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: The U.S. Invasion of Veracruz, Mexico

by James M. Lindsay
Veracruz US Occupation 1914 U.S. troops occupy Veracruz, Mexico in April 1914. (Flickr Commons Project, 2010/Courtesy Library of Congress)

When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. That advice is easier given than followed. The temptation to “double down” on bad ideas can be overpowering, especially in foreign policy where the political and diplomatic costs of admitting error can be substantial. But sometimes presidents recognize they have dug a hole for themselves and stop digging.  The U.S. invasion of Veracruz on April 21, 1914 offers a dramatic example. Within a span of four days President Woodrow Wilson went from hawk to dove. Read more »

The World Next Week: NATO Foreign Ministers Meet in Brussels, EU Discusses Chronic Diseases, and Syria Ships Out More Chemical Weapons

by James M. Lindsay
U.S. secretary of state John Kerry attends a NATO foreign ministers meeting in December. (Francois Lenoir/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. secretary of state John Kerry attends a NATO foreign ministers meeting in December. (Francois Lenoir/Courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Stewart Patrick filled in for Bob McMahon this week. Stewart and I discussed NATO’s upcoming foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, the first European Union Chronic Diseases Summit, and progress in the dismantlement of Syria’s chemical weapons. Read more »

Hello (Ciao), Matteo Renzi: Prime Minister of Italy

by James M. Lindsay
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi arrives to lead a news conference at Chigi palace in Rome. (Remo Casilli/Courtesy Reuters) Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi arrives to lead a news conference at Chigi palace in Rome. (Remo Casilli/Courtesy Reuters)

When President Barack Obama stops in Rome tomorrow he will be meeting with a politician who can match his own meteoric rise to power: Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi. Last month the thirty-nine-year-old Renzi, the former mayor of Florence, engineered the ouster of Italy’s sitting prime minister, Enrico Letta, and took the job for himself. Renzi’s rise to power was all the more remarkable because he and Letta belonged to the same political party, Italy’s center-left Democratic Party (PD). Renzi was elected the PD’s party secretary only three months ago, and he immediately set his sights on the prime minister’s job. He was a pretty effective insurgent. Letta’s colleagues voted 136 to 16 to oust him, and on February 14, he resigned after less than a year in office. Renzi and his new government were sworn in on February 22. Read more »

How Do We Pay to Repair America’s Decaying Infrastructure?

by James M. Lindsay
Passengers wait for a train at New York's Penn Station. (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters) Passengers wait for a train at New York's Penn Station. (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters)

America’s publicly owned infrastructure is falling apart. One in nine bridges in the United States is “structurally deficient.” There are 240,000 water main breaks each year. Thirty-two percent of America’s roads are in “poor or mediocre condition.” Amtrak’s Acela (which I am riding right now) is on time only 65.2 percent of the time, and runs at a top speed well below that achieved by fast trains overseas. Then there are the failings of airports like New York’s LaGuardia, which Vice President Joe Biden rightly likened last month to “some third-world country.” To add insult to injury, our long, harsh winter has only added to the long list of infrastructure repairs needed across the United States. So it’s not surprising that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the United States a D+ on its latest report card for America’s infrastructure. Read more »

The World Next Week: Obama Visits The Hague, Brussels, Rome, and Riyadh

by James M. Lindsay
U.S. president Barack Obama boards Air Force One. (Claudio Bresciani/Scanpix Sweden/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. president Barack Obama boards Air Force One. (Claudio Bresciani/Scanpix Sweden/Courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed Obama’s upcoming international trip. The president will be stopping in The Hague, where he will attend the Nuclear Security Summit and meet with world leaders on the sidelines; Brussels, where he will attend an EU-U.S. summit; Rome, where he will meet with the Italian prime minister and Pope Francis; and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with King Abdullah. Read more »

The World Next Week: Crimea Votes on Secession, Iranians Celebrate Nowruz, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny Visits the United States

by James M. Lindsay
A soldier posted in the Crimean town of Balaclava is seen in front of a Russian flag. (Baz Ratner/ Courtesy Reuters) A soldier posted in the Crimean town of Balaclava is seen in front of a Russian flag. (Baz Ratner/ Courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the referendum in Crimea, Persian New Year and the next round of nuclear talks with Iran, and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s visit to the United States for Saint Patrick’s Day. Read more »

The World Next Week: Crimea Standoff Continues, Tibetans Commemorate Uprising Day, and the World Wide Web Turns Twenty-Five

by James M. Lindsay
Pro-Russian demonstrators rally in the Crimean town of Yevpatoria. (Mark Levin/Courtesy Reuters) Pro-Russian demonstrators rally in the Crimean town of Yevpatoria. (Mark Levin/Courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed Russia’s intervention in Crimea, Tibetan Uprising Day, and the World Wide Web’s twenty-fifth birthday.

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The World Next Week: Venezuela Marks the First Anniversary of Chavez’s Death, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Visits Washington, and President Obama Releases His FY2015 Budget Plan

by James M. Lindsay
Demonstrators protest the Venezuelan government in San Cristobal, about 410 miles southwest of Caracas. (Carlos Garcia/Courtesy Reuters). Demonstrators protest the Venezuelan government in San Cristobal, about 410 miles southwest of Caracas. (Carlos Garcia/Courtesy Reuters).

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the first anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s death amid widespread protests in Venezuela, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States, and Obama’s budget for the 2015 fiscal year. Read more »

The World Next Week: Ukraine Protests Turn Violent, UN Report Condemns North Korea’s Human Rights Record, and the Sochi Olympics Come to a Close

by James M. Lindsay
Anti-government protesters carry logs to build barricades after violence erupted in the Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine. (Vasily Fedosenko/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters carry logs to build barricades after violence erupted in the Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine. (Vasily Fedosenko/Courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the escalating conflict in Ukraine, the United States and South Korea’s joint military exercises, and the end of the Sochi Winter Olympics. Read more »

TWE Celebrates Presidents’ Day

by James M. Lindsay
President George W. Bush meets with former Presidents and President-elect Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, January 2009. (Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters) President George W. Bush meets with former presidents and President-elect Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, January 2009. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Today is Presidents’ Day. It is a TWE tradition to recognize the forty-three men—and they have all been men—who have been president on Presidents’ Day with the following essay. If you are lucky enough to have today off, enjoy:

American kids often say they want to be president when they grow up.  You have to wonder why. A few presidents have loved the job. Teddy Roosevelt said “No president has ever enjoyed himself as much as I have enjoyed myself.” Most presidents, though, have found the job demanding, perhaps too demanding. James K. Polk pretty much worked himself to exhaustion. Zachary Taylor, the hero of the Mexican-American War, found being president harder than leading men into battle. Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack from the stress of leading the Free World. Many presidents express relief once they can be called “former president.” This trend started early. John Adams told his wife Abigail that George Washington looked too happy watching him take the oath of office. “Me–thought I heard him say, ‘Ay, I am fairly out and you fairly in! See which of us will be happiest!” Read more »