Blogs | Créer un Blog | Avertir le modérateur

Une parole franche - Page 6

  • Rex Tillerson in "The New York Times": Pride and Prejudice


    by Gilbert Doctorow, Ph.D.


    Before entering my harsh words about of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s op-ed essay “I am proud of American diplomacy” published in the The New York Times on 29 December, I owe it to readers to acknowledge that from the moment Tillerson was nominated for the post, I was an enthusiastic supporter, seeing in him one of the very few candidates for high office placed before the Senate by Donald Trump who appeared to have the intellectual, psychological and experiential preparation to take office fully prepared for his mission.

    Bearing in mind Donald Trump’s heavy emphasis on foreign policy during his campaign and his brave denunciation of the regime change and democracy promotion policies that had gotten the United States into a never-ending string of foreign military adventures from the mid 1990s, there was good reason to hope that Tillerson’s mission would be to change policy direction from the path of war to a path of accommodation with the world at large and to cut his department’s headcount in keeping with the more modest ambitions of the new foreign policy. Cutting personnel would have two elements: delayering those specialized units that had special responsibility for democracy promotion and humanitarian actions and winnowing out the ideological zealots who had infiltrated all of the State Department under the direction of Dick Cheney in the period following 9/11.

    At the start of his confirmation hearings in the Senate, Rex Tillerson read from a prepared speech in which he made reference to the formative elements in his education, his later career in business and his charitable work with Boy Scouts of America. Foremost among these was the guiding principle of seeking the truth and following it wherever it would lead him.  Against the background of a President renowned for contempt for facts, this seemed to be a powerful and very relevant plus in favor of the incoming Secretary of State.

    For most of the past nine months, Tillerson’s work at State was in the shadows. He avoided the press. We heard only about his disputes with his boss in connection with what he felt was inappropriate meddling by Trump’s relatives and associates in selection of his subordinates.  Then we heard Tillerson’s remark that Trump is a “moron” after they had a falling out in a cabinet meeting at which Trump reportedly asked what is the value of our nuclear arsenal if we never use it.  We heard about large scale retirements of senior staff in policy making at State’s seventh floor, and about the dozens of unfilled ambassadorial posts.  In sum, what we heard about Tillerson seemed to confirm that he was meeting our expectations from his swearing in.

    However, from the very start we were perplexed at the sharp contradictions between what seemed to be the reasonable tone of Tillerson and the verbal excesses of our U.S. Ambassador to  the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who continued directly the anti-Russian invective that was the trademark of her predecessor under President Obama, Samantha Power. Then there were the contradictions between Tillerson’s initiatives, as for example, his suggestion of opening talks with North Korea without preconditions and the brutal dismissal of such notions by Trump. The result was a vision of the administration as uncoordinated, even chaotic.

    To be sure, there were also worrying signs of inconsistencies within Tillerson’s own scope of action and speech that we preferred to ignore. The first jolt came in the context of Trump’s cruise missile attack on the Sheirat air base in Syria on 7 April. Within hours of the event, there was Tillerson repeating the entirely unproven allegation of a Syrian government chemical attack on civilians in Idlib province that cried out for such a riposte from America. There was Tillerson turning a deaf ear to Russian calls for a full and impartial investigation of the incident. One could conclude that Tillerson’s search for truth to guide policy had died early in his tenure.

    Then in the autumn, we heard from Tillerson that the United States will never acknowledge Crimea as part of the Russian Federation, and that sanctions against Russia will stay in place so long as there is no full implementation of the Minsk Accords, which means forever.

    Now, with his new essay in The New York Times, Rex Tillerson has shown us that there are no contradictions, that he has become a mouthpiece of Trump and of the aggressive, shall we say obnoxious America Firsters, who have been standing on the front of the stage ever since Trump took office. What seemed like impartiality at his swearing in was nothing more than an empty head, which has since taking office been steadily filled with the vicious prejudices of the staff he was supposed to turn around or dismiss.


    Fine comb reading of the op-ed

    From start to finish, Tillerson’s op-ed piece repeats allegations as facts, repeats and builds on outright lies fabricated in Washington, and makes false claims about the achievements of US foreign policy on his watch.

    His opening claim that the United States State Department has made encouraging progress “in pushing for global peace and stability” would be laughable if it were not tragic, given the tensions that the country has stoked in Syria, in Ukraine, in North Korea by the intemperate language and deeds of his President and colleagues, now of Tillerson himself.

    With respect to North Korea, the most dangerous issue currently facing U.S. foreign policy, Tillerson points to the success of his department in achieving imposition of ever tougher sanctions with the unanimous agreement of the UN Security Council. He ignores the military provocation posed by U.S. joint exercises and dispatch of a nuclear armed naval force to Korean waters, all of which arguably made the missile and nuclear tests of Pyongyang more brazen than ever.

    Tillerson claims success in relations with China by defending U.S. interests against that country’s unfair trading practices and “troubling military activities in the South China Sea and elsewhere.”  However, that is a totally empty boast.

    Equally empty and still more offensive to an informed audience is his claim that by its delegation of authority to American military commanders in the field, the Trump administration has led its Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS to victory, having recaptured “virtually all of previously held Islamic State territory in Iraq and Syria.” Not a word here about the Russians and their vastly more effective leadership within the Syrian military theater acting together with the army of Bashar Assad, the Iranians and Hezbollah, in cooperation with Iraq and Turkey.  To add insult to injury, Tillerson claims that his diplomats “were following up with humanitarian aid and assistance.” This is a claim without any demonstrated substance, whereas the Russian assistance in food, mine-clearing and restarting infrastructure is shown daily on television.

    Tillerson’s remarks about Russia make one wonder aloud where are his brains.  He says “we have no illusions about the regime we are dealing with.”  This is a page straight out of Samantha Power’s playbook. What follows is the familiar Washington litany. Russia is “resurgent,” it has “invaded its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine.” For good measure, Russia has “undermined the sovereignty of Western nations,” a reference to “meddling in our election and others.”  And once again, “there cannot be business as usual with Russia” till the Minsk agreements are strictly adhered to.

    As for Syria, Tillerson has flip-flopped to where we were before he ever took office:  the Geneva talks on the country’s future must “produce a Syria that is free of Bashar al-Assad and his family.” In the context of the Sochi talks soon to begin under patronage of Iran, Turkey and Russia at which all minorities and stakeholders in the future Syrian constitution are represented, Tillerson’s remarks are absurd.

    Tillerson also puts the full weight of his office behind the Iran-bashing policies of his boss. He is busy building alliances in the region against Iran and planning to “punish Iran for its violations of…commitments.”

    Finally, the Secretary of State mentions the restructuring of his department which he has overseen this past year. The objective, he tells us is “streamlining our human resources and information technology systems…., better aligning personnel and resources with America’s strategic priorities.”  To anyone with an ear attuned to corporate double-talk, this utterly false description of the HR wreckage in his department will sound very familiar.

    The only consolation in the entire op-ed is Tillerson’s optimism “about the power of diplomacy to resolve conflicts and advance American interests.”  What grounds he has for such optimism in the context of the deceipt and lies that riddle his presentation are a mystery to me.


    How could this be?  Tillerson does not need the State Department post to cap his career, which already had so many laurels from his chairmanship of Exxon.  No, something else is operative, and I venture it is the same as what explains the inconsistent and frequently changing policy positions of his boss:  namely that in his own way, Tillerson is also a “moron.”

    Let me be very explicit here.  IQ is not the issue.  There are very few folks who will perform poorly on intelligence tests among Trump and his administration.  But stupidity is as stupidity does.  And the reason for the commonality, say, between Trump and Tillerson, is that both have come to office with empty heads. Devoid of the facts and education essential to independently and competently make sense of their surroundings and of all incoming data so as to formulate and implement appropriate strategies.

    This conclusion may be counter-intuitive when we are speaking of captains of industry. However, I am not speculating, I am speaking from my personal experience working for and with Vice Presidents, International and other members of the board of major US, UK and Canadian multinational corporations.

    I have rubbed shoulders with my share of highly paid and widely respected business leaders, who left me astonished at their low intellectual merits, disregard for factual briefings prepared by their assistants and reliance on “gut instinct” to take major decisions on investments, joint ventures and other business initiatives. How then do you explain the undisputed success of American big business in terms of profitability, investor confidence and entrepreneurial dynamism?

    The answer is simple:  brute force. Market dominance allows the number one, maybe also the number two player in any given market to absorb very big losses from bad business decisions, recoup the losses from the revenue flow of their main clientele, and tweak the failing initiatives until they pay off, which they often will, again due to market dominance.

    These are the lessons which Messrs. Trump and Tillerson and others in the Trump Administration have brought with them to high office.  It is what feeds the animal spirits of America First. It is behind the Realist School thinking of the new National Security Strategy which Trump rolled out in December.  Put in simpler language: under Trump U.S. foreign policy comes down to “might makes right.”  Forget facts. Forget all the claptrap about human rights and democracy promotion.  We stand for “might makes right.”   That, and a good dose of raw selfishness.

    Here Trump, the real estate developer and Tillerson, the boss of the country’s largest oil company are indistinguishable.

    None of this makes for “Soft Power.”  And it is no surprise that the concept of ‘soft power’ is OUT in this administration. It is the new passé.

    It is unclear whether the “might makes right” foreign policy will be more or less prone to armed aggression abroad than was Humanitarian Interventionism or Neocon prodding of History’s eventual course towards global and universal democracy.  But it is clear that the new transparency in US foreign policy will upset a great many allies, for whom there is no longer a fig leaf to justify knee-jerk agreement with every demand coming from Washington.  That was perfectly clear in yesterday’s statements by EU chief diplomat Frederica Mogherini during her visit to Cuba that the EU will ignore what Washington says and continue its policy of no-sanctions and growing rapprochement with Havana in pursuit of Europe’s commercial interests. We saw the same in the recent UN General Assembly vote on the resolution against Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, when the United States found itself isolated, abandoned by nearly all friends, allies and vassals. The “i” was dotted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his press conference yesterday with Emmanuel Macron. With reference to the UN General Assembly vote, Erdogan explained that while some countries may believe that “might makes right,” they are sadly mistaken. It is the other way around, he insisted. Only the truly hard of hearing in Washington will miss this cue.


    ©Gilbert Doctorow, 2018

          * * * *

     Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book, Does the United States Have a Future? was published on 12 October 2017. Both paperback and e-book versions are available for purchase on and all affiliated Amazon websites worldwide. See the recent professional review    For a video of the book presentation made at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. on 7 December 2017 see

  • Herman Gref in "The Financial Times": a grave warning that merits our full attention


    by Gilbert Doctorow, Ph.D.


    In this holiday vacation period between Christmas and New Year’s, a time when we tend to put the cares of daily life aside, the Financial Times has published an interview with Herman Gref, chairman of Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, that contains a clear warning of dire developments in the New Year should the United States push its economic sanctions to the limit, as may well occur given other very troubling items in the news with respect to Ukraine. See 

    It bears mention that Herman Gref is a highly intelligent, capable and widely respected Russian statesman and business leader. He is a key exponent of Liberal economics and democratization of state governance within Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Gref is by nature reserved, not at all an alarmist.

    The detonator of dire developments to which he alluded is the threat by some politicians on Capitol Hill to extend the economic sanctions against Russia to a cut-off of access to SWIFT, which is a vital component of the global infrastructure for interbank settlements.  This threat has been in the air ever since the initial imposition of sanctions on Russia in 2014 following its annexation of the Crimea and intervention in the Ukrainian insurgency of Donbas.

    Said Gref, termination of access to SWIFT would elicit Russian strong countermeasures against the United States. Whereas till now only Europe has paid a price for the sanctions and the United States got off scot free, in any new Russian response the United States will feel the pain. The result would be a confrontation that would “make the Cold War look like child’s play.”

    This warning comes in the wake of very troubling signs that the Ukrainian conflict, which is the cause or pretext for U.S.-led sanctions against Russia, is spinning out of control.  Russian television reportage in recent weeks speaks of a major intensification of shelling by Ukrainian forces directed against civilians in Donetsk and Lugansk provinces, reaching a level not seen for more than a year. Russia is in the meantime withdrawing its officers-observers from the Donbas, and this is remarked with alarm by Poland and other countries participating in the OSCE force. They believe Russian withdrawal jeopardizes the security of their personnel on the ground in the region. It also may be a prelude to larger Russian intervention in the conflict.  And also in the meantime, the United States and Canada have authorized the shipment of lethal weapons to Ukraine, which crosses the “red lines” that Russia spelled out clearly.

    The new and provocative military support by the United States for the regime in Kiev may well be part of a greater plan by the Deep State in Washington to completely neutralize the foreign policy initiatives of Donald Trump in favor of accommodation with Moscow.  If there is an escalation of fighting in the southeast of Ukraine and Russia steps up its assistance to the insurgents, the arguments will be in place to implement the most drastic economic measures against Russia and expel it from the global financial system, leading to the scenario cited by Gref.

    For those who are not familiar with the details of world banking, SWIFT is a private company based in Brussels, Belgium. Any order to deny Russia access to its infrastructure would have to come from the federal Belgian government, which is otherwise very busy these days planning the visit to Moscow at the end of January by Prime Minister Charles Michel.

    In a speech last week to the 130 plus ambassadors from Belgium posted around the world, Prime Minister Michel called for a new and broader dialogue with Russia even as we have differences over Ukraine and other issues and even as sanctions remain in place.  His mission to Moscow will surely have on the agenda the ongoing construction of an LNG terminal at the Flemish port of Zeebrugge implementing agreements between the Russian gas exporter Novatek and the Belgian gas distributor Fluxys.  This enormous project would position Belgium as a major hub for distribution of Liquefied Natural Gas coming from the newly operational Russian field in Yamal, north of Siberia, a hub having pan-European importance. It would also position Belgium as a major competitor to Poland, which not long ago opened its own LNG terminal to receive American shale gas, also with aspirations to achieve pan-European scale.

    Any US-led intensification of sanctions against Russia, and in particular any cut-off of Russia’s access to SWIFT will necessarily kill the Belgian gas project and cause grave harm to the local economy in Flanders. In this connection, it has to be stated that the power behind the coalition government of Mr. Michel is precisely the Flemish nationalist NV-A party.  All of this means that here in Belgium a constitutional crisis would likely follow.

    For all of these reasons, 2018 will be a year for vigilance and attention to detail in a world that is very troubled and moving towards disorder.

    © Gilbert Doctorow, 2017

          * * * *

     Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book, Does the United States Have a Future? was published on 12 October 2017. Both paperback and e-book versions are available for purchase on and all affiliated Amazon websites worldwide. See the recent professional review    For a video of the book presentation made at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. on 7 December 2017 see


  • Joe Biden in "Foreign Affairs" magazine: master of lies and deception


                                by Gilbert Doctorow, Ph.D.


    It is a rare event that Foreign Affairs magazine turns over 14 pages of its “prime real estate” to a politician for a fiercely partisan programmatic statement. But that is precisely what has happened in the January-February 2018 print edition with publication of Joe Biden’s co-authored article entitled “How to Stand Up to the Kremlin. Defending Democracy Against its Enemies.”

    As we know, Biden held back and did not challenge Hillary in the 2016 primaries for personal reasons relating to the recent death of his son. But as we also know, the chair of the Democratic National Committee was nonetheless considering tapping Biden to take over the party’s nomination in case Clinton crashed and burned amidst investigations into her email scandals and other alleged wrongdoing.

    Biden was Mr. Clean. Now he is considered by some as the frontrunner among senior Democratic leaders for the 2020 presidential race. Almost the only mark against him is his advanced age. Thus, it should come as no surprise that he claimed and received the FA real estate.

    What he has done with it is in a way instructive. By this awful confection of lies and inventions, Joe Biden provides a valuable reminder of the disaster we narrowly averted by not electing Hillary Clinton on November 8, 2016.

    In this essay, Biden has taken the whole Clinton fantasy of “we wuz robbed” to explain away her electoral loss and her scapegoating the Russians, has made it his own and is using it as a platform to gain support and visibility among the Democratic party faithful. 

    While repeating several times in this article the soothing words that we must remain in dialogue with the Russians whatever our differences to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to war, he paints the Kremlin as a cesspool of corruption, organized crime, kleptocracy, authoritarianism. The country and its president are plain evil, intent on damaging Western democracies and raising international tensions by aggressive behavior so as to keep their own populace down and thereby consolidate their fragile hold on power.

    I will not attempt to rebut Biden’s cocksure but deeply ignorant statements about how Russia is despicable and, as the title tells us, an “enemy.” Every sentence is an unsupported allegation that is used by Biden as a building brick in an edifice that is self-reinforcing but has no reality outside his say-so. 

    During his eight years as Barack Obama’s Vice President and handler, Biden traveled widely as emissary of the imperial presidency. He was particularly active on the borderlands of Russia. When he was not advising one or another local president or prime minister to step down so as to make way for Washington’s latest favored son, he was encouraging illusions of American hard power support for anti-Russian actions including accession to NATO. In this way he personally contributed greatly to the confrontation we now have with Moscow. But about this past we read nothing in his essay. One might imagine reading Biden that the evil and aggressive Putin regime arrived in power fully-grown.

    Biden likes to talk about his own education, about the university education and professional choices of his children.  He enjoys speaking on campus and likes to claim that he has a special affinity for college students and they for him.  This is the context in which I heard him this past May, when he was the choice of the graduating class of Harvard to be their Speaker, whereas Mark Zuckerberg, who spoke the next day, had been the choice of the university administration.  And yet, there is in Biden’s article sound reason to believe that he despises the principles of free intellectual enquiry that constitute the foundation of education.

    A lengthy section of his article in FA deals with alleged Russian subversion of American democracy through use of disinformation, through illicit campaign financing and lobbying, through corrupt practices financed by money laundering, through abuse of the social networks, through cyber crime.  Where there is subversion, there are dupes and agents.  This is the set-up for McCarthyism that the Democratic Party is presently instrumentalizing for its partisan purposes while, by that very act, attacking the democracy and freedom of speech it says it is defending.

    © Gilbert Doctorow, 2017

          * * * *

     Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book, Does the United States Have a Future? was published on 12 October 2017. Both paperback and e-book versions are available for purchase on and all affiliated Amazon websites worldwide. See the recent professional review    For a video of the book presentation made at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. on 7 December 2017 see