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 "The White House"

TWE Remembers: Memorial Day

by James M. Lindsay
A U.S. Army Medal of Honor from the 1940s. (Library of Congress) A U.S. Army Medal of Honor from the 1940s. (Library of Congress)

The United States has fought twelve major wars and a countless number of smaller skirmishes. Memorial Day is our way of honoring the soldiers, sailors, airmen, airwomen, and marines who did not return home. The holiday dates back to the months immediately following the Civil War when a few towns and cities began honoring their dead. In 1868, General John A. Logan designated May 30 as “Decoration Day,” the purpose of which would be “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” The holiday was renamed Memorial Day after World War I, and its purpose became to honor all Americans who have died fighting the nation’s wars. Read more »

TWE Celebrates Memorial Day

by James M. Lindsay
The African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, DC. (Courtesy Reuters) The African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, DC. (Courtesy Reuters)

Monday marks Memorial Day here in the United States. Cities and towns across the country will hold parades and ceremonies to honor the men and women who served and died in the U.S. armed forces. If you happen to be in Washington, DC, you can choose from dozens of monuments and memorials to visit. Some of them are well-known: the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Marine Corps War Memorial, and Arlington National Read more »

TWE Remembers: General Douglas MacArthur’s Speech to Congress

by James M. Lindsay
A copy of General Douglas MacArthur's speech to a joint session of Congress on April 19, 1951. (Library of Congress) A copy of General Douglas MacArthur's speech to a joint session of Congress on April 19, 1951. (Library of Congress)

Americans love generals. We have elected twelve of them president. But for a president, generals can be an enormous pain—and a political threat. James K. Polk worried (rightly) that Winfield Scott was hankering after his job. Abraham Lincoln couldn’t get George B. McClellan to fight, finally relieved him of command of the Army of the Potomac, and then beat him decisively in the 1864 election. Read more »

Do Americans Prefer Romney’s Foreign Policy to Obama’s?

by James M. Lindsay
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Governor of Massachusetts Romney speaks during a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware. (Tim Shaffer/courtesy Reuters) U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Governor of Massachusetts Romney speaks during a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware. (Tim Shaffer/courtesy Reuters)

I’ve spent most of my time the past two weeks discharging my administrative responsibilities rather than following the news. With the stack of papers piled in my inbox now looking to be just daunting rather than terrifying, I decided to catch up on the news. So far most of what I have read has been unsurprising. The Syrian government agreed to a cease-fire and then broke it. North Korea promised not to launch a long-range missile and then did just that. Iran offered to talk about a nuclear deal while continuing to intimidate its neighbors.  People behaved badly when they went abroad or visited Las Vegas.  All are essentially dog-bites-man stories. Read more »

Lessons Learned: Bay of Pigs Invasion

by James M. Lindsay

A new installment of “Lessons Learned” is now out. This week I discuss the Bay of Pigs invasion, which began on April 17, 1961. In the video, I look at the mistakes made before and during the invasion and discuss the importance of anticipating failure and planning accordingly. Here’s a question to consider when thinking about these kinds of actions: What steps should presidents take to make sure that they are thinking how their policies might fail rather than simply engaging in wishful thinking about how they will succeed? I encourage you to weigh in with your answer in the comments section below.

I hope you enjoy the video.

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TWE Remembers: NSC-68

by James M. Lindsay
The cover of NSC-68. (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum) The cover of NSC-68. (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)

“United States Objectives and Programs for National Security” is a rather bland title for a report. Especially one that turns out to help drive history. But that’s the formal name given to NSC-68, the foundational document for America’s Cold War strategy. It was issued by President Harry Truman’s National Security Council for review on April 14, 1950.* Read more »

Lessons Learned: General MacArthur’s Dismissal

by James M. Lindsay

A new installment of “Lessons Learned” is now out. This week I discuss President Harry Truman’s announcement on April 11, 1951, that he had dismissed General Douglas MacArthur as commanding general of U.S. forces in Korea. In the video, I look at the principle of civilian control of the military and discuss when exercising that control is justified. Here’s a question to consider when thinking about wartime decision-making: How much deference should presidents give to the military, and under what conditions should they overrule military advice?  I encourage you to weigh in with your answer in the comments section below. And one quick correction. I mistakenly say in the video that General MacArthur sent a letter critical of the Truman administration’s policy in Korea to the “Republican speaker of the House.” MacArthur actually sent his letter to the House Republican minority leader.

I hope you enjoy the video.

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TWE Remembers: Secretary of State Dean Acheson

by James M. Lindsay
Former secretary of state Dean Acheson in 1965. (Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum) Former secretary of state Dean Acheson in 1965. (Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum)

Many secretaries of state have written memoirs. George Shultz penned Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State. James Baker wrote The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989–1992. Madeleine Albright has Madam Secretary: A Memoir. Condoleezza Rice is the latest entrant in the memoir sweepstakes, having released No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington just last year. Not to be outdone, Colin Powell plans to release his second memoir next month, and political junkies are no doubt eager to read what Hillary Clinton has to say about her service in the Obama administration. But my favorite memoir by a secretary of state is Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department, by Dean Acheson, who served under President Harry Truman. Born in Middletown, Connecticut on April 11, 1893, Acheson could truly say that he had a hand in crafting an entirely new American foreign policy. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Juvenal Habyarimana’s Plane Crashes and the Rwandan Genocide Begins

by James M. Lindsay
President Clinton speaks to survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide at the Kigali airport on March 25, 1998. (Win McNamee/courtesy Reuters) President Clinton speaks to survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide at the Kigali airport on March 25, 1998. (Win McNamee/courtesy Reuters)

Planes crashes have killed a regrettable number of world leaders. Legendary UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld died in 1960 in Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia) in mysterious circumstances while on his way to negotiate a ceasefire in neighboring Congo. Pakistani president Muhammed Zia-ul-Haq died in 1988 in similarly disputed circumstances. Just two years ago, Polish President Lech Kaczynski  died when his plane crashed attempting to land at a Russian airport in bad weather. But no plane crash involving a world leader has led to the kind of consequences that followed the death of Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. His death did more than disrupt Rwanda’s day-to-day routine; it ushered in one of the worst genocides of the twentieth century. Read more »

Lessons Learned: North Atlantic Treaty Signing

by James M. Lindsay

A new installment of “Lessons Learned” is now out. This week I examine the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, DC, on April 4, 1949. In the video, I look at how American membership in NATO marked a fundamental shift for U.S. foreign policy and discuss how difficult it can be for a country to undertake such a shift. Here’s a question to consider when thinking about these kinds of changes: Does the emergence of China, India, Brazil, and other rising powers require a fundamental rethinking of American foreign policy? I encourage you to weigh in with your answer in the comments section below.

I hope you enjoy the video.

Read more »