As a quarterly, we strive to bring you only top-quality stories, without fluff, hoping that you’ll find food for thought for three months’ worth of savoring—and even more nourishment, when you go back to consult past issues on your shelves. The ideal is a whole issue of cover stories, each one a home run in its way.
But what happens when we actually achieve our goal, as we have in the issue that’s in your hands? How do we rank superb stories, each one as important, absorbing, and beautifully crafted as the next? Should we put the titles on the cover in an endless circle, with no first and last? List the stories on the cover in a different order from their appearance in the magazine? Part of the object, of course, is to make sure our amazing writers know that we recognize that they are at the top of their form, and we are beaming with admiration. More important is that we want to give you a useful road map of what lies ahead.
So here is the lay of the land. We have two substantial, equally important cover packages, one dealing with the War on Terror, the other with hugely hopeful cultural and social changes here at home. The war being more timely and controversial, we’ll start there.
From our very first post-9/11 issue, we have argued that U.S. technological superiority will be key to our winning the long and unconventional struggle ahead. Heather Mac Donald’s jaw-dropping story on page 14, “What We don’t Know Can Hurt Us,” recounts the astonishingly destructive success of a determined band of left- and right-wing advocates for “privacy” in crippling and even shutting down some of the government’s most vital and promising efforts to draft our technological know-how into the service of national security. Since the advocates have argued by half-truth (at best) and innuendo, much of what the press has reported about their case is filled with falsehood. As a result, Mac Donald’s account of the reality of these complex matters, drawn out with a crystalline clarity, will astonish—and deeply disturb—you. The story is a bracing dose of truth, bound to change the national debate. (And for a very different look at the reactionary technophobia that infects today’s politics, read Steven Malanga’s story on Wal-Mart on page 78.)
Victor Davis Hanson’s “The Fruits of Appeasement” (page 32) takes up the theme of how irresolution here at home is our greatest impediment in the current war. When, a quarter of a century ago, President Carter let Iranian Islamofascists hold U.S. hostages with impunity, he set going a chain of inaction that emboldened the terrorists to fantasies of exaggerated power that led to 9/11. We were going to have to stop the terrorists sooner or later, by remaking the conditions that spread them all over the Middle East. Hanson brilliantly explains what took us so long—and why it would have been better to act with dispatch.
Our war is against not just terror but Islamic terror, of course; and again in the immediate wake of 9/11, City Journal began wondering whether any feature intrinsic to Muslim culture makes it liable—not fated, only liable—to produce such deformities as the death cults that terrorism has loosed upon the world. Theodore Dalrymple, who with many Muslims among his psychiatric patients in a large industrial British city has a privileged insight into the explosive pressures that can result when Islam meets Western modernity, provides some profound answers on page 46, worth considering carefully as we strive to reshape the world of our adversaries.
We bring you, not one whit less momentous than this package of stories, yet another landmark cover package—an extremely optimistic one—that traces how our own culture, after the turmoils of the 1960s cultural revolution, has begun to right itself, as a flood of new social data makes startlingly evident. Kay S. Hymowitz’s “It’s Morning After in America” (page 56) lays out the eye-opening numbers and, more important still, explains what hopeful cultural meaning the numbers add up to. The sixties antics produced wreckage in families, poor communities, and individual psyches. Pragmatic Americans, seeing and disliking these results, adjusted, making big changes in their views and their behavior—on everything from love and marriage to work and politics—that augur well for the U.S. future. Even daytime TV registers these shifts: don’t miss Harry Stein’s wickedly funny depiction on page 68 of how.