I’d like to welcome a new, occasional, guest-poster at zenpundit.com, “Jack Hays“. Mr. Hays has considerable experience in a number of political and policy positions inside government and out and shares with the ZP readership our appreciation for history, strategy and other things further afield.
FRANCE AT THE CROSSROADS
by Jack Hays
The party system of the Fifth Republic is at last overturned and reconfigured almost exactly half a century after its creation, and the second round of the French presidential election now becomes the third big Western contest for the old and new dispensations: first Brexit, next HRC-Trump, and now Macron-Le Pen.
Each was and is a fight between the postwar managerial state on the one hand, and populist nationalism on the other. The shock has been the latter’s victory in the …first two, but the conventional wisdom is that the streak ends here. Surely this new campaign will end for the younger Le Pen as it did for the elder, with the mass of the French electorate banding together to give a supermajority to the establishment. That’s a rational bet any other year, but not this one. There are the macro trends, and then there are the particular details. Marine Le Pen brings together powerful strands of French political history and identity, from the ridiculous to the pathetic to the glorious, from Pierre Poujade to Philippe Pétain to Charles De Gaulle. Emmanuel Macron does as well, although his are the rocks of the known and the institutional, France as governed in our lifetimes, the rule of les énarques. France as a whole has preferred the latter for so long, but their age of prosperity and competence has turned into an age of fear, of murder in the cities and disquiet in the homes. Now we learn what they fear more, because that fear — not hope, not aspiration — will drive the outcome. What is more intolerable: the status quo of En Marche, or the specter of the Front National?
We do not know. Neither does France. It is both an uncertainty we must endure, and a suspense we cannot afford.
You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.
Till your spirit filleth the whole world, and the stars are your jewels; till you are as familiar with the ways of God in all Ages as with your walk and table: till you are intimately acquainted with that shady nothing out of which the world was made: till you love men so as to desire their happiness, with a thirst equal to the zeal of your own: till you delight in God for being good to all: you never enjoy the world.
To many of us it seems as though the world is speeding up. The notion is a hopeless paradox — and yet the acceleration itself is both evident and excessive. Both the acceleration and the paradox are solved only in contemplation..
[ by Charles Cameron — Ginsberg, McCartney & Philip Glass! ]
I’m not a huge Ginsberg fan, but this seems like a wholesome follow up to yesterdays post 6,000 years and still together — written by Ginsberg in the run up to the United States presidential election of 1996, and touching on several themes of continuing interest today.
[ by Charles Cameron — counterpoint: giving all voices a fair hearing. even when conflicting ]
I try to avoid taking political sides in American politics, partly because I’m a guest here and it seems only polite and wise to leave such matters to my hosts, and partly because bridge-building is the therapeutic method of choice in times of division and conflict. Keeping to a middle path may be something of a high-wire act, though, and is seldom popular wit those on either side.
I went looking for a quote that expresses the idea that this kind of middle way can get you killed, and my friends offered me a variety of possible items including Jim Hightower saying:
There’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe and dead armadillos.
At the Liberation, he wrote (in Arthur Goldhammer’s translation):
Now that we have won the means to express ourselves, our responsibility to ourselves and to the country is paramount. . . . The task for each of us is to think carefully about what he wants to say and gradually to shape the spirit of his paper; it is to write carefully without ever losing sight of the urgent need to restore to the country its authoritative voice. If we see to it that that voice remains one of vigor, rather than hatred, of proud objectivity and not rhetoric, of humanity rather than mediocrity, then much will be saved from ruin.
Responsibility, care, gradualness, humanity—even at a time of jubilation, these are the typical words of Camus, and they were not the usual words of French political rhetoric. The enemy was not this side or that one; it was the abstraction of rhetoric itself. He wrote, “We have witnessed lying, humiliation, killing, deportation, and torture, and in each instance it was impossible to persuade the people who were doing these things not to do them, because they were sure of themselves, and because there is no way of persuading an abstraction.”
and the most scriptural from Scott McW, Revelation 3.14-16:
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
John Messer catches the perspective I’m coming from when he comments:
One limitation perhaps is our framing of the challenge as a dichotomy rather than a 360 POV or perhaps a sphere of alternatives. In mediation one always looks for the unifying value that embraces all.
It seems harder and harder to present both sides of en ever-more-violently polarized situation without taking fire from each side — so I’d ask you to read what follows (and my posts on similar topics) as attempts at that unifying balance, rather than as statements of my own preferences.. which do exist, and no doubt can be glimpsed, but are not what I’m trying to propagate with my writings, at least thus far..
Consider these two opinions of Trump aide Sebastian Gorka — each the opinion of a valued friend:
The two phrases are indeed close parallels –n but obviously the Nazi analogy is one that (a) members of the never Trump faction feel a strong urge to explore, and (b) which is liable to close the ears of the pro Trump faction to any logic it might possess.
How do we hear both sides of so fraught an issue?
How do we retain awareness of that superbly humble and nuanced insight of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn?
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn’t change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.
[ by Charles Cameron — two powerful graphic images, one simple truth ]
From a purely graphic angle, the two images mirror one another quite nicely, and arguably the meltdown is the cause for the need to scream.
I generally try to avoid politics, but when it leaks over into the same religious issues I’ve been studying and writing about here for a few years now, I’m liable to voice my opinions.
I’m a loser in Trunp‘s terms by vocation, whether I follow the dictum “go and sit down in the lowest room” (Luke 14.19) or am “content with the low places that people disdain” (Lao Tzu 8), so it won’t bother him when I point out that contrary to his recent statement that President Obama was the founder of ISIS, which he’s doubled down on —
I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.
— he’s just plain wrong, as John Schindler — far from an admirer of Hillary Clinton — reminds us in today’s detailed and thorough Observer piece mildly titled No, Obama Is Not the Founder of ISIS. Some choice paras:
It’s not every day the presidential nominee of the Republican Party calls our commander-in-chief a “founder”—that is a terrorist, a traitor, and “MVP”—of the global Salafist caliphate, an organization that commits mass murder and even genocide. Not to mention that ISIS seeks to kill Americans with gusto at home and abroad.
Trump’s claim is so absurd as to render terror experts speechless. In the first place, ISIS was born in a practical sense in 2006, when elements of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq fused with bitter-enders from the Saddam Hussein regime that the United States overthrew in its invasion of Iraq three years before. Back then George W. Bush was president and Barack Obama was a junior U.S. Senator from Illinois.
None of this is to defend Obama’s track record against ISIS, which in column after column here I’ve lambasted as incompetent and lackadaisical. His pseudo-war on that murder gang and its imaginary caliphate has been a train-wreck of quarter-measures, muddled strategy, and outright lies. Obama ought to never live down his dismissal of ISIS as the “JV team,” but that’s a far cry from “founding” the Islamic State.
There’s no doubt that Obama’s withdrawal of American forces from Iraq in 2011, hailed as a great victory at the time, was strategically harmful and enabled ISIS’s meteoric growth in the Middle East. However, the president had little choice there, since the democratically elected Iraqi government in Baghdad demanded that the U.S. military leave their country. Not to mention that withdrawing our troops from Iraq was supported by Donald Trump.
Saying Obama and Hillary “founded” ISIS therefore is a ridiculous claim that deserves to be taken no more seriously than related tinfoilisms like “Jews did 9/11” or “My cat is the Illuminati.” It’s therefore deeply alarming to see the GOP nominee say it—repeatedly.
It’s not difficult to see where Trump gets such wacky ideas. Mike Flynn, his national security guru, has repeatedly come close to saying the same, hinting that Obama wanted ISIS to succeed. Flynn is a retired Army three-star general whom Obama fired as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency with ample cause.
Since then, Flynn’s gotten cuddly with the Russians, regularly appearing on their propaganda network RT, even admitting he’s taken Kremlin money for a photo op with Vladimir Putin. This is where things get really interesting. “Obama created ISIS” has been a Kremlin trope for a couple years now and it’s frequently trotted out by Putin’s mouthpieces and online trolls. When your campaign is riddled with people on the Kremlin payroll, with deep ties to Moscow, it’s not surprising that the candidate starts mouthing their disinformation.
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.