James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

The World Next Week: The Republic of South Sudan Debuts

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, July 7, 2011
Children prepare for the Independence Day ceremony in Juba, South Sudan.

Children prepare for the Independence Day ceremony in Juba, South Sudan, July 6, 2011. (Thomas Mukoya/courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed South Sudan’s independence; the proposed national dialogue between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and anti-regime activists; U.S. involvement in Iraq; and the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to California.

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July 4th Quiz Answers

by James M. Lindsay Monday, July 4, 2011
Fans of the USA soccer team wave a huge flag during the playing of the U.S. National Anthem ahead of a 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match against Slovenia at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg in June 2010.

American soccer fans in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 2010. (Brian Snyder/courtesy Reuters)

Here are the answers for the TWE July 4th trivia quiz. If you got all the questions right without having to resort to Google or Encyclopedia Britannica, a tip of the TWE cap to you. Whatever your score, set aside some time today to read the Declaration of Independence. Its message is timeless. This is a great country. Enjoy the holiday!

1. When did July 4th become an official federal holiday?

1870, or ninety-four years after the United States first declared independence.

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A July 4th Quiz

by James M. Lindsay Friday, July 1, 2011
A boy listens to U.S. President Barack Obama speak on immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas.

A boy listens to U.S. President Barack Obama speak on immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas. (Jim Young/courtesy Reuters)

July 4th, TWE’s favorite holiday bar none, is just around the corner. To celebrate the big day, TWE presents its first annual July 4th trivia quiz. Yes, you could Google the questions to find the answers. But really, how much fun would that be? I will post the answers to these questions on July 4. And by all means, if you have your own July 4th trivia questions, please post them in the comments section so everyone can take a crack at answering. I hope that you all get to eat a hot dog (all beef or soy), attend a parade, and watch some fireworks on the Fourth. Kick back, push the bad news aside, and enjoy the holiday weekend!

1. When did July 4th become an official federal holiday?

2. Twelve of the thirteen colonies voted in favor of the Declaration of Independence. One colony initially abstained and did not agree to vote for it until after it was unveiled to the public. Which colony was it?

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Friday File:Congress Still Not Biting on Libya

by James M. Lindsay Friday, July 1, 2011

Above the Fold. I wrote two weeks ago that nothing would come of congressional efforts to reverse President Obama on Libya. Lo and behold, lawmakers have given speeches, pounded tables, and held votes. The sum total of all this activity is that Congress has let the White House have its way. True, the House did refuse last week to vote to authorize the Libya mission, a step that numerous media outlets called a “historic rejection.” It was, at least in the same way that the 1847 House vote denouncing the Mexican-American War for being “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun” was a rebuke of President Polk. Both votes go into the history books, but neither changed anything. This week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee formally repudiated the legal arguments that the White House has used to defend its position on Libya. The committee then voted 14-5 to authorize President Obama to continue current military operations. Readers who like to see the glass half full can say that Congress at least tried to assert its war powers authority and that it failed for all understandable reasons: disagreement on the merits of the president’s policy; a fear of the consequences for U.S. credibility abroad in saying no to the White House; and plain partisan politics. The downside to Congress’s failure either to authorize the Libya mission or forbid it is that claims that the president possesses an independent war-making authority just got a little stronger. President Obama says today that the Libyan operation doesn’t rise to the level of “hostilities” or set a precedent. But you can bet that his successors will argue tomorrow that it is a powerful precedent that enables them to act as they see fit. Such is the way that constitutional authorities get redefined and reshaped.

CFR Event of the Week. GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty stopped by CFR this week to talk about his views on national security and foreign policy. His theme? “Now is not the time to retreat from freedom’s rise.” If like me you missed the event—I was in Dublin, Ireland for a conference—you can watch the video, listen to the audio, or read the transcript.

Read of the Week. If you haven’t done so already, you should read Sebastian Mallaby’s, More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite. This is not just a shameless plug for a CFR colleague and one of the most gifted conversationalists I know. More Money Than God just won the Gerald Loeb Award for best business book. This is a very big deal. The Loeb Award is the Pulitzer for financial journalism. And More Money Than God is a terrific read.

Blog Post of the Week. The boom in so-called shale gas is remaking the energy landscape. So much so, that my colleague Mike Levi is asking whether the United States should export natural gas. For those of you who don’t spend your days poring over the latest issue of American Oil & Gas Reporter, geologists have long known that shale deposits can contain vast amounts of natural gas. The problem was how to extract the gas at a price that could earn a profit. Enter “fracking,” the shorthand term for “hydraulic fracturing.” It’s a technique that injects a mix of water and chemicals deep into shale deposits, thereby fracturing them and releasing the trapped natural gas. The United States has several large shale gas deposits that are now being exploited. The question that Mike and others are grappling with is how to best make use of this resource. (And yes, fracking does come with some potentially dire side effects.)

Poll Question of the Week. Gallup finds that by a margin of four-to-one, Americans support President Obama’s troop withdrawal plan for Afghanistan—72 percent give it a thumbs up and only 23 percent a thumbs down. People who identify as Democrats are most supportive (87 percent), and Republicans the least (50 percent). On the specific question of the speed of the withdrawal, 30 percent of Americans agree with Obama’s timetable, 33 percent want to remove troops more rapidly, and 31 percent say there should be no timetable. So in all, critics who are calling for the White House to stay the course in Afghanistan don’t have the public on their side.

Chart of the Week. The emission of carbon dioxide is the main driver behind anthropogenic (i.e., human-induced) climate change. How does the United States compare to the so-called BRICS—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—when it comes to generating carbon dioxide? As the chart below shows, the United States produces more carbon dioxide by burning oil and natural gas than anyone else. China leads the way when it comes to burning coal. Indeed, coal accounts for about 70 percent of China’s total energy consumption. This is significant because for each unit of energy coal emits 80 percent more carbon dioxide than natural gas, and 20 percent more than oil. Burning coal also produces other “negative externalities,” as economists like to say, such as acid rain and air pollution. The World Health Organization reports that only 1 percent of China’s urban population breathes clean air.

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