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 "Politics"

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 »

A Bipartisan Strategy for U.S. Global Leadership

by Guest Blogger for James M. Lindsay
President Barack Obama shakes hands with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) before Obama's 2012 State of the Union address (Larry Downing/ Courtesy Reuters). President Barack Obama shakes hands with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) before Obama's 2012 State of the Union address (Larry Downing/ Courtesy Reuters).

A bipartisan task force calling itself the Project for a United and Strong America (PUSA) released a report today, entitled “Setting Priorities for American Leadership,” outlining its ideas for a national security strategy to guide the Obama administration’s second term. PUSA is co-chaired by Kurt Volker, who served as ambassador to NATO under George W. Bush and is now executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, and James Goldgeier, a member of the National Security Council staff under Bill Clinton and now dean of the School of International Service at American University. [Full disclosure: Jim and I have co-authored one or two things over the years.] My colleague, Mark Lagon, helped write the report. I asked him to explain the strategy that the report is advocating.  Read more »

Hello, Park Geun-hye: President of South Korea

by James M. Lindsay
South Korea's new president Park Geun-hye salutes the national flag during her inauguration (Lee Jae-Won/Courtesy Reuters). South Korea's new president Park Geun-hye salutes the national flag during her inauguration (Lee Jae-Won/Courtesy Reuters).

Glass ceilings are made to be broken. And today Park Geun-hye smashed one when she became the first woman to be sworn in as president of South Korea. Park defeated her left-of-center opponent, Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party (DUP), back in December with nearly 52 percent of the vote. To put that accomplishment in perspective, less than 16 percent of the seats in South Korea’s National Assembly are held by women, which places it 105th among legislatures worldwide, while 97 percent of senior government positions are held by men. Park’s ride into the Blue House was helped by the fact that she is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, the economic modernizer and military dictator who dominated South Korean politics from the time he took power in a coup in 1961 until his assassination in 1979. Many older South Koreans remember him fondly for lifting the country out of poverty, but liberal politicians and many younger South Koreans despise him for cruelly repressing his political opponents. Unlike her father, Park Guen-hye will have just a single five-year term to put her mark on South Korea. Read more »