February 7th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

Lindsay: Should the United States still give Egypt foreign aid?

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

What if you want to give foreign aid but the intended beneficiaries say they don’t want it? That’s the dilemma the Obama administration faces right now in the Middle East.Two weeks ago, the State Department announced it planned to provide “more immediate benefits” to the Egyptian people. Washington would redirect non-urgent aid originally earmarked for other countries to Egypt to fund quick-impact projects. The idea is to help the most populous and influential country in the Arab world make the difficult transition from autocratic rule to a successful and prospering democracy.

According to a Gallup poll just out, however, most Egyptians don’t want America’s help. Seven in ten Egyptians say they oppose U.S. economic aid to Egypt; three-quarters oppose Washington’s efforts to fund Egypt’s civil society (i.e., pro-democracy) groups.  But Egyptians aren’t flatly opposed to foreign aid. By a margin of five-to-four they favor taking aid from international institutions, and they favor taking aid from other Arab countries by nearly the same margin that they oppose American aid. FULL POST

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Topics: Aid • Egypt • United States
February 4th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Lindsay: Is a U.S. military strike on Iran nearing?

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 rhetoric on Iran certainly heated up this week. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta noted ominously on Sunday “if we have to do it, we will do it” when asked what the United States would do if the Iranians crossed America’s red line with their nuclear program.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that Iranian leaders  “have changed their calulus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”

And Israeli Defense Minister told participants in the annual Herzliya Conference yesterday that the time for stopping Iran’s nuclear program was fast running out, adding “whoever says ‘later’ may found that later is too late.”

So is the clock about to run out on sanctions?  Probably not.

FULL POST

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Topics: Iran • United States
Lindsay: What should you major in?
February 3rd, 2012
07:13 PM ET

Lindsay: What should you major in?

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 United States is now moving into the time of year when colleges begin sending out their admissions offers. So what subject should you major in?

(Or in the case of most people reading this post, what should you have majored in?)

No great surprises here. Engineering majors get paid the best coming out of college, and they can expect to earn the highest median mid-career salaries. (Of course, being an engineer requires taking engineering courses. Three cheers for differential equations, anyone?)

Conversely, elementary school teachers can expect to be at the bottom of the salary list in both the near term and the long term.

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Topics: Education • Jobs
Lindsay: America's lost decade
January 28th, 2012
12:50 PM ET

Lindsay: America's lost decade

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

Economists and journalists like to refer to Japan’s woeful economic performance in the 1990s as the “lost decade.” Have the past ten years been a lost decade for the United States? That’s a reasonable conclusion to draw when you look at the growth—or to be more accurate, the lack of growth—in payroll jobs in the United States in recent years. In 2011, the U.S. economy generated 131.9 million jobs, that’s not only below the peak number of 138 million jobs reached just before the 2008-2009 financial crisis, it’s below the 132.5 million jobs that the economy generated in 2000. These numbers explain a good part of the dissatisfaction currently roiling American politics.

Read more from Lindsay's blog here.

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Topics: Jobs • United States
Does Obama have a solution for rising college costs?
Inflation-adjusted published tuition and fees relative to 1981-1982, 1981-82 to 2011-12 (1981-82=100). (Source: The College Board)
January 26th, 2012
08:30 AM ET

Does Obama have a solution for rising college costs?

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

I have one child in college (Wahoowa!), another set to start this September, and two more who will join them within the next four years. So my ears perked up during Tuesday's State of the Union address when President Obama said that once kids graduate from high school “the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college.”

The president isn’t kidding. As the chart below shows, the tuition and fees that colleges charge have skyrocketed over the past three decades, far more than inflation alone would explain.

If reading charts is not your cup of tea, the following statistic makes the basic point. If you enrolled at the University of Virginia in 1981 as an in-state student, you would have paid $1,146 in tuition and fees for the year. During the current 2011-12 school year, in-state students will pay $11,794 in tuition and fees. If UVA’s tuition and fees had risen in line with the inflation rate, in-state students today would be paying $2,836. FULL POST

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Topics: Education • President Obama
January 25th, 2012
09:50 AM ET

Gauging foreign policy in Obama's address

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 was originally published at CFR.org.

By James M. Lindsay, CFR.org

The theme for Barack Obama's discussion of foreign policy in his 2012 State of the Union address was "No Apology." After months of listening to his Republican rivals pummel his handling of world affairs, he made clear that he sees foreign policy as one of his strengths and he intends to make the most of it.

Obama both began and ended his speech by touting his foreign policy successes: After nine years of war, no Americans are fighting in Iraq. U.S. troops have begun to come home from Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden no longer threatens the United States. Muammar Qaddafi no longer terrorizes Libya. America's friendships and alliances around the world are stronger than ever. In all, under his watch, "America is back." FULL POST

Lindsay: State of the Union trivia
President Obama delivering the 2011 State of the Union. (Getty Images)
January 24th, 2012
04:27 PM ET

Lindsay: State of the Union trivia

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. Lindsay

If you are wondering how much time to set aside to watch tonight’s State of the Union address, figure on about one hour and five minutes. And if you are also wondering about the over/under on the number of words President Obama will use in his speech, go with 7,304. That’s what he averaged in his first two State of the Union addresses. (Yes, people do indeed track both how long it takes a president to deliver the State of the Union address and how many words he uses doing it.) And if you were thinking (or as I have written) that Obama has given three State of the Union addresses, his 2009 address was technically an address to a joint session of Congress. I’ll leave it to better minds to explain the difference.

Here are some other fun facts about the State of the Union address:

- Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution stipulates that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.” The Constitution says nothing about when the president should deliver the information or how he should deliver it. FULL POST

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Topics: Politics • President Obama
Lindsay: Foreign policy and Obama's State of the Union address
Sources say President Obama's State of the Union speech will describe a "blueprint for an economy that's built to last."
January 24th, 2012
09:22 AM ET

Lindsay: Foreign policy and Obama's State of the Union address

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. Lindsay, Foreign Affairs

Tonight, as he delivers his third State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama will stress economics. And that makes good political sense. Election Day is just nine months away, and jobs dwarf all other public concerns. Indeed, it must unnerve the White House that no president in the modern era has been reelected while unemployment stood above 7.2 percent. Today, it hovers around 8.5 percent.

What the president says about foreign policy, however, will be equally important to his reelection chances. With more than 40 million viewers expected to tune into the speech - the largest audience he will have until he addresses the Democratic National Convention in September - he has an unparalleled opportunity to argue that his handling of foreign policy merits a second term. He will surely make the most of it. FULL POST

January 14th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Lindsay: What do Americans know about the GOP presidential candidates?

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. Lindsay

In yesterday’s Friday File I flagged a CBS/Vanity Fair pollthat showed that most Americans do not know that Mitt Romney’s first name is Willard—as opposed to Mitt (or Mittens or Gromit). That’s a cute poll result that added a bit of levity to my weekly news roundup. But to judge by another poll, this one by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press,there’s a lot else that the public doesn’t know about the Republican candidates even though they are dominating the stories on all the cable news channels:- When asked “which GOP candidate opposes U.S. involvement in Afghanistan?”, just 44 percent of voters correctly named Ron Paul.- When asked which state Mitt Romney was governor of, just 46 percent of voters knew it was Massachusetts.

- Sixty-nine percent of all voters and 76 percent of Republicans knew that Newt Gingrich once served as Speaker of the House.

- When asked which state would hold the next nominating event after Iowa and New Hampshire, just 45 percent knew that the answer was South Carolina.

Not surprisingly, older Americans (50-64), college graduates, and Republicans were the most likely to supply the right answers.

The lesson for political junkies is that while they may obsess about which candidates are making which media buys in which South Carolina counties, most Americans haven’t even begun to think about the 2012 presidential election. And they probably won’t until late this summer—if then.

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Topics: 2012 Election • Poll • President Obama • United States
Lindsay: Where Iran exports oil
Source: The New York Times
January 14th, 2012
02:35 PM ET

Lindsay: Where Iran exports oil

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. Lindsay

The United States and its European allies are now looking to squeeze Iran’s oil exports in an effort to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear activities. Congress just gave President Obama the power to punish foreign financial firms that purchase Iranian oil, and the Europeans are considering cutting back their purchase of Iranian oil. How well these new sanctions will work is a matter of conjecture.

As the graphic above makes clear, European countries buy a relatively small fraction of Iran’s oil. Meanwhile, the U.S. sanctions could put Washington on a collision course with several of its most important Asian allies as well as with countries like China and India whose cooperation it wants on other issues.

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Topics: Iran • Oil
January 13th, 2012
02:50 PM ET

Lindsay: How secure are nuclear sites worldwide?

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. Lindsay

Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous weapons on the planet. So you would think that they and the fissile material used to make them are under tight control. Perhaps not.

That’s at least the conclusion of a new study conducted by theNuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Using open-source data—that is, without relying on secret intelligence—they ranked the thirty-two countries that have at least one kilogram of weapons-useable nuclear materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) in terms of how tight their security is. (The study did not look at the security of other kinds of radioactive material that could be used in making so-called radiological or dirty bombs.) NTI and EIU weighed eighteen factors, ranging from physical protections at nuclear sites to broader questions of political stability and corruption, in compiling their rankings. FULL POST

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Topics: Nuclear
Lindsay: Why the Strait of Hormuz matters
January 8th, 2012
03:07 PM ET

Lindsay: Why the Strait of Hormuz matters

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. Lindsay

Why is Iran’s threat to shut down the Strait of Hormuz attracting so much attention? Because as the chart above shows, the strait really is a choke point when it come to the transportation of oil. Only the Strait of Malacca, which runs between Indonesia and Malaysia, comes close in its importance to world shipping.

Nearly sixteen million barrels of oil move through the Strait of Hormuz each day. That translates to nearly twenty percent of all the oil moved daily.

Now for the good news. The odds that Tehran could shut down the strait are close to nil. Iran’s naval capabilities are mediocre at best, blocking a twenty-mile wide stretch of navigable waters is hard, oil tankers don’t burn or sink easily, and the U.S. Navy has enormous capabilities to keep the strait open. And in the highly unlikely scenario in which the Iranians succeeded in shutting down the strait, they would be the biggest losers. They depend on oil exports to keep their economy running. What the Iranians can accomplish with their saber rattling is to make the markets nervous, drive up the price of oil, and test Washington’s will.

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Topics: Iran • Military • Oil
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