90 Years of Foreign Affairs

A History of American Foreign Policy From the Pages of the Magazine

Foreign Affairs has played host to the great ideological debates that defined the twentieth century -- and continue to mold the twenty-first.

These collections, curated from our archives, chronicle the grand themes of communism and fascism, American hegemony and decline, and globalization and the foremost theme of the future: the rise of the rest.

Subscribe now to get full access to the complete Foreign Affairs archives.

 


 

As the first issues of Foreign Affairs went to press, Europe witnessed the initial stirrings of fascism, with Mussolini in Italy and then Hitler in Germany. Written as the world divided into Axis and Allies, these essays mark the first great challenge to a liberal, democratic world order.

For many years, Hanson Baldwin served as the military editor of the New York Times. Throughout World War II, he filed dispatches to Foreign Affairs that took the long view of the war. These selections offer a vivid, compact, and real-time accounting of events -- both in their uncertainty and triumph.

Triumph in Europe and the Pacific quickly gave way to a world divided between two opposing ideologies -- that individual citizens should own private property and that the state should own all material goods. So a four-decade struggle began.

If the eighteenth belonged to the French, and the nineteenth to the United Kingdom, then the twentieth century belonged to the United States. That arc of power traces a story of military might, economic prowess, and an adaptive political system capable of withstanding tectonic shifts in the global order.

In accepting the Nobel Prize in 1949, William Faulkner asked, "There is only the question: When will I be blown up?" A device capable of annihilating humankind fundamentally altered the way states calculated their relationships to the rest of the world.

First there was the League of Nations, Woodrow Wilson's ill-fated attempt after World War I to create a formal system of global governance. Yet, as World War II came to an end, international institutions began to take shape in earnest, and they came to guide discussions of security, legal, and economic issues.

In 1931, it was a question of passports. In 1998, it was a question of disappearing borders. And today, it is a question of economic growth and inequality. Globalization has made many richer but also poses a confounding question: What will it take for states to leave conflict behind and, instead, cooperate?

At first they were known as the BRICs -- Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- the large, rapidly growing developing states ready to remake the world economy. Now, Indonesia and others have been added to the list. But few can say if these new powers will overcome their own challenges, and more, if they will accept the current world order, or change it.

Old as the middle ages, but as vicious as ever, terrorism is a tactic that leverages small, spectacular attacks to seize entire populations with fear. September 11 focused America's attention on radical Islam and the terrorist threat -- some even say too much.