Le blog de Daniel Warner

  • Collective Responsibility and Our Moral Compass

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    It’s not easy to be further shocked these days when we are confronted with newspaper reports on: How up to 17 Christian missionaries, including five children, were kidnapped in the capital of Haiti while visiting an orphanage; the contents of a report estimating that 300,000 children in France were sexually abused within France’s Catholic church over the past 70 years; the ceremonies held in France commemorating the one year anniversary of the October 16, 2020, death of Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded by an Islamist fanatic because he had allegedly shown his students Charlie Hebdo's 2012 cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in an unflattering manner. I assume that each of these stories shocks. Each story is well outside legal limits and a traditional moral compass. 

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  • Anti-Vaxxers and Climate Change Deniers: Living in a Post-Fact World

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    How many people who are anti-vaxxers are also climate change deniers? Both anti-vaxxers and deniers raise serious questions about the role of science in our everyday lives. While facts confirm that people properly vaccinated have less chance of serious illness from Covid-19, and that scientific reports continue to confirm that we will be overwhelmed by climate change if we don’t change our behavior, there are still many people who continue to call into question vaccinations and climate dangers. 

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  • OO7: Licence to Kill?

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    Geneva is now flooded with advertisements for the latest James Bond movie, Mourir peut attendre (No Time to Die). On buses and on trains, on television and in the local newspapers, the 25th Bond film and the last starring Daniel Craig, has overwhelmed the city with its publicity. But how can one celebrate a hero such as Bond who has killed roughly 600 people throughout his cinematic career? From Geneva, the world’s center for the protection of human and humanitarian rights, one should ask the obvious question: Who gives James Bond a licence to kill? 

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  • Tone Deaf: Obama, Biden, AOC and the Swiss Purchase of F-35s

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    The dictionary defines tone deaf as “having or showing an obtuse insensitivity or lack of perception particularly in matters of public sentiment, opinion, or taste.” Four recent examples fit the definition perfectly: Obama’s 60th birthday party; President Biden’s jilting the French with a surprise submarine deal with Britain and Australia; AOC’s attending the posh Met Gala and the Swiss buying American fighter jets at a time of tension with their major trading partner, the European Union.

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  • Contradictory Cries for Freedom: Vaccinations and Abortions

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    The word “freedom” is being bantered about these days in different contexts. On the one hand, those opposed to mandatory vaccinations claim they have the freedom to be vaccinated or not. It’s their choice what to do with their bodies. The government cannot force them to be vaccinated; they are free to choose. On the other hand, many of the same people say that pregnant women cannot choose to have abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Their argument is that women’s choices should be limited by the government. In this case, the government can intervene; the women are not free to choose what to do with their bodies in the interest of the unborn.

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  • September 11, 2001 and True Heroes

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    The following is a translation of a speech I gave in French on September 11, 2021, at the Musée Departmental des Sapeurs-Pompiers de l’Ain in Gex on the occasion of the Exposition “Les Pompiers de New-York et les attentats du 11 septembre, 2001," which runs from June 5 to October 30.

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  • Past comments after September 11, 2001: What have we learned?

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    The United States and indeed most of the world is going through a process of shock, mourning and anger in reacting to the horrific events in New York and Washington. The anger includes calls for retaliation, and the elimination of terrorists and the governments that support them.

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  • Lessons from Afghanistan

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    Doesn’t everyone want to live in the United States? Don’t all tourists want to visit Disneyland? Don’t all students want to study at Harvard or Stanford? Don’t all actors want to star in Hollywood? Don’t all financiers want to work on Wall Street? Isn’t the American Dream universal? Well, maybe it’s not so in all of Afghanistan. 

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  • Taliban Vengeance and an Algerian Exception

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    Vengeance is in the air. The recent takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban has caused fear and consternation among Afghans that the newly victorious fundamentalists will carry out reprisals against those who worked with the Americans and their western allies during the past 20 years. The Taliban are known for their intolerance of girls and women; they have also proven to be brutal towards their opposition and allied collaborators. The Kabul airport is a chaotic scene of those trying to flee. 

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  • The End of the Endless War

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    The hasty withdrawal of American troops and citizens from Afghanistan marks the end of the longest war in U.S. history. For 20 years, U.S. presidents, both Republican and Democrat, with the help of NATO and allies, have had a continued presence there. The mission evolved from reprisals and security to a form of undeclared nation building. Thousands of soldiers have been killed in the conflict, more than $83 billion dollars spent on material for the Afghan army and more than $1 trillion dollars wasted. (The Afghan army had over 300,000 soldiers outfitted and trained by the United States; the Taliban roughly 75,000 fighters).

     

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  • An Olympian Decision

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    The best story coming out of the Olympics did not make many headlines We have been overwhelmed by reports of national heroes who won medals as well as human stories such as U.S. star gymnast Simone Biles’ mental health issues or the Belarussian sprinter's request for political asylum in Poland. Most prominently, nationalist competition has been highlighted in charts that show which countries won the most medals, focusing on U.S. versus China as the world’s dominant sports power. But those are not the best story.

     

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  • Robert Moses: An Equal Rights Militant in a Land of Unfulfilled Promises

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    Robert Parris Moses died last week. He was a champion of civil rights through voter registration in the American South in the 1960s and later through his Algebra Project.  He was also my teacher.

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  • Would Jean-Jacques Rousseau Get Vaccinated?

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    In the name of liberty and inherent individual rights, many people are refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Demonstrators demonize political leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron who have the audacity to impose obligatory vaccinations. Government interference in citizens’ health choices is equated with fascism; anti-vax websites flourish, all prioritizing the right of the individual to choose versus society’s need for herd immunity. More than 80 million American adults are not vaccinated. 

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  • Letting Go: How Do Idols Say Good-Bye?

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    What can one say about a tennis player at the end of his career who loses to an inferior player on the sport’s biggest stage? Are you thinking of Roger Federer and his quarter-final loss to Hubert Hurkacz at this year’s Wimbledon? Are you still shocked at Roger’s losing in straight sets at his favorite tournament with a bagel (6-0) in the third set?

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  • The Joy of Sports

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    As the pandemic appears to be loosening and summer vacations approach, the joy of sports is essential to our new-found liberation.

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  • Biden’s European Tour: “The United States is Back” and the Limits of Nostalgia

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    Joe Biden opened his first foreign trip as president by announcing that the “United States is back.” What the president didn’t clarify was back where. The obvious answer is that the United States is returning to working with its allies. 

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  • “The United States is Back” and the Limits of Nostalgia

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    The Biden-Putin upcoming summit in Geneva is being compared to the ground breaking 1985 meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev. The circumstances surrounding the summits are very different. 2021 is not 1985. While there are tensions between the United States and Russia, we are not in the midst of a Cold War. The United States and Russia are important geopolitical players, but China is not at the table, nor are billionaires Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg or others whose wealth cannot be excluded in serious global negotiations. 

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  • Biden-Putin Summit and Swiss Hotel Diplomacy

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    International Geneva is abuzz with the announcement of a Biden-Putin summit during Joe Biden’s first trip outside the United States as president. After meetings of the G-7 in Cornwall, and NATO and the European Union in Brussels, Biden will come to the City of Calvin in mid- June to meet with the Russian president. The Geneva excitement harkens to memories of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in 1985, which is considered a major step in the end of the Cold War. (Hopefully, it will not harken to the Hillary Clinton-Lavrov reset button failure in Geneva in 2009.) It also is a major victory for Geneva’s reputation as the Rome of multilateralism and Switzerland’s historic neutrality.

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  • Israel-Palestine and the Limits of Strategic Ambiguity

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    The United States has blocked a United Nations Security Council statement on the continuing violence. According to The Times of Israel, “the draft statement urged Israel to prevent the looming evictions of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and called for ‘restraint’ and respect for ‘the historic status quo at the holy sites,’ diplomats involved in the meeting confirmed. The original statement also urged both sides to act in order to de-escalate the situation, they said." The United States was the only member of the Security Council to block the statement. Any hope of a radical change from the Trumpian all-in backing of Israel is disappearing. 

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  • Is Joe Biden Schizophrenic?

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    Fully cognizant of the unofficial Goldwater Rule in the U.S. that “it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures whom they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements,” I do find Joe Biden’s early administration to be schizophrenic.

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  • No Cure for Pandemic Fatigue

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    Spring is in the air. Bars and restaurants are open for business on terraces throughout Switzerland. Near the local university, students are casually sipping beers outside, no longer cloistered in their small dormitory rooms. Statistically, hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 have gone down in Switzerland but people continue to wear masks in designated areas. So the euphoria of warmer weather and approaching summer vacations have not totally allowed us to forget the pandemic. But for how long? 

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  • Humpty Trumpty Fell off a Wall: Some Thoughts on Laughter and Humor

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    The then Federal Counsellor Johann Schneider-Ammann’s 2016 speech recommending laughter as a way to deal with illness is mostly remembered for his dour presentation. The straight-faced Swiss German didn’t crack a smile while extolling humor. Numerous parodies of the laconic recitation went viral, so much so that the initial message was forgotten. The importance of the role of humor was overwhelmed by the deadpan delivery of the messenger. 

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  • Will the Swiss and the EU Get to Yes?

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    The Swiss Federal Council and the Swiss diplomatic community have been all aflutter about who would go to Brussels to negotiate with the European Commission. While it was obvious from the protocol perspective that the rotating Swiss president, Guy Parmelin would go, the question was who would accompany him. Would Ignazio Cassis, the foreign minister, go along? If not, how would Parmelin, a farmer with little international experience, be able to negotiate an institutional framework agreement between Switzerland and the EU that has been blocked for years.

    The art of negotiation, and it is an art, has become a regularly studied academic and diplomatic subject since Roger Fisher and William Ury’s set off a cottage industry with their 1981 best seller Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. (It became a perennial best-seller and is now in its third edition) Individuals, companies and nations have all signed on to the Harvard Negotiation Project and its spinoffs to try to learn how to get to yes. 

    But the negotiation between two sides assumes that the negotiators have already been chosen. The actors negotiating have to have the authority to make decisions that will be binding after any agreement is reached. After all, what is the point of negotiating if the agreement reached cannot be implemented by one or both sides? Each negotiator must have the necessary legitimacy for his/her side for an agreement to hold.

    In Switzerland, pre-negotiation among the Federal Council determined who would go to Brussels. (Cassis will not.) But the very fact that there was a discussion indicates that there was less than unanimity among the Federal Counsellors about who would go, an indication of a lack of agreement on the position of the Swiss Government. Not simple, therefore, for Europeans to understand the Swiss position if among the Swiss authorities they hesitate in deciding who will go to Brussels to meet with Ms. von der Leyen.

    To add to the confusion: Who is Switzerland negotiating with? An example of pre-negotiation problems is the protocol mishap about the chair for the European Commission’s head in the recent meeting with the Turkish President Erdogan. Was the Commission’s head less important than the European Council’s President Charles Michel? Who was Erdogan negotiating with? If the Europeans couldn’t get their chain of command straight, how were the Turks to negotiate seriously with them? The “Sofagate” scandal was certainly not an impressive example of European unity or respect for women’s rights.

    The question of legitimacy and authority is the basis of all negotiations. The question of who you are is the fundamental fact that must be understood before any negotiation can take place. What is the point of negotiating with someone who has no authority? 

    The Swiss federal system has many attractions. But, in certain situations such as the negotiations with the European Union or even the question of who is in charge of the pandemic emergency, the lack of clear authority hampers decision-making. A federal democracy has its obvious advantages as well as disadvantages. This is not a call for dictators or autocratic rule. No one questions President Erdogan’s authority, but people should not forget his violations of human rights. Rather, it is a recognition that pre-negotiations about positions of power can show potential weaknesses in later negotiations. 

    If the Swiss and Europeans are to have fruitful negotiations to get to yes on an institutional framework agreement, both sides must be clear about the identity of the other side. So just as Switzerland’s federal system hinders clear lines of authority, the EU’s devolution of power also raises questions. The April 23 Brussels meeting should clarify lines of authority, a pre-condition to reaching any meaningful agreement. 80% of Switzerland’s trade is with EU member countries. So getting to yes is a Swiss imperative, not matter how confused the pre-negotiations have been.

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  • Buy Local, and Banks?

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    During the pandemic we have been encouraged to buy local in solidarity with those struggling. Whether with local farmers, local restaurants via takeout or other local businesses, helping those closest to us in difficult times makes a great deal of sense. But are there limits to that feeling of solidarity? Several recent headlines should call into question whether we should continue to favor the local. If we have choices, should we continue with businesses that go against the law and our values? 

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  • Spring, Sunshine and the Call to Reality

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    I received a photo from a friend welcoming the month of April. Indeed, there is much to be thankful for at the end of March and the beginning of April. March 19, 20 or 21 - depending on the year - is the official beginning of spring. It is the moment when the hours of sunshine are equal to the time of darkness, the vernal equinox, and the start of more daylight. This year the weather at the end of March and the beginning of April in Geneva has been fabulous. Longer sunlight and gorgeous weather have made this year’s end of March a welcome relief from Geneva’s cold, foggy winter. Welcome April!

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