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: World War I on the World Wide Web

by James M. Lindsay
World War I Verdun Medals French General Joseph Joffre congratulates and awards medals to soldiers who fought in the Battle of Verdun. (Collection Odette Carrez/Courtesy Reuters)

On July 28, 1914, Austria declared war on Serbia, triggering what became World War I. Known at the time as the Great War, it was a defining event of the twentieth century. Directly and indirectly it led to the deaths of more than 15 million people, cast four empires on the ash heap of history, and set Europe on the path to World War II. The Internet is full of information on the World War I. Like all things online, however, some resources are better than others. Here are some useful English-language websites to learn more about the war that changed the course of history. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Serbia Responds to Austria’s Ultimatum

by James M. Lindsay
Serbia Ultimatum Response Field Guns Field guns in Serbia during World War I (Courtesy Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection)

Diplomacy is often a contest to gain the upper hand in the court of world opinion. The country that can depict itself as victim of aggression even when the facts are more complex may rally greater support abroad than it would otherwise. A case in point is Serbia’s response on July 25, 1914 to Austria’s ultimatum over the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Serbian officials knew far more about the plot than they had let on, and some of them welcomed war with Austria as a way to achieve their ambitions for Serbia in the Balkans. But Belgrade’s skillfully worded response to the ultimatum helped cement the image of imperial Austria using a tragic killing as an excuse to crush its smaller and weaker neighbor. Read more »

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 »