Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Given all that is going on, why is ‘International Security’ so damn boring?

The Best Defense mailboat last week dropped off the new issue of Harvard’s International Security magazine. I tore off the wrapper eagerly and gazed at the contents. And then I nodded off. I mean, international security is a hot issue these days. Lots of troubles out there, no? Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, just to start. ...

via Flickr/Sarah G
via Flickr/Sarah G

The Best Defense mailboat last week dropped off the new issue of Harvard’s International Security magazine. I tore off the wrapper eagerly and gazed at the contents. And then I nodded off.

I mean, international security is a hot issue these days. Lots of troubles out there, no? Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, just to start. But what I got was three articles under the heading "A Century after Sarajevo: Reflections on World War I." That’s just unimaginative editing — "anniversary journalism," we used to call it. Plus a mildly obvious article about how combat deaths are going down partly because of better medical and evacuation practices. And then this gripper: "Ethnofederalism: The Worst Form of Institutional Arrangement . . . ?" It was the one-two punch of ellipsis and question mark in the last one that provoked me to chuck the whole issue into the wastebasket.

What’s more, they don’t even have book reviews to compensate for the boring lead articles. It makes me wonder if the extraordinary irrelevance of political science is creeping into the magazine’s approach to the world. (If poli sci were real, wouldn’t politicians pay attention to it?)

The Best Defense mailboat last week dropped off the new issue of Harvard’s International Security magazine. I tore off the wrapper eagerly and gazed at the contents. And then I nodded off.

I mean, international security is a hot issue these days. Lots of troubles out there, no? Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, just to start. But what I got was three articles under the heading "A Century after Sarajevo: Reflections on World War I." That’s just unimaginative editing — "anniversary journalism," we used to call it. Plus a mildly obvious article about how combat deaths are going down partly because of better medical and evacuation practices. And then this gripper: "Ethnofederalism: The Worst Form of Institutional Arrangement . . . ?" It was the one-two punch of ellipsis and question mark in the last one that provoked me to chuck the whole issue into the wastebasket.

What’s more, they don’t even have book reviews to compensate for the boring lead articles. It makes me wonder if the extraordinary irrelevance of political science is creeping into the magazine’s approach to the world. (If poli sci were real, wouldn’t politicians pay attention to it?)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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