Lessons Learned: The Articles of Confederation

A new installment of “Lessons Learned” is now out. This week I discuss the Articles of Confederation, America’s first constitution. It entered into effect on March 1, 1781, after Maryland became the thirteenth and final colony to ratify it. In the video I examine the Articles’ weaknesses and explore what lessons they have for understanding international relations today. Here’s a question to consider in light of the fact that the founders gave up on the Articles after only six years: What makes for a durable and effective constitution? I encourage you to weigh in with your answer in the comments section below.

I hope you enjoy the video.

Is Obama Pursuing Stealth Regime Change in Libya?

President Obama sent mixed signals in his address to the nation last night. On the one hand, he went out of his way to portray Operation Odyssey Dawn as a humanitarian mission. He insisted that “our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives” and that while we seek Qaddafi’s ouster we are pursuing that goal “though non-military means.”

Yet Obama seemed to be saying the opposite when he described the specifics of Operation Odyssey Dawn in his speech. He noted that “we hit Gadhafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out” and that “our coalition will keep the pressure on Gadhafi’s remaining forces.” These steps sound more like an effort to use U.S. and allied air power to help Libyan rebels drive Qaddafi from power. They certainly go well beyond what is needed to protect Libyan civilians from imminent attack.

So which is it?

Read the full post at The Water’s Edge.

President Obama sent mixed signals in his address to the nation last night. On the one hand, he went out of his way to portray Operation Odyssey Dawn as a humanitarian mission. He insisted that “our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives” and that while we seek Qaddafi’s ouster we are pursuing that goal “though non-military means.”

Yet Obama seemed to be saying the opposite when he described the specifics of Operation Odyssey Dawn in his speech. He noted that “we hit Gadhafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out” and that “our coalition will keep the pressure on Gadhafi’s remaining forces.” These steps sound more like an effort to use U.S. and allied air power to help Libyan rebels drive Qaddafi from power. They certainly go well beyond what is needed to protect Libyan civilians from imminent attack.

So which is it?

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press just released a new poll on what Americans think about Operation Odyssey Dawn. The Pew results look a lot like Gallup’s results last week. A plurality of Americans (47 percent) think that President Obama made the “right decision” and a minority (36 percent) think he made the “wrong decision.” Republicans are slightly more supportive than Democrats (54 percent for versus 49 percent), and Independents (44 percent for) are the least supportive.
The Pew results suggest that the Obama administration’s efforts to convey a clear sense of purpose on Libya haven’t worked:

The public does not think that the U.S. and its allies have a clear goal in taking military action in Libya. Just 39% say the U.S. and its allies have a clear goal, while 50% say they do not.

The public also doubts President Obama’s assurance that U.S. involvement in Libya will be measured in “days and not weeks:”

Most Americans see a fairly lengthy involvement for the United States in the Libyan operation. Six-in-ten (60%) think the U.S. involvement in military action in Libya will last for some time; just 33% expect that it will be over pretty quickly.

Expect the president to devote a good portion of his speech tonight to addressing both concerns.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press just released a new poll on what Americans think about Operation Odyssey Dawn. The Pew results look a lot like Gallup’s results last week. A plurality of Americans (47 percent) think that President Obama made the “right decision” and a minority (36 percent) think he made the “wrong decision.” Republicans are slightly more supportive than Democrats (54 percent for versus 49 percent), and Independents (44 percent for) are the least supportive.

The Pew results suggest that the Obama administration’s efforts to convey a clear sense of purpose on Libya haven’t worked:

The public does not think that the U.S. and its allies have a clear goal in taking military action in Libya. Just 39% say the U.S. and its allies have a clear goal, while 50% say they do not.

The public also doubts President Obama’s assurance that U.S. involvement in Libya will be measured in “days and not weeks:”

Most Americans see a fairly lengthy involvement for the United States in the Libyan operation. Six-in-ten (60%) think the U.S. involvement in military action in Libya will last for some time; just 33% expect that it will be over pretty quickly.

Expect the president to devote a good portion of his speech tonight to addressing both concerns.

The World Next Week: A No-Fly Zone for Libya?

The podcast for The World Next Week is up. Bob McMahon and I talked about the upcoming G8 foreign ministers meeting in Paris, where the Libyan crisis will top the agenda; intensified violence in Cote d’Ivoire; the continued drama over the federal budget as the two-week stopgap spending bill will soon expire; and the new Irish prime minister’s work to solve Ireland’s fiscal woes.

The highlights:

  • France and Great Britain are proposing to impose a “no-fly zone” over Libya, but Russia’s vow to veto the idea at the UN Security Council may kill the proposal before it gets off the ground.
  • President Obama has condemned the increasing bloodshed in Cote d’Ivoire as “abhorrent,” but there are no signs that the United States or anyone else intends to intervene to stop the violence.
  • Democrats and Republicans continue to bicker over the budget, but neither side looks eager to force a government shutdown—at least not yet.
  • Enda Kenny, Ireland’s new Taoiseach (or prime minister), has his hands full trying to recapture the glory of Ireland’s days as a “Celtic Tiger.”

To download this podcast, right-click this link.

 
Libyan protesters in Tobruk celebrate after the UN Security Council passes a resolution authorizing a “no-fly” zone and military attacks on Muammar Qaddafi’s forces. (Suhaib Salem/courtesy Reuters)

Above the Fold. Last week’s Friday File argued that President Obama wasn’t “dithering” on Libya but rather looking to keep the United States out of yet another military conflict in the Middle East. So much for that. We are now once again headed “to the shores of Tripoli.”  The president can expect a shellacking from his critics for waiting so long to intervene in Libya. Why act only after Qaddafi’s forces were approaching Benghazi? An earlier intervention would have helped the rebels hold far more territory, and as critics are sure to argue, perhaps broken Qaddafi’s rule once and for all. But there will be ample time later to deconstruct and assess the White House’s decision-making. For the moment, the good news is that Tripoli announced this morning thatLibya is declaring an immediate cease-fire and halting all military operations. (We’ll see if Qaddafi is true to his word.) But larger questions remain. Will the United States and its partners merely work to defend rebel-held territory? Or will they actively help the rebels to retake territory and ultimately oust Qaddafi? (Statements coming out of Paris suggest that the French think the latter is the goal.) Will Arab countries participate in the attacks on the Libyan military? Does the decision by Germany to join Russia, China, India, and Brazil (which is hosting Obama starting tomorrow) in abstaining on yesterday’s UN Security Council vote signal a deeper split in Europe? And will Obama discover as have many of his predecessors that it is easier to get into a military conflict than to get out of it? On the latter, I certainly hope not.
Read more at The Water’s Edge.

Libyan protesters in Tobruk celebrate after the UN Security Council passes a resolution authorizing a “no-fly” zone and military attacks on Muammar Qaddafi’s forces. (Suhaib Salem/courtesy Reuters)


Above the Fold. Last week’s Friday File argued that President Obama wasn’t “dithering” on Libya but rather looking to keep the United States out of yet another military conflict in the Middle East. So much for that. We are now once again headed “to the shores of Tripoli.”  The president can expect a shellacking from his critics for waiting so long to intervene in Libya. Why act only after Qaddafi’s forces were approaching Benghazi? An earlier intervention would have helped the rebels hold far more territory, and as critics are sure to argue, perhaps broken Qaddafi’s rule once and for all. But there will be ample time later to deconstruct and assess the White House’s decision-making. For the moment, the good news is that Tripoli announced this morning thatLibya is declaring an immediate cease-fire and halting all military operations. (We’ll see if Qaddafi is true to his word.) But larger questions remain. Will the United States and its partners merely work to defend rebel-held territory? Or will they actively help the rebels to retake territory and ultimately oust Qaddafi? (Statements coming out of Paris suggest that the French think the latter is the goal.) Will Arab countries participate in the attacks on the Libyan military? Does the decision by Germany to join Russia, China, India, and Brazil (which is hosting Obama starting tomorrow) in abstaining on yesterday’s UN Security Council vote signal a deeper split in Europe? And will Obama discover as have many of his predecessors that it is easier to get into a military conflict than to get out of it? On the latter, I certainly hope not.

Read more at The Water’s Edge.

Only one Big Ten university has ever graduated an American president—The University of Michigan, which was Gerald Ford’s alma mater. Ford was appointed president, so it remains the case that no Big Ten university has ever graduated someone who was elected president. The University of Minnesota has come close, not once but twice. Hubert Humphrey (Class of 1939) and Walter Mondale (Class of 1951) both became the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. A Minnesota graduate who hopes that the third time is the charm is Tim Pawlenty (Class of 1983). Today the former Minnesota governor threw his hat in the ring for 2012, announcing that he is creating a presidential exploratory committee. And he did it in hi-tech, twenty-first century way—with a web video posted on Facebook.

(Source: politico)

The World Next Week: A No-Fly Zone for Libya?

The podcast for The World Next Week is up. Bob McMahon and I talked about the upcoming G8 foreign ministers meeting in Paris, where the Libyan crisis will top the agenda; intensified violence in Cote d’Ivoire; the continued drama over the federal budget as the two-week stopgap spending bill will soon expire; and the new Irish prime minister’s work to solve Ireland’s fiscal woes.

The highlights:

  • France and Great Britain are proposing to impose a “no-fly zone” over Libya, but Russia’s vow to veto the idea at the UN Security Council may kill the proposal before it gets off the ground.
  • President Obama has condemned the increasing bloodshed in Cote d’Ivoire as “abhorrent,” but there are no signs that the United States or anyone else intends to intervene to stop the violence.
  • Democrats and Republicans continue to bicker over the budget, but neither side looks eager to force a government shutdown—at least not yet.
  • Enda Kenny, Ireland’s new Taoiseach (or prime minister), has his hands full trying to recapture the glory of Ireland’s days as a “Celtic Tiger.”

Read more at The Water’s Edge.