Media Clippings: On the Mark

Foreign Affairs is unlike any other wide-circulation intellectual journal on the market today. It blithely goes its own way, publishing thick issues – sometimes totaling 200 pages – every two months, never skimping on quality and somehow also keeping ahead of the curve when it comes to foreign-policy issues.

Let's take some examples from the past few months. The May/June issue featured three essays on what the editors called An Arab Spring? The question mark was fully part of the headline.

Fouad Ajami considered Syria and Lebanon; Bernard Lewis discussed Freedom in the Middle East; and David Makovsky commented on the Withdrawal From Gaza.

In the July/August number, the main stories were devoted to The Next Pandemic? Again, the question mark was crucial.

Laurie Garrett looked at the Probable Cause; Michael T. Osterholm discussed Getting Prepared; William B. Karesh and Robert A. Cook considered The Human-Animal Link; and Garrett returned for an encore, writing about The Lessons of Hiv/Aids.

In September/October, China was the focus, featuring such topics as China's "Peaceful Rise" to Great-Power Status; China's Global Hunt for Energy; and China's Search for Stability With America.

The current November/December issue compares Iraq to Vietnam.

In addition, there were pieces in these various magazines on: reforming the United Nations; what happens if Britain says "no" to the European Union; regime change and its limits; and how to win in Iraq.

Where else do you find such a lineup of stories? Not even Commentary comes close these days! And the level of writing is almost uniformly superb, with just the right measure of erudition and panache. Each issue is a great tribute to editor James F. Hoge Jr.'s expertise and prescience.

As for that prose, a small sample will have to suffice. This is from Bernard Lewis' article on the prospects for freedom in the Middle East:

"There are, of course, several obvious hindrances to the development of democratic institutions in the Middle East. The first and most obvious is the pattern of autocratic and despotic rule currently embedded there. Such rule is alien, with no roots in either the classical Arab or the Islamic past, but it is by now a couple of centuries old and is well entrenched, constituting a serious obstacle.

"Another, more traditional hurdle is the absence in classical Islamic political thought and practice of the notion of citizenship, in the sense of being a free and participating member of a civic entity. This notion, with roots going back to the Greek polites, a member of the polis, has been central in Western civilization from antiquity to the present day. It, and the idea of the people participating not just in the choice of a ruler but in the conduct of government, is not part of traditional Islam." u



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