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: Top Ten World War I Films

by James M. Lindsay
World War I The African Queen Likenesses of Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, in character in their roles in the movie "The African Queen," at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Los Angeles. (Courtesy The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

World War I has provided source material for gripping novels and powerful poetry. It also has provided source material for some great movies. Here are my ten favorites in alphabetical order. Read more »

TWE Remembers: The Assassination of Jean Jaurès

by James M. Lindsay
Jean Jaures Cafe du Croissant A sign at the Cafe du Croissant in Paris marks where Jean Jaures was assassinated in 1914.

Yesterday’s post noted that the 1916 Black Tom explosion raises a great “what if” question: would Woodrow Wilson have lost his bid for re-election that fall if Americans had known that German saboteurs had blown up Black Tom? Here’s another “what if”: would World War I have followed a different course had Jean Jaurès, the leader of the French Socialist Party in the Chamber of Deputies, not been assassinated on July 31, 1914? Read more »

TWE Remembers: World War I Poetry

by James M. Lindsay
World War I Cemetery Soldier A French officer stands near a cemetery for soldiers killed on the front lines of World War I at Saint-Jean-sur-Tourbe on the Champagne front, December 1916. (Collection Odette Carrez/Courtesy Reuters)

I think that I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree.” Most Americans know the opening lines of the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer. What they probably don’t know is that Kilmer was a war hero—the French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre for bravery—or that he was killed by a German sniper at the Second Battle of the Marne on July 30, 1918. Sadly, Kilmer was far from the only accomplished poet to die while serving during the Great War. Rupert Brooke, John McCrae, Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Charles Sorely, and Edward Thomas were among the poets who did not live to see the war’s end. Read more »

TWE Remembers: The Black Tom Explosion

by James M. Lindsay
Black Tom Explosion Workers sort shells at Black Tom. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection)

The explosion at the Black Tom munitions depot in Jersey City, New Jersey at 2:08 a.m. on Sunday, July 30, 1916 was massive. It generated shockwaves equivalent to a 5.5 magnitude earthquake, blowing out tens of thousands of windows across the harbor in Manhattan. People as far away as Maryland reported being jolted awake. Because of the late hour the death toll was remarkably low; fewer than ten people were killed. Authorities quickly chalked the explosion up to lax safety procedures by the depot’s owner, the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and its operator, the National Dock and Storage Company. Had they known the actual culprit, the United States might have entered World War I eight months sooner than it did—and the outcome of the 1916 presidential election might have been very different. Read more »

TWE Remembers: World War I Novels

by James M. Lindsay
World War I Soldiers Trenches French soldiers aim an anti-aircraft machine gun from the trenches during World War I. (Collection Odette Carrez/Courtesy Reuters)

Yesterday, I recommended several great books on the origins of World War I. I’m a history buff, so books about what world leaders said and did are my thing. But friends who prefer novels to histories tell me that “fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.” So in that spirit, here are recommendations for novels about World War I. But be warned. These are mostly books about the war’s brutality and senselessness, not its glories and heroics. Read more »

TWE Remembers: World War I Histories

by James M. Lindsay
World War I Books French General Emile Eugene Belin visits the front line near Arras, Northern France. (Collection Odette Carrez/Courtesy Reuters)

You can learn a lot about the origins, events, and consequences of World War I by surfing the Internet. But if you really want to understand why the Great War happened, you should read serious histories on the subject. The problem is that historians have turned out more than 25,000 books and articles on World War I. So where should you start? Here are some recommendations. Read more »

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 »