This issue’s contributors explore topics ranging from the mind of the average American to that of the suicide bomber and from the perils of overarching constitutional theories to the sins of zealous historians. Peter Bergen, who conducted the first television interview with Osama bin Laden, and his New America Foundation colleague Michael Lind expose the myth of deprivation—that poverty and poor economic prospects fuel Islamist jihadism. Joshua Kurlantzick, a longtime Asia-watcher, argues that similar confusion clouds our thinking in East Asia, where an emergent China is both menacingly strong and perilously weak. In response, the United States might need to rely on the other rising Asian power, India, to keep China from falling too far in either direction.
We also have a series of articles exploring international institutions and relationships. Jeff Faux, founding president of the Economic Policy Institute, contends that an elite “Party of Davos” dominates world financial institutions and the debate over globalization. To bring stakeholders other than global corporate investors into the decision-making process, he argues that progressives should support a new strategy that speeds globalization instead of slowing it by pushing for regional economic blocs that link workers and everyday people, a strategy that should be grounded in a fairer, but, in fact, more far-reaching, NAFTA. Nancy Soderberg, a former U.S. Ambassador to the UN and National Security Council official, looks at the legacy of outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan to show that the UN is more indispensable to U.S. interests than ever before. And Soderberg’s former colleague from the U.S. mission to the UN, Suzanne Nossel, argues that, after six years of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, a concerted effort to resuscitate American legitimacy is vital.
Examining issues closer to home, Duke University’s Aaron Chatterji and the University of California, Berkeley’s Siona Listokin make the progressive case against corporate social responsibility, while Jerold Kayden—director of the Master in Urban Planning Program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design—responds to Joel Kotkin’s take-down of “cool cities” from our second issue. Looking critically at the history of the American left, Open Society Institute Vice President Gara LaMarche explains what the history of the American Civil Liberties Union can teach liberal organizations today; law professor Erwin Chemerinsky looks at Kermit Roosevelt III’s case against judicial activism; historian Kevin Mattson tells us how and why his profession is AWOL from American public life; and the University of New Hampshire’s Ellen Fitzpatrick writes an incisive essay about how public polling and its quest for the “average” American has affected American democracy.