Magazine article World Affairs

Letter from the Editor

Magazine article World Affairs

Letter from the Editor

Article excerpt

In his excellent critique of the Obama administration's Iran policy (one of several provocative articles in this issue of World Affairs), Sohrab Ahmari notes in passing that the Middle East's "architecture of power is undergoing a massive and unprecedented change." No doubt about it. But the recent upheaval in that region, while in some respects startlingly new, also represents more of the same: another dimension of complexity and danger in what was already a disconcertingly volatile, wildly unpredictable, and dangerous world.

The reason that Matthew Arnold's famous lament about standing between two worlds, one dead and the other struggling to be born, is so frequently quoted is because it is always true. History doesn't stand still. It always moves forward, although in staccato and unscientific ways undreamt of by Marxist dialecticians. History is always a grave and also a cradle, leaving those of us trying to make sense of it unsure of whether we should grieve or exult or do both at once.

Every generation feels that its world is being overtaken by malicious change. But today's challenges are related and distinct in an unprecedented way--a Rubik's Cube of crises involving a clash of civilizations, religions, ideologies, and cultures, and also of economies, budgets, demographics, and political systems; a clash between the resource-rich and resource-poor, between tyrants and democrats (and people who say they're democrats), between those who yearn for freedom and those who are armed and dangerous and yearn for power; a clash between forces that are national, cross-border, regional, continental, and global, separate but interconnected, and above all inescapable.

In the past, the First World was largely a spectator as forces such as these collided. But today, the gathering clouds also move toward and across the prosperous and democratic world. …

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