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May 15, 2005

Blogging on Blogging
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

I've resisted the temptation to blog on blogging, but since my husband David has burst into the mainstream media after just a week at the keyboard, I am going to indulge just this once.

This is for any NY Times newcomers to the site, and anyone at all.

I started about two months ago with the support of the Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress through a joint organization they've created called the Security and Peace Institute.  Since I have a day job and a 9-month old I invited 4 of the sharpest and most creative young thinkers on these issues (all of whom have distinguished avocations galore) to join forces.

Our goal is to offer a progressive take on US foreign policy.  We're not trying to accomplish what others - Kevin Drum and Laura Rozen, for example - do so well in keeping a running narrative tagged to the latest news.   Nor do I think we'll wind up mounting the kinds of amazingly effective one-man lobbying campaigns that Josh Marshall pioneered on social security and that Steve Clemons has been waging so relentlessly on the Bolton nomination.

Our goal is to surface and analyze issues that are part of the progressive critique of Bush's foreign policy or, even more importantly, explain how we would approach things differently.   We're trying to broaden the conversation on these issues and also, ultimately, to drive new ideas and positions.

We've been described as wonky but I don't take that personally because at least part of the time we're trying for something that the blogosphere doesn't always do well:  namely, depth.

Over the past couple months we've covered a dizzying array of topics - lots on Bolton, but also some in-depth looks at what UN reform does and ought to mean; a lot on the military; on non-proliferation; Iraq; Democratization; South America; Zimbabwe; human rights (check out the category links on the left-hand side of the site).  If it matters to U.S. foreign policy and it hasn't been dealt with yet, it will be.

Unlike my husband, I am besotted with the blogosphere.   Although I am outside DC and not working in foreign policy, I get to debate the issues I care about with a knowledgeable group of people every single day (actually night - I am a bat of the blogosphere in that most everything I do happens between the hours of 8 PM when a certain 9-month hold hits the crib and 8.30 AM when I morph into a corporate suit).   

I can blog for 10 minutes or 3 hours.  I can research as much or as little as I care to (though if I opt for the latter, its at the risk of an occasionally embarrassing comeuppance in comment form).  I can pick up on a thread from a fellow Arsenalist or another blog, or I can start my own and try to suck others in. 

I don't have to laboriously restate points already made in order to build on them, I just link.  I don't have to fully spell out someone's argument in order to take it apart - I can let readers look for themselves.

In a strange way, I also feel like I've made some friends here.   Matthew Yglesias who, as far as I can tell, is some sort of youthful prodigy who knows more than most on just about everything and must blog to the point of collapse every day, seems to read and care about what's on our blog.  I love him for it.  I had never met or emailed with Dan Drezner before he lent me the keys to his blog, but I hope someday soon I will.

In my view, for those interested in current affairs its just a matter of time before the spontaneity, interactivity, immediacy, and scope of the biosphere becomes more addictive than any other information source.  The problems of reliability and sourcing will probably get worse before they get better, but they won't hold back the momentum.

The fact that the NY Times saw fit to cover my and David's guest blogging stint as if it were the equivalent of Joan Rivers debuting as a stand-in for Carson says a lot.  The next time the Times has a headline like this With Vigorous Defense, Arsenal Stays Open, hopefully they'll be writing about us.


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You done good. I particularly enjoy the wonkish explanations of nuts and bolts stuff that you can't really get elsewhere.

Okay, I come forward. I am the culprit who proclaimed this blog "wonky." Let me be clear: I believe "wonky" is very, very, very, very good. Many people use "wonky" as a pejorative. I use it as a term of praise. So when I described this blog as "wonky," I really meant that it is "cool," "hip," "fantastic," "amazing," and "eminently readable."

So when I called this blog "wonky," I was praising it. I read it everyday.


What happened to Sudan, here and on other blogs? Kevin Drum and you had nearly coinciding posts, and there was interest among readers.

You don't need to come up with a perfect solution in order to be critical of the status quo. Take a cue from Bush, he attacked social security before he produced any solid plan for fixing it. He derided Churchill at Yalta without offering any better solutions. (by the way, why is a candidate for our worst war-time president deriding Churchill? And calling Yalta "one of the greatest wrongs in history" while he does nothing about Sudan?) So why should we need a perfect solution before making noise about Sudan?

Anyway, I would like to see more here about Sudan, whether it's a silver bullet solution or not.

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