Lee Hamilton is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. He is also Co-Chair of PSA’s Board of Advisors. This article originally appeared in the Rock River Times.
Lee Hamilton: Why government fails, and what we should do about it
As election season approaches, I’ve been pondering a crucial issue about the role of government in our society. It’s that our government often fails — and that we need to address this. What’s odd is that while the frequent failures in government’s performance are very much on ordinary people’s minds, politicians don’t talk much about fixing them.
True, you might hear a few words about the issue when members are back in their districts this month revving up their re-election campaigns, but for the most part, they’ll be focused on issues like jobs and the economy. This is understandable, because that’s what their constituents expect to hear about. (more…)
Gregory Gleichauf is a foreign affairs intern at Partnership for a Secure America. He currently attends James Madison University.
Russia Violates International Law & Complicates International Priorities
“I was in the middle of a phone call—I won’t tell you with whom—but with a prime minister from a country somewhere, and in the middle of it, I swear to God, the phone call got dropped twice while we were talking, so we had to reconnect and that’s why I’m late and that’s modern communications, I guess.” Even before he had gotten to the substance of his presentation, Secretary of State John Kerry had hinted at an underlying theme. On March 18, the Dean Acheson Auditorium of the U.S. State Department was filled with college students who had gathered to hear Secretary Kerry’s presentation entitled ‘Making Foreign Policy Less Foreign’ where he addressed some of the major issues facing American foreign policy today. The Secretary showed that even though the world has become more interconnected through globalizing forces, there are still countries that operate as he described as “on the wrong side of history.”
Innovations during the past century and into today have toppled barriers that inhibited greater international cooperation and connectivity among countries with mutual interests. Technology now allows for a Philadelphia corporation to talk with a partner in London in real time. With transportation advancements, a plane can leave Miami and land in Madrid just hours later. With these and other major developments, doors have opened to allow a greater and more rapid flow of culture, ideas, information and commerce that help bring the world closer together. With this increased cooperation and interdependence, enforcement of international law became a necessity to govern the workings of the world.
Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.
Where Congress falls short, and where it doesn’t
At a public gathering this year, someone asked me how I’d sum up my views on Congress. It was a good question, because it forced me to step back from worrying about the current politics of Capitol Hill and take a longer view.
This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
In 2004 and 2007, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was presented to the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and both times the Committee passed the Convention. However, the Convention was never brought to the Senate for a full vote on both occasions. With the United States Navy patrolling every ocean in the world and an American economy struggling with high energy costs, the United States Senate should ratify the Convention as soon as possible.
Andy Semmel served as deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear nonproliferation in the George W. Bush administration. He is on the board of directors of Partnership for a Secure America. This article originally appeared in the Washington Times.
SEMMEL: Nuclear terrorism treaties still incomplete
Congress hasn’t given its best effort to prevent nuclear terrorism. Despite broad bipartisan recognition that nuclear terror is one of the biggest threats of our time, two common-sense anti-terrorism treaties have been on the “to-do” list for more than half a decade. The Senate has the opportunity to pass those treaties in the weeks ahead and should do so for one simple reason: They would make America more secure.
Anthony Scavone is a recent graduate of Boston University where he studied International Relations focusing specifically on International Development and Sub-Saharan Africa. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali from October until they were evacuated in mid-April. You can read more about his personal experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in his personal blog, Anthony in Africa. This is the first post in a two-post series about the motivations and impact of the recent military coup in Mali.
To boil down all the implications of recent events in Mali into a single post would not give justice to the true breadth of what has happened. Instead I will split this into two separate pieces: part one will focus on what this coup means for Mali and Malians. The second will focus more on what this means for me, the Peace Corps, and the international community at large.
Part 1: Mali and Malians
It’s become relatively common knowledge that the main grievance that drove the military to overthrow Amadou Toumani Toure (Better known as ATT) was the belief that ATT was strangling the military effort to maintain security in the vast northern regions of the country. Lack of food and supplies, while facing a Tuareg rebellion recently augmented by the fall of Gaddafi and the return of arms and trained Malian Tuaregs from Libya, drove mid-ranking military leaders to try to take matters into their own hands.
PSA Advisory Board Co-Chairman Lee Hamilton and former Secretary of State James Baker III authored the following Washington Post op-ed calling on lawmakers to resolve the Executive and Legislative branch conflict over war-making authorities, an issue most recently highlighted by US involvement in Libya, and propose the War Powers Consultation Act as a possible means to do so.
With our country engaged in three critical military conflicts, the last thing that Congress and the White House should be doing is squabbling over which branch of government has the final authority to send American troops to war. But that is exactly what has been happening, culminating with the House’s rebuke of the Obama administration last Friday for the way it has gone about the war in Libya.
On one hand is a bipartisan group of House members who argue that President Obama overreached because he failed to seek congressional approval for the military action in Libya within 60 days of the time the war started, as required by the War Powers Resolution. The lawmakers are particularly upset because the administration sought, and received, support from the United Nations — but not from them.
On the other hand is the White House, which argues that history is on its side. The 1999 NATO-led bombing over Kosovo lasted 18 days longer than the resolution’s 60-day requirement before the Serbian regime relented.
Stuck in the middle are the American people, particularly our soldiers in arms. They would be best served if our leaders debated the substantive issues regarding the conflict in Libya — and those of Afghanistan and Iraq — rather than engaging in turf battles about who has ultimate authority concerning the nation’s war powers.
As Hungary prepared to take the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on New Year’s Day, the country faced a slew of criticism over its new censorship laws. The laws put Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party in control of overseeing the public media and create a party-run media council to regulate both public and private broadcasters. Hungary’s Nepszabadsag newspaper declared that “the freedom of the press in Hungary has come to an end.” A Washington Post editorial decried the law as “more suited to an authoritarian regime than to a Western democracy.”
Troubling as the media censorship is in itself, it is even more troubling when considered in tandem with the approach Orban is taking to deal with the ailing Hungarian economy. Since his party’s victory in the parliamentary elections in April of last year, Orban has focused on short-term measures to the chagrin of the EU and the International Monetary Fund, which both want Hungary to focus on long-term spending cuts. One measure is a controversial reversal of a 1997 pension reform, a move that may in the long-run slow efforts to deal with Hungary’s debt, which is 80 percent of its GDP. Orban has also sought to increase the party’s influence on monetary policy, allowing a Fidesz-controlled parliamentary committee to fill vacant posts on the Central Bank’s Monetary council. But rather than ease these concerns, the measures have done little to assure others. International unease continued as Fitch rating agency downgraded Hungary’s foreign currency credit rating to just above junk status last month. (more…)
The Afghanis and the global community will be sorting out the effects of the September 18 Parliamentary elections for weeks if not months. Reports from the Independent Election Commission, and thousands of local and international observers, including those deployed by Democracy International (of which I served as a short term observer), will no doubt be mixed. Nine years after the U.S. – led invasion and months after the American military “surge”, much of the country remains in the control of insurgents. For up to date election-related information check the Democracy International website www.afghan2010.com.
President Obama said he believes the “Afghans have done a commendable job in setting up as best as they can a structure for a fair and important election.” This understated sentiment certainly does not do justice to the tremendous, and perhaps overwhelming, challenges facing the Karzai administration. A significant number of polling centers did not open or closed early due to Taliban attacks. I counted at least twelve mortar attacks, a firefight, and a Taliban truck blaring threats to anyone who voted in one contested provincial capital. Even the Afghan security forces were unable to deploy to many polling sites. Over three thousand formal complaints, allegations of fraud, intimidation, and technical problems further degraded the poll’s legitimacy in the minds of many voters. (more…)
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Nowhere have the principles of self-determination and territorial integrity clashed more persistently and tragically than in the Balkans, which remain unsettled after the genocidal Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Kosovo is one of the major loose ends left to tie up in the region. Eleven years after the 78-day NATO bombing campaign against Serbia, Kosovo has yet to win recognition as an independent state. In 2008 Kosovo declared independence and passed a new constitution, issued passports, established 19 embassies, formed a military, and chose a national anthem. However, its international status remains ambiguous to this day. Bloody conflicts still erupt between Albanians, who comprise nearly 95 per cent of the population, and Serbs despite the presence of 9,900-member international peacekeeping force. Ironically, its presence may be all the more needed since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that Kosovo’s declaration of independence “did not violate general international law.” Although publicized as a victory for Kosovo, the ICJ July 22 ruling has only increased ambiguity over Kosovo’s sovereignty.
The international community cannot continue to sit on the fence about the Balkan problem as it had for disturbingly long while Slobodan Milosevic’s forces rampaged from Slovenia and Croatia to Bosnia and Kosovo. It is time the world recognizes Kosovo, which has suffered from Serbian genocide and accepted compromise after compromise while its international status was being debated, and establishes clear rules for negotiating ethno-national conflicts in the future to ensure Kosovo’s recognition does not set a dangerous precedent. Until then, the lack of clarity on evaluating the antithetical principles of self-determination and territorial integrity will continue to be politically exploited in the Balkans and elsewhere. (more…)
All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.