Article of the Day: The Boeing 747 is heading for retirement

The Boeing 747 is heading for retirement

I love airplanes. I don’t think that’s a very big secret, so although some major events are unfolding, I wanted to share this article with you.

There is no airplane more iconic than the 747 (despite my deep love for the A380, this is a fact I must admit). With it’s impending removal from service, this article does a great job of underlining the romance and sheer enjoyment of flight and flying. I think it does so in a way that is pretty unique and difficult to find elsewhere. Enjoy!

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Article of the Day: Jean-Marie Le Pen, Co-Founder of National Front, Is Ousted From French Far-Right Party

Jean-Marie Le Pen, Co-Founder of National Front, Is Ousted From French Far-Right Party

Today was a FASCINATING day in international affairs. Not only did Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resign to call snap elections, but longtime French political blowhard (and also incidentally the founder and former leader of the National Front) was thrown out of the very party he founded – and by his daughter no less!

Frankly, this saga has been brewing for months and I don’t think this outcome is particularly astonishing. If anything, the most shocking part of this final limogeage is that it cemented Marine Le Pen’s portrait as a callous, ruthlessly ambitious politician.

Le Pen daughter’s desire to clean up her party is well known and tackling her father head on was certainly an effective way to highlight the differences of opinions between the two, particularly on controversial topics like race and religion. However, the way she went about it with public insults and ultimately firing her own father was indicative of a kind of arrogance that many will certainly find off putting. If anything, the fact that this public spat has been dragged out nearly 6 months has begun to irritate many in the French public.

Marine may think that she won the war, but at what cost? Her political credibility is likely hit, now it’s up to her and her considerable communication talent to mend the issue and demonstrate what the “new FN” will be under her leadership.

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Article of the Day: These 8 Democrats Are AIPAC’s Best Chances of Killing the Iran Deal

These 8 Democrats Are AIPAC’s Best Chances of Killing the Iran Deal

The Iran deal is quickly shaping up to be the foreign policy issue of 2015. The uproar this has caused in Washington is very interesting, particularly among democrats. The pull of AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups is evidently strong on both sides of the isle. So much so that Chuck Schumer has risked his bid for majority leader by bucking the White House on this issue.

I think this list does a good job of delineating the various players that could derail the deal and what their intentions are. I am firm in my belief that this is the not only a good deal, but a necessary deal – yet many in Washington are viscerally opposed to even the thought of a deal. Going forward, I believe that those opposing this deal – both in and out of congress – need to articulate what alternatives there are to the deal.

If anything, I think the biggest opponents to this deal are hardliners in Iran. Rejecting this deal would simply embolden them and lead to additional provocations. What’s more, the willingness of American partners to impose more sanctions – or even maintain the current ones – is uncertain at best.

I hope the Senators mentioned in this article will consider the alternatives (or lack thereof) when they make their decisions. This may very well turn out to be one of the most consequential votes of their careers. Regardless of how they choose to vote, we can only hope it is done on the merits of the deal and not based on the pressure of outside groups from either side!

 

 

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Article of the Day: The cost of Pakistan’s war on terrorism

The cost of Pakistan’s war on terrorism

Yesterday’s post focused on the death of an eminent figure in the fight against terrorism in Pakistan. While I certainly stand by my commentary from yesterday, an article in the Financial Times today did give me pause. In his post, acclaimed Pakistani expert Ahmed Rashid details the draconian policies that the government of Pakistan has undertaken to stem the rise of extremism. From arbitrary arrests, to the restoration of capital punishment, the article reads more like a handbook for dictatorship rather than the policies of a democratic state.

Yet are we really so quick to cast the first stone? America certainly has a tenuous record with human rights abuses in the ill-defined “war on terror.” Similarly, law’s passed after the Charlie Hebdo massacres in France contain very serious potentials for abuse. Given the scope of the terrorism problem in Pakistan, can the government really be blamed for undertaking the policies necessary to keep their people safe?

Perhaps it is not that clear cut. Indeed I think the true answer lies somewhere in between. While the idealist in me would love to call for judicial reform in Pakistan to enable the fair and free trials of terror suspects, the reality is such that it is unfeasible. Meanwhile, terrorists do not apply the same discernment when choosing their victims.

I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to this question. While, in principal, I think sacrificing fundamental freedoms to for security is wrong, the magnitude of the terrorist problem in Pakistan is so severe that draconian measures could make sense. If there were bombings everyday on the streets of Paris, London, Berlin, or New York, there is no doubt that policy makers would take action.

In the final analysis, I think this article is a good way to spark reflection on this important philosophical question. Maybe this question should be properly considered in a longer post 😉 … stay tuned!

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Article of the day: Punjab home minister Shuja Khanzada killed in terror attack

Punjab home minister Shuja Khanzada killed in terror attack

Today’s article is a rather sad one, and frankly it don’t think it needs much by way of introduction. Suffice to say that this kind of attack underscores the kinds of problems Pakistan still faces with respect to extremism and terrorism. Honorable men like Shuja Khanzada, who dedicated a great part of their life to stemming the flow of ignorance and hatred, have paid a high price for their actions.

I am confident Pakistan is on the right track, but events such as these just go to underscore how much work there still is to do. As an outsider, it is obviously much easier to critique than to offer solutions. That’s why I call upon all friends of Pakistan, particularly among the more advanced countries, to continue to offer their support in the fight against terrorism and recognize that a stable and prosperous Pakistan is integral to any stability in the Indian subcontinent. The more western powers neglect Pakistan, the more likely it is to turn toward other sources of assistance, leaving it’s current allies (and their interests) far behind.

My most heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of Shuja Khanzada.

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Article of the Day: Member states must back their jointly chosen EU leaders

Member states must back their jointly chosen EU leaders

When it comes to elegance in diplomacy, former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski is perhaps not the best person to turn to. Many people whom I’ve spoken with in Washington recall their interactions with the ebullient former minister as wrought with arrogance and contempt. While this sentiment might be pervasive among foreign policy elites, there is no denying that Sikorski has talent and instincts: particularly when it comes to Europe.

The point that he makes in this article is not only valid, but one that I agree with wholeheartedly: European nations need to let the EU do its job! When everyone tried to stick their finger in the pot, we end up with some disgusting concoction hardly even resembling the original recipe we set out to build together.

Ultimately, the biggest sticking point may be that foreign policy is central to the legacies of many heads or state or government within the EU member nations. Indeed, while this article draws on the pressure Nicolas Sarkozy was able to exert on Russia as rotating President of the European Council, the ultimate outcome was a huge personal victory for Sarkozy which, to this day, is still used as a leadership bonafide. Contrastingly, when an EU official scores a major foreign policy win, who is there to congratulate them? While Brussels might be applauding the collective work of High Representatives Mogherini and Ashton on the Iran nuclear deal, who beyond these elite circles are even able to recognize these leaders, much less praise their accomplishments?

The difficulty, as far as I see it, is not merely that European leaders are not leading, but also that they are not compelled to translate their victories to the European public. As is the case in European capitals, the Foreign ministers who helped broker the Iran deal (for example) are on a public affairs victory lap. Touting these huge, symbolic wins, is likely to translate into political gain. Yet for European leaders, even the likes of Mr. Juncker, the lack of democratic accountability not only minimizes these victories, but also removes the need for spinning and PR. While some may see this as a good thing, I believe that accountability will also lead to an electorate wanting more out of Europe. I, for one, am not happy settling for a European Parliament that focuses on mundane things like fishing qutoas.

I therefore not only agree with Sikorski’s point, but I would like to take it one step further: what Europe needs is not only to let it’s designated leaders lead on foreign policy, but also to make their actions accountable to the people. It’s tough to tell politicians to scene control to what amounts to glorified Bureaucrats in brussels. I believe that more democracy is not only the solution to this problem, but is also the solution to many other problems currently plaguing the EU!

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Article of the Day: Alain de Botton on why we travel

Alain de Botton on why we travel

This article really resonated with me. Travel is such a unique experience. For me personally, it helps translate my passion for foreign cultures with the exhausting yet exhilarating experience of being in a completely unfamiliar place. Ultimately, I think the multi-sensory experience inherent to foreign travel is what makes it so amazing.

This article raises that point in an interesting way. Do we travel for a reason? I feel like the entire concept of “travel” has been hyper glamorized of late. But do the all-inclusive packages where you essentially sit in a resort with the same folks you see day in and day out really count? Perhaps if your specific goal is to experience comfort in a different scenery.

For me, travel is something different, perhaps something deeper. I don’t presume to be alone in this sentiment. In fact, I think the idea that travel is something highly personal – a literal voyage of personal discovery – is very in vogue at the moment. For that reason, maybe a form of travel that I do equate with having personal meaning holds just as much value to someone else as exploration does to me. Therein lies a fundamental beauty of travel that I think many of us (the author of this piece included) are all too fast to dismiss!

Still, why do we travel? I don’t think this article answers it fully – perhaps it doesn’t even scratch the surface. But I do think it takes an interesting lens through which to judge our decisions. Maybe, as the article states, we should orient our travel to help answer or address fundamental questions. In many ways, I think we all do: from the resort traveler to the errant backpacker. As long as we are being fulfilled in our choices, travel remains one of the most powerful ways to open ourselves to the richness of ideas present in our world. Perhaps that is truly where the beauty and uniqueness of travel lies!

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Article of the Day: Give Bibi The Nobel Peace Prize

Give Bibi the Nobel Peace Prize

The first thing I learned as a student of international affairs was that diplomacy is inherently a two sided affair. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly disagrees with this statement. This takes a very interesting stance on the very public differences between Netanyahu and the American administration but actually makes the point that Netanyahu’s attitude only serves to increase the support for the deal in the United States and Iran! This fresh and lighthearted take is certainly worth reading!

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Article of the Day: New World of Work: Outsiders battle in France’s dual jobs market

New World of Work: Outsiders battle in France’s dual jobs market

 

France has a job problem. The difficulty is, the problem doesn’t stem from a lack of demand for jobs (nor indeed a lack of supply) but rather a rigid, inflexible labor market that deters potential employers from hiring the people they need. I think this article does a great job of delineating the kinds of issues present in French society. The creation of these two “classes” of workers – those on short term contracts and those with open-ended, long-term contracts – is not only holding back potential economic growth and stifling competitiveness, it is also undermining the access of short-term employees to many social protections.

For many in France, the argument against liberalizing (read: modernizing) the labor market stems from the fact that it would severely undercut the social protections and services that France has built into its social contract. While this may be true (to an extent) without employment, many of these programs are unsustainable. For France to truly address its ballooning unemployment while maintaining elements of its generous social programs, increased flexibility in the labor market is vital. While this may cause issues in the short term, the ability for underserved populations (particularly the young) will boost french competitiveness and growth. In short, the potential gains far outweigh the initial displeasure voiced by an active minority in the French society.

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Article of the Day: The Double Sting – A Power Struggle Between Russia’s Rival Security Agencies

The Double Sting – A Power Struggle Between Russia’s Rival Security Agencies

Russia is fascinating. It has an impressive military, an disproportionately large role in international affairs, and a President who solicits either intense love or vitriolic hate. Yet, despite all the advantages of the country, Russia is run – and for all intents and purposes operated – like a Mafia. A tight knit group of leaders decide who is in favor and who is not and everyone else venerates this golden calf.

Civilization has moved past the idea that certain people were ordained by a deity to lead only replaced it with the same folks, only this time appointed by the masters of the purse string. Things may perhaps change, but this appears to be a repackaging of the same ideas…

This article highlights the exact type of corruption and oligarchic fiat that entraps Russia. It’s a pretty sad fact that this article reads like a spy thriller but ultimately details very real facts. I think rivalries inside any government are natural, but the kind of rivalry explained here is WAY overboard and points precisely to the kind of problem brought about by an unchecked and overzealous system of governance lead by what amounts to a possy. Regardless, this captivating article is certainly worth the read!

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