One hundred years ago, former Secretary of State Elihu Root opened the first essay in the first issue of Foreign Affairs with what may have seemed, in September 1922, a striking claim: that the development of foreign policy could no longer be confined to foreign ministries. “Democracies determined to control their own destinies object to being led, without their knowledge, into situations where they have no choice,” Root wrote. But such determination had to be matched by an effort to spread “knowledge of the fundamental and essential facts and principles upon which the relations of nations depend.”

Since then, thousands of articles have appeared in these pages. Many have, for good and for ill, helped set the course of U.S. foreign policy and international relations—perhaps most famously, George Kennan’s “X” article, which laid out Washington’s Cold War strategy of containment. Others have challenged the thrust of policy or questioned assumptions about the world. All have taken up Root’s basic charge, seeking to drive a debate that, by design, spans practitioners, experts, and a much broader engaged readership (hundreds of times larger than it was in Root’s day), in the United States and around the world.

Foreign Affairs is now much more than the issues that arrive in mailboxes and appear on newsstands every two months. You can read new articles daily at ForeignAffairs.com. You can hear our contributors elaborate on their arguments in our podcast, the Foreign Affairs Interview, or in live events. You can discover gems from our archives in weekly newsletters. To all of these, we strive to bring the same ambition of argument, the same clarity of analysis, the same credibility of authorship borne of singular experience and expertise, the same eye to policy response—to what should be done, not just to admiring the problem.

With this issue, you’ll notice a redesigned look for the print magazine, meant to reflect our tradition and to convey the substance and shelf life of what each copy contains. It comes at a moment when international relations are as fraught and uncertain, and U.S. foreign policy as vexed and challenged, as at any point in recent memory, when the forces of the past intersect with new ones in uniquely perilous ways.

Many of the essays in this issue trace the enduring influence of history—through American power, through democracy and technology, through China and Russia, through race and its impact on the foreign policy establishment (including this magazine). Our book reviewers, similarly, look both backward and forward, each naming a few titles essential to understanding the past century and a few essential to anticipating the century ahead. These contributions do “not represent any consensus of beliefs,” in the words of founding editor Archibald Cary Coolidge; instead, they reflect his pledge to “tolerate wide differences of opinion . . . seriously held and convincingly expressed.” Foreign Affairs, Coolidge stressed, “does not accept responsibility for the views expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appear in its pages. What it does accept is the responsibility for giving them the chance to appear there.”

The central claim of the magazine’s first-ever essay—that a good foreign policy demands deep, open, and broad debate—may no longer seem as striking as it did in September 1922. Yet all we do is meant to fulfill that commitment, one as vital now as it was 100 years ago.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now