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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Ten Americans Who Died in 2013 Who Shaped U.S. Foreign Policy

by James M. Lindsay
American flags fly at half mast. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) American flags fly at half mast. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

Year’s end is a time for taking stock, counting successes, and assessing failures. It is also a time for remembering those who are no longer with us. Here are ten Americans who died in 2013 who through their vision, service, intellect, or courage helped shape U.S. foreign policy. They will be missed. Read more »

Ten Elections to Watch in 2014

by James M. Lindsay
Voters line up outside a polling booth during the state assembly election last week in New Delhi, India. (Ahmad Masood/Courtesy Reuters) Voters line up outside a polling booth during the state assembly election last week in New Delhi, India. (Ahmad Masood/Courtesy Reuters)

Two thousand and thirteen won’t go down in the history books as a banner year for globally significant elections. True, the election of Hassan Rouhani changed the tone in Tehran and possibly opened the door to a lasting diplomatic solution to the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program. But the outcome of most of the elections held in 2013—and there were a lot of them—mattered primarily to the people who cast the ballots. In contrast, 2014 is shaping up as a year in which the choices voters make could reverberate well beyond their country’s borders. So for those of you eager to peer ahead, here are ten elections to watch for in 2014. Read more »

Is America’s Global Influence in Decline?

by James M. Lindsay

Earlier this week, I did an interview for the show Digital Age with host Jim Zirin. The topic was “Is America’s global influence in decline?” I don’t know that I actually answered Jim’s question, but over the course of our conversation we discussed the partial government slowdown, the Snowden affair, the possible balkanization of the Internet, President Obama’s sagging approval ratings, Congress’s reluctance to endorse military action against Syria, the limits of military force, Iran’s nuclear intentions, and Egypt’s future, among other topics. 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 »

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 »

Happy Earth Day! CFR Releases Global Governance Report Card on Climate Change

by James M. Lindsay
Children in Karachi, Pakistan, clean up a beach for Earth Day 2013 (Akhtar Soomro/Courtesy Reuters). Children in Karachi, Pakistan, clean up a beach for Earth Day 2013 (Akhtar Soomro/Courtesy Reuters).

Happy Earth Day! Today marks its forty-third anniversary. The idea for the first Earth Day came from Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI). Appalled by the tragic 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara, California, he wanted a way to bring attention to the problem of environmental degradation. His initial 1970 effort turned out 20 million people across the United States. Four-plus decades later, some one billion people around the world are participating in activities ranging from cleaning up parks and beaches to an environmental flash-mob in Seoul, which turned Psy’s “Gangnam Style” into “Eco-Style.”  Read more »

Hello (Welcome Back), Shinzo Abe: Prime Minister of Japan

by James M. Lindsay
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe addresses cadets during a graduation ceremony at the National Defense Academy of Japan (Kiyoshi Ota/Courtesy Reuters). Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe addresses cadets during a graduation ceremony at the National Defense Academy of Japan (Kiyoshi Ota/Courtesy Reuters).

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That old saying could be the motto of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who today marks the end of his third month in office. You see, he had this job once before. On September 26, 2006, he was sworn in as Japan’s ninetieth prime minister, the youngest ever and the first born after the end of World War II. Abe’s initial tenure was mired in missteps and scandals, however, and just 351 days after taking the oath of office he resigned. He remained active in politics, though, as Japan ran through five more prime ministers in five years. Last September he launched his comeback. He first won control of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in a hotly contested battle. Then in December, he led the LDP to a landslide victory over the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which three years earlier had broken the LDP’s stranglehold on Japanese politics. Abe certainly doesn’t lack for challenges the second time around, what with Japan’s economy continuing to stagnate and China seeking to establish itself as the dominant power in Asia. Whether he can master these challenges will determine whether he redeems his reputation—or confirms it. Read more »

Hello, Xi Jinping: President of China

by James M. Lindsay
Xi Jinping at a meeting in Beijing on December 27, 2012 (Wang Zhao/Courtesy Reuters). Xi Jinping at a meeting in Beijing on December 27, 2012 (Wang Zhao/Courtesy Reuters).

Good news comes in threes. Just ask Xi Jinping. Back in November he was named Secretary General of the Communist Party of China and Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission. Yesterday he picked up his third impressive title, president of China, when the National People’s Congress voted 2,955 to one with three abstentions to give him the job. (No word yet on who the delegate was who marched to the beat of his, or her, own drummer.) Xi now heads up China’s three major power centers: the party, the military, and the government. In short, he is a man to be reckoned with. Read more »