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: 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 »

TWE Remembers: Woodrow Wilson Asks Congress to Declare War on Germany

by James M. Lindsay
The first page of President Woodrow Wilson's Declaration of War Message to Congress, April 2, 1917. (National Archives) The first page of President Woodrow Wilson's Declaration of War Message to Congress, April 2, 1917. (National Archives)

Presidents win elections by making promises to voters. But keeping those promises can prove impossible to do. Just ask Woodrow Wilson. He won reelection in November 1916 on a pledge to keep the United States out of World War I. Five months later he was asking Congress to declare war on Germany.

Foreign policy, let alone war, was far from Wilson’s mind when he first won election in 1912. Read more »

Friday File: Obama’s Open Mic Gaffe

by James M. Lindsay
obama-medvedev-hot-mic-2012-03-30 U.S. President Obama talks with Russian President Medvedev in South Korea. (Larry Downing/courtesy Reuters)

Above the Fold. President Obama got himself into hot water this week when he was overhead telling Russian president Dmitri Medvedev he would have “more flexibility” on issues like missile defense after the November election and that incoming Russian president Vladimir Putin should give him “space.” The incident added to a long list of presidential and vice presidential “open mic” gaffes. During a sound-check before a 1984 radio interview, Ronald Reagan warmed up by saying,  “My fellow Americans, I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” That got people’s hearts pounding. Vice President Biden famously called the signing of Obama’s health-care bill in 2010 “a big f***ing deal.” Parents of young children were not pleased. Read more »

Lessons Learned: LBJ Announces He Will Not Seek Reelection

by James M. Lindsay

A new installment of “Lessons Learned” is now out. This week I discuss Lyndon B. Johnson’s announcement on March 31, 1968, that he would not seek reelection as president. In the video, I discuss how Johnson’s decisions on Vietnam derailed a presidency that had accomplished historic success on domestic issues. Here’s a question to consider when thinking about foreign policy: why are presidents so eager to pursue an activist foreign policy when history suggests that it so often hurts them politically? I encourage you to weigh in with your answer in the comments section below.

I hope you enjoy the video.

Read more »

The World Next Week: Arab League Meets and Obama Visits Korea

by James M. Lindsay
Iraq's Foreign Minister Zebari speaks with the Arab League's Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs Ahmad bin Hilly in Baghdad. (Mohammed Ameen/courtesy Reuters) Iraq's Foreign Minister Zebari speaks with the Arab League's Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs Ahmad bin Hilly in Baghdad. (Mohammed Ameen/courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the Arab League summit in Baghdad; President Obama’s visit to the Denuclearized Military Zone (DMZ) on the Korean Peninsula as part of his visit to the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul; the presidential election run-off in Senegal; and the Pope’s trip to Cuba. Read more »

TWE Remembers: The Truman Doctrine

by James M. Lindsay
President Harry S. Truman delivering an address to a joint session of Congress on March 12, 1947, during which he outlined the "Truman Doctrine." (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum) President Harry S. Truman delivering an address to a joint session of Congress on March 12, 1947, during which he outlined the "Truman Doctrine." (Courtesy Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)

If you ever take a course on the history of American foreign policy, you are bound to get tested on doctrines. The first president to lend his name to a foreign policy doctrine was James Monroe, though to be accurate, the term “Monroe Doctrine” wasn’t coined until two decades after his death. Theodore Roosevelt is the only president to give us a “corollary” to a presidential doctrine, namely, the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. In recent decades seemingly every president has offered up a doctrine. There is the Eisenhower Doctrine, the Nixon Doctrine, the Carter Doctrine, the Reagan Doctrine, the Clinton Doctrine, the Bush Doctrine, and the Obama Doctrine. Read more »

The World Next Week: The One-Year Anniversary of the Tsunami Disaster in Japan

by James M. Lindsay
A girl walks through rows of candles at a September 2011 event in Kesennuma, Japan, to commemorate those who died in the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. (Kim Kyung Hoon/courtesy Reuters) A girl walks through rows of candles at a September 2011 event in Kesennuma, Japan, to commemorate those who died in the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. (Kim Kyung Hoon/courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the one-year anniversaries of the tsunami in Japan and the start of the Syrian uprising; British Prime Minister David Cameron’s two-day visit to Washington; and Pi Day. Read more »

Friday File: Americans Out of Egypt

by James M. Lindsay
An Egyptian human rights worker sits outside a non-governmental organization in Cairo. (Courtesy Reuters) An Egyptian human rights worker sits outside a non-governmental organization in Cairo. (Courtesy Reuters)

Above the Fold. The six Americans charged with violating Egypt’s civil-society laws finally got to come home last night. The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute posted more than $4 million in bail to get the travel ban that the Egyptian government had on their employees lifted. (Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation posted another half a million dollars in bail to get its two employees out of Egypt.) The accused all pledged that they will return to Egypt in April when their trial on charges of failing to register their NGO with the Egyptian government and taking money from a foreign entity is scheduled to resume. Fat chance that happens. Read more »