Friday, April 30, 2004

Bad TNI

Today, the UofC Japanese Law Society made a trip to the University of Illinois for a conference on Japanese law. Given the inherent difficulties of conference blogging, particularly not live, aided by only poor notes, and a few barely-skimmed, let alone completely digested, papers, I won't blog about the conference. Instead, I'll write about the Spring 2004 issue of The National Interest. (Why, you may ask, was the point of the preceding? Why, to give JLS another link, of course.)

In the days of my misspent slightly-younger youth as an international relations undergraduate major, I read Foreign Affairs on a regular basis, since it was, well, the preeminent periodical on popular scholarly writings in the field of international affairs, continuing the habit after I graduated. Over time, though, I grew steadily more disenchanted with FA, and the last issue I purchased was the November/December 2000 issue, in which a mere 11 of the 13 articles were of the sort, "If only we had more money/political will, we could do this good thing 'X'." I had a lot of free time at my job, enough that I could have calculated 11/13 is .846153 repeating, but I had better things to do with my time than reading whining by people who should've grown up long ago (nothing personal, mind you). Having drudged my way through most of the other international affairs journals, Foreign Policy, Wilson Quarterly, etc., and found them wanting, I finally bought my first copy of The National Interest a few weeks ago for a bit of light bedtime reading (yeah, I'm weird, if you couldn't tell already) when I stopped into Borders to buy Neal Stephenson's The Confusion (which I, confusingly, thought came out two weeks after it actually did). Of the 22 of the 23 pieces in TNI that I've bothered to read thus far, 14 of them are uninteresting and/or suffer from a major, fairly obvious weakness, all listed under the "Articles" category, it's pretty depressing. I mean, I was interested in Morton Abramowitz's article on why Iraq didn't matter all that much, or the three defenses of NATO, or Mark Krikorian on immigration reform, or Walter Russell Mead's piece on U.S.-German relations, or Sam Huntington's excerpt from his forthcoming book, but try as I might, I just couldn't. For my limited time and dollars, this sort of miss ratio is just unacceptable. Maybe it's time to give Foreign Affairs another chance; I'll let you know after I check out the May/June edition.

More content tomorrow (Sat.), probably, during breaks from the 58-question midterm Ben is also enjoying.

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