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Elliott Abrams: How COMMENTARY Does It

It’s notorious, and true, that government officials hardly read anything. Memos, sure; nowadays, emails and tweets as well. But magazines? People barely have time to eat lunch or see their kids, so how can an intellectual monthly affect public affairs?

The question is a good one. How did COMMENTARY do it?

The answer is that officials, like all citizens following American foreign policy, need a way to understand the world around them. When prevailing theories fail, when conventional wisdom is clearly at variance with what they see before their eyes, the outcome for senators and congressmen and White House officials is what the shrinks call cognitive dissonance. They may say one thing but believe another, or simply be unable to square previous beliefs and policies with the clear effects of U.S. conduct. They’ve lost the ability to explain the world.

And then came COMMENTARY, offering month after month of piercing, bracing analysis–and value judgments of right and wrong, and clear writing about American gains and losses. Here was an insistence on looking reality in the face. Here was plain argument, seeking no quarter intellectually and giving none.

And it mattered. It shamed some people, and emboldened others; COMMENTARY demanded that we conform policy to the opportunities and dangers that really faced America. In years of confusion and obfuscation, that striking clarity changed policies, and changed American conduct, because it changed the way we understood the world.

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2 Responses to “Elliott Abrams: How COMMENTARY Does It”

  1. STEPHEN PARKER says:

    Commentary’s cowardly decision to never publish one word about an illegal and criminal “President” is an indelible stain on the magazine and the Conservative media. And Abrams, like Commentary, you, yourself, are complicit in covering up an immense fraud. I wish you an unhappy New Year.

    • PAUL ZISSERSON says:

      Stephen, I’m going to shadow you. Your comments, once again, are a slur on good, albeit imperfect, commentators who almost daily labor in the political ring with our and our country’s adversaries and do so effectively.




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