James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

Ten Vietnam War Novels to Read

by James M. Lindsay Friday, March 6, 2015
Vietnam War Soldiers Novels Soldiers carry an injured comrade through a swamp in Vietnam. (National Archives and Records Administration)

All week I have been blogging on the best histories, memoirs, films, and songs to mark Sunday’s fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the first U.S. combat troops in Vietnam. Today I want to look at the best novels, because fiction can provide fresh insights into great historical events. My challenge, though, is that I have only read three novels about Vietnam: The Quiet American (1955) by Graham Greene, The Ugly American (1958) by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer, and The Short-Timers (1979) by Gustav Hasford. The first two made my list of the best Cold War novels, and The Short-Timers was the grist for Stanley Kubrick’s film Full-Metal Jacket. So the list below, which is based on reviews and recommendations, are the ten Vietnam War novels that I most want to read if I can find the time to read anything other than email. Read more »

The Twenty Best Vietnam Protest Songs

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, March 5, 2015
Vietnam War Songs Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and David Crosby perform at their 2000 reunion tour. (Courtesy Reuters)

Sunday marks fifty years since the first U.S. combat troops arrived in South Vietnam. To mark the anniversary of the war that changed America, I am doing a series of posts on the best histories, memoirs, movies, and novels about Vietnam. Today’s topic is protest songs. Much as poetry provides a window into the Allied mood during World War I, anti-war songs provide a window into the mood of the 1960s. It was one of anger, alienation, and defiance. Vietnam has continued to inspire songwriters long after the last U.S. helicopters were pushed into the East Vietnam Sea, but my interest here is in songs recorded during the war. So as much as I love Bruce Springsteen (“Born in the USA”) and Billy Joel (“Goodnight Saigon”), their songs don’t make this list. With that caveat out of the way, here are my twenty picks for best protest songs in order of the year they were released. Read more »

Top Ten Vietnam War Movies

by James M. Lindsay Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Vietnam War Films U.S. Marines watch the film "Full Metal Jacket" below the decks of the USS Iwo Jima. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)

Sunday marks fifty years since the first U.S. combat troops arrived in South Vietnam. To mark the anniversary, I am doing a series of posts listing my picks for the best histories, memoirs, novels, movies, photos, and songs about the war. Today my focus is on movies. There certainly have been a lot of them. To simplify things, I only considered English-language films produced for theatrical release. Nothing against foreign-language films or made-for-TV movies. I just can’t say that I have seen enough of either to pick the best. With that caveat out of the way, here are my top ten picks: Read more »

The Ten Best Memoirs of the Vietnam War

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Vietnam War Soldiers Memoirs Two soldiers await a helicopter evacuation with their fallen comrade after a battle in the jungles of Vietnam. (National Archives and Records Administration)

Yesterday, I posted my picks for the best histories of the Vietnam War. While those books all provide excellent analyses of the war, another way to understand U.S. involvement in Vietnam is through the personal stories of those who lived it, whether on the battlefields or in the halls of power back in Washington. Here are my picks for the ten best memoirs of the Vietnam War: Read more »

The Best Histories of the Vietnam War

by James M. Lindsay Monday, March 2, 2015
Vietnam War Books President Lyndon B. Johnson and General William Westmoreland decorate a soldier in Vietnam. (National Archives and Records Administration)

Next Sunday marks the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the first American combat troops in Vietnam. It wasn’t a decision that President Lyndon Johnson had planned on making. True, the previous August had seen the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which prompted a near unanimous Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution supporting Johnson’s determination ”to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression. But three months later Johnson was still insisting: “We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” Read more »

TWE Celebrates Presidents’ Day

by James M. Lindsay Monday, February 16, 2015
President George W. Bush meets with former Presidents and President-elect Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, January 2009. (Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters) President George W. Bush meets with former presidents and President-elect Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, January 2009. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Today is Presidents’ Day. It is a TWE tradition to recognize the forty-three men—and they have all been men—who have been president on Presidents’ Day with the following essay. If you are lucky enough to have today off, enjoy:

American kids often say they want to be president when they grow up.  You have to wonder why. A few presidents have loved the job. Teddy Roosevelt said “No president has ever enjoyed himself as much as I have enjoyed myself.” Most presidents, though, have found the job demanding, perhaps too demanding. James K. Polk pretty much worked himself to exhaustion. Zachary Taylor, the hero of the Mexican-American War, found being president harder than leading men into battle. Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack from the stress of leading the Free World. Many presidents express relief once they can be called “former president.” This trend started early. John Adams told his wife Abigail that George Washington looked too happy watching him take the oath of office. “Me–thought I heard him say, ‘Ay, I am fairly out and you fairly in! See which of us will be happiest!” Read more »

A Presidents’ Day Quiz

by James M. Lindsay Friday, February 13, 2015
Presidents Day Trivia President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk out to the presidential helicopter with former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura after President Obama's inauguration in 2009. (Tannen Maury/Courtesy Reuters)

Monday is Presidents’ Day. To get you in the proper celebratory mood, TWE presents its fourth annual Presidents’ Day quiz. This year, the quiz includes questions about some of America’s remarkable first ladies.

You can find a link to the answers at the bottom of the post. If you have your own presidential trivia questions, please post them in the comments so everyone can take a crack at answering them. And if you are feeling up to it, you can try the quizzes from 2012, 2013, and 2014 as well. Read more »

Ten Americans Who Died in 2014 Who Shaped U.S. Foreign Policy

by James M. Lindsay Monday, December 22, 2014
Americans who died in 2014 The American flag flies at half mast outside the U.S. Capitol. (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 2014 who through their vision, service, intellect, or courage helped shape U.S. foreign policy. They will be missed. Read more »

Top Ten Most Significant World Events in 2014

by James M. Lindsay Monday, December 15, 2014
Russia Annex Crimea Passport Two Crimean men examine their new Russian passports on April 3, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Every year has its share of significant world events. Two thousand fourteen is no exception. Here is my list of the top ten most significant events of the year. You may want to read what follows closely. Several of these stories could continue to dominate the headlines in 2015. Read more »