solitude:


Bien sûr que je suis un pur et absolu démocrate ! La tragédie, c’est que je suis le seul pur démocrate au monde. Voyez les États-Unis : des tortures horribles, des sans-abri, Guantanamo. Voyez l’Europe : des manifestations violentes, durement réprimées. Même les Ukrainiens se sont discrédités et vont vers la tyrannie. Depuis la mort de Gandhi, je n’ai personne à qui parler !

On croirait à une mauvaise blague.  Puis on se souvient de la froideur que dégage le sombre personnage qu’est Poutine.  Et on s’en rend vite compte: l’homme qui n’a pas hésité à faire arrêter le champion d’échecs Gary Kasparov le mois dernier lors d’une manifestation dénonçant l’absence de liberté d’expression en Russie et qui a complètement écrasé son opposition afin de s’assurer le pouvoir le plus total se décrit comme “le plus grand démocrate du monde”.  Le caractère absurde de la situation pourrait faire rire, mais les menaces de Poutine font froid dans le dos et rappellent à quel point la réalité est effrayante.  A la question de savoir si des missiles seront pointés vers l’Europe occidentale, Poutine répond oui, sans hésitation:

Nos experts militaires nous disent que le système antimissile menace le territoire de la Russie jusqu’à l’Oural. Si une partie du potentiel nucléaire des États-Unis est en Europe, nous devrons trouver une réponse. Bien sûr, nous devrons avoir des cibles en Europe. Quels moyens utiliserons-nous ? Des missiles balistiques, des missiles de croisière ou de nouveaux systèmes d’armements, c’est une question technique. Je suis contre toute course aux armements. Nous avons appris de l’expérience de l’URSS. Nous n’allons pas nous laisser entraîner. Les États-Unis vont dépenser des milliards et des milliards de dollars, nous allons bâtir une réponse asymétrique, beaucoup moins chère mais efficace.

Poutine le politicien sait parler, enrober les mots.  Mais la déclaration de guerre est pourtant claire.  Le plus grand paradoxe réside dans le fait que le bouclier anti-missile répond à la menace croissante de l’Iran, dont l’ambition nucléaire n’est un secret pour personne.  Poutine s’offusque, non pas de l’action américaine en tant que telle, mais à cause de ce que ces actions rappellent au président russe: la Russie a perdu la Guerre froide, n’est plus une puissance légitime – ni par des indicateurs objectifs, ni par son comportement à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur de ses frontières.   Le voilà  donc vexé par cette triste réalité. 

Aucun véritable changement n’aura lieu dans la tourmente internationale, sans chagement profond à Moscou.  A court terme, reste à savoir pourtant si quelqu’un en Europe ou aux Etats-Unis répondra avec la fermeté qui s’impose à des propos aussi inacceptables que dangereux, au-delà des condamnations aussi molles que vides que nous avons entendues aujourd’hui.  Le cirque a assez duré. 

Posted in Poutine, World Politics | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

International Reconciliation? Bachar is not laughing…

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on May 31, 2007



By ten votes to 0, and five abstentions, the UN Security Council voted resolution 1757, instituting an international tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri.  More than two years after the fact, the International Community has awakened and finally sent out a strong message to Syria, whose intelligence services, in all likelihood, are behind the murder.

Talking to Syria has constituted a very controversial subject since 9 11.  Secretary of State Condi Rice, in spite of her firmly expressed opposition to a dialogue with the country in the fall, has recently flipped-flopped on the issue.  A turn of events that was applauded by the fans of the Iraq Study Group Report that advocated such a move.  On the other side of the Atlantic, until the very end, Jacques Chirac, a personal friend of the Hariri family – who lent the former French President the Parisian residence he currently lives in – never changed his mind and refused to return to the negotiation table with SyriaChirac was in favor of sending a strong message to Syria.

This is not however incompatible with talking to Syria.  What Baker and Hamilton failed to emphasize on in their report is that American difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan give the country an image of weakness that is very harmful to U.S. interests in the long run.  The realists they claim to be could have shed some light on this part of reality.  Thru international consultation and cooperation, just as the one that occurred today at the UN, the U.S. is re-acquiring its ability to intervene – in a different fashion – in the Middle East, especially by tackling an issue that seems to constitute a consensus on both sides of the Atlantic.

But there is another lesson in this turn of events.  Repeated calls among the Western Left in favor of Justice in the Middle East have been a leitmotiv of strategic speeches that claimed to be an alternative to U.S. unbalanced behavior in the region.  The principal culprit, in their eyes, is of course Israel.  As legitimate this may sound to many observers of the region, too many of them seemed to have been blinded by another obvious fact in the region: Justice is universal, and can only be effective if applied to all actors.  Syria just understood today that it won’t be able to hide anymore.


Posted in Middle East, World Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Al Qaeda: Knocking on Lebanon’s door

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on May 27, 2007

Recent violence in Lebanon seems to confirm a very ugly truth: After wondering why terror movement Al-Qaida had not been more involved in the Near East – although answers were brought in the weeks following 9 11– and after fearing that it wouldn’t be long before it would actually get involved soon, we now know that thru a group unknown a year ago, Fatah al-Islam, Al-Qaida is present in Lebanon and threatening the country.

While it is correct that the whole truth has not been shed yet on the nature of this group and of the violence, especially as Syrian implication is not to be excluded in the wake of growing pressure for an international tribunal to investigate the Hariri assassination, this opposition between the Lebanese army and the terrorist group is pushing Lebanon a little bit more towards complete chaos.  In this context, international involvment, especially US military aid and French efforts thru the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Kouchner, to re-affirm the international community’s solidarity with the current Siniora administration, are perfectly laudable, but fall short of being what Lebanon really needs.


Current events are just a new element confirming a structural trend: Lebanon is not on anybody’s priority list.  The 2006 war triggered by Hezbollah‘s kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers on the Southern frontier of the country was disastrous for Lebanon, but even more, in the long run, for the international community.  As a matter of fact, it proved the extent to which the latter had completely abandoned Lebanon, after feeling good about itself for having voted two useless UN Resolutions – 1559 and 1701.  The international community celebrated Syria‘s “departure” of Lebanon, pretending to believe that this withdrawal actually occurred.  It also failed to do anything about the disarmement of Hezbollah, one of Lebanon‘s core problems.

The fact of the matter is that Lebanon is being abandoned at a time the West feels it has other regional issues to deal with – namely Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  Nevertheless, the more the West remains inactive on the issue and leaves a weak Lebanon state deal with terror groups alone, the more it will suffer the consequences.  We are not talking about a group of limited individuals in Madrid or London – that were still able to inflict mass casualties in the middle of two European capitals – but a fully funded group, with a strategic base, right at the frontier with Europe.  Inactivity is not a strategy.

Posted in Middle East, World Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Wolfowitz’s history…

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on May 18, 2007

Wolfowitz was doomed the day he was nominated at tha head of the World Bank.  At the time, I was amazed by the controversy this nomination suscitated at the time, among many brilliant economists, who are otherwise the best in their category.  Any pretext was good to discredit the man: He was not an economist, he was not from the private sector, he was a friend of Bush, … 

The World Bank is a profoundly political institution, like any other international institution.  Whoever argues the opposite is either naïve or dishonnest.  The institution could not be run by anybody else than a diplomat or at least an individual with strong knowledge of how political relationships work.  A little bit of decency in this debate, since the start, could have led the protagonist to call this fight what it really is: a political confrontation with the Bush Administration, and nothing else.  This time the confrontation was on international grounds, and gave the impression to some that they could cause the Bush Administration a direct blow.  There is nothing wrong with that, but using pretexts to acheive objectives is not right. 


Having worked at the World Bank, and having earned a World Bank wage, I know how ludicrous the accusations made against Wolfowitz and his girlfriend.  L’hôpital qui se fout de la charité, we say in French…  Furthermore, I also know how arrogant and presumptuous the members of the ethical committee of the World Bank, with whom Wolfowitz went head to head in the recent days.  Not only neocons act as if struck by divine truth. 

Funny thing about those neocons, by the way.  We always seems to predict their end over and over, and they always seem to bounce back again and again.  Damn lies and vicious rumors, those neocons?  Talk about masochism in this country…

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Kouchner, tout simplement

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on May 17, 2007


A l’heure où j’écris ces lignes, alors que le jour se lève sur Paris et que nous connaîtrons dans quelques heures la composition du premier gouvernement sous la présidence Sarkozy, un paradoxe me fait sourire: Hormis le nom de celui qui sera selon toute vraisemblance le nouveau Premier Ministre, le seul homme dont le poste a été confirmé est Bernard Kouchner, autrefois homme “respecté” au Parti Socialiste.

Ceux qui me connaissent savent l’admiration que j’ai pour le French Doctor.  Mais mon enthousiasme va bien au-delà.  En effet, avec cette nomination, une question se pose: La froide politique étrangère française, soit disant “réaliste” – au sens que donne la théorie des relations internationales au terme – calculatrice et tout sauf humaniste, prendra-t-elle fin avec ce tandem improbable Sarko-Kouchner?  Après l’émotion convenue à propos du dossier du Darfour, qui nous a tous rendu très fiers d’être humains, y aura-t-il enfin une véritable initiative politique?  Le Monde peint une image intéressante de la diplomatie française à venir, avec Kouchner au Quai d’Orsay et Jean-David Levitte – actuel ambassadeur français aux Etats-Unis – à la tête d’un Conseil de Sécurité élyséen, conseiller de Sarkozy.  Le ministre sanguin et passionné, le conseiller rationnel et expert de diplomatie.  Voilà un duo qui promet beaucoup plus que le discours convenu d’autrefois.

Cette nomination n’a rien de surprenant.  Sarkozy et Kouchner partagent, tant du point de vue pratique que du point de vue intellectuel, de nombreuses positions en matière internationale.  Le “Ni guerre, ni Saddam” de Kouchner en 2003 raisonne énormément avec l’ambiguïté dont Sarkozy a fait preuve sur le dossier irakien – en dénonçant d’abord l’arrogance française pour ensuite saluer la décision historique de Chirac.

A cela s’ajoute le mépris dont le Parti socialiste a systématiquement fait preuve à l’égard de Kouchner, considéré trop longtemps comme un simple beau gosse à mettre en tête d’affiche sans penser qu’un jour un homme si compétent puisse avoir des ambitions qui sont, de loin, à sa hauteur.  La débandade des Socialistes a commencé, j’en avais dit deux mots ici.  Kouchner, qui restera fidèle à lui-même et loyal à ce qu’il considère sa vérité et sa réalité de gauche, vient d’en prendre acte.

Posted in Gauche française, World Politics | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

The Day After

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on May 6, 2007



So it’s Sarkozy…

In a speech he made thirty minutes after his victory became official, Sarkozy adressed several different issues, including his will to be President of all French people and his respect for his main competitor Ségolène Royal.   But one significant item that stood out of his speech was the rest of the world, what he called France’s allies in Europe and in America, as well as other nations that we tend to forget about, in Africa or in the Middle East.  Sarkozy mentioned those oppressed children and women throughout the world, and said France will not forget them.  This corresponds to an interesting turns of events, after an electoral campaign in which international issues were rarely discussed.

Is this a turning point in French history?  Will the French excutive stop recalling the great nation it heads without acting to actually show how great a nation France is?

Sarkozy was elected with a number of votes ranging from 18 to 20 million people.  He has the mandate to lead France towards modernity – finally.  I hope it is not an opportunity he will waste.

Posted in France, World Politics | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »