Letter from the Editor: July/August 2010

Almost three years ago, at Josh Muravchik’s suggestion, I called Lawrence Kaplan, then a senior editor at the New Republic, to ask if he might be interested in helping to reinvigorate and relaunch World Affairs. Founded in 1837, the journal had had a mostly distinguished hundred and seventy years of service in the battle of ideas advocating an internationally engaged America, committed to defending and expanding the borders of freedom. But, by the time Lawrence and I first met in July 2007, this once proud publication, like most of the forty struggling journals at Heldref Publications, had in the prior fifteen years or so suffered a sad, slow-motion decline into benign irrelevance.

From the beginning, Lawrence and I found ourselves in harmony with respect to the challenges America faced in our increasingly complex, dangerous, and fast-moving world. Given that we loathed the distracting, indeed destructive demagoguery, self-righteousness, and hubris that seemed to preclude honest debate over these challenges, it was gratifying to discover that Lawrence agreed that a repurposed World Affairs should serve as a refuge for writers and readers alike looking for independent thinking, provocative conversation, and honest debate. We agreed that we needed something otherwise unavailable in the genre, an unpredictable journal that encouraged and embraced diverse and serious views from smart people across the spectrum. Finding ourselves joined in motivation and purpose, we teamed up a few days later. And, the rest is history.

A month or two ago, after nearly three years as editor, Lawrence called to explain that he needed to dedicate himself to completing his much-anticipated second book about the war in Iraq. Knowing that the project was weighing heavily on him, it came as no surprise that he decided to commit his full attention to completing the manuscript.

So, while Lawrence’s history at World Affairs was perhaps brief, it was long on accomplishment. Today, in my perhaps less than objective opinion, the quality of the journal’s content rivals anything else in print that argues international affairs. This is in no small measure the happy result of Lawrence’s sometimes persnickety, but always intelligent and catholic stewardship of the journal’s pages. For that, on behalf of our readers and myself, I am grateful.

Looking ahead, Lawrence will remain with us as a consulting editor while I, for the immediate future, take over as editor. Readers can expect the excellent conversation to continue. As a sneak preview, you can look forward to contributions from the New York Times’ Helene Cooper on Africa’s first elected female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; P. J. O’Rourke on the Tea Party’s foreign policy; Michael Zantovsky will take us up-close with Vaclav Havel; and former CIA directors Michael Hayden, on U.S. intelligence capacity, and Jim Woolsey, on a sane and sustainable energy policy.

I am also pleased to note that NPR’s Tom Gjelten joined the ranks of our editorial board. Tom is an accomplished author and correspondent, as well as a longtime friend whose contributions will surely enrich the journal. On the cyberspace front at WorldAffairsDaily.org, do look for new additions to our blogger lineup with their perspectives from Egypt and India.

As you read through these pages and those of issues to come, you can be certain that World Affairs remains grounded in our internationalist tradition, firm in our belief that a wise and strong America is indispensable to the security and advance of freedom, and committed to independent thinking and open debate that illuminates and clarifies the dangers and opportunities before us.

I hope you will let us know how we’re doing.

— James S. Denton

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