James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

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

TWE Remembers: John Kennedy Prepares to Tell the Nation About Soviet Missiles in Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Six)

by James M. Lindsay Sunday, October 21, 2012
Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President John F. Kennedy, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara meet in the Cabinet Room in January 1961.(Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston) Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President John F. Kennedy, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara meet in the Cabinet Room in January 1961.(Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

Sundays are usually the one day of the week that presidents can count on for a break from their frenetic daily schedule. That wasn’t the case for John F. Kennedy on Sunday, October 21, 1962, the sixth day of the Cuban missile crisis. He would spend his day in meetings and conversations, honing what he would tell the nation and the world the next day. Read more »

TWE Remembers: John Kennedy Fakes a Cold (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Five)

by James M. Lindsay Saturday, October 20, 2012
The day book of Evelyn Lincoln, President John F. Kennedy's personal secretary, shows JFK's busy schedule during the Cuban missile crisis. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Massachusetts) The day book of Evelyn Lincoln, President John F. Kennedy's personal secretary, shows JFK's busy schedule during the Cuban missile crisis. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Massachusetts)

Have you ever faked an illness to get out of a meeting or to avoid an obligation? President John F. Kennedy can do you one better. He faked a cold on Saturday, October 20, the fifth day of the Cuban missile crisis, so he could cancel a campaign tour in the Midwest and return to the White House to meet with his national security team about the U.S. response to the Soviet missiles in Cuba. Read more »

The World Next Week: Obama and Romney Debate Foreign Policy, Turkey and Syria Spar, Brahimi Negotiates, and the World Health Summit Convenes

by James M. Lindsay Friday, October 19, 2012
CBS anchorman and debate moderator Bob Schieffer talks to the audience during the final 2008 presidential debate. (Jim Young/ courtesy Reuters) CBS anchorman and debate moderator Bob Schieffer talks to the audience during the final 2008 presidential debate. (Jim Young/ courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the final presidential debate; increasing tensions between Turkey and Syria; Lakhdar Brahimi’s effort to negotiate a cease-fire in Syria in advance of the celebration of Eid al-Adha; and the World Health Summit in Berlin. Read more »

TWE Remembers: JFK Campaigns While the ExCom Debates Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Four)

by James M. Lindsay Friday, October 19, 2012
Abraham Lincoln's tomb which President John F. Kennedy visited after speaking at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on October 19, 1962. (Frank Polich/ courtesy Reuters) Abraham Lincoln's tomb which President John F. Kennedy visited after speaking at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on October 19, 1962. (Frank Polich/ courtesy Reuters)

Presidents aren’t just government leaders, they are also party leaders. So they frequently leave the White House in the weeks before midterm congressional elections to campaign for their fellow party members. That’s precisely what President John F. Kennedy found himself doing on Friday, October 19, 1962, the fourth day of the Cuban missile crisis. Read more »

New Pew Poll Finds the Public Split on the Candidates and Skeptical About the Middle East

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, October 18, 2012
Sailors stand during a commissioning ceremony for the USS Michael Murphy in New York on October 6, 2012. (Keith Bedford/ courtesy Reuters) Sailors stand during a commissioning ceremony for the USS Michael Murphy in New York on October 6, 2012. (Keith Bedford/ courtesy Reuters)

In advance of next week’s third and final presidential debate, the Pew Research Center is out with the results of a new foreign policy poll. Pew finds Americans split on whether President Obama or Governor Romney would fare better in foreign affairs, skeptical of where things are headed in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and open (at least in theory) to talking tough to China on trade. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Andrei Gromyko Lies to John Kennedy (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Three)

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, October 18, 2012
President John F. Kennedy and Soviet minister of foreign affairs Andrei Gromyko meet in the Oval Office on October 18, 1962. Seated from left to right, Soviet deputy minister Vladimir S. Seyemenov, Soviet ambassador to the United States Anatoly F. Dobrynin, Gromyko, and Kennedy. (Robert Knudson White House Photographs, National Archives, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Massachusetts) President John F. Kennedy and Soviet minister of foreign affairs Andrei Gromyko meet in the Oval Office on October 18, 1962. Seated from left to right, Soviet deputy minister Vladimir S. Seyemenov, Soviet ambassador to the United States Anatoly F. Dobrynin, Gromyko, and Kennedy. (Robert Knudson White House Photographs, National Archives, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Massachusetts)

Could you sit through a two-hour meeting with a man who was lying to your face without letting on that you knew he was lying? President John F. Kennedy faced just that challenge on Thursday, October 18, 1962, the third day of the Cuban missile crisis, when he met with Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko at the White House. Read more »

TWE Remembers: JFK Solicits Ike’s Advice (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Two)

by James M. Lindsay Wednesday, October 17, 2012
A U-2 photograph of Soviet IRBMs in Cuba, October 17, 1962. (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC) A U-2 photograph of Soviet IRBMs in Cuba, October 17, 1962. (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC)

All presidents switch roles repeatedly over the course of their day. One minute they are running meetings on complex policy choices. At the next minute they are exchanging empty pleasantries with visiting foreign dignitaries, carrying out the ceremonial duties of their office, or whipping up the passions of their fellow partisans as another election approaches. But perhaps no president ran the gamut presidential roles quite the way that President John F. Kennedy did on Wednesday, October 17, 1962. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Learning More About the Cuban Missile Crisis

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, October 16, 2012
A U-2 photograph of an MRBM Field Launch Site in San Cristobal, Cuba. (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC) A U-2 photograph of an MRBM Field Launch Site in San Cristobal, Cuba. (Dino A. Brugioni Collection, The National Security Archive, Washington, DC)

The Cuban missile crisis brought the United States and the Soviet Union closer to nuclear war than any other event during the Cold War. President John F. Kennedy put the odds of war at “somewhere between one out of three and even.” To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the crisis in 2012, I posted each day of the crisis as it unfolded: Read more »

TWE Remembers: The Executive Committee of the National Security Council (Cuban Missile Crisis)

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, October 16, 2012
President John F. Kennedy meets with members of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (ExCom) regarding the crisis in Cuba on October 29, 1962. (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston) President John F. Kennedy meets with members of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (ExCom) regarding the crisis in Cuba on October 29, 1962. (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

One of the first decisions that President John F. Kennedy made when he learned of the Soviet missiles in Cuba was to assemble a small group of senior administration officials to give him advice. That group of elite advisers was formally constituted on October 22, 1962 as the Executive Committee of the National Security Council, or the “ExCom” for short. Here are the ExCom’s dozen members and the positions they initially advocated in the group’s deliberations: Read more »

TWE Remembers: JFK Learns that Soviet Missiles Are in Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day One)

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Map of Cuba annotated by President John F. Kennedy during his first CIA briefing on October 16, 1962. The map is displayed at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts. (Brian Snyder/ courtesy Reuters) Map of Cuba annotated by President John F. Kennedy during his first CIA briefing on October 16, 1962. The map is displayed at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts. (Brian Snyder/ courtesy Reuters)

Hillary Clinton famously ran a political attack ad during the 2008 primary campaign saying that a president had to be prepared for a 3:00 a.m. phone call saying that something bad had happened overseas. For President John F. Kennedy, the proverbial 3:00 a.m. phone call came at 8:45 a.m. on October 16, 1962. The pajama-clad president was sitting in his bedroom reading the newspaper when McGeorge Bundy knocked on the door. The national security adviser had something for the forty-five year-old president: photos showing that the Soviets were installing nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba. Read more »