Lindsay: Income inequality rising in many rich countries
(Source: OECD via The Atlantic)
April 7th, 2012
09:00 PM ET

Lindsay: Income inequality rising in many rich countries

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

Growing income inequality in the United States has attracted a lot of comment. But figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that greater income inequality is not a U.S.-only phenomenon. Income inequality is up across rich countries.

Economists use something called the Gini coefficient to measure inequality. It is a scale that runs from zero to one, with zero indicating total equality (everyone makes the same amount) and one indicating total inequality (that is, one person gets all the income and everyone else gets nothing). As the chart above shows, the Gini coefficient rose over the last quarter century in seventeen OECD countries.

What may be most remarkable about the numbers is that income inequality was up not just in traditionally higher income-inequality countries such as Mexico, the United States, and Israel, but also in traditionally lower income-inequality countries such as Germany, Finland, and Sweden.

The fact that income inequality is up almost across the board might seem to suggest that globalization and technology are to blame rather than the specific tax, spending, and regulatory choices that individual countries make. After all, globalization and technology are universal in their impact while countries follow very different national economic policies.

The OECD’s economists, however, say that the jury is still out on the causes of greater income inequality. Which brings to mind something I read once to the effect that if you lay all the world’s economists end to end you will never reach a conclusion. So let the argument continue.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay.

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Topics: Economy • Global
April 7th, 2012
05:30 PM ET

Lindsay: Malian rebels proclaim independent country of Azawad

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

Tuareg rebel fighters in northern Mali declared on Friday the independent country of Azawad. The announcement comes on the heels of the rebels’ rapid success in driving government forces out of Northern Mali in the two weeks since Malian soldiers overthrew the country’s democratically elected presidentAmadou Touré, a former general who first came to power in a coup two decades ago. (Touré oversaw Mali’s transition to democracy and then stepped down from power, earning him the nickname “the soldier of democracy.” He was elected president in 2002 and again in 2007.)

The new ruling junta justified its coup on the grounds that Touré had failed to put down the Tuareg rebellion. Tuaregs, a semi-nomadic people spread across Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria, and Burkina Faso, make up an estimated 10 percent of Mali’s population. They have been fighting for their independence since even before Mali won its own independence from France in 1960. FULL POST

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Topics: Africa
Lindsay: Global arms exports
Source: SIPRI via The Economist. * Large conventional weapons.
March 31st, 2012
12:00 PM ET

Lindsay: Global arms exports

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

Bashar al-Assad has accepted a six-point plan put forth by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to “end” the crisis in Syria.  We’ll see how that goes. Russian president Dmitri Medvedev has vowed support for the plan. This marks a change of tone if not substance in Russian policy. Moscow vetoed a toothless UN Security Council resolution on Syria just last month, claiming it was another Western attempt at “regime change.”

Some critics argue that Russia’s opposition had a more base motive: a desire to continue selling weapons to Syria. Which leads to a question: Who are the market leaders in the international arms trade? Thanks to the Economist, we know the answer—and it’s not China. The United States and Russia top the charts of arms dealers, with Germany, France, and Britain far behind.

Not surprisingly, countries sell more to their friends. The number one destination for U.S. arms exports is South Korea. Germany sells a lot to Greece (and gives it a lot of money as well); France is cozy with Singapore, and Britain has a friend in Riyadh. Don’t expect the international demand for weapons to ease any time soon.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay.

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Topics: Arms Trafficking • Chart
Lindsay: Was Obama playing Medvedev?
President Obama’s candid conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was caught on an open mic.
March 31st, 2012
11:32 AM ET

Lindsay: Was Obama playing Medvedev?

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

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.

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.

Obama’s critics have blistered him for this week’s gaffe, because, well, that’s what critics do.

FULL POST

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Topics: 2012 Election • President Obama • Russia
March 19th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

Lindsay: Should the United States leave Afghanistan?

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

The tragic news that a U.S. Army sergeant slaughtered sixteen Afghans this week has scrambled the debate over the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Afghan president Hamid Karzai has demanded that the United States agree to pull back its troops to bases in Afghanistan by next year. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have discovered doubts about the wisdom of staying the course in Afghanistan.The public’s dissatisfaction with the war has hardened. A Gallup poll out this week found that 50 percent of Americans want Washington to speed up its withdrawal from Afghanistan; only 21 percent say stay the course.

The White House says it intends to stick by its plan to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops by 2014. Gen. John Allen, who commands U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan opposes “any form of accelerated drawdown,” so much so that he apparently wants to slow down the pace of President Obama’s proposed withdrawal once the so-called surge troops depart the country next fall. You can still find plenty of independent military experts who think that General Allen has it exactly right. Their impassioned defense of current policy in the face of tragic news touches that chord in all of us that resonates with Winston Churchill’s immortal words from 1941: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in.” FULL POST

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Topics: Afghanistan • Military • United States
March 6th, 2012
10:30 AM ET

Lindsay: A Putin primer

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

He’s baaaaaccck! Vladimir Putin, who stepped down in 2008 as Russia’s president after serving two terms, won yesterday’s Russian presidential election going away. He captured a reported 64 percent of the vote, well above the 50 percent he needed to avoid a run-off election but seven percentage points below what he captured in his last presidential run in 2004.

Putin was defiant in victory, telling his supporters who had gathered outside the Kremlin, “We have shown that nobody can impose anything on us.” (He did tear up at one point during his victory speech, but he attributed that to cold weather and a high wind rather than the emotion of the moment.) A record number of election observers turned out to supervise the voting, but that hasn’t stopped allegations that Putin’s supporters perpetrated election fraud. Whether these charges stick, and more importantly, fuel the protests first triggered by the fraud committed in Russia’s December parliamentary elections, remains to be seen. What is certain is that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is once again running Russia. FULL POST

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Topics: Russia
Remembering Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech
March 5th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

Remembering Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

Politicians give speeches all the time. Most of what they say is quickly forgotten, or perhaps better never said in the first place. But occasionally a politician gives a speech that defines an age. That is precisely what happened on March 5, 1946 whenWinston Churchill spoke at tiny Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. He gave the world what became the central metaphor of the cold war: the iron curtain.

Churchill was in Missouri at the encouragement of President Harry Truman, who had grown up down the road in Independence and who introduced him when he spoke at Westminster College. “Winnie” was no longer prime minister by the time he came to campus. In July 1945, just two months after he led Britain to victory over Germany, British voters tossed him and his Conservative Party out of power. But his electoral defeat had hardly dimmed his star power in the United States. FULL POST
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Topics: History
March 3rd, 2012
04:36 PM ET

Lindsay: Americans out of Egypt

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

The six Americans charged with violating Egypt’s civil-society laws finally got to come home. 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. FULL POST

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Topics: Egypt • United States
February 24th, 2012
05:13 PM ET

Lindsay: Quran burning and the end of the Afghan War

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

The protests that have erupted across Afghanistan this week in the wake of the news that coalition forces burned several Qurans have laid bare the gulf that continues to exist, and may even be widening, between many Afghans and the U.S. troops there to protect them. Allegations that Iranian and Pakistani agents have helped fan the flames of Afghan anger probably have merit, though the Taliban’s initial response to the Quran burnings was surprisingly muted. But when Afghan parliamentarians urge their countrymen “to wage jihad against Americans” and NATO-trained Afghan police tell reporters “we should burn those foreigners,” Washington is almost certainly confronting a genuine rather than an artificial sentiment. And that sentiment looks pretty straight forward: Afghans want Americans to go home. FULL POST

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Topics: Afghanistan
George Kennan and the Long Telegram
U.S. diplomat and historian George F. Kennan (1904 - 2005) in his office while director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, circa 1948.
February 22nd, 2012
11:14 AM ET

George Kennan and the Long Telegram

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

Foreign service officers posted in embassies and consulates around the world send cables to Washington every day. Much of what they write is forgotten even before it is read at the State Department. A few cables gain notoriety when they are leaked to the public. Almost none help change the course of history. But the cable that George F. Kennan sent to his  State Department superiors from Moscow on February 22, 1946 did just that.

Hopes in the United States were high during the winter of 1945-46. World War II had ended with the defeat of Japan and Nazi Germany. Many Americans expected that Washington would build on the relationship with its wartime ally, the Soviet Union. They shared the conclusion that Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower reached visiting Moscow in 1945:  “Nothing guides Russian policy so much as a desire for friendship with the United States.” But by late fall 1945 the alliance began to unravel as Moscow pushed to carve out a sphere of influence in the Balkans, a prelude to what would become Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.

FULL POST

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Topics: History
Lindsay: Celebrating the presidents
(Circa 1787): George Washington (1732 - 1799), commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American War of Independence and the first president of the United States. An engraving by H. B. Hall. (Getty Images)
February 20th, 2012
03:35 PM ET

Lindsay: Celebrating the presidents

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

A few presidents have loved the job. Teddy Roosevelt said “No president has ever enjoyed himself as much as I have enjoyed myself.” Most other 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!”

Andrew Johnson, who was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate, returned to Capitol Hill six years after leaving the White House as senator from Tennessee. When an acquaintance mentioned that his new accommodations were smaller than his old ones at the White House, he replied: “But they are more comfortable.” Rutherford B. Hayes longed to escape what he called a “life of bondage, responsibility, and toil.”

FULL POST

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Topics: History • United States
February 14th, 2012
01:44 PM ET

Lindsay: Is Chinese investment good for the United States?

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter. This piece is reposted with permission of CFR.org.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

Xi Jinping visits the White House Tuesday. One of the topics on the agenda is the future of Chinese investment in the United States. It may sound like a pedestrian topic, but it has the potential to be politically explosive.China certainly has a lot of money to invest overseas. That’s one of the benefits that comes with being a creditor nation that sells the world more than it buys. As the chart below shows, China has more than $68 billion in overseas investments, up from less than $10 billion six years ago. (China is still a piker compared to the Netherlands—$3.78 trillion in outward foreign direct investment in 2010—let alone the United States—$3.91 trillion in overseas investments, also in 2010. That’s the benefit of getting a decades-long, if not centuries-long, head start.) FULL POST

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Topics: China • United States
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