For purposes of this essay, I take Foreign Affairs magazine as a marker for the broad spectrum of U.S. expert publications in international affairs. That is justified because the magazine has the greatest circulation in its class. The sins of the magazine’s editor Gideon Rose, which I set out below, are not his alone, to be sure.
Where Russia is concerned, and now also where China is concerned, one can count on Foreign Affairs magazine to feature articles presenting the bogeymen in the form the United States security and international affairs establishment feels most comfortable with, irrespective of whether this particular bogeyman has any basis in real life facts. They are comfortable, because the given analyses support policy recommendations, and in particular, defense appropriations, which the establishment wants to see approved by the White House, by the Congress.
I do not mean to suggest that all articles fit this generalization, because occasionally dissenting views are allowed some space, especially if they are badly argued. But the great majority does fit it, and the American public is the big loser by this disservice because the expert community, not to mention your average citizen, is deprived of any objective, hands-on examination of these very important and powerful countries which can, and perhaps already do pose existential threats to the USA, but for reasons of reaction to American policy rather than any latent aggression.
It is the resulting cluelessness of our media and of the experts who are given air time and print pages that time and again catches us by surprises dealt by the supposedly volatile Russians and enigmatic Chinese. If the initial U.S. action were mentioned, still better analyzed, the reaction could be modified or forestalled. Instead, the reaction is taken as a starting point and a policy recommendation to neutralize it is put forward that opens a new action-reaction cycle rather than closes the existing one. In this way we are escalating tensions to the breaking point, which in our still nuclear age is not very smart and looks more like a death wish.…Wishful thinking, group think, and propaganda substituted for analysis.
Une parole franche
‘Foreign Affairs’ magazine: security analyses tailored to politically expedient solutions