James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

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

TWE Remembers: Secret Soviet Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, a Coda)

by James M. Lindsay Monday, October 29, 2012
President John F. Kennedy speaks with Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during an ExCom meeting. (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston) President John F. Kennedy speaks with Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during an ExCom meeting. (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

Washington and the world breathed a sigh of relief on Monday, October 29, 1962.  The day before President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had struck a deal to end the Cuban missile crisis. But the deal took several weeks to implement, and it came with a plot twist that the world wouldn’t learn about for thirty years. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Kennedy and Khrushchev Agree to a Deal (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Thirteen)

by James M. Lindsay Sunday, October 28, 2012
Members of the ExCom outside the Oval Office during the Cuban Missile Crisis. From left to right: Special Assistant to the President for National Security McGeorge Bundy, President John F. Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Paul Nitze, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell D. Taylor, and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston). Members of the ExCom outside the Oval Office during the Cuban Missile Crisis. From left to right: Special Assistant to the President for National Security McGeorge Bundy, President John F. Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Paul Nitze, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell D. Taylor, and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston).

Sunday, October 28, 1962 was a beautiful fall day in Washington, DC. After a cold start, the mercury hit 71 degrees, six degrees above normal. The sun shone brightly, and the breeze was mild. The weather was in many ways a metaphor for the mood in the White House. After twelve stress-filled days, the thirteenth day of the Cuban missile crisis brought a deal between President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The world pulled back from the brink of nuclear war. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Black Saturday—Near Calamities Abound as JFK Offers Khrushchev a Deal (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Twelve)

by James M. Lindsay Saturday, October 27, 2012
A U-2 plane used during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC). A U-2 plane used during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC).

Murphy’s Law holds that if anything can go wrong, it will. On Saturday October 27, 1962, the twelfth day of the Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy might have been thinking about that famous law’s corollary: Murphy was an optimist. JFK had gone to bed the night before thinking that a solution to the crisis was in sight. But he awoke on what later was dubbed “Black Saturday” to a series of events that he had not anticipated and that threatened to plunge the world into a nuclear abyss. Read more »

TWE Remembers: John Scali Has Lunch, Khrushchev Writes Kennedy, Castro Writes Khrushchev (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Eleven)

by James M. Lindsay Friday, October 26, 2012
The U.S. destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy stops, boards, and inspects the Marucla, a dry-cargo ship of Lebanese registry under Soviet charter to Cuba. (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC) The U.S. destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy stops, boards, and inspects the Marucla, a dry-cargo ship of Lebanese registry under Soviet charter to Cuba. (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC)

Journalists live for scoops. Being the first to break major news is the ticket to journalistic fame and fortune. But what if you are a journalist covering the biggest story of your lifetime and suddenly you become a participant? Do you tell the world what you have learned, or do you sit on it? ABC News diplomatic correspondent John Scali found himself in just such a predicament on Friday, October 26, 1962, the eleventh day of the Cuban missile crisis. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Adlai Stevenson Dresses Down the Soviet Ambassador to the UN (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Ten)

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, October 25, 2012
U.S. ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson presents evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba at the UN Security Council on October 25, 1962. (UN Photo/MH) U.S. ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson presents evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba at the UN Security Council on October 25, 1962. (UN Photo/MH)

U.S. ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson had a reputation for preferring to concede than to confront. In the first days of the Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy worried that his man in New York didn’t have what it took to present the U.S. position on Cuba forcefully to the world body. On Thursday, October 25, the tenth day of the crisis, Stevenson showed that he was in fact made of sterner stuff than JFK thought. The former two-time presidential candidate dressed down Valerian Zorin, the Soviet ambassador, in a UN Security Council meeting as Americans watched on television. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Eyeball to Eyeball and the Other Fellow Just Blinked (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Nine)

by James M. Lindsay Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Acting UN secretary general U Thant and Soviet ambassador to the UN Valerian A. Zorin discuss a document through an interpreter at the UN Security Council on October 24, 1962. (UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata) Acting UN secretary general U Thant and Soviet ambassador to the UN Valerian A. Zorin discuss a document through an interpreter at the UN Security Council on October 24, 1962. (UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata)

President John F. Kennedy was beginning to feel the pressure on Wednesday, October 24, 1962, the ninth day of the Cuban missile crisis. The naval quarantine of Cuba had formally gone into effect early that morning. Now there was nothing to do but wait for the Soviets to respond. Kennedy didn’t know whether at the day’s end he would be breathing a sigh of relief or on the road to a nuclear war. Read more »

TWE Remembers: The OAS Endorses a Quarantine of Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Eight)

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, October 23, 2012
President John F. Kennedy signs Proclamation 3504 authorizing the quarantine of Cuba on October 23, 1962. (Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston) President John F. Kennedy signs Proclamation 3504 authorizing the quarantine of Cuba on October 23, 1962. (Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

The first week of the Cuban missile crisis played out in secret. President John F. Kennedy and his advisers quietly evaluated the results of the U-2 overflights and formulated a response. But on Tuesday, October 23 the crisis began playing out in public. U.S. diplomats scrambled to secure international support for the impending quarantine of Cuba while the White House waited to see what Moscow’s next steps would be. Read more »

Obama and Romney Set to Focus on the Middle East

by James M. Lindsay Monday, October 22, 2012
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama point fingers during the second presidential debate. (Mike Segar/ courtesy Reuters) Mitt Romney and Barack Obama point fingers during the second presidential debate. (Mike Segar/ courtesy Reuters)

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney meet tonight in Boca Raton, Florida to debate foreign policy. Both campaigns see the third and final debate as their best opportunity to reach the public before Election Day. The two candidates will be speaking to voters who expect to hear affirmations of U.S. leadership but who are also skeptical of foreign entanglements in the midst of tough economic times and after more than a decade of war. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Five Memorable Foreign Policy Moments in Presidential Debates

by James M. Lindsay Monday, October 22, 2012
John McCain and Barack Obama debate foreign policy at the University of Mississippi in 2008. (Jim Bourg/ courtesy Reuters) John McCain and Barack Obama debate foreign policy at the University of Mississippi in 2008. (Jim Bourg/ courtesy Reuters)

President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney meet tonight in Boca Raton, Florida to debate foreign policy. Both men hope that what they say will move voters in their direction. But that’s not always how debates go. Here are five memorable moments from past debates when presidents took on foreign policy. Read more »

TWE Remembers: John F. Kennedy Tells the World that Soviet Missiles Are in Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Seven)

by James M. Lindsay Monday, October 22, 2012

John F. Kennedy was a superb public speaker. His inaugural address is one of the best known and most frequently quoted speeches in American history. His press conference performance immediately after the Bay of Pigs, when he famously said that “victory has one-hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan,” helped blunt the political fallout from one of the biggest foreign policy fiascoes in U.S. history. But nothing matched the importance of the address Kennedy gave to the nation on the evening of October 22, 1962, when he told Americans (and the world) that the United States had discovered that the Soviet Union was secretly installing nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba.

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