The slow pace of quarterly publications often forces them to watch critical news stories occur and then fade before they can comment on them. While this hampers timely analysis, it also provides an opportunity for reflection and reassessment. Though the election of President Barack Obama and the global recession may signal an entirely new era in global affairs, the year 2009 offers a particularly valuable time for reexamination.

The Presidential Election serves as the most obvious window of reconsideration. As Barack Obama grapples with and reacts to the ideological climate of the Bush years, incoming Current editor–in–chief Nick Serpe explores the ramifications of a potential return to foreign policy realism in the United States. After outlining the history and philosophy of political realism, Serpe contends that the marriage between realism and portions of the left is ultimately unnatural and urges the left to retain its enduring dedication to idealism in foreign affairs.

Current editors Sara Arrow and Alexi Shaw addressed similar themes when they interviewed Joel Rosenthal, President of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York. The author of Righteous Realists and editor–in–chief of the journal Ethics and International Affairs, Mr. Rosenthal suggests that President Obama should embrace an “ethical realism” that is both interest–based and dedicated to the broader ethical principles of human rights and democracy. This, in his mind, would prevent the rise of ideological dogma without betraying the values traditionally associated with U.S. internationalism.

While the transition from President Bush to President Obama may represent a significant transition in U.S. foreign policy, the year 2009 is anniversary of historical events that inescapably define the nature of America’s engagement with the world. One such milestone is the 1989 publication of celebrated author Salman Rusdhie’s The Satanic Verses, which led to a death sentence against him from the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran and Muslim riots across the globe. Current staff writer Sam Kerbel considers the legacy of the Rushdie Affair in the Western world, discussing the battle between free speech and censorship across the United States and Europe. He criticizes the increasing self–censorship of American and European writers, publishers, and public officials in the wake of the Rushdie Affair, and calls for a rededication to the values of free speech and individual expression.

This year also marks just over 60 years of independence for the State of Israel. Despite a thriving parliamentary democracy and six decades of relative political stability, Israel remains without a written constitution. Current senior editor Armin Rosen studies the history of Israel’s unwritten constitution, painting a story of a country in perpetual ad–hoc transition. He highlights the deeply polarizing conflicts in Israel that have prevented the consensus necessary to create a constitution, but suggests that a constitution is necessary to solve the deep fissures—between religious and secular Jews and between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs—that continue to plague Israeli society.

Lastly, The Current is proud to feature an essay submission from Dr. Judea Pearl, professor of computer science at UCLA. He is the father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was abducted and later beheaded by Al–Qaeda operatives while investigating a story in Pakistan. Impelled by a UCLA academic panel in January which described the Palestinian group Hamas as guiltless, peace seeking, and unjustly provoked, Dr. Pearl offers provocative analysis as to how such unqualified endorsements of Hamas, and organizations that share its ideological credo, have entered the mainstream. While Dr. Pearl’s positions do not represent the views of The Current or many of its members, we believe he offers one unique and important perspective that can stimulate discussion, and, hopefully, reassessment.

Critical transitional moments in history often reveal the urge to declare the end of history. Yet the cultural, ideological, and political struggles of the previous era do not simply disappear—they remain to confront us daily. The issues addressed by these articles all speak to the meaning of East–West relations and U.S. engagement with the world. We hope that our essays contribute, in their own way, to a better understanding of this transitional moment and the challenges that remain.

–Jordan Hirsch

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