The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World

May 19, 2009

Full Video

What are the driving emotions behind our cultural differences? How do these varying emotions influence the political, social, and cultural conflicts that roil our world?


JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I'm Joanne Myers, Director of Public Affairs Programs, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I'd like to thank you for joining us.

Today we are delighted to welcome Dominique Moïsi to our breakfast program.

All you need to do is Google Professor Moisi to be completely overwhelmed by the amount of material, both online and in print, and to know just how stimulating and thought-provoking his ideas can be.

Our speaker is one of Europe's leading geostrategic thinkers, and today he is here to share the wisdom of someone who has dedicated his life to the study of international relations.

His book, The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope Are Reshaping the World, builds on an earlier project, a syndicated column he wrote in 2006 and which was later published as an essay in Foreign Affairs.

In 1993 Samuel Huntington wrote about the clash of civilizations, in which he offered a view of a post-Cold War world divided by cultural differences, national interests, and political ideologies.

In The Geopolitics of Emotion our speaker adds a different dimension to the way in which our world has been divided and examines political trends through the prism of emotion. Professor Moisi argues that it is the feelings of fear, humiliation, and hope that are reshaping world politics, and it is these sentiments which are just as influential as the cultural, social, and economic factors that breed political conflict. This is the first book that raises the idea of a subjective response to the post-9/11 world.

I'm sure many of you are wondering how emotions can help us to understand the complexities of international relations. By shedding light on the limitations of the geographic and cultural determinism that currently dominates international discourse, Professor Moisi shows how emotions interact, and often clash. For example, he chronicles how the West has been dominated by the culture of fear—fear of "the Other" and of foreign cultures as they anxiously tried to maintain global relevance.

In the Arab and Muslim world, he writes how these societies feel trapped in a culture of humiliation, which feeds into Islamic extremism, leading to hatred of the West. Meanwhile, much of Asia has been able to concentrate on building a better future, creating a culture of hope.

These moods, of course, are not universal within each region, and there are some areas, such as Russia and parts of Latin America, that seem to display all of them simultaneously. But their dynamics and interactions will help shape the world for years to come.

By recognizing that emotions exist and need to be confronted, I think you will agree that Professor Moisi's creative approach to understanding our changing world is not only refreshing, but merits a closer analysis.

Please join me in welcoming our speaker, someone whose writings I personally follow very closely and have been waiting to listen to for a very long time, our guest today, Dominique Moisi.

Thank you for coming.


DOMINIQUE MOISI: Thank you very much for inviting me. I am very happy, honored, to see some old friends whom I hadn't seen for sometimes decades.

The title of my book, The Geopolitics of Emotion, is in itself a provocation. Geopolitics is supposed to be about the cold calculus, the rational thinking, of those cold monsters that are the states. It is supposed to be about interests, boundaries, objectivity, rationality. And of course, emotion is just the opposite. Emotions are subjective, they come from the affect. How can you reconcile the world of Kant and the world of David Yoo?

Yet, the purpose of my book is to demonstrate that without making reference to emotions you simply cannot understand the reality of the world in which you live. Let me take five examples drawn from very recent history.

The first one is the night between the 4th and the 5th of November 2008. For me it is extremely early in the morning, around 5:00 o'clock, and I am watching live the images from Chicago. I see on my television the tears of Jesse Jackson as he learns of the election of Barack Obama. Those tears are evoking for me other moments of emotion, like in fact Mstislav Rostropovich playing the cello in front of the Berlin Wall. The image is so strong. In Berlin you had the wall of oppression that had fallen.

In Chicago you had the wall of the color of race that was falling in front of your eyes. The tears of Jesse Jackson or the tears of Mstislav Rostropovich were tears of joy, tears of harmony, tears of reconciliation with the world.

A few weeks after Chicago, you had another event of a totally different nature taking place in Mumbai, India. Here you could see the terrorists seizing people to kill them. There was a very long article in The Wall Street Journal that described minute-by-minute the events taking place in Mumbai.

"Why are you doing that to us?" asked the hostages who have been taken by the terrorists. "What have we done to you?"

The terrorists said, "Remember—"and they would give the name of a mosque built in the 16th century by the first Muslim emperor of India, which was burned to ashes by Indian fundamentalists, and they would give the name of a massacre taking place in 2002, which is related in the famous Indian-English movie Slumdog Millionaire.

You see that: "Remember what you did to us in 2002."

Well, it was just the opposite of Chicago and Berlin. It was emotions, yes. Not positive emotions, but negative emotions.

Let me take two other events, in fact three other ones.

The two other events, which I am going to allude to rapidly, are taking place on the very same day, August 8, 2008. They are taking place, so to speak, in Beijing and in Moscow. In Beijing there is the expression of confidence of the Chinese leadership at the opening of the Olympic Games: "Look at the architecture, look at the ceremony, look at the prospect of medals. We are going to be the first." Well, the message from China is: "China is back." It is a message of trust and confidence in itself.

At the same time, the Russians, using the incompetence, if I may say, to use a light word, of the Georgian president, are making war in the Caucasus. The message of the Russians is just the opposite from the message of the Chinese, and it is: "Well, you fear me again. I am reborn. Your fear, which I can see in your eyes, is my hope. You have taken me for granted for too long during the years following the end of the Cold War. These days are over. I am back with a vengeance." But the message was, of course, of a completely different nature.

The fifth event is even more recent, the war in Gaza. In my book I am using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a kind of guiding thread, a metrics of the international system when it comes to emotion, the encounter between the fear of the Israelis and the humiliation of the Palestinians.

This war, in a way, was made for the Israelis to re-conquer the military deterrence which they had partially lost in the war in Lebanon in 2006, but they did so at the risk—and I would say the cost—of further alienating the rest of the world in political terms.

So those five events which I have just described in front of you are the proof that you cannot understand the world if you do not allude to emotions, that it has become as important to look at the emotional boundaries of the world as it was yesterday important to look at the geographic boundaries of the world.

As an historian, I would say: But what's new? Emotions have always been present in international politics. Look at the Crusades. Look at the religious wars in the Europe of the 16th and 17th centuries. Look at the French Revolution.

Consider that Kant, the prophet of rationality, even is supposed to have stopped working on the day of the Battle of Valmy in 1792 as the armies of the French Revolution were defeating the armies of the Ancien Régime. Look at the 20th century, the war between ideologies: Communism, fascism, Nazism, all kinds of totalitarianism. Isn't that as much about emotion as about ideologies?

But there is something in our world, which is the world of globalization, which makes emotion even more central, obvious, indispensable to understand the world. The world of our global age is at the same time transparent and interdependent. We have lost the privilege of ignorance. We cannot pretend we don't know. We know. We know everything. The very rich know how the very poor are doing, and the very poor know how the very rich live.

In that world, which is so integrated, so transparent, I repeat, the question of identity becomes essential: "Who am I? What is my difference, even my marginal difference, in that world?" In fact, you want to emphasize it in order to exist. Well, in that world there is a natural promotion of the emotional dimension of international politics.

The second point which I want to make is that emotions, like cholesterol, can be good or bad. There is good cholesterol and there is bad cholesterol. There are good emotions and there are bad emotions.

The first emotion I described to you from Chicago to Berlin is the proof of a good emotion, a positive emotion, that can change the world for the best. The emotions I described in Mumbai are really a description of the bad emotions, the negative emotions.

In that attempt, not only to understand the weight of emotions but to distinguish amongst them, I am in a way violating a taboo. Since the years that preceded World War II, since the pagan masses of Nuremberg during Hitler's time, emotions have been seen as the bad cholesterol. In a way, the victory of Barack Obama in the United States tends to rehabilitate the positive nature of emotion—yes, there are emotions which can be good.

In my attempt to do a mapping of emotions, like a painter, I will look for dominating colors. But can you give a color to an emotion? Can you say that envy is green because you are green with envy, that hope is white, that fear is black? No, you can't. So you would need the subtlety of a Turner and a Monet to find the right color, when in fact you are describing shades of grey—dark grey when it comes to fear and humiliation, light grey when it comes to hope.

Of all the emotions that exist—you have hatred, you have anger, you have love—why have I chosen three emotions? Because I thought these three emotions were key to an understanding of international politics, because those three emotions, which are fear, humiliation, and hope, are each translating a certain relation with the concept of confidence.

Hope is "I can make it, I will make it, I will show you that I can make it." In fact, a little humiliation is excellent as an incitement for that kind of hope.

It is in Asia that I have seen hope the most in the last years. There has been, beyond the objective consequences of economic growth, a continent carried by that culture of hope. I felt that in China, I felt that in India, I felt that very, very strongly in Singapore.

Humiliation is just the opposite: "I cannot make it, I will not make it." And, if accompanied with anger, or even hatred, humiliation can lead to: "Because I can't make it to your level, I will want to reduce you to my level." This is where terrorism comes in.

It is in the Arab-Muslim world that I have met the highest level of humiliation, a humiliation that is the result of the contrast between often an idealized past and a sad present. In the culture of humiliation there is no future.

Then there is fear. Fear is: "Oh my God, the world has become such a dangerous place, let me step down, let me move away from it, it is going too quickly and I can't control it." It's fear of the others, it's fear of the future, it's fear of losing one's identity.

I have tried in that book both to show to what an extent the fear culture has become the predominant culture of the West, but also to what an extent the European fear was different from the American fear.

In fact, in the last four months I have had the privilege of being a European living in America as a visiting professor at Harvard University. I could see the differences that existed between my continent and yours.

For example, in the United States there is much, much more collective hope and much, much more individual fear than in Europe. Why more collective hope? I would say it's the encounter between the Obama phenomenon and the deep fundamental culture of the United States, which is one based on hope.

The last eight years were in fact a violation, a rejection, and to a large extent you can say that the Americans who voted for Obama were animated by the fear of fear, by the fear of what fear had been doing to the United States. While at the same time, you have much more individual fear in the United States because you don't have a system of social protection that is adequate. When you lose your job you may lose your life, because suddenly you won't be protected against your cancer.

In Europe it's just the reverse. There is much more morosity and you can't decide to clone 27 Obamas for each of the 27 Members of the European Union. First, I don't think it would be practical. Second, I don't think it would be ideal. But at the same time, we have to come out of our deep morosity.

Honestly, I don't know if we are going to do it. But there is also much less individual fear, precisely because our protection is higher.

So these three cultures—humiliation, hope, and fear—are the three dominant colors, so to speak, of the world.

You mentioned in your introduction that there were in my book hard cases where I would distinguish countries like Russia or Israel, continents like Latin America or Africa, where it is much more difficult to distinguish one dominating color. I leave that probably for the question-and-answer period.

But let me conclude, because I don't want to go too long, with the ultimate, so to speak, goal of that book. It is not only to demonstrate that emotions are essential to understand the world, but what do you do with it, and is there a recipe to reduce your level of fear and humiliation and to increase your level of hope?

Can you advise governments, like you can advise individuals, to restore the right balance in your blood when you have too many red cells and too little white cells? What should the world be doing?

At the end, I am opening a chapter, which may be eventually a new book, on what is to be done in a deeper sense of the term.

In a way, this book came as a result of a very long period of my life in which when I was asked "What are you doing?" I would say, "I'm a psychoanalyst of states." So at the end of it I wrote the book.

But I was carried, clearly, in my writing with the deep conviction when I started that book that Barack Obama would become the next president of the United States. I must say I was very happy when it took place, and I felt in a way strengthened in my approach to emotions by his victory.

I think I should stop here. Thank you very much.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION:You mentioned that in your book you talk about Gaza a lot. But there are the larger questions of whether there can be peace. After all, that is the goal, the hope. The Israeli anthem is "The Hope" and so forth.

Given the emotions that you have already mentioned, and others that can be introduced from the outside—for example, the fact that the Pope is visiting now, and religious fervor, nationalist fervor; there are so many emotions mixed together in this cocktail—what do you advise, Dr. Psychoanalyst? How do we get to peace?

DOMINIQUE MOISI: Well, this is in a way the key to my book, this conflict. If I were to be very provocative, I would say that peace in the Middle East will come when Israelis will be able to transcend the Shoah and when Palestinians will be able to integrate it. We have been going in the opposite direction in the last few years.

Ahmedinejad, by putting oil on a wound, or playing with fire next to oil, or whatever, has clearly touched a raw nerve in the Israelis, and he did it with purpose. I mean he knew what he was doing, and he was doing it exactly for that reason. He makes it impossible for the Israelis to transcend the Shoah. I mean this man wants to suppress the state of Israel: "How can we go beyond our history?"

And at the same time, the recent operation in Gaza makes it impossible for Palestinians to integrate the suffering of the Israelis, because their own suffering is unacceptable.

I think by the end of the day peace in the Middle East can only come from the outside. Peace in the Middle East can only come when imposed by the United States.

As Martin Luther King has said "I had a dream," I would see Barack Obama with the leaders of the Jewish community in America coming to Jerusalem to say, "That's enough, that's enough. You have to find a compromise which would be based on renouncement of the right of return of refugees for Palestinians and probably renouncement of a lot of territories for Israel. That's something that would be not an absolute return to 1967, but not far, and with Jerusalem as capital of the two, of the state of Palestine as well as of the state of Israel." It is extremely difficult to conceive. But apart from that I don't see a solution.

What I know is that there are 13 million Jews in the world, and there are 1,300 million Muslims. Israel needs allies. If Israel continues to self-isolate itself, to alienate the sympathy of its closest allies in the non-Jewish world, it's not a good thing in the long run.

What I'm afraid of is the growing fatalism of my Israeli friends who consider that nothing can be done. I mean at Harvard there are so many of them that you have the feeling that you live surrounded by them.

I was in Harvard right after the Israeli elections. My Israeli friends told me, "Oh well, of course it's not the right electoral system, it's not the right government, it's not the right politicians. Everything is wrong. But by the end of the day it doesn't matter because there is no one to talk to. It wouldn't make a difference."

Israel was founded at the time by a prime minister who used to say, "It is reasonable to believe in miracles." Well, this fatalism is so much in contrast with the sense of hope that animated the early creation of Israel that I am worried by this dark evolution. I couldn't be more provocative.

QUESTION: As always, I have been not only provoked but inspired by your thinking and your eloquence. If I may introduce a more general, perhaps theoretical, consideration.

The very subject of your reflection, of your book, reminds me of something that we have read recently in a different but not so far-away subject, which is the economic and financial crisis. You have also written about globalization.

What I see is that many analysts are now revising their basic concepts, for instance the conceit of positing a wholly rational economic agent or wholly rational consumer, and that economic analysis has to introduce also the dimension of rational decisions.

I have always been struck by the fact that the so-called Realist school, Hans Morgenthau, etc., always spoke about "national interest" as if that was always not only the ideal but also the practice of statesmen. We know that it is not like that.

Could you perhaps make some linkage also reminding of the expression of Keynes about animal spirits animating also men?

DOMINIQUE MOISI: Well, I think when you look at the recent economic and financial crisis, you have two reactions. I will plagiarize President Mitterand, who was president of France from 1981-1995. There was the Euro missile crisis in the early 1980s. He used to say, "The missiles are in the East and the pacifists are in the West."

Well, the problem with the economic situation of our world lately is that the growth has been in the East and the debts have been in the West. This process has gone on much too far for our own good as Western powers. What we were doing—what we are still doing—is unhealthy.

I think growth is continuing in China, though at a reduced level. We would have been envious of China's rate growth today, even five, six years ago, and our debt has been skyrocketing at an incredible level. That is the first reaction of an objective nature. This imbalance cannot go on.

The second thing is that the encounter between—and I will quote Greenspan—the infectious greed of some and the irresponsible Lucifer of others has created one of the most severe crises of capitalism we have been witnessing in the last years.

I remember speaking to my banker three years ago and saying to him, "If you offer me something that will give more than 5 or 4 percent of return per year I don't want it, because it can't go on like that."

The Madoff phenomenon, when I look at it from the outside, I see the criminal activities of one man, but in a way the excessive naiveté of so many other people.

Looking at it from the outside, I would say, "But it is not possible." An entire generation of people believed it was possible precisely because they lived in an environment that was emotionally unbalanced, in which you believed that there were no limits to the sky, to the size the trees could reach to the sky.

In a way, those are the emotions in the economic field. You have to balance this infectious greed of one with the sense of rationality of others, accumulating slowly but surely wealth.

In a way, if you look at the crisis, you could say: Is it epoch-making or is it epoch-accelerating? I think it is both.

The conclusion of this period is that slowly the torch of history has been moving from West to East, from our world to the Asian world, precisely because they behave more wisely than we have been doing. I think what we have been witnessing has just been an acceleration of that.

We, so to speak the Western man, have to get used to the idea that we live in a world in which we are not only no longer alone, but in which we are no longer alone to define models, that we have to learn as much from them as they have to learn from us.

At the same time, the real strength of America is that no one dreams of becoming Chinese. There are still millions of people in the world who are dreaming every day of becoming Americans. This is the real soft power of the United States of America.

In demographic terms, you can't make it. In economic terms, you have no lessons to give to anyone. In strategic terms, the Chinese will come very close to you soon.

But you still have the power of ideals, the power to inspire, the power to be the model. This is where in a way I think the United States is still very, very unique and strong.

QUESTION: I want you to talk a little bit if you can about the connection between people's emotions and their governments' representation thereof. Three examples perhaps to reflect upon, the conclusion of which I think is quite clear.

One, first, close to home, in New York during and after 9/11 the very dominant emotion I witnessed on the streets was compassion, resilience, not a desire for revenge or to punish. Yet, that latter emotion was what the government took and manifested in American foreign policy.

In Israel one might see a similar phenomenon at play.

In Russia, post-Soviet humiliation of the Russian people has been converted by Putin et al. into a nasty, repressive, ugly nationalism.

From these examples, one can perhaps suggest a thesis, that governments appeal to the most atavistic and unpleasant emotions prevalent in their populations. If that is one's thesis, and if that is one's conclusion, where does that lead one in terms of whether we can rely upon governments to actually arbitrate these powerful forces in our world?

DOMINIQUE MOISI: The Obama experience would be the counterexample to the cases you have just given. But it is clear that in the United States I felt the emotion you described, compassion and resilience.

This is what we all felt, New Yorkers or Americans, right after 9/11. But these emotions were replaced by the American administration at that time with a different project, which was one of exploiting fear, manipulating fear, using fear. We have seen the results this has created for America or the image of America in the world.

I remember vividly two incidents. I am in Berlin a few days before Obama's speech in June 2008 and I am listening to "Fidelio," Beethoven's opera, "Hymn to Liberty," etc., and the prisoners are dressed like Guantanamo prisoners. That reminds me of a completely different image.

I remember being in Berlin, but on the other side of Berlin, in 1988, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and I am accompanying John McCloy, the MacArthur of Germany after World War II. When the audience learned of his presence in the room, they stood up and applauded for ten minutes. In 1988 the United States in divided Germany was a symbol of freedom. The Germans were thankful.

In 2008, through the imagination of a director, the United States had become associated with oppression and not liberation. That was the cost of playing with emotions in such a negative manner.

But to "Our citizens naturally good and government naturally bad," which was the implicit assumption, I would say, "No, it depends."

The problem in Russia is that the Russians don't have the political culture at the level of their culture. Their culture is one of the greatest in the world. Their political culture is one of the lowest. At some point they will have to reduce that gap for their own good. They will have to realize that the power of the state is not the only ambition of the nation but that the fulfillment of the citizens is as important as the power of the state.

QUESTION: You stated earlier that "we know," and largely that comes from CNN, the effect of the media. Everybody "knows" what's going on, even elements of your just-completed answer. But knowing is not understanding. Even in his new book Leslie Gelb makes that point, that leaders are not necessarily going to be able to respond to this human passion because it doesn't necessarily reflect understanding.

But let me go one step further, back to the question regarding Israel, the Middle East, the Arab world, and so on. Israel is really only a small element—small geographically, small numerically.

But when you discuss the humiliation of the Islamic people in the Muslim world and so on, how much of that humiliation is really imposed on those people by their own leaders, whether it's Mubarak or Saddam or anybody else in this? They are the ones who brutalize their own people.

And now we have the Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and so on, who try to impose their own fear, in terms of how those people are going to respond to just everyday living. That is an element that we have no control over.

DOMINIQUE MOISI: I fully agree with that. I think out of the archaeological-layers-like of humiliation which I describe there is that sense that there is humiliation imposed on oneself.

But at the same time, when you look at 9/11, the kamikaze of 9/11 were coming from two countries, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It was assumed that their revenge against America was stemming from the fact that they could not choose their own leaders in their respective countries because they were backed so strongly by the United States.

They couldn't remove Mubarak in Egypt, they couldn't remove the king's family in Saudi Arabia, so they were going to punish the United States where it really hurt, in New York or in Washington. That was the sense of their answer.

I think that was only a partial answer. I remember—and I am quoting that in my book—an interview with one of the brothers of a kamikaze, saying, "Well, my brother told me that if he couldn't make it to the top of Wall Street he would reduce Wall Street to ashes." That was the same thing: "Either I make it, or if I can't make it I bring you down to my level."

So it is very confused. By the end of the day, it's the feeling you are no longer in control of your destiny. The great historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis of Princeton, in his last great lecture in his honor—he's still alive, but the last he gave—at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington described that moment in the late 18th century when the fate of Egypt is decided not by the Mamluk, not by whatever forces, but by the defeat of the French fleet by the British fleet. So their fate is the product of our history.

This is that sense of deep alienation, the feeling that from the 17th century on, their power in the world has been constantly reduced. When they were in their Renaissance period, we were in our Middle Ages. The moment we enter our Renaissance, they start to decline. This brings that deep feelings of humiliation, which is really based on history.

QUESTION: I find your idea very appealing, but I want to press you a bit on it. A cynic or a realist might argue that you confuse cause and effect, that the result of emotion among the masses is largely the result of elite manipulation.

Take the example of Gaza. It's certainly true that after the war there is a sense of humiliation on the part of the Palestinians which is even deeper. On the other hand, look at what precedes that war. Hamas is down two-to-one in the polls—I'm a pollster—heading towards a catastrophic electoral defeat in Palestinian elections expected for early 2009.

They have a tremendous need, therefore, both to postpone those elections and to rally the Palestinian masses to their cause. It could be argued that by refusing to renew the cease-fire, and indeed increasing their rocket offensive against Israel and helping to provoke a ferocious Israeli response, the elite of Hamas has succeeded in manipulating the emotion of the masses. But it is the elite decisions that are still in the driver's seat and not mass emotions.

DOMINIQUE MOISI: Yes. But it is the role of political leaders to control the emotions of their own people, to educate them, to replace demagogy with pedagogy.

There is a top person responsible for the military operation of Gaza who came through Harvard. Though he was in charge, he said to what extent he was against that operation because he knew the political cost would be much higher whatever military advantages.

I think Gaza is a very interesting case because Israel has succeeded probably in defeating the military branch of Hamas. But that result should have led the Israelis to negotiate immediately with the political wing of Hamas. So if you accompany that military operation by a diplomatic overture, that is something. If you don't, if you lose the momentum, then you've killed children for nothing.

The problem is that maybe you could have condoned the early part of the military operation of Israel, but the entrance of the troops into Gaza in front of the televisions of the entire world was really to take a risk that was going beyond rationality in my mind. It was too much. It was simply too much. And there is a cost to it.

QUESTION: Can you discuss the role or the power of religion and economics over the emotions you emphasize, which are fear, humiliation, and hope? Which is more important?

DOMINIQUE MOISI: These are huge questions, which are very difficult for me to answer. But let me try to approach these questions.

First, I think the religious dimension is an important component of emotion. From that standpoint, it is very interesting in fact to create distinctions. For example, the United States and India are much more influenced by spirituality and religion than China and Europe. China and Europe are united by some kind of secular approach to the world. India and the United States are just the reverse.

If you try to look at this in those terms, you could say that there is another difference, which I find very important, intriguing, and complex. It is that in the world in which we live the number of people belonging to a monotheistic faith is going to be reduced. The number of people belonging to a polytheistic vision of the world is increasing demographically. The three religions of the Book are going to become the minority in the world in which we are going to live. What is going to be the impact of that? I do not know.

But what I am clearly saying in my book—and that's the answer to your second question— is that I am not a Marxist, I am just the opposite of a Marxist. A Marxist would say, "It's the economy, stupid." I'm saying the reverse, "It's the emotions, stupid," and within the emotions there is of course that religious dimension.

It's the issue of transcendence. There is more to life than life itself. You can call it God. I call it God, but this is my personal approach to it.

QUESTION: In the 20th century there certainly was no more bitter animosity than between the French and the Germans. Looking to solutions to the future, is that a model, economic interdependent model, for putting band-aids on some of the animosities looking forward?

DOMINIQUE MOISI: That's a very good question. We have been asked by Japanese to create a Franco-German seminar on reconciliation for Asia, to bring Frenchmen and Germans who went through the reconciliation process to Asia to teach them how it worked.

Why did it work? Well, it worked because the Germans recognized fully their guilt. They had the Christian sense of repentance. They did wrong and they asked for forgiveness. The Germans, beyond that, were led by democratic leaders. In fact, reconciliation was much more strong in the west than in the eastern part of Germany.

So repentance, democracy. Germany was successful, economic progress. They could show to their citizens that recognizing their guilt had been the key to their Renaissance as a country.

And there was between France and Germany a sense of balance. The two countries were on par—great, old, proud civilizations. There was a common enemy, the Soviet Union; a common project, the European Union; a common ghost, the hatred that led to the suicide of the countries, which you could still see in the ruins of Europe. So there was a unique combination of men and events.

But there were also recipes, very practical recipes: Education of children—young Germans would come to France; young Frenchmen would go to Germany.

Reconciliation was in fact—is in fact, I would say—the primary message of Europe to the world: "This is what we have succeeded to do." This is what neither the Middle East nor Asia, nor even some parts of Latin America, have managed to do. This is a great message to the world: reconciliation.

But reconciliation goes through so many conditions that it cannot be repeated easily. You cannot duplicate reconciliation if there is ignorance and suspicion of the other.

In a way, the key message is that tolerance grows through knowledge. In order to go towards the other you must have an element of self-confidence, you must know who you are, and because you know who you are, you are willing to go towards the other. That is the key. I mean confidence starts with self-confidence.

The Japanese have never been self-confident enough to say to their neighbors, "We are sorry." The Israelis have never been self-confident enough, and you can understand why, looking at the demography, at the geography. They need an extra dose of confidence. Who can give them that? It is extremely difficult to know.

JOANNE MYERS: I thank you for a really exciting morning.

I just want to remind everyone that as awesome as Professor Moisi is you will find the written word just as special. Thank you.

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Senior Fellow Anja Kaspersen speaks with Elisabet Haugsbø, president of tech union Tekna, about her engineering journey, resiliency in the AI era, and much more.

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