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Guest Post: Hays on the French Election

April 25th, 2017

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

Image result for french election

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.
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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?
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We do not know. Neither does France. It is both an uncertainty we must endure, and a suspense we cannot afford.

Meanwhile on planet Plantagenet

April 24th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — a DoubleQuote too far — or too good to miss? ]
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On the benfits of having been British, even if it was a while back..

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Looks like we Brits would get to reclaim Eleanor‘s Aquitaine.. and it’s hard for me to tell, but I fear we’d miss out on Carcassonne of the Cathars..

Sunday surprise

April 23rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameronlasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate ]
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Scarier than any horror movie, more piercing than any fire and brimstone sermon, real life:

It is highly unusual for an open portal to be captured on film, but meteorologist James Spann caught this beauty as it was closing behind an unfortunate colleague.

Mattis and Kim: mirrors have consequences

April 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — the current nuclear standoff, with a coda on silver beech and copper birch ]
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I spend a fair amount of time suggesting that formal characteristics found in events are frequently worth special note, and mirroring is a good example. Here, in Why Mattis versus Kim Jong-Un Will End Badly for Us All, War on tnhe Rocks indicates the potential (and potent) peril of mirroring in the context of our latest Korean adventure:

Inadvertent war in Korea is more likely now than at any point in recent history. Whereas a second Korean war has always been possible, clashing U.S. and North Korean “theories of victory” — beliefs about what it takes to successfully coerce and control escalation — now make it plausible, even probable.

Patterns of bluster and brinkmanship have of course long characterized affairs on the Korean Peninsula. For “Korea watchers,” there’s a perverse comfort in the predictability of a situation that, to the uninitiated, sometimes looks anything but stable.

So on some level, the rhythm of recent saber-rattling between the Trump administration and North Korea recalls the perverse comfort of typical Korea policy. On a recent visit to South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence cited U.S. attacks in Syria and Afghanistan as indications of U.S. resolve against North Korea. This statement followed numerous officials confirming that the administration is contemplating preventive strikes against the North, and a recent policy review on North Korea yielding one overarching imperative: “maximum pressure.” North Korea’s rhetoric and posturing has been no less confrontational and no less familiar. As Pence departed Alaska for South Korea, North Korea attempted a submarine-launched ballistic missile test that failed. Upon news that a U.S. carrier group was headed to its neighborhood, North Korea responded that “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment” and that it’s “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.”

These words and deeds themselves are more heated than usual, but unremarkable in the context of all that’s come before. North Korea routinely threatens war, often summoning images of a future mushroom cloud. The United States routinely dispatches aircraft carriers, bombers, and other strategic military assets in hopes of signaling resolve while actually registering little more than displeasure with North Korean behavior. The notion of “maximum pressure,” moreover, only differs from the approach of past U.S. presidents in the ambiguous adjective “maximum.” Pressure is the historical mean of U.S. policy toward North Korea. My concern is not with these observable dynamics to date, but rather with what lies beneath them, and what may be coming soon as a consequence.

It’s getting harder to ignore that the Pentagon, under Secretary Jim Mattis, may have a coercive theory of victory that largely mirrors that of North Korea under Kim Jong-Un. The danger is in the fundamental incompatibility of these disturbingly similar sets of strategic beliefs.

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Smoke and the hall of mirrors, a digression:

An excellent place for final confrontations with heroes, the Hall Of Mirrors wins high marks for ease of use. All you have to do is lure your victim inside by dashing in yourself, and then cackle with glee as they find you reflected back not once but a thousand times… When you have had your fun, seal the exits and fill the cramped space with some kind of liquid. Plain water works as well as anything, but why not add food dye for color. Or, for a touch of whimsy, use a sickeningly sweet fruit punch.

Neil Zawacki, How to Be a Villain, in TV Tropes: Hall of Mirrors

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Mirroring sets up an echo chamber — consider the myth of Narcissus** — which is also a sort of ping-pong game and a feedback machine —

and hence a magnifier or an accelerator. It can allm too easily howl out of control, with — in this case — nuclear consequences.

** Narcissus sees his reflection, Echo echos his voice back to him, thus the myth encompasses a parallelism between visual and aural self-perceptions in a wonderful act of inter-media symmetry.

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Form is the decorative act of the creative mind, adding to meaning by the use of devices of art in the way the materials of the art are deployed — as when the poet notes (specifically) beech and birch trees in a wood, delighted by the verbal felicity between the two words, or Coppola matches helicopter rotors against the blades of a hotel room fan in the beginning of Apocalypse Now.

And then the delight triples with the addition of a metallic match:

But again, I digress..

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JM Berger’s latest, 2

April 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — rushing to keep up with the prolific JM ]
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JM Berger sets his latest work in context:

Extraordinary!


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