Nothing came up when I googled his name on my site upon learning of his passing away. But in the age of perennial computer crashes, virus-induced data losses and other Orwellian surveillance wizardry, that wasn't conclusive either. So I went back to the archeological layers of what's left of my physical archive, leaned back and pondered some memory flashes. For there was no denying that Edouard Brunner's involvement in several of Switzerland's foreign policy ventures and official good office operations, in some cases, paralleled or converged with my own trajectory as an active but private citizen. So before other apprenti-sourcerers started to fiddle with and speculate about some of the related stories, before society's new high priests and norm creators will bend them to the needs of their agenda, I thought it proper and indicated not to betray anybody's confidence but to shed some additional lights on the contributions to and stewardship of Swiss foreign policy by one of Heidiland's most creative and visionary Secretaries of State, Edouard Brunner.
Whether said parallels and convergences were by coincidence or otherwise, and whether it all worked out to the good of our home country, is for others to decide. Suffice it to note that both of us had our fair share of "friendly fire" and "not-invented-here" reactions, making discretion indispensable, with deniability a top priority not limited to lawmaker and banker friends. And suffice it to add, that the fall of the Berlin Wall has indeed ushered in an era of largely uncharted waters, of unexpected economic and social developments, and of decicion-makers here and there who often find themselves inadequately prepared and ill-equipped for the challenges they are confronted with. The ensuing weakened nation state has given rise to globalization phenomena - and vice versa. But it also produced a growing need for imaginative analysis of what's really going on, what can and should be done, and how to go about it (e.g. the Rapport Brunner, "La sécurité par la coopération", "La neutralité de la Suisse", et "Protection des infrastructures critiques"). And that made the full mobilization of the best minds anywhere a matter of essence and urgency, if not of national survival.
Many of these later developments were anticipated
by such luminaries as Aurelio
Peccei when, in 1968, they created the Club of Rome. They had
called for visionary and ethically well-moored lateral thinkers
Bono type, and Edouard Brunner certainly had the required character,
background and network. And as most of that was new or even alien to any
and all ordinary administrations and office-holders - and indeed "not-invented-here"
- global but informal private networks evolved over the years which
have sought to assist in the various transformation processes and which,
on several occasions and in several places have left their marks
under the term of private or parallel
In the case of Edouard Brunner, too, the some five years of his formal stewardship at the Swiss Foreign Ministry could only be a segment and not the whole of his involvement in parallel diplomacy. Indeed, the subjects thus covered range from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT from 1968 to this day), to the Teheran hostage crisis of 1979/81 and its still evolving tentacles (including the Marc Rich affair), to the Falklands/Malvinas conflict of 1982, to the Reagan-Gorbachev Geneva meeting of 1985, to the spoliation of Swiss abroad (notably those of the Congo), to the Gulf wars of 1990/91 and 2003 and their ensuing humanitarian, political and security desasters, and to the Helsinki peace process of 1972 and its governmental and non-governmental outgrowths. Which of course, if taken together, reads like a hotch potch of an alert foreign correspondent's record taking. And in fact it is - to the extent that Edouard Brunner's parallel diplomacy has its public face as portrayed by others.
In his brief memories, Edouard Brunner made no bones about the futility of economic sanctions, ill-prepared conferences, and bureaucratic grand-standing ("Lambris dorés et coulisses - Souvenirs d'un diplomate", Georg Genève, 2001). He had no high opinion of bureaucratic procedures, particularly not of the self-serving kind. He was critical of strategic aims which were aloft of time-tested principles and lacked ethical roots. And he preferred substance over form, brevity and straightforwardness over deficiency-hiding sophistry, and ... wine over Coca Cola. In his works he comes through as an enlightened and persuasive iconoclast who, by now, would probably be supported by the powers that be in his efforts to effectively set both the Israelis and the Palestinians onto the road of mutual recognition by way of their common Egyptian roots. Who would have drawn constructive inspiration from such past texts as the Jerusalem Peace Treaty of Jaffa of 1229. And who, by resorting to parallel means, would not have allowed the rising near-perfection of mediocrity - here and there - to stand in the way of road-holding solutions to genuine problems, such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons on the non-governmental level. As a cosmopolitic compatriot, he has come to appreciate the lasting, hugely beneficial and obligeing fundamentals which turned Switzerland into what it is and what it could become, including strict adherence to the principles of neutrality, reliability and solidarity. By practicing what he preached, i.e. the primacy of well-moored politics over economic opportunism, and competence and persistency instead of servility, Switzerland's positions and its economy thus not only did not suffer under his watch, but was strengthened. Switzerland regained respect and was thus also able to help shape and bring to fruition events of some significance.
1984 - Iran
Knowing the psyche of our American friends from past dealings - including Interhandel - and his first stint at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, Brunner and his predecessor, Raymond Probst, were both aware of the futility and self-inflicted damages of softball responses to traditional US hardball playing. And contrasting that, of the rewards awaiting those with well-moored, imaginative and capable pursuit of their own rights and interests, as the US-Israel relations amply illustrate.
To be sure, American economic and political threats and aggressions against Swiss interests have an embarrassingly long and profound tradition. Already in the 80ies, they originated with ambitious officials pursuing their private agendas. Essentially uncontrolled, these myopic and careless occupants of power vacuums held sway at the SEC (e.g. John Fedders, Gary Lynch), at the US Treasury, and at the office of the US Attorney General (e.g. Lowell Jensen, Rudy Giuliani). Similar to the current reactions to unauthorized US overflights and secret US prisons, these and similar offenses had produced a public backlash which culminated in the generally supported parliamentary Motion Früh 84.400 of March 23, 1984 "Sauvegarde de la souveraineté helvétique".The courant normal dealings by a Swiss company with Iran (Marc Rich & Cie AG) were then already an integral part of Switzerland's successful representation of US interests in Iran - as essential as Swiss banks could still, or again, be now. However, in the eyes of some not or ill-informed or merely careless scalp-hunters at the US Treasury, these free exercises of Swiss sovereign rights were construed as violations of the US Trading With the Enemy Act. This entailed a very real danger for a Swiss resident, namely for Marc Rich to be snatched from the streets in Berne - just like Abu Omar who, in 2003, was kidnapped in Rome by CIA officials.
All of which further stiffened the back of the Conseil fédéral which had intervened in a US court with a noteworthy amicus curiae brief. And when it became evident that a trigger-happy US judge had no qualms either to seek to enforce US laws in Switzerland regardless of contrary US treaty obligations, his lack of jurisdiction, and art.271 of the Swiss penal code, the Conseil fédéral was led to intervene to physically prevent Swiss documents from being extorted from Swiss territory.
In contrast to other current practices - where the bank clients' privacy is effectively weakened under ever flimsier pretexts - our then-new Secretary of State thus found and effectively used then the available opportunities to contain the outrages, aberrations and damages caused by some of our American friends. And if he were in office today, he thus most likely would have been spared even the suggestion to join economic sanctions against Iran and to suspend related banking services. At any rate, if any such ill-founded and ill-considered requests by US homologues would have come onto his radar, he would certainly have found an elegant way to turn them into opportunities for enlightening his colleagues on the fact that the world ain't flat.
By the same token, Brunner's grasp of key diplomatic achievements by others and himself was such that it is unlikely that in 1995, when the infinite extention of the NPT was to be decided by an all-member conference, he would have overlooked and thus wasted the Swiss diplomacy's key achievement of 1975: under the threat by a critical mass of Swiss lawmakers to infinitely hold back Switzerland's NPT ratification, our delegation to the first NPT Review Conference obtained the complete formal exemption for all "contained" nuclear micro-explosion from all related NPT prohibitions. And it remains to be seen, whether the Conseil fédéral was adequately advised by his current specialists, when related parliamentary questions of potential significance for resolving the current Iran-US/Israel uranium-enrichment gridlock were dismissed with a slight of hand.
In some cases, Brunner's published memories may be more significant for what they hide than for what they reveal. And in all cases, they are seen as a testimony to their author's modesty, discretion and concern for what really matters, namely lessons to be learned and applied - in as much as, essentially, they are less about shining successes, and more about failures, missed opportunities, and doubts about whether his contribution was on the level. The failed diplomatic cleanup episode of 1984 in Berne of the Falkland/Malvinas conflict is a case in point.
Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, may then have found it still inopportune to normalize relations with Argentine after her marines had reconquered Stanley on June 14, 1982. But that, in part, could also be because of a prior failed Swiss initiative - inofficial that one, with the following contours:
After the Argentine Junta had miscalculated British intentions, it had invaded the contested islands on April 2. Switzerland was called upon to represent British interests in Buenos Aires and Brazil spoke in London for Argentine. In line with the idea that lawmakers of conflicting nations should not be limited to eventually raise the white flag after all else will have failed, members of the Swiss Parliament initiated a dialogue with British and Argentine colleagues for exploring ideas dear to Edouard Brunner, namely to resolve the conflict with political rather than military means. Eventually both governments agreed to an imaginative extensive use of article 15 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (establishment of a neutralized zone covering all of the Falkland/Malvinas islands). However, at the CICR headquarter in Geneva, no Delegate could be found for being parachuted into Stanley, and his arrival by sea could not be arranged before the British troops counter-attacked.
1986 - Aerospatiale
In the above spirit of 1984, and with the backing of a critical mass of Swiss lawmakers, the Swiss Foreign Ministry, under the leadership of Edouard Brunner, in 1986 again invoked article 271 of the Swiss Penal Code in another widely noted amicus curiae brief - this time prophylactically and out of interested solidarity. It concerned the watershed Aerospatiale case where the US Supreme Court, in 1987, found that the Hague "Convention procedures would be unduly time-consuming and expensive, and less likely to produce needed evidence than direct use of the Federal Rules" - translation: US cops can violate foreign souvereignty if that means quicker and cheaper results! In the opinion of the 4 dissenting judges, this preposterous finding was "unfortunate" for it risked to be also "to the detriment of the United States' national and international interests." And so it turned out. With ever more cases of extra-territorial applications of US laws. With ever more pressures to comply with the whishes and whims of some self-serving friends from across the Atlantic. And with ever more and more urgent demands on our diplomats and expatriate businessmen for Switzerland to become the showcase of what "mutually helpful" agreements a country like ours can and should conclude with the United States (most recent examples: CH-US anti-terrorism treaty 06.069, FATF mission creep).
Notwithstanding the limited success story of a forcefully intervening Conseil fédéral in the above-outlined memorable Marc Rich case of 1983/84, it was left for a more blue-eyed and compliant generation of Swiss decision-makers to heed the wishes of some enterprising American friends. And to abrogate sneakingly but effectively said key protective article 271 of the Swiss Penal Code - nota bene: behind the back of our constitutional lawmakers! This was in line with the Qualified Intermediary Agreement which was negotiated between the US Treasury and some dependent Swiss banks (sic!). And which - according to the Finance Minister who, on Nov.7, 2000, had signed off on the dotted line - was "imposed" on the Conseil fédéral by the Swiss Bankers Association. I.e. by the very trade association which prides itself of its well-oiled, effective and focussed lobbying apparatus but which would appear not always on the level, but rather lacking proper counterweights and occasionally being one- and/or blue-eyed, myopicor having its eyes off the ball.
But then again, such effects may be inherent in any organization of importance. Which, of course make it no less incumbent on them to strictly avoid public self-congratulations in particular. And instead to opening themselves up to critical analysis of their macro-economic and political weight, responsibilities and actions. And to join ranks when some myopic foreign representative throws his weight around for Switzerland and its banks to toe the US line of economic sanctions against other countries (e.g. Iran). Very much in the sense of the examples set by Secretary of State Brunner who did not shrink from standing up against the Swiss banking version of the ever more ominous American military-industrial complex.
1985/1990 - Reagan-Gorbachev
/ Baker-Aziz meetings in Geneva
In his account of the failed "last chance" Geneva meeting between the US Secretary of State James Baker and the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz of December 1990 - which Ambassador Brunner had helped organize from his perch in Washington - Brunner reflects on Baker's discontent with the way some Swiss officials had tried to play their hand on that occasion. For the Americans, "Switzerland's host role was irreplaceable but sufficient. If we had greater ambitions, he'd look next time for another country which would play its part without pursuing unhelpful pretentions of its own."
Stunned, Brunner asks, but doesn't offer an opinion on whether this critisism was justified. He notes, however, that not least with the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting of 1985, the idea has been solidly enrooted that Switzerland is the place for negotiating on certain key problems. And that, in his opinion, "while that rôle may be irreplaceable for the world, it must indeed be sufficient for Switzerland. We should not even try to become involved in a negotiation which doesn't concern us, except perhaps if we can offer a new idea. One has to be able to opportunely vanish - all the while being fully on stand-by." Which probably also reflects Brunner's memory on the one-liner he saw on the table when visiting President Ronald Reagan in his Oval Office: "There is no limit where a man can go if he is prepared not to take credit for what he did."
To illustrate this fundamental concern, Brunner refers to some confidences from his years during the Helsinki Peace Process. One of his homologues from a Warsaw Pact country thus detailed the related decision-making process in the case of his and most other east-European countries. It thus followed that any proposal from the Western block had a better, if not the only chance of adoption by the consensus-based CSCE when it was tabled by a member from the group of neutral countries. Similar experiences at the 1972 UNCTAD III in Santiago de Chile had lead some of its organizers to propose the creation of a non-voting Delegation of Atlantis consisting of non-governmental organizations who could ventilate catalystic ideas whose time have come but for which no governmental delegation can be found to make the first step.
Accordingly, and as long as all concerned knew and respected the related ground rules of discretion, deniability and effective consultations, Brunner not only saw no reason to object to, but actually encouraged and gladly accompanied Valentin Oehen's parallel diplomacy initiative in the run-up to the truly historic Reagan-Gorbachev meeting in Geneva. Again, it is for others to decide whether - on the backdrop of an intense cold war and a potentially explosive crumbling of key structures on the European Continent - those early efforts of 1983 to bring the US and the USSR chiefs of staff to meet and talk to each other on neutral territory made a dent or contributed to the success of the 1985 summit. Whatever history's judgement will be, there are lessons to be drawn for decision-makers called upon to adequately prepare for, as well as to address current and future crisis situations with the most effective methods and means available, including well-prepared private initiatives. All considered, there is also no reason to expect any related network to have lost its usefulness and viability simply because this or that key player may have shifted into another gear or may even have disappeared from the public screen.
Edouard Brunner knew - and acted accordingly - that we all have entered the post-Berlin Wall age where, characteristically, the political magnetic field has disappeared. He appreciated that those in charge here and there are ill-advised to pretend that they can still read their magnetic compass they used to rely on for direction. That they fool themselves and others if they take their gesticulations as a responsible substitute for well-founded action. And that new guidance systems are urgently called for, e.g. in the form of enhanced sensitivity to individual intuition, sort of an inertial compass. Like others he was wise enough not to expect or get much inspiration from within the halls of power, for they've hardly ever been fertile for originating relevant ideas, as the current mess in the Near East demonstrates again. In fact, as obstacles to any genuine solution, they have in many instances degenerated into parts of the underlying problem. In this sense, Brunner has always been walking in or near the footsteps of those who have given rise to the creation and evolution of the Club of Rome. And those who thus have crossed his path, who had benefited, or who may continue to draw benefit from his examples of parallel diplomacy add up to an impressive lot. On the legislative and the executive level alone, they include personalities from all over the world who have made their dent, with some listed below. (Those wishing to testify to their respect for this inspiring iconoclast and, in Franz Blankart's word, for this cosmopolit, may thus add their own name to this list.)
|Otto von Habsburg
Salar Hassan Al Hafeed
Hans A. Kopp
Jean-René H. Mermoud
Abdollah Ghaderi Mohamad Saïd
Harry-Ernst Wiler von Rickenbach