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 F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” Speech

by James M. Lindsay Wednesday, June 26, 2013
A crowd watches President Kennedy as he delivers his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech at Rudolph Wilde Platz in West Berlin (Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston). A crowd watches President Kennedy as he delivers his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech at Rudolph Wilde Platz in West Berlin (Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston).

Being president is a tough job. Your every mistake is relentlessly dissected and replayed. Even when you get it right, people sometimes insist you got it wrong. Just ask John F. Kennedy. On June 26, 1963, he gave a rousing speech to several hundred thousand cheering West Berliners. Yet that speech is misremembered by many people a half century later for a mistake he did not make. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” Speech

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, June 18, 2013
A statue of Winston Churchill stands outside the Houses of Parliament in London (Toby Melville/Courtesy Reuters). A statue of Winston Churchill stands outside the Houses of Parliament in London (Toby Melville/Courtesy Reuters).

One for all and all for one. That simple principle underlies all alliances. But what happens when the all dwindles and the one ends up alone? That’s the position Britain found itself in the late spring of 1940. Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France had all fallen under the Nazi jackboots. Britain was the only thing standing between Adolf Hitler and control of Europe. With Britain tottering on the abyss, its prime minister, Winston Churchill, gave one of the great rallying cries in world history, the “finest hour” speech of June 18, 1940. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Herbert Hoover Signs the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Into Law

by James M. Lindsay Monday, June 17, 2013
Representative Willis G. Hawley (R-OR) and Senator Reed Smoot (R-UT) on the steps of the Senate office building (Courtesy Library of Congress). Representative Willis G. Hawley (R-OR) and Senator Reed Smoot (R-UT) on the steps of the Senate office building (Courtesy Library of Congress).

Economists are said to be too smart for their own good and not smart enough for anyone else’s. If so, should presidents take their advice? One president who wishes he had is Herbert Hoover. In June 1930, more than 1,000 economists signed a letter urging him to veto a bill that Congress had sent to his desk. Hoover disregarded their counsel, however, and on June 17, 1930 signed into law the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. The law intensified the Great Depression and helped solidify Hoover’s ranking as one of the worst presidents in American history.
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Birthday Wishes to the United States Army!

by James M. Lindsay Friday, June 14, 2013
Members of the U.S. Army Band perform during the Army's birthday celebration at Times Square on June 14, 2012 (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters). Members of the U.S. Army Band perform during the Army's birthday celebration at Times Square on June 14, 2012 (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters).

Doughboy. GI. Grunt. Dogface. Warrior. Whatever term you prefer, if you see an active duty, former, or retired member of the United States Army today, wish their service Happy Birthday. The United States Army just turned 238 years old.

The Army website provides a short but thorough overview of its history. Here are five tidbits worth knowing: Read more »

The World Next Week: Iranians Vote, the G8 Meets in Northern Ireland, and Obama Visits Berlin

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, June 13, 2013
Supporters crowd around Iranian presidential candidate Saeed Jalili during a rally in Tehran on June 12 (Yalda Moayeri/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters crowd around Iranian presidential candidate Saeed Jalili during a rally in Tehran on June 12 (Yalda Moayeri/Courtesy Reuters).

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the presidential elections in Iran, the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, and President Obama’s trip to Berlin.

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TWE Remembers: JFK’s “Strategy of Peace” Speech

by James M. Lindsay Monday, June 10, 2013
President John F. Kennedy delivers the commencement address at American University on June 10, 1963 (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston). President John F. Kennedy delivers the commencement address at American University on June 10, 1963 (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston).

Commencement addresses have figured prominently in American foreign policy. Whether it was FDR ending the pretense that the United States would remain rigidly neutral in World War II in a speech at the University of Virginia, or George W. Bush warning Americans of the growing need for preemptive (actually, preventive) action abroad in an address at West Point, major foreign policy turning points are sometimes announced on college campuses. So which of the many foreign-policy themed commencement addresses was the most significant? My money is on Secretary of State George C. Marshall’s address to Harvard’s graduating class of  1947—it unveiled the Marshall Plan that would rebuild Europe. But plenty of others would vote for a commencement address given sixteen years later: John F. Kennedy’s arms control speech to the graduating class of American University, which he gave on June 10, 1963. Read more »

TWE Remembers: FDR’s “Stab in the Back” Speech

by James M. Lindsay Monday, June 10, 2013
Franklin D. Roosevelt's commencement address at the University of Virginia on June 10, 1940 as released to the press (Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration). Franklin D. Roosevelt's commencement address at the University of Virginia on June 10, 1940 as released to the press (Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration).

A president giving a commencement address is commonplace. A president giving a commencement address when his child is a member of the graduating class is pretty rare. Rarer still is a president speaking at his child’s graduation and saying something memorable enough to make it into the history books. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt accomplished just that feat on the evening of June 10, 1940 in his “stab-in-the-back” speech at the University of Virginia. Read more »

TWE Remembers: The Korean Expedition of 1871 and the Battle of Ganghwa (Shinmiyangyo)

by James M. Lindsay Monday, June 10, 2013
Council of war on board the U.S.S. Colorado in Korea in June 1871 (Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration). A council of war meets on board the U.S.S. Colorado off the coast of Korea in June 1871 (Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration).

Sometimes good relationships get off to a bad start. The United States and South Korea are a case in point. Today, Seoul is a valued American ally. Just last month, South Korean president Park Geun-hye became the sixth Korean president to address a joint session of Congress. President Obama said that President Park’s decision to make the United States her first overseas visit as president “reflects the deep friendship between our peoples and the great alliance between our nations.” But U.S.-Korean relations started with conflict rather than cooperation when on June 10, 1871, the U.S. Navy expedition sent to open relations with Korea instead waged the Battle of Ganghwa (or Shinmiyangyo). Read more »