James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

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

Will Removing U.S. Troops from Afghanistan Hurt Obama Politically?

by James M. Lindsay Monday, January 30, 2012
President Barack Obama speaks to troops at Fort Bragg in North Carolina on December 14, 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters) President Barack Obama speaks to troops at Fort Bragg in North Carolina on December 14, 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters)

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have pummeled President Obama on the campaign trail for his decision to begin drawing down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They no doubt make this case because they think it’s good policy and good politics. I’ll leave it to others to debate whether it’s good policy. Here is a chart drawn from a new poll from the Pew Research Center that suggests it’s not good politics and that their criticisms aren’t likely to do much damage to Obama. Read more »

Friday File: Will Foreign Policy Matter Much in Campaign 2012?

by James M. Lindsay Friday, January 27, 2012
Protesters take part in a rally for jobs in New York on January 16, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/courtesy Reuters) Protesters take part in a rally for jobs in New York on January 16, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/courtesy Reuters)

Above the Fold. A dinner obligation kept me from watching last night’s GOP presidential debate in Jacksonville, Florida, breaking my streak of eighteen straight debate viewings. From what I can tell from reading the debate transcript this morning, I didn’t miss much, at least as far as foreign policy is concerned. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum grumbled a bit about President Obama’s supposed lack of support for Israel, and they pledged to increase the pressure on Castro’s Cuba. Read more »

Manufacturing and the Middle Class

by James M. Lindsay Friday, January 27, 2012
Workers from Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant push a full-size Legoland edition Ford Explorer, made with more than 380,000 Lego blocks. (Frank Polich/courtesy Reuters) Workers from Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant push a full-size Legoland edition Ford Explorer, made with more than 380,000 Lego blocks. (Frank Polich/courtesy Reuters)

Rick Santorum deserves credit for trying to draw attention to the fate of U.S. manufacturing. As he pointed out at last night’s GOP presidential debate in Tampa, manufacturing has long been a source of good middle-class jobs, helping to build “that ladder of success all the way down so people can climb all the way up.” The problem is, as the chart below shows, that manufacturing hasn’t been the source of job creation in the United States for a very long time. Indeed, the number of manufacturing jobs has fallen by about a third over the past decade. Read more »

The World Next Week: What Will IAEA Inspectors Find in Iran?

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, January 26, 2012
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano at a conference. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano at a conference. (Herwig Prammer/courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the visit by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Iran; Florida’s GOP primary on January 31; and the continuing Supreme Court case in Pakistan involving President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. Read more »

Can Americans Afford College?

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, January 26, 2012
A customer counts her money while waiting in line. A customer counts her money while waiting in line. (Jessica Rinaldi/courtesy Reuters)

Earlier today I noted the obvious: college costs are skyrocketing. But cost growth is only half of the equation when it comes to deciding whether college is affordable; the other half is income growth. If your costs go up, but your paycheck goes up even more, you are fine. The problem for most Americans is that their real incomes (that is, adjusted for inflation) haven’t even begun to keep pace with rising tuition costs. Over the past thirty years, real median household income has risen only 13 percent. Worse yet, real median household income is actually lower today than it was in 1999. Read more »

Does Obama Have a Solution for Rising College Costs?

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, January 26, 2012
A graduate at Columbia University’s commencement ceremony in 2005. (Chip East/courtesy Reuters) A graduate at Columbia University’s commencement ceremony in 2005. (Chip East/courtesy Reuters)

I have one child in college (Wahoowa!), another set to start this September, and two more who will join them within the next four years. So my ears perked up during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address when President Obama said that once kids graduate from high school “the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college.” Read more »

Lessons Learned: The Seizure of the USS Pueblo

by James M. Lindsay Wednesday, January 25, 2012

We’ve introduced a new video series here at CFR.org—“Lessons Learned.” Each week I recount an historical event with an eye toward teasing out what lessons it might hold for foreign policy today. We’ve already done episodes on the Ludlow Amendment and JFK’s inaugural address. This week the topic is the seizure of the USS Pueblo on January 23, 1968.  I hope you enjoy it.

Read more »

No Apology: Obama Touts Foreign Policy Feats in State of the Union

by James M. Lindsay Wednesday, January 25, 2012
President Barack Obama waves after the State of the Union address on January 24, 2012. (Jason Reed/courtesy Reuters) President Barack Obama waves after the State of the Union address on January 24, 2012. (Jason Reed/courtesy Reuters)

CFR.org has posted my instant-analysis of President Obama’s remarks last night on foreign policy. If Mitt Romney gave us the No Apology campaign book, Obama has now given us the “No Apology” State of the Union address. The pummeling he has been getting from Republicans on his handling of foreign policy hasn’t dimmed his confidence one bit: Read more »

Some State of the Union Trivia

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, January 24, 2012
President Obama prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address in 2010 (Tim Sloan/courtesy Reuters). President Obama prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address in 2010 (Tim Sloan/courtesy Reuters).

If you are wondering how much time to set aside to watch tonight’s State of the Union address, figure on about one hour and five minutes. And if you are also wondering about the over/under on the number of words President Obama will use in his speech, go with 7,304. That’s what he averaged in his first two State of the Union addresses. (Yes, people do indeed track both how long it takes a president to deliver the State of the Union address and how many words he uses doing it.) And if you were thinking (or as I have written) that Obama has given three State of the Union addresses, his 2009 address was technically an address to a joint session of Congress. I’ll leave it to better minds to explain the difference. Read more »

Obama, Foreign Policy, and the State of the Union

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, January 24, 2012
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in 2011. (Molly Riley/courtesy Reuters) President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in 2011. (Molly Riley/courtesy Reuters)

ForeignAffairs.com has just published what journalists call a “curtain raiser” that I wrote on what President Obama will likely say about foreign policy in tonight’s State of the Union address. My argument in a nutshell is that while jobs and the economy will get top billing: Read more »