A Behind-the-Scenes Clasic Makes a Public Debut: Ravikiran Raju Reviews

Article excerpt

Launched in the late 1980s at the University of Oxford, Oxford International Review (OIR) has long been distributed only among those featured in the journal and the scholars who populated its staff. OIR was originally founded as a vehicle for mentorship between two generations of change agents--those established and those emerging. Through their involvement in OIR, current Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, and Truman Scholars in residence at the University of Oxford are brought into conversation with leaders representing diverse fields of endeavor. The product has been an annual volume that explicates a theme of global geopolitical significance in-depth through the juxtaposition of candid interviews with key intellectuals and decision makers (both well-established and lesser known) relative to contemporary speeches and articles that have shaped the parameters of debate on the chosen topic. OIR constitutes what Editor-in-Chief Rachel Yould calls "a seminar on a theme," a nuanced and well-developed compilation of perspectives alongside incisive analysis of their importance and implications.

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In the course of its nearly two decades of production, OIR has evolved into a robust channel for communication and dialogue among a widening circle of participating world leaders representing fields ranging from politics and academia to science and industry. The heightening interest in and influence of the journal led its editors to decide last year that its circulation should no longer be circumscribed. The release of the 2005 edition of Oxford International Review marks the first to be made available in the public domain. It was well worth the wait.

The topic engaged by the 2005 edition of OIR is "What is America's Role?" What strikes one first about the volume is the breadth of its thematic treatment. The US political perspectives one would anticipate are certainly well-represented. After all, Colin Powell did grant OIR his first print interview after leaving office as United States Secretary of State, and similarly heavy-hitting US policymakers and intellectuals appear in large number and to good effect. But the scope of the edition's content is limited neither to the US frame of reference nor the usual slate of political and academic figures often associated with coverage of this topic. It is the comments of heads of state and Cabinet-level policy-makers from around the globe that place the views of their US counterparts in appropriate perspective. The text also benefits from the incorporation of non-political views, whether hailing from the scientist who oversaw the decoding of the human genome or the founder of America Online.

OIR deploys its diverse contributor base to situate current policy issues in broader global and historical context. While there are sound reasons for the current preoccupation of foreign policy analysts with US involvement in the Middle East, often sacrificed in this dialectic is the development of substantive analogies and identification of transferable models between dynamics in that region and peace and democratization efforts that have transpired elsewhere in the world. There has been no shortage of discussion of historical precedents native to the Middle East and their potential salience for current circumstances, whether cast in terms of socio-cultural traditions, Islam, tribal dynamics, or the politico-military tactics adopted in previous regional initiatives. Unfortunately, this tendency to isolate analysis of Middle Eastern strategy has culminated in a conception of the region as singular which has, in turn, deterred sustained consideration of potentially fruitful cross-regional correlations.

Historian Bernard Lewis's treatment of the situation in the Middle East, past and present, in this issue of OIR assumes greater consequence for being situated relative to thoughtful treatment of US involvement in post-Soviet Eastern Europe democratization efforts. …