Tony Blinken, courteous guitar aficionado with an interventionist side


Courteous and refined and with a passion for rock guitar, Antony Blinken, appointed US Secretary of State on Monday, embodies the role of a diplomat both in image and in mission coupled with a deeply rooted passion for human rights. the man.

A longtime assistant to President-elect Joe Biden, Blinken is fluent in French and a firm believer in international cooperation.

With a sleek mane of salt and pepper hair, the 58-year-old Blinken – who calls himself “Tony” – could hardly be more different than Trump’s secretary of state, the rough and tough Mike Pompeo.

“He’s about as sweet, humble and unpretentious as they come,” said Robert Malley, a childhood friend of Blinken who is now president of the International Crisis Group.

“I haven’t met anyone yet who recounts an episode of Tony blast or anger,” Malley said.

But Blinken, assistant secretary of state during Barack Obama’s presidency, may show different instincts from Biden while remaining loyal to him.

The stepson of a Holocaust survivor, Blinken advocated humanitarian interventions while Biden, as vice president, was cautious about the use of force.

“The superpowers are not bluffing,” Blinken reportedly warned repeatedly during deliberations on the civil war in Syria, in which Obama issued warnings but ultimately decided on a limited role.

Speaking earlier this year on the “horrific” loss of life in Syria, Blinken said: “The last administration must recognize that we have failed – not for lack of trying, but we have failed.”

“It’s something I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. It’s something that I feel very strongly about,” he told CBS News.

– Young trainers abroad –

Blinken’s passion for atrocity prevention can be traced to his Polish-born stepfather, Samuel Pisar, one of the youngest Holocaust survivors, whose family was murdered.

A prominent lawyer who worked for detente between the West and the Soviet Union, Pisar moved the family to Paris where Blinken studied at the prestigious Ecole Jeannine Manuel.

Malley, his classmate, said Blinken learned to navigate the US role in the world as a young American in Paris in the wake of the Vietnam War.

“Tony strongly believed in his values ​​and his identity as an American, but lived in a foreign country and was therefore compelled to see the world through the eyes of that foreign country at a time when the United States was not. most popular, ”said Malley.

Blinken’s biological father is a prominent investment banker and his mother, Judith Pisar, for years ran the American Center in Paris, which brought together artists.

His youth in Paris also launched Blinken’s musical career as he played jazz and discovered rock, citing Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” in his high school yearbook.

In Washington, Blinken performed in a Beatles cover band and used his spare time during the pandemic to compose his own songs, with his guitar sometimes visible in recorded interviews from his home.

His musical alter ego, ABlinken, had a modest 57 monthly listeners Monday on Spotify, where he uploaded two songs, brought to life by a 1970s-inspired rock guitar and unusually powerful tenor vocal performance.

– Belief in the American mission –

Prior to a Democratic Party law and political career, serving on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was in office.

At a conference in 2017, Blinken said his views remain shaped by his stepfather who survived concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau, before rushing for his life, defying German fire, during a death march.

After two days hiding in the woods, teenager Pisar heard the roar of a tank and, to his relief, saw not a German soldier but an African-American soldier.

“He got down on his knees and said the only three words he knew in English that his mother had taught him, ‘God bless America’,” Blinken recalls.

“The GI got him in the tank – figuratively speaking, in the United States and in freedom.

“This is the country I grew up with: the United States playing this extraordinary, unique and welcoming role.”

sct / mjs


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