In late December 2008, Dan Drezner put me in touch with Susan Glasser about her plans to relaunch Foreign Policy’s online presence. At that point, Susan and I had never met, but we agreed to get together for coffee and talk about her vision for FP. Within half an hour, it had become clear that we shared a similar vision for what FP could become. I signed on to become one of the regular FP bloggers almost on the spot. A couple of years later, Susan enthusiastically supported my efforts to launch the Middle East Channel, and this year offered me a (mostly) weekly front page column. Now that the news of Susan’s departure to launch a major new policy magazine at Politico is public knowledge, I wanted to briefly note how amazing it has been to work with her for the last four and a half years — and how much of a positive impact she has had on the quality of foreign policy debate in the United States and the world.
Susan intituitively and deeply understood from the start how an online portal could enrich the quality of policy debate without sacrificing the playful spirit of the mid-decade’s blogosphere. For all the complaints you hear from the Very Serious about the PutinCats or the Sex Issue, the reality is that FP’s bread and butter has been to combine fun and snark with deeply reported, well-written analytical essays. Susan, along with Blake Hounshell and the rest of FP’s ace editorial team, pushed authors to make their arguments accessible and persuasive without sacrificing rigor or depth.
Susan also recognized the value of FP’s remaining a genuine public sphere open to a diverse, non-partisan range of voices at a time when so many publications and websites spoke primarily to one ideological, identity or partisan trend. It was great that FP featured the thoughtful conservatives over at Shadow Government alongside a realist like Stephen Walt. It’s essential that it published articles on all sides of hotly contentious debates rather than trying to impose some tedious ideological discipline. I often disagree with Middle East commentary published on FP — and thank god for that!
I also admired Susan’s enthusiasm for both the fun and the serious sides of FP. She loved the quirky, fun pieces like "We’re Duke" or "Jay-Z’s Hegemony in the Age of Kanye", but she was just as quick to comment and praise deep dive analytical pieces. She leaped at my proposal to launch the Middle East Channel
to feature academics and analysts grounded in the region, and adamantly
supported its day-in, day-out analytical reporting and analysis even if
essays on Egypt’s constitution or Bahrain’s struggles would never do
War Dog numbers. It was thanks to Susan’s vision that the Middle East Channel was in place and ready to go when the Arab uprisings broke out – a vision vindicated by the Channel’s nomination as a finalist for a Digital Magazine Award last year.
The bottom line is that under Susan’s guidance, FP helped to change the game for the better. I remember well how difficult it was back in the summer of
2002, in a pre-blogs environment dominated by
the editors of a few newspapers and the bookers of a few TV shows, to publish essays arguing
against the invasion of Iraq.
Today, it would be almost impossible for a well-informed academic or analyst to fail to find an opportunity to publish about, say, whether to intervene in Syria.
So thanks to Susan Glasser for all of her enthusiastic support, constructive
criticism and editorial guidance over the last four and a half years. I’m thrilled for her new venture at Politico, and I have all confidence that the FP team will carry on brilliantly, but I will miss her at FP. We all will.