Category: musings

The Long Road to Election 2016

I met Kentucky Senator Rand Paul at his campaign event in Seattle this earlier today. The first thing I’d note was that he seemed really tired, not that it had any diminishing effect on his speech, but it’s clear that running for president isn’t for the faint of heart. But then again, neither is occupying the highest office of the land, so I consider this a fair test.

Rand Paul (R-KY) appealed to me initially early last year with what appeared to be an unparalleled authenticity and devotion to the Constitution, and a logical message on pragmatic limited government that had the potential for broad appeal. He may have had it easier since he was one of the first to announce his candidacy because as we all know now, the primary season that was about to unfold was anything but predictable.

In trying to appeal to the conservative base that was turning toward Trump, Paul started airing more ridiculous ads–clearly designed to appeal to the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus that brought him to the Senate to begin with (and probably driving away everyone else). These efforts did not help his poll numbers and by the fall, he had fallen to the bottom of a too-big poll. At the same time, he started to become more visibly annoyed.

Videos like this, while understandable given the state of the race, cast him as both amateurish and a sore loser:

I suppose with the first primaries/caucuses yet to come, he may still have a shot at a reset of his image, but my guess is that he just doesn’t have the right appeal given the mood of the (Republican primary) voters right now.

Which is too bad, because he was the one leading Republican candidate who appeared to really have his message together in the beginning. I suppose that goes to show how the American political process is anything but predictable.

Maybe in 2024, Rand.

Trust, Diplomacy, and Iran

Early in the morning, news trickled in that an agreement was reached in the extended P5+1 negotiations with Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program. I’m no expert on political science, but I’ve long had a penchant for following the evolving world order and the recent climax of this diplomatic effort on Iran has been particularly intriguing.

The details of the full accord haven’t been released yet, but basic information suggests that with the sunset date of the major provision of the deal, the orientation of the deal is clear: the hope is to have Iran, become a normalized sovereign state in international relations, entrusted to uphold the principles of nuclear non-proliferation, like everyone else. Current moderate leadership of Iran seems to be embracing that reality, and suggesting that they can live with it. This is an encouraging sign, hopefully, that trust can be earned. I also find it highly encouraging that the Iranian leadership is publicly giving overtures of peace and reconciliation, and flat out denying that WMDs are an objective (so now we can point to Twitter and say he said it in writing):

Overall, this seems to be a win for the international order and NPT, while extending Iran a gesture of good faith toward its acceptance of nuclear non-proliferation and eventual normalization of diplomatic relations with the world community. Of course, the predictable opponents of the deal have condemned the agreement, and some have gone out of their way to declare their intent to derail it, but overall, the outcome, after years of negotiations is quite encouraging, at least when you compare the alternative that the more hawkish have been proposing for years. It’s worth remembering how far we’ve come since 2013 when the negotiations began.

Naturally, those favoring permanent zero-sum international politics and the hawkish side of the regional players are raising hell about the terms of such a deal. Indeed, it remains to be seen if the conditions improve where verification and trust can be established within the time frame allotted, but I certainly hope so, because the alternative is another generation of distrust, tension, and possibly conflict, which would be a huge waste of human capital. I hold the powers that be responsible for a holding a positive endgame and good faith effort to achieve it.

Each party’s leadership returned home with their positive take on the news, despite existing domestic opposition. Even if there is risk, the outlook of most parties is positive and that I take as encouraging. The disappointment in the outcome from the Israeli side is evident, though somewhat understandable, given Iran’s involvement in other issues in the region. Still, separating the nuclear issue from the sum of a nations foreign policy allows at least progress on this issue.

The world order remains in a state of general peace, with major powers all engaged in cooperative (even if reluctant) efforts at major crises. In this regard, the UN is made a key semi-non-partisan structure. This agreement sows the seeds for another once-adversary of the US to become another player of the international community. The 21st century world order continues to take form. Germany’s rise as a key diplomatic bridge between the US-UK-FR block and the RU-CN is indicative of how diplomacy and statecraft remain key components of international relations. Kudos to Ms. Merkel, however contentions she may be. Kudos to all players involved, however imperfect, an agreement of this scope is a job well done.

Now, it’s up to the nations’ leadership to carry that forward with good intentions.