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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Showing posts for "Defense"

The United States Air Force Celebrates Its 66th Birthday Today

by James M. Lindsay
The Thunderbirds fly past as graduates celebrate at the Air Force Academy commencement ceremony in Colorado Springs (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters). The Thunderbirds fly past as graduates celebrate at the Air Force Academy commencement ceremony in Colorado Springs (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

The United States Air Force (USAF) turns 66 years-old today. On September 18, 1947, Chief Justice Fred Vinson swore in Stuart Symington as the first secretary of the Air Force, officially founding a new branch of the U.S. military. Gen. Carl A. Spaatz became the USAF’s first chief of staff eight days later on September 26, 1947. Read more »

Should the United States Mind Its Own Business Internationally?

by James M. Lindsay
Syrian-American demonstrators protest in front of the White House (Jim Bourg/Courtesy Reuters). Syrian-American demonstrators protest in front of the White House (Jim Bourg/Courtesy Reuters).

Separate polls out today by the New York Times/CBS News and the Wall Street Journal/NBC News show considerable public opposition to President Obama’s call for military strikes against Syria.  Both polls show something else as well: Americans doubt the wisdom of U.S. activism overseas more broadly. Read more »

Americans Still Doubt the Need for Military Strikes Against Syria

by James M. Lindsay
A protester holds up a sign against U.S. action in Syria as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin E. Dempsey, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Joshua Roberts/Courtesy Reuters). A protester holds up a sign against U.S. action in Syria as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin E. Dempsey, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Joshua Roberts/Courtesy Reuters).

Gallup is out with a new poll on what Americans think about military strikes against Syria.  Unlike the Pew Research Center and Washington Post/ABC News polls released on Tuesday, Gallup started questioning Americans after President Obama announced on Saturday that he was asking Congress to approve military action. But like the Pew and Post/ABC polls, Gallup found that far more Americans (51 percent) oppose military strikes than support them (36 percent). Read more »

Americans Doubt the Need for Military Strikes Against Syria

by James M. Lindsay
Opponents of U.S.-led intervention in Syria rally outside the White House (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters). Opponents of U.S.-led intervention in Syria rally outside the White House (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

Sometimes polls tell you what you already know. That’s the case with the polls that the Pew Research Center and the Washington Post and ABC News just released on Syria. Pew found that Americans oppose conducting military strikes against Syria by a margin of 48 percent to 29 percent. By a virtually identical margin (48 percent to 32 percent) they believe that President Obama has not explained clearly why the United States should attack Syria. Meanwhile, the Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Americans opposed military strikes by a margin of 59 percent to 36 percent. Read more »

Has Congress Ever Denied a President’s Request to Authorize Military Force?

by James M. Lindsay
President Barack Obama discusses a military response to Syria with bipartisan Congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). President Barack Obama discusses a military response to Syria with bipartisan Congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

Many people inside the Beltway doubt that President Obama will succeed in convincing Congress to authorize a military strike against Syria. Which raises a question. If the skeptics turn out to be right, would Obama be the first president to have Congress turn down his request to authorize military action? No, but he would be the first one in a very long time. Read more »

Syria Revives the War Powers Debate

by James M. Lindsay
The United States Constitution (Courtesy of the National Archives) The United States Constitution (Courtesy of the National Archives)

President Obama’s determination that the United States should take military action to punish the Syrian government for using chemical weapons has revived the perennial debate over how the Constitution allocates the war power between Congress and the White House.  President Obama says he has “the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization,” but nonetheless is asking Congress to vote anyway. Some commentators have hailed this decision; others have criticized it for undermining presidential authority. Read more »

Obama Asks Congress to Vote on Syria

by James M. Lindsay
President Barack Obama makes remarks on the situation in Syria at the Rose Garden of the White House (Mike Theiler/Courtesy Reuters). President Barack Obama makes remarks on the situation in Syria at the Rose Garden of the White House (Mike Theiler/Courtesy Reuters).

President Obama’s announcement that he is asking Congress to authorize the use of military force against Syria comes as welcome news to proponents of the view that presidents cannot unilaterally initiate the use of military force. Although Obama endorsed that view back in 2007 before he became president, he pointedly declined to ask Congress to authorize U.S. military action against Libya in 2011. Read more »

Hello, Susan Rice: National Security Adviser

by James M. Lindsay
U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice speaks in the Rose Garden after Obama's announcement that Rice will be his next national security adviser (Joshua Roberts/Courtesy Reuters). Susan Rice speaks in the Rose Garden after Obama's announcement that she will be his next national security adviser (Joshua Roberts/Courtesy Reuters).

When one door closes another one opens. Susan Rice can certainly vouch for that pithy piece of advice. Early last fall the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations looked to be a shoe-in to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Then came Benghazi.  By December it was clear that Senate Republicans would block her nomination. So in keeping with Washington tradition, she withdrew her name from consideration. But today a door opened. President Obama named Rice to succeed Tom Donilon as national security adviser—a position that is potentially more influential than secretary of state even if it is less prestigious. Rice takes up her new post in early July. Many of her critics are panning Obama’s decision to move her from Turtle Bay to the White House, but there is not much they can do about it. While presidents need Senate consent to appoint cabinet secretaries, they can appoint anyone they wish to staff jobs. Read more »

Obama’s Chemical Weapons Dilemma in Syria

by James M. Lindsay
U.S. secretary of defense Chuck Hagel speaks with reporters in Abu Dhabi after reading a statement on chemical weapon use in Syria (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. secretary of defense Chuck Hagel speaks with reporters in Abu Dhabi after reading a statement on chemical weapon use in Syria (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters).

Do not threaten what you are not prepared to do. That is a cardinal rule of foreign policy. And it is a rule that is causing the White House diplomatic and political trouble now that it has agreed that Syria has likely used chemical weapons “on a small scale” against rebel forces. Read more »

What Should Washington Do About Rising Tensions in the East China Sea?

by James M. Lindsay
Chinese marine surveillance ships patrol the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters). Chinese marine surveillance ships patrol the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters).

The great English novelist  Charlotte Brontë once complained, “I can be on guard against my enemies, but God deliver me from my friends!” Obama administration officials today have some sympathy for Ms. Brontë’s lament. This morning their good friend, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, greatly complicated their diplomacy in northeast Asia with a vow to use force if China attempts to land forces on the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. The vow is sure to increase tensions that had seemed to be easing over the isolated and barren rocks in the East China Sea that may (or may not) sit atop significant oil and gas reserves. Read more »