James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

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

Friday File: Obama’s Open Mic Gaffe

by James M. Lindsay Friday, March 30, 2012
obama-medvedev-hot-mic-2012-03-30 U.S. President Obama talks with Russian President Medvedev in South Korea. (Larry Downing/courtesy Reuters)

Above the Fold. President Obama got himself into hot water this week when he was overhead telling Russian president Dmitri Medvedev he would have “more flexibility” on issues like missile defense after the November election and that incoming Russian president Vladimir Putin should give him “space.” The incident added to a long list of presidential and vice presidential “open mic” gaffes. During a sound-check before a 1984 radio interview, Ronald Reagan warmed up by saying,  “My fellow Americans, I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” That got people’s hearts pounding. Vice President Biden famously called the signing of Obama’s health-care bill in 2010 “a big f***ing deal.” Parents of young children were not pleased. Read more »

The World Next Week: U.S. Presidency of the UN Security Council

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, March 29, 2012
susan-rice-security-council U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice at a Security Council meeting in New York. (Lucas Jackson/courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the United States’ upcoming presidency of the UN Security Council; World Bank president nominee Dr. Jim Yong Kim’s world “listening tour;” and Myanmar’s by-elections. Read more »

Lessons Learned: LBJ Announces He Will Not Seek Reelection

by James M. Lindsay Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A new installment of “Lessons Learned” is now out. This week I discuss Lyndon B. Johnson’s announcement on March 31, 1968, that he would not seek reelection as president. In the video, I discuss how Johnson’s decisions on Vietnam derailed a presidency that had accomplished historic success on domestic issues. Here’s a question to consider when thinking about foreign policy: why are presidents so eager to pursue an activist foreign policy when history suggests that it so often hurts them politically? I encourage you to weigh in with your answer in the comments section below.

I hope you enjoy the video.

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Friday File: Cherry Trees Blossom in Washington, DC

by James M. Lindsay Friday, March 23, 2012
The cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin are in full bloom in Washington, DC. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) The cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin are in full bloom in Washington, DC. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Above the Fold. Washington, DC, owes a huge debt of gratitude to Tokyo. It was one hundred years ago next Tuesday that Japan’s largest city gave our nation’s capital 3,000 cherry trees to plant along the banks of the Tidal Basin. (No, George Washington did not plant them, and no, he did not cut down any cherry trees. That story was invented by Parson Mason Weems who wrote a not-quite-accurate biography of Washington shortly after America’s greatest president died.) First lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two trees. Thanks to the splendid caretaking of the National Park Service, the trees have thrived. Seeing them in full bloom brings to mind the lovely words that Henry Wadworth Longfellow wrote long ago: Read more »

The World Next Week: Arab League Meets and Obama Visits Korea

by James M. Lindsay Friday, March 23, 2012
Iraq's Foreign Minister Zebari speaks with the Arab League's Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs Ahmad bin Hilly in Baghdad. (Mohammed Ameen/courtesy Reuters) Iraq's Foreign Minister Zebari speaks with the Arab League's Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs Ahmad bin Hilly in Baghdad. (Mohammed Ameen/courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the Arab League summit in Baghdad; President Obama’s visit to the Denuclearized Military Zone (DMZ) on the Korean Peninsula as part of his visit to the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul; the presidential election run-off in Senegal; and the Pope’s trip to Cuba. Read more »

Lessons Learned: Tokyo Sarin Gas Attack

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A new installment of “Lessons Learned” is now out. This week I discuss the sarin gas attack that Aum Shinrikyo carried out in the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995. In the video, I discuss how technological advances increasingly mean that governments are no longer the only ones capable of inflicting mass destruction.  Here’s a question to consider: what steps should society take to protect itself as technology makes it easier for terrorists, messianic figures, or just embittered individuals to inflict great harm? I encourage you to weigh in with your answer in the comments section below.

I hope you enjoy the video.

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Guest Post: Anya Schmemann on the U.S. Education Reform and National Security Report

by Anya Schmemann Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Cover of the U.S. Education Reform and National Security report, released March 20, 2012. Cover of the U.S. Education Reform and National Security report, released March 20, 2012.

I had the great pleasure to spend the past two days at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  (Oskee Wow Wow!) To walk the Illinois campus is to see American education at its best. Whether it’s the work being done at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology on electronic nanostructures, or the high-end software being developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, or the efforts by the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Program to turn biomass into fuel, to name just a few outstanding research initiatives underway at Illinois, it’s easy to see how education improves our lives, creates jobs, and keeps the United States competitive. Read more »

Friday File: Should the United States Leave Afghanistan?

by James M. Lindsay Friday, March 16, 2012
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is greeted by Col. John Shafer (L) after arriving to greet troops at Forward Operating Base Shukvani, Afghanistan on March 14, 2012. (Scott Olson/Courtesy Reuters) Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is greeted by Col. John Shafer (L) after arriving to greet troops at Forward Operating Base Shukvani, Afghanistan on March 14, 2012. (Scott Olson/Courtesy Reuters)

Above the Fold.  The tragic news that a U.S. Army sergeant slaughtered sixteen Afghans this week has scrambled the debate over the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Afghan president Hamid Karzai has demanded that the United States agree to pull back its troops to bases in Afghanistan by next year. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have discovered doubts about the wisdom of staying the course in Afghanistan.The public’s dissatisfaction with the war has hardened. A Gallup poll out this week found that 50 percent of Americans want Washington to speed up its withdrawal from Afghanistan; only 21 percent say stay the course. Read more »

The World Next Week: Iran and Afghanistan Debates Plus Greek Debt

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, March 15, 2012
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets Chinese Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Min, in New York. (Lucas Jackson/courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets Chinese Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Min, before a UN Security Council meeting in New York. (Lucas Jackson/courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the UN Security Council debates on Iran and Afghanistan, as well as where Greece stands after receiving another bailout. Read more »

Lessons Learned: Hitler’s Rearmament of Germany

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A new installment of “Lessons Learned” is now out. This week I discuss Adolf Hitler’s announcement on March 16, 1935, that he would rearm Germany in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. In the video, I discuss the difficulty of recognizing when to confront an aggressive and expansionist state. Here’s a question to consider: what are the tell-tale signs that a country can only be confronted and not accommodated? I encourage you to weigh in with your answer in the comments section below.

I hope you enjoy the video.

Read more »