Lamentations over “Realpolitik” – An Obituary of Sorts

I have been reading many of the obituaries of Henry Kissinger in the past few days. So far, only two have been a positive one, while the others (either by the editorial board or columnists or invited authors in FT, Politico, Washington Post, NYT, Guardian, Huff Post, New Yorker, Atlantic) have been mostly negative. Because of the way that his life affected my own career path, I am personally inspired to chime in to the hoopla. Here are my thoughts about why I do not align with the positives. Continue reading “Lamentations over “Realpolitik” – An Obituary of Sorts”

Slim Democratic Majorities in Virginia

The outcome of the state legislative elections in Virginia, held on Tuesday, 6 November 2023, produced narrow majorities for the Democrats in both houses of the General Assembly. In contrast to the alarming polarization and the populist takeover of one of the major political parties at the national level, this is an encouraging example of democracy in action. I include this chronicling of Virginia’s politics from afar in this series on “Democracy under Threat” with a bit of optimism while also recognizing the worrisome undercurrents that are evident even in Virginia. Continue reading “Slim Democratic Majorities in Virginia”

In the Final Days of the Virginia Elections

In these last few days before Election Day in Virginia (Tuesday, November 7th), I have the impression that democracy is alive and well in this part of the world. One can lament the enormous and unrestricted amount of money that has gone into the 140 state legislative races for the Virginia General Assembly, as well as the barrage of negative advertising by or on behalf of many of the candidates, especially in the hotly contested districts. But it is a truly competitive election, thanks to the involvement of the media and civil society groups and academic commentators in publicizing where all that money is coming from and how the candidates are positioning themselves on the issues. I am impressed. Continue reading “In the Final Days of the Virginia Elections”

Obituaries 2022

I have taken to writing these end-of-year obituaries of famous people who had a personal effect on me in my professional career. Last year, there were several – it was a pretty bad year all around. This year of 2022 was less traumatic – although I did learn about a few less-than-famous ones who did have quite an influence on me – a couple of law professors that were instrumental in my belated study of the law, for example.  And at least one close friend who remained loyal through thick and thin. Culturally speaking, too, there were many sad losses, mostly in the entertainment and news industries but also sports.  And, of course, it has been a horrible year as far as the renegade Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is concerned. But I will stick to my routine here of only reflecting on famous people who actually died in 2022 and with whom I had professional interactions. There are only two that I would mention this year – Madeleine Albright and Orrin Hatch. Continue reading “Obituaries 2022”

Happy New Year 2023

As we transition from one year to the next, please accept my  best wishes for a happy, healthy and fulfilling new year.  I am inspired by the holiday greetings from friends and family that are always welcome this time of year.  And I am inspired by the many reflections on the past and resolutions for the future that are  also a part of this end-of-year ritual.  This year, I find myself to be especially inspired to reflect on the past year for the signs of hope for a better world and thereby to set my personal agenda for 2023 by identifying where my actions in the year ahead can make a difference. Continue reading “Happy New Year 2023”

Step by Step toward Resilience: A Commentary on Climate Change

In my ongoing campaign for multi-stakeholder collaboration, I have had a strong reaction to the film “Don’t Look Up” and the media attention it has attracted. I understand why Leonardo di Caprio’s well-known activism regarding climate change makes it an obvious comparison to the apparent failure of the Glasgow Summit on Climate Change (COP 26) to avoid the looming catastrophe of global warming. But it inspires me to share my somewhat contrary views about climate change.  I do agree that climate change is happening and that much more needs to be done to avoid a catastrophe. But I also believe that the political will to do more depends on our building popular support for action through multistakeholder collaboration. Here is my commentary on what this means for us. Continue reading “Step by Step toward Resilience: A Commentary on Climate Change”

Obituaries 2021

What is most striking, as we end this dreadful year of 2021, is the transitional nature of things but also the appallingly non-transformational nature of things. I am struck by the passing of a number of transitional  figures who made their mark on current versions of history and, what is more important to me, in this particular commentary, is that they made a mark on me personally.  Here, in no particular order, I reflect on the impact of Vernon Jordan, Walter Mondale, Colin Powell, Bob Dole, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka, John Ruggie and Desmond Tutu. Quite a collection! Only one of them, as far as I know, was  a loss attributable to the coronavirus itself (Colin Powell), but their losses have simply added to making this a year of sadness and melancholy for me. Continue reading “Obituaries 2021”

Subterranean Machinations and Franco-American Relations

 

Living through the latest “bump in the road” in Franco-American relations has stirred me to venture into writing a commentary with a different twist than has been my usual pattern. I don’t mean to ignore my ongoing preoccupation with advocating vaccine equity. – nor my longer lasting and well established preoccupation in support of multi-stakeholder collaboration.  In the context of this latest “bump”, however, the commentary has to start with some wishful thinking about broader geopolitical issues like military alliances or trade agreements or peace treaties – issues that are less conducive to a multi-stakeholder approach. That is to say, they are more in the realm of traditional inter-governmental relations in the control of national governments, whether the policy deliberations are conducted multilaterally or unilaterally. And thus, we start here, not so coincidentally, with the commemoration of a military battle and segue from that to a commentary on the strategic positioning of major countries – nation-states, governments and all that – before it gets back to vaccine equity or multi-stakeholderism. Bear with me on this journey in search of renewed hope for these two preoccupations of mine. Continue reading “Subterranean Machinations and Franco-American Relations”

Shared Reflections on Dr. Ngozi’s Third Way and the Opportunities for a New Direction at the WTO

Congratulations once again to Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria for her appointment as the WTO’s 7th Director-General of the World Trade Organization. How thrilling it was a couple of weeks ago to know that the barriers to her appointment had come down. In anticipation of the beginning of her tenure on the first of March, I would like to focus here on one of the reasons her leadership of the WTO is so important – her clear grasp of the pandemic crisis and of what the WTO can do to make a significant difference in fighting its global consequences. I am convinced that the WTO is an ideal forum to mobilize a global response to shift the world away from the vaccine nationalism that has proven so difficult to resist. This may not be the only  issue on a very full agenda of WTO reform challenges, but it is excellent timing for a person with Dr. Ngozi’s qualifications to arrive on the scene with this as the most immediate crisis for her to manage. Continue reading “Shared Reflections on Dr. Ngozi’s Third Way and the Opportunities for a New Direction at the WTO”

Great News for the WTO – and for the Multilateralism of Today

Good news keeps coming on the US return to multilateralism: The selection of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization has finally been cleared for official approval by the WTO General Council (which is now scheduled for 15 February 2021). Just a week ago, two different but coordinated announcements were issued. One came from the Korean government announcing the withdrawal of their candidate, Yoo Myung-hee; the other came from the Biden administration announcing that the US would join the rest of the consensus of the WTO members in support of the Nigerian candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. This was a truly diplomatic way to clear the way for the one without embarrassing the other.

I am personally pleased to congratulate Ms. Okonjo-Iweala on her impending success, and I congratulate Ms. Yoo Myung-hee and the other candidates for the gracious manner in which they welcomed the outcome. What a contrast to the domestic scene in the US!  Above and beyond this contrast, however, I would like to focus this note more broadly on what Ms. Okonjo-Iweala’s leadership means for the WTO – and for the changing world of multilateralism. Continue reading “Great News for the WTO – and for the Multilateralism of Today”