James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

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

Seven Facts About the State of the Union Address

by James M. Lindsay Monday, January 11, 2016
President Barack Obama delivers his first State of the Union in 2010. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) President Barack Obama delivers his first State of the Union in 2010. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

President Barack Obama is set to deliver his final State of the Union address tomorrow night at 9 p.m. The White House says it will be a “non-traditional” speech that will take a “big-picture approach to some of the challenges and opportunities that we face” as a country. In doing so the president hopes to frame the public debate heading into an election year. His odds of succeeding are daunting, in large part because the power of the bully pulpit is greatly overrated. But as they say, you can’t win if you don’t play. Read more »

Campaign 2016 Friday Foreign Policy Roundup: The Public’s Mixed Message on Climate Change

by James M. Lindsay Friday, January 8, 2016
A woman walks past a map showing the elevation of the sea in the last 22 years during the 2015 World Climate Change Conference. (Stephane Mahe/Courtesy Reuters) A map showing the elevation of the sea in the last 22 years during the 2015 world climate change conference. (Stephane Mahe/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama is set to deliver his final State of the Union address Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Climate change will be one of the featured topics in what the White House says will be a “non-traditional” speech that discusses broad themes rather than offers a laundry list of topics. When the speech turns to climate change, odds are good that Obama will tout last month’s Paris Climate Accord as a major accomplishment on his watch. However important the Paris deal may be, Obama has accomplished far less on the climate front during his presidency than he likely expected seven years ago when in his first State of the Union address he called for comprehensive climate legislation. A poll out from Monmouth University this week provides insight into why that has been the case. Read more »

Five Big Foreign Policy Questions for 2016

by James M. Lindsay Thursday, December 31, 2015
The New Year's Eve "16" numerals arrive on a truck in Times Square New York. (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters) The New Year's Eve "16" numerals arrive in Times Square. (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters)

On Tuesday, CFR.org posted an interview I did previewing the year ahead. My take in a nutshell: 2016 is shaping up to be a tumultuous year. The list of problems is long: a resurgence in terrorism, chaos in the Middle East, tensions in Asia, and sluggish global economic growth. All of this will be happening amidst what promises to be a raucous American presidential campaign that will likely generate more heat than light on the foreign policy challenges facing the United States. Read more »

Ten World Figures Who Died in 2015

by James M. Lindsay Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Sun sets over Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur (Zainal Abd Halim/Courtesy Reuters) The sun sets over the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur. (Zainal Abd Halim/Courtesy Reuters)

I wrote yesterday about ten Americans who died in 2015 who helped shape U.S. foreign policy during their lifetimes. But Americans are not the only ones who influence world affairs. Below are ten world figures who died this year. Each made a mark on history. Some were heroes; some were villains. And for some, whether they were a hero or villain is your call to make. Read more »

Ten American Foreign Policy Influentials Who Died in 2015

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, December 29, 2015
American flags fly at half-staff in Washington, D.C. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) American flags fly at half-staff in Washington, D.C. (Larry Downing/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 2015 who through their vision, service, intellect, or courage helped shape U.S. foreign policy. They will be missed. Read more »

Campaign 2016 Friday Foreign Policy Roundup: Democrats and Republicans Have Different Priorities

by James M. Lindsay Friday, December 18, 2015
The flag over the White House is lowered to half staff to honor the victims of the San Bernardino, California shootings. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) The flag over the White House is lowered to half staff to honor the victims of the San Bernardino, California shootings. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

In a post last week, I noted that polls showed that terrorism has jumped up the priority list for voters and wondered whether it troubled Democrats and Republicans equally. The poll I looked at last week didn’t provide the answer, but a poll out this week from Monmouth University does. In what probably won’t come as a surprise, Democrats and Republicans see things differently. Read more »

Ten Most Significant World Events in 2015

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Syrian refugees wait to cross into Turkey, June 15, 2015. (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters) Syrian refugees wait to cross into Turkey, June 15, 2015. (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters)

Every year has its share of significant events. Two thousand fifteen is no exception. Here is my list of the 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 2016. Read more »

Campaign 2016 Friday Foreign Policy Roundup: More Terrorism Polls

by James M. Lindsay Friday, December 11, 2015
Mementos adorn a shrine to the victims of the San Bernardino attack. (Sandy Huffaker/Courtesy Reuters) Mementos adorn a shrine to the victims of the San Bernardino attack. (Sandy Huffaker/Courtesy Reuters)

The New York Times and CBS released a new poll this morning showing that terrorism tops the public’s list of the most important issues facing the country. Fourteen percent of Americans point to terrorism in general and another 5 percent mention Islamic extremists. So does this mean foreign policy rather than domestic policy now is foremost in the public’s mind? Read more »

Ten Elections to Watch in 2016

by James M. Lindsay Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Opposition supporter holds a poster of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega during a protest demanding fairer presidential elections next year, in Managua, Nicaragua. (Oswaldo Rivas/Courtesy Reuters) Opposition supporter holds a poster of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega during a protest demanding fairer presidential elections next year, in Managua, Nicaragua. (Oswaldo Rivas/Courtesy Reuters)

Millions of people around the world went to the polls this year. Nigerians voted out their incumbent president and elected a former military dictator in his place. British voters surprised the experts predicting another hung parliament by giving the Conservative Party a majority in the House of Commons. Turks got to vote twice, denying the Justice and Development Party a parliamentary majority in June elections but giving it one in November elections. These are just a few of the elections that made news in 2015. The world will have plenty of important elections in 2016. Here are ten to watch. Read more »

Campaign 2016 Friday Foreign Policy Roundup: Terrorism Concerns Grow

by James M. Lindsay Friday, December 4, 2015
American flags fly at half-staff to honor the victims of the Paris attacks. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) American flags fly at half-staff to honor the victims of the Paris attacks. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Last month I wrote that domestic policy issues were trumping foreign policy ones in the minds of the American voters. In one poll, eight in ten Americans said that domestic issues would have the biggest impact on their choice for president; slightly less than two in ten named a foreign policy issue. But I noted at the time that events could scramble those priorities. So have the horrific Paris attacks changed voter priorities? Read more »