Editor's Note

Editor's Note

Michael Tomasky introduces Issue #17.

By Michael Tomasky

If you’d been asked 11 years ago what global politics might look like in 2010, chances are you’d have gotten several things right. You’d have predicted continued conflict in the Middle East, an unfortunately timeless condition. You’d quite possibly have foreseen the continued rise of China as a global economic force, and you’d have likely expressed at least a vague sense that countries like India, Brazil, and Argentina would emerge with more power. But you probably would not have predicted what happened on September 11, which in turn means that you wouldn’t have bet on the United States being mired in two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for the better part of a decade.

Maybe it’s a fool’s errand, gaming out the future like that. But in this issue we send four people on that errand, and they are no fools. Lawrence Korb, P.W. Singer, Heather Hurlburt, and Robert Hunter are four of the leading progressive analysts we have today of U.S. military and foreign policy. We convened them in our conference room in April to discuss the challenges the military will face in the next decade–read it and note how the first question, asked by our editorial board chairman, E.J. Dionne, Jr., who moderated the discussion, urges the conversation into the future. Our quartet speaks fascinatingly and provocatively about Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, terrorism, the North Pole and even outer space (yes, it’s a serious matter).

A bit more in the here and now but still in the global realm, we turn to the Middle East and Persia. What can we do about Iran? Steven Simon, a Clinton Administration national-security official, and Jonathan Stevenson, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, suggest a daring option: demilitarize Hezbollah. On the grounds that a Hezbollah without arms would stabilize Lebanon–while permitting that small but open society to flourish–and vastly reduce the threat to Israel, Simon and Stevenson posit that a normalized Hezbollah, one that were chiefly just another political party in Lebanon, would greatly reduce Iran’s influence in the region. Of course, demilitarizing Hezbollah would require talking to Hezbollah. It’s a daring suggestion, but the authors point persuasively to the history of how the Irish Republican Army was talked down from terrorism over the course of the 1990s. They acknowledge that the parallel is not precise but insist that enough similarities exist between the two situations for that history to be instructive. And in the books section, American academic and Iranian democracy advocate Nader Hashemi argues that the pre-conditions for democracy inside Iran are there but need more and smarter help from the United States to come to life.

We pride ourselves here on bringing to our readers’ attention problems that aren’t widely known but are, for people caught up in them, wrenching. E.J. Graff’s article on the "Wild West" of international adoption practices is a perfect exemplar of such a piece. If you’re like we were before we assigned and edited this piece, you probably think that the poor nations of the world are full of adorable little children in need of a safe American home. The reality is far, far more complicated, and Graff is an expert guide.

Elsewhere: Thomas B. Edsall demolishes the Karl Rove memoir; James P. Pinkerton offers a reasonable conservative’s reflections on the symposium from our previous issue; Michael Waldman describes his debt and ours to Louis Brandeis; Peter Steinfels sizes up the influence (and lack thereof) of Commentary; and the economics writer Charles R. Morris weighs the questions raised by two very different takes on the financial meltdown and our ability to recover from it.

And oh yes, there is a little something from yours truly. I hope you’ll finish it agreeing that things aren’t as bad as they sometimes seem.

Finally, some housekeeping. Ethan Porter, who joined Democracy as associate editor three years ago and became managing editor when Clay Risen departed, is leaving us to study political science at the University of Chicago. Ethan’s contributions to this journal can hardly be enumerated. He has had a hand in everything, and each issue has borne his imprint (and be sure to read his swan-song essay on liberalism and the culture wars). It’s a big loss–but happily, we think Elbert Ventura, who becomes the managing editor in June, will fill the bill nicely. Before joining us, he was the managing editor of the Progressive Policy Institute and a research fellow at Media Matters for America. We welcome him aboard.

–Michael Tomasky

Michael Tomasky is the editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.

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