When I told a former colleague that Brookings was starting a foreign policy blog, his response was swift and brutal: “You are starting a blog … just when blogs have become passé…!?” Another colleague had an equally negative yet precisely opposite reaction: “I’m opposed to blogging. And tweeting. And every other phenomenon of the Internet era. I am in favor of copying manuscripts by candlelight in monasteries.”
I can understand both points of view. It often seems that social media has rendered blogs if not irrelevant, then at least somewhat less necessary. And despite being “so very 2011,” the form of writing in blogs remains antithetical to what Foreign Policy at Brookings has traditionally viewed as its strengths: methodical research carefully explained in long-form writing.
So why start a new blog that will be at once both passé and outré (among other French words)?
The first and overwhelmingly most important reason is the urgency of the moment in international affairs. This blog is part of a larger project, also called “Order From Chaos,” that is Foreign Policy at Brookings’s response to what is widely seen as an extraordinarily difficult and possibly transformative time in international affairs.
Indeed, we may be witnessing the end of a post-Cold War order, characterized by the absence of great power war, unprecedented interdependence among states, and the leadership of the United States. There are now several possibly fundamental challenges to that order—in Asia, where the rapid rise of China is upsetting relationships across the region; in Europe, where Russia seeks to undo the post-Cold War settlement through aggression; and in the Middle East, where the regional state system itself may be breaking down.
Given all of this, the name “Order from Chaos” reflects both our fears and our hopes for U.S. foreign policy. An order that we have relied upon for decades may be in the process of breaking down, revealing a bleak possibility of global chaos. But that outcome is not fated. With incisive analysis, new ideas, and innovative policies, we can rescue order from chaos. Brookings hopes to be part of that effort.
The second reason for a new blog is a little more pedestrian. In undertaking a project as grand in scope and ambition as “Order from Chaos,” we will have to effectively harness all of our intellectual resources and yet also reach out to a broader audience. As we undertake various analytical projects that relate to this theme, we hope that a blog can provide a good forum for ongoing conversations that will enrich and guide that work.
Some of those conversations will be between Brookings scholars, whose often spirited disagreements are a critical and welcome part of our creative process. (For an example, see the recent debate over the question of arming Ukraine.) But an equally important part of that conversation will be with various outside audiences who we hope will also inform, respond to, and challenge our work.
So, perhaps we are passé before we have even begun. But regardless, we will look for solutions, by old ways of research, by new ways of communicating—and even by candlelight if necessary.