I hope I’m wrong, but I fear the War Party got a lot stronger with Chris Hughes’s decision to bring back Franklin Foer to edit The New Republic. Hughes is a young, very rich Facebook founder who understands that owning an opinion magazine is a great way have a political impact. TNR was owned by Marty Peretz, and then by some hedge fund friends of Peretz, and was steadfastly neocon on all the foreign policy issues that mattered. In the end Peretz made himself a laughing stock with repeated anti-Arab racist outbursts, but along with apparently tenured-for- life literary editor Leon Wieseltier, nothing was so certain as the fact that on Mideast issues, the “liberal” TNR would march in lockstep with Commentary and The Weekly Standard. This unfortunate fact was important in Washington, for it gave a false impression of intellectual bipartisan unanimity in foreign policy — the sense that anyone who questioned the need for serial wars against Israel’s adversaries or spoke in favor of the Palestinian human rights was some sort of marginal outlier.
I had hoped the coming of Hughes would change that. He is young (which isn’t necessarily relevant) and gay (which isn’t either, there is after all uberhawk Jamie Kirchik.) And an Obama supporter. The combination gave the ever-hopeful reason to think that the magazine might be open to more realist perspectives. It wasn’t a stretch to think that — after all both Andrew Sullivan, who has in the last five or six years become very wise on foreign policy, and Peter Beinart, now a vocal and effective critic of Israeli expansionism and of the American globalist foreign policy he once advocated, are former TNR editors.
Foer’s hiring seems to pour cold water on such hopes. In 2002 he wrote a mocking piece about the birth of TAC, seeming to find it absurd that any conservatives could imagine a magazine critical of the Iraq War could reach any kind of audience. When more establishment conservatives began to turn against the war a few years later, he wrote a well-informed and worried essay about the revival of the isolationist impulse in American foreign policy. Though people do change and Foer is not a full-time global war against Muslims agitator, it’s difficult to read these pieces as the work of a friend of realism. My guess is that Chris Hughes hasn’t thought about these foreign policy issues all that much, and hired someone who impressed him for other reasons. But with a disastrous war with Iran teed up on the neocon agenda, the last thing Washington needs is a well-subsidized hawkish magazine.