By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is the director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
In the debate over whether the United States and one or more of its NATO allies should launch a military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over its alleged use of chemical weapons, much has been made of the need for multilateral sanction for such an effort, either by the U.N. Security Council or NATO.
One rationale for seeking multilateral backing is a legal one. The U.N. charter preempts the use of military force except in self-defense or with Security Council approval. But there is precedent for a military strike without U.N. authorization. In 1999 the U.S. and its NATO allies bombed Serbia for 78 days in an ultimately successful effort to force the government of Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw from Kosovo. And in 1998, Washington launched missile strikes against al Qaeda targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. Neither action had the blessing of the Security Council.
A second rationale is to provide multilateral political cover for what would be effectively largely a unilateral military action by the United States. However, public opinion data suggest that such cover may be quite thin. Only in Europe is there widespread support for the principle of obtaining U.N. authorization before taking action to deal with international threats. And public faith in NATO among its members is waning.
Newt Gingrich has all but erased Mitt Romney's 23-percentage-point lead of a week ago among Republican voters nationally, and the two candidates are now essentially tied, at 29% for Romney and 28% for Gingrich. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have significantly lower levels of support, at 13% and 11%, respectively.
Romney held a 23-point lead over Gingrich as recently as Jan. 11-15. Thus, in a matter of one week, Republicans who are registered to vote have shifted their support substantially - with Romney dropping 8 points and Gingrich gaining 14 points. The latest Gallup tracking update covers Jan. 18-22, encompassing Gingrich's come-from-behind 12-point victory over Romney in Saturday's South Carolina Republican primary. Gingrich began to gain on Romney well before Saturday's vote, however, most likely reflecting his performance in the two nationally televised debates held in South Carolina last Monday and Thursday. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.
By James M. Lindsay
In yesterday’s Friday File I flagged a CBS/Vanity Fair pollthat showed that most Americans do not know that Mitt Romney’s first name is Willard—as opposed to Mitt (or Mittens or Gromit). That’s a cute poll result that added a bit of levity to my weekly news roundup. But to judge by another poll, this one by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press,there’s a lot else that the public doesn’t know about the Republican candidates even though they are dominating the stories on all the cable news channels:- When asked “which GOP candidate opposes U.S. involvement in Afghanistan?”, just 44 percent of voters correctly named Ron Paul.- When asked which state Mitt Romney was governor of, just 46 percent of voters knew it was Massachusetts.
- Sixty-nine percent of all voters and 76 percent of Republicans knew that Newt Gingrich once served as Speaker of the House.
- When asked which state would hold the next nominating event after Iowa and New Hampshire, just 45 percent knew that the answer was South Carolina.
Not surprisingly, older Americans (50-64), college graduates, and Republicans were the most likely to supply the right answers.
The lesson for political junkies is that while they may obsess about which candidates are making which media buys in which South Carolina counties, most Americans haven’t even begun to think about the 2012 presidential election. And they probably won’t until late this summer—if then.