James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

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

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TWE Remembers: Austria-Hungary Issues an Ultimatum to Serbia

by James M. Lindsay
Austrian Ultimatum Serbia Weapons Austrian soldiers stand with captured Serbian weapons during World War I. (Courtesy Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection)

Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. That adage applies to governments as well as to people. A case in point is the ultimatum that Austria gave Serbia on July 23, 1914. Austrian officials were counting on Serbia to reject their demands, which would give Vienna the opportunity it was seeking to wage a swift and victorious war against its upstart neighbor. The Austrians were right on the first count, but horrifically wrong on the second. The result would be the Great War that changed the course of the twentieth century. Read more »

Hello, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo: President of Indonesia

by James M. Lindsay
President Jokowi Indonesia Joko Widodo Joko "Jokowi" Widodo appears at a rally in Proklamasi Monument Park in Jakarta on July 9, 2014. (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters)

Sometimes sure things turn out not to be so sure. Just ask Joko Widodo, who is better known to his fellow Indonesians as “Jokowi.” At the start of 2014 he was expected to win Indonesia’s presidential election in a landslide. Polls showed him with a thirty point lead.  By the time the July 9 vote rolled around, however, the race was a toss-up. Fortunately for Jokowi, things broke his way in the end and he picked up 53 percent of the vote. His opponent did not take the narrow loss well, declaring just hours before the final vote totals were released that he rejected the results as fraudulent and was withdrawing from the election. So rather than starting his presidency with an overwhelming mandate, Jokowi begins it amidst controversy. That’s hardly ideal. But as any seasoned political operative will tell you, a win is a win. Read more »

July 4th Trivia Quiz

by James M. Lindsay
July 4 Independence Day Soldiers Statue of Liberty The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment ("The Old Guard") performs during a ceremony to reopen the Statue of Liberty in New York on July 4, 2013. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters)

Tomorrow is July 4—the best of all American holidays. To mark the occasion, I am offering up the annual TWE July 4 trivia quiz. You can see the previous quizzes here, here, and here. Below are thirteen new questions in honor of the original thirteen colonies that threw off the yoke of British tyranny. You’ll find a link to the answers at the bottom of the post. Have a fun and safe Fourth of July! Read more »

TWE Remembers: The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

by James M. Lindsay
Franz Ferdinand Sophie Sarajevo A room at the Franz Ferdinand hostel in Sarajevo, Bosnia, which features a photo taken of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on the day they were assassinated. (Dado Ruvic/Courtesy Reuters)

A loving couple. An heir to the throne. A wife shunned by her husband’s family. Two countries bitterly at odds. A shadowy secret organization. Security officials indifferent to their responsibilities. Young men willing to die for a cause. Warnings of imminent danger that go unheeded or are never passed along. Bravery that in retrospect looks like recklessness. Bombs, guns, and cyanide. A chance mistake that puts a victim in the crosshairs of an assassin. Two gunshots. Read more »

More Books to Read This Summer

by James M. Lindsay
Books Summer Reading Library Visitors read books at the Liyuan Library in Beijing. (Barry Huang/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, Bob McMahon, Gideon Rose, and I offered up our summer reading suggestions on The World Next Week podcast. India Adams and her colleagues on the CFR Library staff were not to be outdone. They generated their own, much longer summer reading list, organized by topic. They had a lot of good suggestions, so I thought I’d share the ones that Bob, Gideon, and I haven’t already recommended: Read more »

Birthday Wishes to the United States Army!

by James M. Lindsay
Army Birthday Soldiers Salute U.S. Army soldiers salute during the Army's 237th anniversary celebrations at Times Square in New York 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 239 years old.

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

The World Next Week: Books to Read This Summer

by James M. Lindsay
Summer Reading Books Bookstore A woman reads a book at her open air book store in Skopje, Macedonia. (Ognen Teofilovski/Courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. This week, Bob McMahon and I took a break from our regular discussion of next week’s news to kick off the summer with some reading recommendations. We were joined by Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs, who also gave his suggestions. Read more »

Hello (Ahlan), Abdul Fattah al-Sisi: President of Egypt

by James M. Lindsay
Sisi President Egypt Abdul Fattah al-Sisi arrives for a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin near Moscow in February. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters)

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi took the oath of office as Egypt’s new president yesterday.  He succeeded the interim president, Adly Mansour. And who appointed Mansour? Why, Sisi himself after he and the Egyptian military overthrew the previous president, Mohamed Morsi, last July. How Sisi went from field marshal to president is not lost on any Egyptians. To some, he is a hero who saved the country from the looming tyranny of the Muslim Brotherhood and gave Egyptians the chance for a more prosperous future. To others, he is a villain who derailed Egypt’s emerging democracy and thwarted the public will. Managing that deep divide may be Sisi’s most immediate challenge. But it is far from his only one. Egypt’s economy has faltered in the wake of the political and social turmoil of the past three years. If Sisi can’t get the economy back on track, Egypt’s political and social turmoil will only intensify, with perhaps profound consequences for the region. Read more »

Hello, Narendra Modi: Prime Minister of India

by James M. Lindsay
Narendra Modi India Prime Minister BJP Narendra Modi attends a public meeting in Vadodra, Gujarat on May 16, 2014. (Amit Dave/Courtesy Reuters)

India did not produce Horatio Alger, but it certainly has produced a Horatio-Alger story: Narendra Modi. Yesterday the son of a poor tea seller took the oath of office as India’s fourteenth (or fifteenth) prime minister. He comes to office on the heels of an historic electoral victory. His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 282 seats in India’s parliamentary election, marking the first time in  thirty years that a single party in India won enough seats to form a government without the help of a coalition partner. Modi used his victory speech to promise to deliver a “shining India,” and he used his inaugural address to urge Indians to “script a glorious future for India.” Expectations are high in India that Modi will deliver on that promise. However, the obstacles in the way of his making good on his word are equally high. So if Modi succeeds, he will write an ending to his own story that Horatio Alger would have envied. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Memorial Day

by James M. Lindsay
Arlington Cemetery Soldiers Memorial Day Members of the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment take part in a "Flags-In" ceremony ahead of Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

The United States has fought twelve major wars and numerous smaller skirmishes in its history. Memorial Day is our way of honoring the soldiers, sailors, airmen, airwomen, and marines who did not return home. The holiday dates back to the months immediately after the Civil War when a few towns and cities began honoring their dead. In 1868, General John A. Logan designated May 30 as “Decoration Day,” the purpose of which would be “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” The holiday was renamed Memorial Day after World War I, and its purpose became to honor all Americans who have died fighting the nation’s wars. Read more »