September 16, 2004
The Best Magazine In The World This Month
The September/October edition of Foreign Policy is the best single issue of any magazine published (so far) this year.
- They’ve got the “Field Guide to Consensuses” — the Washington Consensus you know about, but the Copenhagen Consensus? The Beijing Consensus? Read up!
- They’ve applied their sharp “Think Again” column to George W. Bush’s foreign policy. George W. Bush’s Foreign Policy Is Revolutionary: No. The Bush Doctrine of Preemptive War Is Unprecedented: Wrong. Bush’s Foreign Policy Has Inflamed Anti-Americanism Worldwide: Definitely. And lots more, all from a smart University of Virginia prof.
- They’ve got “The World’s Most Dangerous Ideas,” including but not limited to: “A War on Evil,” “Transhumanism,” and “Business as Usual at the U.N.,” penned by Snark-favorite Samantha Power.
- They’ve got “NGOs: Fighting Poverty, Hurting the Poor” by the WaPo’s Sebastian Mallaby. It’s a pro-World Bank piece! Say what?? Exactly!
- Plus so much more: stuff on E.U. integration and the history of a Lithuanian power plant, a memo to Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, essays by the E.U.’s Javier Solana and Intel’s Craig Barrett, and FP’s reviews of books not in English. For instance: Did you know the most popular book in Yemen right now is an Egyptian novel called “Amrikanli” that compares America’s aggression in the Middle East to its genocide of Native Americans? Is that not creepy?
- Plus all those great ads you only ever see in FP: the full-page promo for new books from Brookings; the posting for Visiting Faculty at Georgetown’s Center for Democracy and the Third Sector; the 10-page (!) advertorial on Central Asia from the Asian Development Bank. I love it.
Now, not all of this stuff is pure genius. In fact, some of it’s kinda bad: A few of “The World’s Most Dangerous Ideas” are total ringers (“Undermining Free Will,” I’m looking at you). The review of “Being Indian: The Truth About Why the 21st Century Will Be India’s” is clunky.
Not every phrase in this mag is polished to a sheen; not every contributor weaves ideas together like a multilateralist Louis Menand.
But that’s awesome!
I mean, to contribute to The New Yorker your pen must sing as the nightingale itself. To get something into Foreign Affairs you have to have the word “undersecretary” on your door. To write for The Atlantic or The New Republic you have to be named Ryan Lizza.
But FP? You never know who’ll turn up!
Sure enough: In this issue, besides contributions from all-stars like Samantha Power and Francis Fukuyama, there’s a totally cool micro-piece by an editorial assistant at The Washington Monthly. There are short pieces by academics from obscure institutions (The Caucasus School for Journalism and Media Management?) who each have something smart to say. And that note about the Egyptian novel “Amrikanli”? It’s from some random freelancer in Yemen.
I guess that’s why I like it so much: FP is surprising.
My gold standard for publications has always been that they seem alive, and FP, in all its spark and imperfection, nails it. You can vividly imagine the editors and assistants combing through all these bizarre pitches from around the world, sorting out the stuff that’s interesting and surprising and whipping it all together and if some of the phrases are a little sloppy, oh well.
I get the sense it’s a pretty low-budg operation, too, which makes it even better.
Foreign Policy, you rule.
(P.S. Previous love for FP. All that and more this time.)