World Affairs was first published in London in 1837. Over the course of a century and a half, the journal, which would later be sponsored by the American Peace Society, was a ready foe of oppression and despotism. It sounded prophetic warnings about the twin scourges of the twentieth century, Nazism and Communism. It advocated early on for the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. From the outset, World Affairs recognized that peace and justice were not necessarily one and the same, and that neither would be achieved without the exertions of a certain kind of idealism, one that eschewed the utopian in favor of the possible. The long line of World Affairs editors and contributors over the years believed that the great powers had a special obligation to conduct themselves in ways that furthered the cause of a just peace. All the while—and, truthfully, it has been a very long while since the journal wielded the sort of influence it once did, or even circulated widely beyond universities—World Affairs encouraged open debate on how best to accomplish this goal.
These notions and traditions were embodied particularly in two past editors of World Affairs, Georgetown University professors Jeane and Evron Kirkpatrick. Both shared a deep conviction that America had an essential role to play on the world stage. But they also prized independent thinkers and relished great conversation—ideally provocative and stirring, artfully engaged, and persuasively delivered. That sort of conversation, which celebrates and encourages open debate and recognizes that none among us possesses a monopoly on truth, is the essence of what we intend in the relaunched version of World Affairs.
This is a new World Affairs, but it will continue in the internationalist tradition, seeking the just peace envisioned by the journal’s founders. However, recognizing that miscalculation and hubris are not beyond our capacity, we wish more than anything else to have a debate, to clarify what we face and how we ought to respond. Everyone with something to say will get his or her best shot. A glance at our editorial board and this issue’s exceptional lineup makes that clear. We hope all will join the conversation.
— James S. Denton