On Sunday morning in Geneva, representatives of Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) agreed an interim agreement tailored to ensure the peaceful application of Iran’s nuclear programme. The agreement, a first step towards a more comprehensive deal in six months, states that Iran will freeze certain enrichment programmes, dilute stocks of uranium, and submit to daily inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In return they will receive access to certain frozen overseas accounts, and some sanctions will be relaxed – a deal worth about $7 billion to Iran.
There is a scene in the third season of AMC’s Breaking Bad in which Walter White, sleep-deprived and on a large dose of sleeping pills, muses on the thought that he has lived too long. The show, for the few still unaware, centres on a high school chemistry teacher who turns to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine when he is diagnosed with cancer, slowly becoming a feared and ruthless drug lord in the process. In the episode in question, he laments that he had missed his ‘perfect moment’ to succumb to his cancer – a point where he had made enough money to take care of his family without giving up too much of himself.
The United States has long been divided by a fundamental difference of opinion. This is a conflict between those who evaluate ‘American’ or ‘anti-American’ acts based on how they affect American interests, and those who evaluate them on how they reflect American values, as set out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defence Initiative, a new missile defence system. Nicknamed ‘Star Wars’, the programme would have created a near impenetrable missile shield, protecting the US from Soviet bombs and keeping Americans safe. The problem with this ostensibly defensive programme is what it means offensively, namely that it removes the element of deterrence. If the United States has no reason to fear retaliation, why not strike first? Three decades on, we are witnessing the same principle on a smaller scale with the Stand Your Ground law, removing the fear of consequences from the act of murder. This law, versions of which can be found in more than thirty states, was George Zimmerman’s missile shield. It is why he walks free after admitting killing a teenager.
On the face of it, not much changed last night. After a campaign in which an estimated $2 billion was spent, the White House, Senate and House of Representatives are all in the same hands as they were when polls opened. But in a greater sense, last night signalled a significant shift in the United States; an important election, possibly even on par with Barack Obama’s monumental victory in 2008.
With the election today, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of analysis, statistics and predictions coming from all sides. Spend any amount of time on Twitter, Facebook or a news site and you will hear everything ranging from an Obama landslide to a comfortable Romney win, by way of an electoral college tie. Even the most informed observers of the election appear to put forward wildly different opinions on how today will go, as pollsters contradict each other’s numbers, pundits’ predictions clash and campaigns accuse polling data of being ideological and ‘skewed’. Hopefully this post will go some way towards clearing up some confusion and give non-Americans in particular a better idea of what to expect over the next twenty-four hours.