I have to admit that when I subscribed to this magazine for the first time about five years ago, I did so out of a sense of duty to educate myself about all of the foreign policy and political things that I wasn't taught in school. It did seem a little dry from the get-go, but now I am a Foreign Affairs junkie, so to speak. Those who contribute articles to this magazine are professors, politicians, heads of state, and other great (and occasionally not-so-great) thinkers of our times. One gets the perspectives of world events from educated individuals from all over the world, not just America, and sometimes the points of view are very different than those of the American media. I also appreciate that Foreign Affairs publishes articles that almost seem to foreshadow news events - (they were covering background on Kosovo before newscasters in this country even knew where Kosovo was.) From reading this magazine one can see that very few problems in the world are "overnight" or occur "out of nowhere" but are usually the result of problems and conflicts that have been happening for some time, if only out of the spotlight of the Western mainstream media. The analysis in these articles is deep - many articles are over twenty pages long. The reader is left feeling more enlightened and not as if the issue has just been "glossed over." I enjoy reading the Letters to the Editor as well. It is great to see an article rebutted by another area expert who provides his or her insight to the problem at hand. Also,the list of contributors to Letters to the Editor reads like a list of Who's Who in Politics. It is amazing to see the people in government, here and abroad, who read this magazine. Probably more of them should.
Foreign Affairs is mandatory reading for the serious student of global diplomacy. The comments, essays and book reviews in this bimonthly publication are always well researched, written and presented in a straightforward fashion. Moreover, Foreign Affairs will consistently crystallize contemporary thinking on a vast array of foreign subjects.
I often wonder how Editor James Hoge manages to regularly tap the finest minds in the world for each issue. Certainly, the editorial staff of this outstanding publication is dedicated to the highest standards of excellence as well making sure that Foreign Affairs represents provocative worldwide cutting edge schools of thought.
Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia, France, Mexico or Colombia...you name it, Foreign Affairs examines it in great detail. To this end, there is no hot spot in global affairs that does not considerable academic or journalistic attention. Foreign Affairs will also focus on sensitive issues such as French Anti-Americanism or Bush's Nuclear Follies with clear and concise observations. I cannot think of a mainstream publication in the United States with the courage and vision to cover such important ground.
The only magazine I read from cover to cover is Foreign Affairs, published by the distinguished bi-partisan Council on Foreign Relations. Ideas and issues presented in each issue are discussed six months later in the news. A recent example of this phenomenon is the publication of Daniel Yergin and Michael Stoppard's The Next Prize, about strategic issues surrounding the future of natural gas as an energy source. The article appeared in late 2003, and since then the concerns raised in the article have reverberated in business publications, energy conferences and Sunday talk shows.
Since my childhood I have thought of Foreign Affairs as an influential publication in leadership circles. Over a quarter century ago, I remember reading that Henry Kissinger promoted Daniel Patrick Moynihan as US Ambassador to the United Nations on the basis of an article he wrote in Foreign Affairs. As the founder of a company dedicated to cultural and business travel to Russia, I need to stay ahead of the knowledge curve with regards to the world, rather than just be informed of events. I find Foreign Affairs to be the single most valuable tool to stay informed about foreign policy, trends in world affairs, and current political thought.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS makes no apology for its antiquated typescript, large print, and generally stodgy appearance. It hardly needs to.
It is simply one of the consistently finest sources of foreign policy discussion available from an American (thus *foreign* policy means USA vis-à-vis the world) point of view. The design folks have correctly discerned that toying with appearances could only interfere with a train that rolls just fine as it is.
FA is often the vehicle of choice for American foreign policy officers who have moved on to think tanks and other private sector roles. For example, see the Richard Holbrooke (he of the Dayton Accords) piece entitled 'Liberalism and Foreign Policy' in the most recent (July/August 2006) issue available to this reviewer.
The voice most often heard in FA is decidely that of the Washington establishment, broadly defined. Yet the editors occasionally toss in a dissenting viewpoint like that of Hugo Chávez' Ambassador to the US ('A Benign Revolution: In Defense of Hugo Chávez', July/August 2006) for color.
The writing is well informed and superbly edited. Roundtable discussions on issues of concern are common, as are themed issues. Again from the recent issue, the topic 'The Rise of India' provides space for four essays entitled 'Unshackling the Economy', 'India's Global Strategy', 'America's New Partner?', and 'The Kashmir Conundrum'. FA's genius lies in that the globe's foreign policy experts will have digested these contributions with great care, yet the business traveler on her first trip to India can easily do the same on the first flight of her journey. Such is the quality of FA's editorial work.
Long-time readers often discern an editorial drift to the right or the left, a perception that may owe as much to the changing currents of international affairs and the constantly moving matrix in which any statement must be written and read as to any real shift in the journal's political leanings.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS is a must read for career internationalists, a worthwhile educational tool for those who want to know what America's brightest (thought not always most in touch with facts on the ground) policy makers are thinking, and a diversion for hobbyists whose curiosity regularly yanks them tornado-like out of Kansas.
I've been reading FA since 2001 and have found it to be consistently good. There are only six issues each year, so I have time to read it front to back each time. The articles are more in-depth than something you might read in the Economist or other weekly news magazine. This is not something you read for headlines, but something you read for issues.
FA seems to me to be non-partisan. Condi Rice, Chuck Hagel, and Donald Rumsfeld get space to write, but so does Madeline Albright and Samuel Berger.
Recent articles I liked: "How to Counter WMD" by Ashton B. Carter, "How to Stop Nuclear Terror" by Graham Allison, and "The Outsourcing Bogeyman" by Daniel W. Drezner.
I have been reading Foreign Affairs for more than 30 years. It is an integral part of a broad-based understanding of international issues, both current and historical. It can also be very prescient at times. (See Clash of Civilizations, 1993)
The articles are not to be rushed through. Read them slowly and savor them, whether you agree with them or not. Give it a try!
Foreign Affairs magazine is one of the most authorative, primary source of information regarding geopolitical and economic affairs. Although principally a medium for elites to express their opinion regarding what is happening around the world, this material can allow anyone in the world, even in remote regions, to feel quite connected with those in power.
Written in clear, concise English, it is surprisingly readable considering the subject matter. Don't expect any pictures, however: there are none. However, if you want information on Iraq, North Korean, Iran, and the UN, this is your source of material. Some of the subject matter, of course, is biased: sometimes Clinton croonies contribute material, which I quickly ignore by averting my eyes. But the magazine is not meant to be a source of objective material: there is no reporting, the way you find in The Economist; all of it is first-person essays.
This magazine is simply the very best there is - and I too have been reading it faithfully for many years now. It is THE magazine for anyone who wants to be any kind of globally aware citizen in these troubled times - and it is always easy to understand and written in plain English as well (which certainly does help....) I will be a happy reader I trust for many more years to come. Christopher Catherwood, author of CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS AND ISLAMIC RAGE (Zondervan, 2003)
"Foreign Affairs" presents a gold mine of articles about subjects that span the globe, printed in somewhat large type and easy on the eyes. It is published by the Council on Foreign Affairs, an independent national membership organization and nonpartisan center for scholars. In their words, "We hold that while keeping clear of mere vagaries, 'Foreign Affairs' can do more to inform American public opinion by a broad hospitality to divergent ideas than it can by identifying itself with one school."
Among the in-depth essay offerings in the July/August 2008 issue:
*a defense of the Bush policy for the past eight years by Condoleezza Rice, disguised as a defense of the "New American Realism."
*why pro-Israel policies of the United States reflect public opinion - not just the result of a powerful lobby over the public will.
*two articles about China - one concerning their stressful efforts to impress the world with their Olympics; the other concerning their resistance toward becoming a responsible member among the world's important states.
*why the US stockpiles massive amounts of oil but manages these stocks based on an outdated vision of the market.
*Nafta and the US relationship with its two most important neighbors - Canada and Mexico, touching on how much public opinion has been influenced by Lou Dobbs.
*how the next president should go about repairing our heavily damaged relationship with Europe as a result of the Bush years.
Next are Book Reviews and lengthy responses to articles in prior issues.
*several articles about the middle east and the Iraq war, including how to properly go about any proposed attempt to democratize an arab state:
1. Foreign powers should focus on encouraging these countries to protect political freedoms and civil liberties.
2. Islamists must be included in the political process. To make any efforts to circumvent them is folly.
3. The United States must make any aid, trade, and security agreements contingent on improvement in political and civil liberties.
4. The United States must revise its desire for instant gratification. The last hundred years should have told us democratization does not happen overnight. Forceful regime change is not a realistic option.
*legal issues about the so-called "war on terror."
*a complimentary article about Chavez (authored by the Venezuelan ambassador to the US), followed by a rebuttal by another author.
*should the US stay the course in Iraq, do as Ron Paul says: "We walked in there, we can walk right back out," or somewhere in between.
*a pro/con discussion as to whether ethnic conflict is inevitable.
After most articles and in the "Bestseller" section, current books appropriate to the topic are suggested. This magazine is perfect for those who want a thorough understanding of US and world issues and are disenchanted with the usual partisan fare. I just read the reviews and see that I am not alone in being impressed with this unusual magazine.
In the years I have taken this magazine, I have noted that often covered material becomes tomorrow's news from the latest hot-spot in the world. So prescient, it is eery - if you have any interest in current events, news or foreign affairs, this journal is a must read. The contributors are a Who's Who of politics, science and business in the world. Often the author list will become the under-secretary of state list in the next administration. For example, the last issue discussed Avian Flu virus. As a physician, I can tell you that these were excellent informative articles that explained clearly what was happening and what the danger was. And now this stuff is on TV every day and I can amaze my patients with how much I know about the issue that no one else does. Reading this will definitely make you look smart. Try this experiment and see if I'm right. This article is written in October 2005, days after receiving the October issue with multiple articles about China written by Chinese authors. Of course that means that these articles aren't really useful for facts so much as they are useful for seeing what China wants us to believe. I predict that China will be much more in the news in the next 6 to 12 months. So put this magazine to the test and see.
One negative is that although the authors are bi-partisan regarding party, they are not "conservative". You won't ever find pro-tariff, anti illegal immigration, isolationist, anti judicial activism or pro-life articles in here. Indeed, regardless of which party an author supports, you can pretty much count on expanded government, especially one-world government presented as the solution.
And lastly, some of the articles are deadly boring and contain stilted, obfuscated, diplomatic jargon. You will rarely find a simple, eloquent phrase, but you will often find ideas that will pop up in any analysis of the news. Just realize many of these authors are diplomats and politicians whose careers depend on obfuscation and plausible deniability.
All in all, this is an extremely influential journal that is full of cutting-edge ideas. Just realize that many of them may be wrong.