Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Clash of Civilizations

Robert Gates, US defense secretary, asserts that “the demilitarization of Europe — where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it — has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st.” It was easy to question the "Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus" thesis in 2003, when Robert Kagan published Of Paradise and Power and American swagger was at its peak. It is less easy now.

Although the immediate issue is the Afghan War, about which reasonable people can disagree, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Europeans have become free riders on the American military-industrial complex, with consequences that are good for neither side. It may be true that Obama has mismanaged the opportunity to work toward greater multilateralism. It may be true that Europe does not interest him. But it is also true that the lack of European coordination, and the unwillingness of European leaders to spend much if any political capital on defining, let alone paying for, defense needs, have become increasingly exasperating even to those American officials sympathetically disposed to Europe and aware of the cultural factors that shape European politics in this regard. Gates' words are a warning shot. Sarkozy, who saw himself as a bridge-builder in the Bush era, might want to find a constructive way to respond to them. Or he may be content to send Michel Drucker to a French air base in Afghanistan. It will no doubt reassure the French public to see Drucker on his comfortable red couch amid the fighter jets: how can anyone claim that France is not doing its part? The Pentagon is unlikely to tune in, however.

Sciences Humaines

Sciences humaines. Au-delà de la querelle immobilière en gestation, un autre thème de débat remonte cette semaine : la place des sciences humaines. Après un colloque organisé par le ministère de l'enseignement supérieur, que Le Monde et EducPros ont relaté, un professeur d'histoire contemporaine à l'université de Nancy-II, Didier Francfort (format PDF), pousse un "coup de gueule" contre l'évolution générale du système de recherche, notamment en sciences humaines : financement sur projet, évaluation, etc. "Nous ne demandons qu'à pouvoir travailler sereinement, sans obligation permanente, immédiate et continuelle non pas de résultats mais de justifications de résultats", conclut-il.

"Un Personnage Obscur"

Axel Poniatowski not only accuses Valérie Pécresse of being a party to the leak of Ali Soumaré's criminal record (3/5 of which was actually someone else's criminal record), he also admits to error but manages to turn his apology into a further smear by asserting that "il n'en reste pas moins que M. Soumaré est un personnage obscur." This statement belongs in the same category as Frêche's "tronche peu catholique."

UPDATE: Poniatowski denies Le Monde's account.

Wolf at the Door

Martin Wolf sees very little hope for the global economy. And he doesn't even consider the political ramifications of the likely economic scenarios. And Paul Krugman says he "might well be right."