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"Foreign Affairs" magazine - worth a read?

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Wheylous Posted: Wed, Aug 1 2012 6:00 PM


This summer in Bulgaria I went to the National Library and I found by chance a magazine called Foreign Affairs. The title that caught my attention was "Why Iran Should Get the Bomb" - provocative, no?

Flipping through some of their pages, it seemed like the magazine was worth looking into.

Have you ever read it? What are your opinions? I am a foreign policy fool, and I am considering getting a bit more educated on foreign policy.

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Malachi replied on Wed, Aug 1 2012 6:08 PM
Call me crazy but I think the best geopolitical analysis comes from crowdsourcing the blogosphere. Its like scattered array radiotelescopy. Many distributed information sources, each returning some data, fed into a good theoretical analysis (which is well informed because of exposure to man different analyses), means you actually have a way to figure something out. If its printed on glossy paper, it is establishment. I would like to see somebody prove me wrong.
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
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Marko replied on Thu, Aug 2 2012 2:07 PM

No, its crap. 15 degrees better than the Bill O'Reilly line for the Joe Sixpack but still pretty worthless. It's The Economist for foreign policy. It's meant to satisfy people who think themselves smart, but actually thirst for status, rather than knowing.

If you're serious about foreign policy, first of all don't call it that. It's world affairs, or international politics. Second just follow (particularly the viewpoints) and bookmark some of the stuff they link to and you like best and over time you'll end up with dozens of great sources that you can check out on your own (it's how I found and then libertarianism, rothbard paul etc).

For me it's, beside, scotthorton show, asia times, spiked online, counterpunch, american conservative, albeit except the first three none are exclusively world affairs. Also a bunch of blogs that are more theme-specific. Many also relly on inter press service, and some on alternet and mcclatchy, foreign policy in focus, al akhbar english and RT.

For books that may give you a basic overal grounding if you think you need one the Chalmers Johnson trilogy should be appealing to someone with your background.

EDIT: And if it really needs to be a magazine make it Coldtype. It is freely downloadable world affairs-oriented magazine in .pdf. It is basically a selection of the best such articles in a given month in the opinion of the editors who then put them in a stylish package that is a throwback to the polish of paper magazines. Coldtype Archive link

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Samgheb replied on Fri, Aug 3 2012 8:05 AM

Good sources to check out have been mentioned by the previous posters.

Foreign Affairs is the establishment magazine on foreign policy. It comes from the Council on Foreign Relations so in other words, if you want to know what type of thinking is going on at high places then read Foreign Affairs.

If you want to know why Foreign Affairs is relevant then read this:

Austrian School economists and analysts who have warned that we are facing a Federal debt cataclysm have now received grudging confirmation from a most unlikely source: the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Council on Foreign Relations is the single most influential discussion forum in the United States. Its quarterly journal, Foreign Affairs, is therefore the most influential publication in the country and therefore the world.

This is not to say that every article is influential. Most of them are not. They are often written by academic specialists in narrow fields. Their opinions are rarely translated into government policy. Equally rare is any Foreign Affairs article that winds up being quoted five years later. The journal is a kind of sounding board. The relative handful of key decision-makers in the organization want access to what "the best and the brightest" are thinking. This includes lots of academic busy-bees who are trying to break into the CFR's inner circle. The decision-makers are never sure who has the best insight on the future, so the editor publishes lots of articles that sink without a trace.

Nevertheless, once in a while, one of these articles does become the basis of long-term government policy. Such was the case with the 1947 article by George Kennan, who published anonymously as "X." It set forth the entire post-War policy of containment of the Soviet Union. So, it pays for columnists and analysts and investors to be aware of what the latest issue of Foreign Affairs has to say.


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I am in college and use government think tanks (RAND, Brookings, CFR (FA), Trilat, etc.) for sources.  They are about as "credible" as it gets when analyzing "official" policy.  Most of the time they are rhetorically honest about goals or intentions than the NYT or Time tend to be when they cover a publication from an aforementioned think tank.  A.K.A. these aren't PR statements meant to convince an ignorant person.  They are meant to inform the schemers.

I wrote a paper about Iranian defense strategy and used numerous think tank publications.  The think tanks straight up admit that they want particular parties and polices in place in certain countries and how to get them.  (Good luck getting that from Obama or McCain, It’s all about Democracy!!)  Right at the beginning of most academic sources they go over the authors and their credentials.  Some even include where the posts in government or business or finance where the authors are reigning from and also include and "thanks to the funder of the study" which identifies the money behind the conclusion of the study.  Take for instance, Which Path to Persia? - It doesn't ask the question "what to do about Persia?"  it asks "How can we overthrow the Persian government?"  This lets you know that it is not a research paper.  It is a policy paper.  The authors are from CIA, Israel, oil companies and the State Dept. (One of whom, Pollack, was arrested for espionage).  Its money is from the Crown Foundation at Brandeis and is carried out through the Saban Center at the Brookings Institute.  You now know the why of the paper.  Much more useful than the newspaper.

I had a professor tell me, in an oil and geopolitics class, when I asked "if it was good to have misinformed opinions getting published (See: Charles Maier; Among Empires) in Foreign Affairs if that is the most influential publication among the policy makers," that he, (after a long pause) "didn't know the CFR published FA until five years after I (he) had been published in it."

I have no idea what he meant.  I don't know if he was taking a "paranoid" shot at me (as I have had professors do) or if he truly didn't know it.  He is currently the head of the East Asian Studies at my University.

After awhile you'll notice certain names stand out because they are respected among the intellectual community, Waltz, Ickenberry, Robert Art, Bundy (still), Mearsheimer, Sagan...

And actually, Ickenberry, for example, doesn't hold traditional american partisan perspectives, but rather sees the US as the engine for a "Multilateral Order" built by the West after WWII.  Waltz is a nation state anarchist (an international anarchist), but domestically they are mostly Realists (Isolationists and NeoCons are rather rare).

All in all, do not confine yourself to sources of information that you agree with.  You can use their own papers against them just as well.

Use JSTOR with your University.  You can get all of the academic journals your mind can have sex with.  (You can download 100 at a time before you get kicked off)  Presonally, my favorite has been Philosophy and Public Affairs.

EDIT: The article that you linked to is from Waltz (I thought the title was familiar).  He is generally known as the originator of the Realist foreign policy.  He, boldly today, says that every country should be allowed to arm with nuclear weapons because there is a history of peace with states that have them (i.e. they have never been used against each other in a MAD scenario) even though countries that are both nuclear armed have warred (India and China).

You see, if a country has a nuclear device then any country without one cannot win (WMD vs. Convention).  The WMD can always destroy a country that thinks they can conventionally defeat them.  So, WMD > Convention (duh).  But, WMD vs WMD = MAD.  So, what nukes due is up the ante until the ante is upped then warfare will revert back down to convention vs convention (but, to the defender it is really convention vs defensive MWD).  It is a cycle of escalation that all end in MAD.  Give everyone nukes.  ((The real hole in the theory is for an aggressive WMD armed nation against a non WMD armed nation.  Convention cannot prevent the nuke, but the nuke can prevent the convention.  Iraq is case and point.  We are willing to invade them, but not Pakistan.  We are willing to invade Syria or Iran, but not North Korea...It is obvious where we stand in this.

I agree with his contention that if everyone had nuclear weapons they would not use them.  The same cannot be said for chemical and biological weapons (even though they each have their own inherent deterency, for instance, containment is virtually impossible), but terrorist groups really do pose the greatest threat of nuclear weapons ever being detonated again.

"The Fed does not make predictions. It makes forecasts..." - Mustang19
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Marko replied on Fri, Aug 10 2012 4:10 AM

Which reminds me, Stratfor can be informative.

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Samgheb replied on Fri, Aug 10 2012 8:14 AM

Good post and very informative

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