FP 40th Anniversary
Foreign Policy at 40: Special Anniversary Section Where Do Bad Ideas Come From? Think Again: American Decline 10 Unconventional Wisdoms Forty years ago, a 29-year-old Foreign Service officer had a plan for a sweeping reorganization of America’s sprawling, hierarchical national security bureaucracy. It was mid-Vietnam, and the young Richard Holbrooke wasn’t pulling any punches. The ...
Forty years ago, a 29-year-old Foreign Service officer had a plan for a sweeping reorganization of America’s sprawling, hierarchical national security bureaucracy. It was mid-Vietnam, and the young Richard Holbrooke wasn’t pulling any punches. The U.S. State Department, he wrote, was “The Machine That Fails.” His article was published in the very first issue of Foreign Policy, which debuted in the winter of 1970-71 as a quarterly journal founded by the legendary Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, a onetime hawk, and his close friend Warren D. Manshel, a dove. Both were dedicated to the idea that the establishment’s dangerous failure to speak truth to power was part of the reason the United States found itself in the deadly quagmire in Southeast Asia.
Four decades later, Foreign Policy has gone through many evolutions. Long vanished is the slim journal format of the 1970s. In 2000, under the smart leadership of my predecessor Moises Naim and the magazine’s longtime owner, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, FP was reborn as the glossy magazine you see today. And it was reincarnated again two years ago, when the Washington Post Company purchased it and we launched ForeignPolicy.com as a daily online magazine for people interested in the world. Throughout these many changes, Foreign Policy has always endeavored to keep alive the critical spirit of its founders — most especially, their relentless determination to resist the uncritical thinking of the foreign-policy herd.
Which is why this, our 40th anniversary special issue, is dedicated to Unconventional Wisdom for a new age. Our cover package debunks the dangerous thinking of the present, pulling together 11 of today’s smartest writers, from Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum to former Council on Foreign Relations head Les Gelb, like Holbrooke a contributor to Foreign Policy‘s very first issue. FP has undoubtedly remained a home for commentators who disagree — civilly — with each other. This special issue alone features three very different takes on perhaps the single most consequential foreign-policy debate of today: how to view America’s decline, and China’s rise. In a smart Think Again, Gideon Rachman argues that this time it’s for real, while Daniel Drezner takes the far more sanguine view that, even if it’s happening, American dominance will remain a factor for far longer than most people realize. And Harvard’s Joseph Nye Jr. takes the long view: America, he says, should stop scaring itself to death about China’s new ascendancy — lest our own fear become the pretext for conflict that is far from inevitable. Who is right? We don’t know of course, but we can say this: There’s no better birthday tribute to this magazine — or commemoration of its late, great editor — than the smart, reasoned, and pull-no-punches debate these articles represent. Check back with us in 40 years, and we’ll figure out who was right.
With great thanks,
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